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White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse

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White Witch, Black Curse

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Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018
Добавлена: 27.12.2018
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A Christmas tree was propped up in the corner, disheveled and clearly having fallen at some point if the dark spot on the rug where the water had drained out wasn’t enough of a clue. There were a lot of decorations for one room, and they were a curious mix of style. Most were the inexpensive, mass-produced variety, but there was what was probably a two-hundred-dollar snow globe and an antique Tiffany-style mistletoe display. Weird.

Three stockings hung from the mantel, and these, too, looked expensive—too classy for most of the decorations. Only the smallest had a name. HOLLY. The baby’s probably. The mantel was empty of pictures, which I thought was odd seeing as there was a new baby in the house. The top of the piano was bare as well.

Jenks had dropped down to talk with the guy at the piano. Ivy had her head next to the photographer’s. Edden wasn’t paying me any attention. Everyone looked busy, so I wandered to the fireplace and ran a finger over the smooth wood for evidence that the mantel had once held pictures. No dust.

“Hey!” the man with Edden exclaimed. “What do you think you’re doing?” His face red, he glanced at Edden, clearly ticked off because he wanted to kick me out but couldn’t.

Faces turned, and embarrassed, I backed up. “Sorry.”

Ivy glanced up from the laptop in the sudden quiet. Both she and the photographer wore questioning expressions as they stared at me, looking like yin and yang with Ivy’s short black hair and the photographer’s long blond tresses. I remembered seeing the photographer at Trent’s stables, taking pictures, but Ivy hadn’t been there, and I wondered how she had gotten chummy enough in fifteen minutes to have their heads together discussing the niceties of angles and shadows.

Almost smiling, Edden harrumphed. Head bowed and stubby-fingered hand in the air to say he was taking care of it, he rocked into motion. Ivy gave the photographer one of our cards, then crossed the room to join me. Jenks landed on her shoulder halfway there, and I saw her lips move in a soft comment that made the pixy laugh.

By the time they all reached me, I had cocked my hip and crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m not going to touch anything else!” I exclaimed, wondering if the harsh expressions on the FIB officers’ faces were for me breaking protocol or a lingering doubt about my involvement in Kisten’s death. I knew Edden had done his best to squelch it, but that meant little to a lifetime of prejudice.

Rolling his eyes at Ivy, Edden took my elbow to lead me into the hallway. Ivy, too, was smiling, but as soon as the privacy of the hall took us, she became serious. “Rachel’s here now, so how about showing us where Glenn was beat up?” she asked, surprising me.

“That’s it,” Edden said, glancing past me and into the living room. “Everything else looks untouched.”

I jerked my elbow from Edden and leaned against the wall. Jenks’s wings clattered as he flew to snuggle in my scarf, and Ivy shook her head. “There isn’t enough emotion in the room for someone having been mauled,” she said. “You say it happened this morning? No way.”

Edden’s face scrunched up, and I looked at Ivy. A vampire could read the pheromones left in a room, giving a qualitative, though not terribly quantitative, impression of the emotions that had been given free rein. By the way Edden looked, I guessed he knew about the ability but didn’t trust it. Neither did the courts, disallowing a vampire’s testimony unless they were trained, registered, and attended quarterly calibration seminars. Ivy didn’t, but if she said there wasn’t a sign of a struggle here, then I’d believe her over a bloodsplattered wall.

“The rest of the house is undisturbed,” he said, and Ivy frowned. “Do you want me to tell you what we do know while we tour the house for signs of…emotion?” he finished, and I smirked. Wait until they heard what I found out. But Ivy shot me a look to shut up, and my breath slipped from me. Okay…I’ll wait.

“I’m listening,” she said to Edden as she went down the short hall. Her stride was long and confident, and the man toting the FIB evidence vacuum pressed into the wall to let her pass. She went first into a tidy, opulent bedroom with pillows, rich drapes, rugs, and beautiful things arranged on what looked like an antique carved bedroom set. Drawers were open and the closet clearly had hangers missing. The rich femininity didn’t match the rest of the house. Not at all. Well, except for the snow globe, stockings, and mistletoe display.

“The mortgage is in Mr. and Mrs. Tilson’s names,” Edden said, his hands in his pockets as he rocked back on his heels, clearly not interested in the incongruity of decorating styles. “They’re human,” he added, and I almost blurted, No they aren’t, biting my tongue instead.

“He and his wife bought the house about a year and a half ago,” Edden continued, and Jenks snorted, silent to all but me. “She’s a stay-at-home mom caring for their daughter, but we’ve found that Holly is registered at three day cares. Mr. Tilson works as a janitor, retired from being a science teacher in Kentucky. Took early retirement, I guess, and wanted something to do and to supplement his pension.”

Like clean crap from the walls of the boys’ bathroom? Yeah, that sounded right.

“We have a tap on the phone and we’re watching the credit cards,” Edden was saying as Ivy skulked around the room. “There’s no extended family that we know of yet on either side, but everyone is out for the holidays and it’s taking a long time to get anything.”

His words broke off suddenly, and he stared at me. “Why are you smiling?”

Immediately I forced my expression to go innocent. “No reason. What else have you got?”

“Very little.” He eyed me. “We’ll find them.”

Ivy eased around the carved furniture like a shadow, using a pen to shift the curtains and nodding at the securitysystem sticker on the window. Her sleek leather made her look like a well-paid assassin against the elegant surroundings hidden inside the depths of the house. Someone had excellent tastes and I didn’t think it was Mr. Tilson the janitor. Mr. Tilson the hit man, maybe.

