Home > Downpour (Greywalker #6)(13)

Downpour (Greywalker #6)(13)
Author: Kat Richardson

“Jewel’s the oldest of Steven’s kids. Married a fella named Geoff Newman back quite a few years now. They were in high school over at Piedmont together, but you couldn’t have called them sweethearts. The Leung kids have been trouble since they were little. The girls got a lot worse once their mother and brother died. Not that the brother was a prize—he was argumentative and arrogant.”

By now the flatbed had made it to the road and disappeared, heading for Port Angeles. Strother waved to us and then took off in his own car, leaving me and Ridenour to lock up the ranger station. As we walked toward his park service pickup truck, Ridenour continued the story. “I don’t know what Newman’s got—aside from money—but when he came back from college, he and Jewel hooked up and got married in a big hurry. You might be thinking he got her pregnant, but there never was a child, and she settled down to doing a lot of community work around the area—busybody stuff, if you ask me. The residents treat her like the queen of the lake. What she says goes with most of them. Except with her sister and a couple others.”

We got into his truck and Chaos stuck her nose out of my pocket to sniff the warm, weird smells, but decided she wasn’t too crazy about them and burrowed back down to nap some more. “What’s the story on Willow, then?” I asked.

Ridenour ground his teeth as he started the engine. “She’s just plain-ass wild. Half-crazy and all dangerous and no way to know how she got that way—both her folks were fine people.” He started driving and I kept on asking questions.

“Strother said there were warrants—for what?”

“Well, aside from a couple of homicides, there’s the petty stuff like smoking pot, trespassing, and vandalism, and then she got into breaking and entering, burglary, robbery, and a few other unsavory things. Most of it’s been down around Lake Sutherland and below—which is outside the federal park property—but not all of it. I can’t say I’m pleased to have a few federal charges to press if she’s ever caught—I don’t really like that aspect of my job when you come down to it—but Willow is dangerous. Unpredictable and crazy enough to do damned near anything. Something goes bad around here that isn’t caused by bears or tourists acting stupid, you can bet it’s Willow.

“She’s the best damned woodsman you’ll ever meet, though. That’s the mixed blessing of her having been born and raised here. She can track and hide in this country like no one’s business, which has made her impossible to catch. You’d almost think the trees and animals are on her side or something, and she’s as crafty and as mean as one of our mountain lions. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if she hadn’t killed her dad herself over some damned thing. She’s that mean and crazy. And she’s killed before, so it’s not like she’s squeamish about it.”

“Who did she kill and why?”

“Well, we’re not entirely sure she killed her brother—though that’s the general belief—but we do know she killed a telephone lineman who was working out around Lake Sutherland one summer.” His voice dripped disgust. “She claims he raped her and she shot him in self-defense when he came round for a second try, but she never reported the first incident, and the man was shot with her rifle from one hell of a distance, which sounds like lying in wait, not self-defense.”

“How did you get this statement from her?”

“Well,” he started, but the rest of his words were cut off by a squeal from the truck’s radio and a voice calling out for him to respond at once. Ridenour snatched the hand piece off its hook and barked back. “What the hell is it?”

“This is Metz out at Hurricane Ridge station. We have a situation.”

“What sort of situation?”

“You’re not going to believe this, Brett, but . . . we’ve got animals in the parking lot attacking the trucks, and that damned Leung girl seems to be with them.”

“Willow?”

“Yep. I’ve never seen anything like it—it’s like the critters are working for her or something. You need to get out here ASAP. There’s just me here and the rifle’s in the truck. I think I’m OK in the visitor center, but the rest of the station’s getting a hell of a mauling.”

“What sort of critters are we talking here?”

“Bunch of those crazy white deer, including some big bucks, couple of pissed-off bears—”

“You sure it’s bears?” Ridenour asked. I was wondering if the bears and deer weren’t ugly white guai instead.

