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A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)(14)

By:Kim Harrison

It was coming from the bundle of hair that Jenks had snitched for me, and with a sudden burst of connection, I brought it to my nose. As Glenn’s deep voice murmured about property values and crime rates, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, smelling sweat and fear. Deeper was shampoo, and lightly, lacing it like a perfume that he’d once walked through, was the hint of wine and salt. I’d smelled it at the crime scene, too.
My eyes opened. “Jenks, come sniff this.”
Jenks’s wings clattered, but he didn’t move from where he was licking his chopsticks clean. “Tink’s panties, Rache. You’re starting to sound like my kids.” Turning his voice mocking and high, he said, “Dad! Come smell this! It stinks!” Shaking his head, he dropped his voice and added, “Why the hell would I want to smell something if it stinks?”
I put my forearms on the counter and loomed over him. “Seriously. Wine and salt?”
Eyeing me, he stood, walking over and making a big show of smelling it. “Yeah,” he finally said, and my heart gave a thump. “Once you get past the meadow.”
“Thanks,” I said, and he went back to his dinner, his attitude cautious. Wine and salt . . . Motions slow, I set the hair aside and dropped one strand into the cooled liquid before adding the egg white and the fairy dust. All that was left was my blood to kindle it. I was afraid to try. It might not work, and it wasn’t as if I could do the demon equivalent anymore.
My gaze dropped to the counter, as if I could see through it to the shelf where I kept my demon books next to my missing scrying mirror. I’d lost it and never replaced it since I didn’t need the interdimensional chat charm if I was playing dead to the demons.
That’s when it clicked.
Scrying mirror. Someone was trying to make a scrying mirror into a calling glyph. But to do that, they’d need demon blood.
I gripped the counter, feeling my face go cold and wavering, as if I’d moved too quickly. That’s what HAPA was doing. This wasn’t merely a scare tactic and hate crime. They were trying to duplicate demon blood in order to perform curses. The mutilated corpses the I.S. had found were their attempts to turn a witch into a demon.
“Oh my God . . .” I whispered, and Ivy and Glenn both looked up, their expressions holding curiosity as well as banked heat. HAPA wanted a little magic of its own, and since demons were considered tools, they didn’t have a problem using demon magic.
“You want to share with the class, Rache?” Jenks said, and I tried to find my voice.
“The blood analysis,” I said softly, holding the counter to keep from swaying. “Ivy, what does it say about the magic-enzyme levels?”
Ivy shifted a few inches from Glenn as she reached for it, crossing her knees as she rocked back in the chair. “ ‘Blood composition in all the victims show elevated levels, progressively worse with each victim.’ ” She slowly blinked, her eyes going blacker as she sensed my dread. “Is that important?”
I nodded. “If they started from someone with naturally high levels of those enzymes, everything would go faster. Does it say if they are carriers for the Rosewood syndrome?”
Jenks made a high-pitched noise, and Ivy shook her head, her lower lip between her teeth as she double-checked. “You think . . .” she said, her words trailing off as I nodded.Rosewood syndrome. I wasn’t a carrier. I was a survivor. I had twice the enzymes they were playing with now. Crap on toast.
Glenn’s chair creaked as he leaned back, concern pinching his usually smooth brow. “Aren’t you—” he started.
“Rache!” Jenks shrilled, darting into the air to leave a puddle of yellow dust that dripped over the edge of the counter and to the floor. “You can’t take this run! I don’t care if you said you would. They’re calling you out. They want your blood! If they get it, they’re going to have what they need and . . . Crap, Rache! What are we going to do?”
My grip on the counter tightened until my knuckles were white. My head was bowed, and I could see the little spell pot with its uninvoked potion. “You think you could check and see if the victims had a history of Rosewood syndrome in their families, Glenn?” I finally said.
Ivy stood, and I tried to shove my unease aside so I could get on with what I had to do, but I knew, given her expression of concern, I must look sick.
Glenn too had stood, and he was taking a slim cell phone from his belt. “I’ll get that started right now,” he said. “Excuse me a moment.” Punching numbers, he stepped across the hall and flicked on the light in the back living room, several pixy kids going with him.
