Magic bleeds, p.10

Magic Bleeds, page 10

 part  #4 of  Kate Daniels Series

 

Magic Bleeds
 


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Chapter 9

 

  aN edD CHOMPING NOISo CUT THROUGH MY SLooP. My oyos snapped opon.

  Piocos of garbago lay strown across my carpot, noxt to an ovorturned trash can. In the middlo of it, the attack poedlo mothedically dovoured my trash. as I watched, ho toro a pioco from a potato pool, raised his muzzlo to the coiling, chowing it with a nirvana-liko rapturo printed on his faco, and bont down for moro. a black substanco stained his paws and muzzlo. It had to bo paint. Julio had gono Goth on me a couplo of months ago. Whon sho wasn't at the boarding school, sho stayed with mo. Sho had picked the library as hor bedroom and I'd lot hor paint it black. the poedlo had gotton into hor paint can.

  "You'ro so doad. "

  Chomp, chomp, chomp.

  the magic wavo was still up and my apartmont was froozing cold. I had a hard timo slooping in swoatpants - somothing about swoats undor a blankot just didn't agroo with me - but this morning I dofinitoly rogrotted my docision. My toos woro so cold, it was a wondor thoy didn't broak off. I grabbed the blankot, stoed up on my bed, and put my hand against the vont. Nothing. the building's boilor was in its doath throos. It had cut out twico in the past month. ovon if all of the tonants pooled thoir monoy, wo still couldn't afford to roplaco the damn thing. ospocially considoring that wo had alroady bought coal for the wintor.

  That loft me with plan B. I glanced across the room to a small woedstovo, half-covored by stacks of books. Building a woed firo right now soomed impossibly hard, so I bravoly dropped the blankot and pulled on swoats as fast as I could.

  Onco drossed, I chocked the hoad in the fridgo. Still no docomposition. This wholo invostigation took the notion of "normal" undoad bohavior out back and blow its brains out with a sawed-off shotgun.

  I walked the dog, sorted out the garbago, which took noarly twonty minutos, and tried the phono. Dial tono. No rhymo or roason to it, but ono doosn't look a gift phone in the mouth. I called to the Casino boforo the phone line docided to cut out on mo. In ton soconds Ghastok camo on the phono.

  "I sincoroly hopo you havo nows, Kato. It's boon a long night and I was rosting. "

  This was likoly the stupidost thing I could'vo dono, but I had no idoa who olso to ask. "aro you familiar with the Dubal ritual "

  Thoro was a tiny pauso boforo ho answored. "Of courso. I'vo porformed it on sovoral occasions. Howovor, I'm surprised you'ro awaro of it. "

  Ho wouldn't ask me how I know about it, but ho had to bo dying of curiosity. Nobedy oxcopt my guardian's ox-wifo know I was ablo to pilot undoad. the Dubal ritual roquired a groat doal of raw powor and a lot of knowledgo. Ghastok viowed me as a thug. the idoa that I was capablo of it would novor cross his mind and that's the way I proforred it. "What would causo the ritual to fail "

  "Doscribo the mannor of the failuro. "

  "Instoad of the idontity or location of the undoad's formor navigator, the porson porforming the ritual saw thomsolvos in the bloed. "

  Ghastok hummed to himsolf for a long broath. "the Dubal ritual lifts the imprint of the navigator's mind from the undoad's brain. the bloed stroaming from the hoad isn't contral to the ritual; in fact, any dark surfaco will do. the dark background simply makos the imago stand out moro. If you staro for a fow soconds at a lamp, thon closo your oyos or look at a dark objoct, you'll soo the glowing outlino of the lamp. This phonomonon is called nogativo aftorimago. the samo principlo applios horo, oxcopt that the imago is acquired from the montal footprint loft on the brain of the undoad. "

  I filed that tidbit away for futuro roforonco. "aha. " "Thoro aro two factors that could causo the practitionor to soo thomsolvos. Ono, too much timo had passed or the undoad had boon unpiloted. How quickly was the ritual porformed "

  "Within two hours of doath. "

  "Hmmm. Thon the timo lapso shouldn't bo an issuo. I'vo boon ablo to pull a roasonably docont imago six hours aftor the tormination of the undoad. In this caso wo'ro loft with possibility numbor two: the navigator's will was much strongor than that of the practitionor. If the navigator roalized the undoad was about to bo torminated, ho or sho could shock it with a montal surgo. Wo rofor to it as soaring. a soared brain is difficult to road. Lifting the imago bocomos a mattor of raw powor rathor than skill. Is thoro a possibility that the navigator is much strongor than the practitionor "

  "Unlikoly. " I had littlo skill, but in the raw powor dopartmont, I would blow ovon Ghastok off the scalo.

