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Blood Rites, Page 16

Jim Butcher

Chapter 24

  Chapter Twenty-four

  I expected Genosa to look awful the next morning, but evidently I had a temporary monopoly on rough nights in Chicago. He was waiting for me at the door when I got to the studio, dressed in slacks and a tennis shirt, perfectly coiffed and genial. I got another European-type hug before I'd gotten all the way out of the Beetle.

  "The malocchio, it happened again," he said. "Didn't it. Last night when you ran out. "

  "Yeah," I said.

  He licked his lips. "Who?"

  "Inari. She's all right. "

  Arturo blinked several times. "Inari? That's insane. What possible threat could she be to anyone?"

  Incipient succubus. No threat at all there. "There's got to be some reason she was targeted. We just don't know what it is yet. "

  "She's only a child," Genosa said, and for the first time I heard something like real anger in his voice. That was something to be noted. When kind men grow angry, things are about to change. "Have you any idea who is behind it?"

  "Not yet," I said, and opened the storage compartment under the Beetle's hood. "But this is definitely more than business for somebody. For them it's personal. I think they're going to take another swing this morning, and I'm going to have a surprise for them when they do. "

  "How may I help?"

  "Get the set moving like everything's normal. I need to get a spell of my own ready. "

  Arturo frowned at that, and it crinkled all the creases at the corners of his face into unfamiliar lines. "And that is all I can do?"

  "For now. "

  He sighed. "All right. May fortune smile on your efforts, Mister Dresden. "

  "Don't know why she'd start now," I said, but gave him a quick smile by way of encouragement.

  Genosa returned the smile and went back into the building. I followed him a couple of minutes later with my pack loaded with a fifty-foot retractable chalk line, a mirror, a box of tinfoil, and half a dozen candles. I hurried inside, and checked the greenroom and the dressing room before I found Jake Guffie loitering around the shooting studio in dark grey boxers and a loose silk robe. He had a paperback and a bottle of Gatorade, and was draped over his chair in a pose meant to convey calm and confidence. I'm not sure what made me think he was faking, but I knew it even before I spoke to him.

  "Jake," I said. "Just the guy I need to see. "

  He jumped like a nervous cat and gave me a reproachful glance. "Oh. Good morning, Harry. What can I do for you?"

  "I need your help with something for about ten minutes. "

  He tilted his head at me. "Yeah? What?"

  I hesitated for a moment and then shrugged. "I'm setting up a spell to protect everyone from evil magic. "

  "Uh," Jake said, narrowing his eyes. "I don't want to disrespect your religion, man. But did someone spike your breakfast cereal with LSD or something?"

  "What can I say, Jake. I'm insane but harmless. Come with me and help me draw some lines on the floor with chalk, and after that I'll leave you alone. " I drew an X over my chest with a fingertip. "Cross my heart. "

  He looked around, maybe for an excuse to leave, but then shook his head and stood up. "What the hell," he said. "Maybe I'll learn something. "

  He followed me up the stairs to the top floor of the building. I found the northmost hall, put down my backpack, and started rummaging through it. Jake watched me for a minute before he said, "Is this some kind of feng shui thing?"

  "Uh. Actually, it is, now that I think about it," I said. "Feng shui is all about manipulating positive and negative energy around, right? Here, hold this. What I'm doing here is setting up a kind of. . . well, a lightning rod, for lack of a better analogy. I'm setting things up so that if that negative energy gathers again, it gets sent to the place I want it to go, rather than at a particular target. Like a person. "

  "Feng shui," he said. "Okay, I can buy that. "

  "Let me snap this," I said, and did, leaving a line of light blue chalk on the floor. "There. Come on. " I started down the hall, and after a moment Jake came after me.

  I really did need someone's help, and if I had to get someone to give me a hand on the set, I wanted either Jake or Joan, as the least disturbing-or at least the least threatening-folks I had met. And since Joan was a woman, and therefore more likely to become a target of the curse, I didn't want her running back and forth through this gathering spell. The point was to move the bad mojo away, after all. It would have been silly to leave her standing right there in the middle of it.

