Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 37
And I felt what remained of his control spell give way. I could move again.
My first impulse was to punch him in the face, or kick him in the groin. But I knew better than to give him any opportunity to grab hold of me. The man took the phrase “death grip” to a whole other level.
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t incapacitate him. Three elements: my foot, the fine red dirt covering the desert floor, his eyes. My casting was as immediate as thought. A spray of dust kicked up from the ground in front of him, coating his shirt and jacket, dirtying his face.
He let out a strangled cry, his hands covering his eyes a second too late. Emboldened, I stepped toward and threw one punch. I didn’t dare hit him anywhere near his hands, and I certainly didn’t want to bloody him. So I hit him in the throat. Hard.
He went down in a heap. For good measure, I kicked him in the side, then danced away so that he couldn’t grab my leg. I’m not sure I needed to. For the moment, he didn’t seem to be a threat to anyone.
A spell surged past me and the helicopter pilot fell back, rolled a few feet down the hillside and slammed into a large rock at the base of a saguaro cactus.
I glanced back at Gracie.
“I think he was going for a knife.”
“Thanks,” I said. I retrieved the rifle from where the dead security man lay and aimed it at James, the other security guy. “Take him and go,” I said, pointing at Fitzwater. “You might want to avoid letting him touch you. And put down your weapon. You won’t be taking that with you.”
“What did he do to Mike?” he asked, placing his pistol on the ground.
“I’m asking you.”
I hesitated before deciding that telling the guy might pay dividends in the future. “You ever cast with blood?”
His cheeks reddened, but he held my gaze. “Yeah, some.”
“Well that’s what he did, but he doesn’t need to cut someone open to do it. He used magic to suck most of the blood out of your friend.”
“With his hand?”
“That’s right. For a spell that was supposed to control all four of us. Back away from the pistol.” He glanced at the rifle I still had aimed at his heart, and took several steps back. I grabbed the weapon off the ground and gestured for Gracie and the kids to come back down the hillside.
“We’re getting in our truck now,” I said. “And we’re leaving. You can try to stop us, but I think you know we’re both more powerful than you are. Together we could rip your head off.”
He swallowed, nodded.
I took Zach’s hand again, and the four of us hurried down to my dad’s truck, giving the pilot a wide berth, though it seemed Gracie’s spell had knocked him out cold.
I slowed as we neared the truck, my eyes on the chopper.
“What’s the matter?” Gracie asked, voice still tight.
“I’d like to disable that chopper, but I’m not sure how to do it.”
“Maybe this’ll work.”
Magic sang in the air around us and one of the rotors twisted downward with a groan of metal and then a splintering of composite. When she was done, the blade had a ninety degree bend in it.
I wasn’t sure how she had cast the spell, or where she’d gotten the power to do such a thing, but those questions could wait. “Yeah,” I said. “That should do it.”
She nodded, but I saw sweat on her brow and upper lip where there had been none a moment before. She started toward the truck again, her first step a little unsteady.
“You all right?”
“Fine. Where are we going?” she helped Emmy and Zach pile into the pickup.
“The road’s one way,” I said, tossing the weapons I’d taken into the truck, in the space behind the seat. “So we’ll complete the loop, pack up our sites, and get the hell out of here.”
I started the truck, threw it into gear, and peeled away with a splatter of dirt and gravel.
“You know, I was doing fine here until you showed up,” Gracie said, glaring at me from the far side of the cab. “Where the hell did you go yesterday? For all I know, they followed you back here.”
“Yeah, for all you know, which isn’t a whole hell of a lot. It’s just as possible that they would have found you regardless. And if I hadn’t been here, they’d have taken you, or killed you.”
“Whatever. Why don’t you drop of us back at our site and go back to Phoenix? We don’t need your help. We don’t want your help. I can keep my kids safe without you.”
I swallowed the first response that came to mind. Kids this young shouldn’t be exposed to that kind of language.
I eyed the rearview and side mirrors, checking the sky for any sign of a second copter. I didn’t hear rotors, at least not yet. But by now I was sure one of our pursuers had radioed for help. I should have done something to the instrumentation. I had no reason to care about James, the other security guy, but I found myself hoping that Fitzwater didn’t use the opportunity to drain him, too.
I chanced a look at Emmy and Zach. “Kids, how are you doing?”
Emmy shrugged and said nothing.
“I’m hungry,” Zach said, the sullen tone a match for his expression. If it wasn’t for the zebra in his arms, he probably would have melted down already.
“Yeah, so am I.”
Gracie fished around in the backpack she’d tucked behind the seat back at the campground, and pulled out a handful of granola bars and a water bottle.
She handed a bar to each kid, and, after a moment’s pause, held one out for me. I eyed it, eyed her, then took it.
I’d never liked the sweet bars, but at that moment I would have been happy with Twinkies. The water made its way down to me and I took a few sips.
“You sure they can’t fly that thing with only four blades?” Gracie asked.
I saw some of the tension drain from her neck and shoulders.
“But they’ll be calling for reinforcements. I don’t imagine that Fitzwater gives up that easily.”
She looked up at the sky. “No, he doesn’t.”
“This is the first place they’ll look.”
She twisted around and I could tell she was about to lay into me again.
“I’m sorry,” I said before she could open her mouth. “You didn’t need me telling you that.”
The anger drained from her eyes, and her entire body appeared to sag. I had a feeling that rage had been the only thing keeping her going.
“I don’t know where else to hide,” she said, her voice flat.
“Maybe it’s time to hit a city. L.A. might work, or Vegas.”
She shook her head. “Cities make me nuts. And with the phasing coming, I’d rather not be in a hotel or on a friend’s couch.”
I understood that.
I stared out at the road, wondering if she was right, and I really had led Fitzwater and his pals to them. “I didn’t think I was followed,” I said, my voice low. “I’ve taken a lot of precautions the last few days. This isn’t even my car.”
“You stole it?” Emmy asked, turning wide eyes on me.
Gracie let out a snort of laughter.
“No, I borrowed it.”
Emmy’s smirk conveyed such skepticism that I had to laugh, too.
“Seriously, it’s my dad’s.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding disappointed. “I thought stealing cars was a weremyste thing.”
I glanced at Gracie, who shook her head.
“Long story.” Her smile faded. “I shouldn’t have said that before, about you leading them to us. I don’t know that, and the truth is you’re probably right. They would have found us anyway. They’re going to find us no matter where we go.”
“Not necessarily. If you can keep moving –”
The laugh that escaped her was devoid of all humor. “Right. That’s some way to grow up. Endlessly on the run.”
“Not endlessly. Just until we figure out a way to beat them.”
She opened her mouth to say more. Both kids were watching her, though, and upon seeing this she clamped her mouth shut again. But I knew exactly what she was going to say. They can’t be beaten.
“Actually, they can be,” I said, responding to the unspoken words. “I’ve done it before.”
“Yeah? When was that?”
“You ever heard of the Blind Angel Killer?”