“Damn it, Brett, I know a bear when I see one! One of ’em’s old Blaze, and I don’t know what got that grizzled old bastard out of his cave this early, but he’s having a ball ripping the doors off the compost shed. Those bucks are ramming everything he hasn’t ripped into yet and I don’t know why he hasn’t tried to eat one of ’em, but if you don’t get here soon, we’ll be knee-deep in mulch and bear poop!”

Ridenour swore. He turned to me with eyes slightly too wide and wild. “I’m going to drop you off at the top of the road down to Jewel’s place. You’ll be perfectly safe walking down to the house, and her husband can drive you back to the station at Storm King to pick up your truck when you’re done.”

“Done ?”

“Yeah. You’re going to have to give her the bad news about her dad yourself. I gotta go catch her crazy-ass sister !”

TEN

In a few minutes I found myself at the top of a steep graveled road with Ridenour’s park service truck vanishing into the distance. He didn’t seem to think it was odd that Willow Leung was apparently leading wild bears around—bears that should have still been tucked up at the end of winter hibernation, not rampaging around ranger stations. Frowning over the strange behavior of bears and park rangers, I started down the road to Jewel and Geoff Newman’s house.

It turned out to be the big glass-fronted house at the end of East Beach that I’d spotted down the shoreline from the sunken car. The place was impressive: two stories of wood and glass that spread across half the wide lot directly on the waterfront at one of the few locations with any beach to speak of. Remnants of an old dock clung to the shore at the extreme southeastern end of the property where the wedge shape of an ancient landslide had filled in the ground between Lake Crescent and Lake Sutherland. I didn’t even have to move toward the Grey to see the glimmer of blue power that ran under the ground to the other lake. The power lines and smears of color were stronger here, closer to the source, I guessed, than at Lake Sutherland.

In the Grey, the house was darker than the surrounding landscape in spite of being well illuminated with electric lights, as if the house somehow defied the energy—or drank it without a trace. Something magical lived here. The memory of an older, more rustic building flickered over the modern house. I was thinking I should take a deeper look at the area, when the front door opened.

A man stood silhouetted in the bright doorway and called out to me. “You can come in or you can go away, but you can’t just stand there.”

I shrugged and started walking toward him. His shape changed as I moved closer, and I realized he’d picked up something from inside the house. The long black shape set off a nervous stirring in my chest—it was a rifle. He didn’t shoulder it, though. He just waited to see what I would do.

I kept on walking toward the steps that went up to the door. “Hello,” I called out. “Ranger Ridenour sent me down to talk to Mrs. Newman.”

I went up the steps, keeping my eyes on the man with the rifle. I wanted to put my hand in my pocket to keep the ferret from doing something that might upset him, but I didn’t think he’d like it if I hid my hands suddenly. As I got closer I could see him better in spite of the backlighting: He was about my height, middle-aged, judging by his posture, a little stocky. . . . Details were still hard to see with the bright electric light behind him, but when I reached the open doorway, I realized he was black and wearing dark clothes. Clallam County was so overwhelmingly Caucasian that it was almost startling to see him.

I nodded and offered my hand. “My name’s Harper Blaine. I’m a private investigator and I’d like to speak with Mrs. Newman.”

The man put the rifle down just inside the doorway. He looked me over but didn’t take my hand. “What do you want with my wife?”

“It’s about her father.”

Newman crossed his arms over his chest. His energy corona was a dull, unhealthy olive green fired with jagged bolts of frustrated orange. “What about him?” He clearly wasn’t going to let me in without more information—if he let me in at all.

“Mr. Newman, you may have noticed some activity down on the lake this afternoon, just a hundred yards or so down the shore.”

“We certainly did. Jewel’s been agitated ever since. She’s sick and she doesn’t need any more upsets today, so if you’ve come to make any more trouble, you can go back where you came from right now.” The orange sparks around his head went red as he glared at me.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Newman, but I’m afraid I may need to upset her further. The car they removed from the lake was her father’s. I can go away and let Mr. Ridenour come speak to your wife tomorrow if you prefer, but I don’t think he’ll be any easier on her. He’s currently pursuing her sister and he doesn’t seem to have a very positive attitude about the family.”

