His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 15

Chapter 6

I left Kona there, and ran the gauntlet of police, FBI, and TSA check points until I was out of the terminal and back in my car. The drive out of the airport loop proved to be a good deal easier and quicker than the drive in. Afternoon traffic on the interstates, however, was hideous.

I sat in my car, idling alongside about ten thousand of my best friends, the Z-ster’s air conditioner working overtime and the sun glaring off the cars in front of me, and I thought about James Howell. To be more precise, I thought about the final minutes of his life, and possible reasons for his murder.

It was too easy to assume that he was killed because he tried to blow up the plane. How would a weremyste know that, and if somehow his killer was aware of the bomb, why would he or she resort to murder rather than simply alert the police or the FBI? And if this sorcerer knew about the bomb, why would he or she bother with grounding the plane first? That made no sense. The bomb was in Howell’s luggage; it wasn’t in the plane’s cabin or cockpit or cargo area. Disabling the plane wasn’t going to save any lives. That was why Howell was antsy, but not panicked. If Howell hadn’t been murdered, the passengers and their luggage would have been moved to a different aircraft, and that plane would have been destroyed.

The more I pondered this, the less sense it made.

I don’t usually use my phone when I drive, and I’m intolerant to the point of abusiveness of drivers who do. But we weren’t going anywhere, and it occurred to me that I needed more information. I pulled out my phone and punched in Kona’s number.

“Miss me already, huh?” she said upon answering.

“Can you get me the passenger list for flight 595?”

“Sure. I’ll email it to you. Why?”

“I know a good number of the sorcerers here in Phoenix, and I’d like to see if any of them were on board.”

“I’ll send it right away.”

“Thanks, Kona.”

I switched off the phone and tossed it on my jacket. A few seconds later, the cars around me started to inch forward.

I drove the rest of the way to my office in a fog. I knew I was missing something, a logical, or at least magical, explanation for the sequence of events that ended in Howell’s death. But I couldn’t see it. I kept coming back to the same conclusion: That whoever had killed the man had made his crime more complicated than it needed to be.

It wasn’t that I thought criminals always behaved rationally. Far from it. I’d been a cop for too long to think anything of the sort. But this was . . . odd. That was the best word for it.

What did a dead skinhead, a Latino political leader, and a disabled 757 have in common? Well, for one thing, they were all messing with my head.

Because my day hadn’t had enough surprises already, when I got to my office, Namid was already there. Waiting for me. That had never happened before.

From the way he greeted me you would have thought it was the most natural thing in the world, like I was getting home from work, and he was waiting for me in the kitchen, fixing dinner.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, tossing my car keys and bomber jacket on my desk.

“You need to train. We have not worked on your craft in some time.”

“It’s been two days.”

“And that is long enough.”

I no longer resisted Namid’s attempts to help me hone my craft. I still feared the powers I possessed, knowing where they would lead me. And if ever I forgot, all I needed to do was spend a few minutes with my Dad. But I also understood that as my runecrafting skills improved, so would my ability to hold off the worst symptoms of the phasings, thus slowing their cumulative effect on my mind.

On an already weird day, though, his presence in my office was too weird for me to let pass.

“You’ve been waiting here so that we can train? That’s it? That’s what you want me to believe?”

“Have I ever lied to you, Ohanko?”

That brought me up short. “No,” I said without hesitation.

“Then why would you doubt me now?”

It didn’t take long for my thoughts to catch up with the conversation. “You haven’t lied to me,” I said, ignoring the second question. “But when you’re concerned about my safety, you start behaving strangely. You show up at odd times. And you avoid direct questions by asking questions of your own. So why don’t you tell me what you’re doing here?”

“First we train. Then you may ask your questions.”

It was like arguing with a kid. A seven hundred year-old, watery, magic-wielding kid.

He lowered himself to the floor, gazing up at me with those endlessly patient glowing eyes. I heaved a sigh and sat as well.

“Clear yourself,” he said, with a low rumble, like a river in flood.

I closed my eyes and summoned an image from my youth: a Golden Eagle circling over the desert floor in the Superstition Wilderness, its enormous wings held perfectly still, its tail twisting as it turned. I’d been no more than nine years old when I saw it; my parents and I were on one of our many camping trips, and it was one of the happiest and most memorable moments from my childhood.

Clearing was something runecrafters did to empty their minds of distractions so that they could cast spells more efficiently and effectively. Long ago, when Namid first began to teach me the rudiments of crafting spells, he led me to this memory — there’s really no other way to put it — and told me to focus on it whenever I needed to clear myself for a spell. At first, clearing took me several minutes. Now, years later, I could do it in seconds.

I opened my eyes again, indicated to the runemyste with a curt nod that I was ready.

“Defend yourself,” he said.

We had started these sessions when I was pursuing Cahors, and ever since then, Namid had found new and excruciating ways to test my magical defences. Today he started me off with a spell that made me feel as though he had driven a spike through my forehead. I gasped at the pain, resisting an urge to cradle my head in my hands.

Three elements: me, the pain, and a sheath of power surrounding me. I had to repeat them to myself several times — the agony clouded my thoughts. But at last it vanished, leaving me breathless, my face damp with sweat.

“Your spell was too slow,” Namid said. “In the time it took you to cast, an enemy would have killed you.”

The problem with having a teacher who was just this side of all-powerful and all-knowing was that I couldn’t argue with him.

“I know,” I said. “It hurt. It was hard to concentrate.”

“That is why you clear yourself, Ohanko. If you do so properly, you should be able to cast despite the pain.”

“You understand that I can’t walk down the street clearing myself all the time, right? Sometimes I have to do other stuff, like drive and interact with people.”