No sign of a spell or any witch magic. I pursed my lips. That didn’t necessarily mean that he hadn’t been spelled. A standard sleep spell would probably leave a bit of witch-tinged aura on him for a week after it was cast. But there were less run-of-the-mill spells that wouldn’t linger. One or two that an amateur might even be able to cast. Though the actual casting would be illegal as hell for a non-Covenant witch.
Long minutes passed without word and I spent most of it going in and out of an almost meditative state, trying to focus on anything except for how long Mason had been gone, and how Vasquez’s mood grew darker by the minute.
I kept finding my attention settling back on Jarvis’s aura. He could just have a vampire girlfriend. If he did, that didn’t automatically make him a suspect, but something wasn’t adding up. There were too many coincidences. Too many things he seemed involved in—at least peripherally. The tinge of vampire aura all over him. The fact that the coin disappeared with him in the room. What if he hadn’t really been knocked out by the blast, but had used the distraction to hide the coin, or pass it off to an accomplice?
Could he have accomplished that? I wasn’t certain he’d been searched, but it was a possibility he’d have to have planned for. Maybe he’d stashed it? A trashcan or under another box? Hell, he could have counted on his reputation to keep him from being searched fully and just shoved it in his briefs. Risky, but possible.
I blinked at sudden movement in front of me. Jarvis was talking to Vasquez in low tones.
The coin. The fact that he had been watching Mary Stone—or should have been—before she was killed. And he stunk of vampire.
I needed more information. Not just on sleep spells. Mason had mentioned that the spell that knocked us all out at the evidence locker had likely been triggered from inside the warehouse. I’d dismissed it, knowing that was hardly a certainty. But how likely was it? My education as a witch had stopped while I was young and still learning histories, not actual spells.
I needed to reach out to someone who would know.
My dislike of speaking with Covenant witches extended far beyond just my immediate family. And I’d managed to avoid all but the slightest contact with my cousin, Natalie Leigh, who contracted as the department’s Covenant witch on cases that required such services.
I slipped out to Mason’s backyard with the excuse that I needed a breath of fresh air. No one shot me so much as a second glance. A quick call to information and my cell phone was ringing through to Natalie Leigh’s office.
I’d expected her voicemail, or a secretary. Something to give me a little more time to steel my nerves. So when Natalie answered, I almost dropped my cell phone.
“This is Natalie Leigh,” she said, voice bright like a customer service agent before you told them you wanted to disconnect your cable.
I cleared my throat. “Natalie. This is Astrid—Detective Astrid Holmes.” Even to my own ears, my voice sounded a little breathless. “With the Chicago Paranormal Unit,” I added lamely.
“Astrid. Yes, of course.” Her voice maintained its professional tenor, but her words were hesitant.
“I’m calling to get your professional opinion,” I said, as if we hadn’t played together as children. Of all my family, I’d been closest to Natalie. She was an only child, and my brother was older and disinterested in his annoying little sister. Our mothers were sisters, so we had spent many hours together before either of us was old enough to even really know the difference between witches and humans, let alone how that big gap would tear us apart.
“Of course. Ask away.”
I glanced over my shoulder at Mason’s house to ensure I was still alone, then briefly described the spell that had knocked out Jarvis, Donaldson, and me the night the coin had been taken.
“So the spell took the power out and knocked you out simultaneously?”
“Yes. What I really need to know is how difficult that would be to cast from outside the room. Especially if a witch wasn’t actually present.”
“So you’re talking spells attached to an object?”
“Exactly. No witch was close enough for me to sense.” I was almost certain that an actual witch hadn’t been present. Even with my concentration focused on the coin, I would have definitely sensed a witch close enough to cast that sort of spell on me.
Silence took over the line for a few seconds. Painful moments that I almost ached to fill with questions. Questions that had absolutely nothing to do with my case.
“If you couldn’t sense them, then you’re probably right about the object. For the spells to trigger together like that, they’d have to be woven together. Otherwise, one would have been cast before the other.”
“So either the security feed would have seen us fall, or we would have seen the power fail before the knock-out spell hit us, if they weren’t weaved into a single spell,” I said, not really asking for clarification, but she gave it anyway.
