Home > Downpour (Greywalker #6)(3)

Downpour (Greywalker #6)(3)
Author: Kat Richardson

I made a puzzled frown and lied. “Are you saying he followed me up there? I never saw him.”

Solis said nothing. He probably wasn’t taken in, but he didn’t have any proof I’d had anything to do with Will’s disappearance. All he could do was try to rattle me. There was no telltale orange flare of frustration around his head at my lack of reaction; Solis was just flying kites and waiting to see if I spooked at any of them. He’d need to have something a lot scarier if he wanted me to flip, and I doubted he’d be able to come up with anything worse than what I’d already seen and done.

I stood up as Solis put on his coat. Then I walked with him to the door. “I hope you can find him,” I said, opening the door for him to leave.

He stepped out into the hall and turned back to look at me. “Do you?”

“Of course I do.”

“And what if we find him dead?”

Knowing what I did, the words startled me a little, but I didn’t try to hide my reaction. I caught my breath and bit my lip, feeling moisture prickle in my eyes. “That—that would be tragic. But at least Michael would know what happened to his brother.”

His expression tightened, a somber pall of disappointment darkening his aura. “Michael Novak did not file the missing person report.” Solis gave me a thin smile and turned away, clattering down the wooden stairs as I remained, stunned, in my doorway.

THREE

Maybe I should have felt guilty, but I didn’t—not about Will. I knew what had happened and I couldn’t think it was a bad ending—not the best, but far from the worst, though thinking of it made me feel sad and hollow. But in the time since I’d left the hospital, it hadn’t occurred to me to wonder what Michael thought or felt—for that, I should have been contrite and I should have let him know what had happened. He must have guessed that I and my strange abilities had had something to do with Will’s disappearance, so of course he hadn’t filed a police report when his brother had vanished from the face of the earth—just like Steven Leung had vanished. I wondered if my snooping into Leung’s affairs would cause the sort of reaction from someone that Solis had seemed to expect from me. If, as I suspected, Leung had been murdered, I should brace myself for worse than a polite escort to the door. First I’d have to start rattling cages on the Peninsula and keep out of Solis’s path until I could talk to Michael, which I plainly wasn’t going to do today.

I went back to the desk and checked the late ferry schedule to the Olympic Peninsula. The last ferry left Edmonds at eleven forty-five and there were several others between now and then. I rushed to get a hotel booked and pack up some things for myself and the ferret.

I could have left Chaos with Quinton, but with my uncertain powers in the Grey, I preferred to have my clever little pet along. She saw a few of the creepy things I saw, too, and was pretty fearless, so she made a good companion when ghost hunting. Besides, leaving her with Quinton would make him suspect I was up to something dangerous, and I hated the quickly concealed worry that settled on him now when we talked about my work in the Grey. He hadn’t said anything in a while, but I knew he was still a little freaked and unhappy about seeing me die. I wasn’t pleased with it myself, but I knew, in spite of my momentary lapse at the lake, that I couldn’t ignore the Grey cases: They were my duty; there was no one else to fix them. Still, they laid an awful weight on my personal life and I couldn’t let them ruin what I had with Quinton.

When I was nearly ready to go, I left a message for Quinton to call me—he refuses to have a cell phone, so a numeric message was all I could do. He called back just as I was putting the last things into the Land Rover. I closed up the back and got into the driver’s seat as I answered the call.

“Harper Blaine.”

“Hey, beautiful.”

“Hey, yourself. Wanted to give you a heads-up: I have to go back out to the Peninsula on some more work.”

“Do you want me to look after Chaos?” His voice was just a little hesitant. I can’t “see” voices, or get any sort of magical sense from them, but I can hear just fine, and Quinton was nervous.

I chuckled as if this were nothing important. “No. I’ll take the carpet shark along—it’s just the usual kind of thing, but the drive’s too long to make two or three days in a row, so I figured I’d stay out there a couple of days. I’ll be back Sunday or Monday.” I figured I’d either have a good handle on what was going on by then, or I’d need help. I didn’t like the idea of being out in whatever caused the Grey strangeness in Lake Crescent for too long and I still had other, ordinary work that needed doing. I’d lost my perspective too easily in the recent past; I didn’t want to lose myself again.

