Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 39
I steered us onto the narrow lane and drifted over to the side when we pulled even with the restrooms. Making sure that no one was nearby, and leaving the engine idling, I got out of the pickup, walked around to the passenger side, and opened the door. “You heard your mom. Use the bathroom and then come right back here.”
They crawled out of the truck and ran to the restrooms. I stayed by the truck, watching for Gracie, every second feeling like an hour.
Even as I waited for them to emerge from the outbuildings, I pulled out my phone and dialed Kona’s number.
“You got anything for me?” she asked upon answering.
“On Burt, you mean?”
“Yeah, on Burt.”
“Nothing to speak of, no, and I don’t have a lot of time right now. The other day you said something about a break-in at the Davett house. What can you tell me about that?”
The urgency in my voice must have reached her through the thin connection, because rather than telling me she wasn’t being paid to do my job, she merely answered. “Not much,” she said. “A neighbor called it in after hearing a bunch of noise from inside the house. Glass breaking, things being knocked around, stuff like that. So by the time the husband got home, a squad car was already there. Davett checked on a few valuables and then said nothing important had been taken and refused to file a report.”
That fit. Neil didn’t want to report it, because he knew exactly what the people who broke in were after, and he didn’t want to explain any of this to the police.
“So that was it,” I said. “No report, no investigation.”
“‘Fraid so. Why the interest?”
“I think it’s possible the people who killed Burt went to the Davett’s place looking for the same item.”
“This more than a hunch?”
“I wish. Hunches are about all I’ve got going for me right now.”
One of the restroom doors opened.
“I’ve gotta go, Kona. I’ll call again when I can.”
I closed the phone before she could say more. I figured she would still be ticked at me the next time we spoke, but I couldn’t worry about that now.
Emmy appeared in the restroom doorway, but waited for Zach. When he came out, she took his hand, but still she remained in the shadows of the building, watching me, waiting for me to signal to her that all was clear.
Like I said, smart kid.
I turned a slow circle, trying to act nonchalant. Seeing no one, I opened the truck door again and gave them a little wave. They ran back to the truck, climbed in, and tucked down into the foot well.
“Where’s Mommy?” Emmy asked.
I watched the end of the road for any sign of her. “She’ll be here soon,” I said. “Transporting spells take a little time.”
That wasn’t really true — they didn’t take any more time than other spells. But I didn’t want to scare her. I was concerned enough for the both of us.
“What are transporting spells?”
“They let you move things from place to place, or, in this case, they let you retrieve things that you can’t get to in any other way.”
“Like blankie?” she said.
“I hope she remembers to get more of our food.”
“Me, too,” Zach said, the words muddy.
I glanced into the pickup. He had his thumb in his mouth and was staring at the truck door, his eyes a little glassy. Given the chance, in another few minutes he would be napping.
I heard a car rolling toward us along the loop road, and then the soft crackle of a police radio.
“That’s a bad one,” Emmy said. I didn’t have to see her to know she was scowling. “That’s two quarters each.”
“Emmy, before this is over, I’m going to owe you a lot of money.”
I hurried around to the driver’s side, got in, and pulled away from the restrooms. I didn’t drive fast, and I had no intention of going far. But any cop who saw me there would be curious enough to stop.
“What about Mommy?” Emmy asked.
“Don’t worry, sweetie. We’re not going far.”
She watched me, her eyes wide. If she objected to me calling her sweetie, she didn’t show it.
When I was certain the cruiser hadn’t turned down this row, I found an empty site and pulled into it, hoping Gracie would find us.
Minutes dragged by. I started to wonder if I ought to circle around to that last row. If she’d been caught, I needed to know. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be arrested, too. Sure, I would probably be able to talk my way out of an accessory to murder charge; and if I couldn’t Kona would do it for me. But in this case, my fate was beside the point. As much as I hated the idea of taking the children to Marisol and Eduardo Trejo with news of Gracie’s arrest, that was better by far than getting caught ourselves and having the kids wind up back with an abusive father.
