His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 27
The body had been found in Sweetwater Park, adjacent to the Paradise Valley Mall. I called Billie and asked if we could meet a bit later than we had planned. Then I followed Kona and Kevin out to Paradise Valley.
Upon reaching the park, we found squad cars everywhere, a frenzy of flashing blue lights. The cops on the scene had set up a perimeter starting about a block away from the park and were directing traffic away from it and away from the mall as well, which couldn’t have been making the shop owners happy. But Kona must have said something to them, because they waved me through without asking me for ID. We drove to the edge of the park and got out to walk the rest of the way.
The body had been found among a line of trees that formed a boundary between the park and Paradise Village Parkway, which ran around the mall. According to the detective who met us a few yards shy of the trees, no one had touched it. Kona and Kevin stayed with the detective, learning what they could about the person who found the body. I eased closer, peering into the shadows, taking in each new detail as my eyes adjusted to the dim light beneath the trees.
“Hey, what’s he doing?” the detective said.
“He’s all right,” Kona told the guy. “We’ll join him in a minute.”
I’d have to remember later to thank her.
The body was that of an older man, late fifties, maybe early sixties. He was white, with wild gray hair and a rough beard. He wore baggy pants that were held up with a frayed canvas belt, and a pale green t-shirt, stained and torn. His shoes were bound together with silver duct tape.
He had been tied to a small tree. Or rather, he had been forced to wrap his arms around the narrow trunk, and then his hands had been bound together with those plastic cable ties that electricians use. His wrists had been slashed so deeply that his hands hung from his arms at an angle, as if they might fall to the ground at any moment. Dried blood stained his palms and fingers, as well as the earth beneath them. I couldn’t say for certain whether any blood was missing, but I didn’t doubt it for a moment. This was a ritual killing. I could tell from the distorted grimace frozen on the man’s face that he had died in fear and in pain. Tearing my eyes from him, I turned a slow circle in the cool shade, searching for any sign of magic, any glow of a sorcerer’s spell. I saw nothing.
Checking on Kona and the others — they were still talking, though the third detective kept an eye on me — I walked around to the far side of the tree so that I could see the wounds on the victim’s wrists more clearly. At least that was how it would seem to Kona’s friend.
I squatted down in front of the corpse, bracing my hand on the dirt for balance. I didn’t see much on the wounds beyond what any other cop would see — there was no magic here, either. But as I stood again, I took a pinch of blood-darkened earth between my fingers.
I walked away from the body, deeper into the shadows, and pulled my scrying stone from my pocket. Holding it in my hand, with that bloodied dirt beneath it, I spoke the words of a seeing spell in my head.
The dappled light that had been reflected off the smooth surface of the stone vanished, taking with it those familiar sinuous bands of blue and white, and leaving what appeared at first to be impenetrable darkness. But I heard voices in my head, voices the dead man had heard; at first they were vague, muted. I couldn’t make out their words. Within a few seconds though, they gelled, became more real.
. . . Coming around.
It’s about time. We can’t stay here forever.
Relax, the first voice said. A man, authoritative and used to having people do as he instructed. No one’s going to find us. We have all the time in the world.
Faint light appeared in the stone, vanished, appeared again. In the seeing I had summoned, the dead man was waking up, his eyes fluttering open. He tried to straighten up, but the tree was in his way, his arms were already bound. Despite the darkness, I could see his hands and wrists, which remained whole, at least for now.
A face loomed before him. Dark eyes, a straight nose and trim beard, all beneath a shock of straight dark hair. A cruel smile played at the man’s lips, dimpling his cheeks.
Wake up, sleepy-head. It’s a beautiful night in the neighborhood.
Who-who are you? The bound man asked. Why are my hands tied? He sounded terrified, and he spoke with a slight lisp.
What’s your name?
Well, Jeff, we need your help, and we want to make sure you cooperate. Here, let me give you a hand.
It seemed that Dimples helped him stand straighter. A moment later the victim’s perspective shifted. He could look around with greater ease. He spotted the second man, who stood several feet away. He was taller and broader than Dimples, looming like a bear in the gloom, but I couldn’t make out the details of his face.
Is that better? Dimples asked. When Jeff nodded, he smiled again and said, Good, I’m so glad. Now . . . He brandished a knife, waving the blade in front of the bound man’s eyes. We need to take a bit of blood from you. Is that all right?
Are you fucking nuts? No it’s not all right. Lemme go!
Dimples winced, his brow furrowing. I’m sorry. I should have phrased that differently. We’re going to take your blood. That’s why you’re here and tied to that tree. I didn’t mean to imply that you had any choice in the matter. Forgive me.
Stop fucking around, Bear said from the shadows.
Shut up. I know what I’m doing. To Jeff, he said, This will hurt a bit; quite a lot, really. But with any luck we’ll leave a bit of blood for you. That’s the plan anyway.
The bastard. Fear increased the amount of epinephrine in the blood, and I would have bet every dollar I had that the stronger the fear, the stronger the magical enhancement in a blood spell. Dimples was scaring the guy to make his spell more effective.
Come here, Dimples said.
Bear lumbered toward him.
Please don’t do this, Jeff said, his lisp growing more pronounced. I could see him struggling to free his arms, but the ties held him tight.
Dimples didn’t answer. He’d done what was necessary to make his victim’s fight or flight response kick in. But after a moment, he did say, Hold him steady.
Arms appeared in the periphery and took hold of Jeff. Bear was behind him, pinning him to the tree, gripping his forearms to keep the bound man from flinching or thrashing.
Dimples stood in front of them both and glanced past the bound man. His knife flashed in the darkness, gleaming with reflected light, perhaps from a streetlamp.
No! Jeff cried out. Then darkness, and a skirling scream like that of an animal being torn apart by a predator. On and on it went, spiralling into the night.
Shut him up, I heard Dimples say, the command nearly lost within the bound man’s agony.
The screaming was muffled abruptly, though it didn’t stop. I assumed bear had wrapped a hand over Jeff’s mouth.
Dimples cursed and muttered something under his breath. At that point, Jeff’s screams did stop. Moments later, his eyes opened again, his gaze fixing on the gaping wounds at his wrists and the crimson stains on his hands.
Bear stepped out from behind him and moved to stand beside Dimples.
Ready? Dimples asked.
Dimples closed his eyes and held out his own hands toward those of the bound man, though he seemed to take care not to touch him. He said nothing; his lips didn’t even move. But seconds later golden light burst from Jeff’s wrists, arcing through the darkness and slamming into Bear’s chest. The big man grunted and staggered back several steps, so that Jeff could no longer see him. Whatever spell Dimples had cast stopped the flow of blood from Jeff’s wrists, but not for long. Moments later, the torrent began again. Jeff’s eyelids drooped — blood loss, terror, pain.