Under witch moon moon sh.., p.22

Under Witch Moon (Moon Shadow Series), page 22

 

Under Witch Moon (Moon Shadow Series)
 


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  His head whipped around. "How do you know?"

  I told him about Vi and Harold. "Sheila, the witch at the party with the nasty spells, was getting Harold to write a check to the guy. I didn't realize who Arthur Gonzales was--or who he might be until I saw his name on the vet's office. Lynx has mentioned an Arturo as the one setting up dates. He's got to be the same guy."

  "Why was Harold writing a check?"

  I told White Feather about the rats.

  "That's a lot of money for rats," he said.

  I shrugged. "It might not only be for rats. Who knows, maybe the two of them are doing the dating business together, and she owed him money for something. All I know for certain is that Zandy and Lynx are working for Arturo--and he has to be the same person as Dr. Gonzales because there is no other reason for their auras to be around his clinics."

  "My brother isn't going to be able to do much based on similar names."

  It was a slim link, and I knew it. Arturo could be a cover name and have nothing to do with Arthur Gonzales, the vet. But he was guilty of supplying Sheila with rats, and she was guilty of any number of ills. The cops might not be able to tie the pieces together, but there was enough evidence for me even if I didn't understand every crime the two had planned.

  It wasn't until we were almost to White Rock that White Feather said, "Might be easy to meet young women who are interested in animals if you run a vet clinic."

  I hadn't thought of that. "I guess. Does your sister have a pet?"

  He glared in my direction. After a few minutes he said, "Drive through White Rock."

  I followed his directions, going slowly. We ended up further than I would have liked from Zandy's last signal, but not very far off Highway Four. "What if someone sees the car?"

  "I'm going to take care of that."

  He didn't explain, so I got out and loaded my pack across my shoulders. He took the extra key and put it inside a case with a magnet. He attached the case under the passenger door. "The car won't be left here for long."

  The next question was obvious, but since getting back home wasn't the immediate problem, I moved on. "How are we going to get in there?"

  "Over the fence."

  "Illusion?"

  He smiled. "There are acres and acres of land. It's dark out. Trust me when I tell you they can't watch every inch, every second."

  Getting into Los Alamos land was vastly different from when Lynx and I did the break-in at Sheila's house. White Feather simply picked a place where trees and scrub oak blocked the view of the highway. Night goggles worried my brain, but White Feather didn't appear to share my concern.

  We climbed through. I didn't have to fly. There were no sirens or dogs. Nothing but a cricket broke the silence. The smell of sleeping juniper forest surrounded us. There wasn't a single car this early in the morning.

  "There are other fences inside this one," he told me. "We'll parallel this one until we get back to the last signal you felt."

  We walked quickly, keeping trees between us and the highway as much as possible. There was no aura in the slightly shifting breeze, and none when we got back to where I had last felt a humming.

  "There's a lot of territory to cover." The weight of the task ate at my stomach. I tried telling myself that Lynx was fine. Anyone could have climbed the fence like we did. Maybe Lynx had escaped with Zandy into this area.

  My stomach argued with my logic, pointing out that maybe Zandy had carried Lynx across, disposed of the body and walked back out.

  White Feather kept a more level head, worrying about facts. "If your friend crossed, he is on foot. He will either have crossed back out and gotten in a car, or he's still in here. I don't suppose you can tell if he was traveling as a werewolf or not?"

  "He isn't a werewolf," I said reflexively.

  "If he changed into anything, that might tell us how fast he is traveling."

  "Good point. He could go a lot faster if he changed. But no, I don't know that. His aura is exactly the same whether he's a kid or not."

  "Okay." Even though I had the tuning fork, White Feather led the way for several paces. I stayed behind him. We hiked across rocks, around trees and up a slight incline. The desert terrain crunched beneath our shoes. In the early morning dark, I tripped more than once, but kept my feet.

  When we were five hundred yards or more from the road, White Feather stopped. "Let me borrow the witching fork."

