The Wizard’s Way
Gentleman Walter Payton
I ran one of my hands back over my hair.
”There are only two ways anyone could have managed this. The first is by evocation. Evocation is the most direct, spectacular, and noisy form of expressed magic or sorcery. Explosions, fire, that sort of thing. But I doubt it was an evocator who did this. ”
”Why? ” Ericson demanded.
I heard her pencil scritching on the notepad she always kept with her.
”Because you have to be able to see or touch where you want your effect to go, ” I told her.
”Line of sight only. The man or woman would have had to be there in the room with them. Tough to hide forensic evidence with something like that, and anyone skilled enough to pull off a spell like that would have had the sense to use a gun instead. Its easier. ”
”Whats the other option? ” Ericson asked.
”Thaumaturgy, ” I said.
”As above, so below. Make something happen on a small scale, and give it the energy to happen on a large scale. ” Hunt snorted.
”What bullshit. ”
Ericsons voice sounded sceptical. ”How would that work, Ryan? Could it be done from somewhere else? ”
I nodded. ”The killer would need to have something to connect him or her to the victims. Hair, fingernails, and blood samples. That sort of thing. ”
”Like a voodoo doll? ”
”Exactly the same thing, yes. ”
”Theres a fresh dye in the womans hair, ” Ericson said, I nodded.
”Maybe if you can find out where she got her hair styled, you could find something out. I don know. ”
”Is there anything else you could tell me that would be of use? ”
”Yes. The killer knew the victims. And Im thinking it was a woman. ”
Hunt snorted. ”I don believe we got to sit here and listen to this. Nine times out of ten the killer knows the victim. ”
”Shut up, Hunt, ” Ericson said.
”What makes you say that, Ryan? ”
I stood up and rubbed my face with my hands.
The way magic works. Whenever you do something with it, it comes from inside of you. Wizards have to focus on what they
e trying to do, visualize it, believe in it, to make it work. You can make something happen that isn a part of you, inside.
The killer could have murdered them both and made it look like an accident, but she did it this way. To get it done this way, she would have had to want them dead for very personal reasons, to be willing to reach inside them like that.
Revenge, maybe. Maybe you
e looking for a lover or a spouse.
”Also because of when they died in the middle of sex. It wasn a coincidence. Emotions are a kind of channel for magic, a path that can be used to get to you. She picked a time when theyd be together and be charged up with lust. She got samples to use as a focus, and she planned it out in advance. You don do that to strangers. ”
”Crap, ” Hunt said, but this time it was more of an absentminded curse than anything directed at me.
Ericson glared at me. ”You keep saying she, ” she challenged me.
”Why the hell do you think that? ”
I gestured toward the room.
”Because you can do something that bad without a whole lot of hate, ” I said.
”Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, and let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This feels like the feminine vengeance of some kind to me. ”
”But a man could have done it, ” Ericson said.
”Well, ” I hedged.
”Christ, you are a chauvinist pig, Banks. Is it something that only a woman could have done? ”
”Well. No. I don think so. ”
”You don think so? ” Hunt drawled.
”Some expert. ”
I scowled at them both, angry. ”I haven really worked through the specifics of what Id need to do to make somebodys heart explode, Eric. As soon as I have to Ill be sure to let you know. ”
”When will you be able to tell me something? ” Ericson asked.
”I don know. ” I held up a hand, forestalling her next comment.
”I can put a timer on this stuff, Eric. It just can be done. I don even know if I can do it at all, much less how long it will take. ”
”At fifty bucks an hour, it better not be too long, ” Hunt growled.
Ericson glanced at him. She didn exactly agree with him, but she didn exactly slap him down, either.
I took the opportunity to take a few long breaths, calming myself down. I finally looked back at them.
”Okay, ” I asked.
”Who are they? The victims. ”
”You don need to know that, ” Hunt snapped.
”Ron, ” Ericson said.
”I could really use some coffee. ”
Hunt turned to her. He wasn tall, but he all but loomed over Ericson.
”Aw, come on, Eric. This guys jerking your chain. You don really think hes going to be able to tell you anything worth hearing, do you? ”
Ericson regarded her partners sweaty, beady-eyed face with a sort of frosty hauteur, tough to pull off on someone six inches taller than she.
”No cream, two sugars. ”
”Dammit, ” Hunt said.
He shot me a cold glance (but didn quite look in my eyes), then jammed his hands into his pants pockets and stalked out of the room.
Ericson followed him to the door, her feet silent, and shut it behind him. The sitting room immediately became darker, closer, with the grinning ghoul of its former chintzy intimacy dancing in the smell of the blood and the memory of the two bodies in the next room.
”The womans name was Jennifer Stanton. She worked for the Velvet Room. ”
I whistled. The Velvet Room was a high-priced escort service run by a woman named Bianca. Bianca kept a flock of beautiful, charming, and witty women, pandering them to the richest men in the area for hundreds of dollars an hour.
Bianca sold the kind of female company that most men only see on television and the movies. I also knew that she was a vampiress of considerable influence in the Never Never. She had Power with a capital P.
Id tried to explain the Never never to Ericson before. She didn really comprehend it, but she understood that Bianca was a badass vampiress who sometimes squabbled for territory. We both knew that if one of Biancas girls was involved, the vampiress must have been involved somehow, too.
Ericson cut right to the point. ”Was this part of one of Biancas territorial disputes? ”
”No, ” I said.
”Unless shes having it with a human sorcerer.
A vampire, even a vamp sorcerer, couldn have pulled off something like this outside of the Nevernever. ”
”Could she be at odds with a human sorcerer? ” Ericson asked me.
”Possible. But it doesn sound like her. She isn that stupid. ”
What I didn tell Ericson was that the White Council made sure that vampires who trifled with mortal practitioners never lived to brag about it. I don talk to regular people about the White Council. It just isn done.
”Besides, ” I said.
”if a human wanted to take a shot at Bianca by hitting her girls, hed be better off to kill the girl and leave the customer healthy, to let him spread the tale and scare off business. ”
”Mmph, ” Ericson said.
She wasn convinced, but she made notes of what I had said.
”Who was the man? ” I asked her.
Ericson looked up at me for a moment, and then said, evenly, ”Tommy Tomm. ”
I blinked at her to let her know she hadn revealed the mystery of the ages.
”Tommy Tomm, ” she said.
”Walter Paytons bodyguard. ”
Now it made sense.
”Gentleman ” Walter Payton had been the thug to emerge on top of the pile after the Vargassi family had dissolved into internal strife.
The police department saw Payton as a mixed blessing, after years of merciless struggle and bloody exchanges with the Vargassis.
Gentleman Walter tolerated no excesses in his organization, and he didn like freelancers operating in his city.
Muggers, bank robbers, and drug dealers who were not a part of his organization somehow always seemed to get ratted out and turned in, or else simply went missing and weren heard from again.
Payton was a civilizing influence on crime and where he operated, it was more of a problem in terms of scale than ever before.
An extremely shrewd businessman, he had a battery of lawyers working for him that kept him fenced in from the law behind a barricade of depositions and papers and tape recordings.
The cops never said it, but sometimes it seemed like they were almost reluctant to chase him.
Payton was better than the alternative—anarchy in the underworld.
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