Home > Downpour (Greywalker #6)(7)

Downpour (Greywalker #6)(7)
Author: Kat Richardson

“No blood or body parts?” Mara asked.

“No, I’m glad to say.”

“Well, it’s kitchen magic of some kind.”

“Like . . . what you do when you’re cooking?” I asked, uncertain.

“Oh no. It’s a category of spell work that’s done with herbs, candles, household items.... It’s symbolic and sympathetic: An object stands in for the one you want to effect, and the herbs or powders you use in casting the spell, drawing the symbols, anointing the candles, and so on, influence varying elements and actions in the world. It’s the sort of working that led to alchemy and modern pharmacology. So when your caster moved the bit of the car into the bowl of water, he was moving the car into a body of water—or asking for some spirit to do it for him.”

“So the car’s in a body of water?”

“If the spell worked. And judging by your description of the candle’s burning down, it most likely did. The candle represents work or effort turned to your task—though you should also be looking for the source of that much power as well. Was it a very fat candle?”

I thought about it. “Yes, I think it was. And dark colored.”

“So you said. May have been black, which can mean a lot of things, but certainly it would imply that your caster wanted to obscure something. If he’d wanted to reveal a lost thing, he might have used a white candle instead. D’you see?”

“I think I do. So the fatter the candle, the more effort can be put out?”

“Potentially. If the candle burns out before you’ve got what you wanted done, you can’t just light another; it has to be the same candle—or a lot of them—burning continuously from start to finish of your spell work. The spell-caster in this case needed a lot of energy to move something as heavy as a car. So he used a fat candle and got some help, too.”

“Who or what was the helper? It glowed green and I was pretty sure it wasn’t human—or not a live one at any rate.”

“Green? Could be an elemental or some kind of a loa, though I’m not very versed in Voodoo and such. . . .”

“Voodoo?”

“Don’t make that face I know you’re making. It’s a religion, y’know. They call on spirits, called ‘loa,’ for knowledge and guidance, and the loa speak through human conduits during the ceremony. I don’t know much more about it than that except that there are several related religions with slightly different ceremonies and names. But the spell work—it’s called ‘hoodoo’—is from an even older school and a lot of other practices have adapted it.”

I sighed and picked up Chaos, teasing her with the corner of the blanket. “So this unknown person, using a nonspecific magic and pulling a lot of power from an unknown source, hid the car in the lake.”

“That would be very likely.”

“But which lake? There are two.”

“Which lake is closer to where the spell circle is?”

“They’re both nearby, though one was very close.”

“Hm . . . Which one was the caster facing? Which way did he direct the magic?”

“ Um . . . west.”

“Then it’ll be in the lake to the west.”

“Damn.”

“I take it that’s a problem?”

“Yes. The lake to the west is Lake Crescent. It’s twelve miles long and I don’t know how deep, but pretty deep.”

“Well . . . someone truly didn’t want that car found, did they?”

“No. . . . Not at all. Mara, one more thing . . .”

“Yes?”

“Do you know of any monsters associated with this sort of kitchen magic? Not just the loa.”

“Elementals, I suppose. . . .”

“Any of them look like . . . sort of large, white, horned apes or dogs with hands?”

“Not that I’ve ever seen. Elementals vary, though. They tend to resemble that from which they’re drawn, so a white, horned ape . . . sounds unlikely. At least in the tradition I know. Shall I ask Ben to look through his books?”

“Not right this second,” I replied, thinking of the time I’d spend just waiting on hold while Ben sorted through his collections of myth and legend.

Mara laughed again. “Oh no! Not now, indeed! I’ll have him try after Brian’s gone to sleep, then, shall I?”

“That would be great.”

“It’ll give him an excuse to find some new stories to frighten the boy with. I swear that child has an evil genius for trouble,” she said. “I’m sure I don’t know where it comes from.”

“Oh no?” I asked. “It couldn’t possibly come from having a witch for a mother, a mad paranormal researcher for a father, and growing up in a haunted house?”

