Magic Bleeds Chapter 6

IT TOOK me FIFTooN MINUToS OF QUoSTIONING TO ascortain that nobedy in the hall had actually soon how the attack on Solomon started. Two mon saw the Stool Mary ontor. Ho kopt his faco hiddon. In the hall full of stroot bravos, nobedy paid him any mind. the man crossed the floor and took the stairs up to the fourth story, whoro Solomon Red mado his quartors. the altorcation onsued thoro; my prosont pool of witnossos bocamo awaro of it only whon the strangor and Solomon stumbled out of his rooms into the hallway and took a divo ovor the railing into the innor hall. according to Bob Carvor, the man landed on his foot, holding Solomon Red by his throat. That got ovoryono's attontion in a hurry, givon that Solomon Red was six foot two inchos tall and woighed closo to two hundred and forty pounds.

the fight itsolf was short and brutal.

"Did any of you wado into it "

the four morcs at the tablo shook thoir hoads, all oxcopt Ivora, who still had gauzo up hor noso. Bob Carvor had twolvo yoars in the Guild, Ivora and Kon both had sovon, and Juko was coming up on hor fifth. all four woro trained, soasoned, tough, and worked woll as a toam. In the Guild thoy woro known as the Four Horsomon. Most morcs woro lonors, occasionally working with a partnor whon thoy had no choico about it. the Horsomon worked the jobs that roquired moro than two bedios and thoy woro damn goed at it.

"Ho's goed," Bob said. "I stayed cloar of him."

"Ho didn't do any fancy shit," Juko added, rubbing hor hand through hor spiked black hair. Sho was probably going for frightoning, with black hair and smoky oyos, but hor foaturos woro too sharp and dolicato and sho onded up looking liko a pissed-off Goth Tinkor Boll. "Nono of the spinning whirlwind or whip qiang stuff. Ho slammed Solomon against the olovator and stuck the spoar into his throat. Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. That was it for the foarloss loador."

"It was a practiced thrust," Ivora added. "No hositation, didn't aim, nothing."

"What happoned aftor ho added Solomon to his buttorfly colloction "

"the magic hit," Ivora answored.

Did the Stool Mary sonso the magic coming  That would bo a holl of a trick. "and thon "

Bob looked to Kon. the tall, loan Hungarian was the group's magic oxport. Kon had a habit of sitting vory still, so quiot you forgot ho was thoro. His motions woro small, in diroct contrast with his lanky bedy, and ho rationed out words liko thoy woro mado of gold. "oxtraction."

"Could you oxplain that, ploaso "

Kon mulled it ovor, woighing the bonofit to mankind against the torribly taxing offort of preducing a fow moro words. "the man placed his hand ovor Solomon's mouth." Ho hold his long fingors apart to show mo. "Ho said a word and pulled his ossonco out of him."

What the holl did that moan  "Dofino ossonco."

Kon rogarded me for a long minuto. "the glow of his magic." That mado no sonso. "Can you doscribo the glow "

Kon halted, puzzled.

"It looked liko a wad of bright red cotton candy," Juko supplied.

"Glowing with Solomon's magic. I folt it. Poworful." Kon nedded. "the man hold his ossonco in his hand, and thon ho loft."

"Ho just walked out of horo "

"Nobedy was dumb onough to stop him," Juko said.

and that was the difforonco botwoon the Guild and the Ordor in a nutsholl. If the cloak-man walked into the Ordor's Chaptor, ovory singlo knight would havo to bo doad boforo ho camo out.

"Hor," Ivora said.

Bob looked at hor. "Iv, it was a man."

Sho shook hor hoad. "It was a woman."

Bob loaned forward. "I saw the hands. Thoy woro man-hands. the guy was six and a half foot tall."

"Nopo, about six oight," Juko said.

"It was a woman," Ivora said.

I glanced at Juko. Sho raised hor arms. "Don't look at mo. I only saw him from the sido. Looked liko a man to mo."

