Burn for Me Page 47



My magic locked on him. He was enclosed in a barrier, like a nut in a shell. It was old, thick, and strong. I felt his life, shivering inside, both protected and bound by the shell. The two were connected. If I broke the barrier, the light of his life would perish with it.

“Do you know where the third piece of amulet is hidden?”

He tried to resist. I punched the circle with my magic. Power bounced into me. I grasped the invisible barrier with my magic and strained to wrench it apart. I didn’t need much. Just a gap. A small opening.

The shell resisted.

I didn’t have time for this. Bern would die.

I pulled the power from the circle. It kept coming and coming, as if I pulled on a rope, expecting only a foot or two, but it kept going, and now I was pulling it with both hands as fast as I could. The influx of power slowed. I punched the circle again and the flow sped up. I focused it all on the shell.

It shuddered.

More power.

I felt light-headed.

Another tremor.

The shell cracked. In my mind, I saw light spilling from inside it. I thrust my magic into it like a wedge and kept it open.

“Yes,” Mr. Emmens said.

He had answered my question. I made my mouth move. “Is the third piece in your possession?”


“Is it hidden on the property you own?”


“She’s going to die,” Augustine warned. “She’s pulling too much power.”

“She’s fine,” Mad Rogan said.

It hurt now. It hurt as if something had stabbed me in the stomach and I was trying to pull the knife out inch by inch. But my magic wedge held.

Think, think, think . . .

Bern’s face looked at me from the camera. I had to save him. He was just a boy. He had his whole life ahead of him.

Adam Pierce was going downtown. The piece had to be here. In the center of the city. It wouldn’t be in a bank or in a building, because the Emmens family wouldn’t want to repeat themselves.

“Is it on the property you used to own?”


The pain was clawing at me now, hot and sharp.

“Is it on the property your relative owns?”


“Is it on a property your relative used to own?”


That yes nearly rocked me.

“Search the records,” Augustine barked.

The five people at the computer terminals typed furiously.

“Was that property sold?”


If his relative no longer owned it but it hadn’t been sold, what the heck could’ve happened to it?

The world swayed. I was about to pass out. I clung onto consciousness, desperately struggling to stay upright.

“Frederick Rome,” one of the computer techs reported. “His daughter’s ex-husband, from her first marriage, used to own a building on Caroline Street. It was lost in a divorce settlement and awarded to his second ex-wife.”

Augustine spun to me. “Ask if it was lost in a legal action.”

“Was the property lost as a result of a legal action or awarded as a settlement?”


Tiny red circles swam in my eyes. My magic was ebbing. I was barely holding on. I forced my brain to work through the haze of pain and fatigue. It was downtown. There was nothing downtown but big businesses owned by Houses, government buildings, and . . .

Government buildings.

“Is it on municipal land?”

“Yes.” Mr. Emmens came to life.

“Was the property donated to the city?”

“Yes.” Mr. Emmens nodded.

The techs typed so fast that the clicking of their keys blended into a hum.

“Patricia Bridges,” the middle technician called. “Married to William Bridges, maiden name Emmens.”

Mr. Emmens smiled.

“William and Patricia Bridges jointly donated a parcel of land to the city of Houston, provided that the land may never be sold or built upon but used instead as a place for the free people of Texas to gather as they see fit.”

The Bridge Park. Directly across from the justice center. My magic was quaking under pressure. I had just enough time left for one last question.

“Is it in a monument that includes a horse?”

“Yes,” Mr. Emmens said.

The shell snapped closed, crushing my magic.

Mad Rogan grabbed me and pulled me out of the circle. The pressure and pain vanished. I felt light-headed again.

His gaze searched my eyes. “Speak to me.”

“I hate you.”

“Okay.” Mad Rogan let go of me. “You’re fine.”

He handed me the phone. I grabbed it. “Bernard, get out of there! You don’t understand, Pierce is about to burn down downtown!”

“I know. I volunteered,” he said. “Did you do it?”

Oh you idiot. “Yes! Get out of there. Don’t bother with the van, go down into the tunnels.”

On the screen my cousin ran down the street.

I turned to Rogan. “Don’t ever ask my family to volunteer for anything.”

“Don’t you want to know what it is?” Mr. Emmens asked.

We gaped at him.

“The hex covers what it does and where it is, but not what it is,” he explained. “It’s a forty carat green flawless diamond. The color is the result of natural irradiation.”

“I have to go,” Rogan told me.

“I’m coming with you.” I would see this to the end. I would get through this and punch Adam Pierce in the face while Rogan dug the last piece of the artifact out of that horse.

“Fine. Keep up.” He turned and ran. I spun to Augustine. “I need handcuffs.”

One of the computer techs opened a drawer and tossed a pair to me, together with keys.

“Thanks!” I caught them and chased Rogan down the hallway.

“Stop,” Augustine yelled.

I turned.

“You’re a drained battery. You have no magic left. What could you possibly do to Pierce?”

“She can shoot him in the face.” Rogan mashed the elevator arrow.

