His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 31
“What the hell, Jay?” he asked, as soon as I was inside with the door shut. “You come around here, lookin’ like you been through a war, and you ask Q about dark magic out where everybody can see and hear. That’s crazy.” He shook his head. “Q’s not even sure it’s safe to talk about it inside.”
I wanted to ask him who he thought would be listening, but he stopped me before I could get the first word out. A moment later, magic buzzed the air. Q glanced around the shop, the walls of which now glimmered with orange light.
“Wardin’ spell Q came up with,” he said, pride coloring his voice. “It should muffle our voices a little.”
“Who are you hiding from? Who do think might be listening to us?”
He shook his head. “Q don’t know.”
“You never know, until I pay you.”
“This time Q really isn’t sure. There’s strange things happenin’. People are talkin’ about new powers. Not new mystes, mind you, but new powers. Q ain’t never heard that before. He’s not even sure what it means. Mysties are scared, though. Q’s sure of that.”
“I don’t doubt it. What can you tell me about Regina Witcombe?”
Q’s eyes narrowed. “Who’ve you been talkin’ to, Jay?”
I shook my head. “I can’t tell you that.”
He frowned. “You do that a lot,” he said with quiet intensity. “You come here askin’ Q all sorts of questions, and expectin’ answers. Today especially, covered in dust and blood, and refusin’ to explain yourself. And then Q asks a question of his own, and suddenly you’re all secretive and shit. That can bother a man, make him feel used.”
“First of all,” I said, “you’re not paying me for answers.”
Q’s gaze slid away, but he chuckled, deep in his chest. “Well, that’s true. And second of all?”
“Second, if I tell you, it could get both of us killed. And no, I’m not exaggerating.” I paused to gesture at myself. “All of this, the blood, the dust — it’s because there was a magical attack on a restaurant I was at. When you hear about it on the news, they’ll call it a bombing, but I know better. It was directed at me.”
“You look all right. A mess, but all right.” He nodded toward the blood. “Unless that’s yours.”
“It’s not. It’s from the woman I love.”
“Shit, Jay. Q’s sorry. She gonna be all right?”
“How do you this magic bomb was for you?”
“Because a voice told me it was. She said it was a warning.”
“Well, all right then. Regina Witcombe is that rich woman, right? The one whose husband died on a boat?”
“Thought so,” he said. “Yeah, there’s some who say she’s into the dark stuff. Q’s heard no proof — rumor, nothin’ more. But it comes from sources Q trusts.”
I found this oddly comforting. As much as I didn’t want to be caught up in anything having to do with dark magic, that ship was already way, way out to sea. And I found it reassuring that Jacinto Amaya had been straight with me.
“What do they want, Q? Whoever is using this dark magic, what are they after?”
“Well, that’s the question, ain’t it? Used to be, they was happy to cast their spells and make themselves more powerful with blood and such. But they’re changin’ now. There’s talk of mystes makin’ war on each other.”
Jacinto had mentioned that, as well.
“A war for what?” I asked.
“Q don’t know. But there’s rules, things mystes ain’t supposed to do. You know that as well as Q does. Dark mystes don’t like those rules. Someone with money, power — like that woman you’re askin’ about — she’d be someone Q would want on his side, when the fightin’ started. You know?”
I wasn’t sure what a war between mystes would be like but I had a feeling that I’d seen a preview of it today at Solana’s. I felt queasy.
“All right, Q,” I said, handing him the twenty. “Thanks.” I stepped to the door.
I stopped, expecting his standard parting line: Brother Q has one favor that he’d ask of you; Please don’t tell a soul that you heard it from Q.
But when I faced him again, his expression was still as grim as it had been.
“A couple of months ago, you mentioned to Q that you had a runemyste who was trainin’ you.”
“You need to ask him about this stuff. Q only knows so much, but a runemyste — he might be able to help you.”
I wanted to tell Q that Namid didn’t respond well to pointed questions, and that the laws of his kind prohibited him from interacting with our world in a meaningful way. But I kept these things to myself.
“I’ll give that some thought,” I said instead, and left.
I went back to my house and changed my clothes, faltering with my shirt in my hands, my eyes drawn to the blood. I was going to toss it in the hamper, but I reconsidered. The blood had set; it wasn’t coming out, and I never wanted to wear that shirt again. I threw it in the trash.
Before putting on another, I crossed to my mirror and examined my arms, my back, my chest. Not a single mark. I wasn’t even sore. I thought again of my confrontation with Mark Darby at the loading dock behind Custom Electronics. Twice now, a magical spell of unknown origin had kept me from harm. This second time, the sorcerer who protected me was the same one who had saved the passengers aboard flight 595, and who had killed James Howell.
Why would a weremyste who used dark magic care about saving my life? Yes, she had conveyed a warning as well, but had she also blocked the bullets from Mark Darby’s pistol? Were she and her friends tormenting my Dad? Were they behind the killings Kona and Kevin had been investigating?
I pulled on a clean shirt and called out, “Namid!”
He didn’t like to be summoned, and usually I would have respected his wishes, but I had too many questions, and Q was right: if anyone could help me, it was the runemyste.
But he didn’t materialize. I called for him again. Nothing. I hadn’t expected that.
Unsure of what else to do, I drove to Banner Desert Medical Center and after getting the runaround for some time, found out where Billie was — still in surgery — and where she would be when they were finished with her — probably the trauma center in Tower A on the second floor.
The receptionist had nearly as many questions for me as I did for them, and it didn’t take me long to realize that no one was going to let me anywhere near her unless I was family. So, I lied, told them we were married, but that Billie kept her maiden name for professional reasons. At some point she and I would laugh about it. Or she’d be royally ticked off.
The receptionist gave me a clipboard with enough paperwork on it to make me feel like I was back on the police force, and sent me on my way.
I went up to surgical waiting, with its bright lights, plastic plants, and rows of patterned chairs, and found the room overflowing with people who looked as worried as I felt. There were no seats available, no windows to look out, nothing to do but lean against a wall, fill out forms, and wait. Eventually I must have closed my eyes, because some time later I jerked awake, and almost toppled over.
Hearing the nurse say my name, I realized this wasn’t the first time she’d called for me.
“Yes,” I said, straightening and stepping away from the wall.
“You’re Miss Castle’s husband?”
The nurse nodded once, but eyed me doubtfully. Or maybe I was imagining it. I’d never been a very good liar.
“Can you come with me, please?”
I followed her out of the waiting area and past a sign that said, “Pardon our appearance,” and described a bunch of renovations taking place in the Intensive Care Departments. We walked through a series of corridors, all of them lined with heavy plastic tarps. At intervals I saw step-ladders laying on their sides or propped against walls, and gaps in the ceiling where panels had been removed. I saw a few workers and heard others above me, crawling around in the space above. At last we came to a pair of twin wooden doors marked “Intensive Care Unit.”
The nurse halted outside the doors and asked me to wait there.
She went into the ICU and reemerged a few moments later with a doctor, an Indian woman who appeared to be about my age.
“Mister Fearsson?” she said, her accent light.
I nodded. My mouth had gone dry.
“I am Doctor Khanna. I am the hospitalist here. Miz Castle, she is your wife?”
“Yes,” I said, lying yet again. At some point I was going to pay for this. I held up the clipboard. “Still doing the paperwork.”
“Do you have identification?”