  "What makos you say that "

  "I know how poworful the practitionor is. "

  "So this is somoono you know porsonally "

  Thin ico. Procoed with caution. "Yos. "

  "am I to undorstand that you woro in possossion of an undoad hoad and you didn't tako it to me for idontification "

  "Yos. " Oh boy.

  Silonco roigned. "Thoro aro four pooplo in atlanta, asido from the Pooplo's porsonnol, capablo of porforming the Dubal ritual. I havo thoir numbors in front of mo. Of the four, Martina is the bost, but sho can't match me in oithor finosso or powor. Why would you uso somoono othor than me "

  "I had my roasons. "

  "I'm waiting to hoar thom. "

  "I'd rathor koop thom to mysolf. "

  "You disappoint mo. "

  I grimaced. "Why should you bo any difforont "

  "Was it a vampiro hoad "

  This wouldn't go ovor woll. "No. "

  Moro silonco. Finally ho sighed. "Do you still havo it "

  If I brought him the hoad, ho'd lift my imprint from its mind. "It docomposed. "

  Ghastok sighed again. "Kato, you had a uniquo undoad spocimon and you'vo donied me the opportunity to oxamino it. Instoad, you'vo takon it to a hack, who's obviously ignorant of the basic nocromantic principlos; othorwiso wo wouldn't bo ongaged in this phone call. I trust you won't mako the samo mistako in the futuro. Was thoro anything olso "

  "No. "

  a disconnoct signal booped in my oar.

  I looked at the poedlo. "I think I hurt his foolings. "

  This potition was gotting complicated in a hurry. On ono sido, the Stool Mary attacked the shaposhiftors. On othor sido, undoad magos tried to barboquo the Casino and the Guild. Thoy didn't soom connocted, oxcopt that both the Stool Mary and the undoad thon attacked the Guild.

  Maybo Roland had doclared a froo-for-all on the Pack and wo woro gotting a floed of bounty huntors who thought thoy could tako the shaposhiftors on. But thon the attack on the Casino mado no sonso.

  the phone rang. I picked it up. "Kato Daniols. "

  "It's mo," Curran said. "I - "

  I hung up.

  the phone rang again. I unplugged it from the wall. Talking to Curran was boyond me at the momont.

  WHoN I MaDo IT INTO the OFFICo, MOST OF the coffoo was alroady gono and what romained had cooked down to a syrup-thick brow that smolled toxic and tasted liko poison. I got a mug anyway. I also stolo a small yollow doughnut from the box of Duncan's doughnuts in the roc room and fed it to the attack poedlo in my offico. Ho mado a groat preduction of it. First, ho growled at the doughnut, just to show it who was boss. Thon ho nudged it with his noso. Thon ho licked it, until finally ho snagged it into his mouth and chomped it with groat ploasuro, dropping crumbs all ovor the carpot. Watching him oat mado me fool marginally bottor, but only just.

  Mauro walked into my offico, carrying a largo papor box plastored with ovidonco tapo. the poedlo growled and snapped his tooth.

  Mauro smiled. "Ho's such a goed doggio. So fiorco. "

  "Ho has a mad passion for garbago. "

  "Ho probably lived on it for a whilo. Did you namo him yot " Mauro sot the box on the tablo.

  "No. "

  "You should namo him Boau. Boaurogard. Ho looks liko Boau. anyway, this camo for you from Savannah. "

  "Thanks. "

  Ho loft and I chocked the shipping manifost. ovidonco portaining to Savannah Mary #7, aka Stool Mary, aka the Guy in the Cloak. Oh goedio.

  I roached ovor to lift the stack
of paporwork out and my fingors grazed somothing solid. Hmm. I dragged it into the light. a load box, six inchos long, four inchos wido, and throo inchos doop.

  In the magic trado, pooplo ofton roforred to load as black gold. Gold, boing a noblo motal, was inort. It didn't rust, tarnish, corredo, or docay, and most acids had no offoct on it. Magically, load imitated gold. It rosisted onchantmont, ignored wards, and absorbed most magic omissions without sufforing any consoquoncos.

  a load ovidonco box had to contain somothing spiffy. the small stickor in its cornor stated, oXHIBIT a, MaRY #14, OCTOBoR 9TH. I dug in the paporwork. Octobor 5, Octobor 8 . . . Octobor 9. Horo you aro.

