White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse
Жанр: Эзотерика / оккультизм
Год издания: 2018
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By Kim Harrison (#litres_trial_promo)
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The bloody handprint was gone, wiped from Kisten’s window but not from my memory, and it ticked me off that someone had cleaned it, as if they were trying to steal what little recollection I retained about the night he’d died. The anger was misplaced fear if I was honest with myself. But I wasn’t. Most days it was better that way.
Stifling a shiver from the December chill that had taken the abandoned cruiser, now in dry dock rather than floating on the river, I stood in the tiny kitchen and stared at the milky plastic as if willing the smeared mark back into existence. In the near distance came the overindulgent, powerful huff of a diesel train crossing the Ohio River. The scrape of Ford’s shoes on the metallic boarding ladder was harsh, and worry pinched my brow.
The Federal Inderland Bureau had officially closed the investigation into Kisten’s murder—Inderland Security hadn’t even opened one—but the FIB wouldn’t let me into their impound yard without an official presence. That meant intelligent, awkward Ford, since Edden thought I needed more psychiatric evaluation and I wouldn’t come in anymore. Not since I fell asleep on the couch and everyone in the FIB’s Cincinnati office had heard me snoring. I didn’t need evaluation. What I needed was something—anything—to rebuild my memory. If it was a bloody handprint, then so be it.
“Rachel? Wait for me,” the FIB’s psychiatrist called, shifting my worry to annoyance. Like I can’t handle this? I’m a big girl. Besides, there wasn’t anything left to see; the FIB had cleaned everything up. Ford had obviously been out here earlier—given the ladder and the unlocked door—making sure everything was sufficiently tidy before our appointment.
The clatter of dress shoes on teak pushed me forward, and I untangled my arms from themselves and reached for the tiny galley table for balance as I headed to the living room. The floor was still, which felt weird. Beyond the short curtains framing the now-clean window were the dirty gray and brilliant blue tarps of boats at dry dock, the ground a good six feet below us.
“Will you hold up?” Ford asked again, the light eclipsing as he entered. “I can’t help if you’re a room away.”
“I’m waiting,” I grumbled, coming to a halt and tugging my shoulder bag up. Though he’d tried to hide it, Ford had some difficulty getting his butt up the ladder. I thought the idea of a psychiatrist afraid of heights was hilarious, until the amulet he wore around his neck turned a bright pink when I mentioned it and Ford went red with embarrassment. He was a good man with his own demons to circle. He didn’t deserve my razzing.
Ford’s breathing slowed in the chill silence. Wan but determined, he gripped the table, his face whiter than usual, which made his short black hair stand out and his brown eyes soulful. Listening in on my feelings was draining, and I appreciated his wading through my emotional crap to help me piece together what had happened.
I gave him a thin smile, and Ford undid the top few buttons of his coat to reveal a professional cotton shirt and the amulet he wore while working. The metallic ley line charm was a visual display of the emotions he was picking up. He felt the emotions whether he was wearing the charm or not, but those around him had at least the illusion of privacy when he took it off. Ivy, my roommate and business partner, thought it stupid to try to break witch magic with human psychology in order to recover my memory, but I was desperate. Her efforts to find out who had killed Kisten were getting nowhere.
Ford’s relief at being surrounded by walls was almost palpable, and seeing him release his death grip on the table, I headed for the narrow door to the living room and the rest of the boat. The faint scent of vampire and pasta brushed against me—imagination stoked by a memory. It had been five months.
My jaw clenched, and I kept my eyes on the floor, not wanting to see the broken door frame. There were smudges of dirt on the low-mat carpet that hadn’t been there before, marks left by careless people who didn’t know Kisten, had never known his smile, the way he laughed, or the way his eyes crinkled up when he surprised me. Technically an Inderland death without human involvement was out of the FIB’s jurisdiction, but since the I.S. didn’t care that my boyfriend had been turned into a blood gift, the FIB had made an effort just for me.
Murder was never taken off the books, but the investigation had been officially shelved. This was the first chance I’d had to come out here to try to rekindle my memory. Someone had nicked the inside of my lip trying to bind me to them. Someone had murdered my boyfriend twice. Someone was going to be in a world of hurt when I found out who they were.
Stomach fluttering, I looked past Ford to the window where the bloody handprint had been, left like a signpost to mock my pain without giving any prints to follow. Coward.
The amulet around Ford’s neck flashed to an angry black. His eyes met mine as his eyebrows rose, and I forced my emotions to slow. I couldn’t remember crap. Jenks, my backup and other business partner, had dosed me into forgetting so I wouldn’t go after Kisten’s murderer. I couldn’t blame him. The pixy was only four inches tall, and it had been his only option to keep me from killing myself on a suicide run. I was a witch with an unclaimed vampire bite, and that couldn’t stand up to an undead vampire no matter how you sliced it.
“You sure you’re up to this?” Ford asked, and I forced my hand down from my upper arm. Again. It throbbed with a pain long since gone as a memory tried to surface. Fear stirred in me. The recollection of being on the other side of the door and trying to break it down was an old one. It was nearly the only memory I had of that night.
“I want to know,” I said, but my voice sounded wobbly even to me. I had kicked the freaking door open. I had used my foot because my arm had hurt too much to move. I’d been crying at the time, and my hair had been in my eyes and mouth. I had kicked the door down.