He took a long breath and sounded much more steady when he spoke next. “Oh, well, then I’ll see you Sunday or Monday. Don’t bring back any sparkly bloodsuckers.”

“The regular kind are bad enough and I’m not planning to bring any of those back, either.”

“Suits me.” Something made a sizzling sound followed by a series of sharp pops. “Oh . . . crap, gotta go!” And he disconnected without further chat about what I was doing, leaving me unfairly relieved.

Chaos stuck her head out of my purse, as if demanding to know the source of the delay. “Sorry, fuzz butt. Don’t tell on me, OK?” I murmured, and rubbed her ears until she huffed at me and burrowed back into the bag to continue her mandatory eighteen hours of beauty sleep.

The ferry from Edmonds was full of cars, but almost none of the passengers left them to go above the car deck. The main passenger deck looked like a deserted bus station awaiting the announcement of tragedy. A few huddles of humanity were scattered along the windowed edges and a single hairy man circled the deck again and again like a caged bear. The blackness outside the windows seemed to have no division between sky and water; lights and stars scattered through them both as if the one were the same as the other. There were no ghosts on the ferry, and nothing rose from the Sound below to make itself known, but the boat still had a haunted feeling as it slipped through the night waters to Kingston. Perhaps it was my mood, but everything around me seemed colored with the strange, even where the Grey lay quiet.

The highways out to Port Angeles were narrow and twisty, a single, unlighted lane in each direction until the 101 passed the turnoff to Port Townsend, after which the road widened occasionally and looked like any other. Until then, trees and overgrown fences lent the darkened route a tunnel-like aspect punctuated by the looming shapes of buildings in the moment my headlights passed over and then left them to slink back into the dark. I was glad to reach the better-lit sections of 101 as it approached Port Angeles and seek out my hotel, leaving behind on the road the sense of something lurking just out of view.

It was almost midnight by the time I got settled into the hotel room and let Chaos out to explore a bit before bed, knowing that if I didn’t let her romp about, she’d rustle around all night in her travel cage and give me no end of dirty looks for most of the next day. As soon as I put her on the floor, she began zooming around the edges of the room with her head down and her front legs folded back, racing along with her front half flat on the carpet, as if herding some invisible thing with her nose. I cocked my head to the side and peered into the Grey, looking for the telltale motion of something barely glimpsed in the corner of the eye.

In the silvery mist of the Grey, I saw a bright blue line of energy cut through the room near one of the walls. A column of white haze darted along that line just ahead of the ferret, who harried it without mercy until it hit the corner and seemed forced to turn against the wall, sliding along the next straight line it encountered until it had made a circuit of the room. I bent over and caught Chaos on the next pass as she came near me. The white cloud of energy snapped back to the blue line and stopped as close to me as it could get, wavering like a shred of fog on a windless beach. I sank closer to the Grey, feeling myself grow thinner and less connected to the normal world as I concentrated on the misty shape.

The closer I got to being purely in the realm of magical things, the more defined the thing became, starting to look more and more like a person. I pushed deeper into the whispering, buzzing world of ghosts, reaching for an appropriate temporacline—a layer of time—where I might be able to talk to this one, but though there were several cold-edged shards of memory, none seemed to hold the specter. So it wasn’t a loop or shadow of history, but an actual roving ghost, though one that seemed stuck on the gleaming blue wire of magical energy at the moment. I took a deep breath, letting the Grey rush over me completely. And there she was.

She was Caucasian, small and pretty and young, maybe eighteen or nineteen, but bearing a weight of sorrow that aged her face before its time. She wore a long, high-waisted dress like something straight out of a Jane Austen novel, which struck me as rather strange since Washington hadn’t been settled by white people until much later in the nineteenth century. In my hand, Chaos made an aggravated chuckling noise, wriggling to get free and have another go at the spirit, which cringed away at the sound.

