Spell Blind – Snippet 13
“This is a nice place, Miss Skiles.”
“Thanks. And it’s Maddie, all right?” She walked into the kitchen. “I’m going to have some coffee. You want anything?” She turned to me, and I could see that she was holding a jar of instant.
Coffee sounded good, but not that coffee. I admit it: I’m a coffee snob.
“I’m fine thanks.” I peered down a corridor. “Which room was–?” I stopped, seeing the yellow crime-scene tape stretched in a large “X” across the doorway on the left side of the hall.
“Yeah,” she said from behind me. “That’s Claud’s room. I wish they’d finish up already, you know? That tape creeps me out.”
“Have they searched in there a lot?”
“A couple of times. But they haven’t taken much away.”
No doubt they were hoping to uncover something that would link her to the other victims. If my experience working on the case with Kona was any guide, they’d find nothing.
I started down the corridor.
“You’re not allowed in there!” Maddie called after me. “They told me that it was against the law even to open the door.”
“I know,” I said, smiling back at her. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
I could tell she was unconvinced, but I didn’t wait for her okay. I had enough experience with crime scenes to know what I could get away with and what I couldn’t. I even went so far as to untuck my shirt and put it over the knob so that I wouldn’t leave prints on it when I opened the door. Then I slipped through the lower part of the “X” and shut the door behind me.
I wasn’t stupid. I had no intention of touching anything, at least not anything important. But I needed something small of Claudia’s for the scrying I planned to do at the crime scene.
Her bedroom had a lot in common with every other college kid’s bedroom I’d ever seen. There was a futon in the far corner on a simple pine frame that must have cost three hundred dollars at the Futon Shoppe in Tempe. The walls were covered with posters, some of them political, others showing various alternative rock groups — Psychic Currency, Stealth Hype, TorShun. Her stereo sat on a peach crate near the bed, and a set of cinder block and pine bookshelves lined the wall beside an old desk. There were a few framed photos of her and Tilo on a dresser opposite the door, but none of them could have been too recent; in all of them her hair was blonde, and his was to his shoulders.
Some of the drawers in both the desk and bureau were half open, and her closet door stood ajar. Several pairs of shoes lay scattered on the floor. Most of them were high-top sneakers and combat-style boots, but a few might have been dressier. I wasn’t really an expert.
I found what I needed on her bureau. A hair brush sat next to one of the photos, a tangle of black hair caught in the plastic bristles. I pulled out several strands, all of them blonde near the root, wound them around my finger, and placed them in one of the small plastic evidence bags that I still carried in my bomber pocket. Old habits die hard. I scanned the room one last time, then let myself out, again taking care not to disturb the police tape.
Maddie was waiting for me in the hallway outside the door, her forehead creased. “I shouldn’t have let you in there,” she said, as soon as she saw me. “You’re going to get me in, like, so much trouble.”
I shook my head. “No, I’m not. I promise.”
Her frown deepened.
“I used to be a cop. I know how to treat a crime scene. I didn’t touch anything. No one will ever know I was in there.”
“You find anything?”
“Not really. But I didn’t search as thoroughly as I would have liked.” I smiled. “Because I didn’t want to get you in trouble.”
That coaxed a reluctant grin from her. “Thanks.”
“You said that you knew who had sold Claudia her drugs. Can you tell me now?”
Her smile disappeared and she seemed to shrink back from me.
“Was it Robby Sommer?”
She gaped. “You know him?”
“I busted him once. Did Claudia buy drugs from him?”
“All the time,” she said. “He’s a creep. I told her to stay away from him, but she couldn’t, you know?”
“Did she buy from anyone else, or just from Robby?”
“I think just from Robby. But I don’t know for sure. We didn’t talk about it, because she knew I didn’t approve.”
“All right. Thanks.” I pulled a card from my wallet and handed it to her. “If you think of anything else that might help me out, give me a call, all right?”
“Yeah, sure,” she said. She glanced at the card. “Justis?”
“Yup,” I said, walking to the door.
“I know. Bye, Maddie.”
“You going to bust Robby again?” She asked, stopping me.
“I’m not a cop anymore. But Robby isn’t the smartest guy on the planet. He’ll get himself busted before long.”
She grinned, and I left.
I drove to the south end of South Mountain Park and hiked into the center of the preserve, where Claudia had been found. It was a warm, clear morning, and usually I would have enjoyed being out. Rock wrens scolded me from atop boulders by the trail, bobbing up and down and flitting into the brush whenever I stopped to rest or take a drink of water. Tiny blue butterflies fluttered around the brittlebush and rattleweed.
But this wasn’t a walk to be savored. Too soon I reached the ravine where, two and one half years ago, the Blind Angel killer left the body of Maria Santana, his fourth victim.
About two hundred yards farther up the trail, I saw the crime scene tape marking the spot where Claudia had been found a few days ago. It shone in the desert sun, shockingly yellow, strung among the palo verde trees. No one else was around, though the trail was lined with fresh bike tracks. I pulled out my scrying stone and the evidence bag that held those strands of Claudia’s hair.
The magic I’d come all this way to try was called a seeing spell. Like scrying, it was a kind of divination magic; if it worked it would allow me to see what Claudia had seen the night she died. As always with magic, though, there were a couple of catches. To cast the spell correctly, I needed something that belonged to Claudia. That was why I had taken those strands of hair. Clothing would work, too, but hair was better, and body parts probably would have been ideal. Don’t laugh. Over the years, sorcerers had resorted to all sorts of stuff.
The other catch was that the spell only worked if Claudia had been in this place, alive. I couldn’t do a seeing spell for Claudia from my house, because she’d never been there, and standing here in South Mountain Park, I couldn’t scry what Claudia had seen, say, at her parents’ home. Seeing spells were specific to a given place.
I knew that Claudia had been here, on this trail. I didn’t know for certain if she’d been alive at the time, or if the weremyste had killed her before bringing her here. All the forensics from the other killings pointed to her being alive up until the moment that the sick bastard burned the eyes out of her skull. But I couldn’t be sure until I tried the spell.