Magic Graves Page 21

She peeled from the wall and circled the building, moving fast on her toes. At the back, she slipped between the stone framework and the wooden wall of the house and felt around for the hidden latch. It sprang open under the pressure of her fingers. She edged the secret door open and padded inside, into the walk-in closet, and out into her bedroom. The house had only three rooms: a long rectangular bedroom, an equally long bathroom, and the rest of it was taken up by a wide open space, most of which served as her living room and kitchen, with the stove, fridge, and counters at the north wall.

Audrey peeked out of the doorway. An older man with curly reddish-brown hair stood at the kitchen stove, mixing batter in a glass bowl, his slightly stooped back turned to her.

She would know that posture anywhere.

Audrey raised her crossbow and took a step into the living room.

The man reached for a bag of flour sitting on the counter. Audrey squeezed the trigger. The string snapped with a satisfying twang. The bolt punched through the bag inches from the man's fingers.

The man turned and grinned at her, his blue eye sparking. She knew the smile too. It was his con smile.

"Hi, munchkin."

Audrey let her crossbow point to the floor. "Hi, Dad."

*** *** ***

"A good shot." Seamus Callahan bent down, looking at the shaft protruding from the bag of flour. "I'd say you killed it. Bull's-eye."

Audrey set the crossbow down and crossed her arms. Inside her a tiny pissed off voice barked, "Get out, get out, get out..." He was here in her house, and she had to clench her fingers on her arms just to keep herself from attacking him and pushing him out.

But she was Seamus's daughter and twenty three years of grifting made her voice calm and light. "How did you find me?"

"I have my ways." Seamus opened the bag and poured some flour into the batter. "I'm making my patented silver dollar pancakes. You remember those, don't you?"

"Sure, dad. I remember." He was in her kitchen, touching her things. She would bleach it all after he was gone.

Ling slipped from the back door, scurried around her feet, and showed Seamus her teeth.

"Your little critter doesn't like me much," he said, pouring the batter into a sizzling pan.

"She has good instincts."

Seamus looked up at her, blue eyes like two flax petals under bushy red eyebrows. "There is no need for that."

Screw it. "What do you want?"

Seamus spread his arms, a spatula in his right hand. "My daughter disappears for four years, doesn't tell me where she is going, doesn't call, doesn't write. What, I don't have a right to be concerned? All we had was a little note."

Yeah, right. "The note said, 'Don't look for me.' That was a clue."

"Your mom is worried, kiddo. We were all worried."

Get out, get out, get out. "What do you want?"

Seamus heaved a sigh. "Can we not have a meal like a normal family?"

"What do you want, dad?"

"I have a job in West Egypt."

In the Weird. The worlds of the Weird and the Broken had similar geography, but their histories had gone entirely different ways. In the world without magic the huge peninsula protruding from the South Eastern end of the continent was known as Florida. In the Weird it was West Egypt, the Alligator to the Cobra and the Hawk of the triple Egyptian crown.

"It won't take but a week. A good solid payoff."

"Not interested."

He sighed again. "I didn't want to bring this up. It's about your brother."

Of course. Why would it ever be about anybody else?

Seamus leaned forward. "There is a facility in California -"

She raised her hands. "I don't want to hear it."

"It's beautiful. It's like a resort." He reached into his jacket. "Look at the pictures. These doctors, they're the best. All we have to do is pull off this one heist and we can get him in there. I'd do it myself, but it's a three-person job."


Seamus turned off the stove and shoved the pan aside onto a cold burner. "He is your brother. He loves you, Audrey. We haven't asked anything of you for three years."

"He is an addict, Dad. An addict. How many times has he been through rehab? It was eighteen when I left, what's the number now?"


It was too late. She'd started and she couldn't stop. "He's had therapy, he's had interventions, he's had doctors and counselors and rehabs, and it hasn't made a damn bit of difference. Do you know why? Because Alex likes being an addict. He has no interest in getting better. He is a dirty low-life junkie. And you enable him on every turn."


"What was the one rule you taught me, Dad? The one rule that we never, ever break? You don't steal from family. He stole mom's wedding ring and pawned it. He stole from you, he stole from me, he ruined my childhood. All of it going right up his nose or in his mouth. The man never met a drug he didn't like. He doesn't want to get better, and why should he? Mommy and daddy will always be there to steal him more pills and pick him up off the street. He gets his drugs and all that attention. Hell, why should he quit?"