“Sha! ’Tisn’t haunted anymore! Except by the boy-beast himself.”

I chuckled at her. Brian did have a talent for raising Cain, but at least it had mostly been of a normal kind. I thanked Mara for her help and disconnected.

Then I sat frowning over the problem of the car in the lake. If the car was or contained evidence of foul play, hiding it in the depths of Lake Crescent would have been attractive. Normally, I’d have thought the use of magic for such a mundane task as moving a car was ridiculous, but if it meant keeping your secrets between yourself and some spirit you controlled, then it didn’t look so utterly wasteful and stupid after all. Even if the wreck had been reported and someone had been sent to look for it on the road, the car would have vanished without a trace—no tire imprints or tow truck records to show how it had disappeared. If the site where I’d seen the image of Leung’s burning car had been the actual scene of the accident, it was only a few dozen yards from Lake Crescent, which teemed with wild power. Even a magical lift wouldn’t have to move it far.

But no matter how it had gotten there, if Leung’s car really was in the big lake, I had no idea how to find it or prove it.

SIX

I started my morning at the Veela Café once again, using one of their ancient computers to look up some information about Lake Crescent and Lake Sutherland. The ethereal flames of Leung’s presence kept up a dim flickering in the edges of my vision, fading further the longer I delayed. Sometimes the Internet is not your friend when you want to be reassured about the job at hand. The more I read, the more I wished the car had wound up in Lake Sutherland. The smaller lake’s average depth was only 57 feet with a maximum of 86, leaving a possibility of spotting the car, if not of sending divers to it.

Lake Crescent, on the other hand, was huge and its bottom topography mostly unknown. Maximum depth had been given as 624 feet in the 1970s, since that was as deep as the equipment used by the college fisheries project doing the survey could measure. But the depth fell into dispute when a power company had decided to lay cable across the lake. The dropped cable had continued to sink until it hit the equipment’s maximum at 1,000 feet, but it still hadn’t struck the bottom. Since the lake’s surface was at an elevation of 580 feet, the glacially formed lake bottom might lie hundreds of feet below sea level. If Leung’s car was in one of the deep crevices, it was gone forever.

I started to go, tucking Chaos down into my bag so she wouldn’t attract too much attention. One of the coffeehouse workers walked by, picking up unbused dishes. There were two employees in today—a boy and a girl, both dark-haired, young, and funky-cute, probably high school kids working the weekend shift. The girl paused to take my cup and glanced at the screen I’d left up with the physical information about Lake Crescent.

“I really like your scarf,” she said.

It was cold enough outside, even though the sun was out in the watery blue sky, that I’d wrapped an improbable red velvet muffler around my neck under my wool overcoat. It was more froufrou than I usually went for, but it was wide and soft and warm, and I could always put it over my head if the weather turned wetter or colder while I was out in the woods.

“Oh, thanks. It was a Christmas present.”

“Figured.”

I raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh?”

“Yeah, y’know—the kind of thing you never buy for yourself’cuz . . . um . . .” She cut herself off, blushing. Then she changed the subject. “So, did you get what you wanted?”

I pulled a rueful face. “Not really. I got information, but it’s not heartening.”

“Oh? What were you looking for?”

“Hope that something lost might be found.”

“Where’d you lose it?”

I laughed a little at her earnest inquiry. “It’s not something of mine. It’s a client’s car. It may have been dumped into Lake Crescent and . . . well, the lake’s just too deep to hope anyone can haul the car back up. Nothing’s coming back from that lake.”

She shrugged and picked up the bus tub she’d been putting dishes into. “Maybe, maybe not. Stuff comes back sometimes. The Lady of the Lake did.”

“Who?”

She turned her head and called to the boy behind the counter, who was tinkering with the espresso machine. “Jeff, what was her name, the Lady of the Lake?” She glanced back at me and said, “That’s my brother, Jefferson. He’s, like, the biggest ghost-story guy you’ll ever meet. He knows everything about the Lady of the Lake.” She rolled her eyes a little, but she was smiling nonetheless.