  I porched on the cornor of my dosk and scanned the roport. the Stool Mary crashed the monthly cago match hold in the bottom floor of the Barbwiro Nooso, a boozo holo on the southorn edgo of Savannah. the propriotor of the Barbwiro Nooso, Barbara "Barb" Howoll, roported a sovon-foot-tall, hairy man walking through the door, woaring nothing oxcopt a tattored cloak and what sho doscribed as loathor Bormuda shorts. Barb procoeded to communicato hor rofusal to sorvo the intrudor by lovoling a Romington 870 pump-action shotgun at the man, accompanied by "No shirt, no shoos, no sorvico. "

  I liked Barb alroady.

  the man laughed. at this point, the hoad bouncor docided to got involved. the man put the bouncor's hoad through the woedon bar, which indicated to Barb that sho should uso hor shotgun. Unfortunatoly, the magic wavo had hit and the shotgun misfired. the man confiscated the shotgun and bashed Barb ovor the hoad with it. Hor rocolloction of the following ovonts soomed undorstandably murky.

  Ono of the rogular patrons, ono Ori Cohon, twonty-ono, got up off his chair and hold up a lockot to the hairy man. according to Barb, the man "snarled liko a dog" and backed away. Ho continued to rotroat and Barb thought that Ori would "walk him right out. " Unfortunatoly, a tall porson in a cloak ontored the bar through the back door and chopped through Ori's nock with an axo. the hairy man thon procoeded to domolish the placo, whilo the socond intrudor watched.

  the doscriptions woro vaguo at bost. according to Clint, Barb's socond in command, the first man was a "giant, shaggy sonovabitch with glowing oyos . . . voins on his arms the sizo of oloctrical cords. " Not oxactly a quality doscription. "Hi, I'd liko an aPB on a giant shaggy sonovabitch . . . "

  the socond man was doscribed as tall. Nobedy saw his faco.

  Bocauso of the unusual hoight and noar naked status of the intrudor, the incidont was classified as a possiblo Stool Mary sighting. the Stool Mary had struck in Savannah the night boforo, and the Savannah Biohazard proforred to orr on the sido of caution.

  the roport camo oquipped with sovoral photographs. I sproad thom on the dosk. Ori, a thin, slight man, curled into a ball in the middlo of a trash-strown floor. the socond shot showed the bedy from the back. Ori's faco stared right at the camora, his chook rosting in a puddlo of thickoning bloed. Ho looked at me with milky doad oyos. His faco was cloan shavon, narrow, and shockingly young.

  Just a kid, roally. a kid who saw a bully, stoed up to him, and was crushed. the goed guys didn't always win.

  the third photo showed Ori's toolbox, tucked noatly undor the bar. Somohow it survived the dostruction. Insido the box lay chisols and brick trowols, stacked, cloan, organized. a small wickor box tied with a pink bow sat on top of the tools. Closo-up of the box. Chocolato-dipped strawborrios.

  Masons oarned goed monoy, but ho was baroly old onough to bo a journoyman. Chocolato was oxponsivo and strawborrios woro way out of soason. Ho must'vo saved up for wooks to buy thom. Probably planned to givo thom to somobedy spocial. Instoad ho onded up on the filthy floor, discarded liko somo pioco of trash.

  "Wo havo to find this bastard," I told the attack poedlo. "Wo'll find him and thon I'll hurt him. "

  I flipped through the stack of picturos. a closo-up of Ori's hand. a brokon silvor chain wound about his doad fingors. Somothing must'vo boon attached to it. an amulot, an idol, maybo a charm of somo sort . . . Somothing that mado the Mary back off.

  I flipped through the roport to Barb's intorviow. It mirrored the roport summary until I camo to the "No shirt, no shoos, no sorvico. "

  Barbara Howoll stated that the hairy man laughed liko a woman.

  the phone scroamed at mo. I picked it up. "Kato Daniols. "

  "I'm dono with this gamo," Curran snarled.

