“Grant?” I ask, grappling with disbelief, “I’ve known Grant longer than Brie has. We met in our first year of university. How could he…? Why would this psychopath want to kill him?” Does Brie know? I wonder.
“I can assure you that Grant is a mage. I’ve known him for a long time too. His specialty is crystal magic… like mine,” he says, like it’s supposed to make me feel better. I just stare at him until he continues, “As for the reason – I can only assume Trent was punishing them for leaving.”
“Leaving? Was Grant part of a gang?” I’m not sure whether I should be scared of Grant or furious with him. Right now I’m both.
“Not a gang exactly – a family,” he answers as he tilts back in his chair. He sighs, staring at the ceiling for a moment before leaning forward over the desk, “Look, mages are actually very rare these days; magic only passes through direct lineage so you can imagine how closely we track and maintain our family lines. And each family has different schools of thought regarding ethics and technique.”
He pauses for a moment, quietly analyzing my face. My confusion must be obvious because he keeps explaining:
“Using magic requires a great amount of practice and training. There are a lot of techniques to focus your power as well as limitations and rules so you don’t overextend yourself. Sometimes the difference between teachings is just technical – one family prefers meditation while another prefers complex rituals . Other times the difference is one of ethics or morality. Some families, like the one Trent and your friend Grant were born into, teach that being born with power makes you superior. They use their powers to get ahead in the world. They teach their children that having magic implies a right to use it in whatever way benefits them. Most mages abhor violence, but they are all still human.”
“As in they can be murderers and psychos just like everyone else?” I ask.
“They still have flaws, yes. There are always those who make bad choices. Choices that hurt people,” he answers solemnly.
“So… you’re what? A member of a police force that specializes in magical crime?” I have to stifle a nervous laugh.
“Hardly,” he chuckles, “I’m just a normal cop who also happens to be a mage. I was taught that we should treat all people as equals: ‘Great power, great responsibility’ and all that. Aside from a very, very small group of people, no one is aware that we exist. That’s something most of the families can agree on. It protects us from people who would take advantage of us, or fear us. Even families that believe we deserve some sort of privilege understand the complications that would arise if we were to be discovered. Trent, on the other hand, was careless. It’s possible he was trying to intimidate someone, or maybe he thought he was making a statement about his strength. It’s also possible he was a complete idiot.”
“Was? You said that before too. What happened to him?”
“He passed away last night from cardiopulmonary failure. According to the official report, he had been using some form of electrical weapon which he accidentally turned on himself. The resulting trauma resulted in a heart attack,” his voice is unwavering and his blue eyes are ice as he recites the details.
“It was you,” my voice is accusing, though I’m unsure why I’m so upset. Trent was a murderer, certainly it would be better for everyone if he were dead. But so quickly? Who made the decision? Who was the executioner? Would it really be right for one man to make that kind of decision and then pretend it never happened?
An image of an older man, running and shouting desperately about his son, resurfaces from last night’s bleary memories. Johannes Trent’s father, I realize, he knew Yagher was going to kill his son.
“This man used his magic, and the aid of a familiar, to kill two men and injure even more! The justice system can’t protect the general population from him. He probably would have been out before he even had a trial, and I don’t mean escape. We can do that sort of thing – convince the right people, change our identity, make people forget,” he is almost shouting, his voice shaking with unbridled passion. He lowers his voice again before continuing, “His lack of discretion led us to believe he was also a risk to our secrecy.”
“Then why are you telling me any of this!?” I start leaning out of my chair, the pads of my feet hard against the floor, ready to jump to the door if I have to. Not that I honestly believe it would do any good.
He looks surprised and then apologetic, as if he’s caught himself saying something embarrassing. “No, no! Please… I’m sorry. I promise you, you are not in any danger. I got carried away, it’s just… men like Trent,” he balls his large hands into fists on top of the desk and inhales, “they threaten all of us. People like you and people like me. I don’t want to be an executioner. I don’t want to be like him.”
Again, he pauses long enough to calm down. When he speaks this time, it is with compassion, and his eyes are gentle as they meet mine. “I’m telling you these things because you deserve to know after what you went through last night. Of course, I’m asking you not to tell anyone. If you did, we could erase your memories. Not that it would really be necessary, since no one would believe you. Unlike Trent, you aren’t capable of proving your claims. So you’re safe – believe me, the last thing I’d want to do is hurt you.”
