White Witch, Black Curse
White Witch, Black Curse
Жанр: Эзотерика / оккультизм
Год издания: 2018
“Son of a fairy whore,” Jenks swore. “What’s he doing here?”
“I don’t know.” Caution slowed me down as I approached. “Better be quiet. If he knows you’re here, all he has to do is knock my hat off and Matalina is a single parent.”
Jenks became quiet. Tom continued to stand with his hands in his pockets, looking at my car as if debating something. Nervousness coated my anger as I halted a careful five feet back, puffing out white clouds in the streetlight and looking at the man like the snake he was. I’d heard he’d gotten fired from the I.S.—probably for the stupidity of being caught summoning demons to murder someone—but since I’d been the one Tom had been trying to off, the I.S. had done nothing more than that.
“What are you doing here?” I said, not anxious to have to defend myself, but not wanting to let him poke around in my car either.
The young man had a new hardness in his blue eyes as he stood on the shoveled sidewalk and looked speculatively at me in the lamplight. He was clearly cold in his parka and hat, the chill almost killing the redwood scent that all witches had. I’d once thought he was attractive in a tidy, almost scholarly way—I still did, actually—but freeing Al to kill or abduct me had long since shifted the attraction to disgust.
“Trying to make a living,” he answered, a tinge of red showing on his cheeks. “I’ve been shunned, thanks to you.”
My jaw dropped and I backed up. I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t going to take the blame for it either. “I wasn’t the one kidnapping girls to pay demons for black curses,” I said. “Maybe you should rethink your logic, Sherlock.”
He smiled in a not-nice way. Turning as if to leave, he said, “I’ll be around if you want to talk.” I sputtered in disbelief at the invitation and he added, “Nice car,” before he walked away, hands still jammed into his big pockets.
“Hey!” I shouted, almost going after him, but the thought of his shunning and Jenks in my hat changed my mind. Rocking back on my boot heels, I exhaled loudly. Shunned? The coven of ethical and moral standards had shunned him? Damn! I hadn’t thought they’d go that far. Sure he summoned demons, but that didn’t get one shunned. It must have been kidnapping that girl for black magic. Shunning was exactly what it sounded like, and the man was in trouble. Getting the ethical and moral standards coven to reverse a decision was like surviving an I.S. death threat. He was absolutely cut off, and any witch associating with him ran the risk of being shunned in turn.
Making a living, I thought as I watched him. Tom had probably gone independent, seeing that the I.S. wouldn’t touch him now, even under the table. And looking like he was having a hard time of it, I added as he got into a rust-cut ‘64 Chevy and drove away.
I headed for the Tilsons’ house, jerking to a halt at a sudden thought. Fingers fumbling in my bag, I pulled out my key ring and the lethal-magic detection amulet on it. The thing had saved my life a couple of times, and Tom had a vested interest in seeing me gone.
“Rache…,” Jenks complained as I started to make a slow circuit around my vehicle.
“You want to be blown up smaller than fairy dust?” I muttered, and he tugged on my hair.
“Tom’s a weenie,” the pixy protested, but I finished my circuit, breathing easier when the amulet stayed a nice, healthy green. Tom hadn’t spelled my car, but a sense of unease lingered, even as I turned to the cordoned-off house and crossed the street. And it wasn’t because I might have some competition in the independent-runner arena. My car had originally belonged to an I.S. agent who died in a car bombing. Not this car, obviously, but a bomb had killed him.
Just that fast, my life can end. Tom hadn’t left a charm on my car, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask Edden if he’d have one of his dogs sniff around it. Boot heels clacking, I reached the door off the garage and went inside. Jenks sighed heavily, but I didn’t care if I did look like a paranoid chicken when I asked Edden for a ride home.
I was done with being stupid about these kinds of things.
The sudden cessation of wind as I passed into the garage was a blessed relief, and I paused, taking in the curious mix of space and clutter, the edges stacked with old boxes from grocery stores and mail-order places. Close to the steps leading inside were several large toys, bright with primary colored plastic. The toddler sled had been used from the looks of it, but the rest was summer stuff. It had been a good Christmas, apparently.
Tracks of flattened snow showed where a big-assed truck had been on the otherwise swept cement. There wasn’t room for two vehicles, and I wondered if Mr. Tilson was overcompensating for something. ‘Course, maybe it was Mrs. Tilson who had the truck fetish. I sniffed deeply for the scent of Inderlander, finding only the dry smell of old concrete and dust, and I shivered.
I eyed the storage boxes, remembering what my dad had once told me when I’d tried to get out of cleaning the garage. People put things in garages that they don’t want but can’t get rid of. Dangerous stuff, sometimes. Too dangerous to keep inside, and too dangerous to throw out and risk someone finding. Mr. and Mrs. Tilson had a very full garage.
“Come on, Rache!” Jenks complained, tugging on my hair. “I’m cold!”
Giving the boxes a last look, I went up the cement steps. The hum of a vacuum was a faint presence as I opened the cheerfully painted door and entered a seventies kitchen, nodding to the officer with a clipboard seated at the table. The window above the sink looked out over the front yard and the news van. A high chair done in pinks and yellows was pulled up beside the square table. A box of throw-away boot covers was on it, and I sighed, taking my gloves off and tucking them in my coat pockets.
Plush baby toys were in a large basket tucked neatly out of the way, and I could almost hear a contented, gurgling laughter. The sink held a bowl of cookie-dough-encrusted utensils. A dozen sugar cookies sat on the counter, cooling for the last eight hours. A tear-away tag was tied to the oven, the upper part signed and dated, with the time, stating that Officer Mark Butte had turned off the oven. The Tilsons had left in a hurry.
