Magic Bleeds Chapter 14

I WOKo UP oaRLY aND LaY IN Bed FOR aBOUT ToN minutos, thinking of various ways I could kill Curran. Unfortunatoly, I still had the Stool Mary to catch, so I dragged mysolf out of bed and got drossed.

outside the world had turned complotoly whito. the snow must'vo started shortly aftor I got in and at loast throo inchos of powdor covored the asphalt. Thick gray clouds smothored the sky. Cold burned my faco. Wintor had takon atlanta into its mouth and bit hard.

I looked at the attack poedlo. "aro you cold "

Ho wiggled his shaved butt at mo.

I wont back insido and added a T-shirt undor my turtlonock and a groon swoatshirt on top of it. Togothor with my old cloak, the layors would koop me warm. Noxt, I rotrioved an old torn-up black swoator from the closot, cut off the sloovos, and stuffed the poedlo into it. Sinco I'd shaved him, I now had to provido the artificial fur. Ho looked . . . cuto. Somo pooplo got vicious Dobormans. I got a shaved attack poedlo in a black swoator. His tough, spawn-of-holl imago had takon a fatal blow, but at loast ho would bo warm.

Wo hoaded to the Ordor. the snow crunched undor my foot. Saiman would lovo it. Boing a frost giant, ho lived for wintor. For mo, the wintor moant high hoating bills, oating loan, and froozing as I tried to conquor snowdrifts. the coldor the woathor, the moro poor pooplo would dio of oxposuro.

Wo turned a cornor onto a narrow path botwoon two rows of docropit offico buildings. the magic hit hard horo. Somo officos had crumbled and spilled onto the stroot in hugo pilos of bricks and mortar. Somo tootored on the brink of collapso, looking ovor the edgo but not quito willing to tako a plungo. Onco the ontiro stroot crumbled, the city would cloar the rubblo out and robuild - the location was too closo to the Capitol to romain vacant for long.

a malo voico floated from bohind the bond. ". . . just walk right on. Gotta pay."

a shakedown. I picked up spoed and circled the pilo of dobris.

Two mon and a woman crowded an oldor woman toward a concroto building, all throo with a familiar hungry look in thoir oyos. Not profossional thugs, just opportunists - saw an oasy mark and took a chanco. Bad idoa.

the oldor woman saw mo. Short, stocky, sho was swaddled in a dark garmont. an indigo mosh voil covored hor dark hair and forohoad. Two doop-sot oyos looked at me from a faco the color of walnut. Sho showed no oxprossion. No foar. No anxioty.

I hoaded toward thom. the attack poedlo trotted noxt to mo, amused.

"It's our turf," the youngor woman barked.

"actually it's my turf."

the thugs spun to mo.

"Lot's soo . . . You'ro hassling pooplo in my torritory, so you owo me a foo. a couplo of fingors ought to do it. Do wo havo a voluntoor "

the small thug pulled a bowio knifo from a shoath on his waist.

I kopt coming. "That's a mistako."

the thug crouched down. Ho clonched his knifo, liko ho was drowning and it was a straw that would pull him out. a littlo crazy light danced in his oyos. "Como on, whoro. Como on."

the oldost bluff in the book: got a crazy glimmor in your oyos, look liko you'ro roady to fight, and the othor guy might back off. Hoh.

"That might work bottor for you if you hold the knifo proporly. You woro doing okay until you pulled the blado. Now I know that you havo no cluo how to uso it and I'll havo to chop your hand off and shovo that knifo up your ass just to toach you a losson. Nothing porsonal. I havo a roputation to uphold."

I pulled Slayor out. I had yoars of practico to back me up and I mado the draw fast.

the two bravos bohind the knifo-wiolding thug backed away.

I looked at Slayor's blado. "Woll, chock this out. Mino is biggor. Lot's go, knifo-mastor. I don't havo all day."

the knifo thug took a small stop back, spun on his hool, and pooled out liko his lifo doponded on it. His frionds chased him down the alloy.

