His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 38
“Jacinto saw them tryin’ to get rid of me and came over to say that I could stick around. And I called to him, asked my question.”
Hacker’s cheeks reddened. “Seems sorta stupid now, but at the time it didn’t. I wanted to know if his treatment centers were just for Mexicans, or if a white guy could get in, too.
“While we were talkin’ I said somethin’ about him bein’ a myste. I guess that wasn’t so smart, though I didn’t know it then. I was in bad shape and I’m not all that smart to begin with. But he didn’t get too mad, like he shoulda. He wanted to know how I knew, and I told him I’m a were.” He shrugged again. “He told me to stick around, and after the ceremony we talked for a while. He got me into the center; paid for everythin’. He had lots of questions, too. Wanted to know what kind of animal I was.” Hacker paused, his eyes narrowing. “You’re wonderin’ yourself, aren’t ya?”
“A little bit.”
“I’m coyote.” He said this with pride, pronouncing it Ki-yoat. “Wily, quick, strong. I like bein’ coyote.”
“I don’t doubt it,” I said. “But I’m still not sure why Amaya would have sent me here.”
“You know many weres?”
I shook my head. “Very few.” I hesitated, unsure of how much Amaya would want me to say. “He and I were talking about dark magic, and the weremystes who use it.”
Hacker’s eyes went flinty. “Yeah, that would be it.” He rubbed the stubble on his jaw, his mouth open wide enough that I could see his blackened, broken teeth, a product of his meth habit no doubt. “You and Jacinto workin’ together?”
“I’m working for him,” I said. “I’m a private investigator. Amaya hired me to look into a few things.”
I thought he’d ask for details, but he didn’t. He nodded once, still rubbing his jaw.
“Well,” he said, “I owe everythin’ to him. This place, my job, my god-damned life. So if he wants me to talk, I’ll talk.” He sat forward. “But you can’t tell a soul about me. You understand?”
“You have my word, Mister Hacker.”
He nodded again, stood, and began to pace. “How much do you know about weres?”
“I know that you go through phasings, like weremystes do, but that during yours you take the form of your animal. So I suppose you turn into a coyote three nights out of the month.”
“That’s right. And that’s all. At least that’s suppose to be all. But when I was still an addict, I needed money all the time. And I met a guy.” He continued to pace, scratching the back of his head so hard he reminded me of a dog with fleas. I winced at the thought, realizing this might not be so far from the truth.
“He was a myste, like you,” Hacker went on. “I saw that right away. He said he could help me, and that far from havin’ to pay him he’d go ahead and pay me on top of what he could do for me. How could I say no?
“He wanted to do a spell. He said he was experimentin’ with some new magic. If it worked it would make things better for me; and if it didn’t I’d be no worse off than I was already.”
“Better for you how?”
“He didn’t say at first. But eventually it comes out that he wants to . . . ‘to free me from the moon.’ Those were his words.”
“So that you wouldn’t change at all?”
Hacker shook his. “That was what I thought, too. And I told him I didn’t want that.” He lifted a shoulder. “I know some weres would leap at the chance. No more phasin’s? Some folks would love that. But like I said, I enjoy bein’ coyote. I don’t mind the change so much. I mean, sure, it hurts. But I can live with the pain.”
Something stirred in the back of my mind, grasses rustling in a light wind. A memory, though I couldn’t place it.
“Anyway, this guy says that I’ve got it all wrong. He doesn’t want to make the phasin’s stop. He wants to make it so that I can change anytime I want.”
“What did you say?”
“I said sure. I thought it would be great to have that kind of freedom. To control when I changed? And get paid to boot? Why the hell would I say no?”
“So you let him cast the spell.”
“Yeah,” he said, his voice dropping. “I let him. They used blood. A lot of it. Killed some poor kid. I was too out of it to really understand at the time. But now . . .” He shook his head. “They killed some kid. I still think about that.”
“A man and a woman. The woman was nobody I’d met before or seen since. She didn’t do much. But obviously he wanted her there.”
“And the spell worked.”
He laughed, short and bitter. “It worked just the way they wanted it to. I don’t need to wait for the moons to become coyote. And I can change into him anytime I want. Changin’ back is . . . well that’s more complicated. Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it takes a day or more. But all of that is beside the point. Always was, as it happens.
“They can change me. They can make me into coyote night or day. It doesn’t matter what the moon’s doin’. And what’s worse, while I’m coyote they can control me, make me do stuff. I don’t remember much of what happens when I’m turned. The memories are mostly images, you know? Like stream of consciousness, but blurred and almost too fast to keep track of. But there are times when I see people with me, and I know they’re mystes, dark ones. And sometimes I can piece stuff together. They’ve had me attack people. They’ve sent me into places where they would never send a person.”
He lifted his t-shirt and pointed at a crater-like scar on his side, beneath his left arm.
“You see that?”
“I was shot by a guard at some air force installation down near Tucson. I don’t even know which one, or what I was doin’ there. But they had me runnin’ along the fence line and some guard took a shot at me. I coulda been killed.”
So much had clicked into place for me while Hacker talked. That memory — it was from the seeing spell I’d cast in Sweetwater Park. This is what Dimples and Bear had been doing with the blood from the homeless man. Dimples’s spell made it possible for Bear, who must have been a were, to change anytime Dimples wanted him to. The roar of pain I had heard before their victim lost consciousness was Bear turning. For all I knew, he really was part bear.
Weres like Hacker and Bear had been made into servants of the dark sorcerers who changed them; wereslaves, in a manner of speaking. Being a were still carried a stigma, in some ways even more so than being a weremyste. At least we kept our human form. Our phasings were misunderstood, as was the more permanent psychological damage they caused. But some people valued the spells we could cast, and few ever questioned our humanity.
Weres, however, had been portrayed in movies and on television as monsters, and from all that I had heard — I’d never seen it for myself — their transformation to and from animal form could be terrifying for the uninitiated. Others in Hacker’s position had no recourse. Hacker could talk to Amaya, though clearly Jacinto had not been able to do much for him. But others like him would be reluctant to admit to anyone what they were, much less that they had been stripped of their freedom in this way. And having no magic of their own, they couldn’t fight back, not against a sorcerer.
But their plight also begged a question that chilled me to my core: If this could be done to weres, could it also be done to weremystes? Could a myste who was powerful enough cast a similar spell on me, so that he or she could induce in me at will the insanity and enhanced power of the phasings? Sure, I had access to spells, too. I could defend myself. To a point. But what if the myste in question was more skilled than I was, more powerful? Could I be used as a magical slave as well? Could my Dad? Could a myste, or a cabal of them, create an entire army of ensorcelled magical warriors, beyond reason, wielding spells too powerful for those not in the midst of a magically induced phasing to withstand?