Kitty Goes to War Page 60

I had a professor in college who read Anglo-Saxon like he’d grown up with it. This was the language of Beowulf, a rolling, singsong way of speaking, full of portent. Like thunder, rumbling for miles over a windswept plain. After the passage of time, this professor explained, ancient languages become the language of magic, the meanings forgotten but the power of them remembered. The Catholic Church could chant Latin, and it didn’t matter that no one knew what the words meant a thousand years later. He’d been speaking metaphorically. But he was right.

Franklin was drawing on that power now, gathering it to launch at and smash his enemy, and I couldn’t understand why Cormac was just standing there, why he didn’t look worried. But did he ever?

A white glow was growing around Franklin, seeming to light him from within. His hair was standing on end, as if he were gathering a static charge. The whole area looked like an electrical experiment gone awry. His voice increased in volume and pitch, a sign that the spell was drawing to a close. Then, as the words broke down into a primal yell of power, a static discharge, a bolt of lightning, crashed from Franklin to Cormac.

Cormac raised both hands, set his legs apart as if to brace, ducked his head—and a blue flare encased him. It was like someone lit a torch under him, and he was all flame—hot, intense, dangerous. Franklin’s lightning bolt disintegrated in a wave of sparks—which doubled back and caught him in the backwash.

I shielded my face; Ben and I ducked together, sheltering each other. The crash of thunder seemed to last for minutes. Then, silence. I could hear my heart pounding. Even Wolf was quiet, trembling in my gut, waiting to see which way we had to jump.

Finally, I looked around.

Harold Franklin was lying flat on his back, half buried in snow, and not moving. Cormac stood exactly as he had before the light show started. He didn’t even look singed. He pursed his lips in a thin smile and appeared satisfied.

“What the hell just happened?” Ben asked. His hand dug into my arm. He looked at Cormac, then looked at me. “Kitty?”

I just blinked at him. Cormac brushed his hands together in a dismissive gesture, like he’d just taken out the trash.

Overhead, stars shone. It was going to be a very cold night, the kind that froze eyelashes together and turned the snow into a glass-hard icy crust. Worst kind of weather. I still felt a lot better than I had a few hours ago.

I checked on Tyler. The cut on his head had stopped bleeding and was healing, closed over with a pinkish scab. Otherwise, he seemed fine. A little startled and wide-eyed like the rest of us. But he wasn’t about to lose it.

“Is he dead?” Tyler asked, looking at Franklin.

The heat was leaching from Franklin’s body as if he was dead or dying—but he was also lying in the snow, in freezing weather. I started forward to check, but Ben slipped in front of me and got there first. Franklin didn’t stir when Ben crouched to touch his neck and said, “He’s just passed out, I think.”

If I listened carefully, I could hear his heart beating slowly. So he was alive, but we had to get him out of the cold if we wanted him to stay that way. I could be forgiven for hesitating a moment on that one.

“We should get him inside before he freezes to death,” I said with a sigh.

“He’ll be fine,” Cormac said.

I stared at Cormac: Mr. Mysterious, minding his own business, keeping to himself, didn’t need guns anymore badass. I thought I’d known him. Or rather I thought I had a pretty good interpretation of the face he presented to the world. Even after he got out of prison I thought I had a little bit of a bead on him. Not so much, it turned out. And after all I’d been through over the last few years, all the people I’d met—psychics and magicians among them—I thought I knew enough to make some guesses. Maybe not.

“Right. No more dodging. Time for a straight answer. You’re a wizard. You learned how to be a wizard in prison.”

In a moment of sheepishness he ducked, looking away. Scuffed a boot in the snow. Then he studied the sky as if we were discussing the weather, which we sort of were, but still. Tyler and Ben had gone to get Franklin out of the snow, and they stood by him now, watching Cormac, waiting for his answer.

“Cormac?”

“I’m not the wizard,” he said finally. “Amelia Parker is.”

“Amelia Parker—”

About a year before his release, halfway into his sentence, Cormac asked me to find some information on a woman who’d been executed a century earlier at the Colorado Territorial Correction Facility, where he was serving his time. I’d discovered Amelia Parker: an odd woman, British, a world traveler and collector of exotic knowledge, something out of a Victorian adventure story. This just got even more odd.

“Amelia Parker is?” I said. “She’s not dead?”

“Not all of her is,” Cormac said.

“Just so we’re clear, we are talking about a woman who was hanged a hundred years ago,” I said. “She was a wizard. She had powers. And now she’s… possessing you? Is that it?”

“I guess you could say I met her ghost while I was on the inside. She needed a body and I needed… I don’t know. Company, I guess.”

“So, what, you guys just hooked up? So now you’re some kind of possessed zombie wizard?”

He gave me a look. The “you talk too much” look.

Ben had the most precious, adorable, totally confused look on his face I’d ever seen. His brow was furrowed, his mouth open, like he was trying to decide between screaming at Cormac, laughing him off, or asking if this Amelia woman was hot.

“I think I need to sit down,” Ben said. He looked at the drifts of snow around him, growled a little, and looked back at Cormac. “Are you okay? It’s still you in there, right? You’re not possessed possessed, right?”

“I’m fine,” Cormac said, sounding tired.

“But you have her power? Her knowledge?” I asked, trying to understand. Not that the situation could ever be clear cut or described in a straightforward manner.

“No,” Cormac said. “It’s all her. Sometimes, she’s in charge. That’s all. Don’t ask me to explain it. It’s just one of those things.”

We stood in the cold, glaring at each other, uncertain how to move forward.

Tyler cleared his throat and pointed at the unconscious man in the snow. “We really should get this guy out of here.”

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