Home > Downpour (Greywalker #6)(8)

Downpour (Greywalker #6)(8)
Author: Kat Richardson

“OK, that’s kind of creepy,” I agreed.

“It’s kind of cool,” Jefferson said. “This medical student, he’s like that forensic lady on TV and he figures out that someone strangled his soap lady and bashed her head in before they wrapped her up in some old canvas and ropes and dumped the body in the lake. And then he figures out who she is because she has this dental thing in her mouth—he finds the dentist who made it and that guy says, ‘Oh yeah, I made that for Hallie Latham.’ And everyone says, ‘Who’d kill Hallie? Everyone loved her!’ ”

“Except Monty!” Erika added.

“So Monty strangled his wife and threw her into Lake Crescent,” I said, “and three years later—”

“Two and a half,” Jefferson corrected. “She died at Christmas in 1937, but the fishermen found her in July of 1940.”

I nodded. “All right. Two and a half years later, her saponified body bobbed to the surface of the lake. It’s a really weird story, but I don’t think my client’s car is going to turn into soap and float to the shore of Lake Crescent anytime soon. And he’s been missing for about five years, now.”

“Your client is missing?” Erika asked.

“How do you know the car’s in Lake Crescent?” Jefferson asked at the same time.

I ignored Erika’s question, because I really didn’t want to start down that explanation’s road. Instead, I turned my gaze on Jefferson and gave him a slightly crooked smile. “A ghost told me.”

They both stared at me for a moment, and I took the opportunity to lay an extra tip on the counter and get out before they could ask any more questions I didn’t want to answer.

While it was nice to know that some things do come back from the depths of Lake Crescent, I didn’t think it was going to help me prove something bad had happened to Steven Leung. If Leung had been burned as badly as his ghost looked, there wouldn’t be enough of him left to turn into soap. I’d have to find another way to draw the right kind of attention to his disappearance.

I got into the Rover and headed back up the mountain. This time I kept a lookout for the white things by the side of the road, but they didn’t show up on this trip. With the complexity of the legal jurisdictions that overlapped around the lakes, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the case had been mired in buck-passing and paperwork. But there simply had never been a case opened. For some reason no one had said anything to anyone in authority about Leung’s disappearance. His daughters were both alive and in the area, according to Darin Shea, but neither of them seemed to have done anything about their missing father—and it seemed strange that they hadn’t noticed. Nor had anyone else said anything to the authorities. The small size of the year-round community and the Grey weirdness around the lakes made me think there may have been a more sinister reason for silence than jurisdictional uncertainty. I was going to have to step carefully until I knew what the situation around “Sunset Lakes” really was.

I decided first to take another look at the spell circle near Leung’s house and left the Rover in a different location from the last time before walking down. I didn’t see any sign of Shea, but I did notice that even in the daylight, the area on the west side of Lake Sutherland had a strong gleam of magic to it—not as colorful as Lake Crescent, but well beyond normal. But this was not the orderly grid configuration I was used to; it was more as if an unseen current running deep between the two lakes created a wellspring in the area that seeped upward until it was detectable as a thinly spread general presence, rather than a single source. The strange glow I’d noticed the previous night was easier to see today, even without sliding into the Grey. I had a harder time seeing the bright bolts of colored energy that had darted around me before; they were there, but not as numerous or energetic, and I couldn’t see the spidery white lines in the lake at all from this angle. I was used to an orderly grid of magical feeder lines; what arises from the Grey is shaped by the human minds that manipulate it, so the density of humans in a city might cause the grid to reflect the shape of the city. Here, however, there weren’t enough people to push the lines of magic around so easily—or at least that was what made sense to me at the moment.

When I reached the edge of the clearing where the circle was, I was disappointed: Someone had been there and done some cleaning up. The rest of the shadowy memories of spells cast had disappeared, and the circle itself was fading back into the wild stream of magic below the ground. Even the traces of herbs and dust had sunk into the ground or been swept away, so I didn’t stand a chance of identifying them.

I swore quietly and at length.

Something crunched and shuffled in the frost-blackened bracken beneath the trees. Then a light voice with an odd undertone of distant rocks grinding together spoke just ahead of its owner appearing at the edge of the clearing. “I have not met him, so I could not say, but I’m quite sure that if Shiva had dog breath, it wouldn’t be able to do that. But it is a blasphemy I’ve never heard before. May I keep it?”

I spun around to stare at him, the red tails of my scarf flying. When you’re standing beside a magic circle in the woods between one lake that vomits up saponified murder victims and another that’s floored with lines of magic, you should expect to see a few strange things. To most people, the strangest thing about this man would have been that he was wearing a European designer suit to go walking in the forest. To me, it was that he wasn’t actually a person—though he was definitely male. Whatever he was, I guessed he was some relative of the things I’d seen beside the road yesterday; in the Grey, his skin was the same shade of otherworldly white and he had a smaller version of the burned-black-twig horns poking out of his forehead. I preferred seeing him in the normal, where he looked like a tall Asian man with unusually red hair and broad shoulders. His eyes had a disquieting glitter to them in both views, as if reflecting a fire the same unnatural color as his hair.

“You’re welcome to it, if you’ll tell me who you are,” I said. I didn’t think the magic circle belonged to this creature; he didn’t look as if he needed anything as crude as herbs and candles to push magic around, much less magical protection. Judging from the way strands of blue and yellow energy reached up from the ground to cling to him, it was more likely people needed protection from him than the other way round.

He made a closed-mouth smile that let the impression of small, curved, interlocking fangs crease his lips from within. “It’s an interesting bargain, since you know I won’t tell you my real name. People here call me Jin, so that will do, if you like. You are . . . Hm . . . What are you . . . ?”

