Last time on Jane Crow, the ronin witch Tex Catlipoca answered a few of Jane’s questions about the stolen fortunes and avoided answering a few others. At least he gave her a mystic carnelian used by Abner Cyzinski that would warn Jane the next time one of the auguries was activated…
For some obvious reason, I didn’t feel like leaving my hotel room the next day. I decided it was time to kick the research into gear.
Research music needed to be something loud with a beat. Scrolling through my iTunes I dragged a bunch of girly punk music into a playlist and cranked the volume. There was something about having a lot of noise in my ears that made my mind a lot quieter, better for learning. Weird, I know, but nobody ever got anywhere mistaking me for normal.
I set the carnelian on top of my monitor just in case it went off.
Now, while I’m a total research wonk, I know that most people don’t want to hear stories about which fact checking websites I get excited about and how long I spend cleaning up red herrings on Wikipedia. So I’ll just give you the upshot of eight hours of research without all the hows and wheres and whys, okay?
Since a lot of this case had to do with fortune telling and prophecy, I figured that was the best place to start. Well, there are basically four types of divination magic: omens, sortilege, augury, and the old favorite, free-style. The sort that Abner seemed to be most caught up with was augury, basically looking at the future and detailing what will happen from signs that only the augur can interpret. It doesn’t need any sort of tool other than the ability to translate signs that are already visible, so it wasn’t likely that there was any antecedent to Abner’s fortunes, no tarot deck or magic bones he used.
What I found most interesting, though, was an old Roman text from Cicero detailing the best ways to strive against negative augury. Apparently the future wasn’t writ in stone, but in… um… something Romans used that wasn’t as hard. Clay maybe? I don’t think they had rubber back then. Let’s just say clay.
Anyway, the methods of avoiding the augur’s declarations were surprisingly semantic. The first, actively refusing to see the signs, didn’t help much after the augur had already gotten his eyes on them. Going back in time and putting Abner in a windowless box wasn’t going to assist me. Similarly, trying to hack the augur by lying to him about signs or setting him up to see the signs you wanted also didn’t do much good in this situation. Still, lying was something I was good at, and I determined to remember it next time I ran into a nosy augur.
The most drastic method mentioned was to kill yourself before the prophecy came to pass. Apparently death was a greater power than augury. Not a method I planned to use.
What did look promising for countering these prophecies were the Roman ideas of renunciato and vitia. The former made a distinction between the augur’s observation and his formulation of the future. Basically, taking what he said and finding an alternative interpretation of it. “Sure, you said that Rome would fall before Carthage, but what you really meant was that our envoy would trip and stumble in front of their king.” Semantics, sure, but when it came to witchcraft, wording was everything.
The other trick that I thought could possibly be used to our benefit was acknowledging the presence of mistakes in the augur’s fortune telling. Human error, basically. Abner may have seen the future, but was he completely accurate in phrasing it? With a bit of spellcraft, maybe some cracks in the prophecies could be found and opened up enough to sneak through.
Okay, I admit I spent a little more work on this than the connection to the case warranted. I was a little freaked out about my own destiny being screwed around with, especially after the incident with the Smoking Mirror. I don’t take well to people telling me what to do in my regular life, let alone telling me what’s going to happen to me in my future.
As for the Unwounding Knife, it was apparently an artifact–origin unknown–used in the late fifties by a witch hunter before being put in a private collection. A year ago, it was stolen but the owner didn’t report the theft. While I couldn’t find more details than that, I knew who to ask. Phrases like “private collection” and “didn’t report” just reeked of someone in the witching world, and if Aunt Cat didn’t know more than that, she’d know where to find it out.
What still bothered me more than the wherefors were the whys of using the mystical blade. It seemed like an unusually specialized form of killing, and if it was true that the blade was stolen for the purposes of this murder, there had to be a reason for doing it this way.
It didn’t fit with the idea of sacrifice, I felt. Sacrifices were usually all about the blood; the more the better. One of those things evil gods like, apparently. No, here the killer went out of his way not to shed blood.
It half reminded me of something I had read earlier, but I couldn’t narrow it down. I decided that I needed to take a break, so I headed to the kitchenette and made myself a cup of cocoa and microwaved myself a Lean Cuisine chicken Alfredo dinner. I ate both at the desk with the plug lamp, watching people go back and forth outside through the diaphenous motel curtain.
Just as I was wiping up the last yummy alfredo sauce with my finger, I heard my phone buzzing. Of course, the phone wasn’t anywhere convenient, like a pocket or anything, so by the time I found it underneath my pajama pants I had missed the call. I checked the voicemail. There was a message from Thed.
“Hey, Jane, just wanted to check in and say hello. Well, actually, I wanted to take you out to a nice dinner at this Mexican place I know where they decorated the place with antique suits of armor, because, hey, who doesn’t like armor, right? But you’re not there, so… well, I mean you’re there, but your there isn’t here, so… okay, now I lost my train of thought and I’m rambling, which probably isn’t making the best impression on you, huh? Well, if you’re still in San Francisco, let me know about armor and Mexican. If you’re not, I won’t take it personally, and I’ll check in again to find out where you live so I can stalk you or something. In a nice way. So, uh, this is Thed, your phone most likely is showing you my number right now, so call me back.”
How someone who talked that much could still come off as sincere was beyond me. I deleted the message because I was still determined to avoid true love.
I buried myself back into the research. It was time to get to the central figure in this, the augur himself, Abner ‘Cadabra’ Cyzinski.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.