Low Midnight Page 43

“Okay. Good. I believe you. Oh, and I’ll take that book you found in Milo’s pocket.”

So he’d definitely been watching. Cormac thought about responding with, “What book?” Just to see the look on Layne’s face, and just to see what the guy would do about it. But he was supposed to be walking away from all this. Might as well just let him have it.

Amelia did panic at this. No, he can’t have it, he wouldn’t even know what to do with it. We have to know what Milo was working on—

Layne put out his hand. “Give it. Now.”

“You think you’ll know what to do with it? You know anything about spell books?”

Layne’s eyes widened, a flash of surprise, of hunger. He hadn’t known what it was, but now he did, and he wanted it.

I want it!

A headache started pounding behind Cormac’s ears, throbbing dully. He hadn’t had one like this since he was back in prison, when Amelia was first trying to break into his mind. This was her, fighting back.

Layne was an idiot. He was going to get himself in trouble. Cormac decided he didn’t much care. He pulled the book out of his pocket and handed it over.

“This means you don’t call me again. If you do, I’m not going to come running.” He walked away, back to the Jeep. Amelia grumbled at him the whole time.

“Whatever you say.”

Two of the henchmen came up from the house. Cormac watched from the Jeep, morbidly curious about how they were getting rid of the body. He expected Layne had a ditch somewhere, an old mine shaft or even just a cave, and that Milo wasn’t the first body to get tossed there. If it was on private property, no one would ever find it to be able to report it, and if Milo didn’t have anyone around to declare him missing—well then, he was as good as gone.

Milo couldn’t have expected to end up that way. But you spend enough time with a guy like Layne, well …

Which was why Cormac was driving away.

Milo was telling us what he was doing, what killed him, it’s all in the book, I must have that book!

Cormac didn’t want to argue. He was thinking more about how this—disappearing down some backwoods hole, dead and lost—could never happen to him. Ben wouldn’t let it. Hell, neither would Kitty. Strangely comforting, having people watching his back. He drove, glancing in the rearview mirror to see the guys hauling the body, arms slung over their shoulders, down to the woods at the back of the property.

Ten or so miles later, when the gravel county road met asphalt, he pulled over and parked on the shoulder. The headache was pounding now, Amelia refusing to be ignored.

“What?” he said out loud.

We cannot walk away from this.

“Yes, we can. I just did.”

He leaned back against the seat, tipped his head back, closed his eyes. He could fall asleep, right here. The bruise around his eye throbbed in timewith his pulse. The headache didn’t dim.

If you won’t go back for Kuzniak’s book, the only way to learn more about Kuzniak and Crane is to go to the plateau and work the Sand Creek spell to re-create what happened, perhaps even summon Crane’s spirit—

“No. No more summoning. No more talking to dead people.”

One might think you were squeamish.

“I just know better than to go sticking my head where it doesn’t belong.”

You’re a coward.

Almost sounded like his father saying that. Time was, he’d start a fight over those words.

Cormac. Come and talk to me. Don’t shut me out like this, I can’t stand it.

He caught a whiff of fear at that. She argued because she was stubborn, but while she did she worried—how precarious was her place here, really?

Sometimes he thought about what it would take to get rid of her. If he thought hard enough, if he found the right spell or incantation—hell, if he ignored her long enough—could he eject her spirit? Just kick her out, to dissipate on the wind or astral plane or whatever happened to spirits that didn’t have bodies. Or would she find some other way to bother him. Haunting his Jeep, maybe, shorting out spark plugs whenever she disagreed with him. So yes, the situation with Amelia could be much more annoying that it was now.

Without her, the apartment would be very quiet.

Cormac. Please come and talk to me, face-to-face.

He let out a breath and fell into their mental space, his memory turned real. He was standing in the middle of a damp meadow, looking around for her. The place was cold this time. A sharp, wet wind was blowing, the kind that came through the mountains in autumn, smelling of impending snow. Cormac shivered, wondering why he couldn’t just make a wish and bring back summer. This was all in his head. But the bad weather reflected his mood. Both their moods.

The trees across the valley swayed in the wind, the trunks creaking.

Amelia appeared, just far enough away that she had to raise her voice to be heard. She stood primly, as if she were arguing her case in court. “Without Kuzniak’s book, without learning what happened to him, our options are limited.”

“I already told you the option I pick—quit the whole thing.”

“I think we should go back to the plateau.” She seemed unaffected by the chill, maybe because her old-fashioned gown with its thick wool and high collar kept her warm. Maybe because she didn’t have a body anymore, she couldn’t feel the cold. “I want to try my spell.”

“No. It’s not right. The dead should stay dead. Let them lie, don’t scare them up and try to talk to them, don’t bring back the past.” He looked across the way, studying the clouds rolling in from the west, gauging what the weather was going to do next. As if it were real weather.

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