Chapter Sixteen

The old woman wandered into the bar.  BarCat could smell her, even though no one else seemed to notice.  She smelled of death, decay, and old magic.


She sat at a table by the bar, in the corner. Pete went to her table. She took out a purse and put a gold coin on the table.  She spoke to Pete, who nodded, writing down something on his order pad. She then pointed at BarCat.  Pete looked at BarCat, then her, then nodded.


Arriving back at the bar, he put in an order with Cook, then made a large Gin and tonic, from the bottle of the good Gin.  He also took down a bottle of good Scotch. He took them back to the table.  The old witch poured the Scotch into a shot glass that Pete left, and she downed the Gin and tonic like a sailor on leave.


Pete stopped by BarCat, who was perched in his usual spot on the bar.  As he made another Gin and tonic, he said to BarCat, "The lady requests your company at her dinner table.  She has ordered you dinner.  She said you would understand.”


BarCat looked at the old woman, and at Pete.  He got up, slowly, and stretched.  Pete gave him a scratch on the head.  "She looks worse than she is.  She seems to be a nice old English lady looking for quiet company. She is, however, very frumpy."


BarCat listened, as he made like the only thing that mattered was being scratched on the head.  Pete took the Gin and tonic to the old woman.  BarCat jumped down on the floor, and pussy-footed his way to the table with the old woman.


The old woman had taken a very old jar out of her bag and placed it on the table.  It stank of chaos magic.  BarCat ruffled his nose. He looked at the jar.  It was dark, dirty, and sealed with string, wax and some very powerful magic.


BarCat jumped up on the chair across from her. He waited. She pushed the shot glass of Scotch towards BarCat. "It's OK, dearie, I'll not harm you.  I've not eaten in a long time.  This is my first meal outside of that jar, and I want pleasant, quiet company who I can trust that this will not be revealed to anyone else.  This is all Sub Rosa, you know."


BarCat smelled no fear from her, nor did he smell any deceit.  But that jar, it made him uncomfortable.  He looked to the jar and then to her.


"Oh, there is nothing to fear there, dearie.  That one is tucked away small and tight.  We will have no problems with that one.  He is just here to listen to the story."


With that, BarCat jumped on the table, and took a few licks from the shot glass.  Yesssss, that's the good stuff.  He looked up at the old woman, and smiled.


“I see you approve. Good! Then we will get along well this evening."


Pete arrived at the table with two plates and another Gin and tonic.  One plate had a fine steak, and a potato.  The other had a raw steak.  Pete put the cooked steak in front of the old lady, and the raw steak, already cut up into bite size chunks, was placed in front of BarCat.


BarCat leisurely ate his steak, watching the old woman savor the steak like one who was eating the best meal she ever had, which was absurd because Cook can make a decent steak, but not that good.


She finished her meal, ordered more Gin and Tonics. She downed a couple of glasses for dessert which she chased with more Gin and Tonic. Once she was satiated, she poured another shot glass of Scotch began to talk to BarCat.


"I know who you are, cat," she started. "I am here because this is a magical safe haven, and you can understand me. I will tell you my story, and then I will be on my way."


"I am a founder and leader of a very old English coven. We were very experienced and forceful witches. By unanimous decision they voted me leader of that coven. We were a mighty coven and I was the chosen center of our power. We worked for the good of King and Country, and sometimes a little bit on the side for ourselves." She cackled as all witches do.


"But as in all things, the end comes. I was dying. I was on my way to a coven meeting to pass on my legacy, when I was intercepted by a very powerful sorcerer. As he choked the last bits of my life out of me, he captured my spirit in that jar." She took a long side glance at the vessel sitting on the table.  "He sealed me in that jar.  And then he proceeded to take the power that belonged to my coven and use it for his own selfish purposes." Her eyes glazed over with a look of regret.  "My coven received only my cold, murdered corpse.  What has happened to them, I do not know." There was deep sorrow in her voice.


Pete kept bringing glasses of Gin and tonic as she emptied them. She poured BarCat shots of Scotch as he finished his. She continued.


"He used me, and my power for the evil things that men want and men do. Murder, rape, theft; these were the lesser of his evils. He betrayed his country.  He betrayed his family.  And, in the end, he was betrayed by another sorcerer. My jar passed to the next, and the next. It was odd they were all family. The son took from the father. The uncle took from the son. The grandnephew took from him, and on down the line, for many generations.”


“In the process, I suffered; my soul suffered.  These were evil things, and I know each one as it left a mark on my soul. The faces, the deeds, the deaths, the betrayals. I was in constant pain.  Even now, it pains me to think upon any of those things which I was used for.”


