White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse
Жанр: Эзотерика / оккультизм
Год издания: 2018
“What happened to Glenn’s mom?” I asked now that we were alone.
Ford watched Edden wave to the nurses as he passed beyond the wide, smooth door and into Glenn’s room. “She died fifteen years ago during a sixty-dollar stab-and-grab.”
That’s why he’s a cop, I thought. “They’ve had only each other for a long time,” I added, and Ford nodded, starting for the elevators. He looked whipped.
Ivy joined us after a last comment to the nurse. Falling into place on my other side, she looked across me to Ford. “What happened at the marina?” she asked as she shrugged into her long coat, and the afternoon’s memories rushed back.
Her tone was slightly mocking, and I gave her a sidelong glance. I knew she was secure in her belief that her slow, steady investigations would find Kisten’s killer faster than my reconstructing my memories. It was with no little pleasure that I glanced at Ford, then said to her, “Do you have time to go out tonight and smell the carpet?”
Ford chuckled, and Ivy stared, rocking to a halt at the elevators. “Excuse me?”
I punched the button for the lift. “Your nose is better than mine,” I said simply.
Ivy blinked, her face blanker than usual. “You found something the FIB missed?”
I nodded as Ford pretended not to listen. “There’s sticky silk stuck to the rim of the dresser’s top. There might be a print, ah, other than the one I made today. And the floor under the window smells like vampire. It’s not you or Kisten, so it might be his murderer.”
Again, Ivy stared, looking uncomfortable. “You can tell the difference?”
The elevator doors slid open, and we all entered. “Can’t you?” I said, backing up and pushing the button for the street level with a booted toe just because I could.
“I’m a vampire,” she said, as if this made all the difference.
“I’ve lived with you for over a year,” I said, wondering if I wasn’t supposed to be able to tell the difference. “I know what you smell like,” I muttered, embarrassed. “It’s no big deal.”
“Yes, it is,” she whispered as the doors closed, and I hoped Ford hadn’t heard.
I watched the numbers count down. “So you’ll go out tonight?”
Ivy’s eyes were black. “Yes.”
I stifled a shiver, glad when the doors opened to show the busy lobby. “Thank you.”
“My pleasure,” she said, her gray-silk voice so thick with anticipation that I almost pitied the vampire who had killed Kisten.
I gripped the wheel of my car tighter in annoyance as Jenks continued to sing. Though the sun was going down and the roads had an arid frozenness, the interior of the car was hot. I had half a mind to turn off the heat. Anything to get Jenks to shut up.
“Five trolls in dra-a-a-a-ag,” the four-inch man sang from my shoulder. “Four purple condoms, three French ticklers, two horny vamps, and a succubus in the snow.”
“Jenks, enough!” I shouted, and from the passenger seat, Ivy snickered, idly tracing a hand on the inside of the misted window to clear a spot from which to gaze out at the evening. The street was thick with holiday lights, and it was holy and serene, in a money-oriented, middle-class sort of way. Unlike Jenks’s carol. Which was thirteen-year-old humor to the max.
“‘On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—’”
I checked behind me and thunked the brakes. Ivy, with her vamp reflexes, easily caught herself, but Jenks was catapulted from my shoulder. He short-stopped himself inches from the windshield. His dragonfly-like wings were a blur of red and silver, but not a shadow of dust slipped from him, saying he’d half expected this. The smirk on his angular face was classic Jenks.
“What…,” he complained, hands on his hips in his best Peter Pan pose.
“Shut. Up.” I rolled through the stop sign. It was icy. Safer that way. At least that was going to be my story if a zealous I.S. cop stopped me.
Jenks laughed, his high-pitched voice sounding right with the easy companionship that filled the car and the festive warmth displayed outside it. “That’s the trouble with you witches. No Christmas spirit,” he said, going to sit on the rearview mirror. It was his favorite spot, and I turned the heater down a smidge. He wouldn’t be there if he was cold.
“Christmas is over,” I muttered, squinting to see the street sign in the dusk. I was sure we were close. “I’ve got plenty of holiday spirit. It’s just not Christian in origin. And though I’m no expert, I don’t think the church would be happy with you singing about succubi.”
“Maybe you’re right,” he said as he shifted the layers of green cloth Matalina had draped over him—her attempt at pixy winter wear. “They’d rather hear about rutting incubi.”
The pixy yelped, and I jumped when he darted off the mirror, Ivy’s hand just inches from smacking him. “Shut up, pixy,” the soft-spoken vamp said, her gray-silk voice severe. Her working leathers made her look like a biker chick gone sophisticate, slim and sleek, and her eyes were pupil black under her Harley-logo cap. Jenks took the hint, and muttering something it was probably just as well I didn’t hear, he settled on my big hoop earring to snuggle in between my neck and the soft red scarf I had worn for just this reason. I shivered when his wings brushed my neck, a whisper of chill that felt like water.
A sustained temperature below forty-five would send him into hibernation, but he could handle short, protected trips from the car to wherever. And after he’d found out about Glenn, there was no stopping him from coming out with us. If we hadn’t invited him to the crime scene, I’d find his half-frozen body in my shoulder bag as a stowaway. Frankly, I think he was out here trying to get away from his brood of kids, spending the winter in my desk.
