His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 08
Billie and I had decided early on in our relationship that we were permanently off the record as far as her reporting was concerned. She wouldn’t try to get stories out of any of my investigations. It was an easy agreement to reach, because few of my usual cases — really none of them — involved anything that would interest her readers.
But our arrangement became a bit more complicated when I was called in to help out the Phoenix Police Department. Those investigations were far more intriguing, and thus just the sort of thing she would want to cover. We had met during one such case, and it had involved sorcery, one of the state’s most prominent politicians, and a serial killer whose crimes were as sensational as they were gruesome. Now the PPD needed my help again, and the case appeared to involve magic, murder, and perhaps an attempted act of terrorism.
Billie studied me as I finished my call with Kona, green eyes narrowing, the expression on her lovely face shrewd, knowing.
“What was that?” she asked, as I put away my phone.
“Kona needs my help.”
“I gathered that much. With what?”
I sighed, holding her gaze, a smile creeping over my face.
“What?” she demanded, her voice rising, though she was trying not to laugh.
“We should get our food to go,” I said. “I need to get to the airport, and I would suggest you do the same, though obviously we have to drive separately.”
Her eyes widened. “Fearsson, are you giving me a tip?”
“I’m doing no such thing. I’m simply saying that you might find it useful to make your way to the airport.”
She grabbed her computer bag. “I’m going now. I’ll eat later.”
“If you go now, Kona will know how you found out and I won’t ever be able to help you out again.”
She twisted her mouth, and for an instant I could imagine her as a kid, pondering some scheme that was going to land her in big trouble. She must have been cute as a button. A handful, but cute as a button.
“At least wait for the food,” I said.
“All right.” She hung the bag over the back of her chair again. “What did Kona tell you?”
“This dessert menu has some interesting things on it,” I said, reaching for one of the folded cardboard menus sitting on the table by the salt and pepper shakers and bottles of hot sauce. “We should come here for dinner one night.”
“Fine,” she said, her expression sharpening. “I’ll find out on my own.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Tell me about your case. The one you solved.”
“There’s not that much to tell,” I said, still reading about the desserts. “Though it did end strangely. The guy I caught took a couple of shots at me. He should have hit me, but he didn’t. It almost seemed like someone cast a spell to save my life.”
When she didn’t respond, I set the menu aside. She was staring at me, her face as white as our napkins. I guess it should have occurred to me sooner that I might be better off keeping those details to myself.
“You almost got shot again?”
“Yeah. But I’m fine. Like I said, someone was watching out for me.”
“Someone, but not you.”
I’d long imagined that it would be nice to have someone in my life who cared about what happened to me, who wanted to be certain each evening that I was safe at home. Turns out, the imagined version is easier to deal with than the real thing. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate Billie’s concern, but I also didn’t want her worrying about me all the time.
“I’d taken all the precautions I could, but I . . . messed up. It was an accident, the kind of thing that happens once in a blue moon. I stumbled over something and let the guy know I was there before I was ready to disarm him.”
“And he shot at you.”
The waitress arrived with our food.
“I’m very sorry,” I said to her. “Something’s come up, and we need these to go.”
She forced a smile, muttered a less-than-heartfelt “No problem,” and took the plates away again.
Billie continued to stare at me, her cheeks ashen except for bright red spots high on each one.
“Billie, this is what I do. If I was still a cop, I’d be on the streets every day, taking more chances than I do now.”
“If you were still a cop, you’d have a partner watching out for you. You wouldn’t have been alone with this guy.”
The problem with getting involved with someone smart was that she was right more often than not, and way more often than I was. I shrugged, conceding the point.
“You say that magic saved you?” she asked, lowering her voice.
I nodded, wishing I’d had the good sense to keep quiet when the chance presented itself.
“But not your own.”
“Was it Namid?”
We hadn’t been together for long, and at the beginning I had tried to keep from her the fact that I could cast spells, the fact that I was subject to the phasings and was slowly going mad. And even after I told her, she was slow to believe it all and slower still to accept that she could be part of my strange life. But she had come around far sooner than I’d had any right to hope. Her ability to make that simple leap, to guess that Namid had been the one to save me, was evidence of how far she and I had come in little more than two months.
“That was my first thought, too. But no, it wasn’t him. I don’t know who it was.”
“That frightens me even more than someone shooting at you.”
I thought about asking her why, but realized I didn’t have to. Some nameless magical entity or entities keeping me alive for reasons unknown? Yeah, I didn’t like the sound of that either. If they could save my life, they could take it, and since I didn’t know why they’d intervened in the first place, there was always the danger that I would disappoint them, or piss them off in some way.
The waitress came back with a couple of take-out boxes, which she placed on the table.
“No, thank you,” I said.
She walked away. Billie ignored the food.
“I’ll be careful,” I told her. At her raised eyebrow, I added, “More careful than I’ve been.”
“I like you, Fearsson. I’d rather you didn’t get yourself killed.”
I heard in what she said an odd echo of Namid’s words from the previous night, and another shudder went through me. I covered it with a shrug and a nod. “I appreciate that.”
We both stood, and I followed her out into the street. Once we were outside, she planted herself in front of me, and I thought she might say more. But instead she kissed me, her forehead furrowing as it had before.
“Call me later, okay? I want to know you’re all right.”
I watched her hurry off toward her car and then walked back to the Z-ster.
I was on the western edge of Mesa, a few blocks from where it gave way to Tempe. Sky Harbor Airport wasn’t far, and I made good time getting there. Once in the airport loops, however, the nightmares began. Navigating any airport can be a headache, but add in a murder and a bomb threat and all hell breaks loose. It took me close to forty-five minutes to get from the east entrance to the Terminal Three parking garage, and once there I had to argue with a uniformed cop for another ten minutes before I convinced him to call Kona so that she could authorize him to let me park and join her in the terminal.
Once inside, I saw that the place was crawling with cops, FBI, bomb squad guys, TSA officers, and a few suits from Homeland Security. Kona met me in the food court and escorted me through the north security checkpoint. It was the first, and no doubt the last time I would ever get my Glock through there without a question or even a quirked eyebrow.
“You took your time getting here,” she said, keeping her voice low. “I’ve had a helluva time putting off the guys from the coroner’s office, not to mention the Federal boys.”