Spell Blind – Snippet 16

“Brother Q knows nothin’ for certain,” he muttered.

“But you have an idea of who’s doing this, don’t you?”

He peered at me over the top of his sunglasses. “Who are you askin’ for, Brother J? Yourself or the cops?”

“Does it matter?”

“What matters and what doesn’t depends on where you stand. Brother Q might feel different with some green in his hand.”

I had to laugh. “That was pretty good.” I reached for my wallet and pulled out two twenties. It was more than I usually gave to any informant, including Orestes. But after three years, we were getting close. I felt it in my blood, in my bones. And I was still shaken by what I’d seen in my scrying stone on the trail. The money was the least of my worries. I held the bills up, but I didn’t hand them to him. Not yet.

“You’re hungry today, aren’t you, Brother J?”

“I need a name.”

“Brother Q doesn’t have a name to give.”

I lowered my hand. “Then what do you have?”

“What do you know about this sorcerer you’re after?”

“Not a lot. I know the color of his magic. I know that he’s taken an interest in me and my case. I know that he carried Claudia Deegan out into South Mountain Park and killed her there.”

“How you know that?”

“I scried it,” I told him. “A seeing spell.”

“Good for you!” he said, sounding like he meant it. “A seein’ spell. That’s high magic.” He glanced up at the sky. “But you’re right: you don’t know much.”

The last thing I needed was Q telling me how much I did and didn’t know. I examined his shop again, noting the orange light that danced along the roof line and around the windows and doors. “What are you so afraid of?”

He twisted around in his chair. “What do you mean? Brother Q ain’t afraid of nothin’.”

“No? Then why all the warding spells? Your place is glowing like the magical equivalent of Fort Knox.”

“There’s a lot of crime around here. You know that.” He forced a smile. “Things aren’t as safe around here since you left the force.” He wasn’t very convincing.

“What’s going on, Q?”

The smile faded. He regarded me for a minute. Then he motioned with his head toward the shop, stood up, and walked inside.

I followed.

“Close the door,” he said.

The shop was lit by a single light bulb in an old fixture, and it smelled of incense smoke and oils. I recognized the frankincense as soon as we got inside, but it was mingled with something harsher, more bitter.

“Is that Petitgrain?” I asked.

“Very good, Brother J. You’re learnin’ well.”

Petitgrain and frankincense. Among herbalists, both were thought to be powerful guardians against dark magic. Orestes could deny it all he liked, but he was scared.

“What’s all this about, Orestes? Frankincense, petitgrain, all those wardings; it’s like you’re preparing for a war.”

“A man can’t be too careful.”

“Why not? What’s out there?”

He shook his head. “Brother Q doesn’t know.”

“Damnit! I don’t have time for this. Some sorcerer is out there stalking me, making me look over my shoulder every two seconds!”

“Brother Q is tellin’ the truth. Q swears it. He hears whispers, wind in the trees, nothin’ more.”

“What kind of whispers?”

He licked his lips, glanced around the shop. “There’s a new player in town. A real badass. You know what Brother Q is sayin’?”

“But if he’s new–”

“Brother Q doesn’t believe he’s new. It’s the same guy you’ve been after for three years. But he’s gettin’ stronger. That Q does believe.” He shook his head. “People are scared, J. People are real scared.”

“Who is he?”

“No one knows. He’s got no name. Nobody ever sees him, or at least they don’t talk about it if they do. He comes and goes and no one knows where he lives or where he’s come from.” He leaned forward. “Some are sayin’ he comes from Hell itself,” he said, his voice dropping to a whisper.

“How long have you been hearing about this guy?”

“Not long. Can’t say for certain. But not long.”

“Why does he kill? What’s he getting from these kids?”

“I don’t know that either.”

“Come on! You’ve got to be able to tell me something about this guy, other than the fact that he’s a badass weremyste.”

“He ain’t like other weremystes. He’s more than strong, you understand? He’s different.”

I felt cold suddenly and had to keep myself from shuddering. “Different how?” I asked, though I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear his answer.

He shrugged. “Q don’t know. He’s just different. His magic’s stronger than it should be. Some people are sayin’ that the moons don’t bother him, though I don’t know nothin’ about that.”

“Yeah, all right,” I said. I believed Q was trying to help me, and would have, had he known enough. “Who else can I talk to about this guy?”

“No one other than Q is gonna talk to you about him. They’re all too scared.”

“Leave that to me. Give me a name. Someone’s had dealings with him, right?”

He hesitated. “Some say he’s done business with an enchanter near here.” Orestes said the word “enchanter” as if it were something dirty. To those skilled in the use of magic, enchanters were weremyste wannabes, people who dabbled in conjuring but had learned little craft. He might as well have called the guy a fraud. “A boy named Antoine Mirdoux. Another brother from Haiti.”

“Mirdoux,” I repeated. “Sounds familiar.”

“He’s been around a little while, but he’s just a kid. Calls himself ‘Toine. Thinks he’s goin’ to be somethin’ big, you know what Q’s sayin’? Thinks he’s goin’ to be the next Brother Q.” He shook his head. “But the boy ain’t got the chops.”

“Where can I find him?”

“Like I said, it’s not far. He has a place just off of Thomas; I think it’s on Eighteenth. It’s white, but it needs paint. There’s –” He stopped and waved his hand, in the general direction. “You’ll see the wardings on it. Pale green; very weak.”

I handed him the two twenties. “Thanks.”

“Did you mean what you said before? Is this hell sorcerer really targetin’ you?”

I rubbed the back of my neck, wishing I’d kept that bit of information to myself. “Yeah,” I said. “At least I think it was him. It felt like someone was about to use assailing magic against me. I warded myself both times, but no attack ever came.”

“Both times,” Orestes said. “It’s happened twice?”

I nodded. He grimaced.

“Have you considered whether you might be better off leavin’ him be?” he asked.

I didn’t bother to answer. Instead, I reached for the door. “Thanks again.”

“Brother Q has one favor that he’d ask of you. . .”

This one I’d heard before; his standard parting line. “Please don’t tell a soul that you heard it from Q,” we said together.

“You got it,” I told him. “Stay safe.”

“You, too. Keep your head down.”