Magic Gifts Page 6

Roderick looked at me with his big eyes. "Good morning."

His voice was weak. In my mind the necklace constricted around his fragile neck. The bone crunched...

We had to get a move on. We had to get it off him.

Doolittle lead us toward the door and spoke quietly. "There is a definite change in the color of the metal. He's beginning to experience discomfort."

"So that thing is getting hungry," Curran said.

"Probably." Doolittle held up a small print out. A pale blue stripe cut across the paper. The m-scan. The m-scanner recorded colors of magic: purple for vampire, green for shapeshfiter, and so on. Blue stood for plain human magic: mages registered blue, telepaths, telekinetics. It was your basic human default.

"Is that the necklace or Roderick?" Curran asked.

"It's the boy. He has power and it's obscuring whatever magic signature the necklace is giving out." Doolittle pointed to a point on the graph. I squinted. A series of paler sparks punctured the blue.

"This is probably the necklace," Doolittle said. "It's not enough to go on. We need a more precise measurement."

We needed Julie. She was a sensate - she saw colors of magic with more precision than any m-scanner. I stuck my head out into the hallway and called, "Could someone find my kid please and ask her to come down here?"

Five minutes later Julie entered the medward. When I found her, she had been half starved, skinny, and had anxiety attacks if the protective layer of grime was removed from her skin. Now at fourteen, she had progressed from skinny to lean. Her legs and arms showed definition if she flexed. She was meticulously clean, but recently she decided that invention of brushes was a waste of time, so her blond hair looked like a cross between a rough haystack and a bird nest.

I explained the necklace. Julie approached the boy. "Hey. I'm going to look at the thing on your neck, okay?"

Roderick said nothing.

Julie peered at the metal. "Odd. It's pale."

"Pale yellow? Pale green?" Any tint was good.

"No. It looks colorless, like hot air rising from the pavement."

Transparent magic. Now I had seen everything.

"There are runes on it," Julie said.

"Can you read them?" Curran asked.

She shook her head. "It's not any runic alphabet they taught us."

Dolittle handed her a piece of paper and a pencil and she wrote five symbols on it. Runes, the ancient letters of Old Norse and Germanic alphabets, had undergone several changes over the years, but the oldest runes looked the way they looked because they had to be carved into a hard surface: all straight lines, no curves, no tiny strokes. These symbols definitely fit that pattern, but they didn't look like any runes I'd seen. I could spend a day or two digging through books, but Roderick didn't have that long. We needed information fast.

Curran must've come to the same conclusion. "Do we know any rune experts?"

I tapped the paper. "I can make some calls. There is a guy. Dagfinn Heyerdahl. He used to be with Norse Heritage Foundation."

Norse Heritage Foundation wasn't so much about heritage as it was about viking, in the most cliché sense of the world. They drank huge quantities of beer, they brawled, and they wore horned helmets despite all historical evidence to the contrary.

"Used to be?" Curran asked.

"They kicked him out for being drunk and violent."

Curran blinked. "The Norse Heritage?"


"Don't you have to be drunk and violent just to get in?" he asked. "Just how disorderly did he get?"

"Dagfinn is a creative soul," I said. "His real name is Don Williams. He packs a lot of magic and if he could have gotten out of his own way, he would be running the Norse Heritage by now. He's got a rap sheet as long as the Bible, all of it petty stupid stuff, and he's the only merc I know who actually works for free, because he's been fined so many times, it will take him years to get out of Guild's debt. About two years ago, he got piss-drunk, took off all of his clothes, and broke through the gates of a Buddhist meditation center on the South side. A group of bhikkhunis, female monks, was deep in meditation on the grounds. He chased them around, roaring something about them hiding hot Asian ladies. I guess he mistook them for men, because of the robes and shaved heads."

"And why didn't anybody pointed the error of his way to this fool?" Doolittle asked.

"Perhaps because they are Buddhists," Curran said. "Violence is generally frowned upon in their community. How did it end?"