“Here’s a recent picture,” Edden said, handing me a piece of paper with a copy of Tilson’s school ID. Jenks startled me when he vaulted from the folds of soft yarn to hover over the nine-by-eleven paper. The face not smiling back at me was blurry, but according to the tag he was blond and blue eyed. There were some wrinkles, but not a lot, and he had a receding hairline.

“Pretty harmless looking for someone who can beat up an FIB detective,” Jenks said.

“It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for,” I murmured, silently asking Jenks if he was done before handing the paper back to Edden. Ivy hadn’t come over to look, so she’d probably seen it already.

“We don’t have anything yet on Mrs. Tilson,” Edden said, starting when Ivy jerked into a fast pace and left the room. “But we’re working on it.”

His last words were rather distant, and I could guess why. Ivy was edging into the eerie vamp quickness she took pains to hide from me. Her unnerving speed aside, I enjoyed seeing her like this, wrapped up in thinking. Work was the only time she let herself forget the misery of her wants and needs and found a feeling of self-worth.

Edden followed me into the hallway. It wasn’t hard to figure out where Ivy had gone. Jenks had already flown past the open door to the bathroom, and there was a frightened, older FIB officer leaning against a wall at the end of the hall.

“She in there?” Edden asked the man, who clearly had not been expecting an intense vampire in leather to burst in on him. Edden gave the sweating man a pat on the shoulder. “Will you find out if the fingerprints have been sent off yet?”

The officer walked away gratefully, and Edden and I entered what was clearly the baby’s room.

If Ivy looked out of place in the bedroom, she looked like she was from Mars next to the crib, frilly lace curtains, and brightly colored expensive toys. The child had been lavished with attention, from the looks of it. And where Ivy stuck out, Jenks fit right in, hovering with his hands on his hips and staring in disgust at a framed shot of Tinker Bell.

“We’re gathering information for a trial more than searching for a way to find them,” Edden said to keep the conversation going and cover the pain in the back of his eyes. “I’m not letting a lawyer uphold the Constitution so far that we have to let them go.”

I jumped when one of the toys burst into music. Jenks just about hit the ceiling in a cloud of dust, clearly the guilty party.

“You can’t pack up a baby and go that fast without leaving a trail,” I said, adrenaline flooding me. “I heard the woman dotes on her kid.” I gazed at the mounds of toys. “All you’ll have to do is post a man at the toy store. You’ll have them in a week.”

“I want them now,” Edden said grimly. The music cut off, and seeing Jenks hovering miserably in the middle of the room, Edden added, “Don’t worry, Jenks. We were done here.”

Oh, sure, I get yelled at, and the pixy gets told it doesn’t matter. But as Ivy poked around, I drifted to the books in the overstuffed rocking chair, smiling at a familiar title. I reached for them, not wanting to leave this spot of innocence and good taste. A feeling of melancholy had overtaken me. I knew it was from my dilemma about having kids. If it had just been my blood disease, I might have taken my chances, but I couldn’t face my children being demons.

I had let the hide-and-seek book slip from my fingers when Ivy gingerly came to a halt among the stuffed animals and pastel colors, standing as if the soft domesticity might be catching. “Is this the last room?” she asked, and when Edden nodded with a tired motion, she added, “Are you sure Glenn wasn’t attacked somewhere else and dropped here?”

“Pretty sure. His prints on the walk come right to the door.”

Her calm face showed a glimmer of anger. “There’s nothing in this room either,” she said softly. “Nothing. Not even a whisper from a cranky baby.”

Seeing her ready to go, I stacked the books on a small table. The thump of a small cardboard doll hitting the floor drew my attention, and I picked it up. The lavish hide-and-seek book was extravagant for a small house in a depressed neighborhood, but after seeing the bedroom, I wasn’t surprised. It was obvious they spared no expense when it came to their kid. Nothing fit. Nothing made sense.

Jenks flitted to Ivy’s shoulder, clearly trying to cheer her up. She was having none of it and waved him away. Edden waited for me by the door as I leafed through the book to put the doll back. But there was already a hard bump in the pocket where it belonged.

“Just a minute,” I said, using two fingers to dig it out. I didn’t know why, but the doll needed to go back in her bed and I was the only one who could do it. That’s what the oversize print said. And I was feeling melancholy. Edden could wait.

But when my fingertips connected with the smooth bump in the pocket, I jerked my hand out, jamming my fingers into my mouth before I knew what I was doing. “Ow!” I yelped from around my fingers, then stared at the book, now fallen onto the chair.

Edden’s face became wary, and Jenks flew to me. Ivy stopped dead on the threshold, staring with eyes black from the surge of adrenaline I’d given off. Embarrassed, I took my fingers out of my mouth and pointed. “Something’s in there,” I said, feeling quivery inside. “It moved. Something is in that book! And it’s furry.” And warm, and it shocked the hell out of me.

Ivy came back in, but it was Edden who took his pen and stuck it in the pocket. The three of us crouched over the book while Jenks stood nearby and bent to look in.

“It’s a stone,” he said as he straightened, looking at me quizzically. “A black stone.”

“It was furry!” I backed up a step. “I felt it move!”

Edden wedged the pen in, and a black crystal came sliding out to glint dully in the electric light. “There’s your mouse,” he said dryly, and I felt the blood fall to my feet as I recognized it.

It was a banshee tear. It was a freaking banshee tear.

“That’s a banshee tear,” both Ivy and I said together, and Jenks gave a little yelp, taking flight to flit madly between me and Ivy until he finally landed on my shoulder.
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