Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 26

Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 26

Kona had a way of making her expression go hard, so that her skin appeared to crystalize into ice or stone. I had always envied her that glare. She often directed it at suspects, and I had seen her use it to intimidate the most hardened of criminals. She gave me that look now, and I swear I almost told her everything. I had to remind myself that Gracie was wanted for murder, and I had made myself an accessory.

“Why can’t you tell me?” she asked.

I gazed past her toward the shop. Aside from the yellow police tape strung across the door, there was nothing on the exterior that screamed out “crime scene!”

“Want to show me what you found in there?”

She continued to stare at me, until I grew uncomfortable. I glanced down the street and then met her gaze.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” she said.

“You and me both.”

“All right, come on.”

The three of us ducked under the strip of tape and entered the building. I halted a step inside the doorway and surveyed the wreckage, my mouth hanging open.

It was like a magical bomb had been detonated in the middle of the shop. Every display case had been shattered. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, knives of every shape and size, and a dazzling array of rings, necklaces, bracelets, and wrist watches had been scattered across the floor, strewn in a sea of glass shards. Acoustic and electric guitars had been blasted off the wall, their necks broken and twisted, their bodies crushed. Martins, Taylors, Gibsons, Fenders — it was enough to make a guitar aficionado weep.

I made my way into the shop, trying to place my feet with some care. Still, glass crunched under my shoes with each step. I noticed that there were surveillance cameras in the corners of the store.

“What do the tapes show?”

“Nothing,” Kevin said. “As best we can tell, the system cut out a few minutes before the killers got here.”

That figured.

The rest of Burt’s merchandise was in the same state as the display cases and guitars. Cameras, computers, sports equipment, stereos, bikes. Nothing had been spared.

And overlaying all the damage was a sheen of fresh magical glow, purple, like a storm-cloud in mid-summer. There was no apparent pattern to either the destruction or the magical residue. Again, it all reminded me of an explosion. Powerful, random, deadly.

A corpse lay in the center of the shop, covered by a white sheet.

I walked toward it, glancing at Kona and Kevin. “May I?”

“Be our guest.”

I squatted beside the body and pulled back the sheet to reveal a young man in an Arcade Fire t-shirt and jeans. He had piercings in his eyebrows, his nose, his lip, and tattoos up and down both arms. Still, the art he wore couldn’t hide the wound on his upper arm. It was red, puckered, the skin raised and the subcutaneous markings almost like pin pricks. But aside from this wound, and some red marks on his neck, there was nothing unusual about the dead man’s appearance. I saw no magic on him, and no other injuries that could have killed him. Not even a cut from flying glass.

“That wound on his arm look familiar?” Kona asked.

“Very. I guess our silver-haired friend was here.”

“I hope so,” she said. “I’d hate to think that there are two guys running around my city who can kill that way.”

“Where’s Burt?”

Kevin pointed in the direction of the cash register. “Behind the counter.”

I walked around and found the second corpse there, also covered with a sheet. I took a breath, pulled back the cloth, and exhaled through clenched teeth. Burt’s face was frozen in a rictus of pain, his teeth bared, his eyes squeezed shut. And he was covered with that same purple glow, as if he had been dipped in magic before he died.

He also had a gunshot wound in his chest, but it hadn’t bled a lot, and I would have bet every dollar I had that the magic had killed him, and not the bullet.

I heard footsteps behind me, knew them for Kona’s. “Well?”

“There’s magic everywhere. It’s all over the shop, and it’s all over Burt. The only thing not touched by it is that other corpse. The only mark on him is that weird wound we first saw at the Burger Royale.”

“And what do you think that means?”

I covered Burt again and stood. “Understand, I’m only guessing here.”

“Best guess, then.”

I stared at her, saying nothing.

“Justis?”

“It occurs to me, I don’t have to guess,” I said. “If you’ll let me take something from Burt, I can see what happened. I can scry the last minutes of his life.”

“This is something new, right?” Kona asked. “There’s a reason you didn’t do this when you were on the force?”

“Yeah,” I said, “it’s new. I learned the magic in the last year, and I used it when we were working the Deegan case, remember?”

“That thing you did in South Mountain Park.”

“Exactly.”

“And why didn’t you do it at the Burger Royale?”

“You had enough witnesses for those killings. You didn’t need the magic. But there are no witnesses here, and everything I could tell you would be nothing more than conjecture.”

“What would you need to take? I don’t want you messing with my crime scene.”

I squatted once more and took another look at Burt’s body. Blood would have been best, but the blood on his chest had dried. “A hair would do it,” I said.

Kona wrinkled her nose. “A hair?”

“Just one. I could also use something of his that’s lying around, but blood, hair, or bone would work best.”

She glance at Kevin, who was already watching her, an eyebrow cocked. “This is pretty weird,” she said, facing me again. “But sure, if you can take a hair from his head without disturbing the body in any other way, go ahead.”

I managed to take hold of a single hair and with a sharp tug, pulled it free. “Sorry, Burt,” I whispered. Straightening again, I retrieved from my pants pocket the flat piece of polished agate I used as a scrying glass. There was nothing inherently magical about that stone or the sinuous bands of blue and white that surrounded the small crystalline opening at its center. It was nothing more or less than a rock, something I had picked up at a mall long ago. But its beauty was familiar, comfortable. And over the years it had worked as a scrying surface better than any mirror or glass or crystal ball I’d tried.

I coiled the hair around my finger and held it against the bottom of the stone. “This will take a few minutes,” I said to Kona and Kevin. “It’s best if you don’t interrupt me.”

Kona lifted a shoulder. “Do your thing,” she said.

Right.

Scrying spells weren’t particularly complicated; this one took only three elements. Burt, my stone, and this place in the moments before he died.

I stared at the stone, watched as those winding bands of color vanished. An image coalesced slowly in the depths of the stone, and as it did, I heard voices in my head, vague at first, but growing louder until I could make out what they said.

 

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