His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 02
The image flickered in my scrying stone, like a candle guttering in the wind, before becoming more fixed, more substantial. I hadn’t been sure the spell would work, but there he was — “he” being Mark Darby, an employee at Custom Electronics, in Mesa, who had been stealing computers, phones, stereo equipment, and pretty much anything else you could think of. He was by the loading dock at the rear of the store, shoving boxes into the back of a beat-up old Subaru wagon.
“Gotchya,” I whispered, still peering down at the stone.
Darby’s bosses had known for some time that someone on their staff was robbing them, but they didn’t know who; only that he or she had been clever enough to avoid detection for the better part of four months.
Not that the magical vision I’d summoned to the stone was proof, at least not the kind that I could use in any court of law.
“No, your honor, I don’t have any surveillance tape. But I cast a seeing spell and saw him in this shiny piece of agate . . .”
But now that I knew for certain who the thief was, I had no intention of letting him get away.
I got out of the Z-ster, my silver 1977 280Z, which was parked along a side street near the store, closed the door with the care of a burglar, and began to limp toward the loading dock.
If someone had told me a year ago that getting shot could be a good thing, I would have said that person was nuts. And I know nuts. I’m a weremyste, which means that for three nights out of every month — the night of the full moon, and the nights immediately before and after — I lose control of my mind and my magic. It also means that eventually, the cumulative wear-and-tear of those monthly phasings will leave me permanently insane. As they have my Dad.
But this is about the risks of my profession, as opposed to the dangers of my runecrafting. I’m a private investigator, owner and president of Justis Fearsson Investigations. And not so long ago I was shot — twice, as it happens — by a powerful sorcerer named Etienne de Cahors, who was known here in Phoenix as the Blind Angel Killer. He didn’t survive our encounter, mostly because I had help from Kona Shaw, my old partner on the Phoenix police force.
Bringing down the bastard responsible for the Blind Angel murders, a killing spree that had terrorized the Phoenix area for the better part of three years, was enough to make me a hero. Ending up with a couple of bullets in me was icing on the cake and it got me in the headlines. Business, which was slow before then, had been booming ever since. Except that for the first several weeks I had one arm in a sling and my leg bandaged from hip to knee, and so I couldn’t do much more than sit on the couch in my home and answer the phone. People were lining up to hire me, and I was every bit as eager to get to work. But for more than a month I had no choice but to decline more jobs than I had worked in the previous year.
I still miss being a cop — losing my badge about killed me — but if I can’t be on the force, working as a PI is the next best thing. Despite the reward money I’d collected for killing Cahors, I didn’t want to sit on my butt catching up on the latest in daytime drama; I wanted to do my job. So about ten days ago, when I was cleared by the doctors and my physical therapist to start working again, I took the first offer that came my way. The doctors and PT told me to take it easy, and I really have tried to be good. But it’s not like there are volume settings for investigative work. You’re on or you’re off. Despite my limp, and the lingering twinge in my arm, I was on again, and I was glad.
I reached the back of the building, and peeked around the corner to get some sense of how far I was from the loading dock. Pretty far, it turned out. Custom Electronics was one of those huge warehouse stores that seem to go on for miles, and so I was still at least one hundred yards from Darby and his wagon. But the old floodlights shining high over the loading area were strong enough for me to see him. They would also be strong enough for him to see me when I stepped around the corner.
I ducked back out of sight and hesitated, unsure as to whether I could pull off the spell I had in mind.
I had spent a good deal of my recovery time honing my casting — my runecrafting, as Namid would call it. There was nothing like almost dying at the hands of a renegade runemyste to motivate a person. Namid, who oversaw my magical training, had taught me a number of new spells, including the variation on a standard seeing spell I had used to track Darby. Two nights ago, we had worked on camouflage spells, which, in theory anyway, would make me virtually invisible to the man. I’d practiced such spells before, and I was growing more comfortable with them. Problem was, I had never used one out on the street, when it really mattered, and I had no confidence that I could pull it off on my own, without Namid instructing me each step of the way.
Then again, I didn’t have any better options. If I could have made myself fly, or given myself superhuman speed, I would have. But magic doesn’t work that way, at least not for weremystes who still have way too much to learn about runecrafting. I had my .40 Glock 22 in a shoulder holster beneath my bomber jacket, but I didn’t think Darby was armed, and I wasn’t aiming to hurt the guy. My goal was to catch him in the act with enough clear evidence to convince his employers of his guilt. Those employers had impressed upon me that they didn’t want to involve the police in any way, for fear of embarrassing the company.
The most simple of the spells I cast required three elements; this one would require more. Seven probably. Certain numbers carried more power than others: three, seven, eleven. I’d never managed to cast a spell with eleven elements; I had trouble keeping track of all of them. But I could handle seven.
Darby, me, the wall of the building, the dim light of those floods, the cement under my feet, the chain link fence and bushes behind me, and Darby again. Seven elements. The truth was, it didn’t matter what those elements were, so long as I could keep them fixed in my mind long enough to cast the spell.
I recited the litany to myself six times, and on the seventh go-round, I released the magic that had been building inside me. I felt the spell settle over me, as light as mist, as reassuring as a blanket.