Home > Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(10)

Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(10)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

“What do you mean?”

“There are safer and easier ways than a full-frontal assault to assassinate six mages. Ask your forensics team to look for blood that didn’t belong to any of these victims,” I said. “I wouldn’t assume the assassins came away unharmed.” I took a deep breath. “This was meant to send a message. I don’t know who the message is intended for, but everyone in the shadow world had better pay attention. The Hunters are here to dance the swords, and we’d all better watch our backs.”

“But, why Westport?”

“The ley lines. In how many places in North America do major ley lines intersect?”

Even though it was four o’clock in the morning, I called Jolene, who said that she could try a necromancer spell, but she said that even if it worked, she didn’t know what it would reveal, and she had no experience reading the results.

“Do you suppose Lizzy could? I mean, she’s a seer, and the Goddess alone knows what she actually sees.”

“Yeah, let me try and call her.”

Twenty minutes later, Jolene called me back. “I’m going to pick up Lizzy. She’s willing to give it a try. What’s the address?”

We stood around for the next hour and a half until Jolene’s Toyota pulled into the driveway. She, Josh, and Lizzy got out, then Jolene retrieved her grimoire from the back seat. The book was so large that she had trouble lifting it. Josh offered to carry it, and she brushed him off. I knew it was her most prized possession.

“You’d better pay them damned good for this,” I muttered to Frankie.

“I will. Whether they have any success or not,” she said.

Blair led them through the kitchen and into the dining room. Jolene and Lizzy turned even paler than usual. Even Josh grew more and more somber as he surveyed the extent of the carnage.

“I need a space large enough to draw a circle,” Jolene said. “At least six feet in diameter, and preferably where I can see as much of the scene as I can.”

“Eight feet,” Josh said.

She pulled him off to the side, and they had a quiet but obviously heated discussion. The heat seemed to be more on her side, with Josh simply crossing his arms over his chest and looking stubborn.

I wandered over. “What’s the problem?”

“She needs a fire ring outside of hers in case anything goes wrong,” Josh said.

Jolene shook her head. “It’s not necessary.”

“Fire? Inside a house?” I asked.

He gave me a long-suffering look. “I just need to set it up. The only way I’d ignite it is if something goes wrong. And if that’s the case, a fire will be the least of your worries, and you’ll be glad that I lit it.” He turned back to Jolene. “And if mom was here, she’d back me up. You know I’m right.”

Jolene opened her mouth, but I said, “I’ll look for a place that has eight feet,” then I turned around and walked away. I might have taken chances when only my life was at risk, but if Josh, who had a tendency to be reckless, thought something was necessary to protect his sister, I was on his side.

“We need a clear space eight feet in diameter,” I told Blair. “Someplace either in the main dining room, or where Jolene can see inside the room.”

He shook his head. “Inside the room would disturb too much. Forensics would have a fit.”

“Jolene is your forensics. You can dust this place for fingerprints and try to find fibers, and it’s not going to tell you a damned thing. If you want to know anything more than you know right now, you need to adjust your way of thinking.” I waved toward the kitchen. “What kind of rational explanation is your forensics team going to find that will tell us how that guy got embedded in the wall like some kind of cartoon character?”

Blair looked through the open kitchen door and puckered his lips like he’d tasted something bitter. He didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes, then said, “If we can get that table out of the dining room, would that be enough space?”

We walked back inside, and I looked at the dining room. The table was about four feet wide and twelve feet long. Although there was debris on it, there were also several glasses still upright with liquid in them, and it didn’t look like anyone had died on it.

Blair and Frankie held a brief discussion, then some workmen were summoned, who unscrewed the top of the table from the three pedestals supporting it. The top was carried out through the room where the rapier wielder had died, and then they came back for the pedestals.

“Can you leave that center pedestal?” Jolene asked. “It would work nicely for my book.” She looked like she was about to collapse from carrying her grimoire around, but she refused to put it down or let anyone else touch it.

When the area was clear, she set her grimoire on the pedestal. She then took the large box of salt Lizzy had been lugging around and marked out her circle. Once that was done, Josh marked a second circle outside hers using coal dust. Then he went back out to her car and brought in four tall candlestick holders, which she placed at the cardinal points of her circle. She also placed a small brazier next to the pedestal and ignited a small fire in it. The incense was a relief as it helped to cloak the smell of death.

