Katie lives in small town where certain people always keep up with the latest gossip. There’s Margo, the vicar of St. Mary’s, Chris, the landlord of the King’s Arm’s, Angelina, the receptionist at the doctor’s surgery, and Shumash, the managing partner of Krish Estate Agency. If there’s an interesting new person in town, or somebody’s leaving, or having a baby, or having a family problem - these are the people who always know about it.
Fortunately, Shumash is going out with Katie’s mum and so she hears the most interesting news pretty fast too. And then if it’s really interesting, she tells it to Katie. And so, one evening, when they were in the kitchen eating witch’s broth, she said to Katie:
“I had coffee with Shumash this morning, and he told me that there is a new witch in town. He helped her find her house. It’s a really swish place up on the hill apparently.”
“Ooh,” said Katie. “That’s exciting. Shall we invite her over?”
“Well I tried to see her,” said Mum. “I dropped round at her so called 'surgery of white witchcraft', but her secretary told me I had to make an appointment and pay money up front just to say ‘hello’. I didn’t think that sounded very friendly. So I looked her up on my crystal ball and couldn’t find her.”
In case you don’t know, just about every witch in the world keeps a profile on the crystal ball network known as 'The Coven'. It’s a bit like Facebook; only it’s been around for centuries and you have to be a witch and have a crystal ball to use it. Katie obviously knew this and so she said:
“How can she be a witch if she’s not on the crystal ball?”
Mum shrugged and handed her a business card that read:
“That’s strange,” said Katie. “Nobody calls themselves a 'white witch' these days. It sounds sort of yucky.”
“I agree,” said Mum. “She’s a fake witch if you ask me.”
Katie held the card between her fingers. She could not feel any magical energy in it. “Yes,” she thought, “this is an imposter witch.”
Of course lots of people whisper that Katie’s mum is a fake witch. She runs a magic shop, but ordinary people can’t buy spectacular tricks there that would astonish their friends. Witches have learned the hard way that it’s best to keep hush about their special powers. She sells products to the general public that are mildly magic. For instance, she has anti-wrinkle creams that actually work. Of course, if you are a real witch who is on the crystal ball, she can sell you no end of powerful stuff - but that sort of business is all done behind the scenes.
It was rather annoying when a week or so later, Katie was coming out of Mr Old’s history lesson and Isabelle said to her: “My mum’s been to see a real witch, not a fake one like your mum. She’s truly powerful and can completely change your life for the better.”
“If you mean Agrippina Whats-her-name,” said Katie, “she’s the fake witch. My mum’s the real one. But your mum can’t tell the difference, so she’s got them the wrong way round.”
“I don’t think so,” said Isabelle.
And Samantha, who was Isabelle’s friend, walked behind Katie saying: “Fake, fake, fake."
But Isabelle and Samantha were Katie’s enemies. She expected them to be nasty. It was much more annoying when Katie called her friend Paul, and learned that he was actually working for the fake witch. He had just a little bit of wizardry in his blood, and was always fascinated by magic. Now he was excited because he had a Saturday morning job with an actual witch! His first role was to push marketing literature through letterboxes. Some of this had already arrived at katie’s house. They included postcards with pictures of oceans, mountains and forests that were overwritten with commandments like:
'Be Bold, Be Free!'
'The whole secret of happiness is to think happy thoughts."
"Each and every moment, of each and every day, do exactly what you want."
When Katie had first seen them she thought: “That makes life sound nice and simple. It’s kind of the opposite of what they say at school.”
She could see how some people might pin these cards on the kitchen wall or the back of the loo door to give them inspiration. And they could find contact details for Agrippina's surgery of white witchcraft on the back of the cards.
After Paul had done a stint of handing out this psychic propaganda, he had been allowed to mix some potions and bottle them up.
“How can you do that?” exclaimed Katie. “No real witch would let you mix her potions. She’s a complete fake and she’s conning people and giving magic a bad name.”
But Paul laughed and said: “You’re just saying that because she’s a rival to your mum and taking business off her.”
“No I’m not,” said Katie. “She’s not even on the crystal ball!”
“So what?" said Paul. “The crystal ball is old-school. Agrippina would rather be on Facebook and Twitter. That’s where the customers are.”
Later that day Katie told her mum about Paul. Her mum looked quite angry behind the eyes. She took a deep breath and said:
“I know now for sure that Agrippina is a fake.”
