Last time on Jane Crow, our undercover witch did some research on avoiding augured destinies, only to discover the most useful method of avoiding fate is to kill yourself. Fortunately she was either cheered or depressed by a long cute voice mail from Thed. Her mileage may vary.
My clock read 4:52 when it woke me up making a weird clattering noise. It took me a minute to realize that the noise was coming from the glowing and vibrating orange stone I had set on top of it.
Abner’s carnelian was going off.
I reached over and grabbed the stone, opening my mind to it.
There was a woman, middle aged, sitting watching Jimmy Kimmel on her television. She was seated in a chair upholstered in burgundy velvet, her feet on a matching ottoman. A combination side table and magazine rack sat next to her, the top littered with catalogs and junk mail. One of those annoying pug-faced minidogs ran around on the rug in pointless little circles.
In her left hand she held an envelope, in her right a letter opener. I committed the address to memory. Convenient, that. She slid the dull blade of the opener under the back flap of the envelope and tore the edge in a straight line. From inside, she pulled out a familiar looking card.
“COUNT AUGUR SAYS:” I read, before there was a blast of light and the vision ended.
The hotel room reappeared around me, bedsheets moist with my sweat.
I fumbled for my phone and called Chivas.
“Chivas? Jane. We’ve got another victim.”
“What?” Chivas asked. “I didn’t get a call. Where’d you get the lead?”
The first rule when you need a good lie is to get yourself the time you’ll need to make it up well. “Come over,” I told Chivas, “I’ll tell you on the way.”
Assuming he was still in bed, that would give me about five minutes to explain how I knew a fortune had been activated and why I had a street address when there hadn’t been any police call or crime report.
I didn’t even know if the woman was alive or dead–just that she had activated one of old Abner’s fortunes by reading it. It had arrived in the mail, so it was possible she wasn’t in any real danger from the unsub with the magic knife. Still, it was a concrete lead and I wanted to get there ASAP. I just wish my excitement hadn’t gotten the better of me.
How would I explain having the address? Either I had gotten it from some kind of surveillance or the woman had given it to me. Surveillance would be hard to fake, so I decided to play the odds and fabricate some kind of communication from the woman herself. This was a big risk, because when we talked to her, I’d have to finesse the conversation to get her to imply having contacted me without her knowing that was what I had told my partner.
There are several supernatural message boards out there on the internet that I peruse as part of my job… jobs. I could post an anonymous inquiry about the cards, something general, just fishing for info, and have it link back to me. Then I could say that I was contacted by the woman there. It wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny if it was questioned, but it was enough to sound plausible and buy me time. Fortunately, Chivas trusted me, and didn’t have much reason to doubt what I told him. I felt a little bad about that, but the key to good dissembling is to make peace with your decision to lie.
By the time the knock on my door came, I had about ninety-seven percent of my peace made.
I opened the door at almost the same moment as I rushed out of it, trying to drag Chivas along in my wake.
“Where are we going? What’s going on?”
“No time,” I said, rushing down the hall. “We need to get there before Mister Subtle Organ Damage does.”
He took the wheel and I slipped into the navigator seat. Every direction I gave was one less moment I had to make stuff up. Chivas seemed to accept the message board story at face value, but then, I’m not my best at reading people at four in the morning. Like you are.
We arrived at the address as the sun was just coming up over the horizon. The house was in one of those neighborhoods that looked all the same thirty years ago but now the identical units have been either decorated or deteriorated into uniquity. Is that a word? It is now.
Chivas knocked at the door right below the non-holiday greeting wreath. No answer. He knocked again, and rang the doorbell a few times. I strolled around through the bouganvillia and looked in the front window. The woman was still sitting in front of the television, apparently paying no attention to the sounds from the front door. Her dog was yipping up at her, whining about its momentary neglect.
That was when I knew she was dead. No one who has a dog like that ever refuses them attention. I’m embarassed that when I realized it, I felt a rush of relief that she couldn’t gainsay my story now.
“Go in!” I yelled at Chivas. “I think she’s hurt… or worse.”
With a surprising amount of strength for a man his age, Chivas put his shoulder to the front door and smashed it open. Thankfully the woman hadn’t left her deadbolt locked. I followed Chivas through the door and into the living room.
The woman’s eyes were open and glassy. We were too late.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.