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“No, I do not,” Bria said. “But that’s cool. You do you. Go on with your weird self. Anyway, it’s possible this Necromancer discovered a new trick, but not likely. Old dogs, you know. Maybe he learned the trick from someone else, but there’s a lot of ground to cover so far, and like you said, this guy’s home residence is this unfortunate room. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s not our guy. That is a guess, though.”

So far, that’s all Bria and I had. Guesses.

“Spirits lose a portion of their magic when brought back into a foreign body, isn’t that right?” Kieran asked.

“Yes,” Bria replied. “That’s why it’s attractive to use extremely powerful spirits. You get more bang for your buck. You just need someone powerful enough to control them.”

“With a brain scramble, are their magical abilities reduced further?”

“It depends on how the scramble was performed,” Bria replied. “Working with the brain is always dicey.”

“What are their magics?” Kieran asked me.

I went around the room, surveying the spirits and threatening the ones who weren’t immediately forthcoming. Thane wrote down what they said and descriptions of each of them on a notepad he kept in one of his many pockets.

“Okay.” Bria clapped her hands and rubbed them together. “What’s next?”

Kieran checked his watch before meeting my gaze.

“Her...thing is not here,” I said without preamble. “And if Bria’s right, we still don’t know who’s creating the spirit traps, or how. They all look and feel the same, though, and I have the might to break through them. But how many exist? What if I can’t find them all?”

“Are the traps self-sustaining?” Bria asked.

I shook my head while shrugging. “I don’t think so, but I can’t be sure until I check back in with the ghost in the government building.”

“Okay. Well, first we find that out, obviously.” Bria stood and wiped her hands on her black jeans. “And if the person does need to periodically reapply the trap, then the answer is simple—”

“Kill ’em,” Thane said softly.

Bria threw up her hands. “Thanks for stealing my thunder, Thane. But yeah. We just have to find the guy, and kill him. Problem solved.”

Kieran checked his watch. “Tell me what I’m looking for. I’ll post people to watch.” He moved toward the door.

I chewed my lip, remembering what the teen had said when I’d spoken to her in the government building. “He should be easy to spot. He has long frizzy white hair and white eyes.”

“Anything else?” Kieran asked.

I hesitated before shaking my head. That’s all I could remember. So far, that teen seemed to know more than anyone else about this situation. If anyone could direct me, it was her.

Unfortunately, the best way to get found out was to turn up at a large magical hub…and start asking damning questions.

17

Alexis

Later in the day, after going home and falling face-first into my bed for a much too brief nap, I summoned the will to take a shower. When a firm knock landed on the door, it was afternoon and I was standing in my bedroom, wrapped in a faded pink towel wet from my shower, staring out the window at the trees swaying softly in the billowing fog. Fatigue clung to me, muddying my thoughts and making me obscenely slow.

“Door,” Daisy shouted from her bedroom. She and Mordecai had kept the same schedule as me, but instead of visiting a warehouse in an empty part of town, they’d sat at home and worried. By the time I’d gotten home, they’d been too wiped out to do much besides go back to bed.

“I’m in a towel. You go get it,” I hollered, wondering why Frank didn’t announce who it was. Maybe he’d taken off. He had seemed awfully leery of Bria. Maybe he sensed she could slap him into a new body, which would make him confront his demise. It couldn’t be a nice thought, knowing that the only way to properly come back to the world of the living was in someone else’s previously discarded skin.

“You’re in a towel with your door open?” Mordecai asked disapprovingly.

“I was going to close it. Give me a break.”

“Your shower ended ten minutes ago,” he said.

“Yes, time keeper, thanks for the update.” I slammed the door.

“Jeez.” Daisy’s voice was muffled through the thin walls. “What crawled up her butt?”

“She doesn’t know what she’s doing with the Demigod’s mom,” Mordecai answered. “I think it is stressing her out.”

“Does she need to take it out on us?”