“How?” asked Katie.
“She came into my shop. I did not feel any magical energy coming off her at all. In fact, Paul has more energy than she does. She came over, and introduced herself. I laughed and said:
‘Well I ought to charge you £50 for saying hello.’
She said: ‘That’s not very friendly,’ and I said: ‘It’s what your secretary told me when I came by your surgery.’ Then she apologised for the misunderstanding, and tried to be nice. She had come to buy some things off me. She had a whole list - Aletris Root, Coltsfoot, Brimstone Powder, Hazel, Yarrow… all prepared with readymade spell-power, so that she would not have to do any magic of her own. I asked for her call sign on the crystal ball, and when she admitted - as I knew anyway - that she wasn’t a member of the Coven, I told her that I could not serve her magical ingredients. She looked very put out and left in quite a huff."
“Great,” said Katie with a laugh. “I’m glad you sent her off with a flea in her ear. She just wants to use your magic. In fact that’s probably why she set up her office near your shop ... so she can charge huge fees to her customers while buying spells off you for next to nothing.” And then she remembered something: “Did I tell you that Isabelle’s mum is a client of Agrippina and swears by her?”
“Really?” said Katie’s mum.
“Yes, really,” said Katie.
“That’s a coincidence,” said Katie’s mum. “Because Shumash told me today that she’s taking out a big new mortgage on her house. She came into his office to ask his advice.”
“What does that mean?” asked Katie.
“That she’s borrowing loads of money - hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
Katie’s eyes opened wide: “You don’t think Agrippina is charging her that much?”
“No,” laughed her mum. “It’s probably just a coincidence.”
Agrippina might not have any magic powers, but she certainly had some slick marketing skills. On Saturday morning, Paul and some other young people hung around the town centre offering shoppers 'free personality tests'. All they had to do was fill in a questionnaire about their lives, and then they could have a free consultation with Agrippina. Most of them came away having bought Agrippina’s book.
'The Magick Path to Happiness, Health and Inner Harmony'.
She spelt Magic with a 'ck' on the end, as most fake witches do, because it looks sort of ancient and occult.
The book cost £15. If they bought a treatment, that cost a lot more. And if they booked another appointment, that was even more expensive.
In fact, it seemed like Agrippina was everywhere. At school on Monday, Katie’s friend Isis heard that a girl called Skye had gone to see Agrippina and asked her for a love spell to get her boyfriend back.
“There’s a fat chance,” said Isis. “Because he told Samantha that Skye has bad breath, and now he’s going bowling with Samantha on Friday.”
“Trust Samantha to steal somebody’s boyfriend,” said Katie. “Do you know how much Skye paid Agrippina for the fake spell?”
“I don’t know,” said Isis. “But her dad’s really rich. He’s a plumber and Mum says he charges a fortune just to turn up with his tools.”
And then a few days later Margo the Vicar came into the magic shop and asked if she could speak to Katie’s mum in private. Katie’s mum closed the shop, put on the kettle, and got her best biscuits out of the tin. The Reverend Margo said:
“Have you come across a witch called Agrippina Crompton?”
“Yes, unfortunately,” said Katie’s mum. “But I have nothing to do with her.”
“I am glad to hear that,” said Margo. “I’m very concerned about her. One of my parishioners claims she is conning his elderly mother out of all her money.”
“Really?” exclaimed Katie’s mum. “Well I’m not entirely surprised. I knew she was a fake as soon as I met her.”
Margo and Katie’s mum agreed to exchange information about the fake witch.
When Katie came home, she had more news - Isabelle and her family had moved out of their large and lovely house and into a tiny flat. Isabelle was pretty unhappy about it. All she would say was that her mum had made a big mistake with money.
“Well, well well,” said Katie’s mum. “I strongly suspect that this has something to do with Agrippina. But how can we find out?”
That was something that Katie began to ponder.
And that was the first part of our story, Katie and the Fake Witch. It seems like Agrippina is a ruthless con-artist who is giving honest witches a bad name. What do you think Katie can do to stop her?
By the way, did you know that Agrippina was a Roman name? For instance, the Empress Agrippina was the wife of the Emperor Claudius and some people say that she poisoned him. Her son was the Emperor Nero who famously played his violin while Rome burned.
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