“If Rogan fails to stop him, you’ll die,” Augustine called out.

The doors swung open.

“If he fails, we’re all dead anyway,” I told him and ducked into the elevator with Mad Rogan.

Two lanes of traffic filled Caroline Street. The cars in both lanes faced south, away from downtown. Nothing moved. The cars were abandoned. Their owners must’ve gone into the tunnels.

Mad Rogan took the corner too sharp. I grabbed onto the door handle to steady myself. The Audi jumped the curb and landed on the sidewalk. The side of the vehicle scraped against the building. Mad Rogan stepped on the gas. We barreled down the sidewalk, the Audi screeching in protest as the stone scraped the driver’s side. Ahead a lamppost loomed. I braced myself. The post snapped off and flew aside.

“Try not to kill us,” I squeezed through my teeth.

“Don’t worry. Wouldn’t want to disappoint Adam.”

Before us Congress Avenue was completely clogged with cars. The green trees of the Bridge Park shivered in the breeze just beyond the traffic.

The Audi slid to a screeching stop. I jumped out, my Baby Desert Eagle in my hand, and ran ahead, between the cars. The park occupied a single city block. I saw the bronze statue of the Riding Cowboy through the trees. The horse’s head was gone, melted into a puddle of cooling metal goo. Next to the horse stood Adam Pierce. The third eye of Shiva sat on his forehead: three rows of uncut diamonds crossed by a vertical eye shape studded with bloodred rubies. In the middle of the eye shape, where the iris would be, an enormous pale green diamond shone in the sun, like a drop of pure light somehow captured and faceted and set among the lesser stones.

I sighted Adam Pierce, aimed for the center mass, and fired. The bullets punched the space near Adam and fell harmlessly to the grass. I kept firing, walking straight at him. My gun spat the bullets, the sound too loud in my ears.

Boom. Boom. Boom.


I was out.

I lowered the gun. We stood face-to-face, Adam and I. Directly around him, the grass lay flat. He was in a magic circle, not one drawn with chalk but one made by the third eye of Shiva.

“Null space,” Adam said, his voice quiet. “You’re too late.”

“Why? Why, Adam? Thousands of people will die. Don’t you care? Don’t you care even a little bit?”

“Look around you,” he said. “You see all this? It looks good, but once you look deeper, you’ll see the rot. All of it is rotten to the core.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The establishment,” he said. “Their so-called justice system. Justice. What a joke. It’s not justice; it’s oppression. It’s a system designed to shackle those who can to those who can’t. The rot is everywhere. It’s in the politicians, in the businessmen, and in the courts. There is no repairing it. There is only one way to get rid of it. I am going to purify the downtown.”

“There are people down in the tunnels, normal ordinary people, Adam. They have nothing to do with your rebellion.”

“They have everything to do with it.” He faced me, his eyes completely lucid. “They are dragging us down. They prevent us from taking what is rightfully ours. You see, we bought into this entire bullshit utilitarianism. We had it pounded into us that good is whatever benefits the majority. Well, I don’t give a f**k about the majority. Why should I care about their laws and their needs? If I have the power to obtain and to keep the object of my desire, then I should be able to do so.”

“And if someone stronger takes it from you?”

He spread his arms. “So be it. Now you’re getting the picture. I’m illuminating the rot. I’m a freedom fighter. I’m freeing us. I’m severing the chains.”

“The way you tried to free me from my family?”

He nodded. “I thought you’d understand, but you weren’t ready. You either have the power or you don’t, Snow. Power is action, and today I choose to act. I will turn this place to ash, like a rotten forest, and watch the new growth stretch to the sun. I will be remembered.”

“So you want this to be your legacy? You want to be the one who burned alive thousands of people? Families? Children? Listen to yourself. You can’t be this monster.”

He raised his finger to his lips. “Shhh. Save your breath. The old world is about to end, and you have a front-row seat.”

We’d failed. We’d failed so miserably. Everything was over. There was nothing we could do now.

“I liked you, Snow,” he said. “Sorry you won’t get to see it. No hard feelings?”

There was no reasoning with him.

“Hello, Mad Rogan.” Adam stretched Mad into a three-syllable word. “We meet at last. How does it feel to come up second best?”

“Nevada,” Mad Rogan said. “Come here.”

“I almost feel sorry for you, man.” Adam grinned. “You had a chance to be invited to the party, but your own cousin made you into a patsy instead. God, that’s got to suck.”

Mad Rogan took me by the hand and pulled me to him, leading me away from Adam.

We were going to die. Houston would burn. It was over.

“Nothing to say, oh Great One? Come on, Scourge of Mexico!” Adam called. “Look at me when I’m talking to you. I’m about to incinerate your ass.”

Rogan glanced at him. “It’s your party. You’re wearing the tiara. Try to be a gracious host.”

Adam’s face flushed.

“Fuck you!” He stabbed his index finger in our direction. “Fuck you, man. Fuck both of you.”

“Kids these days.” Mad Rogan shook his head. “No manners.”

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