“Hallie,” the boy called back. “Hallie Latham Illingworth.”

I looked at the young man and started walking toward him. His sister tagged along with the tub of dirty dishes. It was almost too heavy for her to carry, even half full, but she swaggered under its weight and I didn’t dare offer to help her.

“Hi,” I said, and offered my hand. “I’m Harper Blaine. Who was Hallie Illingworth?” I asked. Business was a little slow at the moment, so I didn’t think anyone would mind if I chatted up the kids.

The young man glanced up from his work on the machine, wiped his hands, and shook mine. “I’m Jefferson Winter. That’s my sister, Erika.” He was a good-looking kid, with wavy black hair and an unseasonable tan. He barely looked old enough to have a food handler’s license and I guessed he was about seventeen. He leaned against the counter and gave me a grin. “Hallie’s a legend.” I could tell he liked the attention and would probably drag the story out as long as he could, but that was all right with me—for now.

“But it’s true,” he added, “and it’s a real cool story. See, Hallie worked up at the lodge—it’s the Lake Crescent Lodge on the park property now, but they called it the Singer Tavern back then. She worked up there in 1937. She was like a cocktail waitress or something. Anyway, she was married to this jerk named Monty Illingworth and they had a totally messed-up relationship.”

“Messed up how?” I asked.

“He used to hit her,” Erika cut in, carrying the bus tub around the end of the counter toward the kitchen door. “I mean, with a name like Monty, he had to be a real dork. Totally abusive, right?”

Jefferson nodded. “That’s what the newspapers said. They lived in an apartment down here in town and they used to keep the neighbors up, fighting and throwing stuff. Hallie used to show up at work with, like, black eyes and bruises and that.” He paused to look over his shoulder as his sister took the dirty dishes into the kitchen. “Hey, Erika, could you bring me the other foaming cup when you come out?”

“Sure,” she said, tossing her long dark hair back from her face as she rounded the doorway. “I live to be your minion, y’know.”

“You are my minion.”

Erika scoffed. “Whatevs.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Jefferson shrugged and looked back at me. “Anyway, so, like, it’s Christmastime back in 1937, right?”

I nodded. “OK.”

“And Hallie goes home from the tavern after work. It’s really late, like eleven or twelve o’clock. And she leaves the lodge . . . and she never came back.”

The pronouncement didn’t have quite the impact on me that he’d obviously hoped for: I just made a doubtful face at him. “So . . . ?”

Jefferson frowned. “So, like, she doesn’t come back, and Monty says she took off with some other guy and everyone’s all, ‘She musta left that creep and moved away,’ and that’s what they thought until . . .”

I rolled my eyes, but played along. “Until . . . what?”

“One morning in 1940, these two fishermen are rowing up on the lake near the burned-out remains of the Log Cabin Hotel—that’s the far northwest part—and they see this thing floating on the water, so they go get it and it’s . . . a body!”

“Hallie.”

“Yeah. But here’s the good part: She’s all turned into soap.” He was grinning and his eyes sparkled, kind of undermining the spooky effect he’d probably hoped for.

“Soap?” I asked.

Erika came back from the kitchen with the milk-foaming cup and put it down on the counter beside the espresso machine. “Yeah! Isn’t that gross? They must have been all, like, ‘What’s this?’ and then they get her up in the boat and all—”

Jefferson interrupted her. “And they thought it was a hoax, at first, like maybe someone had carved a person out of soap and thrown it in the lake for a joke, except her face and fingers are all eaten off, so they don’t know who it is. So they take it down here. And there’s this medical student who figures out it’s a real dead person and her body fat all turned to soap because the water in the lake is real cold and real pure, and down at the bottom it’s more alkaline than at the top, so she saponified and got lighter and then . . . she floated up.”

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