While she set up her spell, I tried to watch Blair without him noticing. All of us were intent on what Jolene was doing, but I doubted Blair had ever seen a magic spell of that magnitude before.

Jolene and Lizzy stepped inside the circle, and Jolene lit the candles. Opening her grimoire to a place she had marked, she took a deep breath, looked around, then began to read a chant aloud. When she finished, she sketched a rune in the air in front of one of the candles. It hung there—red fading to orange—and when it completely faded away, she began another chant.

After she had sketched runes in front of all four candles, she sprinkled something on the fire in the brazier, which caused it to flare.

Lizzy gasped, and I saw Jolene take a deep breath, her eyes widening. For the next seven minutes, neither of them moved. I didn’t see anything happening, and based on the expressions of the others in the room, neither did they. Josh, I noticed, wasn’t paying attention to either the girls or the other living people in the room. His eyes were on the corpses.

Jolene slumped, and Lizzy closed her eyes, swaying and grabbing the pedestal for balance. Like someone who had just run a long race, Jolene staggered to each of the candles and blew them out, then scuffed the salt to break the circle. Josh stepped forward and gathered her into his arms. She seemed to push him away, then collapsed against him, sobbing into his chest.

I rushed forward and pulled Lizzy to me to steady her and to give her some support. Her face and her eyes were that of someone in shock.

“I saw one of their faces.” Lizzy whispered.

Chapter 8

In another part of the house, well away from the death and destruction, Jo and Lizzy recounted what they saw.

Winslow and his friends were all seated at the far end of the table, away from the kitchen. Noise from the direction of the kitchen first got their attention, then the gunshots. Almost immediately, a man dressed in black and carrying a sword charged into the room and cut down one of the caterers. The nearest diner rose from his seat only to have his head separated from his body. Two of the other men at the table hurled energy bolts at the swordsman, but his shield either absorbed or deflected them.

A second swordsman entered the room, moving along the opposite side of the table from his partner. The other caterer went down with a stab wound, even as the swordsman delivering the blow shot an energy bolt at the nearest mage.

Both sides fired energy bolts and balls of energy at each other. The misses were evident from the holes in the walls. The mages of the Columbia Club managed to hold their own until a third black-clad figure entered the dining room.

The first two attackers had black veils covering their faces, but the veil of the new entrant into the fight hung loosely from the hood of his cloak. He stood in the doorway for at least a full minute, then the room exploded. All of the combatants except for the man at the door were knocked off their feet.

Those farthest from the center of the room recovered first. Two of the Club mages scrambled to their feet and fled into the interior of the house. The first two swordsmen leaped to their feet and charged the mages on the floor closest to them. The third Hunter rushed through the room after the fleeing mages. The way Lizzy and Jolene described it, the scene sounded like it was complete pandemonium.

From their position in the center of the dining room, neither Jolene nor Lizzy could see what happened in the other rooms. They did see the attacker who had chased the mages come back, wiping his sword with a ragged scrap of fabric.

It took half an hour for the two witches to tell what the necromantic spell revealed, and then the cops spent another half an hour asking questions.

At the end, Frankie said, “Lizzy, you said you saw one of their faces. Do you think you could describe him to one of our police sketch artists?”

Lizzy shrugged. “I guess so. This is what he looked like.”

All our jaws hung open as the projection of an illusion appeared in the middle of the room. A Hunter, shorter than six feet and broadly built, with a lined, craggy face. He had a long, down-turned nose, and salt-and-pepper hair showed beneath his cap at the temples.

I recognized Fritz Schottner immediately. His nom de guerre was Bear, and he was one of Rudolf Heine’s closest lieutenants. He was more than a hundred years old, stout and powerful physically, although lacking finesse with the sword, and a ley-line mage of considerable power.

That recognition would go both ways. We knew each other well, and if he saw me, he would have no doubt about who I was. We had sparred, and he had helped me learn to tame my magic when I was young. He also taught me about men who enjoyed rough sex. I had no doubt he had taken pleasure in the slaughter of Ronald Winslow and his dinner guests.

My first instinct was to grab everything I valued and take the next bus out of town. I managed to hold it together in front of the people at the murder scene, but inside I was melting down. I wandered outside and beyond the sight of everyone, then let the shakes hit me. The feeling of panic was almost overwhelming. A Hunter team in Westport was my worst nightmare, and a team led by the Bear was even worse. It was entirely possible that everyone on his team might recognize me.

   
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