Spell Blind – Snippet 24

He shrugged, then lowered himself back onto a folding canvas chair. “I suppose. You interested in buying?” he asked, pushing a few stones around on his table until satisfied with his display. In addition to the polished rocks, he also had agate geodes, pendants of various sizes and colors, and amethyst, quartz, and fluorite crystals. Like the herbs and oils I’d seen elsewhere, his selection of stones was weighted to those said to offer magical protection and psychic strength.

“No, thanks,” I told him.

He gave a sage nod. “Information, then.”

I laughed. “Guess I’m getting predictable.”

He shrugged again. “I haven’t seen you around here in more than a year. And even back when you were a regular, you were never as interested in protection as you were in information.”

“You’d make a good PI.”

He chuckled, but quickly grew serious again. “People here don’t want to talk about the murders. They didn’t when you were a cop, and they don’t now. Can’t say as I blame them.”

“How’d you know I’d be asking about that?”

Barry regarded me in a way that made me feel like the biggest idiot on the planet.

“Yeah, all right,” I said, my voice dropping. “If you knew anything, would you tell me?”

“Yes,” he said.

I believed him.

“Who else should I talk to?”

“I don’t know that, either.”

“Well, thanks anyway,” I said. I started to leave, but then stopped. Barry knew as much about magic as anyone I’d met, aside from Namid. And unlike the runemyste, Barry was willing to give me a straight answer now and then. “What do you know about dark magic?” I asked, turning to face him again.

“Not a lot. Some. I did a little when I was younger. And my brother played around with some nasty stuff once upon a time. Why?”

I asked him the same question I’d asked Luis Paredes a few nights before. “Can you think of any reason why a weremyste would kill on the night of the first quarter moon?”

His eyebrows went up. “First quarter moon is a powerful night. Any spell would be stronger then.”

“So I’ve heard. But what spell would require a murder?”

“Lots of them do,” he said, his voice and expression grim. “Why do you think they call it dark magic? Sacrifice is just another word for murder, and there’s not that much difference between killing a goat and killing a person. Except that human blood amplifies the magic more.”

“Could he be using the kids he’s killing to make himself stronger?”

Barry gave a small frown. “I suppose.”

“But you don’t think he is.”

“I don’t know enough about the guy to think anything. But I’ve never heard of a weremyste making himself stronger with magic. We cast spells, we hone our craft, we practice. But using magic to strengthen our magic?” He shook his head. “I’m not sure I believe it.”

“Yeah, all right. Thanks, Barry.”

“No problem. And don’t be such a stranger,” he called after me.

I walked away, raising a hand as I went. I made my way around the rest of the market, unsure as to what, exactly, I was trying to find. I figured I’d know it when I saw it.

I was right.

Near the back of the market, as far as possible from where I had parked, a woman sat under a small white tent selling an odd assortment of oils, herbs, and stones carved into animal shapes: owls, snakes, bears, wolves. They resembled Zuni fetishes in a superficial way, but I could tell they were knock-offs. In fact, her entire display could have come from one of those new age stores in a mall; I doubted that any of what she was selling had much value for a weremyste. I noticed a small sign taped to one of the tent legs; it said “Renewing Designs, Shari Bettancourt.” It gave a website and p.o. address in Tempe.

I no more than glanced at the woman as I gave her table a quick scan and prepared to move on. Then I froze, eyeing the woman once more, my gaze settling on a pendant that hung around her neck. She wore a long multi-color batik dress with a v-neck. The necklace was barely visible beneath it. But I could see a small stone and the silver setting around it. And I was certain that the stone glowed with a faint shimmering of crimson magic.

The woman was speaking to another customer, and at first paid no attention to me. I stared at the stone, stepping closer to her table. The other customer walked away, but I hardly noticed.

“May I help you?”

I tore my eyes away from the pendant, forcing myself to look at her. She appeared to be in her forties. There were small lines around her mouth and eyes, and her short, dark hair was streaked with strands of gray. She had a pleasant, round face and pale blue eyes.

“Yes,” I said, finding my voice. “I was . . . I was admiring your necklace.”

“Isn’t it pretty?” she said. But her smile tightened and she adjusted her dress so that it covered the pendant.

“Yes,” I said. “That red stone is quite remarkable.”

“It’s garnet,” she told me. “It’s a healing stone, and a protector.”

I nodded, meeting her gaze again.

“I have some garnets here,” she said, pointing to a small wooden box that contained a few pieces of raw red crystal. Compared to the glowing pendant, they appeared dull, lifeless. “Of course, they need to be polished to shine like mine.”

“Yes, of course. Where did you find yours? Shari, is it?”

Her gaze wavered; her smile vanished. “Yes, I’m Shari. I . . . I don’t remember where I got it. I think it was a gift, but I’ve had it for a very long time.”

She wasn’t a very good liar.

“Can I see it again?”

Shari hesitated, then drew the pendant out from under her dress and held it up for me. I noticed that her hand trembled.

“That’s a lovely stone,” I said. “It’s so bright, it could almost be glowing.”

She slipped it back into her dress. “Trick of the light,” she said.

“I’m not sure it was. I think it was magic.” I kept my tone light, trying to make it sound like an observation rather than an accusation, but you wouldn’t have known it from her response.

“Well, I think I’d know if it was magic, wouldn’t I?” she said her tone turning brusque. She dismissed me with a flick of her eyes and spied an older man walking near her tent. “Good morning,” she called. “How are you today?”

The man offered a vague smile and half-hearted wave as he continued by. But Shari had made her point: Our conversation was over.

“I’m sorry if I offended you,” I said. That was a lie, too. I’d meant to spook her.

She scrutinized her goods, and made a show of rearranging several of the items. “You didn’t,” she said, her voice clipped.

I watched her a moment longer, then turned and walked away. I left the park by way of a nearby path that led onto the street running behind her booth, and went so far as to walk past her tent once more, so that she might see me over the small hedge growing there. I wanted her to think that I’d come on foot. Once I was sure she couldn’t see me anymore, I circled back to the Z-ster, pulled out of the parking lot, and then positioned it along a curb where I could watch the Market entrance.