Even in the Grey, she was a little ragged and incorporeal, as if she were fading with the passage of time. She steeled herself against her fear and spoke, her words trembling out into the air on a cold breath that made the sounds sharp and brittle on the ear, but totally incomprehensible to me. From years of hanging around Ben Danziger, I recognized the language as Russian, but I didn’t know what she was saying. I tried to let the words roll over me, to speak their meaning into my mind as some ghosts do, but I could catch only nonsensical snatches of what she was trying to tell me. She flickered and some of her substance was sucked away into the bright blue line at her feet.

“Who are you?” I asked.

Her mouth moved, but I didn’t hear the whole name, only “. . . ’trovna . . .” Then she was yanked backward along the gleaming cobalt line, her face transforming in terror as her shape collapsed on itself, flowing away into a stream of white light, like sand falling through the throat of an hourglass. I tried to reach for her, to pull her back, but I couldn’t catch a hold of her, and the only touch I felt ripped across my fingers and disappeared with the young woman’s shade. Only a lingering shriek in my ear and a pain in my hand, as if it had been abraded by the ghost’s passage through my grip, remained as the silver mist of the Grey stood momentarily empty around me.

Panting a little with surprise, I backed out of the Grey. As I returned to the normal world, Chaos heaved a sigh and started looking around for something else to bedevil. My ghost was gone. I put the ferret back on the floor and sat on the edge of the bed, watching her make several sniffling searches of the room’s perimeter before she gave it the mustelid all clear. Then she ran back to me and put her front paws on my shin before scrambling onto my boot and trying to climb my leg to the top of the mattress.

“Lunatic,” I chided, picking her up and plopping her on the bedspread. Chaos immediately began rolling around on her back, wiggling and rubbing her ears against the cheap comforter. I stood up and went to the bathroom mirror as the ferret bounced and writhed around on the bed, digging at the comforter until she could get under it and snorkel around, raising a moving, giggling lump like Bugs Bunny burrowing to Texas in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Staring at my reflection, I mimicked the mouth shapes the ghost had made while she said her name. When I thought I had them right, I tried giving them voice. “Ahhh . . . llll . . . nnn. . . . Aaaannahhh . . . Anna.” I sounded like an idiot and looked like a moron, but I kept trying. “Mmm . . . buh . . . puh . . . Buh’trovna. Puh’trovna . . . Petrovna . . . ? Anna Petrovna?” I called her name, reaching for the Grey as I did. “Anna Petrovna! Where are you?” But the only sound was a distant kind of gasp and then silence, as if something had disappeared and left nothing but a void.

It was a strange name to come from the Grey like that. I didn’t like the coincidence of another weak ghost, like Leung, reaching out to me and vanishing, especially not a strange Russian girl who should never have been out on the Peninsula in that era. I’d dealt before with a Russian ghost who had no business being where and what he was, but he’d been strong, willful, and dangerous. Anna Petrovna was weak and helpless and . . . gone. Now there was a hole where she should have been, as if she’d been hacked from the fabric of the Grey with a dull ax. A chill ran down my back.

Chaos tumbled out of the bedclothes and thumped onto the floor, throwing herself into a frenzied war dance and baring her teeth at the blanket in her ire. I smiled, distracted from my unhappy thoughts, and picked the ferret up to toss her gently back onto the bed where she bounced around crazily with her fur on end, chuckling until she was exhausted and flopped flat as a ferret-fur rug across the nearest pillow.

“Well, I guess you’re ready for bed, then,” I muttered, scooping the limp animal up and depositing her in her travel cage. She flounced into her nest of old sweatshirt fabric while I finished setting up the cage. I could hear her issuing tiny ferret snores by the time I’d returned with her filled water bottle and food dish.

I shed my clothes onto the furniture and burrowed into my own ferret-disarrayed bed, falling asleep as quickly as Chaos had. I had a lot to do in the morning....

FOUR

Six hours of sleep was less than I’d wanted, but I needed to start early since it was Friday and I wanted to get the paper trail wrapped up quickly enough that I could get back up into the mountains before dark. I did as much of a workout as I could manage in a hotel room with no equipment; then I showered and dressed while running interference in the ferret’s plans for world domination through shoe theft.

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