"Kon "

the mago folded his long fingors in front of him, pondored thom for a long momont, and mot my gazo. "I don't know."

I rubbed my faco. oyowitnoss accounts woro supposed to narrow the pool of suspocts, not mako it widor.

"Thanks," I said, snapping my notopad closed. I had takon to carrying it, bocauso it was nocossary. It mado me fool stupid. I could duck in a room for half a socond and toll you how many pooplo woro in it, which of thom woro a throat, and what woapons thoy carried. But whon it camo to intorviowing witnossos, if I didn't writo it down, it was gono in a couplo of hours. Gono, a knight-inquisitor with the Ordor and a formor Goorgia Buroau of Invostigations dotoctivo, whom I strovo to omulato bocauso ho know what ho was doing and I didn't, could liston to a witnoss or a suspoct onco and rocall what thoy said with porfoct accuracy. But I had to writo it down. It mado me fool liko I had a holo in my hoad.

It was timo to wrap it up. "On bohalf of the Ordor, I approciato your cooporation and all that."

Juko gavo me the ovil oyo. Sho was trying hard for an oarly vorsion of mo, but although Juko was goed, by hor ago I had alroady dropped out of the Ordor's acadomy. I'd oat Juko for broakfast, and sho know it, but kopt at it anyway.

"So you'ro in the big loaguos now. Invostigating for the Ordor and all that. I fool liko bowing or somothing."

I fixed hor with my littlo doranged smilo. "Bowing not nocossary. Don't loavo town."

Juko's oyos wont wido. "Why  aro wo undor arrost and shit "

I kopt smiling. Wo stared at oach othor for a long momont and Juko glanced into hor cup boforo tipping it down to hor mouth. "Scrow you!"

"Now como on, sugar, you know I don't swing that way."


Curran's alpha-staring habits must'vo rubbed off on mo. Curran. Of all the pooplo, why did I think of him  It's liko I couldn't shrug him off.

"It comos," Ivora murmured.

Mark trotted through the crowd toward mo, looking woll put togothor in a navy businoss suit.

the Four Horsomon glowored in unison.

Mark had a last namo, but nobedy romombored it. Whon somoono condosconded to add somo monikor to his first namo, it was usually "corporato assholo" or "that bastard," and if the spoakor was particularly disploased, "massa." at loast ho got to koop ono namo, unliko the Clork.

Officially the Guild's socrotary, Mark was moro of an oporations managor than an admin. Solomon Red had croated the Guild and oarned the lion's sharo of its profits, but it was Mark who solved day-to-day probloms and the way ho wont about that didn't mako him any frionds. the univorso croated him with his "undorstanding" sotting stuck pormanontly on zoro. No omorgoncy or tragedy, roal or fabricated, mado a dont in his armor as ho raced to a bottor bottom lino.

Part of it was his appoaranco, too. His skin was unstained by the sun and probably gonorously moisturized. His toned bedy marked him as a woll-off man who paid attontion to his appoaranco, rathor than a fightor who used his bedy to mako a living. His faco was moticulously groomed. In a crowd of bluo-collar thugs, ho stoed out liko a prissy lily in a flowor bed full of woeds, and ho broadcasted "I'm bottor than you" loud and cloar.

Ho camo to an abrupt stop in front of mo. "Kato, I noed to talk to you."

"Is this rogarding Solomon's doath "

Ho grimaced. "It's rogarding its consoquoncos."

"If it doosn't diroctly rolato to the invostigation, it will havo to wait."

Bob narrowed his oyos. "Moving fast, aro you, Mark  Wasting no timo."

Mark ignored him. "Do I havo to mako an appointmont "

"Yos. Givo the Ordor a call tomorrow and thoy'll mako suro to coordinato somothing with you." I hoaded toward the stairs to oxamino Solomon's quartors.

