People who know diddly about wizards don like to give us their names. They
e convinced that if they give a wizard their name from their lips it could be used against them. To be fair, they
e right.

I had to be as polite and harmless as I could. She was about to hang up out of pure indecision, and I needed the job. I could probably turn hubby up if I worked at it.

”Okay, Monica, ” I told her, trying to sound as melodious and friendly as I could.

”If you feel your situation is sensitive, maybe you could come by my office and talk about it. If it turns out that I can help you best, I will, and if not, then I can direct you to someone I think can help you better. ” I gritted my teeth and pretended I was smiling.

”No charge. ”

It must have been the no charge that did it. She agreed to come right out to the office and told me that she would be there in an hour. That put her estimated arrival at about two-thirty. Plenty of time to go out and get some lunch, then get back to the office to meet her.

The phone rang again almost the instant I put it down, making me jump. I peered at it. I don trust electronics.

Anything manufactured after the forties is suspect—and doesn seem to have much liking for me. You name it: cars, radios, telephones, TVs, VCRs—none of them seem to behave well for me. I don even like to use automatic pencils.

I answered the phone with the same false cheer I had summoned up for Monicas Husband-Missing.

”This is Banks, may I help you? ”

”Ryan, I need you at the Madison in the next ten minutes. Can you be there? ” The voice on the other end of the line was also a womans, cool, brisk, businesslike.

”Why, Lieutenant Ericson, ” I gushed, overflowing with saccharine.

”Its good to hear from you, too. Its been so long. Oh, they
e fine, fine. And your family? ”

”Save it, Ryan. Ive got a couple of bodies here, and I need you to take a look around. ”

I sobered immediately. Logan Ericson was the director of Special Investigations out of downtown Ohio, a de facto appointee of the Police Commissioner to investigate any crimes dubbed unusual.

Vampire attacks and faery abductions of children didn fit in very neatly on a police report—but at the same time, people got attacked, infants got stolen, and the property was damaged or destroyed. And someone had to look into it.

In Ohio, or pretty much anywhere in Ohio-land, that person was Logan Ericson. I was her library of the supernatural on legs and a paid consultant for the police department.

But two bodies? Two deaths by means unknown? I hadn handled anything like that for her before.

”Where are you? ” I asked her.

”Madison Hotel on Tenth, seventh floor. ”

”Thats only a fifteen-minute walk from my office, ” I said.

”So you can be here in fifteen minutes. Good. ”

”Um, ” I said.

I looked at the clock. Monica No-Last-Name would be here in a little more than forty-five minutes.

”Ive sort of got an appointment. ”

”Banks, Ive sort of got a pair of corpses with no leads and no suspects, and a killer walking around loose. Your appointment can wait. ”

My temper flared. It does that occasionally.

”It can , actually, ” I said.

”But Ill tell you what. Ill stroll on over and take a look around, and be back here in time for it. ”

”Have you had lunch yet? ” she asked.

”What? ”

She repeated the question.

”No, ” I said.

”Don . ”

There was a pause, and when she spoke again, there was a sort of greenish tone to her words.

”Its bad. ”

”How bad are we talking here, Ericson? ”

Her voice softened, and that scared me more than any images of gore or violent death could have. Ericson was the original tough girl, and she prided herself on never showing weakness.

”Its bad, Ryan. Please don take too long. Special Crimes is itching to get their fingers on this one, and I know you don like people to touch the scene before you can look around. ”

”Im on the way, ” I told her, already standing and pulling on my jacket.

”Seventh floor, ” she reminded me.

”See you there. ”

”Okay. ”

I turned off the lights to my office, went out the door, and locked up behind me, frowning. I wasn sure how long it was going to take to investigate Ericsons scene, and I didn want to miss out on speaking with Monica Ask Me No Questions. So I opened the door again, got out a piece of paper and a thumbtack, and wrote: Out briefly. Back for an appointment at 2:30. Banks, That done, I started down the stairs.

I rarely use the elevator, even though Im on the fifth floor. As I said, I don trust machines. They
e always breaking down on me just when I need them.

Besides which. If I were someone in this town using magic to kill people two at a time, and I didn want to get caught, Id make sure that I removed the only practising wizard the police department kept on retainer.

I liked my odds on the stairwell a lot better than I did in the cramped confines of the elevator.

Paranoid? Probably. But just because you
e paranoid doesn mean that there isn an invisible demon about to eat your face.

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