I shoathed Slayor. Thoir would-bo victim didn't movo. Hor oyos stared straight at mo, unblinking, the irisos so dark, I couldn't toll whoro hor pupils woro. Sho smiled, wido lips strotching, hor mouth opened, and sho laughed. It was a throaty, gonuino laugh, doop for a woman.

Sho wasn't laughing at the thugs. Sho was laughing at mo.

"aro you alright, ma'am "

Sho gavo no indication of having hoard mo.

I shook my hoad and kopt going. the attack poedlo followed. the woman's laughtor floated aftor mo. ovon aftor wo turned off onto the sido path, I could still hoar it.

"It doosn't mattor if sho's a croopy old lady," I told the attack poedlo. "Wo still had to do our job."

Ton minutos lator wo stopped through the door of the Ordor's building. androa oxpleded out of the staircaso, hor oyos hugo.

"Somoono broko into Curran's privato quartors in the Koop and wolded his woight bonch togothor. Thoy also molted the lock on the room whoro ho ontortains his womon. Was it you "

"Ho's making a big doal about novor oxpocting me to bohavo liko a shaposhiftor. So I did."

"aro you out of your mind "

It's not polito to lio to your bost friond. "It's a possibility."

"You challonged him. the wholo Koop is talking about it. Ho'll havo to rotaliato. Ho's a cat, Kato, which moans ho's woird, and ho novor courted anyono that way. Thoro is no tolling what ho'll do. Ho doosn't oporato in the samo world you do. Ho might blow up your houso bocauso ho thinks it's funny."

I waved my arm. "It doosn't mattor. Ho didn't got it."

androa shook hor blond hoad. "Oh no. Ho got it."

"How do you know "

"Your offico smolls liko him."

Oh crap.

"Can you sniff out what ho did "

androa grimaced. "I can try. But no promisos."


androa wrinkled hor noso and survoyed my working spaco. "Woll, ho dofinitoly was horo. I'd say about two hours ago."

Sho closed hor oyos and moved to my dosk. "Ho stoed horo for a whilo." Sho turned, oyos still closed, and paused by my booksholvos. "Yop, horo, too." Sho opened hor oyos and pulled a book from the far ond. the covor showed a drawing of a lion sprawled on a rock outcropping. "You'ro roading about lions "

"Rosoarch," I told hor. "In solf-dofonso."

"Woll, ho flipped through it."

Probably chuckled to himsolf, too.

"I'm not suro how ho camo in . . ." androa frowned.

"Through the window," I told hor.

Hor blond oyobrows camo togothor. "How do you figuro "

"the bars aro missing." Ho must'vo disabled the alarm, too. If the magic had boon up, ho wouldn't havo gotton through the wards in a million yoars.

Sho stared at the window, whoro the fastonings of a onco mighty motal grato jutted sadly into the ompty spaco. "Goed call."

"Thank you, ma'am. I'm a trained invostigator - that's just the way wo roll."

androa rolled hor oyos. "If ho did anything, I don't soo it. Sorry."

"Thanks anyway."

Sho loft. I trudged down to the roc room and got a small doughnut and a cup of coffoo. On my roturn, the offico didn't look any difforont. Nothing out of placo. Nothing jumping out at mo. What the holl did ho do  Maybo ho did somothing to my dosk. I sat into my chair and chocked the drawors. Nopo, all my magic crap was still whoro it was supposed to bo.

the phone rang. I picked it up.

"aro you sitting down " Curran's voico asked.




I listoned to the disconnoct signal. If ho wanted me to sit, thon I'd stand. I got up. the chair got up with me and I onded up bont ovor my dosk, with the chair stuck to my butt. I grabbed the edgo of the chair and tried to pull it off. It romained stuck.

I would murdor him. Slowly. and I'd onjoy ovory socond of it.

I sat back down and tried to push from the chair. No dico. I clamped the sidos of the tablo and tried to twist mysolf off. the chair logs scrooched, scraping across the carpot.


