Peep In The Night
Hermann pours the finished rice in a large bowl. He chops up a cucumber in small pieces. Hmm needs more. He opens the refrigerator and takes out a red bell pepper, lettuce, two tomatoes and a bottle of oil. In rapid succession he chops up the various ingredients and adds them to the salad. While doing so, he consider’s the problem of Alexandra’s stolen body. It doesn’t neccesarily have to be the necromancer, he figures. Hermann can easily come up with a dozen supernaturals that’d like a corpse, each for their own nefarian purposes. It doesn’t even have to be a supernatural; most ordinary humans do things for motivations only known to them.
A clock makes a whistle, and he checks the curry-sauce. “Just about done”, he muses. He puts the hot pan next to the vegetables.
And at last, he checks the chicken, the last part of the holy trinity. Finding them seared a golden brown, he smacks his lips in a way that Rune would probably would describe as tasteful.
He takes out two plates– then reconsiders. Greyscale might come over. Better make it three. He adds another plate, then forks and knives and of course, glasses. He takes a step back, to see what is missing. “Napkins”, he says out loud.
As he puts each napkin next to a plate, his sonar reacts to something close to the house; a reaction honed over time. He closes his eyes for but a moment. Rune, walking home with a agitated stride.
He prepares himself.
The door open is flung open, and Rune storms in, still wearing shoes. “None of them is the necromancer!”, he shouts. “What? And young man; go back and remove your shoes. I will not suffer dirt in this home”, Hermann says in a tone that brokers no disagreement.
A moment later, and Rune reappears, this time shoeless. “So today I checked off a couple of people on mine and Elena’s list of who might be the necromancer-” ” You mean that you did the thing that I told you shouldn’t do? Putting your nose in things better left alone, for grown-ups?”
“He has my sister’s body. I can’t leave it alone, and you shouldn’t expect me to”, Rune says passionated. Touche. Hermann sighs. Raising Rune always presented some difficulties. Children with Aspergers will follow logic til death, but if you don’t explain that particular logic, they’ll ignore it and go and do their own thing, often with disasterous results. “So tell me”, he asks.
“I went to Alexander Riviera first…” Hermann listens as Rune retells his day. “… and that’s what Maja Hazin said.” Hermann motions for the food. “Eat while it’s still hot.” While Rune inhales the food with the gusto of a fifteen year-old boy, he considers the suspects– if you could call them that. “A valkerie, a candomble-user, a human who by omission of magic can’t be the necromancer, and Maja Hazin who is something that rots…and you don’t think its either of them”, he sums up.
“What exactly is Hazin?”, Rune asks, his mind apparently on another track. Hermann shrugs. “She could be connected to one of the Gentry-” “What are the Gentry”, Rune interrupts. “Not what, who. The Gentry are vampiric nobility, the ones below the Firstborn who herself is the Empress of Night. Some of them rot”, he adds, with a certain relish, wanting to see if it will deter Rune’s appetite; it doesn’t.
They discuss at length what kind of supernatural have abilities pertaining death or are dead themselves; vampires, ghouls, dhampirs, Death Itself, the rakshas of India, the poltergeists and more. Their conversation eventually turns to mundane things. But one detail of Rune’s story interests him. Cordelia Holm and her perfume.
A longtime ago, when Hermann hunted supernaturals for Abu Musa, that was the sort of detail he specifically looked out for. He thinks about her surname… Holm. Eighty years ago, he knew a Frederik Holm, a wizard that could call water. If she inherited her grandfather’s abilities… Rune should have smelled a watery scent; that he didn’t strikes Hermann as suspicious. Of course it could be an odd fluke. Maybe she had sweated buckets in P.E. and wanted to hide the after-sweats. Maybe she is pregnant; a lot of supernaturals can smell that. But still….
They finish their food. Hermann still has a plethora of things to do. He gathers up Rune’s clothes and washes them. He crunches some of City Hall’s numbers. He irons his clothes, half a dozen suits and condiments. When he is finished with his suits, he starts with Rune’s clothes. But the thought, the nagging thought won’t leave him.
I’ll check, he tells himself. It won’t be a return to my old ways. No murder. No hunting down Families of vampires or Packs of werewolves. No burning evil witches.
He enters his office, and a quick online search confirms that the Holms haven’t moved.
A few hours later, when the sun has set, Hermann stands on Lagerström Street. He is flaring his magic, and nobody, not even dogs will notice him. He creates a grid inside his head, and sends it out, fully realized as sonar-structure. At the dawn of his existence, he couldn’t do this. Centuries of stubborn training have give rise to this particular talent.
His ‘grid’ hits the house in front of him, giving him a clear picture of its insides. He can visualize it all; on the lower floor, on a couch is a man dozing, in the kitchen a woman is doing a crossword and in a room on the upper floor sits a girl, still. He recreates the grid, but this time much smaller, much more focused on the girl’s outline.
Time passes. A minute. Two minutes. Three minutes. Four minutes. Five minutes. Six minutes. Seven minutes. Eight minutes. Nine minutes. The tenth minute proves its charm, and Hermann’s suspicion is realized.
Cordelia Holm’s heart beats, but not of its own volition. She is dead and walking. The magic is in her cells, in her lungs, in heart– in her entire body. She still retains her own personal magic, but layered on top of that is something that feels purple and malicious.
He dials a number. “Perenelle? We need to talk. Yes, right now.”