Spell Blind – Snippet 17

Right. I got back in the car and drove east on Thomas and then turned onto Eighteenth. Antoine Mirdoux lived in Mountain View’s seven thirty-three beat, another garden spot. To a civilian — one crazy enough to be walking these streets — there wasn’t a whole lot of difference among the beats in this part of town. A person could drive from one to the next without knowing it. But to the cops working the neighborhoods, each beat had a personality, a flavor. I’m sure the seven thirty-three was like that, a place that cops came to know and even like, in a perverse sort of way. To me though, these were just streets and ramshackle houses, places where a dark sorcerer could be waiting, watching for me. The area around Orestes’s place I knew; I’d been there enough times before to make even those rough streets feel familiar. But as I drove the Z-ster up and down Eighteenth, looking for a house that glowed with pale green magic, I felt like a soldier entering an urban war zone for the first time. These streets were alien to me, and I could almost feel the danger crawling up my arms and legs, making me shiver. As I drifted past, kids and old people stared at me, grim and hostile. They knew I didn’t belong there; they might even have sensed an ill omen in my coming. I kept my speed the same, trying not to make eye contact as I searched for Antoine’s house.

I spotted it about a block short. Like Orestes’s house, it was dripping with magic — between Orestes and Antoine, I was beginning to feel like I should go home and put a few spells on my place. It seemed there were some heavy clouds looming on the magical horizon.

I couldn’t tell for certain in the daylight, but Antoine’s magic did appear to be a very pale green, about the same color you might see on a traffic light. At least I knew that he wasn’t our killer.

I drove past the house and parked two doors down, not wanting to spook him. I tucked my weapon into my shoulder holster, walked to the door, and knocked.

No answer. I raised my hand to knock again, and as I did, several things happened at once.

I felt a pulse of magic aimed at me through the door — an assailing spell — and without even thinking, I warded myself. When in doubt, go back to what you know best. I used a deflection spell.

I didn’t know what ‘Toine had in mind for me when I redirected his assault at the first thing I thought of: his door, to be precise. But given the way the door exploded inward, I guessed that he wanted me blown up. The wood shattered with a sound like thunder from a too-close lighting strike and fragments of the door and flecks of old white paint flew through the house like flakes in a snow globe.

My initial thought was that Orestes had sold the kid short, making him sound like some kind of hack conjurer. He wasn’t a master yet — if he had been, I’d have been killed by the explosion — but he was better than Orestes had made him sound. I should have recognized Brother Q’s attitude for what it was: professional jealousy. ‘Toine was every bit the sorcerer Orestes had been the first time I busted him. Give the kid a few years, and he’d be a force in this town.

In the next instant I realized that I’d heard another sound after the door vaporized. A second door had opened on the far side of the house and a moment later a screen door had slammed shut. I sprinted through the house and out the back in time to see a young black man disappear around a corner. It was Robby-freaking-Sommer all over again. And my leg still hurt.

But ‘Toine had tried to kill me, and I was pissed. It was amazing what a bit of anger could do to strengthen a person’s magic. Turning that same corner, I saw Mirdoux running away from me, and I tried the most basic assailing spell I could think of, something so simple that he never would have expected it, something so harmless that if he reflected it back at me, it wouldn’t do any damage.

Three elements. My hand, his foot, his momentum. As I’ve said, the words don’t matter; it’s all visualization.

‘Toine went down in a heap, the way he would have if I’d been close enough to grab his foot in the middle of his stride.

I ran toward him, warding myself as I did. I almost pulled out my Glock, but then I thought better of it. I didn’t want him panicking, and I didn’t want to give him another target for his magic.

As I got near him, I slowed to a walk. He had sat up, and was glaring at me. I expected him to cast a spell my way at any moment.

“Don’t even think about it, Antoine,” I said, still easing toward him. “I’m a better conjurer than you are.”

“The hell you are, man!”

“Have you seen your door lately?”

He said nothing, but if he’d been able to turn that glower into magic, I’d have been little more than ash.

Antoine couldn’t have been more than twenty-five years old, and he was surprisingly clean-cut for a kid who’d tried to splatter me all over his front steps. His hair was short and neatly cut, his face was square, his skin smooth. It was hard to tell with him on the ground, but I don’t think he would have stood much more than five-six or five-seven. He was broad in the shoulders and lean, and he wore a diamond stud in his left ear.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked. ‘Toine may have been from Haiti, but he had no accent, and I had the feeling that he could have spoken like a news anchor if he’d chosen to.

“You’re trying to kill me, and you don’t even know?”

“I know you don’t belong ’round here. I know you got no business knockin’ on my door.”

“So you’d have tried to blow me up even if I’d been selling Bibles?”

“You don’t look like no Bible salesman.”

“No? What do I look like?”

“A cop.”

I guess it never really goes away. It’s not like I could argue with the kid. “It would have been pretty stupid to blow up a cop.”

“Man, what are you talkin’ about with that blowin’ up shit? I didn’t try to blow up nobody.”

“No? Then what was that spell you threw at me through what used to be your door?”

“Nothin’ you ever heard of, man.” He grinned. “It’s one of my own. It would have felt like somebody shattered a beer bottle on your head. Would have put you out cold.” The smile vanished. “Instead, you gotta go and destroy my house.”

Either he was lying, or I was far more powerful than I’d ever thought and had unwittingly found some way to amplify his assailing spell. Guess which one I was betting on.

“I’m not a cop, Antoine,” I said. “I’m a private investigator.” I pulled out my wallet and showed him my PI’s license. “My name is Jay Fearsson. I’m doing some work on the Blind Angel murders.”