His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 12

I slipped it into my pocket and the three of us headed back toward the cart.

Considering what I had seen out here, and what I had found on Howell’s corpse, I was convinced that our skinhead was nothing more than he appeared: a jackass domestic terrorist who had been killed by a conjurer. There had been no sign in the restroom of a magical battle, and the killing spell had hit Howell in the chest, suggesting that the conjurer who killed him hadn’t bothered to sneak up on him. Howell was no weremyste. But then why was he murdered with magic?

Kona drove us back to the apron, where the plane originally designated for flight 595 still sat, sunlight gleaming off of its wings and tail. We got out and started to walk back toward the jet bridge and terminal. As we did my eyes were drawn again and again to the aircraft.

I halted. “Did they ever figure out what was wrong with the plane?”

Kona shook her head. “I don’t think so. Just some warning message on the console that wouldn’t go off — something about the hydraulics maybe? I don’t . . .” Comprehension hit her at last, widening her eyes. “Shit.”

“What now?” Kevin asked. “What are you guys talking about?”

“There wasn’t any sign of magic on the bomb or Howell’s bag,” I said. “But I’d bet good money that there is on the plane itself. That’s why it never took off.”

“Magic can keep a plane on the ground?”

“Magic can foul up the instrumentation or the hydraulics, or pretty much anything else you can think of.” To Kona I said, “What was the exact warning light? Do you know?”

She flipped open her small pad again and scanned her notes, frowning. “I’m not sure I wrote it down.”

“The message was ‘F/CTL Flaps Fault,'” Kevin said. When both of us stared over at him he lifted a shoulder. “What? I remember stuff like that. I can’t help it.”

“He’s handy to have around,” I said to Kona.

“He is.”

“I think I need to see the plane.”

I should have known that it would be crawling with mechanics. We walked around the exterior and found two guys working on the left wing. They had the flaps propped up and were examining the hydraulics inside.

“Can I come up and take a look?” I called to them.

They paused in what they were doing to stare down at me.

“You know anything about planes?” one of them asked.

“A little bit.” I lied.

They shared a glance and one of them shrugged. “Sure, come on up.”

I climbed the latter and stepped onto the wing, taking care to avoid the spots marked “no step.” I knew that much, at least.

I peered down into the guts of the wing, amazed that these guys could make sense of the wires and mechanisms. I certainly couldn’t. But I wasn’t trying to; I was searching for the glow of magic, and to my disappointment, I saw none.

I examined the flaps as well; nothing on them either.

“These are the flaps that weren’t working before?” I asked.

Another glance passed between the men. “These are the flaps,” one of them said pointing to several different panels. He pointed to a few other surfaces. “These are the spoilers and the ailerons. You want me to show you the tabs and slats, too?” So much for convincing them that I knew anything about planes.

“No, that’s all right.”

“To answer your question, yeah, these are the ones that aren’t working.”

“Except there’s nothing wrong with them,” his friend chimed in. “Least nothing I can see.”

“We could probably figure out the problem if we were in the hangar,” the first guy said, “but the police wanted the bird to stay right here.”

I nodded, squinting against the glare coming off the wing. It was possible that in this light I simply couldn’t see whatever magic was there. “But so far you’ve found no problems.”

“Nope. The crew reported a cockpit warning about the flaps, and you don’t mess around with that. And when they tried to test the hydraulics before taxiing to the runway, nothing happened. You sure as shit don’t mess with that. Now though . . .” He shook his head. “Now everything seems okay.”

“Gremlins,” the second guy said, flashing a toothy grin.

The first one nodded. “Yeah, gremlins. That’s the best I’ve got.”

“All right guys,” I said, climbing back down off the wing. “Thanks.” Once on the ground again, I asked Kona if she could get me inside the cockpit to see the console.

“I don’t know, Justis. The Federal boys weren’t exactly eager to give us access to Howell’s body. But they were downright possessive when it came to the plane. At one point I thought they were going to pull down their zippers and start marking territory. You know what I mean?”

“So you don’t think you can convince them to let me take a quick look?”

“I’m not sure I can get myself inside, much less you. This is the FBI we’re talking about. The only people they like less than local cops are local PIs. But let’s give it a try. The worst they can do is say no.”

We walked around to the side of the plane, where the boarding stairs had been rolled up to the cabin door. There was no one guarding the stairway, so Kona and I climbed them, both of us trying to act like we weren’t doing anything wrong.

Before we reached the top of the stairs, though, we heard voices coming from inside.

“This isn’t going to work,” Kona whispered.

“I’m going to try something. Don’t freak out, all right?”

“This isn’t the time for you to try something.”

“It’s the perfect time. Stay calm.”

I scanned the apron; aside from Kevin, who was trying to pretend he didn’t know us, there was no one nearby. Convinced that the coast was relatively clear, I mumbled another camouflage spell. Seven elements again: the FBI guys, me, the interior of the plane, the dim light of the cabin, the bright daylight, the boarding stairs, and the FBI guys again. I hadn’t seen the interior of this plane, but I could make out the color of the carpeting from where we stood on the stairs, and I had been in plenty of passenger jets over the years; they all looked pretty much the same.

As with the spell I’d cast the night before, I repeated the elements to myself six times. On the seventh, I released the spell.

“Justis, what are you doing?”

“Can you still see me?”

She eyed me like I was nuts. “Uhhh, yeah. Why?”

“Because if I did the spell right, the guys on the plane won’t be able to.”

“Did I lose track of the days? Is tonight the full moon?”

“I’m not hallucinating. I cast what’s called a camouflage spell. Weremystes can’t make themselves invisible, at least I can’t. But with this magic, I can hide myself from specific people. Those guys in there shouldn’t be able to see me. Trust me on this.” I felt like crossing my fingers, or knocking on wood. Because really, I wouldn’t know for certain that the spell had worked until I entered the plane. But I was operating under the assumption that it had.

“So what do you want me to do?”