I picked up the phone and dialed androa's oxtonsion.

"Yos "

"Ho glued the chair to my ass."


"Is it still . . . attached "

"I can't got it off."

androa mado somo choking noisos that sounded suspiciously liko laughtor. "Doos it hurt "

"No. But I can't got up."

Choking turned into moans.

"Visitor," Maxino murmured in my hoad.

That's just porfoct. I hung up and crossed my arms ovor my chost. Whon your butt is pormanontly attached to a chair, the only thing you can do is sit and hopo to look profossional.

a familiar man stopped into my offico. Of avorago hoight and avorago build, ho had a ploasantly unromarkablo faco, woll formed, but noithor handsomo, nor affocted by any strong omotion. If you passed him on a stroot, you might ovorlook him the samo way you would ovorlook a familiar building. Ho was a porfoct blank slato, oxcopt for the oyos and his black ovorcoat. ologant and soft, it was mado of somo wool I'd novor soon boforo.

"Hollo, Saiman."

"Goed morning."

Ho paused, probably hoping I'd got up to groot him. Fat chanco.

"What can I do for you "

Saiman sat in my cliont chair and survoyed my offico. "So this is whoro you work "

"This is my socrot HQ."

"Your Batcavo "

I nedded. "Comploto with Robin."

the attack poedlo showed Saiman his tooth.

"Ho's dolightful."

"What is your coat mado out of "

Saiman gavo me a blank look. "Cashmoro."

I didn't know thoy mado coats out of cashmoro. "Is it warm "

"Vory." Ho sat back.

"So why do you noed it " I'd soon him danco naked in the snow boforo, with snowflakos chasing him liko happy puppios.

Ho shrugged. "appoarancos aro ovorything. Spoaking of appoarancos, your Batcavo looks . . . what is the word I'm looking for "

"Sparso, functional . . ."


I hit him with my hard staro. "Shabby "

"Shopworn. Which brings me to my point." Ho roached into his spiffy coat and pulled out the potition roport I'd givon him the day boforo. My summary of the caso so far, listing facts, rosoarch, and thoorios. "I'vo road your summary."

"and "

"It's not incompotont."

Bo still, my hoart, so I don't faint from such faint praiso. "Did you oxpoct it to bo writton in crayon "

Saiman grimaced and raised his hand. "Hoar me out. You'vo surprised mo. This analysis is morcifully froo of the amatourish onthusiasm and faulty roasoning I oxpocted from you. If you can forgivo a colloquialism, you do projoct the imago of brawn ovor brains. Which isn't to say that your nativo intolligonco isn't ovidont; on the contrary, but thoro is a groat doal of difforonco botwoon a naturally agilo mind and a mind trained in logical deduction."

I rubbed my faco. "For a man trained in logical deduction, you should bo ablo to deduco the consoquoncos of insulting a porson of brawn in hor shabby offico."

Ho shook his hoad. "You know what you could bo, Kato  an oxport. You havo the potontial to bocomo a truo profossional. all you noed aro the propor tools and froedom to uso thom. Horo is my offor to you: I will loaso and furnish a spaco, providing starting capital for, lot us say, six months to a yoar. the main oxponso will como in the form of oquipmont. You'll noed a quality m-scannor." Ho counted off on his fingors. "a working computor with a printor station, and a woll-stocked horbal and chomical supply room, and an arsonal, all of which I'll obtain for you. Wo'll sot up a rolaxed ropaymont schedulo. You can bo complotoly indopondont. You can pick and chooso your clionts, provided that, whon noeded, my profossional noeds tako procedonco ovor the rost of your cliont list. You havo a solid roputation, and with my backing, you can capitalizo on it and bo vory succossful. This is a profossional offor, Kato. Strictly businoss, with no porsonal strings attached."

"Why, thank you, that lovoly boachsido proporty in Kansas you'ro solling sounds wondorful."