"He's my child," Seamus said.

"And what am I, dad? Chopped liver?"

"Look at you!" Seamus raised his arms. "Look, look you have a nice house, your fridge is full. You don't need any help."

She stared at him.

"Alex is sick. It's an illness. He can't help himself."

"Bullshit! He doesn't want to help himself."

"He'll die."


Seamus slapped the counter. "You take that back, Audrey!"

She took a deep breath. "No."

"Fine." He leaned back. "Fine. You live happily in your nice house. Play with your pet. Buy nice things. You do all that, while your brother is dying."

She laughed. "Guilt, dad? Wait, I'll show you guilt."

She stomped to a book shelf, pulled out a photo album, and slapped it open on the counter in front of him. In the picture her sixteen year old self stared out from a mangled face. Her left eye had swollen shut into a puffy black sack. Dry tracks of blood stained her cheeks, stretching from half a dozen cuts. Her nose was a misshapen bulge. "What is this? Do you remember this?"

Seamus grimaced.

"What, nothing to say? Let me help: this is when my sweet brother traded me to his dealer for some meth. I had to give him all of the money I had on me and the gold chain grandma gave me, and I had to break into a rival drug dealer's lab and steal his stash so I wouldn't be raped. I had to break into a gang house, Dad. If I got caught, they would've killed me in a blink - if I was lucky. And Cory, the dealer? He used me for a punching bag after. He threw me on the ground and he kicked me in the face and in my stomach until he got tired. I had to beg - beg! - him to let me go. Look at my face. It was two days before my seventeenth birthday. And what did you do, Dad?"

She let it hang. Seamus looked at the window.

"You did nothing. Because I don't matter."

"Audrey, don't say that. Of course, you matter. And I spoke to Alex about it."

She gave him a bitter smile. "Yes. I've heard. You told him that if something happened to me, the whole family would suffer, because nobody would be left to steal."

"I said it in a way he would understand: if something happened to you, there would be no more drugs."

"Because it's all he cares about." Audrey sighed. "I left four years ago. I didn't cover my tracks, I just ran clear across the bloody continent to the other side. I would've gone to the moon if I could, but I would've still left you a nice trail to follow, because I kept hoping that one day my parents would wake up and realize they had a daughter. It took you this long to find me, because you didn't look until you needed me. I spent years stealing and grifting, so you could put him into one rehab after another. I'm done with you. Don't come here. Don't ask me for any favors. It's over."

"This will be the last time," he said quietly. "If you won't do it for me, do it for your mother. You know if Alex dies, it would kill her. I swear, this is the very last time. I wouldn't be here if I had any choice, Audrey. Just look at the pictures of the job." He pushed some photographs to her across the table.

She glanced down. The first two shots showed some sort of resort. On the third a white pyramid rose, its golden top gleaming in the sun. A stylized bull carved from reddish stone polished to a gleam stood before the pyramid. "The pyramid of Ptah? Are you out of your mind? You want me to go into the Weird and steal something from a pyramid?"

"It can be done."

"People who rob the pyramids in West Egypt die, Dad."

"Please, Audrey. Don't make me beg. Do you want me to get down on my knees? Fine, I can do that."

He would never leave her alone. If she did this job, he'd be back in six months with another and tell her that it would be "the very last time." She had to find a way to end it now and end it so he wouldn't return.

Audrey leaned forward. "I'll give you a choice. I'll do the job with you, but from that point on we're strangers. You don't have a daughter anymore and I don't have a father or a mother. If you show up on my land again, I'll shoot you. I'm dead serious, Dad. I will put a bolt through you. Or you can walk away now and keep me as your daughter. Pick. Him or me."

Seamus looked at the image of her bruised face in the photo album.

She waited. Deep inside her a little girl listened quietly, hoping for the answer that the adult in her knew wouldn't come.

"I'll see you at the end of the road tomorrow at seven," he said and walked out the door.

The disappointment gripped her so tightly, it hurt. For a few short pain-filled breaths she just stood there, and then she grabbed the pan, burned pancakes and all, burst out the back door, and hurled it over the cliff.

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