His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 10
“Talk to me, Justis,” Kona said, after I’d stared at the kid for a good minute or two. “Was I right? Was he killed with magic?”
“Yeah,” I said. “But this magic is . . . it’s weird. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Well, that’s what I want to hear right now.”
I tore my eyes away from the swirling glow to scan the rest of his body. I saw no blood, no other wounds or bruising. Of course he had a lot of tattoos, including at least half a dozen swastikas on his neck and arms, which made bruising a bit harder to find. But I was sure that the spell to his chest had killed him.
“A spell hit him here,” I said, tracing a line across his heart with my finger, but taking care not to touch him. “Aside from that I don’t see any magic on him. We could turn him over to check for signs of a second conjuring, but I don’t think there’s much point.”
“Do you recognize the color?”
I shook my head. “I don’t even recognize the kind of magic that was used against him. It doesn’t look like any spell I could cast.”
“Is that because of the spell, or the guy who cast it?”
This was one of the things that made Kona such a great cop — the best I’d known. She would have been the first to admit that she was out of her depth; she knew next to nothing about magic. But she had asked the perfect question, one that cut to the very core of the matter. One that I couldn’t yet answer. First Billie, now Kona. It seemed that I was giving my friends a free education in magic: “Runecasting 101.”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “In the past I’ve only used magical residue like this to find the conjurer. Someone who knows more about this stuff than I do might be able to tell us what kind of spell was used against him, but I can’t.”
I scrutinized the glow for another few seconds, trying to commit to memory the color and quality of the residue. I covered the body again, and straightened.
“What do you know so far?” I asked.
Kona pulled out the small spiral notepad she kept in her blazer pocket. “We know more than we usually do this early in an investigation, but so far we haven’t been able to make much sense of it.” Opening the notebook, she went on, “The victim’s name is James Robert Howell.” She glanced up, her eyes meeting mine. “I swear, Justis, I think he went by Jimmy Bob. As you can tell from his hair style and the lovely art work he’s wearing, he was a skinhead, I’m guessing with ties to a bunch of white supremacist groups. We pulled his luggage, and found that it held a bomb with an altitude-sensitive trigger. The bomb squad guys aren’t sure yet when it was set to detonate, but the way these things work is that you reach that level, the air pressure changes enough to trip the mechanism, and boom, no more plane.”
“How do you even get a bomb onto a plane these days? I would have thought that the TSA could find any explosives in a checked bag.”
“Usually they can. This was a pretty sophisticated device. They’re still trying to figure out exactly where the system broke down.”
“Who else was on board? For that matter, where was the plane going?”
“Both good questions. This was American flight 595, a non-stop to Washington Reagan. And the passenger list included Mando Rafael Vargas and several of his aides.”
I let out a low whistle. “So you think that mister white supremacist here had it in mind to assassinate one of the most prominent Latino leaders in the country.”
“That’s what I’m thinking. That’s what the Feds are thinking.”
“Sounds about right. The FBI guys are letting you play in their sandbox?”
“It’s my sandbox,” she said. “I’ve made it clear to them that this is my goddamned sandbox. But yeah, for now at least they’re playing nice and they’re eager for any help we can give them.”
“How soon was the plane supposed to take off?”
Kona nodded, an eyebrow going up. “Well, that’s where all of this starts to get very interesting. Flight 595 was supposed to take off a little before nine o’clock this morning.”
“What?” I bent down again, uncovered Howell’s body a second time. “So how did he end up in here? Why isn’t every person on that plane dead already?”
“The plane had mechanical problems. It pulled back from the gate, a red light came on in the cockpit, and it wound up sitting on the tarmac for about two and half hours while mechanics tried to find the problem. At that point they gave up, rolled it to the gate again, and had everyone deplane, intending to move them to a new aircraft. While they were waiting, someone killed Howell. We found the bomb in his luggage a short time later.”
“That’s some coincidence,” I said.
“Exactly what I’m thinking. I need you to put your magic eyes on a few more things for me, and maybe a few people, too.”
“I want to know if our murderer was on the plane, and I know you can tell from looking if someone’s a conjurer.”
“Just because a conjurer is on the plane, that doesn’t mean he or she is the killer.”
She frowned. “I know that. You know I know that. But it would be a place to start, right?”
I couldn’t argue. “I’ll ‘put my magic eyes’ on whoever you want me to.” I shifted my attention back to Jimmy Bob. “What do you suppose Pete Forsythe is going to say was the cause of death?” Forsythe was the Medical Examiner in Phoenix, and had been since way before I joined the police force.
Kona shrugged. “I don’t know. Why?”
“From what I’m seeing, I’d guess that the magic slashed through him — I don’t know if it simply stopped his heart or caused a heart attack, or a rupture of some sort.”
“Does it matter?”
For some reason I felt that it did, though I couldn’t say why. “It’s not the kind of spell I would cast.”
“Well, I’d hope not.”
I grunted a laugh but then grew serious again. “No, I mean that if I was going to murder someone, and if I intended to attack his heart, I’d seize it with a spell, make sure it would appear to anyone who cared that he’d died of a heart attack. And maybe this sorcerer did that, but a spell like this . . . It seems odd.” I covered him again, stood.
Kona was watching me. “Go ahead and say it.”
“Whatever it is you’re thinking right now.”
I rubbed the back of my neck. “All right. It’s almost like whoever killed him didn’t care how it would look.”
“Except that they did it with magic, which most of us can’t see.”
“True. But that’s all the more reason to make it seem like a natural death — why would you draw attention to what you’d done by flaunting the spell?”
“I can’t help you there, partner,” she said. “I think all of you weremystes are crazy.”
“Or at least headed that way, right?”
“At least. Come on. Let’s go see the rest of it.”
I followed her out of the men’s room to the nearest of the gates. A TSA official swiped a card and pulled open the gate door, allowing us to walk down the jet bridge. Halfway between the gate and the open end of the bridge, the heat hit us, a fist of stifling air. I pulled off my bomber. We exited onto a stairway that led down to the apron, and climbed into what was essentially a golf cart. Kona released the brake and steered us out of the apron and onto a roadway that ran parallel to the runways and led toward an open area near the western edge of the airport.
“Where are we going?” I asked, raising my voice so that she would hear me over the rush of hot wind and the constant roar of aircraft.
“To check out a bomb.”
I nodded. “You know how to show a guy a good time.”
She grinned. “Don’t tell Margarite. She’ll be jealous.”