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Part 41: Missing Pieces

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In less than a half-hour, the space around Jack's desk looked like one of those classic scenes in a TV police drama. Spenser had hauled out a couple of cork boards from the store room and Gennevie started pinning up historical articles. Jack set up a map and Valentine helped him stick pins in the spots where, over the last 90 years, bodies had been found.

I'd invited Hannah Stone over to see what she thought about the possibility that the eagle was a stone golem.

We hadn't talked much since she'd been reanimated.

I watched Hannah carefully as she shifted through the papers I'd given her. My heart skipped uncomfortably when I noticed that her hair was shorter. It was still a bushy mess of tight corkscrews that she wore heavy over her forehead, but now it stopped just below her ears. It was a reminder that the rabbis hadn't been able to find all of her. She was missing pieces. My stomach clenched with... well, it wasn't guilt, not exactly. I didn't blame myself for what happened to her--we were all chasing the necromancer, he could have attacked any of us--but I felt like a heel for not being a better person to someone I once considered a friend.

The missing pieces shouldn't matter to me. Spenser told me to think of Hannah as having suffered a brain injury. It happened to people all the time. It changed them. They were different after, but it didn't mean they weren't the same person.

I tried. I wanted to.

But, I kept thinking that the Hannah I knew was dead and this person was something incomplete.

An impostor.

Unconsciously, Hannah's hand reached up to the spot above her eyebrows, fingers tracing the Word there. It was a new quirk. The Hannah I'd known would never draw attention to the mark on her forehead, her vulnerability. And yet... the unconscious gesture gave me a weird kind of hope that the person I knew before was still inside somewhere, because it seemed to me that this was a tic born of trauma. It was like she was checking to make sure the Word was still there.

She glanced up at me. "It's possible that your eagle is a golem of some kind," she said in her slow, measured way. "But if that's the case, someone must be controlling her. A golem can run independently, but someone made her--someone is her master."

Was I disturbed by Hannah's pronoun choice for the eagle?

Obviously, she was also talking about herself.

It had never occurred to me that Hannah might be having her own existential crises. I didn't know very much about Hannah's origins, but I did know that we'd had to search the region for someone to perform the magic to reanimate her. Her original maker had been dead... which I guess had freed her? I didn't know. But, we desperately wanted our friend back. Had we made a mistake?

"I could eat them."

We both glanced over to see Valentine. She was a big, sturdy woman, boxy; Valentine looked lithe and slender beside her, like a snake.

"I assume you can't harm your masters, but I could eat them," Valentine suggested again, casually taking a sip from a coffee mug he had in his hand.

"You can't eat people," I protested. "I mean... can you?"

His dark eyebrows arched over the rim of his cup. "Of course I can. Have you never read any stories about dragons? Eating annoying people is a thing we do quite regularly."

Hannah regarded Valentine with an expression that I could only describe as stone-faced. I thought she might punch him. Instead, she handed me back the pile of printed out articles. I took them, but she held on for a beat longer and looking me directly in the eye, said carefully, "I could never ask for anything like that."

Without looking at Valentine, she turned and walked back to her desk.

"I guess I know what's for breakfast," Valentine said slyly, as he watched Hannah settle back to the report she'd been writing.

"You're not seriously going to eat a person," I said. "I mean, I think that's possibly cannibalism... but definitely murder."  

He shrugged as if the idea of being a murderer didn't particularly faze him. "I've lived a long time," he said languidly, taking another sip of  coffee.  "And I've come to the conclusion that certain types--slavers and Nazis among them--go down the gullet with ease."

I shouldn't have smiled, but I did.  "Don't things that nasty cause indigestion?"

Valentine set his cup down on Jack's cluttered desk. "Not in the least.  I sleep quite well after."

Getting up on tiptoes, I planted a little soft kiss on Valentine's lips.  I put my finger on his nose.  "Fine, but be sure to brush your teeth.  I kiss that mouth."

#

At some point, Jack brought back Chinese.  We all ate quietly, staring boards of information.  I was concentrating on the one that Jack and Valentine had worked on. They'd put in yellow pins at the location of the first 'drop,' orange for the second, and red for the last.  There was  huge cluster of yellow near the downtown clock tower.  The oranges seemed to spread out along various highways.  The reds... were there more of them near the graveyard?

The graveyard.

Why did it have to be the graveyard? That was where we ended up having a showdown with the necromancer.  That's where Hannah was... well, where the Word had been wiped from her brow and she'd fallen apart.  

The graveyard was where I'd blinded Devon.

Jack saw me looking at the pins.  "It's not a hundred percent," he said kindly. Pointing to the few scatterings of reds pin that were along the stretch of highway where they'd found the second body.  "You could stake out the highway."

It was a sweet offer, but I shook my head. "What's the chance she'll dump there again?"

"She?"

I hadn't even noticed I'd picked up the pronoun.  "Hannah used 'she,'" I said with a shrug.  "I guess it stuck."

"One is as good as the other," Jack said with an agreeable lift of his own shoulder.  He used his chopsticks to slurp up some more noodles from the box. "And, frankly, as a male, I'm just as happy to hear the villain being talked about with some gender other than my own for once."

"Anyway, I want to be close to Valentine," I said.  "The graveyard it is."


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