Home > Downpour (Greywalker #6)(14)

Downpour (Greywalker #6)(14)
Author: Kat Richardson

I raised my eyebrows, but I didn’t say anything. Newman cast a hard look at me as we reached the top of the steps. “Are you listening to me?”

“I am. But so far you haven’t said anything.”

“You have a fast mouth.”

I just used my fast mouth to smile at him.

He snorted again and led me down the hall to a door that stood ajar on the left—the water-facing side of the house. He tapped on the door and said his wife’s name. “You ready for us?”

Her voice came back, much softer this time than before. “Come in, Geoff. Ask our visitor to wait.”

Geoff looked at me and I shrugged, leaning back against the opposite wall in a show of patient nonchalance. He nodded and, for the first time, he didn’t scowl. The spiking energy around his head dimmed and he entered the room, taking care to block my view and close the door completely once he was inside. I loafed in the hall, watching the play of strange energy along the floors and shooting at random through the open spaces. It was a lot like what I’d seen on the shore outside the ranger station farther down the lake. I wondered whether it was the standard configuration of magic here, or if there was something special about the places where I’d spotted it so far. A few of the strands crawled toward me and started to curl around my body, stroking at me like the tentacles of a curious octopus. That, I thought, was not normal, so I caught one between my fingers, taking a cold electric shock for my pains, and flicked it away before I bent an edge of the Grey around me, making a thin, silvery barrier between me and the sneaking strings of energy. They pulled away with a jerk and disappeared into the walls.

I let go of my temporary shield as the door opened. Geoff waved me in.

I stopped in the middle of the room to look around before I went any farther. The space was dominated by the odor of illness and a large hospital-style bed that stood near the wall-wide window on the lake-facing side of the building. The center of the room was empty, but the edges were lined with various medical equipment and aids, including an unused wheelchair, a few locked cabinets, and shelf after shelf of big old books. A table stood against the wall opposite the bed with two dining chairs. Another, cozier chair sat near the head of the bed, away from the view and next to a bank of medical monitors and machinery with flickering lights and glowing switches. The last bit of wall between the bed and the window held a smaller table with a large, closed wooden box on top.

Jewel Newman sat in the bed, propped upright by the mechanism under the mattress and a buttress of pillows. She’d changed out of the antique housecoat and now wore an equally old silk bed jacket over her plain white nightgown. It made her look like a Hollywood ghost. I could see how crabbed and skeletal her hands were as she rubbed one over the other in her lap.

“Come over here,” she ordered.

I don’t care to be commanded, but since I wanted to get closer to her, I went. Up close, I noticed she was rubbing one particular, bent finger as if it hurt and she was trying to hide a slight swelling. She’d wiped the sweat off her face and I could smell powder. Apparently she still cared about her appearance.

“So,” she started, “you’re a private investigator—among other things.” She didn’t look at me. She kept her head straight, facing the wall opposite the bed, but her eyes strayed to the half-drawn curtains that covered the windows on her right. Her weak, colorful strands of energy reached out, waving in the air but never touching me. I guessed she hadn’t liked what I’d done to the one that had tried to curl around me in the hall.

“Yes,” I replied.

“And you have some news about my father.”

“He’s dead. But I think you know that.”

She bowed her head and stared at her feet under the white coverlet.

“They pulled his car out of the lake today,” I continued. “I assume you saw it.”

She took a slow breath. I could hear Geoff stir and start to move toward me, but she put out her left hand, waving a little to hold him off.

“I wasn’t at the window when they . . . retrieved it. How did they make the identification?”

“They haven’t yet. But it’s his car and I know the skeleton in it was his.”

Now she finally looked at me. “How? How do you know?”

“He told me.” I looked at her bruised finger—it was swollen and reddened as if the injury had just happened. It hadn’t been that way when she’d leaned on her canes earlier; she hadn’t favored one hand or cocked the finger up to relieve the pressure.

She followed my gaze and covered her misshapen hand. “You have a strong grip.”

I nodded, figuring she took physical control of her extruded energy and had taken the pain for it as well when I had pinched it off. “I didn’t realize that was you or I would have been gentler.”

