Kitty Saves the World Page 60

Cormac snorted a chuckle, because he knew. Tina looked worried. “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely sure,” said Sun, grinning.

“He’s got a different set of rules,” I said.

Next, Cormac dug into his collection of amulets and drew out the bronzed Maltese cross. “Kitty, you’re getting this one this time. Put it on.”

“That’s the one that reflects spells, right? Why do I get it? You’re the one who knows how it works.”

“You’ve got the biggest target painted on you,” he said.

Well, shit. Fair enough. Ben took it out of Cormac’s hand and hung the cord over my neck without further discussion.

Turned out everyone already had crosses on them. Everyone except Sun, who still wasn’t worried.

I looked down at the Maltese cross lying on my chest, its bronze polished to a mirror shine. I held it up, looked at my reflection. My eyes were shadowed and puffy, my hair an unholy tangle. I wondered what Ben would think if I just shaved it off.

I wondered.

“Tell me again exactly what this thing does?” I said.

“It’s a defensive amulet,” he said. “It reflects spells back on the one who cast them.”

Stop the spell, not the man, Anastasia had said.

“And exactly how does it work?” I asked carefully.

He paused. Stared as understanding lit his gaze. “Just like a mirror. If you’re holding that when someone casts a spell at you, the effects of the spell strike the caster instead.”

“So it only works for people. Not, say, volcanoes?”

“Don’t know.” We both looked at Grant.

“That is an intriguing question,” he said. “Where did this come from?”

“I don’t even know. Tracked it back as far as some crazy old prospector a hundred or so years ago. A couple of witches in Manitou Springs said I might need it, so here it is.”

“Fate,” Grant said. “Good enough.”

It wasn’t good enough, but I’d take it. I had too many people looking out for me to turn my nose up at fate.

“Well then. Now all we have to do is find Roman and … what, stand in front of him?”

“Stand in front of him at the exact moment he’s casting the spell,” Cormac said. “It only works after the spell’s in motion.”

“That’s cutting it awfully close,” Ben said.

“Then we’d better get moving.”

“But how do we find Roman?” I said. Right back to the same old problem.

Grant was the one who smiled this time. “Tina and I may have a plan for that.”

Chapter 18

WE ARRIVED at the Norris Geyser Basin an hour before dusk, and I wasn’t happy about it.

“It’s a connection,” Grant said, explaining the plan. “We know Lightman was here, and because Lightman is connected to both Roman and Ashtoreth, we have a chance of following that thread back.”

“He’s probably still here,” I complained. “I looked it up. Early explorers thought this spot was a gateway to hell. They weren’t wrong.”

“If he’s here, we’ll deal with him,” Cormac said, like we weren’t talking about, you know, Lucifer. Hardin, checking the magazine in her semiautomatic and the stakes hanging in a quiver off her belt, frowned, just as determined. Tina stood to the side, her arms crossed as if she was cold.

Technically, the park wasn’t quite fully open for the summer season. That was why we parked in a turnout and hiked in, avoiding the parking lot and visitors center at the entrance to the basin. Maybe we could explain ourselves to some intrepid patrolling ranger. I wasn’t anxious to find out.

We came at the area from the side, looping around the parking lot and carefully avoiding the barren, steaming stretches that marked geysers and potentially unstable ground, emerging from the surrounding woods and making our way to the boardwalk that guided tourists safely around the sites. I hadn’t noticed the boardwalk my first time here. It made everything seem so much more tame and pleasant.

In semidaylight, this was a weird, blasted landscape, with scoured, crusted soil and stunted vegetation. Footprints and droppings from elk and bison were evident, so wildlife obviously didn’t mind too much. I wondered if any of them ever fell into the pools.

My skin itched, thinking of it.

Grant, Tina, and Cormac got to work. The boardwalk gave way to a dirt path in the lowest part of the basin, a wide, flat space that must have seemed perfect for working a ritual. They’d apparently planned the whole thing on the drive from Colorado—it was a long drive, they’d had plenty of time. Grant said he had a spell that would amplify Tina’s psychic abilities. Give an extra push when she scryed for Roman’s location. Amelia didn’t offer any arguments, which meant she must have thought it was a good idea.

While Grant set out candles at the cardinal compass points, Tina sat in the middle of the arrangement and spread the park map open in front of her. She had a pen and pad of paper on hand as well—they looked like the ones from the nightstand at the hotel. Whatever information she gleaned from the ether, she was going to write it down. Her legs crossed, her back straight, she appeared to have started meditating. It made the scene even more incongruous: she looked like an ad for a yoga studio, but the chalky, gritty landscape didn’t exactly bring to mind peacefulness. The geysers and hot springs made a constant bubbling, hissing noise.

The circle pattern Grant marked out was familiar—he lit the candles, scratched symbols into the dirt next to each one. In the wavering flames, the patterns in the dirt seemed to move. The sun was setting, and the sky grew shadowed.

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