His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 07
He sobered and shook his head, his gaze holding mine as he took another mouthful of ice cream.
He finished that first bowl a few minutes later, and I went back and got him a second. And when he finished that one, I brought him half a sandwich, which he bolted down as well.
Sometimes, getting some food into my Dad brought him around a bit, helped him reconnect with reality. Not this time. He continued that odd wincing, and he went on and on about being prodded and burned. I’d been with him through a lot of a different hallucinations, but again I couldn’t shake the feeling that this one was different.
His skin had lost that sallow quality, though, and once he’d had enough to eat, I managed to convince him to shower, shave, brush his teeth, and put on fresh clothes. By the time I was ready to leave, he was back in his chair, staring at the horizon. I could tell he was hurting still, but I didn’t know what else to do for him.
“I have to go for a while, Dad. But I’ll come back later, all right?”
He didn’t so much as glance at me.
“If you’re here, they’ll know where to find you, and then you’ll be in trouble, too.”
“I’ll take my chances. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
He didn’t argue the point further. I kissed his forehead, got in my car, and headed back into the city to keep my lunch date with Billie. She would have understood if I had asked her for a rain check, but I wanted to see her, and I also wanted to get my check from Nathan Felder.
Once I was back on the road and close enough to Phoenix to get a decent signal on my ancient cell phone, I called my Dad’s doctor to ask him about what I had seen and heard. He didn’t have much to say, at least not much that was helpful. But he did end our conversation with this gem:
“The truth is, Jay, your Dad is getting older, his condition is worsening, and it will continue to worsen. Trying to define what’s ‘normal'” — I could hear the air quotes — “is almost pointless, because normal for him is always changing; it’s always deteriorating. What you’ve described for me is no worse than what I might expect for any patient with his history. I’m sorry, but that’s the unvarnished truth.”
And because you’re a sorcerer like your old man, and because you go through the insanity of the phasings month in and month out, full moon after full moon, this is your future as well.
He didn’t have to say that last; we both knew he was thinking it.
I thanked him and ended the call.
The moonrise was still hours away — tonight’s moon would be a waxing gibbous. We were four nights from the full, three from the first night of July’s phasing. And already I felt the moon tugging at my mind, as insistent as a needy child, as unrelenting as the tide.
In another few days, even before night descended and the moon rose to begin the phasing, it would start to dull my thoughts and influence my mood. Right now it was a distraction and not too much more. But at the mere thought of those nights to come, I shuddered.
I wasn’t insane yet; Namid still held out some hope that with time, and with hard work, I could learn enough about casting to mitigate the effect of the phasings and perhaps put off what I had always assumed was my inevitable descent into madness. But flirting with lunacy, even if just for a few nights, still terrified me. I spent those nights alone. Always.
I wanted to believe that I had no choice in the matter. Even as a weremyste loses control of his mind, he also loses control of his magic, the power of which is augmented by the phasing. In other words, at those times when I’m least able to reign in my runecrafting, its most likely to boil over, endangering anyone who’s near me. Still, during our years together on the force, Kona had offered many times to stay with me and keep me from hurting myself or others. Last month, Billie had done the same; it occurred to me that she might have intended to again this month. For all I knew, that was why she wanted to see me.
I would tell her exactly what I had told Kona repeatedly: “I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.”
But both Kona and Billie were too smart to be fooled by that, even if I was content to go on deceiving myself.
What I really should have said to them was, “I’m ashamed to let you see me this way.”
I had seen my father at his worst, on days when he was far, far less lucid than he had been today. I knew what moon-induced madness looked like; it was ugly, messy, humiliating. I didn’t want to share it with anyone. I could barely stand to see it in my old man, much less in myself.
So I drove back into Mesa, to Solana’s, the little burrito place Billie and I had gone to so many times that it was fast becoming “our place.” And along the way, I tried to find the words to refuse the offer I knew was coming.
She was already seated when I got there. The lunch rush had started, but I assumed she had ordered for me; I always got the same thing: chicken and black beans, extra guac and pico, no sour cream.
Reaching the table, I stooped and kissed her lightly on the lips. Then I sat.
She nodded. “And paid. That’s two in a row. You owe me.”
In spite of everything, I smiled, glad to see her, happy to be distracted from my Dad.
Billie and I had met less than two months ago, while I was working on the Blind Angel murder case, and we hadn’t exactly hit it off at first. She was a journalist, the owner of a blog site called Castle’s Village. As a cop, I had developed a healthy distrust of journalists, and the first time or two we spoke I had Billie pegged as a typical reporter: nosy, ruthless, interested in nothing but the story, and completely unconcerned with those who got in her way as she went after it.
I was wrong. She was smart as hell, and, yes, she could be relentless in her pursuit of a story. But she cared more about getting it right than getting it first, and I had seen her go to incredible lengths to double and triple-check her facts before posting an article to her site. She was also warm, funny, and caring. She had these amazing emerald green eyes, and ringlets of brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders and back. And, most remarkably, she seemed to like me every bit as much as I liked her, which was quite a lot.
Watching me watch her, she took my hand, concern furrowing her brow.
“What’s the matter?”
“What makes you think something’s the matter?”
She gave me her “Are-you-really-that-stupid?” look. “You have a lousy poker face, Fearsson. I’ve told you that.” She leaned in, her arms resting on the table. “Is it something with your case?” she asked in a conspiratorial whisper.
That was another thing I liked about Billie: she considered my work exotic and exciting, even when I was doing nothing more than tracking down the Mark Darbys of the world.
“No. The case is solved. In fact, I need to get my check from Mister Felder when we’re done with lunch.”
“Wow, Fearsson. That took you all of one week. I’m impressed.”
“It was ten days,” I told her. “And that matters because I get paid by the day.” I waved off the compliment. “Anyway, I wasn’t exactly dealing with a criminal mastermind.” I took a long breath, my gaze dropping to our interlaced fingers. “It’s my Dad. He’s not doing so well.”
She frowned. “I’m sorry. Something specific or . . . ?” She trailed off, allowed herself a small self-conscious smile, even as her brow remained creased. “I’m not sure how to ask the question.”
“I know what you mean. And I don’t really have an answer. It seems different to me. Worse than it’s been. But the doctors tell me its part of the normal downward spiral.”
She winced, reminding me of my Dad. “Not what you want to hear.”
“Not at all.”
Before I could say more, my phone buzzed. I pulled it from the pocket of my bomber and checked the incoming number. Kona, at 620, which is what we called Phoenix Police headquarters in downtown Phoenix.
I flipped open the phone — yes, I still have a flip phone. “Hey, partner. What’s up?”
“Justis, I am having a day. You busy right now?”
I’m having lunch with Billie.”
“Tell her ‘Hi’ from me. How soon can you get away?”
“Seriously?” I said. “You want me to tell her ‘Hi,’ and then you want to know how quickly I can ditch her?”
“Pretty much,” Kona said, seeming to find little humor in the situation. “I’ve got a dead body here, and I think I need for you to take a look at it, if you know what I mean.”
“You think he was killed with magic?” I asked, my voice dropping to a whisper.
“Yup. So how soon can you be here?”
“Where are you?”
“I’m at the airport, terminal three. And that’s the other thing you ought to know. We think there was a bomb on this guy’s plane.”