Low Midnight Page 40

She put it in her pouch and would think on this further.

*   *   *

SO MUCH for the romance of the American West. Anderson Layne, Jess Nolan, all of them were a pale shadow of those old days. No, that wasn’t right. These days, these people were probably not so very different at all. Just as venal, just as criminal. These days simply hadn’t had time to gain a veneer of romance. No one had yet told any thrilling tales of men like Anderson Layne.

She had thought to use the casing she’d found at Sand Creek for some kind of charm or talisman. Even if it hadn’t been used in the massacre, the fact of its age, of its lying in such a place of power, would give it some small usefulness. But she never got the chance. She didn’t know what happened to her belongings after her arrest. Confiscated and given away, she imagined. Thrown in a trash heap. This was why returning to her childhood home to retrieve what few things she’d left behind there had become so important, last year when Cormac went to London with Kitty. It had been a small treasure hunt, but such a large prize, because it was all she had.

*   *   *

HIS RINGING phone woke Cormac up. He took a long time to crawl to wakefulness, as if the ringtone was some thread from a dream, not at all real, and his conscious mind dismissed it. But it didn’t stop. He grabbed his phone from the crate he used as a bedside table. Three A.M. The number wasn’t Kitty or Ben calling, which meant it wasn’t an emergency as far as he was concerned.

He answered anyway, and Layne talked at him. “Bennett, oh God, Bennett, you have to get over here.”

Cormac flopped back on the bed, stared at the ceiling, and bit back a curse. “Did you get my message?”

“No … no, there’s no time for that, you don’t understand—”

“I can’t help you,” Cormac said. “I’m not working for you. Leave me out of your shit.”

“But—but this is crazy! I don’t know anyone else who can help!”

“What about your guy, Kuzniak? Let him figure it out.” He almost hung up at that, but Layne let out a wail.

“That’s just it! He’s dead! He’s been killed!”

Chapter 16

BY DAWN, he was driving back down the freeway.

Perhaps Nolan and company aren’t as harmless as we thought.

He didn’t have a clue. But a guy named Milo Kuzniak dying under mysterious circumstances—he had to check it out. Layne hadn’t been able to tell him much, just that Milo didn’t have a mark on him, which ruled out Eddie the skinwalker and Nolan’s rifle, and nobody knew what had happened. Cormac had told him to call the police, let them investigate. But that would have invited scrutiny of everything else Layne had going on at his compound. So, no, he would not call the police.He wanted Cormac.

Cormac kept thinking he should have refused to help. But he also thought he could stick around just long enough to get an idea about what happened. Maybe he’d find the key to the whole damned puzzle.

Amelia had him pack a few things, different odds and ends than what he usually carried around in his pockets: red pillar candles and a round, frameless mirror. There was something familiar about the items, but it was from one of her memories, not his, and she was keeping thoughts about it to herself. Something he ought to learn to do, since she always seemed to be able to tell exactly what he was thinking.

Because you’re very emotional. You do a good job of hiding it from everyone, but behind all that you’re rather a mess.

Last thing he needed was the back of his own head psychoanalyzing him. He knew he was a mess. He dealt with it. He turned up the radio in the Jeep so he wouldn’t have to hear himself think.

The sun was up and burning off the winter chill when he arrived at Layne’s compound. He turned into the drive, ready to roll all the way to the front of the house, but a body lay in the middle of the dirt tracks. Milo Kuzniak the younger, splayed face up, arms and legs spread out, no obvious signs of violence on the body.

He considered slamming the Jeep into reverse and getting the hell out. This—approaching a potential crime scene, disturbing a crime scene with no intention of telling the cops about it—was exactly the kind of thing Ben and Kitty were worried about him getting into. This could get him thrown back in jail.

You have gloves, yes?

Sometimes, he wondered if Amelia wasn’t worse than he was. He found his leather gloves shoved on the dashboard.

Layne had been watching for him. He came walking up from the house as soon as Cormac left the Jeep, and had a rifle tucked under his arm. Cormac glanced at the house, wondering if Mollie was around. He hoped not, what with people dying and all. He ignored Layne and went to the body.

Cormac wasn’t a forensics guy. He’d read a couple of books because Amelia wanted to learn, and he figured, why not. Mostly, it told him where the TV shows got everything wrong. But he knew a little. The body’s stiffness meant Milo had been lying here for a while, but he hadn’t started to stink. His eyes were open, his lips slack. No blood, no wounds, no nothing. The guy looked smaller, somehow.

He questioned Amelia: did magic do this?

We’ll find out.

“Thanks for coming,” Layne said, which was decent of him. He seemed a lot calmer now than he had on the phone. The panic had subsided. That made Cormac suspicious.

“I ought to just keep driving, Layne. I’m doing you a favor.”

“I figure I paid you enough for the werewolf job, I earned a little extra work from you.”

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