The way he says that last sentence, the way he smiles after, it’s as if he is enjoying some private joke. I blush again, trying to wrestle with an absolute mess of emotions.
“Alright, well, I appreciate your explanation. I still have questions, but I’m not sure I can handle much more today. Is there anything you wanted to ask me about last night?” I just want to get out of here. Get some fresh air maybe. Think over everything. Or maybe never think about anything ever again. I’m not sure yet.
“I understand. We interviewed your friend Brie at the hospital last night. I think we have a pretty good idea of what occurred, but I did have one question. She said that Trent tried to attack you with a spell, but that nothing happened. I also saw the number you did on Trent’s familiar…”
“The big dog. What you did to it… I doubt even I could have pulled that off easily. It seems like you had some kind of protection spell placed on you. Something that kept it from noticing you. Prevented spells from affecting you. Any idea where it might have come from?”
I remember Johannes Trent’s words as he pinned me against the wall and my hands drift up to my neck. The skin feels swollen and tender there.
“No,” I answer quietly, “Until today I didn’t know about any of this. I didn’t see Grant until after I killed the… the dog. Could he have somehow cast it without me knowing?”
“If you didn’t see him until later then it probably wasn’t him. It would need to be recent; protection spells are short-lived. Did someone give you a crystal or a totem? Some kind of jewellery?”
I shake my head.
“It’s uncommon, but skin mages can cast spells through touch. It would have been something obvious like holding your hand or extended skin on skin contact; it would take a while to transfer such a large spell. Kisses work best,” he laughs, “There’s a reason kisses always save the day in fairy tales.”
Oh. Oh shit. The creep. I forgot all about him after the attack. He was protecting me?
“Nothing comes to mind,” I say out loud. Maybe too loud. I smile. I hope I look convincing.
“Damn. Alright. Well, call me if you remember anything,” he hands me another business card, “If someone else knew what Trent was up to, it’s important we find out. Especially if it was a skin mage – they’re incredibly dangerous and almost never on our side.”
I nod. Maybe I feel indebted to the red-haired stranger for protecting me, or maybe there’s something about Detective Yagher’s righteousness that makes me guarded, but I can’t bring myself to tell him the truth. Worst-case scenario I can always call Yagher later and just say that I forgot about it. I mean, I really did for a while. It’s not that big of a lie, right?
I stand and open the door. Yagher calls my name again and I answer much too eagerly: “Yes!?”
“Maybe this is kind of personal, but with everything that’s happened… have you noticed anything else odd lately?”
You mean aside from magic-wielding psychos trying to kill my friends and tactless creeps trying to save my life? I recall the song this morning but decide it’s not relevant and frankly none of his business. It seems somehow rational that my ability would resurface in the face of trauma. I’m pretty sure it’s more of a problem for my shrink than the police, magical or not.
“Nope. Just my usual boring life.”
He laughs and says, “Sometimes boring is a good thing.”
Tell me about it.
“Well, don’t forget to call if you think of anything that could be relevant,” he runs his hands through his short hair in a way that seems nervous but simultaneously charming, “Or… you know… if you have any questions about anything. Or if you need to talk. You’ve been through a lot, having someone you can talk to about it might not hurt.”
“Thank you. I promise I’ll call if I think of anything.”
I hurry through the hallway and out the main doors before he can think of any other reasons to call me back.
Once I’m a few blocks away from the station I fish my phone out of my purse to find a long list of notifications. Most of the messages and all of the calls are from Wynn – it looks like she’s heard about the murders on the news. She asks if I’m alright and if I need her to come home from class. It’s honestly tempting – to spend time with a friend who has no part in this weirdness. To simply forget the whole thing for a while.
But the other text is from Brie, and I know that she’s probably feeling a lot worse than I am. I text Wynn and tell her that I’m fine and I’ll be home for dinner. The thought of food reminds my stomach that it hasn’t had anything to eat all morning and it complains loudly. I text Brie, asking her to meet me for lunch.
Someone hurries past me as I raise my attention from my phone. His stance catches my eye – head turned away, as if looking at something, but moving too quickly to actually focus on anything. Well, that and the head of long, red hair.
As he disappears around a corner, I convince myself that someone who saved my life probably won’t hurt me and sprint after him. The next street is full of artsy boutiques and restaurants bustling with people – a perfect place to slip away from a pursuer. I scan the crowd for a couple of minutes, and I begin to wonder if it wasn’t someone else after all. I shrug, defeated for the moment, and turn around to begin my short walk to the General Hospital.