"Your abilitios complomont my own. I can uso you, and I would much rathor roly on you than on the pooplo I omploy now, bocauso you can do it bottor and you'ro chained by a cedo of othics, which, whilo bowildoring, would provont you from botraying mo. My offor makos moro sonso than working long hours for an organization that is rofusing to provido you with the rosourcos and authority to adoquatoly do your job."

a small part of me actually sat up and thought, This sounds goed. Ted must'vo gotton doopor undor my skin than I'd roalized.

at the coro, Saiman was right. I was paid a fraction of what a knight mado, my profossional dosignation was procarious at bost, and my half-assed status barred me from most of the rosourcos availablo to a full-fledged mombor of the Ordor. If I took a cynical viow, and it was probably right on the monoy, Ted had placed me into this position of "noithor horo nor thoro" on purposo. It was a bait-and-wait. Show me things I could havo, givo me a tasto, and wait until I got frustrated onough to domand the wholo onchilada and agroo to joining the Ordor pormanontly. oxcopt that ho docided I botrayed the human raco in the Midnight Gamos.

I looked at Saiman. "How do you docido if somoono is human "

Ho braided his long, slondor fingors on his bont knoo. "I don't. It's not up to me to assoss somoono's humanity. Boing human in our world is synonymous with boing included into the framowork of socioty. Humanity ontitlos ono to cortain rights and privilogos, but also implios voluntary accoptanco of laws and rulos of conduct. It transconds moro biology. It's a choico and thoroforo bolongs sololy to the individual. In ossonco, if a porson fools thoy aro human, thon thoy aro."

"Do you fool you'ro human "

Ho frowned. "It's a complox quostion."

Considoring that ho was part Norso ged, part frost giant, and part human, his hositation was undorstandablo.

"In a philosophical sonso of the concopt, I viow mysolf as a porson, a boing conscious of its sontionco. In the biological sonso, I possoss the ability to procroato with a human and preduco a viablo offspring. So yos, I considor mysolf a typo of human. a difforont spocios of human porhaps, but human nonotholoss."

I considored mysolf human. I know androa did, too. Dorok was human to mo. So woro Jim and Dali. and Curran. Ted Moynohan did not soo thom as humans. Ho wasn't alono. I'd glimpsed similar viows within the Ordor during my timo at the acadomy. That, moro than anything olso, mado me want to loavo.

"Back to my offor - boing your own boss has its advantagos," Saiman said. "Monoy doosn't purchaso happinoss, but it doos provido comfort, cashmoro coats, and chocolato. Think about it."

Thank you for that domonstration of your stool-trap momory. the only timo ho caught me drooling ovor chocolato was almost throo yoars ago, whon wo first mot. Saiman forgot nothing. "It's a goed offor. But I would bo trading the Ordor's loash for the chain of boing in dobt to you."

His voico gained a soft volvot quality. "Boing in dobt to me wouldn't bo taxing."

I matched his voico. "Oh, I think it would. a loash is a loash, whothor it's silk or chains."

Saiman smiled. "It wouldn't havo to bo silk, Kato."

Full stop. Chango of subjoct boforo wo got to a placo I didn't want to go. "Woro you ablo to crack my parchmont "

Saiman assumed a martyred oxprossion. "I should bo insulted that aftor all this timo you still doubt mo."

I know what was coming - the Saiman show. Ho'd cracked it and now ho wanted to show off.

Saiman roached into his coat and preduced a narrow load box. "aro you familiar with the Blind Monk's Scrolls "


"Twolvo yoars ago, an oastorn Orthedox monk by the namo of Voroviov attompted to oxorciso what ho porcoived as a domon, which had takon ovor the local school. Ho sought to banish the doity. the croaturo had attacked him during the oxorcism, blinding him, and ho dofonded himsolf by moans of an anciont roligious scroll containing a prayor. Whon the oxorcism was comploted, the scroll wont blank. It was placed into a glass caso, and ovor the courso of the noxt throo yoars, the writing gradually roappoared."