“Yes, exactly. And Astrid, that’s not an easy thing to weave together.”
I glanced back at the house. “Are we talking Covenant?”
“Not necessarily. But this would be expensive, regardless of the provider. And it would have to be triggered in the actual room. The person who triggered it would have been immune as the caster.”
“Leaving him to run around and do whatever he needed to do for the few minutes before anyone arrived to check on the alarm,” I replied, excited now. But as the excitement hit, dread circled it. That meant exactly what I’d feared. Someone inside had triggered the spell. Someone like Jarvis.
“Alarm?” Natalie asked.
“Oh, yes. Whenever the power goes out in a restricted place like the evidence locker, it trips an alarm for a black and white to come check on the building. That’s how they found us passed out.” I frowned. “I guess that if he triggered the spell, then took the coin, he’d just have to pretend to be unconscious when the cops arrived to check.”
“He? What coin?” Natalie paused. “He also could have had a second charm, to knock himself out after it was done. That would be an easier one to make and a cheaper one to get.”
That idea was interesting. And quite possibly correct. “I can’t really fill you in on all the details, right now. But a coin disappeared on a case I’m working from evidence. I think—I think it was enchanted.”
Silence greeted my statement.
“We found burns, on the victim’s body. They were burned in by the coin and they felt like witch to me—not exactly, but similar enough.” I knew what I was saying wouldn’t make much sense to Natalie, but she worked with the police enough to pick up enough to follow me, and while I had her on the phone, I might as well ask after the coin itself. “I’m pretty sure that the coin was more than a decoration.”
“Was it old?”
“The coin? Yes. I don’t know how old, but it looked pretty ancient. And the vamp energy on it suggested someone had owned it for decades—maybe centuries.”
The sound of Natalie muttering to herself and pages flipping was her only response for a few seconds. “I’ll have to do some research.”
“Sounds good,” I said.
“It’s nice to hear from you.”
With those words reverberating through my mind, the line clicked dead. I stared at my phone for a few precious seconds, before heading back to the house. I didn’t have time to consider what she meant.
Jarvis had settled sullenly in the corner, and Vasquez stalked through the room, barking the occasional order to the poor saps on the other end of his cell phone.
I opened my mouth to say something accusatory, then snapped it shut. Mason had been gone too long. His team hadn’t reported back. Would we find them in time if I outed Jarvis? It was a risk.
A risk I couldn’t take.
And before I could think through the situation enough to make sure that doing nothing for now was the best approach, an officer ran in and said something low to Vasquez. Vasquez barked a quick order and the cops started filing out of the building.
“Holmes, get back to the station,” Vasquez ordered.
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
He paused giving orders long enough to turn to me, and the worry behind the hardness guarding his expression hit me like a shot in the chest. “One of Mason’s team radioed in. They’ve met some resistance. We’ve got officers en route. I need you to get back to the station.”
The news was like a brick smashing into my stomach and I fought against the nausea that rolled through me. Resistance? Was Mason okay? I barely stopped myself from blurting out questions that Vasquez would have no answers for. I had to stay calm. I couldn’t help him if I didn’t stay calm.
I nodded to Vasquez when he glanced at me, but I kept my eyes on Jarvis. The imp walked quickly after the other officers. Staying just far enough away that he wouldn’t notice my gaze, I followed him and the other officers out of the house.
Mason would be fine. He had to be. And if I rushed over there to help him, he wouldn’t thank me. Not to mention the fact that I’d be too late to do much but hover over him. But I could still make a difference. Still help.
Mason’s driveway and street parking had been almost entirely commandeered by the police. Jarvis was easy to keep in my sight as he ducked into his Ford Ranger. Most city-dwellers didn’t drive pickups; he wouldn’t be difficult to follow.
As the rest of the cops headed south—no doubt on their way to Mason’s last known location—Jarvis went north. Exultation rushed through me and I turned to follow him. He drove unhurriedly toward his destination. Overly confident bastard.
I followed for a few miles until he turned off into an older part of town. A couple of miles and a few turns later and we were officially in one of the least pleasant Chicago suburbs. Old strip malls intermingled with unkempt houses and old apartment buildings, with a sprinkling of industrial structures for good measure.