Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 15
I left Amaya’s house a short time later, once we had worked out the details of our business arrangement. He didn’t like my new rates, but we both knew that with all the high profile cases I had solved in recent months, I could charge pretty much anything I wanted. And it wasn’t as though Jacinto could plead poverty.
Once I was outside, one of his guards gave me back my Glock. I walked to my car, slowing as I gazed up at the moon. A week until it waxed full, six days until the phasing began, and already I sensed it pulling at my thoughts, like a cat unravelling a ball of yarn.
I opened the car door, but continued to stand there, staring up at the face of the quarter moon. Something about that silver-haired man had bothered me since the moment Kona first mentioned him to me. Something other than the ease with which he could kill. But only now, bathed in moon glow did I realize what it was.
He was that rarest of magical beings: an old weremyste who seemed to be functioning and sane. How could that be?
I knew that Saorla had protected the weremancers who worked for her from the monthly effects of the phasings, and I wondered if she had been guarding this man from the moon’s influence for enough years to preserve his sanity. I had also learned from Namid that the more skilled and powerful a weremyste became, the more he or she could resist the worst of what the runemyste called “the moontimes.” Perhaps the sheer might of the magic this man wielded was enough to keep him from losing his mind. Either way, I wasn’t looking forward to meeting him, particularly if that encounter didn’t happen until the phasing began.
I climbed into the car and started back toward Billie’s house.
I was about halfway to Highway 101 when I figured out I was being followed. Whoever was behind me didn’t have much experience tailing people. I could tell, because I had a ton of experience. He was following too closely, maintaining a short distance between us.
No doubt it was another of Saorla’s friends.
I continued past the on-ramp to the highway, figuring I would be safer on surface roads if my shadow decided to attack. I steered myself onto Scottsdale Road, and followed it through the heart of the town. It made for slower going, but I was fine with that. I even took a few extra detours onto side streets, each time making my way back to the main road, so that I could be certain the guy in the trailing car really was following me.
He made every turn with me, sometimes idling at red lights right on my rear bumper. Eyeing him in my rearview mirror, I could nearly make out his features. I knew he was alone, and though I suppose it was possible that this was the silver-haired weremancer, I somehow doubted that such a dangerous enemy would prove to be this much of an idiot. Whoever it was drove a Hyundai sedan, late model, metallic green. Not exactly a muscle car. I probably could have shaken him if I tried. But I wanted to talk to him.
At the next side street, I made a sharp right, accelerating through the curve and speeding down a narrow residential lane. The Hyundai came after me. I made a second right onto another residential street. It was empty except for a few parked cars. I hit the brakes and spun the wheel so that I came to a stop blocking both lanes of the road. Moments later, my shadow slung around the corner and, seeing me, slammed on the brakes. He threw his car into reverse, but I’d had enough of this.
Three elements. His tire, my hand, and a long, sharp knife. I heard the tire blow, watched as the car swerved and slowed. When it came to a complete stop, the driver’s side door opened and the man inside got out. Despite the dim light, I could make out the smudge of magic across his face.
I warded myself and climbed out of the Z-ster. For the moment, I kept my Glock holstered.
“You were interested in speaking with me?” I asked. “Or do you just tail strange cars at night as a hobby?”
He was about my height, light brown hair, handsome in a non-descript way. He might once have been an athlete, but he had developed a small paunch that his flannel shirt couldn’t quite hide.
“I want to know where my wife and kids are.”
I nodded, knowing that I should have expected this. “Neil Davett.”
“That’s right. Who the hell are you?”
“You followed me without having any idea of who I was. That’s pretty dumb, Neil.”
“Screw you! I can take care of myself. Now where are they?”
“I had been planning to look you up and ask the same question,” I said.
He scowled. “I don’t believe you.”
I took a few steps in his direction, muttering an attack spell to myself, in case he threw a casting my way. He had some power; I could tell that much from the amount of blurring on his features. And clearly he didn’t lack for confidence. But I didn’t believe he was much of a threat. Unless, of course, I managed to tick him off.
“So first you follow me, not knowing who I am, and then you call me a liar. You’re not the brightest bulb on the marquee, are you?”
“And that’s the second time you’ve called me dumb. Now, I’m going to give you one more chance to answer my questions. Who are you, and where the hell is my wife?”
“My name is Jay Fearsson. I’m a private investigator, and I’ve been hired by Eduardo and Marisol Trejo to find your wife and children.”
He had been coiled, readying himself for a fight. But he straightened at that, his brow furrowing. “They don’t have the money to hire a PI.”
“No, they don’t. But they have a friend who does.”
Maybe he wasn’t quite as dumb as I’d thought. “That’s right. They say that you’ve been abusing Gracie. They think that’s why she ran away.”
His jaw bunched, and I thought for sure he’d throw a spell at me. But he kept his temper in check. “That’s between Gracie and me.”
“All right, then tell me this: Do you have any idea why dark sorcerers might be after her?”
“What makes you think they are?”
I stared back at him, keeping my expression neutral. If he didn’t know about the confrontation at the burger place I wasn’t going to tell him. But his bearing had changed, becoming guarded, wary. He wasn’t bristling with testosterone anymore. If anything, he appeared scared. Talking about Gracie and the kids was one thing; he didn’t like the turn our conversation had taken.
“Answer me!” he said, sounding more whiny than threatening.
“I have my reasons,” I said. “You been playing with blood magic? Maybe getting Gracie involved in stuff she shouldn’t be doing?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. And you don’t know anything about Gracie. She doesn’t –” He stopped himself and leveled a finger at me. “I don’t care what you’ve been hired to do. You keep away from my family, and you stay the hell out of my way.”
I’d had enough. I released the attack spell I’d allowed to build inside of me. I figured that Neil had warded himself, but I also thought that my crafting would be more than enough to get his attention, even though his magical shield. I was right on both scores.
The spell I cast was the equivalent of a fist to the gut. If that fist happened to belong to a magical Rocky Balboa. Neil doubled over with an audible grunt. A moment later he dropped to the ground, landing on his butt.
He raised his eyes to mine and gritted his teeth, giving me warning enough to brace myself. Magic charged the air and his spell hit me full in the chest, knocking me back on my heels. I had hit him in the gut rather than the face because I didn’t want to risk drawing blood that he could then use to enhance his casting. Even so, his crafting was more potent than I had expected.
A second spell hit me, much like the first. But though the impact staggered me, my warding held.
“All right,” I said. “We’ve proven to each other that we can cast, and that our wardings work. What now?”
He reached around to his back and the next thing I knew, something in his hand flashed with the cool glow of a nearby streetlight. I grabbed for my weapon and leveled it at him.