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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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“He’s liable to wind up dead,” I protested, then took a sip of my coffee now that Jenks wasn’t hiding behind it. My eyes closed in bliss for a moment. I’d give the FIB one thing: They knew how to make coffee. “A banshee’s liveins never live long,” I said. “And if Mia has a baby, her emotion requirements will be almost triple.” I paused in my motion to take another drink. That was probably why she had to put five years between her children.

Edden’s mustache was bunched up, and his expression was hard. “I’m not concerned about Mia’s accomplice,” he said. “He was healthy enough to beat up my son. We pulled his record this morning by way of his fingerprints. His name is Remus, and we would never have found him this fast but he’s got a file thicker than my fist, starting from high school with an attempted date rape, up to about three years ago when he spent time in a psychiatric jail for an especially foul animal-cruelty charge. They let him out, and he dropped off the face of the earth. No credit card activity, no rental history, no W-2 forms. Nothing until now. So you can understand if I don’t rush out and try to find him for the sake of his own health.”

My stomach hurt. God, the two of them had probably killed the Tilsons together. They had killed those happy faces that were in that yearbook and taken their names, their lives, everything. Shoved what they didn’t want into boxes in their garage.

Jenks dropped the empty honey packet, staggering under the desk lamp and staring up at it. Realizing that he was singing to it to get it to turn on, I flicked the switch. Jenks exploded into gold sparkles and collapsed, giggling. My expression went blank. He was stuck on the tenth day of Christmas, but finally he gave up and started singing about four purple condoms.

I looked at Edden and shrugged. “Maybe the little girl belongs to Remus,” I said, and Edden jerked the topmost file out from under Jenks. The pixy rose three inches before falling down, mumbling as he pillowed his head on his folded arms and fell asleep in the artificial warmth of the light. Edden handed me the file, and I opened it. “What is this?”

He leaned back to lace his hands over his middle. “Everything we have on Mia. That baby makes her a lot easier to track. Without her, Remus wouldn’t exist. We found another licensed day care that Mia frequents, making four now and at least two more informal ones.”

I leafed through the small packet to read the addresses, impressed again with the FIB’s investigative techniques. The day cares were mostly in Ohio, on Cincy’s outskirts.

“I called them all this morning,” Edden said. “Mia didn’t show up anywhere yesterday, and the one she was scheduled for was concerned. Apparently she always stays to help instead of paying them for care, claiming that she wants Holly to have more socialization skills.”

“No kidding?” I said, eyebrows high. I could buy that, but not if she was taking her daughter to five other day cares to do the same thing.

“No, no, no,” Jenks slurred from under the glaring light. His eyes weren’t open, and I was surprised he was conscious enough to listen, much less comment on the conversation. “Kid isn’t socializing. The kid is sucking down emotion like…”

His words trailed off in confusion, and I offered, “A pixy with honey?”

Jenks cracked an eye and gave me a thumbs-up. “Yeah.” His eyes closed, and he started to snore. I didn’t know why, but I unwound my scarf and covered him. Embarrassment, maybe?

Edden was watching us with a questioning expression, and I lifted a shoulder and let it fall. “Mia’s probably trying to spread her daughter’s damage around.”

Edden made a noncommittal grunt, and I continued to leaf through the information. “The neighbor kid who mowed their lawn said that Mia told his mom she wanted a lot of kids but had to space them out, five years apart,” I said. “That would go along with Holly being a banshee. You can’t have two kids around like that. Hell, a banshee usually has a kid once every hundred years or so, so if Mia is thinking another one in five years, she must have a really good way to keep from killing people to support her daughter’s growth…”

My words drifted to nothing. Either that, or someone with her who knew how to abduct people in a way so that they never went reported as missing. Someone like a homicidal maniac capable of serial murders. Sort of like Remus—someone who would enjoy hunting people and bringing them back for his wife and darling baby to drain. That might be why Remus was in good enough health to beat up an FIB officer, feeding his two tigers well enough that Mia could plan on adding to her little family. This was really not good.

