His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 34

His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 34

“His name is Gary Hacker. He lives outside the city, on a small plot of land on the outskirts of Buckeye.” He gave me the address. “He won’t want to speak with you. Tell him I sent you.”

“What should I talk to him about?”

“Like I said, it’s not my story to tell. But he’s a were, and I think you’ll find what he has to say pretty illuminating.”

“All right.”

“Don’t take a lot of time with this. You’ve only got two more days until the phasing starts.”

“Do you really think I need you to tell me that?”

A small laugh escaped him. “Probably not.”

I drank the rest of my water and stood. “Thank you for the name.” I patted my gut. “And for the lesson in magic.”

“Your friend, is she all right?”

“How’d you know it was a she?”

Amaya grinned. “I saw you on the news, remember? You were angry, ready to take on an entire army of weremystes. And I saw as well the way you came charging in here, despite my guards, despite my reputation. We do those things for the ones we love, and I happen to know you are in love with the blogger, Billie Castle.”

I didn’t like that he knew her name, that he had found it so easy to learn so much about me, but I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

“She’s alive,” I said. “But she’s not in great shape.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Truly. I know what it’s like to have your enemies strike at loved ones.”

Pain lurked behind the words; I wondered what had been done to him. “Thank you,” I said, unnerved by the sympathy I felt.

I walked toward his front door, curious about this new name he had given me, and belatedly aware of how lucky I was to be leaving his home alive.

It seemed he was thinking along the same lines. “Jay.”

I halted, faced him.

“I don’t care who’s in the hospital or how many times you’ve been blown up. Don’t ever come to me in anger again.”

Another warning. This one I was likely to heed. I nodded and let myself out of the house.

#

I returned to the hospital and managed to get in to see Billie for a few minutes. She looked better than she had; she had more color in her cheeks, and she admitted to me that she had eaten a bit.

She begged me to bring her something from Solana’s, until I reminded her that it had been destroyed by the explosion.

“Then anyplace. I want fajitas, Fearsson, not braised beef tips.” She made a face, and I laughed.

“I’ll do what I can.”

“I also want to know why all the nurses keep referring to you as my husband.”

I winced, rubbed the back of my neck. “It was the only way I could get in to see you. They don’t allow just anyone in this part of the hospital, and I wasn’t willing to wait until they moved you. So . . .” I shrugged.

“So, you claimed you were my husband?”

“Yeah. I don’t know your social security number by the way. That really is information you should share with the man you marry.”

Her laughter was like the sweetest music.

“I think Kona would say that you’re a piece of work.”

I nodded. “Yeah, she would.”

Before we could say much more, her nurse — a different one — shoed me away, telling me I was welcome to come back in the morning during regular visiting hours.

I would have liked more time with Billie, but at least I knew that her condition was improving, and that she was being taken care of, even if it was by Nurse Ratched.

I went by Nathan Felder’s house, where I picked up my check, and then made my way home. I only stayed long enough to grab a change of clothes before driving out to my Dad’s. I would have to make the trip back into town first thing the following morning to keep my appointment with Patty Hesslan, but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone for too long.

When I got to Wofford, he was out in his chair, sitting in the dark, wearing the same clothes he’d had on the day before, and smelling a bit ripe. I saw no evidence that he had eaten anything.

I fixed him a bowl of cereal, filled a glass of water, and sat with him as he ate and drank, listening to him rant about the burning and the pain and how he didn’t matter. He mentioned my Mom again, and told them to stay the hell away from “the boy.” I smiled at this; I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t that I found it amusing in any way. Far from it. But I was touched that in the deepest throes of his madness or his suffering — whatever this was — he took it upon himself to protect me.

The rest of it sounded like so much nonsense, of course. It was the same stuff I’d heard the day before, and two days before that. He was flinching again, but the food and water seemed to help, and I took some comfort in the fact that he appeared to be no worse than he’d been yesterday.

I didn’t like to overuse his sleeping medication — the doctors had warned me that, given his history as an alcoholic, he could develop an addiction to the pills. But he wasn’t going to sleep in this state without some help.

Once the pill took effect, I put him to bed. I showered and shaved, lingering in front of the mirror to scrutinize the deepening bruise along my jaw, the purple under my skin blending into the fading purple glow of Amaya’s spell. At last, exhausted, I settled down on the floor of my Dad’s room, as I had the previous night. Weary as I was, though, I lay awake for a long time, reliving the explosion at Solana’s, and thinking about the spell I’d felt prickling my skin. There had been two spells, of course, one working at cross-purposes with the other. The first blew up the restaurant; the second protected me from injury, despite the potency of that first casting. I couldn’t imagine the power and skill necessary to weave two such spells together, although I thought it possible that Etienne de Cahors might have pulled it off, had he still been alive.

Which begged the question: Had the spells been cast by one myste or two, or even several? If both spells had come from the same “person” — and I used the term loosely — I might well have been dealing with a being who had more in common with Namid than with me. If they had come from two or more sorcerers, I was facing some sort of conspiracy. Lying in the dark, listening to my father’s snoring, I wasn’t sure which possibility frightened me more.

I slept later than I had intended, and woke to find my Dad stirring as well. He sat up in bed, pushed both hands through his white hair. At the sight of me on his floor, he frowned.

“You’re here.”

“I didn’t want you to be alone all night.”

“I’m alone every night.”

I shrugged, peered up at the sky through the window. It was another clear, sunny day in the desert; it was going to be hot as hell. “You haven’t been yourself lately.”

I chanced a glance in his direction and saw him nod.

“You stayed the night before, too, didn’t you?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Thanks.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. I don’t expect it’ll last, but right now I’m okay.” He narrowed his eyes at my jaw. “You don’t look so good.”

I raised a hand to the bruise. It was tender, a little swollen. “I’m all right.”

“I should see the other guy, right?”

 

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