A memory sifted from what I knew, and my pulse hammered as something was added, the recollection of me falling backward, hitting a wall. My head hit a wall. Breath held, I looked across the living room, staring at the featureless paneling. Right there. I remember.
Ford came unusually close. “You don’t have to do it this way.”
Pity was in his eyes. I didn’t like it there, directed at me, and his amulet turned silver as I gathered my will and passed through the door frame. “I do,” I said boldly. “Even if I don’t remember anything, the FIB guys might have missed something.”
The FIB was fantastic at gathering information, even better than the I.S. It had to be since the human-run institution had to rely on finding evidence, not sweeping the room for emotions or using witch charms to discover who committed the crime and why. Everyone was capable of missing something, though, and that was one of the reasons I was out here. The other was to remember. Now that I was, I was scared. My head hit the wall…just over there.
Ford came in behind me, watching as I scanned the low-ceilinged living room that stretched from one side of the boat to the other. It looked normal here, apart from the unmoving Cincy skyline visible through the narrow windows. My hand went to my middle as my stomach cramped. I had to do this, no matter what I remembered.
“I meant,” Ford said as he put his hands in his pockets, “I’ve other ways to trigger memories.”
“Meditation?” I said, embarrassed for having fallen asleep in his office. Feeling the beginnings of a stress headache, I strode past the couch where Kisten and I had eaten dinner, past the TV that got lousy reception, not that we ever really watched it, and past the wet bar. Inches from the undamaged wall, my jaw began to ache. Slowly I put a hand to the paneling where my head had hit, curling my fingers under when they started to tremble. My head had hit the wall. Who shoved me? Kisten? His killer? But the memory was fragmented. There was no more.
Turning away, I shoved my hand in my pocket to hide the slight shaking. My breath slipped from me in an almostvisible cloud, and I tugged my coat closer. The train was long gone. Nothing moved past the curtains but a flapping blue tarp. Instinct told me Kisten hadn’t died in this room. I had to go deeper.
Ford said nothing as I walked into the dark, narrow hallway, blind until my eyes adjusted. My pulse quickened as I passed the tiny bathroom where I’d tried on the sharp caps Kisten had given me for my birthday, and I slowed, listening to my body and realizing I was rubbing my fingertips together as they silently burned.
My skin tingled, and I halted, staring at my fingers, recognizing the memory of feeling carpet under my fingers, hot from friction. I held my breath as a new thought surfaced, born from the long-gone sensation. Terror, helplessness. I had been dragged down this hall.
A flash of remembered panic rose, and I squelched it, forcing my breath out in a slow exhalation. The lines I’d made in the carpet had been erased by the FIB vacuuming for evidence, erased from my memory by a spell. Only my body had remembered, and now me.
Ford stood silently behind me. He knew something was trickling through my brain. Ahead was the door to the bedroom, and my fear thickened. That was where it had happened. That was where Kisten had lain, his body torn and savaged, slumped against the bed, his eyes silvered and truly dead. What if I remember it all? Right here in front of Ford and break down?
I jumped, startled, and Ford winced. “We can do this another way,” he coaxed. “The meditation didn’t work, but hypnosis might. It’s less stressful.”
Shaking my head, I moved forward and reached for the handle of Kisten’s room. My fingers were pale and cold, looking like mine but not. Hypnosis was a false calm that would put off the panic until the middle of the night when I’d be alone. “I’m fine,” I said, then pushed the door open. Taking a slow breath, I went in.
The large room was cold, the wide windows that let in the light doing little to keep out the chill. Arm clutched against me, I looked to where Kisten had been propped up against the bed. Kisten. There was nothing. My heart ached as I missed him. Behind me, Ford started to breathe with an odd regularity, working to keep my emotions from overwhelming him.
Someone had cleaned the carpet where Kisten had died for the second and final time. Not that there had been much blood. The fingerprint powder was gone, but the only prints they had found were from me, Ivy, and Kisten—scattered like signposts. There’d been none from his murderer. Not even on Kisten’s body. The I.S. had probably cleaned his corpse between when I’d left to kick some vampire ass and my bewildered return with the FIB after I’d forgotten everything.
The I.S. didn’t want the murder solved, a courtesy to whoever Kisten’s last blood had been given as a thank-you. Inderland tradition came before society’s laws, apparently. The same people I’d actually once worked for were covering it up, and that pissed me off.
My thoughts vacillated between rage and a debilitating heartache. Ford panted, and I tried to relax, for him if nothing else. Blinking back the threatened tears, I stared at the ceiling, breathing in the cold, quiet air and counting backward from ten, running through the useless exercise Ford had given me to find a light state of meditation.
At least Kisten had been spared the sordidness of being drained for someone’s pleasure. He had died twice in quick succession, both times probably trying to save me from the vampire he’d been given to. His necropsy had been no help at all. Whatever had killed him the first time had been repaired by the vampire virus before he died again. And if what I’d told Jenks before losing my memory was true, he’d died his second death by biting his attacker, mixing their undead blood to kill them both. Unfortunately, Kisten hadn’t been dead for long. It might only have left his much older attacker simply wounded. I just didn’t know.
I mentally reached zero, and calmer, I moved toward the dresser. There was a shirt box on it, and I almost bent double in heartache when I recognized it.