Mother Hubbard ("Call me Sophie" she'd said to Moira following introductions) as it turned out, was a tall, rail thin woman who looked like disturbingly like a Real Housewife. Tanned, plucked, botoxed and trussed in skinny jeans and platform heels. She greeted Sebastian at the door of her condo with a vulpine smile made terrible by bleached-bright veneers. "Bastian, back so soon?" she purred then catching sight of Moira, the wattage of her smile dimmed by several degrees. "So this is a business not a social visit I presume?" Pale brown eyes appraised Moira from head to toe while Moira tried not to stare.
Sebastian nodded. "I would have called but I know how much you enjoy surprises."
Hubbard smiled again. Moira really wished she wouldn't. "Keeps the blood pumping sweetie. Come on in."
The interior of the condo was a decorated in a hodge-podge of antique and modern design. There was a Queen Anne settee next to an Ikea-style chaise in the sunken living room, a Chippendale dining room set beneath a chandelier of glass and chrome and a side-bar with stools that resembled question marks. Aubusson tapestries and Tiffany lamps shared space with other furnishings and decorations that fell somewhere between the realm of WTF and 'conversation piece.'
Hubbard led them to the bar and offered to fix them drinks. "I know it's early for cocktails," she said slipping behind the counter, "but your friend looks as though she could use a drink."
Sebastian with a swift but meaningful glance at Moira, declined for them both. "That's quite alright Sophie, we have a couple more stops to make after we leave here and we're kind of in a hurry so we'll have to pass."
"Suit yourself," Sophie said pouring vodka into a martini glass. Her expression hadn't altered (it seldom did) but the flatness of her tone indicated she was miffed. "Well then, don't leave me in suspense. What do you want?"
"I need troll rope, Braham's wish-bone and the Caduceus wand."
Sophie paused with her glass half way to her over-glossed lips and looked Moira with sudden interest. "Taking a trip are we? One way ticket or round?"
"That's confidential," Sebastian interjected smoothly before Moira could reply.
"Always so trusting," Sophie said with a little laugh.
"Why do they call you Mother Hubbard?" Moira blurted out. Curiosity had gotten the better of her.
"She speaks," Sophie drawled. "I was beginning to think old Bastian here had his hand up your ass." She set down her drink, talon-like nails clicking on the marble counter-top. "Well sweetie, Mother is just a silly moniker from the old days. I've been in the same business for many years and despite my best efforts, the name just kind of stuck."
It wasn't exactly much of an explanation but Moira knew that was all she was going to get. She decided to ask Sebastian about it later. She had no doubt that he would know.
Sophie had turned her attention back to Sebastian. "I can get you the troll rope and the Caduceus no problem. But I'm afraid Braham's bone is on loan."
"Jack." It wasn't a question. "When is he due to bring it back?"
"Yesterday, so I suspect he's in hiding now that he's defaulted on the loan." Sebastian's face tightened at the undisguised glee in her voice.
Jack was a long time customer of Hubbard. Affable guy with many talents, not the least being a talent for trouble. He'd get into a pickle and need something to get him out of it. If he couldn't borrow, he'd steal (sometimes for Hubbard herself) and put that up for collateral. Sometimes the owner of the collateral would show up to collect their property. Jack would either have to give it back, give something of fair and equal exchange or perform a task of the owner's choosing. Over the years his indebtedness to Sophie had grown. She had made certain of that.
"When you find him tell him Mummy's waiting so be a good boy and come home. Remind him that the longer I wait, the higher the interest, and I can wait a long goddamned time."
So much was implied in that silky, sweet tone that Moira couldn't help but shudder. She no longer wanted to know anything about Hubbard. She just wanted to be gone.
Sebastian was anxious to be gone himself. He was angry at the witch for what she intended to do to Jack and was trying to control his temper. "I'll be sure to pass on your message. May I have the wand and rope now please?"
"Sure sweetie." Sophie downed the rest of her drink then drew a symbol in the air with one finger. There was a sudden change in air pressure that made Moira's ears pop, a shimmery ripple of light then a bag made from some type of animal skin appeared on the counter top. "One Caduceus, one troll rope." Sophie drew the items from the bag and handed them to Sebastian. "I believe that makes us even."
"Not quite," Sebastian told her. "I still have to find Jack and Braham's bone."
"You'll find him. You're good at that sort of thing." Her eyes shifted to Moira who'd already hopped off the bar stool and was waiting with a tense expression, her purse, with the book of nursery rhymes shoved into it, clutched under one arm. "I've been considering getting a cut like yours," she said, studying Moira's short, bouncy bob. "But now I know not to bother. 'Soccer mom' wouldn't suit me at all."
Moira didn't quite know what to say to that so she simply nodded and followed Sebastian to the door. Sophie trailed behind them, heels clicking, another glass of vodka in hand. "Good luck on your trip," she called out. "You're going to need it. Especially with a name like yours."
Moira stiffened but Sebastian's hand on her elbow calmed her once more. "Christ what an awful woman," she announced as she slid behind the wheel of her car. Sebastian, sitting on the passenger side, didn't have a car and didn't drive. "Or is she even a woman at all?"
"Perhaps she was, once upon a time."
Moira gave him a sidelong glance. Was that teasing she'd heard in his voice? It was hard to tell with him. She started up the engine. "Where are we going to find this Jack?"
"At the Beanstalk of course."
His client swiveled to look at him. "Okay, now I know you're pulling my leg. You are joking right?"
Sebastian grinned, a lopsided, infectious grin that made the corners of his eyes crinkle; made him seem normal, less mystic dude with freaky friends. "I'm joking," he admitted. "Trying to lighten the mood if you will."
"Okay then." She gave him an answering smile. "Consider the mood lightened. But I still need to know where we're going next."
"To Blackmoore Park," he told her.
Moira's heart gave a little leap. Blackmoore Park. The park where Mandy had disappeared.
"Jack will be waiting for us there."