She scoffed. “Don’t coddle me—I don’t like it. Now, I know you can touch the power and that you don’t like being poked and probed any more than I do. All right. Why did you come? What did you know? That’s what you need to tell me.”

“I don’t need to tell you anything, but your dad might appreciate it if I spoke up.”

She made a face as if she smelled something foul, but waved at me to continue.

“I saw his ghost on Tuesday. Down on East Beach Road. He said his death wasn’t an accident and he mentioned you and your sister.”

“Hah! I’ll bet he didn’t.”

“He said ‘my daughters.’ But he didn’t mention your names, which is why it took me a few days to find you.”

“More likely you were looking for some way to profit from what you knew. What did you think, that I’d give you a reward for finding the body after all these years?” Jewel snapped.

“No. Mostly I hoped your dad would go away if I found out what happened to him and got someone to do something about it. I haven’t seen him since we first pulled the car out of the lake. He went away. But it didn’t seem to be easy; the lake tried to keep the car.”

“It doesn’t give up its treasures readily,” she agreed.

“It gave up Hallie Latham.”

Jewel gave another of her dismissive snorts. “That was before the others came. That was before . . . all of this turned into so much filth and corruption.” She waved her bruised and shaking hand toward the half-drawn curtains, now turning a strange pink. She glanced toward her husband. “Geoff, you can go.”

He stepped up to the side of the bed and reached for her hands. “I won’t. Baby, you shouldn’t be alone with this . . . woman. You don’t know what—”

She batted him away with impatient swipes. “I know exactly what she wants, Geoffrey! Now get out.”

He stepped back, shocked, and then started for the door.

Jewel relented just as he touched the knob. “I’ll call for you, dear. It won’t be long.”

He nodded, still dejected, and went out.

Jewel sighed. “He’s a good man. But I suppose it isn’t easy living with a witch like me. I’m a horrible old woman, sick and dying, and I want my own way. I want my way about this, too.”

“You can’t be very old, Mrs. Newman. Your father would have been seventy-two this year. So what are you . . . forty-five? Fifty?”

“I’m forty-nine. But I might as well be a hundred.” She picked up a small white remote from the table on the far side of the bed. “That’s what this lake has done to me. What pride and stupidity made of me.” The curtains drew back as she pressed on the remote with shaking fingers. “Do you know what they call this place? What they should have called it if they were telling the truth?”

“Sunset Lakes,” I answered, remembering the story the clerk at the county offices had told me.

The curtains stopped moving at the extreme edges of the window, revealing the lake, carmine red in the reflected light from the sunset below the western peaks. The water lay so still and deep, the colors of the landscape washed away completely in the darkness beneath and the ruddy light from above, that it looked thick, as if it had poured down into the basin from some giant’s wound.

“Blood Lake. That’s what they should have called it,” Jewel said. “For all the blood it’s swallowed and all the horror it’s spat right back.” She stared out at the lake as if it mesmerized her. “The Indians say there used to be a beautiful river valley here, the Valley of Peace. But the people in the valley got to fighting and Storm King wanted to shut them up, to punish them for making war, so he tore off the peak of his mountain and threw it down into the valley—right here, right where we are now—and he dammed up the river. All the people in the valley drowned and the lakes formed over their corpses. That’s what this is, a valley full of blood, a lake full of death.”

“Is that what you think killed your father? Some kind of curse?”

“What do you think, Miss Harper Blaine? Don’t be so surprised. I’m sick and broken, but I still have ways of knowing what I need to know.”

“I don’t doubt that, Mrs. Newman. But your father—”

“Was killed by one of them. By one of the mages who came flocking to our lake and drank in the power like greedy dogs. One of those . . . bastards killed my father. All of them, maybe. And all of them are going to pay.”

“What about your sister, Willow? Couldn’t it have been her?”

“It might well have been. The Powers know she didn’t have any love for our father or any care about the lake. She’s as bad as the rest.” Jewel collapsed in a fit of coughing, her near hand scrambling like a spider over the coverlet for an oxygen mask that lay on her pillow as an alarm began squealing on the monitors beside the bed.

