Low Midnight Page 37


“I’ll figure out some other way to get at Crane’s murder. Or get at Amy’s book without help. I don’t need these guys. You’re right, they’re trouble.”

Ben might say he trusted Cormac, but that pause revealed a little too much uncertainty. Like they were still kids, right after Cormac’s father died and everyone walked on eggshells around him, wondering when he was going to blow up.

“Good,” Ben said finally.

His cousin might have been about to invite him in for a beer and further debriefing, but Cormac cut him off before he had the chance. “I’d better get going,” he said, shifting the Jeep into reverse. “It’s been a long couple of days.”

“We’ll talk later,” Ben said.

“Yeah.” He was used to being by himself, and he’d spent the whole day dealing with people. Enough was enough.

Kitty reached through the still-open window to squeeze his shoulder. “Be careful, okay? Get some ice on your face.”

She turned to walk with Ben back to the house. A conventional ranch house at the edge of the suburbs that they paid for with their real jobs. They might have been werewolves, but they were more normal than he’d ever been.

You would never have chosen normal. Would you?

“Can’t say I ever got the chance,” he muttered, and swung the Jeep out of the driveway.

*   *   *

ON THE drive back to his apartment, he called Layne, who didn’t answer. He left a message. “I tracked down your werewolf. He isn’t. Nolan and his crew, they’re just screwing around. You don’t need to worry about them, I took care of it. If it’ll make you feel better, have your guy put up protection charms against skinwalkers and keep a good watch. I don’t need the second half of your bounty, and I don’t need to sign up for your operation, whatever the hell you’re doing. I’m out.”

He’d spend tomorrow coming up with a plan B. Tonight—he deserved a cold beer and a long sleep in. At home, he started on the beer and would have forgotten about the ice on his face if Amelia hadn’t reminded him. Enough time had passed—hours—ice probably wouldn’t do any good. But he chanced a look in the bathroom mirror and the bruise had acquired a couple more colors in the intervening time. So he made up the ice pack and rested it over his eyes while he lay flat in bed.

He hardly had to think of it anymore. He closed his eyes, wanting to step out of his world. He wanted to talk to Amelia—and there they were. The meadow—dusk this time, a sunset like a lot of Colorado sunsets he’d stopped to look at, streaks of clouds glowing bright orange over shadowed mountains, bursts of fading sunlight breaking through.

He was sitting on his usual rock, looking over the creek. Amelia leaned in, doing theexact same thing Kitty had, wincing and reaching for his wounded face.

“I shouldn’t have looked in the mirror. I wouldn’t be picturing myself with a black eye then.”

“But your body remembers,” she said. She closed the last little distance, carefully touching his cheek. He flinched, but sat his ground. She wasn’t real, but her touch was gentle, a warmth against the injured skin. “Does it hurt?”

“It’s just sore.”

“Something of a badge of honor, I suppose. What’s next, then?” she asked.

“Exactly what I said. We find another way.”

“You aren’t the least bit curious about what the current Milo Kuzniak has to do with the old Milo Kuzniak and what kind of magic really is involved?”

“I’m curious, but it doesn’t matter. We’re moving on. I told Ben I wouldn’t get wrapped up with those guys, so I won’t.”

She sat on her own chunk of granite, hands folded on her lap, regarding him. She wasn’t happy, judging by her pinched expression. “I can’t let a mystery like this go.”

He knew that, had a shocking amount of experience with that now. The mystery of tracking down the vampire priest last year, the magic centered around Denver’s Speedy Marts before that—Cormac would be living a nice, quiet life, except that Kitty kept bringing him problems to solve, and Amelia was too damned passionate about digging up the powers behind them.

“I can,” he declared.

“That’s not true. You’re just as curious as I am. You hate a mystery, which means you can’t stand letting it go unsolved. I just give you the means to solve it.”

He didn’t think he hated unsolved mysteries so much as he hated loose ends. “Well, what do you suggest?”

She licked her lips, leaned forward. “There’s a spell. It’s rather complex, but not difficult. The plateau where Crane was killed—we know there’s residual magic there, we know some sort of power lingers. If we can gather the right materials—we’ll have to go to Sand Creek, do you know about Sand Creek? I think we can draw out the information we need.”

“What does this spell do?”

“It will re-create what happened—or a shadow of what happened. Perhaps then we’ll learn how Crane died.”

He didn’t really want to know what Sand Creek had to do with this kind of spell, and he didn’t want to go back to the plateau if it meant a chance of running into Layne again. The whole thing was more trouble than it was worth.

“It’s a dead end,” he said. “We keep after Layne and them, we’re just going to keep running in circles. We’ll find another way to decode Scanlon’s book.”

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