New Winslow S6E22
Despite the fact that the internet in Iris’s shop was better than pretty much anywhere else in New Winslow that wasn’t directly downtown, it still dragged sometimes. But it was strong enough that after a sputtering start, the video chat program opened and she could see Roman’s face come into view.
“Roman!” she exclaimed, as if she wasn’t the one who had set all of this up. But he looked, if not exactly healthy, alive and much better than she’d expected him to. Behind him, she could see the rich wooden headboard of a bed somewhere in the Countess.
“It’s me,” he said with a self-deprecating laugh that got cut off as the program lagged slightly.
“How are you, mate?” Andrew asked from next to Iris.
Roman shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. “This is surreal. Minnie-” He cut off for a second and Iris thought maybe the connection was gone. But then Roman cleared his throat. “Minnie used to call out of New Winslow like this. I never thought I’d call in.”
He was quiet for a second longer. “I’m better. But I’ve got maybe twenty minutes in me tonight, I’ll be honest.”
Iris saw his gaze go to Dr. Degas. It shouldn’t have been clear on the screen, but she could just tell. “Doc,” he said with a smile.
Dr. Degas shook her head. “Roman,” she said, a smile on her own face.
“You saved me.”
Her laugh was bitter. “Hardly.”
“You got me out.”
“I got you an ambulance,” Dr. Degas retorted. “And we’re not any closer to figuring out how you got out, are we?”
“No,” Roman replied, suddenly serious. “And I’m not hiding anything, I swear. I have no idea.”
“Maybe it was just luck,” Andrew suggested.
“There’s no such thing,” Iris said.
He raised his eyebrows at her. “You never struck me as such a cynic?”
“I just mean, not in magic. There’s a curse, and it’s no longer affecting him. But…”
“But it’s still affecting me,” Andrew finished when she faltered. “Meaning it still exists.”
“So something made it stop affecting Roman.”
“Could it be something you did?” Andrew asked Dr. Degas.
Dr. Degas shook her head. “I don’t have any magic in me. And I’ve never studied it.”
“No, I mean, maybe something you did that day was what broke it.”
Dr. Degas looked over at Roman on the screen, who waved a hand. “You have my consent to share any of it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t remember.”
“What do you remember?” Iris asked.
“I was out with Noah,” Roman said. “And I wasn’t feeling good. But he didn’t believe me when I said I was fine. Celine brought me to the clinic, and it’s kind of blurry after that.”
Iris didn’t need her abilities to read the look that came over Andrew’s face as Roman talked. Fear, envy, self-loathing, relief. He might have been the only person in town impacted by the curse right now and short of attempting to give him a heart attack too, there was no way to replicate the events that got Roman out.
“What about Noah?” Iris asked. “Does he have any magic?”
She was pretty sure she knew the answer to that question, but over the past year, the different magical abilities and events had shaken her confidence that she and Celine were alone among the population. But she wasn’t surprised when Andrew shook his head.
“No,” he said. “Unless I’m missing something big, there’s no magic there.”
“Who was at the clinic?” Iris asked.
Again, Dr. Degas looked over at Roman for permission to give that information. He nodded at her. “Thanks, Doc,” he said.
Dr. Degas turned to Iris. “It was me, Bonnie, Roman, and Celine. Then the paramedics.”
“Just regular paramedics?” Andrew asked.
“Yes, but ones who were aware of the curse,” Dr. Degas said. “It’s a possibility, but very unlikely.”
“What about Bonnie?”
“No,” Dr. Degas said immediately. “She’s told me herself when the curse comes up.”
“So we can almost definitely eliminate the possibility of a secret ally,” Iris said. “And the rituals you were doing-”
“None worked,” Roman said firmly. “I swear. Ask Celine. Read all the rituals I tried. None of them worked.”
The screen wobbled and Roman’s image froze for a moment just as there was a familiar tapping on the window. Iris looked over and was not surprised to see nothing in the window, even as the tapping started up again.
“Jesus Christ,” she muttered.
“What the hell is that?” Andrew asked.
“It’s fucking Roland,” Iris replied. “He can’t get in here, so he’s been messing with me from the windows lately. He shattered one of them, I just got it repaired yesterday. And since my property ends at the front door, I can’t really keep him away. I can only keep him out. Ignore him, he’s got nothing to do with this.”
“Small blessings,” Andrew muttered.
“Can you hear me?”
Roman’s voice was back, but the screen was black. “Yeah,” Iris said, pulling the computer closer to reset the program. “But that’s it. Hang on a minute.”
It reopened a few minutes later, lasting just long enough for them to get nothing done. The next time it crashed, Andrew’s phone buzzed with a message from Roman that he was exhausted and needed to go to bed. Dr. Degas left a moment later, leaving Iris and Andrew alone in the shop.
“I have no ideas,” she said as he glumly played with a sparkling pink crystal on the counter. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” he said, not looking at her. “Nothing’s changed except for the fact that Roman’s out. The curse is still here, Baxter’s still a knob, and we’re still trying to figure out what to do.”
She had no argument against this, so she just nodded and resisted the urge to give him a hug.