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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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I stepped back, wringing my hand as if I could erase having touched it. Damn, I’d touched a banshee tear. Double damn, it was probably evidence.

“It felt furry?” the pixy said, and I nodded, eyeing my fingers. They looked okay, but it had been a banshee tear, and it gave me the creeps.

Edden’s expression of confusion slowly cleared. “I’ve heard of these,” he said, tapping it with his pen tip. Then he straightened to his entire height and looked me directly in the eye. “This is why there’s no emotion here, isn’t it.”

I nodded, deciding this was why it looked like a home, but didn’t feel like it. The banshee tear explained everything. The love had been sucked right out. “They leave them where there’s likely to be a lot of emotion,” I said, wondering why Ivy had gone pale. Well, paler than usual. “Sometimes they will tip the scales and make things worse—sort of push everyone to a higher pitch. The tear soaks everything up, and then the banshee comes back to collect it.” And I had touched it. Euwie.

“A banshee did this?” Edden said, his anger slipping through a crack in his veneer of calm. “Made that man hurt my son?”

“Probably not,” I said, thinking about what Matt had told me and glancing at Ivy. “If Mrs. Tilson was cheating on her husband, that’s reason enough for a banshee to leave a tear. I bet she got it in here by posing as a babysitter or something.”

I looked at the tear, heavy and dark with the stored emotion of Glenn’s mauling—and I shivered, remembering how warm it had felt. “The I.S. has a record on every banshee in Cincinnati,” I said. “You can analyze the tear, find out who made it. The banshee might know where they went. They usually choose their victims carefully and will follow them from place to place if the pickings are good. Though they prefer to feed passively, they can suck a person dry in seconds.”

“I thought that was illegal.” Edden slid the crystal into an evidence bag and sealed it.

“It is.” Ivy’s voice was mild, but I thought she looked ill.

Jenks was picking up on her mood, too. “You okay?” he said, and she blinked her softly almond-shaped eyes once.

“No,” she said, her gaze falling to the tear. “Even if Mrs. Tilson was cheating on her husband, the suspect knew exactly where to hit Glenn to hurt but not maim. The house is clean to the point of obsession, but there’s too much money being spent on the little girl and the wife for him to be a wife beater. The man doesn’t even have a remote for the TV, for God’s sake,” she said, pointing to the unseen living room, “yet they have silk sheets and a baby computer.”

“You think the woman beat him up?” I interrupted, and Ivy frowned.

Edden, though, was interested. “If she was an Inderlander, maybe a living vampire, she could do it. She’d know how to induce pain without damage, too.”

Ivy make a noise of negation. “I’d be able to smell it if a vampire had visited, much less lived here,” she said, but I had my doubts. Last year, I would have said it was impossible to make a charm to cover an Inderlander’s scent from another Inderlander, but my mom had spelled my dad into smelling like a witch for their entire marriage.

I stood there and tried to figure it out, both Jenks and me jumping when Edden clapped his hands once. “Out,” he said suddenly, and I protested when he manhandled me into the hall. “Ivy, you and Jenks can stay, but, Rachel, I want you out.”

“Wait a minute!” I complained, but he kept me moving, yelling for someone to bring the vacuum. Ivy just shrugged, giving me an apologetic smile.

“Sorry, Rachel,” Edden said when we reached the activity of the living room, his brown eyes glinting with amusement. “You can poke around in the garage if you want.”

“Excuse me?” I exclaimed. He knew I hated the cold. It was an offer that really wasn’t one. “How come Ivy gets to stay and help?”

“Because Ivy knows how to handle herself.”

That was just rude. “You suckwad! I’m the one who found the tear!” I said as I stood in the archway to the living room and watched everyone buzz about the new development. Several heads turned, but I didn’t care. I was being gotten rid of.

Edden’s face darkened with emotion, but his next words were postponed when Alex, the officer he had sent to watch my car, came in, cold on his breath and snow on his boots. “Ah, they won’t be able to have a dog out to look at your car for a couple of hours,” he said nervously, seeing Edden’s anger directed at me. “There’s a big Brimstone bust out at the Hollows airport.”

I jumped as, suddenly, Ivy was next to me. “What’s wrong with your car?” she asked, and I let my air out in a huff.

“Tom Bansen was standing next to it,” I said. “I’m being paranoid.”

Ivy smiled. “Don’t worry about him,” she said. “You’re under Rynn Cormel’s protection. He wouldn’t dare.”

Unless the vampires want me dead, I thought, then turned back to Edden. “Edden…,” I complained, but the squat man put a hand on my shoulder and moved me to the kitchen.

“Alex, take Ms. Morgan home,” he said. “Rachel, I’ll call you if we need you. If you don’t want to leave, you can wait in the kitchen, but it’s going to be hours. Probably not until tomorrow. You might as well go home.”

He wasn’t telling Ivy to go home. I took a breath to whine some more, but someone had called his name, and he was gone, leaving only the faint scent of coffee.

A familiar wing clatter drew my attention to Jenks, sitting on top of a picture frame, and he dropped to me. “Sorry, Rache,” he said, and I slumped back into the wall, disgusted.

