Don't Hex with Texas

Page 30


He took a small suitcase and something that looked like an oversized briefcase out of the trunk, and I led him through the pack of curious dogs into the house through the kitchen door. “I’d bring you in properly through the front door, but I’m honestly not sure it opens anymore. We never use it. I think I’ll put you in Dean and Teddy’s old room.” We went up the stairs, and I guided him to the largest bedroom, which had two twin beds and lots of science fair trophies in it. “It’s not our usual guest room, but it has the advantage of being easy to escape from.”
He looked out the window. “Onto the porch roof, then onto the tree branch and down the tree?”
“You got it.”
“Is there a problem with the stairs that makes this necessary?”
“They squeak like crazy, worse even than that spot in the hallway at your folks’ place, and it’s several steps in a row, so you can’t just skip the squeaky ones. Mom and Dad’s room is right by the stairs, so no one can get up or down those stairs without being caught.”
“With four kids—and three of them boys—I bet your parents kept them that way on purpose.”
“Exactly. I’m still not sure Mom and Dad know about the escape route, and boy, did Dean make use of it. The one downside of putting you in this room is that Dean’s the one most likely to need it. He still moves back home every so often, but he can take Frank’s old room if Sherri kicks him out while you’re here.”
“Complicated relationship?”
“Don’t ask. Now, there are a couple of bathrooms off the hall here, and there’s one downstairs under the stairs. Mom will tell you to make yourself at home and get anything you want to eat or drink from the kitchen, but she’ll spend the entire time trying to force food on you, so that probably won’t be an issue. And now before the whole mob gets here, we should probably talk. The store closes at six today, so that holds off most of the family, but Mom could be back sooner. She’s probably making the rounds to let everyone know about her future son-in-law, so we have a little time. However, my grandmother could show up at any moment.”
He blanched a bit at my recitation of family likely to invade us, and I could tell that he was reconsidering the offer to stay with us. He sat on one of the room’s twin beds, braced his hands on his knees, and asked, “You haven’t had any more encounters with our suspect, have you?”
I thought I detected a hint of worry in his eyes. “No, nothing since the other night, and I still don’t think that was targeting me, specifically, for who I am. You don’t attack a magical immune with an illusion.” I fought back a shudder. “For all I know, the guy was flirting with me. What’s Sam found out? I haven’t talked to him since Wednesday night.”
He went into professional mode, the way he was in meetings at work when he seemed to disconnect his emotions from the situation. “Sam observed the suspect over the course of two days. He hasn’t been able to identify the suspect yet, so we may have to confront him or her directly.”
“So, magical duel on Main Street?”
“Not if I can avoid it. I’d rather have a friendly chat about the responsible use of magic and the need to be registered centrally, then see if I can use him to get to Idris. If he or she isn’t receptive to that, then I might have to take other measures. Having power means you have to abide by the code, whether or not you know about it.”
“I guess this means some detective work for us, huh?” I felt my spirits lifting at the thought of it, and I realized how bored I’d been away from the magical world.
“It means some detective work for me. You’re not a part of this anymore.” I winced inwardly, but before I could say anything in self-defense, we were interrupted.
“Hello! Who’s there?” my grandmother’s voice called from downstairs. “I don’t recognize that car, so if you’re robbing us, you should know that I’m armed.”
“And that would be my grandmother,” I said with a sigh. “I knew we wouldn’t have long.” I got up and called downstairs. “It’s just me, Granny. I’ve got a friend visiting.”
“That Indian girl from the motel?”
“No, Granny, a friend is visiting from out of town.” I gestured to Owen, and he got up and followed me downstairs. “Granny, I’d like you to meet Owen. He’s here visiting me from New York. Owen, this is my grandmother, Mrs. Callahan.”
Owen tried to shake her hand in greeting, but she braced both her hands on the top of her cane and gave him a good, long stare. “With coloring like that, you must be Irish,” she said. “It’s good to see someone from the old country.”