Jenks landed on my shoulder, the cold draft from his wings making me shiver. “Everyone knows you’re a demon.”
“True,” I said sourly as I smacked my empty amulets around, arranging them on the counter in a straight row. “But if they wanted me, they would’ve taken me by now. Bodyguard or not,” I added. “Besides, I have a vested interest in seeing that this gets done right,” I said as I carefully mixed the wet ingredients with the dry and poured the finished, but not invoked, brew onto the seven discs. It soaked in without a hint of redwood scent, but then, there wouldn’t be any until they were invoked.
Damn it, what if they did try to snatch me? I didn’t want to have to take the bracelet off, and I looked at it, around my wrist like a security band. I did not want Al to know I was alive. He’d risked everything he had to keep me alive, and in return I’d broken the ever-after, dropped a demon psychopath into his living room, and saved the elves from extinction after the demons had been trying to exterminate them for five thousand years. Al was broke and trying to pay for everything I’d done. Not only would he be pissed if he found out I was alive, but he’d make me leave reality forever. I had nothing with which to bargain this time. I’d never see Ivy or Jenks or my mom again.
I looked up at the silence. Ivy had her arms over her middle as she stood with the counter between us. “Jenks is right. It wouldn’t hurt you to sit this one out.” 
Frowning, I jabbed my finger with a finger stick, massaging three drops of blood onto one of the finished amulets. Trying not to look like I was, I breathed deep for the telltale scent of redwood, but there was nothing. It just smelled like wet wood. Damn it, either I’d done them wrong or my blood was too far from the witch norm to invoke it.
In a pique of bad temper, I threw the now-contaminated charm into my salt vat, sending a splash of water up to spot the cabinets. I’d have to ask someone else to invoke the rest.
Jenks landed close, his expression as worried as Ivy’s. “Glenn won’t mind handling this on his own.”
“I’m not sitting this out,” I said dully, wiping the tiny spot of blood from my finger into nothing. “The I.S. will pin it on me if the FIB doesn’t catch them.”
“No they won’t,” Jenks whined, but he’d seen the bag with my hair in it, too.
“It’s a demonic crime,” I said, head down. “I’m a demon. Perfect fit. Why blame a hate group they don’t want to admit is still active when they can blame me?” I looked up, seeing Ivy frowning. “No offense to Glenn, but the FIB can’t bring in a magic-using human or HAPA without help, and the I.S. would rather have me take the blame than admit HAPA even exists.”
“True,” Ivy said, Glenn’s muted conversation sounding loud from the other room.
“I can find them without much risk,” I said, looking down for something to do. “If they’d really wanted me, they would’ve taken me already. I think they’re scared.” I brought my head up and gestured flamboyantly in the air. “Look who they’ve snatched. Teenagers, a businessman, and some college kid. None of them had a lick of real magic.”
“Yeah, but your magic sucks right now,” Jenks said, glancing at the vat of dissolution saltwater, and Ivy frowned at him to shut up. From the living room, Glenn’s voice continued.
I moved the empty potion bowl into the sink and closed my eyes. If I didn’t find these jokers, they were going to keep killing innocents by twisting them into that goat thing. Is that what Al really is?
My eyes opened, and I remembered Algaliarept sitting at a table, his skin almost black and a fuzz of red fur on him as he tried to remember what he used to look like.
I took a deep breath and let it out. The worry in Ivy’s and Jenks’s eyes shook me, and I forced myself to smile. “Yeah, I mean, yes,” I said softly. “I’m okay. We have to find them. Fast. I’ll be careful in the meantime. It’s time for Wayde to earn his keep.”
“You got that right.” Jenks dropped down to the finished amulets, easily handling a wooden-nickel-size disk of wood and stacking it on the next. “Who you going to get to invoke these little babies?”
I turned my back on them as I untied my apron and hung it up. “I don’t know. Maybe walkie-talkie man has a witch for a secretary.” Neither one of them said anything, but Ivy was frowning when I turned back. I didn’t trust the undead vampire, either. “Now that Keasley is gone, the only witch I know who isn’t in jail, dead, or on the West Coast is Marshal. You want me to call him?”