Newman snorted. “That’s the truth. But you won’t be coming up here and upsetting her, either. Whatever’s happened to that old car, it’s nothing to do with Jewel.”

“Mr. Newman, there’s a body in the car.”

“Well, it hasn’t got anything to do with us.” Everything about him seemed to darken and pull in.

Distantly, a noise moved through the house and a weak voice tried to call out, but the words were too hard to hear. I could see something that sparkled with magic skitter across the floor of the open second-story balcony and down the stairs on my right. Whatever it was died out as it got halfway down. A rhythmic thumping started. I could tell from the slight tightening at the corners of his eyes that Newman heard it; he just refused to acknowledge it in front of me.

I tried again, this time leaning a little on the Grey to persuade him. “Mr. Newman, I really think your wife will prefer to hear this from me. I know a few things about what happened to your father-in-law that Ridenour doesn’t.”

He frowned, considering. I think he still would have slammed the door in my face, but the thumping had grown closer and now the voice called out again, strong enough to make itself heard and shivering with the sound of power. “Geoff, let the woman in.”

Geoff Newman snorted in disgust, but he stepped back and let me enter the house.

From the entry, the living room’s two stories of glass windows flooded the room with the light of late afternoon. It was gray with thin streaks of pink today as the clouds broke, but it would have been spectacular in summer sunshine with the colors of the lake reflecting onto the white and scrubbed-wood walls. But as arresting as the view was, the woman on the staircase landing was far more commanding.

Given her family name, I had expected her to be purely Chinese, but one of her parents plainly hadn’t been. She was only slightly lighter-skinned than her husband and wore a vintage silk housedress that made her look like an image from some other time and place. She wasn’t tall or beautiful; her posture was stooped and broken far beyond mere age, and she held herself steady with two heavily carved canes. Her face was broad and dark, lines of pain destroying the oncegraceful arch of her brow and obscuring the tilt of her eyes. No, she wasn’t pretty and probably never had been more than “exotic” with her Asian features in dark brown skin, but a dim nimbus of energy strands in blue, green, yellow, and red reached out from her in every direction, touching a million things, even though the power of each strand individually was weak. She coughed like someone who’d smoked two packs a day since age five, and the energy around her retracted for a moment, pulling back into her as if it sought to keep her going just a little longer.

Then she caught her breath again, a glow of sweat on her face, and looked down at me and her husband. “Come up,” was all she said, her voice quiet, but as it rode down to us on the amplifying effect of magic, we had no difficulty hearing her. Then she turned around, lurching in a pain-wracked half circle, and went away, her canes thumping on the hardwood floors as she vanished into the upstairs hall.

I stepped inside, watching her disappear. I felt as if I’d walked through a net of electricity, sensing the persistent pulse of her power in the very walls of the house. The energy the building had seemed to soak up from the lake was plainly the source of some magic of hers.

Newman huffed and closed the door behind me. “You can follow me,” he said, orange and red sparks jumping from him in the Grey.

He led me up the stairs on the right, though now that I was inside, I could see there was a second staircase to the left that led up to the open gallery running across the otherwise-open vault of the living room. A closed hall at each end led to private rooms that gave off the dull, cold radiation of emptiness. The house had been designed for a lot of people, but it housed only two.

“Don’t get the impression I’m in favor of this,” Newman warned me as he started up the stairs, ignoring the heavy rail of a chairlift installed on the staircase’s back wall. “Whatever you’ve got to say, you’d best say it quick and get out. I don’t want you upsetting Jewel any further. She adored Steven. Don’t you believe anyone who says otherwise. Especially not Ridenour. That is one angry, bitter man, and you can’t trust a word he says.”

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