kind of unpleasantness?” I asked.
lady in question fought against the Russian Imperial invasion of
their small city. The legend states that she placed herself onto a
rocky island a short distance from the cliffs and then called an
entire battalion of the invading Russian troops to her. She drowned
three motorized rifle companies before the few survivors finally
managed to reach the rock. She was torn apart. Quite literally, I’m
Catalina . . . I could picture my sister on that rock.
That’s exactly what she would do.
business.” The Records Keeper sighed. “The House hasn’t had any
female heirs since then. A very knowledgeable source has speculated
that it was a matter of choice rather than chance.”
abort female children?” Rogan asked, his voice cold.
is the rumor. The House refused our attempts to reach them for a
consult. They’re a very reclusive family. Thus, we are left on our
own, so after much deliberation, we are creating a new category for
Ms. Catalina Baylor.” The Keeper paused. “We shall refer to her
as siren.” She
would hate that.
is so very exciting. If this magic endures within your family, this
may be the beginning of a whole new subset. The rankings of the rare
magic talents may shift. We’re bringing in a powerful antistasi
Prime for her trials.” Like
aegis mages who blocked bullets and physical attacks, antistasi mages
specialized in defense, but against mental attacks. Well, at least
that should put Catalina’s mind to rest.
House?” Rogan asked. “Smith?”
Sagredo,” the Keeper said. Rogan
raised his eyebrows. I
glanced at him.
best antistasi Prime on record,” Rogan explained.
taking no chances,” the Keeper said. “Unfortunately, he is
otherwise engaged at the moment, so we will have to wait a couple of
days. Therefore, your trials will be set exactly one week from now,
next Sunday.” A
man marched into the room. In his sixties, but still athletic, he
wore black pants, a black T- shirt, and a black garment that could be
called a sweatshirt in the same way a Porsche could be called a car.
It had notched lapels like a suit, the stylish drape of a luxury
trench coat, and likely cost more than our mortgage payment. His skin
was a light bronze, his hair wavy and black with a lot of white. He
had bold, strong features: a broad forehead, black eyebrows, a
prominent nose, and a square jaw mostly hidden by a short beard that
was more grey than black. His hazel eyes, alight with intelligence,
looked at the world with a touch of humor. When I saw him for the
first time, I thought he looked like someone’s favorite uncle, who
owned a vineyard somewhere in Greece or Spain, spent a lot of time
outdoors, and laughed often. That was before I knew who he was.
evening, Mr. Duncan.” The Keeper smiled. My
House formation would be witnessed by Mad Rogan, the Scourge of
Mexico, and Linus Duncan, the former Speaker of the Assembly that
ruled the magical families of Texas. Dear God.
late, I know, I’m sorry.” The former most powerful man in Texas
hurried across the room. “Some people insist on being annoyingly
difficult. What did I miss?”
of importance,” the Keeper assured him. Duncan
nodded at Rogan. “Major.”
Rogan replied. The
Keeper took out a fountain pen, cleared his throat, and glanced
at me, his black eyes sparkling behind his glasses. “Michael, if
you please.” Michael
stepped forward and produced a high- end camera.
verbal acknowledgment is required,” the Keeper told me, his tone
confidential. “You must say these words to me: I, Nevada Baylor,
petition the State of Texas for assessment and recognition of my
family’s powers. Are you ready?”
My heart was beating too fast. The
Keeper nodded at Michael. Michael tapped the camera’s digital
screen. The Keeper raised his pen and looked at me. My mouth had gone
completely dry. Somehow
I made my lips move. “I, Nevada Baylor, petition the State of Texas
for assessment and recognition of my family’s powers.”
Linus Duncan, Head of House Duncan, so witness,” Duncan stated.
Connor Rogan, Head of House Rogan, so witness,” Rogan echoed. “So
Keeper wrote today’s date on the page and added, Nevada Baylor on
behalf of herself, Catalina and Bernard Baylor. Witnessed by Linus
Duncan of House Duncan and Connor Rogan of House Rogan.
petition is granted,” the Keeper said. Michael
lowered the camera and set it aside.
is done,” the Keeper said.
Ms. Baylor,” Linus Duncan told me.
you for coming to be my witness.”
if you’re going to jump into the wolf’s den, it helps to have an
ally. Even if that ally is old with blunted teeth.” A
muscle in Rogan’s cheek jerked. He hadn’t said anything, but both
he and Michael watched Linus Duncan like he would sprout fangs and
claws any second.
hope you succeed,” Duncan said.
sound of a woman coming down the hallway in high heels echoed through
you expecting someone?” Rogan asked.
the Keeper said.
Outside the car, Atlanta crawled by. Magic drenched the city. Ever since I claimed it, the invisible currents gained definition. If I concentrated, I could sense them ebbing and flowing, like the waters of a sea.
Curran took his gaze off the road to glance in the rearview mirror for a second. “You okay there, buddy?”
“He just likes the sound of the new word,” I told him.
“He needs a venison leg bone to gnaw on,” Curran said. “They were my favorite.”
Kill me somebody. “Can it be a cooked leg bone?”
“He is a shapeshifter,” Curran said. “We don’t have to worry about bacteria and diseases.”
“I would feel better if it was cooked.”
Curran studied me for a moment, reached over, and squeezed my hand. “What’s bothering you about this? Did you want him to stay human?”
“No. I love him whoever he is. I spent thirteen months worrying that he will stop breathing at night, or get sick, or hurt himself somehow, and raw deer femurs don’t go along with that.”
“Cooked bones splinter. He will hurt himself.”
“Then maybe we can skip the bones altogether.”
Curran turned onto Jeremiah Street. “I let him eat a mouse in the forest yesterday.”
“He caught it himself. I’m not going to take his kill away from him.”
Curran leaned forward. “Is that who I think it is?”
I peered through the windshield. A tall broad-shouldered man sat on the steps in front of our office. He wore a white T-shirt, faded blue jeans, and heavy work boots. A worn Atlanta Braves cap sat on his short brown hair.
“It’s just Teddy Jo.”
Curran gave Teddy Jo a dark look. I reached over and squeezed his hand. “What’s bothering you about this? Is it because he’s Thanatos, the angel of death?”
He bared his teeth at me.
I stuck my tongue out.
The cart in front of us stopped, blocking the street.
“It’s because whenever he shows up, he drags you off and then you come back beat up.”
“I always come back beat up. I don’t see what Teddy Jo has to do with it.”