If I concentrated on the normal, the grinding noise in his voice faded. I wasn’t sure if that meant he had two forms or was just very good at projecting his normal-world one. But I did know “normal” wasn’t his home.

I gave him a thin smile back. “My name’s Harper.” I made a sweeping-up gesture at the fading circle. “Did you do this?”

“Some people don’t take proper care of their things.” He shrugged and his massive shoulders made the stitching at his armholes strain, and the sound of it made him wince just a little. He wasn’t entirely a projection, then, which was good and bad for me if we got into a tussle.

“So you know the owner,” I said.

“Of course.”

“Of the house?”

“Leung? Yes. But he’s dead, you know.”

“Do I? That doesn’t seem to be common knowledge.”

“I prefer uncommon knowledge—it’s much more interesting than the sort that’s lying around everywhere. And more valuable.” His eyes gleamed with a light I recognized at once—avarice. I’d have to see what I could do with that....

“How do you know Leung is dead?” He didn’t seem to think the fact was worth a lot, since he’d already tossed it at me; I wanted to know what else he considered cheap enough to give away.

“Oh, ghosts,” he said with a dismissive roll of his eyes. “They always have something to complain about.” It wasn’t as much of an answer as I could have liked, but it was interesting, nonetheless. As he said it, something cold brushed through me. Startled, I shivered, shifting my focus to the Grey to see a ghost drifting toward Lake Crescent. It was an old specter, ragged and thin, but it moved toward the western lake as if drawn into the currents of magic, paying us no heed at all and giving me pause. The unconscious way it moved in a straight line through every obstacle intrigued me, but I had something more immediate to deal with and shook my curiosity off for the time being. “Do you have any real proof of Leung’s death? Something I can show to someone?”

“Proof? Not the kind you mean. I could tell you who killed him, but you’d have to make it worth my while.”

“Then he was killed by another person, not in an accident.”

Jin frowned, both versions of his face creasing their brows for a moment and puckering their mouths as if the taste of slipping up was sour. He growled to himself.

“Jin,” I continued, “I know the car is in Lake Crescent. I just have to get it out or get someone else to dredge it up.”

“I could help you.”

I wasn’t averse to help, but I was pretty sure any assistance from that quarter came with a price—assuming he could do what he said. On the other hand, that he was wearing a very expensive real suit—not just the image of a suit—made me think he might be a little vain as well as greedy. “Sure you can,” I replied with a deprecating smile. “After all, you’ve been so very helpful so far.”

“I told you Leung was dead.”

“Which I already knew, but you won’t tell me who killed him, because you don’t actually know.” I started to turn and walk away. “You seem to be good enough to clean up after other people’s messes, but you’ve done nothing to impress me. So far as I know, you’re just the garbageman.”

Jin bounded to catch up to me in one huge stride reminiscent of the way the white creatures beside the road had moved. “Wait!” He snatched at my nearer wrist and tried to pull me back around to face him.

I twisted my arm and danced sideways, pulling out of his grip and away to a stance that put my feet onto harder, less slippery ground a few feet from him. I flung the end of my scarf back over my shoulder and crossed my arms loosely over my chest. “Wait for what, Jin? My toes to freeze off? Because that’s about all I’ve gained from this conversation so far.”

He stood back and regarded me through narrowed eyes. “You want to know where Leung’s body is. I can show you.”

“I know where his body is. It’s in the car, which is at the bottom of Lake Crescent. I’m not about to swim down there to see it, so unless you can pull that sucker up to the surface where I can show it to someone else and prove he’s dead, you’re no damned use to me.”

He was still looking speculative. “Why do you want to prove Leung is dead?”

“Because you can’t collect on a missing person, only a dead one.”

“But I know who killed him.”

“And are you going to tell me?”

He made a face. “No.”

“See—you’re still useless. Who killed him is irrelevant anyhow if I can’t prove he’s dead in the first place. I can’t run off to the police and say some monster in the woods told me so-and-so killed Steven Leung and pushed his car into the lake with him still in it. Oh, yeah, that’ll fly.”

Jin sniffed in disgust at the word “monster” and muttered something in Chinese under his breath. “If you knew where to look—”


He heaved an irritated sigh. “If I bring the car up where you can see it, what is that worth to you?”

Now we were at the crux of the problem. What did I have that Jin would want? I didn’t think he’d want my scarf, I doubted I had enough cash to interest him, and the sex thing was not—ever—going to be an option. But . . . “I might have some uncommon knowledge. . . .”

Jin barely raised his eyebrows, but in the Grey his eyes glittered and his lips parted just enough to show the tips of his fangs. I love being right. “What would you know that I do not?” he asked.

“One or two things . . .”

“From across the water, from Seattle?”


“Hm.” Jin fought a smile. “What about the Egyptians? Tell me about them.”

“The asetem? Why should you care?”

“That’s none of your business. Do you know something or don’t you?”

“I know why they came here and why they left.”

Jin seemed startled, his eyes opening wider. “They left?”

“There you go—the asetem have left the building.”

He frowned; apparently Jin didn’t get the reference. “Why? How?”

I shook my head. “No more freebies, Jin. I showed you part of my hand; now you get to show me yours. Let’s go get that car and I’ll tell you more when it’s up where I can see it.”

He narrowed his eyes and glared a bit, an expression that was much uglier on the face with the horns and fangs, though it wasn’t a delight on the human face, either. Then he smiled a little and made a formal little nod. “Very well. Do you know East Beach Road?”


“Take me there and I’ll show you Leung’s car.”


I was a little reluctant to have Jin in my truck, but I didn’t see an alternative that might not ruin the deal, so I shrugged and led him to the Rover. He made a face as I opened the passenger door for him, and the ferret—who’d been sleeping in her travel cage in the back—pushed her face up against the grille and hissed at him. Then she began pawing at the door and making angry little grunts.

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