Low Midnight Page 41

That was exactly what Cormac thought he’d say. He gave Layne a look and stepped up to the body. He studied the surrounding area for anything out of place, signs of violence, a fight, or magic. As it was, Milo might have had a heart attack and fallen over. This needed a coroner, not a magician.

Kneeling by the body, he looked closer. Maybe not a heart attack—he didn’t look like he’d died in pain. He wasn’t tense, curled up—his muscles hadn’t been clenched. Really, the guy looked like he’d been surprised. He hadn’t even had time to turn around. Something had happened that he hadn’t expected, and it had been instantaneous.

Milo’s arms were outstretched, his hands turned up, and soot streaked his palms, as if he’d held an exploding firecracker. Or put his hands up to fend off an attack.

Cormac looked up at Layne, who stood a ways off, refusing to approach the body. “You see what happened?”

“No.” He crossed his arms. “I was expecting Nolan’s crew to come back and pull some other stunt, so we were all awake, keeping watch. Milo was out front here, all by himself. There was a bang, like somebody setting off a bomb, and I came running. Nothing was there, not even a puff of smoke, and Milo was dead, just like that. They did something to him, didn’t they? Nolan and his werewolf?”

The story didn’t sound right. Kuzniak wasn’t one of Layne’s heavies. He didn’t even carry a gun. He wouldn’t have been keeping watch at the end of the driveway all by himself.

Nolan didn’t do this, Cormac was sure. Dumb as he was, the guy wasn’t dumb enough to come after Layne on his own ground. He would have sent Eddie, and Eddie would have just torn the guy up. Even if Kuzniak had been out here by himself.

Layne wasn’t telling everything that happened. Of course he wasn’t.

“Did you listen to the message I left you?” Cormac asked.

“Not yet—”

“Nolan doesn’t have a werewolf working for him. Nolan didn’t do this. You’re being paranoid.”

“Easy for you to say. Can you tell me what happened or not?”

There’s a way to learn more. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, but he didn’t have any other ideas.

“I still think you should call the cops.” He couldn’t believe he was saying this, but missing people and dead bodies drew attention sooner or later and Cormac didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of this.

“I am not calling the cops.”

“Then I take it you have a hole to drop him into?”

“Of course.” He sounded offended.

Right. What now? he asked Amelia. We’ll need privacy.

“You go back to the house. I’ll let you know what I find.”

“What are you going to do?”

He glared. “You want me to do this or not? Go back to the house.”

Still nervous, still gripping the rifle like he’d be happy to use it if he just had atarget, Layne shuffled back on the gravel drive. Cormac watched him go, all the way to the house’s porch.

“He’s going to keep watching, you know,” Cormac murmured.

Yes, but at least his paranoia will be far away from here. And really, we don’t want him to see this.

Dead body. Mirror. Candles. “Wait a minute—”

Just let me do this. Please?

“Goddammit,” he muttered.

Get the chalk and candles. First, we’ll need a circle.

This was what Amelia’d been doing with Lydia Harcourt when she’d been arrested: questioning the body about its own murder. Convenient.

He followed her instructions. They’d worked together enough that he knew about protective circles—they didn’t just keep the magician safe while she was working her spell, but they also kept the sometimes dangerous energies from escaping and causing harm. Amelia was careful with her protections, and Cormac took his time marking out the circle, both with ground-up chalk that he kept in a jar in the Jeep, and also with the candles. The thing started looking downright sinister, and he wondered what Layne back at the house was making of it.

Pay attention, if you please.

One of these days, he was going to lose his temper at her and just walk away from this shit. And she’d stick right there with him. He could ignore her—but she’d invade his dreams and stand there, scowling at him. He couldn’t get away.

He was going to need a drink after this.

Perhaps it’s time you simply let me take charge of this.

Fine with him. Without her knowledge and experience, he could only do so much. So he stepped back.

He’d gotten used to the feeling, like he was dreaming while also being awake. He watched through his own eyes as his hands moved, his body turned, and his senses dimmed. It should have been terrifying, but it was like hunting predators, bears and wolves and the like, with the ability to turn on you and maul you to death: you couldn’t panic. Simple as that. Stay calm, keep breathing, get through it.

She always stepped aside when she finished whatever magic she was working. He kept watch, ready to take action if he needed to.

“You should trust me by now,” she spoke, using his voice. The sound was his, but the words and syntax were not.

He didn’t trust anyone. She knew that.

She pulled out the mirror she’d had him pack, laid it by the body’s head. Lit candles, burned incense, whispered words of invocation.

He felt it. Even if he hadn’t been watching for it, he would have felt the power rise from the ground itself, a tingling across his skin, a prickling as individual hairs rose on his scalp. This wasn’t scrying. Not exactly. This wasn’t just trying to read an imprint of whatever magic had happened here, this wasn’t just tracking the lines of power—she wouldn’t have needed so much ritual for that. This was something else, something more.

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