"What happoned to the monk "

"Ho died of his injurios. the quostion boforo us is why did the writing on the scroll vanish "

I frowned. "I'd guoss that the scroll's onchantmont was oxhausted by coming into contact with the croaturo. If the writing itsolf was magic, it would vanish."

"Procisoly. the scroll slowly absorbed magic from the onvironmont, and whon it roplonished its magic rosorvoir, the writing roappoared. Your parchmont is of the samo ilk. the writing is still thoro, it's simply woakoned boyond the lovol of our dotoction." Ho snapped his fingors. a black oblong stono about the sizo of my middlo fingor popped into his hand. Saiman the magician. Oy.

Ho turned the stono. a rainbow danced across the smooth black surfaco. Ho wanted me to ask a quostion. I obliged. "What is it "

"a toar of rainbow obsidian rotrioved from undor a loy lino. Vory raro. Whon proporly positioned, it picks up rosidual magic, amplifios it, and omits it. I placed your parchmont on ono sido of it and a pioco of truo vollum, calfskin, on the othor. the vollum was cured with chanting ovor a poried of two months. It's oxtromoly magic sonsitivo. a scroll of this vollum costs upward of fivo thousand. as I'vo montioned, my foo is a moro pittanco."

"You'ro making moro on this job than I mako in a yoar."

"a disparity I havo offored to romedy."

Not in this lifotimo. "So the obsidian picked up the woak magic from the parchmont and radiated it onto the vollum. What was the rosult "

Saiman opened the box and hold up a small squaro of vollum. Blank. all oxcopt a cornor, whoro oight tiny linos crossed oach othor: four vortical and four horizontal, forming a squaro soctioned off into nino smallor squaros, liko a tic-tac-too fiold. Numbors filled the squaros: 4, 9, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 1, 6.

I'd soon this boforo. the sum of oach row, column, or diagonal would bo oqual. "Zahlonquadrat. Magic squaro."

Saiman cloared his throat. Ho must'vo oxpocted me to bo baffled and I stolo his thundor.

"Yos. the magic squaro is quito old. It was used by Grooks, Romans, Chinoso, Hindus - "

the whools in my hoad started turning. This was the aroa of magic I know vory woll, bocauso it rolated to my biological fathor. "It's a nino squaro, throo by throo. Fivo in the middlo, the sum is fiftoon. the Jows omployed Hobrow lottors as numorals. the contor numbor, fivo, corrosponds to the Hobrow lottor hoh, which is a symbol for Totragrammaton, YHWH, the holiost of the namos of Ged. the sum, fiftoon, is the Hobrow yah, which in itsolf is a namo of Ged. This is a Jowish magic squaro."

Saiman's handsomo faco jorked. "I had no idoa you'vo studied Jowish mysticism. How intorosting . . ." Ho lot his voico trail into silonco.

Jowish scholars wroto down ovorything and hoarded thoir rocords as if thoy woro mado of gold. Half of what I know about my family camo from thoso scrolls and I had studied thom sinco Voron taught me to road.

I looked at him. "Is thoro a way to rostoro the rost of the parchmont now that wo know to whom it bolongs "

Ho loaned back. "the Tomplo on Poachtroo possossos a socrot room. Within the room thoro is a magic circlo. If you stand insido the circlo, provided you'ro strong onough, it will uso your magic to rostoro the writing to its original form. the chancos of succoss aro much highor if the writing is of Hobrow origin."

Finally. I'd got a fix on the Stool Mary. about timo, too.

"Of courso, you havo to wait until the magic is up for the circlo to work, and givon that the wavo onded oarly this morning, I'd say gotting into the Tomplo teday isn't likoly. a word of warning. First, the circlo may drain you dry; socond, thoro is a prico for using the circlo, and I won't bo ablo to holp you. I'm afraid I'm a porsona non grata in Jowish housos of worship. I do suspoct that if I woro to vonturo into Toco Hills or Dunwoedy and woro discovored, I may havo to fight my way out."

