Soon the bus bombed through the night. There wasn’t much to see, but to the rest of the passengers Jock would’ve looked pretty content as he gazed out the window and occasionally nodded off.
That night Juno at last got some cashback. (Although less than she would’ve got if she’d let that smelly old dude onto the seat next to her.)
At 4am she sat up sharp. She didn’t know what had roused her so suddenly but felt that it wasn’t only the bright lights of another terminal. A neon sign read ‘Salem Depot’. So this was Oregon.
Only a moment passed before she saw the man. He was standing in the shadows below the sign and staring fixedly at her. Juno was seized by an instant urge to flee – she just knew that he saw her, too. And not Jock, nor the goddess she’d made.
She fingered Jock’s moustache for reassurance. This was way off the scale of weirdness. Even if she hadn’t been sure herself, she’d got it on good authority that she could pick up Magic powers in others. But she didn’t sense Magic in that lurking beardy figure at all. If anything she fancied having got something like last November’s vacant, rigid, anti-Magic hit on first waking up, and even that had faded. Yet the guy had to have some sort of gift. The fitful light was now flashing off of two coins he held out towards her in a gnarled hand that had dropped a shabby holdall, and a crazed cackle shook him so wildly that Juno could almost hear it as the engine howled and the coach pulled out.
She calmed down a little when it became clear that he wasn’t following her or anything. Her wits kicked back in, so she hexed her crystal ball onto the seat by the window where nobody could see it. But once more her best focussing and intending didn’t summon her target, and for some reason she’d rather have been bald again than go look for that mysterious hirsute stranger in person. For the first and last time Juno sought refuge in the very human illusion of security in motion. Between Jock’s hands she finished one last sweep of the dismal Salem depot, while a lone clean-shaven janitor did the same with his extremely ordinary brush.