To my great relief, Gracie appeared on the road behind us a few minutes later. The kids squealed at the sight of her, and I had to shush them. She walked swiftly, but somehow managed to keep herself from appearing hurried or nervous. And her arms were full of an assortment of children’s books, clothes, and stuffed animals, including an old, gray and blue blanket that probably had once been white and blue. I assumed this was blankie.
Upon reaching the pickup, she flashed a crooked grin through the open window on the passenger side. “Sorry. I’d use a spell to grab one thing, and immediately think of something else I should also take. And I had to be careful not to take too much at once. The place is crawling with cops.”
“Well, climb in,” I said, “and let’s get out of here.”
She passed a blanket through the window to Zach.
“Blankie!” he said, hugging both the blanket and his enormous zebra, and then sticking his thumb in his mouth.
Gracie frowned at this, but got in and handed another blanket and a stuffed puppy to Emmy.
“I know you don’t need them,” she said. “But I didn’t want to leave them behind.”
Emmy smiled. “Thanks.”
Gracie stowed the books and clothes at her feet, and cast a glance my way. “I wasn’t sure if you needed anything from your tent, and I don’t know what your stuff looks like. A transporting spell wouldn’t have done me much good.”
“It’s all right. There’s nothing in there but a cheap sleeping bag that I bought in Ajo.”
I pulled out into the one-way road once more and drove slowly through the campground, doing everything I could not to draw anyone’s attention, and hoping we didn’t meet up with another cop on the way out. Near the kiosk at the entrance, I saw the same officer we’d encountered earlier. He was leaning on a car with Nevada plates. A couple sat up front; two kids sat in back. I slowed the truck and waved at him. He straightened and squinted over at us. For a moment I feared he might not recognize us from a few minutes before. But then he waved and turned his attention back to the family from Nevada. I steered us away from the campground.
Before long, I had us on highway 85 heading out of the national monument. I had no idea where we were going, but I wanted to put as much distance as possible between us and all those police.
“So here’s a question for you,” I said, after we had driven for a while.
Gracie eyed me over the tops of the kids’ heads, her expression guarded.
“According to what witnesses told the police, and based on what I saw of the scene later, it seems that when you were cornered in the Burger Royale, you were able to cast a spell that drew on the building’s electricity.”
Emmy eyed each of us, perhaps trying to gauge where this conversation was going.
“What about it?”
I sighed, wondering if she was just naturally defensive, or if I brought this out in her. “I’d like to know how you did it.”
“Because I can’t and I’d like to be able to.”
That brought a smile to her lips. “You’re asking me to teach you something about runecrafting?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“It’s not that hard,” she said with a lift of her shoulder. “There’s power everywhere — at least that’s what I was taught. And incorporating it into a crafting is . . . I don’t know. It’s like anything else.”
“I was taught something similar,” I said, thinking of Namid. “When you say to incorporate it, do you mean the way you would blood for a blood spell?”
“Yes! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think it’s similar. It’s part of the spell. I’ve done castings that draw on electricity, fire, I even used a running engine once. It makes my spells a lot more powerful.” She grinned again. “That’s how I bent the blade on that helicopter. I pulled the heat out of the ground and used that.”
My eyebrows went up. “That’s pretty amazing. So do you do it all the time?”
She shook her head. “I usually can’t do it more than once or twice in any given day. And even if I’m careful, I can get one hell of a headache afterwards.”
“I wonder why.”
“I think it’s because I’m using my body as a conduit for other types of energy, and my body doesn’t like that.”
I had wanted to practice these spells. That was the only way I was going to learn to use them. But we had a lot of driving to do, and I knew we might be attacked by weremancers at any moment. I couldn’t afford what might prove to be a debilitating headache.
“Do you want to try one?” she asked.
“I think I’d better not while we’re on the road.”
“You’re probably right. But I think if you approach these spells the way you would blood spells, you’ll be able to make them work when you need to.”
“Maybe. Or maybe you have talents the rest of us don’t.”
I said it with a smile, but she merely stared back at me for a few seconds before turning away to gaze out the window.
“I’m going to try to get some sleep,” she said, without facing me. “Wake me if there’s a problem.”
“Yeah, all right,” I said.
I eyed her, but she had settled in against the passenger side door, her eyes closed. I was left to drive and to wonder what it was I’d said wrong.