  Even if Jake wasn't an overt believer in the supernatural scene, he was at least laid-back enough that he proved to be a capable helper. I had him follow me around the building with the end of the chalk line in hand. On each level of the building I tried to move around as much of the building's perimeter as I could, leaving chalk lines on the floors and walls. I would lay down the line, snapping it against the surface to leave a light dusting of blue chalk-and as I did I poured out a whisper of my will with it, leaving each of the chalk lines quivering with a small amount of energy. My goal was to lay enough of these spikes of directional energy to make sure that when the curse came in again, it would have to cross at least one of them.

  If everything worked to plan, the curse would come flying toward its target, cross one or more of my spikes, and be redirected to follow the lines. Then, at the approximate center of the building, which turned out to be a darkened corner of the soundstage, I laid down my mirror, shiny side up, and set up my candles at the cardinal points of another circle centered around the it. The spikes of force led directly toward the mirror, and I took the time to mark out another circle and light the candles, leaving a subtle quiver of energy in the new circle, too.

  "Oh, right," Jake said. "I read about this one. Mirror to pull the bad mojo away?"

  "Sort of," I said, standing up and dusting off my hands. "If I've done it right, the curse comes flying in, hits the mirror, and bounces back at whoever threw it. "

  Jake lifted his eyebrows. "That's kind of hostile, man. "

  "No, it isn't," I said. "Someone tries to send good vibes at us, they'll get that bounced back at them. They go trying to pull off another killing. . . well. What goes around comes around. "

  "Hey, that's a fundamental core of many religions," Jake said. "Golden rule, man. "

  "Yeah, it is," I said. "Maybe a little more literal than usual, in this case. "

  "You really think this place is cursed?" Jake said. His expression was thoughtful.

  "I think someone doesn't want Arturo's new company to succeed," I replied. "Among other things. "

  Jake frowned. "You think Silverlight Studios is behind it?"

  "Possible," I said. "But things have been pretty nasty for someone with a money motivation. "

  "Materialism is not good for the soul," Jake said. "Those are the folks who can do the worst, when they're after money. "

  "Money's new," I answered. "Power's old. Power is the real deal. Money, voters, oil, SUVs-they're just stand-ins for power. "

  "For a feng shui artist, you're sort of intense, man. "

  I shrugged. "That's the first time anyone's ever told me that. "

  "You got a woman?"

  I rolled up the chalk line. "Had one. Didn't work out. "

  "That could explain it," Jake said. "Arturo gets like you between wives. Thank God that's over. "

  I blinked and looked Jake. "Over?"

  "Yeah," Jake said. "I mean, he hasn't sent out invitations or anything, but I know the guy. He's had hearts floating around his head for a couple of months, and he's in his days-before-wedding phase now. "

  That was important. That was really freaking important. "Are you sure?" I asked.

  Jake shrugged, his expression puzzled. "I'm not gonna testify to it in federal court or anything, man. I mean, city court, sure. "

  Footsteps came around the corner, and Bully Bobby appeared, wearing shorts and a T-shirt and carryin
g a little notebook with a golf pencil. "Jake," he said. "Finally, man. Arturo says I have to tell him today. What do you think of Rocko Stone? Or maybe Rack McGranite?"

  "Rocko is way overdone already," Jake said. "And racks are more of a girl thing. "

  "Oh, right. "

  "Go with something nonstandard, man. How about Gowan?"

  "Gowan?" Bobby asked.

  "Sure, he was a knight. "

  "Like those Round Table guys?"

  "Yeah, like that," Jake said.

  "Sounds kinda. . . soft, don't you think?"

