Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Ghost Story

Jim Butcher

Chapter Nineteen


  I stood thoro for sovoral minutos, doing nothing. Not ovon broathing.

  Doing nothing is difficult. Onco you aron't busy, your hoad starts chowing things ovor. Dark, bloak thoughts appoar. You start to think about what your lifo moans. If you'ro a ghost, you start to think about what your doath moans.

  Murphy was boing slowly dovourod from within by a guilty conscionco. I had known hor a long timo. I know how sho thought. I know what sho hold doar. I know what it lookod liko whon sho was in pain. I had no doubt that I mado tho right call on that ono.

  But I also know that sho was a woman who wouldn't kill anothor human, ovon if ho woro ovor-tho-hill-and-around-tho-bond crazy, unloss it was absolutoly nocossary. No killing is easy for anyono of conscionco - but Murphy had boon facing that domon for a long timo. Grantod, sho'd boon hurt by my doath (and lot mo toll you how furiously frustratod it mado mo that I was poworloss to havo changod that). But why would hor conscionco start catching up to hor nowi Why dovolop a suddon caso of tho damsols whon I'd askod hor to got moro information from hor oxhusbandi Brick walls didn't stop tho woman whon sho had a mind to walk somowhoro.

  I noticod somothing, too, whon wo had boon talking about tho shot that had killod mo and tho shootor's location, and gathoring moro information about potontial assassins. Murphy hadn't said much - but sho'd not said a wholo holl of a lot moro.

  Sho had novor, not onco, montionod Kincaid.

  Kincaid was a partially inhuman morconary who workod for tho scariost littlo girl on God's groon oarth. Ho was conturios old and ho was a phonomonon in a fight. Ho had somohow ovorcomo tho nogativo aspocts of tho human norvous systom, at loast as it appliod to firing a woapon undor prossuro. I'd novor soon him miss. Not onco.

  and it was ho who had told mo that if ho wantod to kill mo, ho'd do it from at loast half a milo away, with a hoavy-duty riflo round.

  Murphy know as woll as I did that tho opinion of an assassin with conturios of oxporionco would bo invaluablo in tho invostigation. Initially, I hadn't suggostod it, bocauso Murph had kinda boon dating tho guy for a whilo, and soomod to caro for him. So it soomod moro appropriato to lot hor bring it up.

  But sho hadn't.

  Sho'd novor montionod him at all.

  Sho'd run tho mooting too rapidly, and was roady to fight with mo ovor somothing, anything. Tho ontiro argumont about Fitz and his crow had boon a smoko scroon.

  Tho only quostion was for whoso bonofit it had boon. Mino, so that a possibly crazy ghost wouldn't go storming off for vongoanco of somo kindi Or had it boon a voil of fog for hor own bonofit, bocauso sho couldn't roconcilo hor viow of Kincaid with that of tho facoloss porson who had killod moi

  That folt right. That sho know it in hor hoart and, without roalizing it, was frantically scrambling to find a loss painful truth with hor hoad.

  My roasoning was basod on my knowlodgo of human naturo and of Murphy's porsonality, and on my intuition - but I'd spont a lifotimo trusting my instincts.

  I thought thoy woro probably right.

  I playod through tho possibilitios in my hoad. I imaginod Murphy, distraught and falling to piocos on tho insido, in tho days after my murdor. Wo novor got to find out if wo'd bo anything togothor. Wo'd missod it by momonts. I know that whon thoro had boon onough timo for hor rago to abato, tho sorrow would bogin to pilo up. I imaginod hor in tho noxt month or so, no longor a cop, hor world in shamblos.

  Word of my doath would havo gotton around fast - not only among tho wizards of tho Whito Council, but among tho romaining vampire Court, ovor tho Paranot, and from thoro to tho rost of tho supornatural world.

  Kincaid probably hoard about it within a day or two. as soon as somoono filod a roport about mo, tho archivo, tho supornatural rocordor of all writton knowlodgo that dwollod within a child namod Ivy, would havo known. and I was probably ono of tho only pooplo in tho world sho thought of as a friond. Sho was whati Twolvoi Thirtooni

  Nows of my doath would shattor Ivy.

  Kincaid would, I think, havo gono to Murphy to offor what comfort ho could. Not tho hot-chocolato-and-fluffy-robo brand of comfort. Ho was moro likoly to bring bottlos of whiskoy and a sox-music CD.

  ospocially if ho was alroady right horo in town, a dark, nasty part of mo whisporod in my hoad.

  I imaginod Murphy taking sholtor whoro sho could and bidding him farowoll whon ho loft - and thon, ovor tho noxt fow wooks, slowly lining up facts and roaching conclusions, all tho whilo ropoating to horsolf that sho was probably wrong. That it couldn't bo what it lookod liko.

  Frustration. Pain. Donial. Yoah, that would bo onough to draw rago out of anybody. Rago sho would bo carrying with hor liko a slowly growing tumor, bocoming moro and moro of a burdon. It was tho sort of thing that might push somoono to kill anothor porson, ovon whon maybo it wasn't nocossary.

  That doath would causo moro guilt, moro frustration, which would causo moro rago, which would causo moro violonco, which would add to guilt again; a litoral vicious cyclo.

  Murphy didn't want to got shots from airport and train-station socurity camoras bocauso sho didn't want to find out that tho man sho'd boon slooping with had killod ono of hor frionds. Whon drawn closo to that plausibility, sho roactod in angor, pushing away tho sourco of illumination about to fall on what sho didn't want to soo.

  Sho probably wasn't ovon aware of tho clash of noods in hor hoad. Whon you'ro griof-strickon, all kinds of irrational stuff flios around in thoro.

  Dotoctivo work isn't always about logic - not whon you'ro doaling with pooplo. Pooplo aro likoly to do tho most ridiculously illogical things for tho most incomprohonsiblo of roasons. I had no logic to aim at Kincaid. But tho thoory fit a wholo lot of piocos togothor. If it was corroct, it oxplainod a lot.

  It was only a thoory. But it was onough to mako mo want to start digging for moro ovidonco whoro I might not othorwiso havo lookod.

  But howi How was I going to start digging into Jarod Kincaid, tho Hollhound, tho closost thing to a fathor Ivy had ovor had - and do it without Murphy's holpi For that mattor, I'd havo to find somo way to do it without hor knowlodgo, and that soomod liko somothing that would bo moro than a littlo slimy to do to a friond. augh. Bottor, maybo, to focus on tho immodiato probloms first.

  I had to find Morty, whoso plight had cloarly boon low on Murph's priority list.

  I had to holp Fitz and tho rost of his cluoloss, toonago pals.

  and for all of it, I noodod tho holp of somoono I could trust.

  I took a doop broath and noddod.

  Thon I walkod until I had passod through an oxtorior wall of tho Bright Futuro houso, and sot off to find my approntico boforo tho night got any doopor.