Over the werewolves’ protest, I drove back to Precinct headquarters in the agents’ car.
Even though I’d been fairly certain that the agents had materialized on the beach via magic, they showed me to a car that looked like someone’s idea of what Federal Agents should drive—in the movies—from 1965. It was long, black, and shiny. The doors made solid noises when the slammed shut, and the backseat smelled of old leather and vinyl.
“You conjured this car, didn’t you?” I asked them as I buckled in. “This isn’t a real car. Does it even have a brand name?”
From the drivers’ seat, Furfur gave his partner a stern look. “I told you it should be a Chevy or something.”
“You’re lucky the wheel is on that side,” Tengu muttered. “We drive on the left in Japan.”
Starting up the engine, Furfur grumbled. “I wanted a sports car.”
“I was told we don’t have the ‘budget’ for that,” Furfur said. “Also, that’s too ostentatious."
Furfur made a noise of disapproval. Behind us, several Harleys started up and, as we pulled out of the parking lot, became a kind of motorcade or vehicular honor guard.
Sitting back, I watched the scenery roll by outside the window. My thoughts circled back to everything that happened on the beach. I hoped that my decision to stay hadn’t upset Valentine too much. He almost never asked for anything, yet he’d wanted to go—fly off on a grand world tour. I couldn’t blame him. There wasn’t much for someone like him to do around here. He had a horde of gold; he could afford to swan around Europe or Asia or Africa or wherever he wanted to go.
Despite learning that I was some part-dragon, all I wanted to do was make this life I’d started work.
A simple goal, but it was not so easy to accomplish, especially when Valentine and I seemed to be suspects in something. Technically, I was guilty of attacking Jack and Sarah Jane. Neither of them had charged me with assault, mostly because Jack had been knocked unconscious and, well, Sarah Jane was a bird.
But the magpie gang had freed me. Maybe they were working completely on their own, but it seemed far more likely that they were carrying out the wishes of Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane and Jack might not be simpatico, but she was his familiar….
…Just like Valentine was supposedly mine.
I wondered: had that changed now that it was revealed that we were more like cousins, both being dragons?
We passed by a huge stand of oak trees. The sun was momentarily blocked and in the shade of the huge trees I swore, for a split second, I saw someone with their thumb out. He had one of those old-fashioned backpacks and looked very clean-cut; only when I turned to get a better look at him, he was gone.
Must have been the hitchhiker ghost that Mac told me about.
This town was so full of stuff like that; I didn’t give it much of a thought. Besides, I had bigger things to worry about. I leaned forward, an arm on both the agent’s seats in front of me, and asked, “What is Spenser in trouble for exactly? I mean, I remember some of the problems. He wasn’t very forthcoming about what he knew about his ex girlfriend. He did the right thing in the end. Is he in trouble for obstruction of justice?”
Tengu glanced back at me; Furfur eyed me in the mirror.
After several tense seconds, Tengu said, “In a way.”
“Well, what way? I mean I want to help,” I said. “Seriously, if there’s something I can tell you that can wrap this up, I’ll do it.”
Furfur chuckled darkly, “Want us gone that badly, huh?”
I didn’t even pretend that wasn’t true. “Yes, exactly. So, ask me the questions.”
“I’m afraid it’s more complicated than all that,” Tengu said. “Spenser Jones has already admitted to all the ‘crimes’ he committed. He’s on administrative leave. Those such mundane things were dealt with immediately.”
I didn’t get it. “So why are you still here?”
“What we’re investigating is…” Tengu gave a glance to his partner.
Furfur seemed to consider something for a moment, and then nodded, and said, “We’re investigating the level to which the town has been skewed.”
“Skewed?” I asked for clarification, because, honestly? It sounded like ‘screwed.’
“In the direction of unnatural,” Tengu said.
Ah, this crap again. I sighed. “Why does it matter so much?”
Tengu frowned. His nose was so droopy, I had to resist the urge to give it a flick to see if it would waggle. “At its simplest, it’s a matter of balance, I suppose. But you know the river analogy for magic? Natural magic flows with the current; Unnatural pushes against it. Well, think of it this way: too much pushing and the river is dammed up.”
I thought about this for a second, but there was something not quite right. “That’s not how it works--if the metaphor is literal, that is. Pushing against it all the time, that sounds to me more like a power generator, like, say, Hoover Dam. Because it’s not that unnaturals stop the flow of the river, they just utilize it differently. At least, that’s what I was told.”
The uncomfortable silence that stretched said it all.
“Oh,” I said, as it hit me. “I’m right. And, what you don’t want is that much power in one group’s hands.”
There was another really long silence. In fact, we’d pulled onto the street in front of the Precinct’s shop front before Tengu said, “Balance is important.”
Sure. I thought, the balance of power.
YOU ARE READING
Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring cushy job. She didn't count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she'...