Last time on Jane Crow, Jane arrived in San Francisco to investigate the murder of Musee Mechanique guard Frank Goering. While there, she discovered the vandalized Count Augur, a fortune telling machine whose fortunes were all stolen… all but one, which Jane herself read: “You will find true love but lose it three times before…”
I went back to examining the machine. Scratches along the back of the plate matched the wide grooves in the purple wood. Too wide for a claw hammer, I figured it was probably a crowbar that had done the damage.
I continued looking around the machine. There was an electrical cord coming out the back, but it wasn’t plugged in. Odd, since both machines next to it were. I checked the cord and the plug for prints, but again, there was nothing.
“Mr. Waters,” I called over my shoulder. “Was Count Augur plugged in when you left last night?”
“Should have been,” he said, walking over. “Everything’s on a main switch in the back, I turn things off with that.”
“Do you remember noticing if it was plugged in when you found Mr. Goering this morning?”
“I don’t… as I told Mr. Chivas here, I didn’t even notice he had been broken into until the police got here. I haven’t turned the mechanicals on today since our doors are, uh, closed today.”
“Once we’re done with the crime scene investigation, we’ll unseal it and you can open, Mr. Waters,” Chivas said comfortingly.
“Well, it looks like whoever tore it apart unplugged it first. Which seems odd if there wasn’t any power going to it anyway.”
“Him,” Mr. Waters corrected under his breath. I ignored him.
“Anything else?” Chivas asked.
“Not so far,” I admitted. “No prints, probably a crowbar used for entry. I wonder if we ought to take the Count in as evidence, get the boys to do a real workup. There’s got to be something here.”
“You can’t!” Waters almost gasped. “He’s an antique, taking him apart would destroy him!”
Count Augur glared at me from beneath his bushy eyebrows.
“Let’s give that a hold until we know we need it,” Chivas stepped in diplomatically. “Mr. Waters, if you’ll take him into storage–locked storage–you can keep him here on the premises until we’re sure we’ve gotten everything we need.”
“I… I suppose that would be acceptable,” Waters said.
I gave Chivas my best “you are too nice for this nasty, nasty world” look but the truth was I didn’t really want to spend more time with the Count myself.
We finished crossing the I’s and dotting the T’s on the CSI front, and by then it was evening.
That night Chivas and I checked in at the Mariott. We had a meeting planned for ten the next morning with the San Francisco field office’s coroner about the results of the autopsy on Frank Goering. I wanted to get a little extra sleep; even after training at Quantico–okay, especially after training at Quantico–I wasn’t crazy about spending time with dead bodies.
I turned on the television and put on Animal Planet. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about watching dogs misbehaving that totally relaxes me.
I must have been zoning out already because I felt a palpable sense of waking when the television started talking directly to me. It’s not much more than a parlor trick for most witches to send a seeming, but of course it’s much creepier (and hence worth more status points in the witching community) to actually take control of a television image and have it do the talking for you. Witches are nothing if not show-offs.
“Jane Crow,” the disobedient Shih-tzu on the television said.
“Oh bug off,” I muttered in the tone usually reserved for “just five more minutes, Aunt Cat.”
“Jane Crow,” the nasty little purse dog repeated. “Attend me now.”
“What is it, Mrs. Vassey?” I asked, because that was who it was. I recognized the voice, if not the muzzle.
“I have been enquiring about Abner Czyniski to aid in your search. “He was a master of divination magics, using a wide range of methods but preferring cartomancy. That’s using cards to divine the future.”
“Thanks, I never learned anything about prophecy magic growing up in the house of a Council member.” I knew better than to give her attitude, sure, but Vassey already hated me. There wasn’t anything really to be lost by being rude.
Except she wasn’t done.
“He eschewed the basic forms later in life in favor of experimentation. He didn’t break with the Coven enough to become ronin, but he was dangerously close. I think some divinations of your own might yield fresher fruit.”
“You know I can’t cast spells myself,” I said.
“Ah, Janushka, I have someone who can help you. Someone you can meet with without drawing suspicion.”
“Who?” I asked.
There was a certain amount of schadenfreudish glee in Mrs. Vassey’s voice, and I remembered why I hated her back.
“Your sister Charissa lives in Berkeley now, you didn’t know? Well, I’m certain it will be a pleasant reunion. Besides, she can cast some of the divination spells that you can’t.”
“I thought the whole idea of my doing this was to keep me away from anyone who could connect me to the witching community. Char is about the least subtle–”
“She is your sister, dear,” Vassey interrupted sweetly. “Simply tell your associates that you wish to meet her for lunch while you’re in the area. Family is family, my mother always said.”
With that, the dog started yipping again, and I knew Vassey was gone.
“Crap!” I screamed at the television and gave in to the cliched impulse of throwing the remote at the screen.
Less than a minute later came Chivas knocking at my door.
“Everything okay in there, Jane?” he asked.
“No,” I muttered before shuffling over to the door and opening it as much as the chain allowed. He actually looked concerned.
“I’m good,” I lied.
“You’ll let me know if you’re not?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “But I appreciate the offer.”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.