The kitchen was a curious mix of warmth and cold, the heater on to combat the in-and-out traffic, and I unzipped my coat. My first impression of the house was just as jumbled. Everything to make a home was here, but it felt…empty.
There was the chatter of work in the next room, and when I bent to put a blue bootie over my boot, Jenks shot out from under my hat. “Holy crap!” he swore, flitting over the entire kitchen in three seconds, giving the seated officer a coronary. “It smells like green baby paste in here. Hey, Edden!” he said louder. “Where you at?” And he darted out, his wings a gray blur.
From deeper in the house came an exclamation as Jenks probably startled another FIB officer. A set of heavy steps approached, and I straightened. I’d gotten my boots at Veronica’s Crypt, and covering them in blue paper should be outlawed.
Edden’s squat figure suddenly took up the archway to the rest of the house. Jenks was on his shoulder, and the FIB captain looked better now that he was doing something to help his son. He nodded to the seated officer and smiled briefly at me, but it didn’t reach his eyes. He was still in his street clothes. In truth, he probably shouldn’t be out here, but no one was going to tell him he couldn’t oversee the investigation of his son’s mauling.
“Rachel,” he said in greeting, and I coyly waved a bootiecovered foot at him.
“Hi, Edden. Can I come in?” I asked, hardly sarcastic at all.
He frowned, but before he could start in on me about my lousy investigation techniques, I remembered Tom in the street. “Hey, can I ask a favor?” I said hesitantly.
“You mean more than letting you in here?” he said so dryly that I was sorely tempted to tell him about the sticky silk at Kisten’s boat, which they’d missed, but I held my tongue, knowing he’d find out about it tomorrow after Ivy had had a chance to go out.
“I’m serious,” I said as I undid my scarf. “Can someone check out my car?”
The squat man’s eyebrows rose. “Having trouble with the transmission?”
I flushed, wondering if he knew I was the one who’d trashed it while learning how to drive a stick shift. “Uh, I saw Tom Bansen at my car. Maybe I’m being paranoid—”
“Bansen?” he blurted out, and Jenks nodded from his shoulder. “This is the same witch you tagged in his basement for summoning demons?”
“He was looking at my car,” I said, thinking it sounded lame. “He said something about making a living, and seeing that there are lots of people who want to see me, uh, dead…” I let my thought trail off. I kept to myself that he’d been shunned and Jenks didn’t say a word. It was a witch thing. When someone got shunned, it was an embarrassment to all of us. “I checked for lethal charms, but I wouldn’t know a car bomb from an odometer cable.”
The FIB captain’s expression grew hard. “No problem. I’ll have the dog unit come out. Actually…” He looked at the seated officer and smiled. “Alex, go wait by Ms. Morgan’s car for the explosives team.”
The man stiffened, and I winced apologetically. “Don’t let anyone get within ten feet,” Edden continued. “It might turn you into a toad if you touch it.”
“It will not,” I complained, thinking being a toad might be pleasant compared to what Tom could probably do.
Edden shook his head. “There is a news van in the street. I’m not taking any chances.”
Jenks snickered, and I warmed. Chances were good nothing was wrong with my car, and I felt like a baby, but Edden’s hand on my shoulder made me feel better. All the way up until he turned me back to the kitchen’s door and Alex’s retreating back. “Maybe Alex should take you home right now,” he said, “so he can check out your church. For your own safety.”
Oh for God’s sake, he’s trying to get rid of me. “That’s why we’ve got a gargoyle in the eaves,” I said sharply, and slipping out from under him, I resolutely paced deeper into the house. Take me home for my own safety, my ass. He was letting Ivy stay. Why couldn’t I?
“Rachel,” Edden protested, his compact bulk spinning to follow.
Jenks laughed, taking to the air and saying, “Give it up, FIB man. It’ll take more than you to get her out. Remember what Ivy and I did to your finest last spring? Add Rachel to that, and you can say your prayers.”
From behind me came Edden’s dry “You think Ivy wants another stint as a candy striper?” But I was here and he was going to let me in on the evidence-gathering part of things. The FIB was confident that Mr. Tilson had attacked Glenn, seeing that it was his house, but his lawyer might try to pass it off on a burglar or something else. Not cool.
“Nice house,” I said, eyes roving over the bright walls, low ceilings, and clean but worn carpet. We passed a short hallway, then stepped down into a large living room. Immediately I stopped. “Oh my God,” I said, taking it in. “They have shag carpet.” Green shag carpet. This might be why Mr. Tilson was nuts. It would make me nuts.
There were only a few FIB personnel still here doing their FIB thing. One of them flagged Edden over, and he left me with a stern look that said not to touch anything. The faint tickle of fingerprint dust caught in my nose. Ivy was in the corner with a tall woman who, by the twin cameras draped over her, had to be the photographer. They were both looking at her laptop and the shots she had taken earlier.
It was bright and overly warm, and Jenks left Edden to park it on the top of the curtains. Warmer up there, probably. The FIB had been here most of the day before letting us in here, not wanting to chance my messing up their precious virgin site, but it still looked raw to me.
The green-tiled coffee table between the olive-and-orange-striped couch and the brick fireplace—painted to match the floor, incidentally—was on its side and shoved into the raised hearth. The curtains over the wide windows were open to the backyard. God help me but the curtains matched the putrid color combination. Looking at everything, I started to feel nauseous, as if the seventies had taken refuge here against extinction and were preparing to take over the world.
There was no blood except a small splatter against the couch and wall, an ugly brown against the yellowish green paint. From Glenn’s broken nose, perhaps? An armchair had been shoved into an upright piano, and loose-leaf sheets of music were stacked on the bench. Leaning up against the wall by the large window overlooking the snow-covered swing set was a picture. It had fallen turned against the wall, and I wanted to see what it was in the worst way.