“I’m staying,” I said, loud enough for everyone to hear, and Alex exhaled in relief, going to stand over a heating vent. “How come Ivy gets to help?” I asked Jenks, already knowing the answer and envious of how she, a vampire who had once beaten up an entire floor of FIB guys, was fitting in better than me, a witch who had helped them bring in the city’s master vampire in their own back room. It wasn’t my fault Skimmer killed him.

Hell, I thought. Maybe I should take some classes on crime scene protocol. Anything would be better than standing on the sidelines and watching everyone else play. I was not a bench warmer. Not by a long shot.

Jenks landed on my shoulder in a show of support. I knew he wanted to help, and I appreciated his loyalty. At his movement, Edden looked up from his cell phone. “Is your finger okay?” he asked suddenly, and I glanced at it. It looked fine.

Not answering him, I pushed from the wall and stomped out. Jenks rose to follow me at head height into the empty kitchen. “Rache…,” he started, and I grimaced.

“Stay with Ivy if you want,” I said bitterly, zipping up my coat and wrapping my scarf around my neck. I wasn’t going home. Not yet. “I’ll be in the garage.”

His tiny features became relieved. “Thanks, Rache. I’ll let you know what we find out,” he said, slipping a trail of gold dust as he zipped back to the nursery.

It’s so unfair, I thought as I took my blue booties off. So my protocol sucked dishwater. I was getting results faster than a houseful of FIB agents. Leaving, I slammed the screen door and stomped down the cement steps. Home. Yeah. Maybe I’d make cookies. Gingerbread men with little FIB badges. Then I’d bite their freaking heads off. But when my feet hit the cement floor, I slowed. Oh, I was still mad, but Edden had said I could look through the garage. I thought he’d offered only because he knew it was too cold, but why not?

Hands on my hips, I used a boot tip to unwedge the informal closure on the nearest box. It popped open to show a mishmash of stuff that looked like classic post-yard-sale clutter: books, knickknacks, photo albums, and several cameras. Expensive ones.

“Photo albums?” I questioned, looking at the silent walls. Who keeps their photo albums in the garage? Maybe it was temporary, for Christmas, to make room for all the baby toys.

I moved to the next box, slipping on my gloves for warmth as I opened it to find more books and clothes from the seventies—explaining their living room, perhaps. Under it was another box that contained last year’s styles. I held up the first—a dress that I might find in my mother’s closet—thinking that Mrs. Tilson must have been heavy once. The dress was way bigger than me, but not a maternity cut. It didn’t match Matt’s description. It didn’t match what I’d seen in the open closet, either.

Frowning, I put the dress back, digging to the bottom to find a stack of yearbooks. “Bingo,” I whispered, kneeling to feel the cold cement go right through my jeans. I didn’t have to wait until Edden’s office dug up a photo of them. I could see for myself.

My knees were cramping, so I pulled the kiddie sled over and sat on it, knees almost to my ears as I leafed through a yearbook with Clair Smith penciled on the front flap. Clair had graduated from a high school a few hundred miles upstate, and was apparently popular if the overwhelming number of signatures meant anything. Lots of promises to write. Apparently she toured Europe before going to college.

There was another yearbook from a local college where she’d gotten her four-year journalism degree, majoring in photography, and had met Joshua, according to the hearts and flowers around his signature. My gaze slid to the box of albums. So maybe it was school stuff. It might explain the cameras, too.

She was a member of the photography club in high school, and had graduated in ‘82. I stared at the picture of the young woman standing on the bleachers surrounded by awkward teenagers, my finger resting on her name. Unless there was a misprint, Clair was a rather round young woman with a cheerful smile, not the slight, mild woman Matt had described. She wasn’t fat, but she wasn’t my size either. And if she’d graduated in ‘82, that would make her…over forty now?

I felt my face lose its expression, and I turned to look at the wall of the house as if I could pull Ivy out here with my thoughts. Over forty with one kid and wanting five more? Spacing them five years apart?

She had to be an Inderlander. Witches lived a hundred and sixty years and could have kids the entire span, apart from twenty years on either side. Maybe that was the source of strife? Mr. Tilson found out his wife was a witch? But it didn’t smell like a witch lived here. Or a vampire. Or a Were.

I exhaled, setting the book aside and shuffling until I found one with Joshua Tilson printed on the front cover. His school had splurged for real fake-leather bindings. Nice.

Joshua had graduated from Kentucky State the same year as Clair. I thumbed through the pages, looking for him. My lips parted, and a chill tightened my muscles. Slowly I brought the page closer to my nose, wishing the light were brighter out here. Joshua didn’t look anything like the photo Edden had shown me.

My eyes went to the surrounding stuff, then remembered Edden’s comments about Mr. Tilson retiring. Then Matt’s complaint that the same man ought to be able to mow his own lawn, the rage Mr. Tilson had fallen into, how young his family was, and how they were going to have lots more kids. Stuff in the garage they didn’t want in the house but couldn’t risk throwing away.

I didn’t think Mr. and Mrs. Tilson were the people who lived here. They were someone else and couldn’t risk being found out by calling the ambulance, so they had fled.

I shivered, the motion reaching all the way to my fingertips. “I-i-i-i-i-vy-y-y-y-y!” I shouted. “Ivy! Come see this!”

I listened to the silence for a moment. She wasn’t coming. Annoyed, I got up, book in hand. My knees were stiff from the cold, and I almost fell, jerking myself straight when Ivy poked her head out.
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