Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 08
“That a new magic you’ve learned?” she asked. “You can listen in to what’s going in my head and my heart?”
I held her gaze, saying nothing. After a few seconds of this, she rolled her eyes.
“Fine, it might have been self-defense. Be that as it may –”
“You invited me in,” I said, “but I have no official role here. So wouldn’t it be helpful to you if I dug around a little bit?”
“It’s not like I’m going to help her slip out of the country. But the magic is pointing me in a clear direction: she’s a victim, or would have been if she hadn’t gotten away. So let me work that angle. Maybe I can find her. And maybe through her I can find your silver-haired killer.” I pointed at the second corpse. “And figure out how he killed that woman.”
For a long time, Kona didn’t respond. She pursed her lips, her eyes trained on the ground in front of her, and after a while she began to shake her head, which told me that I had won.
“She’s driving a minivan, silver, late model. We have conflicting reports on whether it’s a Toyota, a Mazda, or a Honda. She was last seen turning onto the southbound entrance ramp.” I thought she might say more, but after a moment she closed her notepad.
“What else, Kona?”
“It’s probably nothing.”
She raised her eyes to mine. “A couple of witnesses said that her van nearly tipped over as she sped away. And one of them was convinced he saw the silver-haired guy hold his hand up, like he was pointing at the van. This was before the woman he was holding died.”
I felt the blood drain from my face. I went back to the corpse and again used the pencil to uncover the wound on her shoulder. There was one possibility that explained the wound and what the silver-haired man might have been doing. It might even have explained why there was no trace of magic on the dead woman. The problem was, I didn’t believe what I was contemplating could be possible. Didn’t believe it, and didn’t want to.
“What’s on your mind, Justis?” Kona asked from behind me.
I shook my head, and stood once more. “Nothing. I’m . . . nothing.”
“Uh huh.” No one could pack more sarcasm into two syllables than Kona.
“I’ll let you know what I find out,” I said. “You’ll do the same?”
“As much as I can.”
It was, I knew, the best she could offer.
“All right. See you around, partner. Kevin, take care.”
I made my way back to the Z-ster, got in, and started her up. After idling for a few seconds, I pulled out of the parking lot and steered onto the interstate. But rather than heading back north into the city, I drove south. I couldn’t say why. I didn’t think I could track the woman by her magic, though to make sure I cast a spell that, at least in theory, might have worked.
Seven elements: the woman, her minivan, her kids, her red-brown magic, the freeway, me, and a magical trail connecting all of us. I felt the power of my spell dance along my skin as I drove, but I saw nothing.
Still, I drove for a while, emerging from the sprawl of Phoenix into the flat open desert of the Gila River Indian Community. The reservation covered close to six hundred square miles, and had been, since the middle of the nineteenth century, home to the Akimel O’odham and Pee-Posh tribes, also known as the Pimas and the Maricopas. As with so much Indian territory in the state, there wasn’t much to look at on this land. Even back in 1859, the Federal Government had already gotten very good at picking out the least valuable lands for the tribal nations. There were few landmarks along this stretch of highway beyond a small airfield about three miles south of the restaurant.
I tried the tracking spell a second time, but was no more successful than I’d been before. And yet I couldn’t bring myself to turn around. I drove forty miles through the heart of the territory and beyond its southern boundary, until I reached the outskirts of Casa Grande. There, finally, I took the exit and reentered the freeway heading north.
I’d wasted some gas and some time, but I didn’t mind that. What bothered me was the sense I had after starting back toward Phoenix that I was now heading in the wrong direction. My spell hadn’t worked, and I couldn’t explain what I was feeling. But I had been a cop and a weremyste for too long to dismiss it.
I resisted the urge to head south again, and made my way back into the city. The one blessing in all of this was that I was driving against the worst of the traffic. Before long I had pulled up in front of Billie Castle’s house in Tempe.
Billie and I met during my investigation into the last of the Blind Angel murders. The killer’s final victim, a girl named Claudia Deegan, was the daughter of Arizona’s senior U.S. Senator, Randolph Deegan, who had established himself as the most powerful politician in the state. He was about to be elected governor in what everyone, including his opponent, knew would be a landslide, and many believed he had Presidential ambitions. Among those who believed this was my girlfriend. Billie was a journalist. To be more precise, she was what many in the business call an opinion shaper. She maintained a blog called “Castle’s Village,” which attracted a wide readership throughout the Southwest.
When we met, she was digging up information on Claudia’s murder, and I was less than forthcoming with what I knew. Eight years on the Phoenix police force had left me with a healthy aversion to the press.
But in addition to being tenacious and smart as hell, she was also charming and beautiful, and for some reason surpassing understanding, she wound up being drawn to me as powerfully as I was to her.
Notwithstanding a few preliminary bumps, our relationship had been developing steadily ever since. It took her a little while to believe in the magic I wield, and a bit longer to accept that my ability to cast spells was worth the cost of the phasings. To be honest, I’m not sure that she’s convinced of this yet. There are drugs that a weremyste can take — they’re called blockers — that would blunt the effects of the full moon and probably keep me from going insane later in life. But they do this at the expense of my runecrafting, and that’s not a trade I’m willing to make. At least not yet. But I was convinced that if Billie had her way, I’d be taking them.
Aside from that, though, things have been great.
Well, mostly. Being involved with me did almost get her killed during the summer, when Saorla threw the magical equivalent of a bomb at a Mexican place in which we were having lunch. Billie’s injuries were severe: broken bones, concussion, a collapsed lung. But she’s better now.
I have no idea why she is still with me. If I had been in her position, I would have run screaming from this relationship months ago. I was a lucky man.
I parked out front, pulled the Glock from beneath the seat and slipped it into my jacket pocket, and approached her front door. Before I was halfway up the path, the door opened and she came outside looking none-too-happy.
“Thank God,” she said. “I’ve been calling you, texting you; I even tried email.”
“I was driving. What’s up?”
“Your friend’s here. He’s doing that silent immovable thing and it’s driving me nuts.”