  I handed it to him.

  He stood silent, his hand on the fork, the other hand flat out, slightly away from his side. The light breeze swirled gently towards him. It wasn't any different than before. It could have simply been the force of nature. Even the eddies around my ankle could have been the cool morning air drifting.

  I had never met a warlock before, not one like him. Warlock magic was a subtle fate magic, associated with earth powers. I wasn't at all practiced, but I had dabbled. It was hard not to because that type of magic was all around. Ordinary folks with not a lot of experience could do warlock magic at times. That day all the traffic lights were green? Probably brought on with warlock magic--a good mood in tune with the earth, a magic that swirled for an instant and suddenly fate went your way.

  Of course, most people were usually so out of tune with anything magical, they couldn't get a green light to save their life, and if one happened, an ambulance would come through from the other direction blocking the intersection anyway.

  But with White Feather, he was all air-born magic, all perfectly tuned. I could feel the smooth breeze, there and then gone. Had I not been standing next to him, had I not already known what he was, I may have sensed the power, but it would have been like the elusive smell of a spice I couldn't quite name. I might have appreciated the moment, but not thought too much about it.

  "Let's see if the wind can find something for us," he said.

  When he handed me back the fork, we walked again. The fork didn't quiver, nor did it pull, but I had a sense it was sending a gentle breeze out ahead to look for the scent.

  The night sky gradually lost some of its black. A quail warned of our approach, which was good because when the flock moved, I didn't panic.

  We zigzagged back and forth, going steadily deeper into Los Alamos land, down one rugged incline and scrambling up another.

  For a while, we shared nothing but the puffing of our breath.

  When we headed downhill into a rough valley, White Feather said, "About a week ago, I caught Tara reading an email from a woman claiming there was nothing better than a werewolf in bed. The lady claimed she was going to take the next step and become one."

  I hid my surprise behind a non-committal, "Uh--hmm."

  "Tara said she might as well become a werewolf or date one. She didn't have anything to lose, nothing to train."

  "Pretty big leap of logic there."

  He grunted. "I thought so."

  "Did you try to talk to her?"

  He shook his head. "Not this time. We've been through it all before. It always comes back to her thinking I can't understand because it was obvious from about age two that I had talent worth training. My grandfather took both my brother and me under his tutelage."

  "What about your sister?"

  "My grandfather didn't bother with her. It had more to do with her being a girl than anything."

  "Being female isn't much of an excuse for not training her." I tried to keep the insult out of my voice.

  "I agree, but what was Tara going to do? Request the class in high school? I didn't even notice she was paying attention to any of the stuff I did with grandfather. He never invited her along. He spent a lot more time with me because I was interested. My brother didn't care as much. He certainly didn't end up suicidal over not mastering particular spells."

  "But your sister must have been trying. Or wanting to try. Even without much natural talent--" I looked over at him. "And buddy, you have that in spades. Not just anyone can tap into earth elements on a whim. Your sister may never learn that."


  "I know."

  I swung the witching fork around a bit, but it remained quiet. "Of course, she could be talented. If she hasn't actually tried to train, there's no way of knowing."

  "That's exactly what I told her."

  "So why aren't you training her?"

  He looked over at me and blinked. "Me?"

  "Sure you. Who else is going to do it? Your grandfather didn't."

  "But…it's different with her."

  I rolled my eyes. "You mean because you are a guy, and she is a girl, you assumed you couldn't teach her a spell or two?"

  "Well, no." He looked confused and a little sheepish. "It's that if she has talent, I don't think it is the same as mine. I don't do much mixing of spells. I tend to trigger spells by setting a string of events and then let nature take over."

  I knew exactly what he meant because I had felt his aura a few times. He was wind with a subtle mixing of earth as the wind went by. Still, it wasn't that different. "Chemical spells can go in some pretty nasty directions unless the chain reactions are set properly. It takes mastery and vision to figure out where to set things in motion, whether you're setting off a chemical reaction or an event."