"Dagfinn pulled a robe off one of the nuns and an elderly monk came up to him and hit him in the chest with the heel of his hand. Dagfinn did some flying and went through the monastery wall. Bricks fell on his face and gave him a quickie plastic surgery. Since the old monk had raised his hand in anger, he went into a self-imposed seclusion. He still lives near the Stone Mountain in the woods. He was greatly revered and the monks got pissed off and went to see the Norse Heritage Foundation. Words were exchanged and the next morning the Foundation gave Dagfinn the boot. The neo-Vikings will know where he is. They kicked him out, but he's still their boy."

Curran nodded. "Okay, we'll take a Jeep."

"They don't permit any technology past fourteenth century AD in their territory. You'll have to ride a horse."

Curran's face snapped into a flat Beast Lord expression. "I don't think so."

"You can jog if you want, but I'm getting a horse."

A low rumble began in Curran's throat. "I said we'll take the Jeep."

"And I said they will put an axe into your carburetor."

"Do you even know what a carburetor is?" Curran asked.

I knew it was a car part. "That's irrelevant."

Doolittle cleared his throat. "My lord, my lady."

We looked at him.

"Take it outside my hospital before you break anything." It didn't sound like a request.

A careful knock echoed through the door. A young woman stuck her head in. "Consort?"

What now? "Yes?"

"There is a vampire downstairs to see you."

Chapter Four

The vampire sat on his haunches in the waiting room, a thin emaciated monstrosity. Vampires were midnight predators. Daylight burned their skin, but the People had recently gotten around it by applying their own patented brand of sunblock. It dried thick and came in assorted colors. This particular vampire sported a coat of bright lime-green. The sunblock covered the undead completely, every wrinkle, every crevice, every inch. The ffect was vomit-inducing.

The undead turned its head as I walked in, its eyes focusing on me with intelligence of a navigator sitting in an armored room miles away. The nightmarish jaws opened.

"Kate," Ghastek's dry voice said. "Curran. Good morning."

"What are you doing here?" Curran asked.

The vampire folded itself, perching in the chair like some mummified cat. "I have a direct interest in discovering the nature of that necklace. We have suffered great loses, we must account for them. Have you found a way to remove it?"

"No," I said.

"So the boy's life is still in jeopardy," Ghastek said.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

"It's being handled," Curran said.

"I would like to be involved in that handling."

"I'm sure you would," Curran said. "It's hard to believe, but I go whole days without worrying about your likes and dislikes."

The vampire opened its mouth, imitating a sigh. It was an eerie sight: his jaws unhinged, his chest moved up and down, but no air came out.

"I believe in civil discourse, so please forgive me if I sound blunt: you took a child away from his parents against their will. In other words, you abducted him by force. Last time I checked that constituted a kidnapping. I have a very capable staff, which, should I give the word, would present a very compelling case to the PAD."

"The PAD can bite me," Curran said. "I also have a very capable staff. I'll drown you in paper. How would you like to be sued?"

"On what grounds?" The vamp looked outraged.

"Reckless endangerment." Curran leaned forward. "Your journeymen dropped two vampires in the middle of a crowded restaurant."

"There were extenuating circumstances and you were unharmed."

Curran's eyes acquired a dangerous glint. "I'm sure the public will take that into account, especially after my people steamroll the sordid horror story of the Arirang Massacre over every newspaper they can find."

The vamp bared its fangs.

Curran's upper lip trembled in a beginning of a snarl.

I stabbed a throwing knife into the table between them.

The man and the undead fell silent.

"There is a child being slowly choked to death upstairs," I said. "If the two of you could stop baring your teeth for a second, you might even remember that."

Silence stretched.

"I simply wish to help," Ghastek said.

Yeah right.

Curran's face looked set in stone. "We don't need you."

"Yes, you do," Ghastek said. "You have the necklace, but I have Lawrence. He dated Amanda for over a year. I think you will be interested to know that Colin Sunny, Amanda's father, has a sister. She is married to Orencio Forney."

"Orencio Forney, the DA?"

"Precisely," Ghastek said. "After yesterday's affair, the Sunnys are staying in Forney's house. I trust you understand the implications."

I understood them, alright. The Sunnys had just became untouchable. If the Pack attempted to pick a fight with the DA, the tide of negative publicity would drown us, not to mention that every cop in the city would make it their personal mission to complicate shapeshifters' lives whenever possible.

Curran's face hardened into that blank, unreadable expression. He saw the writing on the wall as well, and he didn't like it. "Have you asked for an interview?"

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