Low Midnight Page 63

It’s a mirror, literally, Amelia said. In ancient times, before mirrors made with silver-painted glass came about, people used polished brass or bronze. I believe this is very old, Cormac.

Where do you suppose Milo Kuzniak got it?

Haven’t any idea. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Of course it did. That was what all this was for, boggling the mind.

I could scry. See if there’s any mention in the usual arcane literature of this sort of spell—or perhaps even the existence of this specific amulet, though I think that’s unlikely.

He started the Jeep and put it into gear.

May I ask where we’re going?

“Manitou Springs. To see Judi and Frida. This thing’s a red herring. I want to get back to cracking Amy’s book of shadows.”

But— She stopped. Didn’t argue.

Cormac kept driving, west this time, back to town.

*   *   *

THEY GOT to the Manitou Wishing Well before it opened. On the plus side, there was plenty of parking on the street right out front. He found a coffee shop nearby and bought the biggest coffee they had and a Danish. Enough fuel to keep him going for a couple more hours. He watched the tourist stretch wake up for the day, lights coming on and shops opening, until Judi came to the window and turned the hand-painted sign hung on the door from CLOSED to OPEN.

No point in waiting.

He walked in, found Judi restocking T-shirts and Frida sorting receipts by the cash register. They stared at him and seemed surprised to see him.

He stalked to the counter by Frida, put down the mirror amulet, and turned to face them. Judi had drifted over; they both stared. Esther the cat thudded onto the far end of the counter, curled her tail around her, and blinked calmly at him. Cormac looked at her, sidelong, suspicious, before launching in on it.

“Milo Kuzniak didn’t kill Augustus Crane. Not outright. He probably didn’t know much magic at all, but he had this. Crane killed himself. He went out there to get rid of Kuzniak, and whatever spell he used doubled back and killed him instead. Not sure what exactly this is, what kind of magic is tangled up in it, but it’s some kind of reflective spell. Murder solved. And the bad guys you were worried about? I don’t think they’ll be poking around anymore.”

He leaned on the counter, regarding them, and waited for a response. He seemed to have startled them, which was okay. He’d wait.

Frida pointed at the glass. “Could you not lean on that? I just cleaned it.”

Cormac crossed his arms.

Judi finally nodded. “Right. Okay. That makes sense.” She picked up the amulet. Turned it back and forth in the light. It seemed so harmless, a junk-store trinket. “This little thing? Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.” No need to tell them it had been used to kill another man recently. “That it? Was this what you needed to know?”

The two womenlooked at each other, exchanging some silent reassurance.

Frida said, “How did you find this? We could never find anything.”

“It took some luck. I had a few contacts. Turned out, Milo Kuzniak’s great-grandson had it. He was following in his ancestor’s footsteps, trying to get gold out of that plateau.” He gave a little shrug.

“Great-grandson?” she said, astonished.

Wasn’t any more unbelievable than anything else about this story.

Frida said, “Then it’s all just this? Whatever lingering magic is up there, it’s not a danger to anyone?”

“I don’t think so. It’s all shadows anymore.”

“Thank you,” Judi breathed, wondering. She replaced the amulet on the counter, gingerly, as if it had burned her.

Cormac asked, “So—you have the key to Amy’s book? Am I worthy?”

He thought she might back out of the deal, or that she had been lying about knowing how to read the book. He expected her to say she didn’t know, and he didn’t know how he was going to deal with it. Not like he could beat up a couple of old women like he beat up Layne.

But Judi nodded, moving around the counter to the back room. “Of course. I’ll go get it.”

That left him face-to-face with Frida, who regarded him with bemusement.

“I didn’t think you’d find anything,” she said. “I figured we’d never see you again. I mostly suggested it to try to get rid of you.”

That was fair, the mistrust being mutual. “What’s in Amy’s book—it’s too important to just let go. I wasn’t going to walk away.”

“I see that now.”

Cormac pushed the amulet across to her. “I figure this is yours. You hired me to find out what happened—this is it.”

Frida regarded it as if it were on fire. Donning a wry smile, she pushed it back. “No, you keep it. I have a feeling you’ll need it more than we ever will.”

It was a hot potato, then, and he didn’t want anything to do with it. It was Amelia who reached for it and said, “I might just at that,” as she slipped it in a jacket pocket.

The cat yawned, showing a mouth full of teeth, and bounded off the counter and away.

Judi returned with a tiny hardcover journal, no bigger than a credit card. Another damned book. She flipped through the pages, smiling fondly, stroking the edge of the cover. A last connection to the dead. A farewell.

She explained, “It was a code we worked out together, just the two of us, when she was in high school. She didn’t want anyone to know what she was getting into, but she knew I’d understand. I’m the one who set her on this path, after all. For good or ill.” If she had regrets, she hid them well, behind a simple sad smile and a serene gaze.

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