Low Midnight Page 15

Cormac shook his head at a third chair and remained standing nearby, listening in but looking elsewhere. Wasn’t his conversation, but he felt like he was standing guard.

Judi started: “He says you were with Amy when she died.” Not a question, almost an accusation.

Kitty’s smile was comforting, sad. “Not exactly. She was still alive when I left her. But we were in a cave, part of an old defunct mine up near Leadville. It collapsed while she was still inside. She … she knew she wasn’t going to make it.”

Kitty was very calm during this explanation. Cormac and Ben had arrived on the scene shortly after the cave-in—the noise of it, the rumble of a minor earthquake shuddering along the hillside, had drawn them to the location. She’d texted Ben, left a message with a GPS tag he’d been able to track, but the mine collapse had guided them the last hundred yards. Kitty had been missing for a week, and she’d looked like the survivor of some horror movie, coated with grime, torn clothes hanging off her, a wild look in her eyes. A starved wolf breaking out of a trap.

Hard to believe this was the same person. He’d been holding a rifle at the time, and a small corner of his mind had wondered if he’d have to shoot at her. When Ben arrived, she’d fallen into his arms, one of those beautiful scenes of reunion and love. He’d stepped aside, like usual.

Frida arrived with mugs of tea, gave one to Judi first, and Kitty accepted the next. She didn’t offer one to Cormac, and that was fine.

“She caused the cave-in. I don’t know exactly everything that happened, but there was a lot of magic involved. She and the people she was with were working a very powerful ritual. I was there because they kidnapped me, they needed a werewolf queen in order to work the spell—” She shook her head, as if she still hadn’t made sense of it. “They opened a door, and a demon stepped through. Amy tried to banish it, but couldn’t, so she brought down the cave to close the doorway on the thing. She didn’t make it out, but two of us did. She saved our lives.”

Judi gripped her mug and appeared dazed, as if she had just been informed about the death. “When I taught her, it was all charms, simple spells, nature magic. Nothing that would collapse a cave. What happened to her? These people she was with, this ritual—she knew better than to bother with anything that might summon a demon. What was she trying to do?”

“She was trying to save the world,” Kitty said, straightforward, without irony. “She was kind of nuts. But she was brave.” She took a sip of her tea, hiding her expression.

Cormac had a feeling Kitty was being kind, painting the girl in a better light than Cormac—or anyone else—would have. Probably for the best. Maybe her family would feel better remembering her as a hero. Didn’t hurt anything.

Even Amelia was gettingemotional. I see so much of myself in Amy Scanlon, which makes no sense. It shouldn’t be possible in a woman born in this era instead of mine. She had so many freedoms, so many opportunities … to have what she did and still yearn for more …

You should talk to Kitty, he told her. Get a crash course in feminism. She’d tell you there’s still plenty to yearn for.

I’m trying to decide … can I reasonably speculate about what Amy might have been thinking, simply based on my perception of our similarities? Or am I deluding myself that we had anything in common at all?

They’d just add it to the list of maybes.

“We think a lot of what she did was coded in her book of shadows,” Kitty said, kindly but still leading in a subtle way Cormac never would have been able to manage. “I would love to know what she was thinking, before she got to where she ended up.”

Judi shook a thought away and said, “So would I. She went to places I never thought of going. Never wanted to go. I’m not even sure what she was looking for.”

Kitty wasn’t a trained counselor, but she’d had plenty of practice playing amateur therapist on her radio show, and she obviously pulled those skills out now. “I’ve got her journal, her book of shadows. She told me to keep it, to use it. But we need the code to be able to do that. If you can help us with that, we’ll give you the book, you can find out for yourself what she—”

“Oh, but I don’t want that kind of magic,” Judi said, smiling sadly. “And I must say I’m suspicious of you, that you do want it.”

Kitty ducked her gaze, hiding amusement. “So you give Cormac a test, hand him this mystery and tell him to solve it, to see if he’s worthy?”

“Is he?” Frida said bluntly, tipping her head at Cormac.

Cormac himself kind of wondered what Kitty was going to say to that.

She looked up at him, lips curled. “He does all right.”

Then it was Kitty and Cormac looking back at the two of them. Kitty’s brown-eyed gaze was so sympathetic, how could anyone tell her no?

The bell on the door rang, a customer entering, and Frida went to the cash register to help. The hairless cat reappeared, jumping on the counter to rub against the woman.

“You handed me a mystery,” Cormac said. “I’m curious enough I’ll take a look at it and let you know what I come up with, whether or not you want to help us with Amy’s book. You can decide that later. How does that sound?”

Judi eased herself off the chair, collected Kitty’s empty mug. “How can I argue with that?”

Kitty pulled a business card from her pocket. “Here’s my number. If you want to talk any more about Amy, just call, any time.”

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