Edden was quietly waiting for me to come to just that conclusion, and I closed the file. Numb and feeling sick, I glanced at Jenks, out cold, then to Edden, silently waiting. “I’m not doing this,” I said, dropping the packet on his desk. The draft shifted Jenks’s hair, and the pixy grimaced in his drunken stupor. “Banshees are dangerous—apex predators. And I thought you didn’t want my—excuse me—our help.”

At my blatant accusation, Edden reddened. “Who is going to bring her in, then? The I.S.? I talked to them this morning. They don’t care.” His eyes went everywhere but to mine. “If we don’t bring her in, no one will,” he muttered.

And he would want justice, seeing that she had something to do with his son being in the hospital. Frowning, I slid the file back off Edden’s desk and onto my lap, but I didn’t open it. “Next question,” I said, my tone clearly stating I wasn’t taking the job—yet. “What makes you so sure the I.S. isn’t covering it up?” I wasn’t about to get on the I.S.’s bad side for a paycheck. I’d done that before, and was smarter now. Yeah, it had felt great showing up the I.S., but then Denon took my license and I was stuck riding the bus again.

Edden’s expression went tight. “What if they are?”

My face scrunched up, and I fingered the file. Yeah, it left a bad taste in my mouth, too.

“According to the woman I talked to at the I.S.,” Edden said, “there should be a trail almost eighteen months long on this woman, starting with several simultaneous deaths at the time of Holly’s conception and continuing on to today. That’s probably when the Tilsons were murdered. Ms. Harbor is devious, clever, and has a tremendous knowledge of the city. About the only thing going for us is that she won’t leave Cincinnati. Banshees are highly territorial and dependent upon the people they’ve been siphoning off for generations.”

I bobbed my foot and looked at the essay I had written. “Why did you ask me to write this if you already knew it?” I asked, my feelings hurt.

“I didn’t know it yesterday. You were sleeping, Rachel,” Edden said dryly, then hid his slight guilt behind a sip of coffee. “I talked to Audrey something or other in records this morning. She was going to make me fill out a year’s worth of forms until I dropped your name.” A faint smile replaced his concern, and I relaxed.

“I know her,” I said. “You can trust what she said.”

Edden laughed, making Jenks mumble in his sleep. “Especially after I promised you’d babysit for her.” He ran a hand over his mustache to hide a smile. “She was kind of cranky. You witches aren’t at your best before noon, are you?”

“No,” I said, then my smile faded. Audrey had three kids last I checked. Crap. I was going to have to have Jenks help me; otherwise they’d railroad me into a closet or trick me into letting them eat candy.

“Audrey said Mia’s net of people is probably so intricate that she can’t risk leaving Cincy. If she does, the deaths to support the baby will be fast and easy to find, rather than the carefully chosen, hidden ones.” He hesitated, and a flash of worry for his son crossed his face. “Is that true? They already killed an FIB officer. That wasting disease was probably Mia, right?”

He was too far away for me to reach out and touch his hand in support, but I wanted to. I really needed to visit Glenn and look at his aura. It wasn’t as if I could help him, but I’d like to know if that’s why he was still unconscious. “Edden, I’m sorry,” I finally said. “Glenn will be okay, and we will find them. They won’t be allowed to think they can do this with impunity.”

The older man’s jaw clenched, then relaxed. “I know. I just wanted to hear from you that we have a chance and that they didn’t hop a plane and are in Mexico, sucking the children there dry.”

From under my scarf came a high-pitched sigh, and Jenks mumbled, “On the eleventh day of Christmas, my lover gave to me…”

I nudged the stack of files. “Hush, Jenks,” I said, then pulled my eyes to Edden, softening my gaze. “We will get them, Edden. Promise.”

Jenks’s mumbling grew loud, and I felt uneasy when I realized he was apologizing to Matalina. That was a hindsight better than what the drummers had been doing with the piper’s pipes, but his heartfelt whining was almost worse.

