Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 27

. . . Sources tell me it could be here. The speaker was an older man, with silver hair and a neatly trimmed goatee to match. He stood in the center of the shop, and a younger man, tall, athletic, watched from a pace or two behind him. I assumed the younger man was a weremancer, but because Burt wasn’t a weremyste, he couldn’t see the magic in people. And with this spell, I saw what Burt saw.

Both the older man and his companion appeared perfectly normal in the scried image; no magical blur obscured their features. The silver-haired gentleman wore a linen suit and a silk tie, and though I knew that he could kill with a mere touch of his hand, I couldn’t help thinking that this was how every villain in every Hollywood movie should look: elegant, handsome, effortlessly graceful. And so I ask you again, Mister Kendall, he said, do you have it?

Even his voice was smooth, a soft tenor tinged with the hint of a British accent.

I told you, already, Burt answered, sounding loud and clumsy by comparison, I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you could tell me what it looks like —

No, I think that would be a bad idea, on the off chance that you’re telling me the truth.

I am —

The older man raised a hand, and Burt fell silent.

You, come here.

Burt turned, allowing me to see his assistant — the guy with the tattoos and piercings who now lay dead in the middle of the shop. At that moment he still stood with Burt behind the counter, but at the silver-haired man’s summons, he walked out into the shop area. I had no doubt that the older man had used a spell to compel him.

Tommy, don’t, Burt said.

The kid ignored him.

Tommy is it? Silver-hair asked. Tommy didn’t answer, but that didn’t seem to surprise the man. As the kid stopped beside him, Silver-hair drew a knife from his pocket and laid the edge along Tommy’s neck. The kid didn’t so much as flinch. Now then, Mister Kendall, I will ask you my questions, and you will answer me. If you refuse, he’ll die. If you lie to me, I’ll know it, and he’ll die. Are we clear?

Please, I honestly don’t know —

Silver-haired quieted him again.

Do me the courtesy of allowing me to ask my questions. Have you had any objects of unusual origin brought in over the last month or so?

Unusual origin? I don’t even know what that means.

The older man pressed the blade harder against Tommy’s neck. Still, the kid’s expression remained blank. Think, Mister Kendall. Poor Tommy is depending on you.

You’re trying to find magical items, Burt said, his words a rushed jumble. Talismans, maybe old books, that sort of thing?

Have you received anything of that sort?

No. I keep an eye out for them. I have a certain clientele that wants to know when magical stuff comes in, and I haven’t had anything to show them in months. I swear it.

This particular piece might have resembled a weapon.

You mean like a magic gun?

Silver-hair glanced back at his companion and huffed a sigh. Then he faced Burt again, and when he did, Burt let out a scream that made me flinch.

He collapsed to the floor, clutching his leg. A few moments later, Silver-hair’s friend hoisted him to his feet once more.

I’m a tolerant man, but my patience is not without its limits. Where do you keep your magical items?

The pawned ones I keep in back, Burt said, his voice strained. On a shelf over my desk. If the loans aren’t repaid, I bring them out to that case. He pointed at a nearby display case. But aside from what’s there now, I’ve got nothing. I told you, I haven’t gotten anything new in —

His words trailed into another scream. I didn’t know what Silver-hair had done to him this time, but I had to grit my teeth against a rising tide of nausea.

You disappoint me, Mister Kendall. I had hoped to avoid this.

I couldn’t tell if he said more. Burt’s cries drowned out every other sound. I let the vision fade and slipped the stone back into my pocket before closing my eyes and rubbing a hand across my forehead. A headache had started to build behind my eyes.

“Well?” Kona asked.

I shook my head. “I didn’t see much. It was definitely our silver-haired friend again, and another guy who I’m sure was a weremyste.” I described what I’d seen in the stone and repeated as much of the conversation as I could remember. “I’m assuming that one of the spells intended to torture Burt wound up killing him, at which point they probably shot him in the chest to make people think it was a robbery gone bad. I’d guess that they searched the place and then used the kid’s blood to power the spell that wrecked the shop.”

Kona pursed her lips, staring down at Burt’s corpse. “Is it possible that the kid saw something Burt missed?”

“It’s possible. But I don’t think that this kind of seeing spell will work on him. They had him in a . . . a thrall of some sort. During the final minutes of his life, he had no idea what he was seeing or doing.”

“So we don’t even know if they got what they were after,” Kevin said.

I surveyed the shop, taking in the level of destruction. “I’m guessing now,” I said. “But I don’t think they did. I have a feeling our friend was pretty well ticked off when he cast that last spell.”

“Would you know what they were after if you saw it?” Kona asked me.

“I might.”

She nodded once. “Then let’s take a look around.”

A doorway behind the counter drew my eye. The door stood ajar and a sign on it read “Employees only.”

“Anyone been back there yet?” I asked.

“We’ve been all over this place, but we don’t know what we’re after.”

I nodded and followed her into the back. The mess back here was almost as bad as that out front, though the one display case in this part of the building, which stood against the far wall, had not been shattered. It held a few handguns, including what appeared to be an original Colt .44-40 six-shooter. Apparently Silver-hair didn’t know crap about non-magical weapons. If he had really wanted to convince anyone that this was a robbery, he wouldn’t have left the Colt.

The shelf over Burt’s desk was empty, as he told Silver-hair it would be. The desk drawers had been pulled out and dumped on the floor, and with Kona’s permission, I searched through the pile of pencils and pens, papers and paper clips. As I expected, I didn’t find anything of note. Either Silver-hair found what he was after, or Burt was telling the truth. I was betting on the latter.

“There’s nothing here, Kona. At least nothing I can see. I can help you with this one, if you’ll let me. You’re probably not going to find these guys through the usual channels.”

“We could use the help, Justis. Thanks.” After the conversation we’d had about Gracie the day before, it felt good to be on the same page with her. Then she had to go and spoil it, at least that’s how she would think of it. “If this thing he’s after isn’t here, where else might it be?”

I met her gaze, and despite the grim surroundings, a grin tugged at the corners of my mouth. “You’re not going to like my answer.”

It took her a moment, and when it came to her, she rolled her eyes. “Oh, don’t tell me.”

“What?” Kevin asked, looking from one of us to the other.

“Brother Q,” Kona and I said in unison. I was smiling as we said the name. She wasn’t.