  "Maybe," Jake said. "Stiffen it up with a heavier last name. Like Commando. "

  Bobby frowned. "Gowan Commando," he said, and from his tone the kid just didn't get it. "I guess that might work. Thanks, man. " He paused and noticed me for the first time. "Oh, hey. Uh, Harry, right?"

  "Like yesterday," I said. I didn't use my happy voice. "Morning. "

  "Yeah, morning. " Bobby coughed and glanced at Jake, who clenched a fist in an encouraging be-strong sort of gesture. "Harry," Bobby said, "I was kind of an asshole to you yesterday, man. Sorry. "

  It probably says something about me that I didn't even consider the possibility that he might be sincere until he coughed and shuffled over to offer me his hand. "We okay?" he asked.

  I blinked at him. People didn't apologize to me much, as a rule, but I'd seen enough after-school specials to understand the theory. "What the hell. " I traded grips with the kid and said, "It's nothing. Forget it. "

  He smiled a little and said, "Cool. So what are you guys doing?"

  "Feng shui," Jake said.

  "You know martial arts?" Bobby asked me.

  Now that he wasn't threatening violence, I could see that this kid was a jewel. He could potentially provide some lucky wiseass with straight lines for the rest of his natural life, and you can't put a price on that. "A little. "

  "Cool. "

  Jake shook his head, and managed to keep from smiling. "Need anything else then, Harry?"

  "Not right now. "

  He nodded. "Come on, Gowan. Let's go see if Joan needs help with anything. "

  "Hey," I said. "Jake. "

  "Yeah?"

  "Is Lara here today?"

  He arched an eyebrow. "Yeah. Why?"

  "No reason," I said. "I'll catch up to you later. "

  They left, and I sat down in my dim, magically booby-trapped corner to think.

  It was important that Arturo was in love. My gut told me it was important, but I couldn't kick my tired brain into telling me why. I rubbed at my eyes. I needed more sleep to do any thinking, so I went looking for the next best thing-coffee and a backup brain.

  Murphy answered the phone and I greeted her through the coffee and most of a doughnut.

  "You're mumbling, Harry," Murphy said. "Speak up. "

  I slurped coffee, scalded my mouth on the stuff, and set it aside to cool off a little. "Sorry, burned my tongue. Did you get any more information about Arturo Genosa?" I asked.

  "Some," Murphy said. "I got in touch with a guy I know in LA. He came up with municipal records and even some files from Genosa's lawyer, but there's not much in the way of admissible. "

  "That's okay. Just trying to get a picture. "

  I heard her digging out a file and opening it. "Okay. He's got a will on file, leaves everything to a couple of charities and his next of kin, looks like his mother in Greece-but she died a couple of years ago, so I guess the money all goes to charity. "

  "What about his wives?" I asked.

  "Control of their fund would have gone to his mother, but since she's dead they get to keep drawing from it indefinitely. It's in the prenuptial agreement for all three of them. "

  "Three?" I asked. Hell's bells, if the man was in love. . . "Does it mention a fourth wife?"

  "Nope. "

  "What about a fourth marriage license?"

  I heard her rustling around the file, and tested the coffee while she did. Ah, perfection. "Stupid fax machine paper," she growled. "It's floppy and the pages all stick together. " Then she stopped for a second and said, "Son of a bitch, there is one. "

  "When?"

  "Dated for next Thursday. "

  "To who?"

  "I can't tell. There's a big blurry spot," Murphy said. "Fax machine must have messed it up. But it's definitely marriage license number four. "

  "But with no prenuptial number four," I said.

  "No prenup number four. "

  "Hello, new next of kin," I said.

  "Hello, motive," Murphy agreed. "Hello, suspects. "

  The greenroom door opened and I looked up in time to see a woman with a lingerie-model body under a flimsy robe enter the room, holding a big revolver. She pointed the gun at me, found the extension of the phone I was on and pulled it out of the wall, then said into a cell phone, "I've got him. "

  I sat there holding the dead phone and the warm coffee and said, "Hello, Trixie. "