His Father’s Eyes – Snippet 40
The coyote’s snarls and the snapping of his teeth reached me clearly in the hallway, reminding me — as if I could have forgotten — how flimsy the bathroom door was. The single-wide quaked with the were’s panicked attempts to free himself. I hoped he would exhaust himself before he broke a bone or gave himself a concussion.
I pulled out my wallet and managed to extract Jacinto Amaya’s business card while maintaining my grip on the doorknob. I retrieved my flip phone from my jacket pocket and dialed the number he had scrawled on the back of the card.
He picked up after two rings.
“Amaya. Who’s this?”
“It’s Jay Fearsson. Your friend attacked me, and now I have him trapped in his bathroom.”
“Fearsson? What the hell are you talking about? What friend?”
“Hacker attacked you? Is he all right? Did you hurt him?”
“I’m fine, thanks,” I said, my voice rising.
“Did you hurt him?” Amaya asked again. Even through the thin connection, I could hear the steel in his tone.
“I made every effort not to.”
“What happened? What did you say to him?”
“Nothing! We were talking about what had been done to him, and I asked about the man who’s been controlling his changes. And at that point we both felt a pulse of magic. Next thing I know, he shifts and attacks me.”
“He shifted? So he attacked you in his animal form?”
“Damn.” I heard Amaya exhale, though the sound was nearly drowned out by the snarls and thrashing coming from the bathroom. “Where are you?”
“We’re in Hacker’s single-wide; I have him locked in the bathroom.”
“The bathroom!” Amaya repeated, sounding angry.
“It’s the one room in his place without a window,” I said.
Amaya was silent for so long, I began to wonder if the call had been dropped. But then he said, “Yes, I understand. Thank you, Jay.”
“I don’t know what to do with him,” I said. “He’s trying to get out, and I’m afraid he’ll hurt himself. I’m also afraid that if I leave, he’ll find a way out of the single-wide. There’s no telling what kind of trouble he could get into.”
“Someone cast a spell to make him turn,” Amaya said, still catching up with the conversation. “How did that person know what you and Hacker were talking about?”
“That’s an excellent question. I have no idea. But he did. Or she. Maybe it was the same woman who spoke to me before Solana’s blew up. Listen, Mister Amaya, I can’t stay here all day waiting for Hacker to pass out or shift back to his human form. I don’t know what to do.”
“What makes you think that I have answers for you?”
“He’s your friend. I could have shot him, or used an attack spell on him. I didn’t. But you set up this meeting, and it’s gone to hell. And you hired me to do a lot more than petsitting.”
Another pause, and then, “I’ll send a man.”
“Thank you.” I started to close my phone, but heard him say, “Jay.”
“They wouldn’t have been watching Hacker. They control him. They don’t see him as a threat.”
A cold feeling crept down my spine, like a bead of sweat. “Which means they’re watching me.”
“Night and day, I’d assume.”
I ended the call and leaned against the wall, which shuddered every time the coyote threw himself against the door. The impacts were slowing; Hacker was wearing himself out. I figured that right around the time Amaya’s man arrived, I wouldn’t need him anymore.
As I waited, I considered what my next move might be. I needed to speak with Namid; with all that had happened in the past two days, I was more alarmed than ever by his failure to materialize the last time I called for him. Had he refused to answer my summons because he knew that others would overhear our conversation? Had something happened to him, making it impossible for him to communicate with me? Days ago, the very idea would have seemed impossible; not anymore.
I also needed to get back to my Dad. He was under attack, like I was. But why?
I could hear him in my head. I don’t matter, he had said, so many times that the words lost their meaning. But not to him. The boy is not for you, he had said as well.
Did he know I was in danger before I did?
Sooner than I would have expected, I heard a car pull up outside. Of course, a few minutes before, the noise from within the bathroom had stopped. The coyote was probably sleeping soundly, harmless as a puppy.
The door to the single-wide opened, and Rolon stepped inside. He carried an oversized handgun; I didn’t recognize the model. After surveying the living room, he peered down the hallway and spotted me.
“Amigo,” he said.
“Hey, Rolon.” I nodded toward the weapon he carried. “You do understand that Jacinto wants this guy protected, not shot, right?”
“It’s a tranquilizer. One shot, and Hacker will be out for hours.”
I frowned. “Is that safe?”
“It is if he’s still a doggie. If he’s human again, I shouldn’t need it, right?”
It made sense.
I pushed away from the wall and walked out into the living room. “I think he’s out already,” I said. “But just in case, keep that thing handy.”
I crossed to the door, and as I pulled it open, Rolon said, “Jacinto sent a message.”
I exhaled, turned. No doubt I’d broken some unspoken rule by calling his cell. “Yeah?”
“He says, ‘When the time comes to fight, don’t go in alone. Call and you’ll have backup.'”
Better than what I was expecting. I nodded once. “Tell him, thanks.”
