18. Moody Indigo

Jaz inspected the expired grounds, scowling. “I’m gone for one day and you trash the place…”

Bracken crashed around a bit, separating himself from the stool. “Jaz! You died!”

“Only for a day.” She dumped the grounds in the garbage, wincing at the loss.

“I saw you die,” Bracken insisted pointlessly, “I was there.” He hopped over the counter and hugged her.

Jaz stood for a moment, taken aback. Slowly she raised a hand and patted his shoulder with her fingertips. “It wasn’t planned, I admit.”

“How?” Bracken pulled away, searching her face.

Jaz shrugged, matter-of-fact. “It’s the shop. It brings me back every time.”

“Every time? How many times have you died?”

“I lost count.” She dislodged herself from his grip and looked away, scanning the workspace and counters. “Hey—were you using my cup?”

“No, it was Janus—” Bracken turned to the counter where Jaz’s cracked mug sat. Janus was gone. “Where did he go?”

Jaz’s mouth tightened, and she cast a suspicious glance around the shop. “You met Janus?”

Bracken nodded. “He showed up a little while ago.”

She spun to face him, grabbing his arm. “What did he say to you? Did he ask you for something?”

“He just said he’s trapped like you and wants help getting out.”

Jaz stepped over to the counter and picked up the mug. Frowning at the contents, she emptied it in the sink and rinsed it. “Don’t talk to him. He’s dangerous.”

“He didn’t seem dangerous.” Bracken thought it pretty rude of Jaz to dump out Janus’s coffee before he could finish it. But then, it was no more rude than Janus using Jaz’s mug knowing she wasn’t really dead.

“Take it from me that he is.” Jaz shook excess water from the mug and set it on a shelf below the espresso machine. “What else happened while I was gone?”

“I turned the shop over to Shaz to keep him from killing anyone else. And I gave Sadie’s coat—”

“Wait, you gave him the shop?”

“Yeah, but it’s okay. I told him I’d run things, since he doesn’t know anything about making coffee.”

Jaz snorted. “Neither do you.”

“He didn’t know that. Besides, I thought you were dead. You didn’t tell me you’d revive at midnight.”

“I told you the shop resets. I’m part of the shop. Now I have to deal with Shaz thinking he’s the boss here.” She scowled, massaging the space between her eyebrows with two fingers.

“I got the formula back,” Bracken informed her, somewhat curtly.

“You did?” She lowered her hand, relief spreading over her face. “How?”

“Shaz wanted to woo this tiger named Sheila—“

Jaz rolled her eyes. “He’s been eying her for ages.”

“—And she wanted a coat like mine, so I traded Shaz for the formula and he gave her the coat.”

Jaz grabbed Bracken by the shoulders, eyes shining. “And you traded it to Blaise for the translator? Oh, good boy!”

“Well, no. I figured I didn’t need to, since you were dead.”

Jaz’s grin dropped. She spun away on one heel, punching her fists down at her sides with a groan. “Bracken…”

“You were dead!” He threw out his arms to either side.

Jaz slumped onto the counter, rocking her forehead on her arms and stamping the same foot repeatedly.

“I got Blaise his formula at least! You could be happy about that.”

“That doesn’t help me,” Jaz moaned, voice muffled.

“Well…I lost Sadie’s coat too. I guess you don’t care about that, either.”

Jaz sagged and thumped down on the floor. She sat back against the shelves, closing the dishwasher door with a sharp kick. It bounced back down. She kicked it again. “I don’t care about your frothing coat. It’s just a coat.”

Bracken glared. “It was Sadie’s!”

“Then you should have been more careful with it!” The dishwasher door fell open again. Jaz jumped up, slamming it closed with her palm. “Hell’s rotting eyes!” She grabbed the full bucket in the sink and heaved, launching it over the tea counter. White rags and foaming water cascaded over the tins, surging across the counter and splashing on the floor. The bucket bounced, somersaulting, flinging more water across tables and chairs before dropping and rolling on the floor.

Bracken flinched and stepped back.

“Wandsucking raglicker—” Jaz kicked at the spreading puddle at her feet, slipped and fell heavily on her side. She got to her feet, lurching to the tea counter. Grabbing tea tins with both hands, she pitched them at the windows, along with more profanity. The panes pinged with each hit, and the dented tins clattered across the floor, bumping the bucket and the legs of tables and chairs. The noise was awful.

When her arsenal was gone, Jaz slammed her fists on the countertop, bunching her shoulders, breathing heavily through her nose. After a long silence, her shoulders dropped.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

Bracken watched her, saying nothing.

“I’d gotten my hopes up. That book is the closest I’ve come to finding a way out of here since…since a long time.”

“I get it,” Bracken said softly.

“No, Bracken. You don’t get it.”

“We can still get the translator. Blaise said he’d be back tom—next week.”

“Next week is too late. I have to return the book today.”

Bracken hesitated, wondering if he should mention the idea just occurring to him; if he should raise her hopes again. But regardless of all he didn’t understand, he knew that Jaz needed a win, and he owed her all the help he could give. “It’s not too late if we have pictures of the pages to translate later. We can photograph them with my camera. Then we just have to get the pictures developed and you’ll have them for as long as you need.”

Jaz turned as this registered, a small hope lighting her eyes. “It’s a big book. But, if we start now, we might have it all done before Huey gets here in…” She looked toward the clock. “…six or seven hours.”

“Who’s Huey?”

“He gave me the book. Well, borrowed it for me.”

Bracken smirked, lifting an eyebrow. “Borrowed, with permission?”

“Sort of…” Jaz didn’t meet his eyes.

His jaw dropped. “You stole it? Ha!”

“I did not steal it.”

“Right. You got this Huey guy to steal it for you.”

“No—are you even listening? He borrowed it first, then gave it to me to keep overnight—”

“So for a week.”

“Yeah but he doesn’t know about all that. All he knows is he owes me for letting him run his betting operations here.”

Bracken gave a low whistle. “Wow, Jaz.”

“Wow what?”

“You smuggle slugs, trade explosives, fight tigers, host betting operations… You’re a crime master.”

“Thanks,” she said flatly, then glanced at the clock above the doors. “You better start photographing. It’s going to take a while.”

“But I want to hear more about your life of crime.” He also wanted to know more about Janus, what he was and how he’d gotten trapped, but decided that those questions could wait until later.

“After we get the book copied.” She pushed him toward the basement door.

“Why didn’t you just borrow the book yourself?” Bracken asked over his shoulder.

“Just go. I’ll tell you all about it later.”

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