Spell Blind – Snippet 12
The idea came to me in the middle of the night. One moment I was sleeping, deep and dreamless. The next I was awake, my mind racing.
A few months before, when I was working on a corporate espionage case and trying to learn what a suspect employee had been up to the day he disappeared from his office, I tried some new magic that Namid had taught me. I went to the employee’s office, and, using my scrying stone and holding something that belonged to the guy, I was able to see in the agate an image of him stealing the files and then concealing what he had done by altering the user logs on his computer.
So why couldn’t I do the same thing with Claudia Deegan? Why couldn’t I go back to South Mountain Park and scry what she had seen in the last moments of her life?
All I needed was some way to link her to my scrying.
I managed to get back to sleep for a few hours, but was wide awake by six. I went for a run to clear my head, and after a shower, a bite to eat, and two cups of Sumatran, I checked the time again. Eight-fifteen. That would have to be late enough. I called Howard Wriker’s cell. He answered on the third ring.
“Mister Wriker, this is Jay Fearsson.”
It took him a minute. “Mister Fearsson! The PI, right?”
“You have some information for me?”
“Nothing yet, I’m afraid.” I still wasn’t ready to share with him what little I knew. I didn’t want the Deegans to crush Robby Sommer and leave me without any way of tying the other Blind Angel victims to a potential drug source. Better to lie to the man, at least for now. “I’m still looking into it and I need a little help from you.”
“It’s nothing difficult and nothing that will link the Senator to the investigation. I simply need Claudia’s address. I’d like to . . . to search her place for anything that might help me.”
“Yes, all right.” He sounded uncertain, and I wondered if he regretted asking me to learn the truth about Claudia’s drug use. “Ah, here it is,” he said after several moments. “She lived with a girl named Maddie Skiles.” He gave me the address and phone number, both of which I wrote down in my note pad, along with Maddie’s name.
“Thank you, Mister Wriker.”
“You heard that the police made an arrest?”
“Yes, sir, I did.”
“It’s a great relief for all of us. For all of Phoenix, really. At least the madman who did this is off the streets.”
I should have agreed and hung up, but I couldn’t help thinking about what Kona had told me the night before. Someone close to the Deegans needed to hear that the pressure they were putting on the PPD wasn’t helping matters. “We can hope, sir,” I said.
“You don’t think they have the right man?” He sounded defensive. I wondered how much of that pressure had come from Wriker himself.
“No, sir, I don’t. I know that he threatened Claudia, and that he hated the Deegan family. But for three years the Blind Angel murders had nothing to do with the Deegans. To assume that this man is responsible for all those killings, just because he had it in for Claudia doesn’t make much sense to me.”
“Well, Mister Fearsson, it would seem that the Phoenix Police Department disagrees with you.”
“Yes, sir. It wouldn’t be the first time.”
He didn’t seem to know how to respond to that. “Yes . . . well . . . good day, Mister Fearsson.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Not the most comfortable phone conversation I’d ever had, but I’d gotten the information I needed. I gathered a few items in a backpack — two water bottles, my knife, my scrying stone, and a couple of granola bars. Then I left the house and drove back to Tempe.
Claudia had lived east of the campus, near Hudson Park, in a neighborhood that most college students couldn’t afford. The small yard needed some work — the flower gardens were overgrown with weeds and the grass was wispy and baked brown — but it was a nice house.
There were a few press people camped out front, but most of them ignored me, even after I parked in front of the house.
“Who are you?” one woman called to me.
I ignored her and strode up the walk to the front door. I got out my wallet and rang the bell. After waiting a bit, I rang it twice more and was ready to give up when at last the door opened a crack.
“Yeah?” said a young woman. Her hair was a mess, her face pale and puffy, like she’d just woken up, or maybe like she’d been crying. She wore a pink t-shirt and drawstring pajama pants.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Jay Fearsson.” I showed her my PI license. “I’m a private investigator. I’ve been asked by the Deegan family to investigate the circumstances surrounding to Claudia’s death.”
She frowned. “Claudia’s parents hired a private eye? I don’t believe it.” I had a feeling she was about to close the door on me. I’m sure she’d had to put up with a lot of crap the past few days.
“Howard Wriker did,” I said the words tumbling out of me. “I talked to Randy and Tilo yesterday.”
She chewed her lip for a minute, and opened the door a hair more. “You did?”
“Yes. They even invited me to see them play Thursday at Robo’s. They want to know where Claudia got her drugs,” I said, my voice as gentle as I could make it. It was like trying to get a skittish dog to eat from my hand. “Do you have any idea?”
She eyed me for a minute, then nodded, her gaze flicking toward the cluster of reporters. “Yeah, I know,” she said. She wiped a tear off her cheek. “I don’t want to get in any trouble, you know?”
I nodded. “I understand. I’m sure this has been a rough time for you. I’m sorry for your loss.” I waited a moment, and then asked, “When did you see her last?”
“That morning. She left here saying she was going to the library. But I’m not sure she went there.” The door was opened halfway now and she was leaning against the edge, relaxing a little. “She wasn’t the studious type, you know. She didn’t have to be. She was really smart.” She bit her lip again. “Most of the time.”
“Sometimes smart people do stupid things.”
“Yeah,” she said. “That was Claud.”
I nodded. “Listen, I’m sure the police have searched this place top to bottom–”
“They have. It’s been, like, such a pain in the ass.”
“I don’t doubt it. But could I take a quick look around? I won’t take long, and it could be a big help.”
She tipped her head to the side and twisted her mouth. But she’d stopped crying, and I could tell that I’d won her trust, at least for the moment. “Yeah, I guess,” she said. She opened the door the rest of the way and stepped back to let me in.
It was a typical college student’s house, although a bit nicer than most. The furniture was all good quality, but nothing matched. The kitchen, which was off the living room, was filthy. The dish drain was full, as was the sink, and the entire house smelled faintly of cigarette smoke and rotten vegetables.