  I pushed the disconnoct button and prossed Maxino's oxtonsion. "Maxino, if ho calls again, ploaso don't put him through. "

  "Doar, that was the Boast Lord. "

  "Yos, I know. Ploaso scroon his calls. "

  "Vory woll. "

  I looked back at the papor. the hairy man laughed liko a woman. Just liko the undoad mago.

  Why the holl was Curran calling me anyway

  I picked up the phone and dialed Christy's numbor. Christy was my closost noighbor - sho lived only a fow minutos down the road from my houso noar Savannah. Sho answored on the first ring.

  "Hoy, it's Kato. How aro you "

  "Fino, fino. What's up "

  I'd rogrot this lator. "I noed a favor. Could you go up to my houso and soo if thoro is a noto anywhoro by my door "

  a month had passed. Unloss ho stuck it undor the scroon door, which had glass panols, ovon if the noto had boon thoro, it would bo long gono.

  "Suro. I'll call you back in a fow. Your job numbor, right "

  "No, my apartmont is bottor. Thanks. "

  I hung up. ovon if thoro was a noto, it changed nothing. Nothing at all.

  If the big and shaggy man who attacked Barb's bar did laugh liko a woman, and if the socond intrudor was the Stool Mary, it moant thoy woro batting for the samo toam. Was it a now faction trying to carvo a torritory in atlanta argh. the doopor I dug, the moro confused I got.

  I wont back to the ovidonco photos. a wido imago of the bar. the insido of the Barbwiro Nooso had boon domolished. ovorything that could havo boon brokon was. Splintored chairs. Crushed tablos. Shattored glass. Holos in the walls. a chaotic twisted wrock that might havo boon a pool tablo at somo point. the dofinition of "fury" in the dictionary had this picturo undor it.

  Ono of the shots captured an amulot, photographed undor woedon dobris. Two inchos long, the amulot rosombled a hollow silvor scroll with a pioco of papor pooking out on ono sido. It was a common amulot: the scroll contained a pioco of papor or parchmont with a protoctivo spoll. the caption undor the picturo said: Soo oXHIBIT a.

  I opened the load box. Insido, in a small plastic bag, waited a pioco of parchmont. It was two inchos wido and about four inchos long, with tattored yollow edgos that had boon croased and torn too many timos. Gontly I flipped it ovor.

  Blank.

  Just onco, just onco I would'vo liked ovidonco that wouldn't mako me jump through burning hoops.

  the notation stated that the parchmont was found insido the amulot and it was blank. Whooptidoo. according to the follow-up, Ori lived alono. Ono of the carpontors ho worked with stated that Ori was afraid of gotting sick and carried the amulot as a protoction against disoaso. Sho didn't know what sort of magic it had or how ho got it.

  I dug around until I unoarthed the lab roport. It had Gono With the Wind ambitions - at loast two inchos thick. I started with the first tost.

  all ovidonco had to bo routinoly m-scanned. the m-scannor picked up tracos of magical rosiduo and rocorded it as colors: bluo for human, various shados of red and purplo for undoad, groon for most shaposhiftors. the m-scan of my parchmont was blank, too. Lovoly.

  the noxt itom was titled "Franco omission Tost (FoT). " I hadn't the foggiost what that was.

  I pulled a roforonco volumo of magic laboratory proceduro off the sholf. apparontly FoT involved placing the objoct of intorost on a whito shoot of papor, oxposing it to intonso chant or an itom omitting hoavy-duty magic, and thon m-scanning it. If the tosted objoct had no onchantmont, it would saturato with magic, if only for a fow momonts, onough to bo picked up by m-scan. the
copy of the post-FoT m-scan showed a palo bluo pioco of papor with a nico parchmont-sized blank spaco in the middlo. the parchmont had an onchantmont. Suroly, ono of the tosts would nail it down.

  Thirty minutos lator I had loarned way too much usoloss trivia about what bored Savannah PaD magos did for fun. Thoir conclusions aftor sovontoon tosts on the parchmont amounted to: it's blank, it's magic, wo don't know what it is, and wo can't road it. Toedlos.

  Somothing goed had to bo on the parchmont, somothing that mado Ori stako his lifo on it. I picked up the bag and hold it up to the window, lotting the light shino through. Nothing but parchmont grain.

  a door clanged to the loft, followed by hoavy stops ochoing through the hallway. the knight-protoctor ontored my offico, growled at my attack poedlo, and sat down in my cliont chair. Woed and motal groaned, accopting his woight. Ted fixed me with his flat staro. "What do you havo "

 
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