I stood there with the Browning pointed skyward. I turned in a slow circle, surveying the mountaintop. We were alone, the three of us. So why didn't I want to put my gun up?
Magnus took a step up the slope and stopped. He raised slender hands towards the power-charged air. He trailed fingertips down it, like it was water. I felt the ripples of his touch shiver down my skin, tremble through my magic.
No, I wasn't putting my gun up yet.
"What was that?" Larry asked. His gun was still out, pointed at the ground.
Bouvier moved his gleaming eyes to Larry. "He is not a necromancer, Anita, but he is more than he seems."
"Aren't we all," I said. "Why didn't you want me to raise the dead, Magnus?"
He stared up at me. His eyes were full of glinting lights like reflections in a pool, but the reflections were of things that were not there.
"Answer me, Magnus."
"Or what?" he asked. "You'll shoot me?"
"Maybe," I said.
The slope made him shorter than I was, so I was looking down on him. "I didn't believe anyone could raise dead this old without a human sacrifice. I thought you'd take Stirling's money, try, fail, and go home." He took a step forward, trailing his hands through the power again, as if he were testing it. As if he weren't sure he could cross into it. The touch made Larry gasp.
"With this power you can raise some of them, maybe enough of them," Magnus said.
"Enough for what?" I asked.
He stared up at me, as if he hadn't meant to speak aloud. "You mustn't raise the dead on this mountain, Anita, Larry. You must not."
"Give us a reason not to," I said.
He smiled up at me. "I don't suppose just because I asked."
I shook my head. "Not hardly."
"This would be so much easier if glamor worked on you." He took another step up the slope. "Of course, if glamor worked on you, we wouldn't be here, would we?"
If he wouldn't answer one question, I'd try another one. "Why'd you run from the police?"
He took another step closer, and I backed up. He'd done nothing overtly threatening, but there was something about him as he stood there, something alien.
There were images in his eyes that made me want to glance behind to see what was reflecting in his eyes. I could almost see trees, water... It was like the things you see out of the corner of your eye, except in color.
"You told the police my secret; why?"
"I had to."
"You really think I did those awful things to those boys?" He took another step, moving into the flow of power, but he didn't slip easily as Larry had. Magnus was like a mountain, huge, forcing the power to go wide around him, as if he filled more space magically than could be seen with the naked eye.
I pointed the Browning two-handed at his chest. "No, I don't."
"Then why point a gun at me?"
"Why all this fey magic shit?"
He smiled. "I performed a lot of glamor tonight. It's like a high."
"You feed off your customers," I said. "You don't just do it for business. You siphon them; that's fucking unseelie court."
He gave a graceful shrug. "I am what I am."
"How'd you know the victims were boys?" I asked.
Larry moved to my left, gun pointed carefully at the ground. I'd yelled at him for pointing guns at people too soon.
"The police said so."
He smiled gently. "One of them touched me. I saw it all."
"Convenient," I said.
He reached out towards me. "Don't even think it."
Larry pointed his gun at Magnus. "What's going on, Anita?"
"I'm not sure."
"I can't allow you to raise the dead here. I am sorry."
"How are you going to stop us?" I asked.
He stared at me, and I felt something push against my magic, like something large swimming just out of sight in the dark. It made me gasp.
"Freeze, right there, or I will pull this trigger."
"I haven't moved a muscle," he said softly.
"No games, Magnus; you're too damn close to being dead."
"What did he just do?" Larry asked. There was a fine tremor in his two-handed grip.
"Later," I said. "Clasp your hands on top of your head, Magnus, slowly, very slowly."
"Are you going to take me in, as they say on television?"
"Yeah," I said. "You've got a better chance of getting to the jail alive with me than with most of the cops."
"I don't think I'll go with you." Staring down two guns, and he still sounded sure of himself. He was either stupid or knew something I didn't. I didn't think he was stupid.
"Tell me when to shoot him," Larry said.
"When I shoot him, you can shoot him, too."
"Okay," Larry said.
Magnus looked from one to the other of us. "You would take my life for such a small thing?"
"In a heartbeat," I said, "Now clasp your hands slowly on top of your head."
"If I don't?"
"I don't bluff, Magnus."
"Do you have silver bullets in those guns?"
I just stared at him. I could feel Larry shift slightly beside me. You can only point a gun so long without getting tired, or antsy.
"I'll bet they're silver. Silver isn't very effective against fairies."
"Cold iron works best," I said. "I remember."
"Even normal lead bullets would be better than silver. The metal of the moon is a friend to the fey."
"Hands, now, or we find out how fairie flesh holds up to silver bullets."
He raised his hands slowly, gracefully upward. His hands were above shoulder level when he threw himself backwards, falling down the slope. I fired, but he kept on rolling down the earth, and somehow I couldn't quite see him. It was like the air blurred around him.
Larry and I stood at the top of the slope and fired down on him, and I don't think either of us hit him.
He scrambled down the raw earth faster than he looked because he got harder to see even in the moonlight until he vanished into the underbrush left near the midpoint on that side.
"Please tell me he didn't just go poof," Larry said.
"He didn't just go poof," I said.
"What did he do, then?"
"How the hell do I know. This wasn't covered in Fairies 301." I shook my head. "Let's get out of here. I don't know what's going on, but whatever it is, I think we lost our client."
"You think we lost our hotel rooms?"
"I don't know, Larry. Let's go find out." I clicked the safety on the Browning but left it out in my hand. I'd have left the safety off, but that didn't seem wise while stumbling down a rocky mountainside even in the moonlight.
"I think you can put the gun up now, Larry." He hadn't put his safety on.
"But I've got the safety on."
"Oh." He looked a little sheepish, but he clicked the safety on and holstered it. "You think they would have really killed him?"
"I don't know. Maybe. Beau would have shot at him, but see how much good it did us."
"Why does Stirling want Magnus dead?"
"I don't know."
"Why did Magnus run from the police?"
"I don't know."
"It makes me nervous when you keep answering all my questions with 'I don't know.'"
"Me, too," I said.
I glanced back once just before we lost sight of the mountaintop. The ghosts twisted and flared like candle flames, cool white flames. I knew something else I hadn't known before tonight. Some of the bodies were nearly three hundred years old. A hundred years older than Stirling had told us they were. A hundred years makes a lot of difference in a zombie raising. Why had he lied? Afraid I'd refuse, maybe. Maybe. Some of the bodies were Indian remains. Bits and pieces of jewelry, animal bone, stuff that wasn't European. The Indians in this area didn't bury their dead, at least not in simple graves. And this wasn't a mound.
Something was going on, and I didn't have the faintest idea what it was. But I'd find out. Maybe tomorrow after we got new hotel rooms, gave back the nifty jeep, rented a new car, and told Bert we no longer had a client. Maybe I'd let Larry break the news to him. What are apprentices for if they can't do some of the grunt work?
Okay, okay, I'd tell Bert myself, but I wasn't looking forward to it.