Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(29) by Ilona Andrews
Ugh. Every clue we found led to a dead end. “You’re no help.”
“Why am I the expert all of a sudden?”
“Of the two of us, you have more stalking experience.”
He leaned back. “Really?”
“Yes. When you let yourself into my apartment before we were dating, did you fidget while you watched me?”
“Will you let it go?” he growled.
“I didn’t fidget. I checked on you to make sure you hadn’t gotten yourself killed. I wanted to know that you weren’t dying slowly of your wounds, because you have no sense and half of the time you couldn’t afford a medmage. I didn’t stand there and watch you. I came in, made sure you were okay, and left. It wasn’t creepy.”
“It was a little creepy.”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“You’re still alive.”
“Yes, of course, take all the credit.”
We looked at the mulch some more. We were both irritated. Eduardo had been missing for far too long.
“No ghouls?” I asked.
“No ghouls. I walked the entire perimeter of the property. You find out anything?”
“He was making a budget for him and George. He needed money.”
Curran stared at the tree, frustration clear on his face.
“Also this.” I showed him the dagger.
“Nice,” Curran said.
“I found it in the trash can in his office. It was made for a man.”
“How do you know?”
“Because this cost a very solid chunk of money. If someone was willing to spend that much on a gift for a woman, it would have gold on it somewhere. In Islam the wearing of gold and silk for men is haram, forbidden. Muslim men are supposed to be determined, steadfast, and resolute, dedicated to their faith and the protection of their family. Gold and silk are signs of luxury, which are fine for women but frowned upon for men.” I stroked the silver on the scabbard. “This is a dagger made for a male. It has a protective supplication on it, and it’s decorated with feruz, turquoise, which helps obtain divine help and victory in battle, and aqiq, carnelian, which protects against evil and misfortune.”
I realized he was staring at me.
“How do you even remember all this?”
“It’s my job to remember.” Blades were the tools of my trade. If it cut a human body, and it cut it well, I knew something about it.
He took the blade from me and smelled it. “It’s been soaked in something that kills the scent and then polished with clove oil. Smells like one of your swords.”
“This is not Eduardo’s usual fare,” I said. “He tends to wider blades or heavy weapons. This is a precision self-defense dagger. Ghouls originate in Arabia. Wolf griffins are geographically close. Was Eduardo a Muslim, by any chance?”
“No. We would’ve seen him pray while on the ship, and he and I talked before and he mentioned he wasn’t religious. Maybe he beat up his stalker and took the dagger away. But then why not sell it? Why throw it away?”
“I have no idea. I can take the dagger to a smith tomorrow.”
“If it was given to him, I’m wondering about the thinking behind giving a shapeshifter something decorated with silver,” Curran said. “Either the dagger was made for someone else originally or the gift giver is clueless.”
“Or he might have thought that Eduardo may have to attack something that doesn’t like silver.” I sighed.
In any investigation there comes a time when you run out of things to do. We had just hit that point. Nothing else could be done until the morning.
“Let’s go home,” Curran said.
I DROVE THROUGH the city, guiding the vehicle around odd obstacles Atlanta threw in our way. Curran relaxed in the passenger seat, his eyes distant.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked.
“Their house,” he said. “When I get my hands on his kidnapper, I’ll break his neck.”
“I keep thinking about Eduardo’s stalker,” I said. “George said Eduardo had rented the house six weeks ago, about a week after her talk with Mahon. You said the stalker didn’t smell like a shapeshifter. Eduardo was racing to make as much money as possible. He spent all his time at the Guild or doing jobs. There wasn’t much interaction with the outside world, just the Guild and George.”
“The stalker must be connected to the Guild,” Curran said. “Someone he worked with or someone he met during a gig.”
“Yes. We need to get a complete record of his jobs. Chances are, the stalker guy is somewhere in there.”
“How can we get a record?”
“We can’t.” I leaned back in the seat. “The log only goes back a few days. Knowing the Clerk, he closed the books before he left and filed everything. To get at the complete record, we would have to get Mark to unseal the old logs. He won’t do it.”
“Because technically it would be illegal without a warrant, because the Guild could be sued if Eduardo’s kidnapping is connected to it, and because he is a Grade A asshole who enjoys using what little power he has. If there is no profit in it for him, he won’t even twitch his pinkie. If we had the Clerk, I could talk him into letting me look at the logs, because the Clerk had the ultimate responsibility for them and because the safety of a Guild member is at risk, but the Clerk is gone. Mark won’t do us any favors, and Bob and his crew won’t either.”
I had briefly contemplated breaking into the Guild and stealing the logs, but I wasn’t sure where Mark had moved them to, since they weren’t in the Clerk’s counter safe. And the Guild was never empty. Unless I could turn myself invisible, pulling off this heist while a dozen mercs watched would be very difficult.
“Then I’ll get the Clerk back,” Curran said.
“You would have to get them to rehire him, and they won’t do it. They didn’t have enough money to keep him on in the first place and I’m not sure the Guild committee would even want him back. They are all set to raid the pension fund and call it quits.”
Curran’s eyes grew distant again. “I’ll take care of it.”
The sun had set by the time I turned onto our street and I saw our house, its windows lit up by the bluish glow of feylanterns inside. The silver in the bars shielding its windows glowed slightly, reacting with magic and moonlight, as if coated in fluorescent paint, matching the glow of the security door.
I had spent the first month after we’d moved in putting up wards all around our five-acre plot, and as I turned into our driveway, the reassuring mild pressure of passing through the defensive spell slid over me, as if the house patted my hair.
My stomach hurt from the lack of food. My shoulder ached with a low gnawing pain. My sides hurt, too. I was tired, starving, and filthy, and I smelled like three-day-old roadkill. The spider ichor had dried to a cementlike substance in my hair. I would’ve killed for a shower.
Across the street, Heather Savell finished speaking with Mrs. Walton and started toward us. Curran locked his teeth. I had no doubt that, in her head, Heather was preparing a speech on behalf of our neighborhood’s nonexistent HOA. She had already kindly pointed out to us that most people hide their trash cans in the garage instead of putting them on the side of the house and that we had a two-foot-wide bald patch in our lawn, where the workers had dug up the ground to get to a burst pipe.
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