“Then you’ll help us?” Edden asked, rather unnecessarily, I might add.

It was a banshee, but with Ivy’s help—and a lot of planning—we three could do it. “I’ll look into it,” I said, trying to drown out Jenks’s vow that he would never touch honey again if she would get better. This was getting depressing.

Edden, too, was glancing at my scarf as he rummaged around in a top drawer. He found what he was looking for, and extended his fist, palm down. “Then you might need this,” he said, and I reached for whatever it was.

The smooth feel of crystal fell into my palm, and I jerked back. Heart pounding, I stared at the opaque drop of nothing, warming fast against my skin. I waited for my hand to cramp up or the stone to feel fuzzy or move or something, but it just sat there, looking like a cheap, foggy crystal that earth witches sell ignorant humans down at Finley Market.

“Where did you get this?” I asked, feeling squeamish even as the tear did nothing. “Is it one of Mia’s?” It seemed to wiggle in my hand, and it was all I could do not to drop it, but then I’d have to tell him why, and then he might take it back. So I blinked at him, my fingers going stiff in an open cradle.

“We found a stash of them in a glass flower vase, disguised as decorative stones,” Edden said. “I thought you might be able to make one into a locator amulet.”

It was a great idea, and I dropped the crystal into my coat pocket, deeming I’d held the squirmy thing long enough. My held breath slipped from me, and the hesitant, almost belligerent embarrassment he was hiding gave me pause until I realized he had taken the tear from evidence.

“I’ll give it a try,” I said, and he grimaced, eyes lowered. I had to pick up my brother at the airport, but I might be able to squeeze in a stop at the university library as well as a charm shop for Jenks before that. A locator charm was devilishly hard. I honestly didn’t know if I could pull it off. The library would be the only place I could find the recipe. Well, besides the Internet, but that was asking for trouble.

My scarf was now spouting poetry, waxing lovingly about Matalina’s charms in beautifully poetic to downright lustful terms. Giving the stack of papers a push, I flicked off the light. Jenks let out a long complaint, and I stood.

“Come on, Mr. Honeypot,” I said to Jenks. “We gotta go.”

I flicked my scarf off him, and the pixy didn’t move apart from huddling into a ball. Edden stood up, and together we eyed him. I was starting to get a bad feeling about this. Usually when Jenks got honey drunk, he was a happy drunk. This looked depressed, and I felt my face lose its expression when I realized Jenks was saying Matalina’s name over and over.

“Oh crap,” I whispered as he started making promises he couldn’t keep, asking her to make one she couldn’t. My own heart breaking, I carefully scooped him up, holding the unaware pixy in my hands, cupping him in a soothing darkness and warmth. Damn it, this wasn’t fair. No wonder Jenks took the opportunity to get drunk. His wife was dying, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

“Is he going to be all right?” Edden whispered as I stood in front of the desk, not knowing how I was going to get home with him like this. I couldn’t just shove him in my bag and hope for the best.

“Yes,” I said absently, deep in thought.

Edden shifted from foot to foot. “Is his wife okay?”

I brought my eyes up, unshed tears for Jenks warming them as I found a deep understanding in Edden’s gaze, the understanding of a man who had lost his wife. “No,” I said. “Pixies live only twenty years.”

I could feel Jenks light and warm in my hands, and I wished he was bigger so I could just help him into the car, take him home, and cry with him on the couch. But all I could do was carefully slide him into the masculine glove Edden was holding out to me. The lined leather would keep him warm, whereas my scarf wouldn’t.

Jenks hardly noticed the move, and I could get him to the car safely and in a dignified manner. I tried to tell Edden thanks, but the words stuck in my throat. Instead, I picked up the folder. “Thanks for the addresses,” I said softly, and I turned to go. “I’ll give them to Ivy. She can make sense out of rat tails in the dust.”
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