  He scratched his ear, readjusted his pack and then his cap. "I suppose."

  It probably wasn't easy to train a person. I hadn't tried, other than to show Kas a few simple spells. She was about as interested in training with me as she was in owning a pet spider. She viewed all magic as black magic, rather than breaking it into its scientific parts. I had often told her that while I did a lot of magic, I never had to dabble with black magic. It was more work to do magic by science, but it was a heck of a lot safer.

  White Feather stopped suddenly, his head tilted to listen.

  I tried to breathe quieter, not knowing why he stopped. It wasn't until I relaxed my grip on the witching fork that I could feel the humming, just the tiniest bit.

  Chapter 33

  We stood next to an outcrop of rock, breathing hard. It was barely light out with clouds obscuring all but the reddish glow of the sunrise. White Feather knelt down.

  I joined him. "You feel a link?"

  He sat and straightened his lower back. "I don't know. What's the stick say?"

  "It's humming. No direction."

  "That's pretty much what I'm getting from the wind too."

  I leaned back against the rock, glad to take a break. A short ledge above my head would have protected us had it been raining. In the lower corner, I spotted telltale blackening that meant it had been used by Indians long ago.

  I held the fork away from my body, slowly moving it from right to left. The humming never changed. "We could be out here for years." I set the fork down, took my backpack off and reached inside for my water bottle.

  The witching fork turned very slowly and pointed at the rock.

  I stared at it. Witching fork spells did not move on their own unless the signal was very strong. Then again, this one had been enhanced by a wind spell. Maybe it had the wind at its back. I picked it up and rested it on my palm, the fork away from the rock.

  It spun again.

  The ledge wasn't that deep. After scooting several feet, I finally stopped and looked behind me. The wall curved around, smooth as could be. I went back for my pack and my flashlight.

  Sitting, with the fork on my hand, I turned in a circle. It pointed straight at the rock wall every time.

  Lynx was behind the rock? Was he buried? Dead?

  "Caves twist around," White Feather said softly. He moved to crouch next to me, his strong shoulders pushing against mine when he leaned further in. He turned on his flashlight. The light bounced off the rock around us.

  When he pointed the light straight up, it was lost in blackness. The crevice that led upwards wasn't more than a rounded hollow, but the two of us could probably squeeze into it.

  "It looks like there might be a cave back in here," he said.

  I strapped my backpack on again. My hands were sweating even though the morning air was cool. "I don't like caves."

  "Me either."

  We moved together, climbing up by using the sides of the wall. After a short distance, it leveled and opened up enough for us to stand.

  Our flashlights showed mostly smooth walls carved from water. Rocks were strewn across the floor, no doubt having fallen.

  White Feather sighed. "It would help if we had better equipment."

  "It would help if Lynx hadn't gotten himself lost in the first place." Darkness didn't bother me, but being enclosed in anything tomblike did. "Let's check it out. If the willow doesn't give any further indication soon, maybe it because he's waiting around the outside bend of this mountain."

  "Uh-huh." White Feather rummaged in his sack. He pulled out a pencil and marked the entrance. I yanked out a piece of my long hair and secured it under a rock.

  White Feather held up his pencil and pointed to my hair. "That will help you, but it won't do me a bit of good."

  "You could wrap a strand of my hair around the willow branch. Here." I started to yank another hair free, but he reached out and grabbed my wrist.

  "Not necessary." He plucked a free strand from the side of my backpack and held it under the light. "Let's not get separated."

  He stuck the strand of my hair deep inside his jeans pocket anyway, just in case.

  Even though we were through the rock barrier, the willow fork took a while to respond better. While the direction remained adamant, the vibrating was minimal. We weren't that close or there was a lot more rock between us and Lynx.

  After the first few hundred yards, there wasn't much of a path. More reassuring, there wasn't leftover animal bones from whatever had inhabited the space from time to time.