Jenks, though, was worth five FIB investigators, and that was on a bad day. Pixies excelled in sneaking around, making them experts at finding the smallest thing out of place, their curiosity keeping them interested after everyone else had come and gone. Their dust didn’t leave a lasting impression, and their fingerprints were invisible unless you used a microscope, in my opinion making them excellent first-ins at a crime scene. ‘Course, no one at the I.S. had cared what I thought, and it wasn’t often that a pixy would work in anything other than a temporary backup position anyway. That was how I’d met Jenks, and it had been my good fortune. I would’ve taken him with me to the boat earlier today, but he would have had severe problems with the temperature.
Ivy sat up, inadvertently telling me we were close, and I started paying attention to house numbers. It looked like a human neighborhood, on the outskirts of Cincinnati in what was probably a lower- to lower-middle-class neighborhood. It wasn’t a high-crime district, from the number of lights and the general tidiness of the homes, but it held a slightly run-down, soft comfortableness. I’d be willing to bet the area was mostly retirees or new families just starting out. It reminded me of the neighborhood I’d grown up in, and I could hardly wait until tomorrow when I’d be picking up my brother, Robbie, at the airport. He had worked through the solstice, but had somehow managed to get New Year’s off.
That the lights around me now were the green and red of Christmas didn’t mean it was a human neighborhood. Most vampires celebrated Christmas, and lots of humans celebrated the solstice. Ivy still had her tree up in the living room, and we exchanged presents when we felt like it, not on a specific date. Usually that was about an hour after I got back from shopping. Delayed gratification was Ivy’s thing, not mine.
“That’s got to be it,” Ivy said softly, and Jenks shivered his wings for warmth, tickling me. Down the street on the left was a cluster of FIB cruisers, parked with their lights off and looking gray in the dim light. At the corner in a drop of light, two people stood gossiping, their dogs tugging at their leashes to go in. There weren’t any news vans yet, but there would be. I could almost smell them.
Not an I.S. cruiser in sight, which was a relief since they’d probably send Denon out here. I hadn’t seen the living low-blood vampire since blowing apart his cover-up of the Were murderers last summer, and I’d be willing to bet that he had suffered another demotion. “Looks like the I.S. isn’t coming,” I said softly, and Ivy shrugged.
“Why would they? They don’t care if an FIB officer gets beat up.”
I pulled to the curb and parked the car. “They might if it was an Inderlander who did it.”
Jenks laughed. “Doubt it,” he said, and I felt a tug on my hat as he ducked under the soft yarn for the trip inside.
Unfortunately, he was right. Whereas the I.S. policed the supernatural species, they would, and did, ignore a crime if it suited them. Hence the human-run FIB that had come into being. I had once thought that the FIB was way outclassed by the I.S., but after working with them for a year, I was impressed and shocked by the information they could dig up and put together.
It had been only forty years ago during the Turn that the combined Inderland species of vamp, witch, Were, and more had actively lent a hand to prevent humans from becoming the latest endangered species when a badly engineered, genetically altered tomato mutated and wiped out a large chunk of the human population. Though to be honest, if humans had died out, most of Inderland would suffer when vamps started preying on us instead of soft, naive, happy humans. Not to mention that Mr. Joe Vampire and Ms. Sue Were liked their high-maintenance lifestyles, impossible without the backing of a large population.
“What are you doing?” Ivy said, her hand on the door as I fumbled around under the seat.
“I’ve got an FIB sign in here somewhere,” I muttered, fingers jerking back as they unexpectedly found something cold and squishy.
A closed-lipped smile came over Ivy. “The entire FIB knows your car.”
Making a soft sound of agreement, I gave up and tugged on my gloves. Yeah, they did, seeing that they’d given it to me in payment for helping them out once, something most of them seemed to be forgetting lately. “Ready, Jenks?” I called, and got a half-heard stream of curses back. Something about my cream rinse and puking fairies.
Ivy and I got out together. The excitement of a run hit me when the doors thumped shut. Standing by my car, I pulled the sharp, dry air all the way to the bottom of my lungs. The clouds had that solid feel that they only get right before a heavy snow, and I could smell the pavement, white with salt and so dry and cold it would burn your fingers if you touched it.
Heels snapping, Ivy came around the car, and I followed her to the small house. The crunchy five inches of snow had been packed down, but a sad-looking three-foot snowman presided over a corner of the yard, his face melted and his hat covering his eyes. The curtains were open, and the yellow rectangles of light on the snow were starting to become obvious. Red and green lights from a neighbor’s display made an odd counterpoint, and I could hear the conversation from the duo on the corner. Cold, I tugged my bag up higher as we walked.
More neighbors were coming out; I felt a surge of disgust when the slow-creeping lights of a van with an antenna showed under the streetlight.
Crap, they were here already? I’d wanted to talk to the neighbors before the interviewers had them thinking sensationalism instead of realism. I was sure Edden had interviewed the closest, but his people wouldn’t ask the questions I wanted answers to.