Flip’s face lit up. “I pegged you as a man of reason the moment you came in that door!”
“Theo!!” Oboe pulled at Theodore’s shoulder. “We can’t use his spells! They’re illegal!”
Flip slipped closer to remove her hand. “These spells have been used to protect humanity for thousands of years. The only reason they aren’t allowed now is because ghasts pushed to have them banned. That’s fine. All in the name of peace treaties. I support that! But don’t you think we have a right to defend ourselves when one of them breaks that agreement?”
Theodore thought about the promise he made Giselle. There were two dead bodies and more to come if they did not act soon. “The situation calls for drastic measures.”
“I don’t like this,” Oboe said. “We don’t need his help!”
Theodore took her aside. “The Tall Man almost killed us back in the Hollows. We need all the help we can get.”
“But Flip doesn’t care that he’s breaking the rules!” She said. “He’s not even sorry. We should arrest him!”
“We have bigger problems right now,” Theodore said. “Our duty is keeping everyone safe.”
Oboe scowled. “I don’t trust him.”
“Then don’t,” he said, growing frustrated. “Trust me instead. I’m in charge, alright? Let me handle this.”
Oboe said nothing. With a nod, she drifted to a corner of the shop to stay out of the way.
Flip chuckled. “It’s so hard to find good help.”
“We’re tracking a bogeyman.” Theodore wanted to get to the point. “Tell me what you can do to help.”
“Mm. Tricky.” The witch stroked his chin. “One of the more powerful species. Do you have anything that belonged to him? Something with a trace of his aura?”
Theodore dug the ring out of his pocket and placed it on the counter. Flip took it between his thumb and forefinger, squinting, and rolled it in his palm.
“A curse. Yes. This will do. We’ll need a catalyst though.” He eyed the knife at Theodore’s belt. “Might I see that?”
The knife and the ring were laid side by side on the counter.
“I can enchant the knife with the ghast’s signature,” Flip said. “All you need to do is land a glancing blow on the creature and he will be completely disabled.”
Theodore hoped he could manage that much. The idea of fighting made him feel sick, but this was the best advantage he could hope for. “Yes, that will work.”
“Wonderful!” Flip tossed his arms wide. “And in exchange you vow to turn a blind eye to my little business. Do we have an agreement?”
“No.” Theodore was out of patience. “You’re still a criminal under my jurisdiction. Here’s what I’ll offer: You don’t have to register with the University. Instead, you get a month to get clean out this shop and get rid of every last illegal enchantment. I’ll do random inspections. If you can keep out of trouble then you and your business get to stay.”
Flip ground his teeth. “You’re twisting my arm here, Deputy.”
Theodore planted a palm on the table. “It’s this or the dungeon. Your pick.”
“And people wonder why I have issues with authority!” Flip growled in frustration. “Fine!”
They sealed the agreement with a crushing handshake and then Flip got to work. He pinched at the ring of the ring, as if feeling for something. He strained, forehead knit in concentration, and pulled something dark and gaseous out. He twisted his fingers and broke a morsel free. The rest of the magic snapped back into the ring. Flip held the swirl of purple and gold in his palm and made a few arcane gestures. He pressed his hand against the knife and folded layers of magic into it. When the ritual was done the blade shimmered with a faint new light.
Flip wiped the sweat from his brow. “Here.” He shoved the knife into Theodore’s hand. “Try not to keep it in the same pocket as the talisman.”
“Why not?” Theodore said.
Flip smiled. “They’ll explode.”
“Oh.” Theodore sheathed the knife with extra care. “Come on, Oboe. We’re done here.” He shot one last look at Flip. “But we’ll be back.”
“I’ll be waiting!” Flip said with a wave. “Hard ass,” he added as the two of them turned to leave.