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Au Lait
About the Author: Dan is the author of three mystery novels published by Ace Science Fiction and has appeared frequently in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. He sells used books, and occasionally reads them as well.


Susan-Barbara pried the lid off the coffee cup. She didn’t need the taste of plastic and wanted to see … damn! They made it wrong every single time. She gave her order in plain English, which they understood well enough to charge her for her order, and ALWAYS overdid the froth. It had to be on purpose. Well, she’d gotten the one guy fired from this joint; they’d find out she was still around.

The smell of hot coffee hit her chilled nose. Well, anyhow, it would do the job. Chicago in February required regular doses of hot caffeine, no matter how frothy. She gave it a token swirl with the stirrer and then flexed the plastic rod to send it toward the garbage can on the corner.

“Hang on!”

She looked at the bundled people hurrying by. Somebody busy on a call, probably. Her footsteps had brought her closer to the can now, so she swung her hand over the pile of coffee cups, drifted snow, and ketchup packets.

Before she could let go of the plastic stick, she felt it shift a little against her thumb. “No, I meant hang on ta me!”

She raised it to her eyes. The letters that formed the name of the coffee emporium shifted. The voice came from a large O. “Yeah. Me.”

She blinked. “I don’t usually let a coffee stirrer tell me what to do.” Her eyes shifted left and right to see if anybody was watching her conversation with a stick. No one even looked up.

“Don’t talk like a tea drinker,” snarled the stirrer. “I’m Swackit the Enchanted Swizzle.”

“Swackit the …”

She thought she hard a sigh. “Yeah. Oncet upon a time I was changin’ destinies in lounges all troo Vegas an’ L.A. But yez gots ta change wit the times.”

Susan-Barbara sipped at her coffee, ignoring the froth. “I don’t believe I’ve heard of you before.”

“Eh!” She could hear the shrug. “Not many o’ my people brags much about how they owes what they is ta a swizzle stick, somehow.”

“I get that.” Susan-Barbara moved a little away from the street corner. No one was staring at her even yet, but the corner was a little too crowded with witnesses. “Why would anybody make an enchanted swizzlestick?”

“Long story,” said Swackit. “Anyway, gossip’s a filt’y habit.”

“I suppose,” said Susan-Barbara.

“If it wasn’t there wouldn’t be no enchanted swizzle. Anyways, let’s get ta business. I gots plenty o’ destinies ta alter today. Here’s whatcha needs ta know: t’ree wishes. Don’t try gittin’ clever: don’t go wishing for more wishes or a magic wishing ring or some such, just t’ree t’ings. And specific, huh? Saves on complaints. I gots no time for complaints: busy swizzle’s gotta be efficient. T’ink it over, say ‘I wish’ when ya means it.”

She should have expected this. Susan-Barbara glanced around for a hidden camera, decided they hid it too well for one glance, and decided to play along. “Okay, let’s see. I wish for as much money as I’ll ever want as long as I live … IN some easily portable and usable form. No stolen bank loot or gold nuggets as big as the Newberry Library.”

“Good one!” said Swackit. “Look atcher shoes.”

Susan-Barbara looked down. There had been no wallet between her toes a moment ago. Setting her coffee on the sill of the dog pillow boutique, she stooped to pick up the worn leather rectangle. Opening it, she found a hundred dollar bill.

“That’s it? How long am I going to live?”

“Y’ain’t wished nuttin’ bout ’at yet. Take it out.”

She slipped the currency out of the wallet. It looked like a perfectly normal bill. Glancing down at the wallet, she saw another had taken its place.

“Ah!” She removed the second bill and after the briefest of pauses, a third appeared. This would be very useful. A little annoying, perhaps. It would take a while to work up to some purchases. There were worse ways to spend an evening than piling up hundreds.

“Okay!” There was a small alley between the boutique and the next building, with a rusty old fire escape above to block any prying eyes above. No sense advertising this. No way was she going to waste a wish chasing off a mugger.

She thought quickly, “Next I wish for perfect health in all parts for as long as I live: without especially changing the way I look, though I can change that later.” She rather expected that PERFECT health would mean suddenly dropping enough pounds to make all her clothes drop off as well. And this was neither the place nor the weather for it.



This story appears in our NOV 2016 Issue
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Reader Discussion

22
Nov
Ha! Not where I thought it was going! Good Job!
By Jennifer Swansen

22
Nov
I love to see justice done! Even if it is via a swizzle stick. Wonderful concept.
By Kaye George

24
Nov
This particular mystery, and I truly enjoy most of them, did not hold my attention. I couldn't get into the "swizzle stick."
By Frances Dunn

1
Dec
What a clever twist this was. Enjoyed it.
By Elizabeth Varadan


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