His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 30
I picked my way through the rest of the clutter and stumbled out onto the sidewalk, fragments of glass crunching beneath my feet. There were more injured here, men and women, and even a small child. They lay on the bloodstained cement, as they would after a true bombing. Collateral damage: a cold phrase meaning people who had gotten between me and the weremyste who had issued that threat.
I turned so I could see the front of the restaurant and drew a sharp breath through my teeth. Magic clung to the shattered brick and splintered wood, glistening in the sunlight: as green as spring grass, as clear as dew, save for the faint oil-like sheen I had first noticed at the airport.
“Sir, can you tell me what happened here?”
I wheeled at the sound of the voice. A reporter, young, blonde, pretty, held a microphone inches from my face. A cameraman stood at her shoulder, lens trained on me like a weapon, white light shining in my eyes.
“Were you inside the restaurant when the bomb went off?”
“I don’t know what happened,” I said, blinking in the glare.
“You’re covered with dust and bits of wood and glass. Were you inside?”
“Is that blood on your shirt?”
I dropped my gaze. There was blood on my t-shirt and some on my jeans as well. “It’s not mine. It’s my . . . it came from a friend.”
“Is she all right?”
I shook my head.
The reporter’s eyes had narrowed. “I know you. You’re that private detective, aren’t you? Jay Fearsson?”
“I have to go,” I said.
I pushed past her and the cameraman. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy to get away.
“Were you here investigating another crime? Another killing?”
A crowd had gathered, and I couldn’t plow my way free.
“Do you think the bomb was directed at you?”
I couldn’t help myself: I rounded at that, glared at her, then tried again to get away.
“Mister Fearsson do you have anything to say to whoever is responsible for what happened today?”
I should have kept going. I should have ignored the question and bulled through the mass of people. But I was thinking about Billie, and about all the other people who had been hurt because some weremyste wanted to send me a message.
I whirled, glared right into the camera. “Yeah. Watch your ass, because I’m coming for you.”
This time when I tried to leave, people stepped out of my way. Maybe they had heard me; maybe they saw the rage on my face and decided they’d be better off letting me leave. I stalked off, knowing that I had screwed up, and that there wasn’t a damn thing I could do now to take the words back. I could imagine the way it would look on television. Kona would be pissed at me, and Hibbard’s head would explode. But at least the woman who had whispered in my mind would know what I thought of her warning.
I avoided the other reporters who were converging on the place, and slipped away from the crowded block before too many more police arrived and made any quick exit impossible.
When I first reached Mesa, I’d been annoyed that all the good parking spots were gone, but now that worked to my advantage. The Z-ster was far enough from the restaurant that I had no trouble putting some distance between myself and the scene on the street.
I needed more information about dark magic and its practitioners here in Phoenix. The night before I’d as much as told Amaya that Etienne de Cahors was the only dark sorcerer of consequence the city had seen in years. Less than twenty-four hours later, I could almost laugh at how naïve I had been. Almost. The ringing in my ears, and the fine white dust coating my clothes and skin kept me from seeing the humor. That, and Billie’s blood.
As a cop, I’d had a network of informants on whom I relied for information when other sources dried up. Some of them were lost to me now that I was no longer on the job. But I was still plugged into the magical community. At times in the past I had taken my questions to Luis Paredes, but given his ties to Amaya, I knew I couldn’t trust him now. Instead, I drove into Phoenix’s Maryvale precinct.
Maryvale’s neighborhoods included some of the roughest beats in all of Phoenix. It was a relatively small precinct, but it accounted for a disproportionate share of the city’s violent crime. It was home to gangs, small-time drug dealers, prostitutes, and one Orestes Quinley.
Orestes, who went by the name Brother Q, owned a small shop that specialized in what the non-magical world would call “the occult.” In fact, he had named his place “Brother Q’s Shop of the Occult,” which might have been the worst name for a business I’d ever heard. He sold herbs, oils, crystals, talismans, books on witchcraft and magic, and a host of other goods that a weremyste might need. He was a myste himself, and while he might not have been as skilled as I was, I sensed that he had more power than he cared to admit. I’d busted him long ago, when Kona and I still worked in narcotics. He did a little time, though probably not as much as he should have, and soon was back on the streets. Any time Kona and I encountered something we couldn’t explain during an investigation, I went to Orestes, at first because Kona and I figured he must have been working with whoever we were after. With time, though, he became a trusted informant, and even now, a year and a half removed from my resignation from the force, I still turned to him when I encountered a name I didn’t know or a residue of magic I didn’t recognize.
I could have used any number of words to describe Q: quirky, eccentric, weird; Kona called him certifiable. But I liked him, and more than that, I trusted him. Despite the fact that I was the one cop who had busted him and made the charges stick — or maybe because of it — Q and I were good friends.
But yeah, he was pretty weird.
I pulled up to his place in the 813 beat, which was as rough a neighborhood as you could find in Maryville, and found him sitting out front on a folding chair. Orestes claimed to have been born in Haiti. He spoke with a West Indian accent, and wore his hair in long dreadlocks. He had on a pair of baggy, torn denim shorts, a tie-dyed Bob Marley t-shirt, beat-up sandals, and a pair of sunglasses with tiny round lenses that couldn’t have done a damn bit of good against the desert sun. He was slouched in the chair, accentuating his paunch, and his chest rose and fell slowly. It took me a minute to realize that he was sleeping.
I opened the car door and got out without making a sound. And then I slammed the door shut.
Q started, straightened up. When he saw me, a big smile lit his face. “Brother Jay, Brother Jay, Brother Jay. What brings you to Q this lazy summer day?”
Like I said: weird. Q often referred to himself in the third person, which was strange by itself, but on occasion, for no discernible reason, he also spoke in verse. I didn’t know why or when he had started doing this, but I wasn’t sure he even noticed anymore. I didn’t think he could stop if he tried.
I walked toward him and he peered at me over the narrow rims of his glasses, his smile melting. After a few moments, he pulled off his shades altogether. “What the hell happened to you?”
“You’ll hear about it on the news. Suffice it to say, I’ve had a crappy day, and I’m not in a mood to screw around.”
I blew out a long breath. None of this was Q’s fault. “I’m sorry. How’re you feeling, Q?” I asked.
When Etienne de Cahors went on his final killing spree a couple of months ago, he did serious damage to Q’s shop, and the one-room apartment above it, and came close to killing Orestes in the process. The shop still needed repairs, but Q looked better.
“Brother Q is feelin’ fine. How are you doin’? Q sees you got those casts off your arm and leg.”
“Yeah, I’m better, thanks.” I reached for the extra chair Q kept by the shop entrance and paused, waiting for his permission.
He nodded. I sat.
“Q assumes this isn’t a social visit,” he said, setting his glasses back in place.
I reached for my wallet, pulled out a twenty, and held it up for him to see. But I didn’t give it to him. Not yet.
“What do you know about dark magic?”
He regarded me again, his gaze lingering on the blood stains, his lips pressed thin. “Enough to understand you shouldn’t be askin’ about it out on the street.” He pushed himself out of his chair and stomped into the shop. I followed, half expecting him to shut and lock the door in my face. He didn’t.