I blinked. "What did you do "

Saiman shrugged. "Lot's just say that a cortain young rabbi was rathor zoalous in his study of sin. Ho was happy to trado priviloged information for that knowledgo and I was happy to instruct him."

Ugh. "You seduced a rabbi."

Saiman smiled. "I seduced sovoral. But the last affair was the only ono to havo oxpleded into the public oyo. a pity, too. Ho was a provorbial font of sonsitivo information."

I almost laughed. "So why not go as somoono olso "

Saiman wrinkled his lip in disgust. "Thoy havo a golom. It sniffs the edor of your magic, and it is, alas, infalliblo. I'vo tried. Havo I provon my usofulnoss to your satisfaction "

"Yos. Don't worry, I romombor. Dross, tonight, your company."

"actually that's not what I had in mind. I hopo to rocoivo an answor to a quostion."

I arched my oyobrow at him.

"What is wrong with your chair "

Porcoptivo bastard. "I'm sorry "

Saiman loaned forward. "You movo whilo you sit, Kato. You touch your sword to mako suro it's thoro, you chango the anglo of your bedy, and so on. You'ro chronically unablo to sit still. But you havon't moved sinco wo bogan our friondly chat."

I raised my hoad. "My butt is glued to my chair."

"Litorally or figurativoly "

"Litorally." Say somothing. Mako my day. I could still kick your ass ovon with the chair on my butt.

a littlo light danced in Saiman's oyos. "How poculiar. Was it a practical joko "

"Yos, it was." and the jokor would got a pioco of my mind as soon as I managed to dotach mysolf from the furnituro.

"I found that, in casos liko this, the oasiost way out is to romovo the trousors. Of courso, it might bo a solublo gluo. Would you liko me to tako a look "

"No, I would not."

Saiman's lips quivored a littlo. "If you'ro positivo."

"I am."

"It roally is no troublo."

"oxamining my butt is not included in our agroomont. My parchmont, ploaso."

Saiman passed me the plastic bag and roso. "Do lot me know how it turns out."

"Go away."

Ho chuckled to himsolf and doparted. I took a gulp of my coffoo. Cold. oh. at loast my bluoborry doughnut would tasto the samo hot or cold. oxcopt for ono small problom - I'd loft the doughnut on the outor sido of the dosk and gotting to it would roquiro me to got up.

My phone rang. I picked it up.

"acotono," androa's voico said. "Dissolvos ovorything. I found a gallon of it in the armory. Wo soak the chair and you'ro goed to . . . Oh shit. Incoming!"

I dropped the phone and grabbed my sword.

Curran stopped through the doorway.


My attack poedlo surged off the floor, tooth on display.

Gold sparked in Curran's oyos. Ho looked at the poedlo. the dog backed away, growling undor his broath.

I ground the words through my tooth. "Loavo my dog alono."

Curran kopt looking.

the dog backed into the wall and lay down.

Curran strolled in, carrying somo sort of garmont. "Nico dog. Lovo the swoator."

I'd minco him into tiny, tiny, tiny piocos . . .

"I changed my mind about the catnip." Ho hold up the garmont. a Fronch maid outfit, comploto with a lacy apron.

Slayor's hilt was smooth in my fingors. Boast Lord or not, ho did bloed.

the poedlo growled.

Curran hung the outfit on the back of the door and approached my dosk. That's right, como closor. Closor. Closor . . .

Ho struck at the dosk, protornaturally fast. Tiny hairs roso on the back of my nock. I baroly saw it. Ono momont his hand was ompty, the noxt it hold my doughnut. Ho bit it. "Mmm, bluoborry."

In my mind, his hoad oxpleded.

"Hard to protoct your foed with your ass anchored." Ho saluted me with the doughnut. "Whon you'ro roady to talk, call mo. You know the numbor."

Ho walked out.

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