Low Midnight Page 60

Kitty only let the dead air linger for a second or two. “I think I’ve mentioned that Cormac is the strong and silent type, yes? Maybe he’ll be up for a game of twenty questions. Cormac, twenty questions, yes or no.”

“No,” he stated.

“Are you on a job right now?”

He wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that. Or if he should. “Yes. And I need to talk to you about it. Privately.”

“I can’t believe this, I’m being coerced on my own show. You know you’re one of the few people who could get away with this,” she muttered. “All right, don’t go anywhere, because after a short break for local messages, we’ll get right back to your calls on The Midnight Hour.”

He listened closely for the click and change in tone that meant they were off the air. Not that he didn’t trust her, but the reassurance was nice.

“Cormac, what are you doing?” she said.

“If something happens to me, if something goes wrong, you need to go to Judi and Frida and tell them you know how Milo Kuzniak killed Crane. It’s a spell attached to some kind of Maltese cross amulet. Tell them that, and get them to help you with Amy Scanlon’s book.”

“What do you mean, if something happens to you? Why can’t you tell them yourself?”

“Nothing’s going to go wrong. I’m going after that amulet and I have to go through some not-very-nice people to get it. It’ll be fine.”

“Except, just in case, you had to tell me? Because you’re meeting not-very-nice people at midnight? There is nothing about this situation that sounds not-dangerous.”

“Amelia’s looking out for me.”

“No offense, but that doesn’t reassure me.”

“You trust me or not?”

She didn’t say anything, which he supposed was the best he could expect in response to that question.

“You know I’m going to call Ben right after this, right?”

“Better it comes from you than me.”

“That’s so dysfunctional. Do you even listen to the show? You know how many problems come from people not telling each other things?”

“Kitty—”

“Call me when it’s all over. Let me know everything’s fine.”

“I’ll call.” He hung up before she could say anything else.

“Dysfunctional” is one of those eminently useful modern words that serves as a catchall for so many otherwise complicated issues. It tends to lose meaning, doesn’t it?

“Well. She’s not wrong.”

Amelia didn’t argue.

Chapter 24

HE DIDN’T park in the same turnout; he figured Layne would have someone watching it and wouldn’t be above just shooting him as he stepped out of the car. Instead, he parked acouple of miles away and left himself enough time to hike to the plateau. He had a flashlight, held it low and out to show his path, but otherwise preserved his night vision.

A wind was blowing, a front moving in. The overcast sky reflected ambient light from the city, giving the world a weird, shrouded glow. A bite in the air threatened snow. Another frustration to add to the list, since the weather forecasters couldn’t decide if the storm was going to produce a mere dusting or a real blizzard. Didn’t matter one way or another, but it would be nice to know what to expect. He could say that about his whole life, he supposed.

Cormac didn’t see any other cars in the turnout; Layne must have had his own parking spot staked out. Cormac knew he couldn’t get to the plateau first. Layne was closer and had a head start. The guy had the high ground, nothing Cormac could do about it. If Layne didn’t shoot him as he left his car, he might lie in wait and shoot Cormac in the back as he made the climb.

He won’t do that. He wants the standoff. He wants to face you and prove how powerful he is.

Either way, Cormac was going to be very careful.

And that’s why we packed ahead of time.

She had a spell, one she’d wanted to use back when they made their foray at Layne’s place, and she was gleeful to be using it now. This wasn’t an amulet or a ritual like many of her other spells—this was a potion, ingredients mixed, boiled, infused in alcohol, and kept in a little perfume bottle. Saffron, dried hemlock, and powdered cuttlefish—which, shockingly, he’d been able to find at an Asian market downtown. Like the Maltese cross–shaped amulet that had brought them out here in the first place, this was more of a charm than a spell. No preparation or ritual needed, no saying the right words in the right order or drawing the right patterns. It was the kind of thing anyone could do, if they knew how. Charms and potions like this would have been passed down in families, from grandparents and parents to children, back when the world was darker and the shadows bigger. Amelia had learned it from an old woman in England’s Lake District.

It seems to me the shadows are just as large as they’ve ever been. But people have forgotten to look for them.

Or new shadows replaced the old. A person could only worry about so many things at a time.

Let’s just worry about the next hour, yes?

One step at a time, same as it had always been.

He poured out a single drop of the potion, used it to anoint himself, a circle on his forehead. And that was that. Walking through the nighttime woods with the charm in place didn’t feel any different than walking without it. He’d expected invisibility magic to act like a cloak, muffling his senses, making the world indistinct around him even as it made him indistinct to the world. Or maybe he watched too many movies.

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