“I think I might have an idea,” Zen said. “A few years ago one of my clients had a relative in a coma. Very sad.” She paused to make sympathetic noises. “Anyway, the client asked me to summon a spirit to communicate with the unconscious girl. I was thinking we might be able to use the same idea with the owl.”
Adam stood up straighter. “You mean have the spirit read Stryx’s mind?”
She shrugged. “Why not? It’s worth a shot, right?”
“What exactly would we need to do?” Having no practical knowledge of voodoo, I was worried the ritual might involve goat sacrifice or something.
Zen chewed her lip. “It’s a bit tricky. We’d need to use the body of a recently deceased person as a medium for the spirit.”
“And how exactly do you propose we get our hands on one of those?” Adam asked.
Zen smiled. “I have my ways. It’s gonna have to happen tomorrow night, though, before Halloween.”
I frowned. “Why not on Halloween?”
“Because then the portal to the spirit world will be wide open, and things could get unpredictable,” Rhea said.
Adam looked at me with his eyebrows raised in question. I said, “This ritual doesn’t involve me having to drink any potions or anything, right?”
Zen frowned and shook her head. “Of course not.”
Given my past horrors with vomit-inducing potions, I had good reason to ask. But maybe it was a mage thing to make people miserable with potions. arriving in New York for magical training, I’d had two embarrassing incidents. The first happened when Rhea’s turncoat assistant, Damara, had tried to poison me with a mixture of strychnine and apple juice. My vampire genes protected me from the poison, and my mixed blood saved me from the forbidden fruit, but nothing prevented me from blowing chunks all over the Hekate Council. The second event happened during a vision-quest Rhea insisted I do to find my magical path. The hallucinogenic tea she’d given me led to a very unpleasant half hour before the freaky Chthonic visions began.
But Zen’s expression held no hint of guile. And if it meant we’d get Maisie back ASAP, I could deal with a little irritable bowel syndrome again. “Done and done.”
Zen nodded. “Good. I’ll make preparations. The ritual is best conducted before midnight, so we should head out about ten tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” Adam said. “Thanks, Zen.”
She started to walk away but stopped short. “By the way, are you planning on going by Alodius’s place again anytime soon?”
I frowned. “Why? Do you need something?”
She nodded. “Some chicken feet. With Halloween the day after tomorrow, the tourists have been buying charms like crazy. I’d go tonight myself, but the widow Breaux needs me to come undo a hex.”
Across the store Brooks snorted. “Again? That’s the third time this year.”
“It’s her own damn fault for stepping out with other women’s men. But her checks always clear, so …..”
“That’s okay, Zen,” Adam said. “We can pick up some chicken feet for you.”
She smiled at the mage. “Thanks, Adam.” She waved and walked off toward the office.
I swallowed my opinion of Adam’s ass kissing along with my last swing of coffee. Just as I was setting down my mug, the door to the shop opened.
“Hey, Mac!” Brooks called.
“Hey, good lookin’,” she called to the fae before approaching the counter. We all exchanged tense nods. “You guys got a minute?”
I frowned, wondering what had the werewolf looking so upset. “Sure.”
Mac looked over her shoulder to where Brooks was dusting some chicken bones. When she glanced back at me she said under her breath, “Alone.”
“Of course,” I said to her. I called, “Hey, Brooks, we’re going to go out back for a minute. Do you mind if Giguhl stays here?”
The cat lifted his head sleepily. “Huh?”
“No problemo,” Brooks said.
“Go back to sleep, G.”
The cat licked his lips and yawned before resting his head back on his paws. I held a hand out to Mac to lead the way. As Adam fell into step beside me, he shot me a concerned look. I shrugged. We’d find out soon enough what was on the were’s mind.
We went out the back door into the courtyard behind Zen’s shop. A small fountain bubbled along the west wall. The festive, but thankfully muted, sounds of Bourbon Street added to the soundtrack.
Once we were all seated around the table in the center of the courtyard, Mac finally spoke. “I have some news that might interest you.”
She didn’t mention that the contact was her girlfriend, even though from what I’d seen she clearly was, but I didn’t blame her for not going there. It wasn’t our business.
Until it was.
Mac pulled a piece of paper from her pocket. “Not sure if it’s important, but I thought I’d pass it along. My vamp contact told me some bigwig just bought a mansion in the Garden District.”
“And?” Since I’d been expecting something bigger, I tried to put a leash on my impatience.
“And several murders have occurred in the area. The police are calling them ‘stabbings,’ but the wounds are all in the neck. So unless someone’s stabbing tourists with grilling forks …..” She shrugged. “Plus all the work on this house has been done at night. During the day the place is totally dead and there are blackout curtains on all the windows.”
“Hmm.” Sounded like a stretch to me— until I glanced at the address. “Wait. Prytania Street?” I shot a meaningful glance at Adam. Back in New York, the mage headquarters in Manhattan was called Prytania Place.
“Does that mean something to you?” Mac asked.
“Maybe,” Adam said with a shrug.
I tucked the address in my jeans pocket. “Thanks, Mac. We’ll head over there in a few.”
She inclined her head. “I’ll let you know if I find anything else out.”
“Actually, I was wondering if you might be willing to set up a meeting with your contact.”
Her eyes went all suspicious. “Why?”
I leaned forward, trying to ease her sudden tension. “We appreciate your help. It’s just that maybe if I could talk to this friend vampire-to-vampire, I might be able to see if there’s anything she’s overlooked.”
Mac shook her head. “I don’t think she’d agree to that.”