Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(36) by Ilona Andrews
“This is not a good conversation,” he said quietly.
“I know the buyer was a man, probably a follower of Islam.”
Nitish shook his head.
“My friend is missing. I found it in his office. I know it’s not his. He was going to get married.”
“I am married. I have children, too,” Nitish said.
I pulled the cloth back, revealing the dagger. “I just need a name. It won’t get back to you. Somewhere my friend is still alive. He is a good person and his fiancé lost her arm protecting a pregnant woman. They deserve the chance to be happy. I just need one name.”
He didn’t look at me.
“What if it were Prema who was missing?” I let the name of his wife lie there between us like a heavy rock. I would go straight to hell for doing this to him. “Nitish, I wouldn’t have come to you if I had a choice.”
Nitish pulled the cloth back over the blade and leaned closer. “Come with me.”
I picked up the dagger and followed him through the smithy, past the heat of the forge and the sound of hammers, to a room in the back. He swung open a heavy door, flicked on the lights, and closed the door behind us. Four walls filled with weapons looked back at me.
“I don’t know his name,” Nitish said quietly. “But I know what he buys.” He pointed to a knife on the wall.
Eleven and a half inches long, the single-edged blade started straight at the hilt and then curved ever so slightly to the right, tapering and curving back to the left at the point. The tip of the dagger, triangular and reinforced, was almost needle narrow at the very end. Wicked sharp edge. Strong spine so the blade wouldn’t break. Plain hilt, bone wrapped in leather. A pesh kabz. It was seventeenth-century Persia’s equivalent to the armor-piercing round. That reinforced tip parted chain mail like it wasn’t even there. It would slide in between the ribs, and if you angled it up, it would hit the heart. Crap.
We looked at the blade quietly.
“No watering on the blade,” I said softly.
“No. He doesn’t usually want Damascus. This is oh-six steel,” Nitish said, his voice flat. “A bitch to grind.”
The 0-6 was tool steel. It held its edge forever and would outcut the best Damascus every time. It was also untraceable. He’d chosen tool steel because that was what this knife was, a tool. This blade wasn’t made to hunt monsters. It was meant to hunt people. It belonged to a man killer.
Nitish stepped forward, took a big, three-inch-wide folder from the table, and leafed through the pages. He paused, showing me the page. Throwing knives. Not the fancy blades, but utilitarian, simple strips of steel, ten inches long, inch and a half wide. Thick enough so the blade wouldn’t bend, double edge at the point for the first inch and a half, then single edge. No treatment on the hilt, just plain steel. Contrary to what movies suggested, killing a person by throwing a knife was really difficult. Even if you managed to sink a blade in, it would be unlikely you’d hit anything vital. Most of the time knives were thrown to piss the opponent off so he’d do something stupid, to distract, or just to bleed him and cause some pain. These knives would go into the body like a hot knife into butter and they’d be hell to pull out.
Nitish flipped the page again. Another dagger, straight edge this time. Same plain, workmanlike aesthetic. Same killer blade.
The smith closed the book.
“Any swords?” I asked.
He shook his head.
That meant either the buyer didn’t use a sword, which was unlikely considering all the magic crap Atlanta threw at us on regular basis, or he had a favorite blade and he was good enough not to break it.
“Can you describe him?”
“Dark hair. Beard. Large.” Nitish raised his hands. “Tall. Wears glasses. Soft voice. Calm. He doesn’t look like a man who would buy this.” He indicated the blade.
“What does he look like?”
Nitish sighed. “Like a man of peace.”
“When is he coming for the pesh kabz?”
“I don’t know,” Nitish said. “Sometimes he comes the day after I tell him it’s done. Sometimes a month. He never calls ahead. He pays up front and then shows up without warning.”
“Will you call me after he comes to pick it up?”
“He might not pick it up at all,” Nitish said. “A year ago he spoke with my father and had him work on this.”
He flipped the book to the last page, where half a page was glued down to form a paper pocket, and pulled a photograph out of it. A round box of blackened steel a little smaller than a soccer ball with a circular lid. At first glance, it looked like a random decorative koftgari pattern had been worked into the dark surface of the steel, but the close-up of the lid made it clear: the pattern wasn’t random. Spider-thin Arabic script decorated the steel.
Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim . . .
In the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful,
I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn,
From the evil of that which He has created,
And from the evil of intense darkness, when it comes,
And from the evil of those who cast (evil suggestions) in firm resolutions,
And from the evil of the envier when he envies . . .
Surat al-Falaq, one hundred and thirteenth chapter of the Qur’an. The entire box was covered in protective verses.
“He already had the box,” Nitish said. “He needed us for the koftgari.”
Islam protected its followers against the supernatural. Whatever the stranger was going to put into that box, he counted on divine assistance to keep it in there.
“I looked inside the box,” Nitish said. “The inside of it was smooth and looked like bone.”
“No. Bone. Like the inside of a skull.”
Better and better.
“Can I see it?”
“He picked it up two days ago. He didn’t even ask about the knife. I don’t think he remembered that he had ordered it.”
• • •
I STARED THROUGH the windshield at a chain barring Cutting Edge’s parking lot. The chain secured the parking lot at night. It was almost eleven a.m. It should be lying by one of the posts. Instead here it was, keeping me from driving in.
Derek usually came to Cutting Edge by eight in the morning. Failing that, Curran should have been back from his trip to the Mercenary Guild. He might have gotten held up at the Guild, but it was unlikely. After his response to Bob’s tirade, none of the mercs would screw with him. That errand should’ve taken fifteen minutes. Did he get himself into some sort of trouble at the Guild? My imagination painted the Guild in ruins and my honey-bunny emerging from the wreckage roaring and swinging around the limp bodies of the Four Horsemen.
That would be hilarious.
Okay, this wasn’t the most productive line of thinking.
Talking to Saiman had clearly put me into a foul mood. In my head, my dead aunt murmured, People are fish. They die. You remain. Saiman was right, in a sense. I was tainted, but not because I was doomed. I was tainted because I had power, the kind of power that corrupted and turned people into warped versions of themselves. I was warped enough as it was.
I parked in front of the building and tried the door. It was predictably locked. I unlocked it and walked inside, into a large main room. The shades were still down. I pulled them up, letting the light illuminate the wide room with four desks. There used to be only two desks, one for me and one for Andrea Nash, but now Andrea was busy running Clan Bouda. She was also pregnant. We tried to have lunch every Friday, and the last time we went, she ate four pounds of barbecued ribs by herself. She wanted to eat the rib bones too, but I talked her out of it. Then she pouted and called me a downer.
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