  The space widened and then shrank. Once I thought I heard water, but White Feather said, "Wind. This must open into other places."

  We kept walking, leaving clear marks near any side tunnels. There was a spot where someone had cleared debris and a tunnel with dynamite marks.

  The humming didn't get stronger, but it began to pulse as though it was breathing.

  The wind spell maybe? I had never seen a witching fork breathe other than perhaps as an indication that the signal was fading and then getting stronger. "He might be moving," I whispered.

  White Feather grunted, and we picked up the pace.

  The light from our flashlights was hollow, hypnotizing. It was hard to look too far away from the spheres of light.

  White Feather put his hand out, stopping me. He held his light above his head, away from our bodies. I turned mine off and followed his light.

  Two wires, like silver snakes, climbed the rock wall. Neither had an insulating cover. A third wire was covered in typical black plastic.

  White Feather knelt down and found the wires crossing near our feet. "I don't know why some of this wiring is exposed, but it looks like it probably carries a current."

  "I think it's silver." I knelt next to him. "It would stop some things that regular wire wouldn't."

  "Ah, I didn't notice that." He took a knife from his pocket and cut the wires, moving the length aside.

  "What if you just notified someone we're down here?"

  "Let's get moving."

  "Maybe you'd better leave any more wires that we find," I suggested, my worry growing. "What if whatever was trapped was better off that way?"

  He grunted.

  We used his light, shining it ahead. Where there were larger piles of debris, White Feather climbed, checked and then waved me forward. We reached a branch in the tunnel.

  "What does the fork say?" he asked.

  It still breathed in and out like a bad radio signal. "Hang on. Let me try Zandy's." I leaned over and set Lynx's fork down. As my grip relaxed, the fork swiveled, making it obvious we needed to go left. I looked up at White Feather with a shrug and pulled Zandy's fork out of my backpack anyway.

  Even without White Feather's spell on it, the fork spun left, mimicking Lynx's fork. Instead of pulsi
ng, it hummed steadily. "This signal is very strong. We've got to be close."

  "Okay, let's go."

  We moved forward again, almost jogging. With both forks in my hands, I couldn't have used my flashlight if I wanted to.

  Lynx's fork didn't give me any richer a warning, but as we rounded the next corner, I almost lost Zandy's fork when the signal jumped a notch. I reached up to tap White Feather's shoulder to let him know and nearly choked. A tiny red light flashed on the side of the rock right in front of White Feather's head.

  "Ssstt." I grabbed White Feather.

  At my warning, he turned the flashlight off, but it was too late. As soon as the light was off, I saw another red beam on the rock wall near the floor. His leg had already broken the beam.

  "Mayan sacrifices," I cursed.

  White Feather turned his light back on. He grabbed my hand and helped me as I leaned over to step across the beam at the bottom and avoid the one at the top.

  My heart beating like mad, we rounded the next corner.

  The first person I saw was not Lynx.

  I halted and stared. If it hadn't been for the fork in my hand, I wouldn't have recognized Zandy. He was bruised and dirty, with large welts across his chest and thighs. "Where is Lynx?" I reached to substitute Zandy's fork for my flashlight.

  Zandy's eyes were no less wild than the first time I had seen him. He bared his teeth, but the snarl sounded more like a sneeze. His eyes alerted me to the camera lens. White Feather saw the frightened look at the same time. Without hesitation, he moved to the lens and smashed it.

  "We've got to move," White Feather said. "That beam will have alerted someone. The cameras likely sent pictures."

  Ninety degrees from the tunnel where we had entered, there was another opening big enough to walk through standing upright. White Feather shone his light down its length, but the beam was swallowed.

  "Is Lynx in there?" I pointed down the tunnel.

  "You can't leave me here." Zandy's eyes flicked to the corridor leading out.

  "Fine." The collar he wore around his neck made me think of the wires White Feather had cut. "The tunnel is clear. We cut the wires. You should be able to make it through."

 
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