I left the single-wide, climbed back into the Z-ster, which was oven hot, and drove out of Buckeye, intending to make my way to Wofford. There was no direct route to my Dad’s from Hacker’s place, and the closer I got to Phoenix, the worse the traffic would be. So I took the scenic route, hoping it would prove quicker. I wound up on a lonely stretch of road known as the Sun Valley Parkway, which cuts northward through the desert from I-10 a couple of miles west of Buckeye, before heading east back toward the city on the north side of the regional park. In another ten or fifteen miles it would intersect with the Phoenix-Wickenburg Highway, which I could take to my Dad’s trailer. The parkway was popular with bikers of all stripes — cyclists as well as motorcycle enthusiasts — and it was one of the prettier stretches of road in the Phoenix area.
Huge saguaro cacti stood like sentinels beside clusters of palo verdes and catclaw acacias, desert creosote and brittlebush, barrel cactus and several species of chollas. Beyond the cacti and shrubs, the White Tank Mountains rose from the desert plain, their peaks and ridges like the cutting edge of a bread knife. Ravens soared overhead, black as coal against the azure sky, and a hawk circled in the distance, nearer to the mountains.
I had passed a couple of guys on fancy road bikes in the first mile or two outside of Buckeye, but after that I had the highway to myself, and once more I thought about the attack at Solana’s, what was being done to my Dad, and, now, my encounter with Hacker. It all came back to flight 595. I was sure of it. But why, and how?
Maybe ten miles out from Buckeye, a car appeared in my rearview mirror, coming up on me fast. It was a silver sedan, not a make or model I recognized. And I knew every make and model there was.
The windshield glass was tinted top to bottom, which was illegal in this state. Then again, there was no plate on the front of the car, so I didn’t know where it was from. All I knew was I couldn’t see the driver at all, and that made me nervous.
I floored the gas and the Z-ster leaped forward. Still, the silver sedan continued to gain on me.
And then the magic hit.
Dark mystes, I’d learned when battling Cahors, liked to go for the heart. That’s what this one did. It felt as though someone had reached a taloned hand into my chest, taken hold of my heart, and squeezed with all his might. This was what it must have been like to have a heart attack. I clutched at my chest and eased off the gas. My car shimmied, slowed, and drifted off the road, through the shoulder, and into the sand and rock and dry brush that lined the highway.
The sedan slowed as well, pulling onto the shoulder and halting.
I wasn’t going to sit there and let them finish me. Despite the agony in my chest, I stepped on the gas again. The wheels spun, spitting up rocks and sand before finally gaining traction and fishtailing out of the desert back on to the road, a cloud of red dust in my wake.
The sedan glided after me, and whoever was gripping my heart seemed to give a good hard twist. I gasped, afraid I was on the verge of blacking out.
Namid had once told me how to block attacks like these. I grunted a warding spell. The pain, my heart, and a sheath of magic around it.
The crafting hadn’t worked very well when I tried it against Cahors, but I’d gotten stronger, more skilled. As soon as I released the magic, the pain in my chest vanished. And before the bastard could attack me again, I cast a second spell, encasing the car in magical armor.
The moment I released the magic, the sedan sped up, until its front end was right on my bumper. Literally.
I’d had enough of him, too. I slowed, forcing him to do the same, and then I punched it. That sedan, whatever kind it might have been, was more than a match for the Z-ster, but I did manage to put a few yards between us. And then I cast a third time.
As simple as you please: the road, his tire, a nail.
I heard the blow-out, watched in my rearview mirror as the sedan swerved and slowed. The driver managed to stop without flipping over or going off the road, but by then I was doing one hundred and ten, with no intention of slowing down.
I chanced a grin, knowing that this one time, I’d gotten the better of these dark sorcerers who had been screwing around with me for the past several days.
“That was well done, Ohanko.”
I practically jumped out of my skin. The Z-ster veered dangerously and I slowed down.
“Damnit, Namid! You can’t surprise me like that when I’m driving!”
“I am sorry. Should I leave you?”
“No! Where have you been? I tried to speak with you, and you didn’t answer, not even to tell me that you don’t like being summoned.”
“I do not.”
“When was this?”
I hesitated. “Yesterday afternoon.” Had it only been yesterday?
“Why did you summon me?”
“Because Billie and I were nearly blown up by a magical bomb.”
I chanced a peek his way and found him staring back at me, his waters placid, his eyes as bright as searchlights.
“All right, she was nearly blown up. It seems I wasn’t in any danger at all. Not then, at least.”
“You are now.”
“So I’ve gathered. What is this about, Namid?”
“What do you think it is about?”
If I’d thought it would do any good at all, I would have pulled out my Glock and shot him. I hated it — hated it — when he answered my questions with questions. He reminded me of a teacher I’d had in high school, the most annoying geometry teacher on the planet, who had responded exactly the same way to all of our questions. I couldn’t stand the guy. Learned a helluva lot of geometry, though.
“I think I’m caught up in a magical war between dark sorcerers and whatever you’d call people like us.”