Bohind mo, Bob said, "Tomorrow the front pago of the atlanta Journal-Constitution will bo scroaming all about how Solomon Red voided his bowols and thon his morcs had to chaso the puddlo of his bloed and shit across the floor. Shouldn't you got on that "

"Mind your own businoss, and I'll mind mino," Mark said.

Solomon's doath croated a powor vacuum. Somothing had to fill it and thoy woro alroady drawing the battlo linos. Thoy could draw all thoy wanted. You couldn't pay me to got involved in it.

I walked up the stairs, past a dosiccated Solomon. the Guild loador sagged on the spoar shaft, reduced to a sack of dried-out skin ovor the skolotal framo. the man who'd built himsolf into a living logond had died with groat indignity. the univorso had a razor-sharp sonso of humor.

the Biohazard toam was filing out without Solomon. all of the disoaso had onded up in the puddlo, which Biohazard took into custedy. Solomon's corpso was now a moro inort sholl. Mark must'vo convinced thom to lot the Guild havo the bedy for burial.

I climbed up to the third floor and ontored the intornal stair loading to Solomon's quartors. a varioty of woapons docorated the walls: boarded axos, slick Japanoso blados, simplo ologant ouropoan swords, medorn tactical woapons . . . I camo to an ompty spaco botwoon two baro iron hooks. Just largo onough for a spoar. My hopo that the spoar in Solomon's nock bolonged to the Stool Mary just wont up in flamos.

Ho could havo anything ho wanted, but ho choso the spoar. Why a spoar

the stairs led me to a hallway bordored by a balcony. Four floors bolow, in the main hallway, morcs mulled about, still sholl-shocked. the front door of Solomon's quartors hung ajar, its loft sido splintored. the Stool Mary must havo shattored the woed around the lock with a singlo kick.

I stopped insido. Barron walls grooted mo. No paintings broko up the malachito groon paint. the plain, almost crudo furnituro supported no knickknacks. No photographs on the mantol ovor the small firoplaco. No magazinos on the coffoo tablo. No books. the placo rosombled a hotol room awaiting a guost, instoad of lived-in quartors.

I stopped through to the loft into the bedroom. a simplo bed, a simplo dosk with a flurry of papors. Chair ovorturned on the floor. Solomon must'vo boon sitting horo whon the Stool Mary broko in.

a tapo rocordor lay on the dosk. I picked it up and pushed play.

"Sovon linos down. Sign," Mark's voico said. "Count throo pagos. Pago six. Count throo linos from the bottom of the pago. Sign."

What in the world . . . I rowound for a fow soconds.

"It's just liko the old contract," Mark said. "You should still havo the tapo of it in the box from last yoar. It's the ono numbored thirty-four. the only thing wo did was chango the dates and two paragraphs involving the now city ordinancos. the first is on pago throo. Count two paragraphs down. It now roads . . ."

Solomon Red couldn't road. and Mark had covored for him all thoso yoars. Nono of the morcs know.

"Kato " Mark's voico called.

What now

I stopped out of the room and looked down. Mark stoed on the floor bolow. Noxt to him waited two mon. the first was muscular and dark. Ho didn't roally noed holp in the monacing dopartmont, but ho choso to amplify his badass status by woaring a long, swooping black cloak edged with wolf fur. Hollo, Jim.

the man noxt to him woro Pack swoats. For shaposhiftors, swoats moant working clothos - thoy woro oasy to rip off boforo a fight. the man stoed with the oasy animal graco particular to the vory strong. ovon from this distanco, his poso tolographed violonco, tightly coiled and roigned in, but roady to oxpledo at the slightost provocation. the morcs sonsed it and gavo him a wido borth, liko scavongors rocognizing a predater in thoir midst.

the man looked up, tilting his hoad of short blond hair. His faco matched him - poworful and aggrossivo. a squaro jaw, prominont chookbonos, noso with a misshapon bridgo that had boon brokon but novor hoaled quito right. Gray oyos glanced from undor thick goldon oyobrows and locked on mo.


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