Home > Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)(7)

Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)(7)
Author: Ilona Andrews

"Yes." Little tiny sparks danced in his eyes. "We were screwed and he didn't even kiss us first."

"How tacky of him. And this 'he' would be?"

"We aren't sure," Derek said carefully. "But you have his bolt on your desk."

I leaned forward. "Do tell."

"Let's just say that this morning one of our teams was jumped by a man using this specific type of bolt. He has stolen Pack property and we want it back."

"Aha. Why me?" The last time I checked, the Pack preferred to take care of their own problems. Hell, they didn't even admit to having problems most of the time.

"Because you have contacts we don't." Derek permitted himself a small smile. "And because if we start turning the city inside out looking for this person, certain parties will wonder why and the rather embarrassing facts of the theft might come to light. We don't want to air our dirty laundry in public. The Order always helped us without undue publicity."

Great. The battle was lost. Greg was the only person within the Order who had earned the Pack's trust. Now since he was dead and I had earned Friend of the Pack status, that trust naturally extended to me. The Order wanted to keep an eye on the Pack, I knew that much. Something told me the knights would view this petition as a wonderful opportunity to do just that.

"What did the crossbowman take?"

Derek hesitated.

"Derek, I'm not going to hunt I don't know whom to retrieve I don't know what. What did he take?"

"He jumped a survey team and took the maps."

I almost whistled, except that my Russian father would have risen from his grave and smacked me for whistling indoors. The Pack maps, legendary in quality, precise, up-to-date, with all the new neighborhoods and power zones clearly marked, every alley explored, every place of interest indicated. I knew at least a half a dozen people who'd give their left nut for a chance to photocopy the bloody things.

"He must have balls," I said.

"He did look male."

"Description?"

"Very fast."

"That's it? That's all you got?"

"Very good shot."

I sighed. "Who did he shoot?"

"Jim."

Oh shit. "Is he okay?"

"He was shot four times in less than two seconds. He isn't very happy about it. A bit tender in places. But generally he'll be okay."

My brain put the pieces together. "After our mark went down, Jim got a call from the survey team. The crossbowman tailed Jim, jumped him, incapacitated the survey team, and stole the maps."

Derek's face radiated all the joy of a man biting into a lime.

One hell of a trick, tailing my former partner. "Just out of curiosity, how many people are in a survey team?"

"Four."

Five with Jim. "And you let him get away?"

"He just disappeared."

"I guess the shapeshifters' sense of smell isn't what it used to be."

"No, Kate, you don't understand. He vanished. He was there one moment and then he was gone."

I couldn't resist. "Like a ninja. In a puff of smoke."

"Yes."

"So you want me to track down a supernaturally fast sniper who can disappear into thin air, retrieve your maps, and do it so nobody finds out what I'm doing or why?"

"Exactly."

I sighed. "I'll get the paperwork."

Chapter 3

WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT, GO back to the beginning. I had no name, no description, and no place to start looking for the mysterious sniper, so I figured the garage where Jeremy almost toasted us was my best bet. Since the magic was determined to fluctuate and I didn't fancy being stranded, I decided to take a horse from the Order's stables, located a block away.

Turned out I wasn't the only person who had noticed the magic craziness. The stables were nearly empty, and all my regular choices were out. I entered on foot and left atop a red molly. Her name was Ninny, she was fifteen hands tall, and as she braved the downtown traffic with nary a twitch, I began to see the wisdom of mule breeding.

The shortest route to the garage lay along Interstate 85 through the heart of the city. In happier times, the view from the highway must have been breathtaking. Now both Downtown and Midtown lay in ruins, battered to near rubble by the magic waves. Twisted steel skeletons of once mighty skyscrapers jutted like bleached fossil bones from the debris. Here and there a lone half-eaten survivor struggled to remain upright, all but its last few stories destroyed. Shattered glass from hundreds of windows glittered among chunks of concrete.

Unable or unwilling to clear the rubble, the city grew around it. Small stalls and stands had sprung up here and there along the twelve-lane highway, selling everything from fake monster eggs to state-of-the-art miniature palmtops and precision firearms. The palmtops rarely worked even when tech was in full swing, and the monsters sometimes hatched.

Horses, mules, camels, and bizarre vehicles all attempted to negotiate the crowded road, blending into a huge multicolored crocodile of travelers, and I rode within it, bathed in the animal smells, choking on automobile exhaust, and assaulted by gaggles of vendors each trying to scream themselves hoarse.

"Potions, potions, cure for arthritis..."

"...the best! First two are free..."

"...water purifier. Save hundreds of dollars a year..."

"...beef jerky!"

Beef. I bet.

Twenty minutes later we left the highway's noise behind by way of a wooden ramp and trudged down into a tangle of streets collectively known as the Warren.

Bordered by Lakewood Park on one side and South view Cemetery on the other, the Warren stretched all the way to McDonough Boulevard. A few decades ago, the area had been included in the South Urban Renewal project, its layout redesigned to accommodate several large, sturdy apartment complexes and new two-and three-story office buildings.

In the years since the Shift, when the first magic wave hit the world, the Warren had grown poorer, tougher, and more segregated. For reasons unknown, magic displayed a selective appetite. It chewed some buildings into rubble, while leaving others completely intact. Walking through the area now was like trying to make your way through a war zone postbombing, with some houses reduced to refuse, while their neighbors stood untouched.

The garage where Jeremy had lost his life sat sandwiched between a bank and an abandoned Catholic church. Three stories high and three stories deep, stained with soot and missing its roof, the garage jutted like a burned-out match of a building. I dismounted and tied Ninny to a metal beam protruding from the wall. Nobody in their right mind would try to steal a molly with the Order's crest branded on its butt. The Order had a nasty habit of magic-tagging their property and there was nothing the street life disliked more than finding a couple of knights full of righteous anger on their doorstep.

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