“But then it stopped.  It became dark for a long time, like the jar had been lost, or misplaced, or hidden.  And when the deeds ceased, the madness started.  I am haunted by the things that I am responsible for, and even now, so very drunk, they explode in my brain."


As BarCat watched, he could see the madness had taken hold, and that she didn't have much time. He drank down the Scotch, and she poured him another.


"A few days ago, it became light again. The jar had been discovered.  It took a couple of days but the person who found it finally decided to open the jar. I was waiting. See, I had heard him speak. He had no idea what was in the jar.”


“I would have thanked him and gone my way. I had no idea if my spirit would be mine again, if I would be taken to the heavens or sent to work out punishment for those things that I had caused. So, if freed, I would take whatever the gods deemed appropriate. This I had promised."


She finished another Gin and tonic. And, of course she poured another shot for BarCat.


"So, imagine my surprise when the person who released me was a minion. The seal on the jar was set with a curse, but the stupid idiot had no idea. He read the curse out loud, the fool. That invoked the minion. See, the minion had been set by the sorcerer. Should anyone ever tamper with the jar, the minion was supposed to kill him. However, the kid was sloppy, mispronouncing the words, leaving out others. So, the kid evoked a minion but messed up the rest of the incantation. It was now up to the minion as to what he wanted to do."


Her witches cackle was clear and distinct. Her words were a little slurred, but she was very much still in control. "The minion never much liked his master, so he let me out of the jar. He then told me I have a day to do what I thought best with that bag of bones. He told me that the kid had no idea what he had, and he was going to use the jar as a container storage for his drugs." She cackled even harder.


She had a few people looking at her at this point. But the bar was not busy, and no one made a stink. She returned to a softer tone. "The minion had given me a day to do as I wished with the one who opened the jar. See, the person who found the jar, well, is a decedent of the sorcerer who imprisoned me. The minion thought it poetic justice. I have to admit, it is very opportune, to have someone directly connected to the original offender show up to let me out.”


She finished another Gin and tonic as Pete brought another to the table. She placed another gold coin on the table. Pete thanked her and said he would keep the drinks coming. The witch continued once Pete went back to the bar.


“I have spent the day wandering around the city with the kid in the jar. I needed to keep him contained till I decided what to do. He was very drugged at the time anyway, so he didn’t even notice I stuck his unconscious body into the jar. I have enjoyed the one day given me, by taking in the sunshine and the glory that is life.”


“The one thing I really wanted to do was have a good meal and get drunk, to be honest. American Gin and tonic is not good British Gin and tonic, but it is acceptable and has done the job. While I ate, I considered what, if anything, I would do with this boy. He really is just a kid, probably in his twenties.  But the minion did say he was useless, and probably not worth my time. The minion also said he will be dead soon from the drugs. Junkies, even in my time, do not live all that long.”


“There are, however, ways to exact vengeance on his ancestors. I have considered this. I think I have come up with the answer, so that will be what I do with the remains my day.”


“I am going to give him my insanity. All the things that were done to me, I am going to leave with him. Let him know who his ancestors were and what they did.  Let him curse his own ancestors for the rest of eternity in this jar. Their souls will never know peace. I know a perfect place for this jar where it will never be disturbed and will never be found. I will spirit back to England shortly, and lay the jar in the grave where my body is buried. See, the soul always knows where the body is.”


By now the last Gin and tonic was gone. For the last part of the story she had been scratching BarCat, who had curled up in her lap. He had listened to her story. He knew that if he had decided to grant her what she wished for, he could not have done better than what she was going to do.


She moved the cat to the chair next to her.  She took what gold coins were left in her purse to the bar and gave them to Pete.  She told him she knew how much these coins would bring, and to keep some for himself.  Make sure the cat’s glass is always full.  Pete thanked her. She then returned to the table, and picked up the jar.  She shook it, and there was a faint scream.  She laughed, then looked at BarCat.


“You are an amazing animal. Thank you for your company, and thank you for listening to my story. You will never be able to tell anyone, but maybe I have given you some food for thought.”


She gave him a last scratch and walked up the stairs to the street.  She disappeared before she got to the door. BarCat thought he could hear faint screaming coming from the jar in her pocket as she left. He was quite drunk, so he couldn't be sure. He walked drunkenly back to the end of the bar. Pete picked him up and put him in his spot on the bar.


“You are very drunk, cat. But I bet she told quite a story. See, I know a ghost when I see one. But her coin was good. She said you should always have a glass when you need one.” Right now, though, you look like you can use a nap.”


BarCat was passed out before Pete finished his sentence. Pete smiled, scratched the sleeping cat’s head, and went back to serving customers. BarCat snored softly. The Zodiac Bistro never fails to attract the unusual.


Copyright 2019 Boudica Foster and Tales from the Zodiac Bistro
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