Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 25

Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 25

It was going to be a long day. I had brought a book with me, and I could always go on a hike, but I was supposed to be working. I was supposed to be protecting Gracie and her kids. Taking a leisurely stroll through the desert didn’t seem right. And sitting here at my site reading a book struck me as pointless.

When my cell phone rang, and I saw Kona’s name on the screen, I knew a moment of pure relief.

I flipped open the phone. “Hey, partner. Please tell me you have something for me to do.”

“You that anxious to get away from Billie?”

“Not Billie, no. Long story. But I could use an excuse to get away. Something splashy and fun, maybe? What have you got?”

“Nothing good,” she said. “I can tell you that much. And I don’t need you sounding all chipper, either. It’s not even nine a.m. and my day is shot to hell and back again.”

“I’m sorry.” I tried to sound properly chastened, but I’d always found Kona’s moods more entertaining than intimidating. “You know I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m fooling around.”

“I know what you’re doing. And I’m saying that your need for entertainment isn’t justification for enjoying other people’s misfortune.”

Kona didn’t usually give me quite so much grief.

“What’s going on, Kona?” I asked, all hint of amusement gone from my voice.

“Another double homicide, and I need your magic eyes on this one. It’s not entirely clear what happened.”

“All right. Tell me where, and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Well, that’s the thing. I’m at Burt Kendall’s pawn shop on Glendale, near Thirty-Third.”

The air left my body in a rush, as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. “Don’t tell me.”

“‘Fraid so. Burt’s one of the victims.”

“Damn it. You think it was done with magic?”

“That’s my guess, but I need you to confirm it for me.”

“Of course. It’ll take me a while to get there. A couple of hours. But I’m leaving now.”

“A couple of hours? Where the hell are you?”

“Like I said. Long story.” I switched the phone to my other hand. “Listen, Kona, I’m sorry about the way I was earlier. I didn’t . . . Damn.”

“I know. And I didn’t mean to get all preachy. I’ll see you in a while.”

I closed the phone and started toward the truck. Halfway there, I faltered, muttered a curse, and walked to Gracie’s campsite. I stopped at the edge of the road.

“I have to leave for a while.”

Gracie was at the minivan, piling the dishes and pots into a box in the back. She didn’t face me at first, and I wondered if she would ignore me entirely. The kids still played cards, but the little girl paused to eye me and then her mom.

“Where are you going?” Gracie asked, shutting the rear door of the van and turning.

“Back to the city. A friend needs some help with something. I should be back here by nightfall.”

She nodded, but kept silent.

“Will you still be here?”

“No idea.”

I really didn’t need this crap. “Fine.”

I stalked to the pickup, got in, and drove away, a part of me hoping that they’d be gone by the time I got back, and a part of me fearing the same thing.

***

Pawn shops have a lousy reputation. No one wants them in their neighborhood, because by definition they attract a down-on-its-luck clientele. The wealthy and respectable don’t usually need to put their stuff in hock, nor do they need to seek out bargains at the expense of those who have.

The truth is, most pawn brokers are respectable businessmen and women whose shops are regulated by state law. Are there bad apples? Sure. I’d guess there are in any profession. But most follow the letter of the law.

And then there are those like Burt Kendall, who are a credit to the business.

Burt was a bear of a man, gray-haired and bearded, with ruddy cheeks and the bluest eyes you ever saw. He told me once that he moved to Phoenix for the climate and got into the pawn business because, as he put it, he didn’t have the skills to do anything else. He opened Kendall’s Pawn back in the early Seventies and had been running the place ever since. Forty years plus. In all the time I knew him, I had never known anyone to complain about his rates, his practices, or his merchandise.

Kona and I often went to him for information, but on the one occasion when I heard someone refer to him as an informant in front of him, he bristled. As far as I can remember, it was the only time I ever saw him lose his temper. He never took money for the information he shared; he believed that he was doing a public service. On several occasions, Burt contacted the PPD about goods he’d received, even though doing so cost him money.

“I don’t want no ill-gotten gains,” he’d say, in the Brooklyn accent he never quite shed. “I wanna go home tonight and be able to look Rose in the eye.”

Rose, his wife of fifty years, died of cancer two years ago. More than half the detectives on the force attended her funeral.

This was not a man to get caught up in shady business deals. Which begged the question, why would anyone kill him?

I had a feeling that the answer came back to magic. Several years before, he contacted me personally about a magical talisman that came his way. Like the other goods he turned over to the department, he was sure this item — a small jade statue of a chimera — had been stolen, and he brought it directly to me. I never asked him how he figured out I was a weremyste, but I think he knew my dad as well, and after reading about his dismissal from the department, put two and two together. I never saw any evidence that Burt was a weremyste himself, but he knew a lot about runecrafting, and he had an eye for magical objects.

Kona wouldn’t have called me if she didn’t suspect that magic played a role in Burt’s murder. So perhaps he had come across something powerful and valuable, something that would attract the notice of Phoenix’s dark sorcerers, and that was why he was dead.

The drive to Burt’s shop took close to two hours, and it was only that quick because I ignored most of the speed limits along the way. I knew that Kona would be ticked off at having to wait so long, but in my defense, I had warned her.

“Where the hell were you driving from?” she asked as I climbed out of the pickup. “And whose truck is this? Where’s that little silver thing you’re so attached to?”

Kevin stood with her, and before answering her questions I shook his hand.

“The truck is my dad’s,” I said, shutting the door. “My car is at his place. And I can’t tell you where I was.”

 

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