“Do you need to be so loud through the paper-thin walls?” I shouted.

Their voices cut off and I figured they were getting the door. I dropped my towel and pulled out some jeans and the nicest blouse I had, a scoop-neck with pastel splotches in a lovely deep purple. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, Mordecai was right—the situation with Kieran’s mom was stressing me out. I’d only been on the job for a day, but I felt completely lost. The situation was much more complicated than I’d thought, and new facets of the problem kept cropping up. Valens clearly had a lot of pokers in the fire. Though we’d found plenty of evidence of him tampering with spirits, we were no closer to helping Kieran’s mom.

I felt like I was failing.

I hated failing. It really ruined my mood.

I grabbed my hairbrush from the dresser top and headed to the bathroom, only to hear another firm knock on the front door.

As I paused in the hall, Daisy and Mordecai each stared at me from their beds, their faces expressionless.

I gestured toward the front door with my brush. “Aren’t you going to get that?”

“If we wait long enough, they’ll probably go away,” Daisy said. Mordecai nodded.

I curled my brush hand under and propped it against my hip. “Do you two have short-term memory loss? Last night there was a knock on the door…and then they broke in.” I pointed at my face. “See this big purple bruise on my cheek? See this thing? It’s all fucked up. I thought an intruder was trying to kill me.” I made a circle with my finger over my temple. “That’s what happens with Kieran’s crew when you don’t open the door.”

“That was this morning,” Mordecai said, attempting to be helpful.

I held up my brush. “Do you want this up your ass?”

“Okay, let’s get real.” Daisy sat up laboriously. Her hair, in a loop at the top of her head, flopped around. “They broke in to suss us out. They won’t try that again until we have more training under our belts. You’re overreacting, which means something else is wrong.”

“She needs our help,” Mordecai said.

Daisy nodded, her hair loop waving. “I agree. She’s floundering.” Daisy clasped her fingers, her face the picture of professionalism, her pajamas swimming in angry unicorns. “What’s the plan of attack?”

“She has on that shirt she thinks is nice.” Mordecai squinted through the gloom of their bedroom, made cave-like by the tightly drawn shades. “She’s going somewhere upscale.”

I sighed, stalked forward, and ripped the shades open. Fog-filtered light illuminated the room. Both kids hissed and covered their eyes like vampires.

“I don’t need your help in anything but answering the door,” I said, stalking toward the bathroom. “And this blouse, for your information, is the nicest thing I own besides the suit.”

“When is that first paycheck coming?” I heard Mordecai ask. He was talking to Daisy. “She needs to go shopping.”

The firm knock turned into a hard rap.

“Get the door!” I yelled.

“Someone is very patient,” Daisy said, and I heard two feet thump onto the ground.

“Jack or Donovan would’ve just come in by now,” Mordecai said, his bed groaning. He was probably getting up, too.

“Yeah, but the others never bother to chase us out of the house,” Daisy said. “Maybe it’s not one of the Six.” She paused in the doorway of the bathroom. “Did you ever hear back from that detective in New York?”

I paused in brushing my hair. “Is this question on repeat? I didn’t leave a name or number. They can’t get a hold of me.”

“How about the mafia? Has anyone been following you? Hanging around?”

“Oh my God.” I pushed past her, cracking under pressure. These two could try the patience of a saint.

At the door, I flipped the lock with too much force, grabbed the knob with a white-knuckled grip, and ripped it open.

“All that, and she opens it herself,” Daisy muttered down the hall. “I could’ve stayed in bed.”

“We should’ve,” Mordecai said, and his bed groaned again.

That probably made two of us.

Zorn stood on the stoop, his expression flat and eyes sparkling with aggressive annoyance.

“I’m here for the girl,” he said without preamble. “I will be taking over part of her training.

I huffed out a humorless laugh. “Good. Run her ragged.” Without another word, I turned and headed back to the bathroom.

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