I picked up the mask and put it in her flailing hand. I watched her clap it onto her face and suck in the gas to regain control of her breathing. I thought I should have felt more moved by Jewel’s condition, but something about her chilled my sympathy.

The bedroom door banged open and Geoff darted in, heading for the bed, but drew up short when he saw that Jewel already had the mask to her face. He glowered at me, but Jewel waved him away again, lowering the mask for a moment to say, “I’ll call you, Geoff. Go away now.”

“Jewel,” he protested.

She took the mask down again, but this time her voice was tender. “I will call for you.”

Newman stiffened his jaw, his mouth turning down as he tried to hold it steady and his eyes got wet. Then he wheeled and marched out, back and shoulders stiff.

I waited a while for Jewel to be ready to speak again, watching the fast-fading sunset color the lake darker and darker, like a stain.

Finally she put the mask aside. “Miss Blaine, I don’t have the luxury of beating around the bush. I’m sure you wonder why I didn’t make a report when Daddy went missing. But I knew he was dead, and I also knew it would only make things worse for me if I said anything. I didn’t want to be the subject of a murder investigation—my family’s had enough of that. I tried to discover what had happened on my own, but I couldn’t, and in trying . . . this was the result,” she added, waving at the machines and the hospital bed. “There was—there is—no one here I could trust to carry on the investigation. Not anyone with any power, at least, and I’m sure you understand that any normal person would be eaten alive by the things that drink from this lake. I think my father tried to stop these things—these poachers and despoilers and their filthy familiars—and I am sure one of them killed him and dumped his body in the lake to feed the power. I want to know, but more than that . . . I want them all to stop. I want them to stop using the lake. I want them all to die. At the very least I want them broken, driven away from here forever. Do you understand?” She stared at me, unwavering, the colors around her head clinging close, weaving into a snowy veil of white.

White: the color the Chinese used for death and mourning.

“I can understand that,” I replied, noncommittal. I knew it would get ugly and I wasn’t sure I needed to be the one to do it. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t want to do it, either. The proprietary fury that rolled off Jewel made me sick and her desire for bloody revenge repelled me.

Something yellow touched the distant side of her face and she cocked her head over as if listening to it, still watching me the whole time, calculating. She straightened up with an effort and nodded. “You do understand. I know that. I know your own father was driven to death by magical things.” Her voice had a disturbing singsong quality, carried on a thread of magic. “You can sympathize. You understand. I know you’ll do this. For me. For both of us.”

She was trying to play me and that was the last straw. I slammed down my mental doors and narrowed my eyes, letting cold disgust flow out at her. I took a step back. “Not for my sake,” I said. “And not for yours, either, you bitter old woman. You don’t understand one thing about me.” I’d already done my time with family vengeance. I wasn’t going to shoulder that gnawing burden for someone else, especially not for her.

I turned on my heel and started out, in that moment not caring if the lake drank up another hundred life forces before it finally destroyed whoever was using it—and I was sure it would, judging by the toll it was taking on Jewel Newman. I didn’t care who’d killed Steven Leung any longer. I told myself the county or the feds or the city of Port Angeles would find out eventually and that was no longer my job. I’d done what I’d come to do.

“I’ll pay you,” Jewel called out from the bed.

She couldn’t possibly pay me enough. I ignored her and reached for the doorknob.

Hot Series
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
» The Iron Druid Chronicles read online
» A Shade of Vampire Series read online
» The Sullivans Series read online
Most Popular
» Savor (Billionaire Bachelors Club #3)
» Torn (Billionaire Bachelors Club #2)
» Crave (Billionaire Bachelors Club #1)
» Intoxicated (Billionaire Bachelors Club #3.
» Never Let You Go (Never Tear Us Apart #2)
» Never Tear Us Apart (Never Tear Us Apart #1
» Four Years Later (One Week Girlfriend #4)
» Drew + Fable Forever (One Week Girlfriend #
» Three Broken Promises (One Week Girlfriend
» Second Chance Boyfriend (One Week Girlfrien
» One Week Girlfriend (One Week Girlfriend #1
» Taming Lily (The Fowler Sisters #3)