Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(55) by Ilona Andrews
“What did the man say?”
“He became very agitated.” Mr. Oswald frowned. “He raised his voice, waved his arms around, and proceeded to what I can only describe as ranting. I thought he might be intoxicated. Eventually he got to the part where he told me that everything was fine until ‘you people’ moved into the neighborhood with ‘your spoiled brats.’ At that point I told him to get off my property.”
“He told me that now his hands were tied and walked off.”
I pulled my small notebook out. “What did he look like?”
“Late fifties, dark hair, balding, average build.”
“White, Hispanic . . . ?”
“White. He wore a suit and tie. Glasses.”
Too generic. “Anything else? Anything you can remember?” I asked. “Tattoos, scars, anything out of the ordinary?”
“He wore an earring.” Mr. Oswald thought about it and nodded. “Yes, I remember. He wore an earring in his left ear, one of those dangling earrings with a very large glass gem in it. I thought it was strange because it didn’t fit him at all.”
“How do you know it was glass?”
“It was bright red and the size of an almond in a shell, almost an inch long. I thought it looked ridiculous.”
Alarms went off in my head.
“Can you draw the earring?” I passed the notebook to him.
He sketched a quick shape and passed it back to me. It looked like a cluster of large grape berries fused together and covered by a metal cork with the gem in its center.
“It was obviously a very bad imitation,” he said. “The gold looked too pale, like one of those metallic paints, and the earring was old and dented.”
Crap. Old was bad. A simple design was also bad.
“Was the gem faceted?” I asked.
“No, it was smooth. What is it called?” He grimaced.
“Cabochon cut,” Ascanio said.
And we just went from bad to worse. “Thank you so much, Mr. Oswald. You were of great help.”
“Of course. Sorry we didn’t tell you sooner, but I never mentioned it to Pamela. She was already worried about the neighborhood.”
“Why was she worried about the neighborhood?”
“We had some odd things happen. It started with the cars. We’ve got a neighbor down in the cul-de-sac. He’s what you might call a bike enthusiast. Every damn Sunday if the tech is up, right when we’re trying to sleep in, he starts riding his bike up and down the street. Two weeks ago I saw him crying on the curb. Someone had crushed his bike and all of his cars. I saw what was left—it looked like someone stepped on them.”
You don’t say. “When was this?”
“Last Monday. But the worst thing was last Thursday. We decorated for Shift Day. There are a lot of kids on our street.”
Shift Day was a new holiday, born from the terror of the first magic wave years ago. On the anniversary of it, people put out decorations: streamers made with ribbons, crosses, crescents, the Star of David. They lit blue lights and little kids went up and down the street knocking on doors and handing out little charms in exchange for cookies and candy. It was a way to celebrate life on the anniversary of the day when one-twelfth of the Earth’s population died.
“We had all the decorations out, the ribbons, the wire monsters, everything. The whole subdivision was decorated. Then overnight everything disappeared.” Mr. Oswald cleared his throat. “All of it gone in the entire neighborhood, like it was never there. I talked to Arnie across the street and he says he was coming home late that night. He drove past the decorations, pulled into the garage, and then remembered to go grab the mail, so he walked back out. We are serious about the decorations at our house. We’d wrapped our tree in ribbons. It took the kids a good hour. Arnie might have been a minute in the garage, but when he came out, everything was gone on the entire street. What kind of magic can make it all vanish in a couple of minutes?”
The kind of magic that turned a normal middle-aged man into a sixty-five-foot giant. Last Thursday was February 24. Eduardo disappeared on Monday, February 28. “Mr. Oswald, could you think back for me. When did you talk to the man about your cats?”
“A few days ago,” he said.
“Was it before or after that Thursday?”
He frowned. “It had to be before. I left on Friday, so it must’ve been . . . It was Wednesday. I remember it was Wednesday, because I took the trash to the curb.”
“And you don’t know who might be behind this?” I asked.
“No idea. But I hope you find the bastard. Well, I better get going.”
“Of course. Thank you so much for your help.”
He went out.
“Why is it important if the gem was faceted?” Ascanio asked.
“Because people didn’t start cutting gems until the fourteenth century. Before that they didn’t have the tools, so they shaped them into cabochons. That man saw an ancient earring with an inch-long ruby in it.”
I turned to Ascanio. “Do you work for me?”
“Yes. You promoted me from unpaid to paid intern.”
“Whose idea was it to make you an intern in the first place?”
“Yours. Andrea thought it was too dangerous,” he said helpfully.
“That’s because Andrea has a better head on her shoulders than I do.” There was a reason why she was my best friend. “I need you to call the Chamblee and Dunwoody Police Departments and ask them if there were any complaints against the Oswalds specifically or anything in their neighborhood.” Given that the Oswalds’ house was right on the border, there was no telling to which department the complaints might have been placed.
Ascanio got a weird look on his face. “You already told me to do that. They had no complaints.”
“Did you call or go there in person?”
Since he was an intern, I had to train him. “A loud motorcycle, a bunch of bright decorations, and cats who sit on people’s cars. What do they have in common?”
“A cranky neighbor who shakes his cane and yells at people to get off his lawn.”
There was hope for him yet. “Cranky neighbors complain and they usually complain to the authorities, and often in writing.” And sometimes, when their complaints are ignored, they make deals with arcane powers. Unfortunately, there was always a price to pay. “Can you be charming, Ascanio?”
Ascanio unleashed a smile. He didn’t just grin, he launched a smile like a missile from a catapult. It would likely have the same catastrophic impact on anything female, ages fifteen to thirty. Perfect.
“I need you to go to the Dunwoody Police Department and be charming. Ask around. Someone has to remember this man calling in. If you don’t find anything, go to the health department, then to animal control. Do you have a car?”
“Yes.” He nodded.
“Go and do this for me. Don’t come back until you dig something up. I need a name.”
“Okay. And then will you remember me?”
“I don’t know. I have amnesia, paralysis, and a death wish, and they don’t go away just like that.”
He opened his mouth and froze. “Okay. I’m an ass. She wanted to know what could happen, so I told her. But I shouldn’t have.”
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