Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(80) by Ilona Andrews
I WALKED INTO my house to see the knight and the wizard sitting in my kitchen, drinking coffee. If you added in Julie’s thieving skills and my sword, we almost had an adventuring party.
“It’s too bad we’re missing a cleric,” I said.
They both looked at me like I had grown a second head.
Never mind. “What can I do for you, gentlemen?”
“The earring is gone and I can’t account for one of my people,” Nick said.
I sat in the chair and rubbed my face. Julie positioned herself on the couch with a notebook and several books.
“Go ahead and get it off your chest,” Luther said. “It will make things easier.”
“I told you not to leave it where people had access to it.”
“I didn’t. I put it into the Vault, into the wall containment unit, until an expert from Wolf’s Head could examine it.”
The Vault served as the Order’s repository of all things dangerous and magical, but too valuable to set on fire.
“Is the expert missing?”
Nick didn’t say anything. Great.
“What’s done is done. Let’s not point fingers,” Luther said.
“This is a waste of time,” Nick said.
“Why don’t you like me?” I asked.
Nick leaned back. His hair was cropped very short and his features looked like they were carved from granite. “I could fill the room with it, starting with who you are and what you did.”
He had to be referring to the claiming of the city.
“I had no choice.”
“No, there is always a choice.”
Luther was giving us odd looks. “Should I give you two some time?”
“No,” I told him. “I get it. You have a problem with me. What are you going to do about it?”
“I haven’t decided. I’m contemplating killing you.”
“Knight-protector,” Luther said.
Nick got promoted. He had been a crusader before. He was like a scalpel: when you had a nasty boil, you sent in a crusader to lance it. He got the job done, cleaned up the mess, and moved on. The last time I saw him, he was deep undercover pretending to serve Hugh d’Ambray. He’d spent years infiltrating Hugh’s Iron Dogs, and the former head of the Order, Ted Moynohan, blew his cover just before he died. All of the things Nick had endured were useless. The experience had changed him. The man I had met years ago was deranged but human. The man in front of me now looked like he’d petrified from the outside in. And now he had Ted’s job. Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put Nick in charge of Atlanta’s chapter of the Order?
And now he threatened me in my own home, where Julie could hear.
“Contemplate it all you want,” I said. “When you’re done thinking it over, go and get every knight in your chapter. Bring them here and then, maybe, if all of you bigoted fanatics work together, I’ll think about taking your threat seriously. Until then, shut the hell up, because if you threaten me in front of my kid again, I will finish what Hugh started.”
Something slid under Nick’s skin, like two golf balls rolling down his arms.
“Okay,” Luther said. “I can see there is a lot of tension and some unresolved issues. However, none of this is helping us with the ifrit. He has escalated in power and now he has a hold of a knight of the Order. I hate to be a downer, but the city may not survive the next magic wave, so why don’t we all put away our angry faces and try to act like reasonable adults.”
The intensity died down in Nick’s eyes. Whether he liked it or not, he had a duty to Atlanta and so did I.
“You should apologize to the child,” Luther said quietly.
“Sorry,” Nick called out.
“That’s okay,” Julie said without lifting her head. “I’m used to it. Just let me know if you’re going to fight, so I can go into another room. I have a paper due tomorrow.”
Luther turned to me. “See? He apologized. What do you have?”
“You first,” I said.
He reached into his bag and placed a photograph on the table. In it a balding man in his midfifties smiled at the camera.
“Justin Thomas Rogers.” I couldn’t resist rubbing Nick’s nose in it.
Nick scowled. I’d have to thank Ascanio later.
“He was an auctioneer. His exact title is Certified Estate Specialist. When a stranger dies in the city, Atlanta hires one of three firms to liquidate the estate. Rogers and Associates was one of them. The last sale he made was on Saturday, February nineteenth. He didn’t show up to work on Monday.”
“What was the last estate he sold?” I asked.
“Two families, which checked out, and a state case,” Nick said. “An unidentified man walked into traffic in Unnamed Square a week ago. He had a note on his body that suggested he arrived by boat into Savannah. The boat is now gone. The papers said it came from New York, but the New York ports have no documentation of it.”
“If we assume that the earring passed from that man to Rogers, that means he had it in his possession for over a week,” I said. “He must’ve been remarkably strong-willed, because the djinn subverted Lago in forty-eight hours.”
“Rogers was a conscientious, principled man,” Nick said. “He did a lot of charitable work. He was a harder nut to crack than a merc.”
“The two of you are forgetting Samantha Binek,” Luther said. “The knight who is missing. The djinn broke through the Order conditioning in less than a day. He is getting stronger with each host.”
“Tell me about Binek,” I said.
Nick grimaced. “Thirteen years in, knight-archivarius. She wasn’t one of mine. She came down from Wolf’s Head specifically to determine if the earring can be moved to the HQ vault. She had a sterling reputation. She went into the Vault to examine it. A knight-defender escorted her. Three hours later Maxine went to check on them. Binek had activated one of the artifacts in the vault, incapacitated the knight, and taken off.”
“What did she use?” I asked.
“An iron mask. He spent two hours thinking he was trapped in a slave ship. He’d ripped half of his nails out trying to break through the walls.”
Knights-archivarius were specifically trained to handle dangerous magic objects. This woman would’ve had all of the training, she would’ve evaluated hundreds of artifacts over the years, and she would’ve taken every precaution. This wasn’t good. We had to get to the djinn before she made her wishes and transformed. The amount of destruction he could unleash with her body would be catastrophic.
“My turn,” Luther said. “I analyzed your glass sample. It’s sand that has been cooked by very high heat. The sand contains concrete dust, so it was likely part of a building, and magically charged algae. It doesn’t look like algae got into the concrete and sand naturally. It appears the algae has been deliberately mixed into it.”
That was what those in our business called a clue or potentially a gift from above. How many buildings in Atlanta could have magic algae in them? I was betting not that many. I got up and dialed Raphael’s number.
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