Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(61) by Ilona Andrews
“My alarm! Someone just broke into my lab.”
We rounded the corner and almost collided with four other people, one in a suit, two in scrubs, and one in a biological containment suit without helmet or gloves. Each was charged with enough magic to level a small building. Luther shoved past them and thrust the door of his lab open. The metal hood was raised, the body of the draconoid out in the open. A deep puncture wound gaped in its side.
“Damn it!” Luther dragged his hand through his hair. “He stabbed my specimen!”
Someone had gotten into the building, bypassing all of the security measures, and broken into Luther’s lab. If the press found out that Biohazard, the repository of all things strange and dangerous, had had a security breach, there would be no end of heads rolling.
“This way!” a woman screamed. “He’s going out the front door!”
The mages spun and gave chase. The guy in the biocontainment suit shoved the nearest window open. Flames burst over his fists. He punched the air. A fireball broke free of his hand, streaked down to the street, and exploded.
Everybody except for the firebug ran for the staircase. I decided to run too, just so I wouldn’t be left out.
We collectively burst out the front door. The street lay empty. Nothing but five-foot-wide scorch marks.
“Where did he go?” Luther yelled.
“Where is Fluffy?” a woman asked.
“Jana took her on a job,” a man answered.
“Oh, come on! What good is a tracking dog if she’s never here to track?” Luther threw his hands up.
A fireball tore over our heads and splashed flames onto the street.
“Garcia, will you stop setting things on fire?” Luther roared.
“Sorry!” the man from the window called. “It was an accident.”
I put my hand over my face. Next to me, Julie pressed her lips together and was making small meowing noises trying not to laugh.
The door of Biohazard flew open and Patrice Lane, the head of the Infectious Diseases department, emerged with a gaggle of her techs behind her.
“Alright, where is he? I’m charged with Staphylococcus. Give me two seconds, and he’ll be covered in boils. He’ll tell us everything.”
“He got away,” a dark-haired woman explained.
“What?” Patrice blinked.
Julie bent in half and began snorting.
“Stop that,” Luther told her.
A man walked out of the shadows. He wore jeans and a brown jacket with a hood that right now rested on his back. Of medium height, he had light brown, slightly curly hair and a pleasant, friendly face with hooded blue eyes, a big nose, and the stubbly beginning of a mustache and beard. There was something vaguely familiar about his eyes.
He came over to me. “Consort. It’s such an honor to meet again. Oops. Shouldn’t have called you that.” He had a light Irish accent.
“She might not remember you,” Julie said. “She—”
“Jardin,” I said. The last time we had met he was in his wererat form and I almost stabbed him. He worked for Robert, Alpha of Clan Rat and the Pack’s current security chief.
“Ah,” Jardin said. “You remember. I am so flattered.”
“Who is he?” Luther demanded. “Who are you?”
“It’s not him,” the dark-haired woman said. “The other guy was older and taller and wore black.”
“He’s a member of the Pack,” I told him.
“Oh. Wait!” Luther’s eyes lit up. “Can you track?”
“Yes.” Jardin nodded.
“Great. A man ran out of here. Do you have his scent?”
“Sure,” Jardin said. “I saw him and I can smell him, but you see, you won’t catch him.”
“What?” the man in a suit demanded. “Why?”
“He had a horse.”
“A horse?” Luther waved his arms. “We have several advanced vehicles. We can beat a horse. With all of us chanting, we can start it in under three minutes.”
Ha. If more than one person chanted, the cars started faster. Why hadn’t I ever tried this? I filed that tidbit away for further study.
“It was a very fast horse,” Jardin said.
“How fast?” the dark-haired woman asked.
The wererat smiled. “It had wings.”
The street turned completely silent.
“Beautiful black wings,” Jardin said.
So. We had an ifrit holding Eduardo at some undisclosed location and our only lead had flown away on a winged horse.
Everybody spoke at once. The mages waved their arms.
Luther’s voice cut through it. “I’ll call the Order.”
Really? I raised my eyebrow.
“Sorry, Daniels,” Luther said. “It’s protocol. We need the heavy artillery now.”
I stepped away and smiled at Jardin. “Black horse?”
“Yes.” He nodded.
“I’m sorry, I wouldn’t know.”
I bet it looked like a million-dollar horse.
“Was there something you wanted?”
He reached into his jacket. “My alpha brought this to the attention of the Beast Lord, but Jim doesn’t feel this is the right time. My alpha has a different opinion. He feels this is a threat to the Pack and to the city. He said you should know about it.”
He handed me a stack of Polaroids. The first one showed a big gray block formed from the remnants of different buildings. A person stood next to it. The block had to be at least thirty feet tall. My heart jerked in my chest. I had seen this before. That was how my father had made Mishmar.
I flipped through the rest of the Polaroids. Another block. Another. A small wooden model standing on a folding table in the middle of a field. My father standing next to a man holding a blueprint. He was still wearing his “wise father” persona, an older man with the features of Zeus or perhaps Moses toward the second half of his life, wise, beautiful, possessing otherworldly power, his dark brown eyes ageless . . . My father’s profile blurred. He turned toward me in the photograph and winked. Cute.
Julie clamped her hand over her mouth. Jardin turned pale.
Sonovabitch. He was building another tower. He would not take this land.
“Where was this taken?”
Jardin recovered enough to speak. “Near Lawrenceville.”
Just outside my territory. Oh no, you don’t. Over my dead body. Better yet, over his.
“Thank you,” I told Jardin. “Tell Robert I will handle this.”
I turned and marched toward our car. Approaching my father directly could be seen as an act of war, and trying to contact him by magic means was just asking for trouble. In the magic arena he was miles ahead of me, and opening any kind of connection through magic was unwise. I had no idea how to get hold of him, but I knew someone who did.
“Are we going home?” Julie asked, speed-walking next to me.
“No.” My voice had a lot of steel in it. “We’re going to the Casino. I’m going to have a chat with my father.”
• • •
“HOW DID HE do that with the photograph?” Julie asked. “How? The tech was up when the picture was taken.”
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