Authors: Gary Jonas
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Urban, #Paranormal & Urban
I walked out to my car, and as I opened the door, Kelly pulled up in her truck.
Esther sat in the passenger seat.
“Nobody’s around,” Kelly said.
“I hope not.
Esther, can you pop back to the dojo?”
“Did you leave a few pieces there like you were supposed to?”
“Here goes nothing.”
She nodded her head.
She nodded her head again, harder.
She looked confused.
“Okay, I’m balled up.
Why can’t I go there?
Is it too far?”
Kelly gave me a concerned look.
“Something you want to tell me?”
“I don’t know.
Frank said the dojo was gone.”
She did not sound happy.
“What the fuck do you mean, ‘gone’?
My place had better be okay.”
She peeled out and roared down the street.
I hopped into my car and followed her.
As we drove toward the dojo, I saw a pillar of smoke billowing into the sky.
Esther popped into my backseat.
“Esther, you all right?”
“Kelly’s scary when she’s angry.”
As we turned onto Colfax a few blocks west of the dojo, my jaw dropped.
The entire city block where Kelly’s dojo used to stand was gone.
All that remained was a huge, smoking hole.
“You might want to keep driving,” Esther said.
“I can’t do that,” I said.
I wheeled over to the curb behind Kelly’s truck.
I could see her standing across the street from the gaping chasm as a large crowd stared in shock.
I needed to go to her.
I turned to Naomi.
“When I get out, I want you to slide over to the driver’s seat.”
“You’re expecting trouble.”
“There are up to five Sekutar out there somewhere, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were here, ready to attack as soon as I get out of the car.
If so, I want you to drive away from here and go directly to the CU Boulder Library.”
“And ask for Sharon.
Tell her I sent you.”
I opened the center console and dug through my car registration and insurance and a few CDs to find two special coins.
I held them up for Naomi to see.
“Give these to her, but don’t touch them unless you’re going to go see her.
I could see the fear in her eyes, but she kept it reined in.
I dropped the coins into the cup holder in front of the center console, kissed her, and slid out of the car.
Esther phased through the T-top and looked around, ready to warn me if anyone dangerous showed up.
I scanned the crowd of people lining the sidewalks to see if I could spot a Sekutar or anyone who might be paying a little too much attention to me or to Kelly.
Nobody even looked at us.
They were all too busy staring at the hole in the city.
I stood beside Kelly and put my arm around her.
I didn’t have to say anything.
We stood there, staring at what used to be her home.
There wasn’t any debris—no shattered glass or broken boards, no twisted rebar, no chunks of concrete or anything.
The edges of the sidewalk were smooth all the way around, and the hole there plummeted down at least two hundred feet.
Pipes had been severed and the dirt was wet around them, but the city had already turned off the water.
Kelly didn’t speak when Esther appeared beside her.
Esther walked through several people to look over the edge.
She walked back to us and looked at Kelly, who had already gone from anger to denial to acceptance of the facts.
O’Malley pulled up in an unmarked police car.
He hopped out, stared at the hole, then moved over to stand beside me.
“Holy shit,” he said.
“I heard the addresses on the radio and thought I recognized them.
You’re both okay, though, right?”
“Not physically harmed,” I said.
“Thanks for coming by.”
Then it hit me.
“You said ‘addresses,’ plural.”
“Oh shit, you don’t know.
Jonathan, the city block that held your office is gone.
Just like this.
So is your condo.
Estimates put the death toll at three hundred, but that could go up.
Same thing happened to two more city blocks.
One in Castle Pines and one—”
“Naomi’s place too,” I said.
“Five city blocks just imploded, turned to dust, and dropped into the ground.”
He shook his head.
“Since I met you, I’ve seen some weird shit, but this is the weirdest by far.
This have anything to do with that murder/suicide?”
“You should keep clear of us for a few days,” I said.
None of it seemed real.
We were homeless.
Worse still, hundreds of innocent people were dead.
He looked at me as if he planned to say something.
I shook my head, still staring in shock.
His radio squawked.
I gotta go.”
O’Malley hopped into his car and grabbed the radio as he pulled into traffic.
Life and death continued in the city around us, and not all of it was connected to what we were doing.
Sometimes it’s important for me to remember that.
Kelly rubbed her nose.
Her breathing was steady, but she simply kept staring.
She’d worked so hard to build up her business.
While her apartment hadn’t been fancy, it had been nice and comfortable.
Now she had to start over again with nothing.
She took a deep breath, let it out, and finally turned to me.
In a calm voice, she said, “He murdered three hundred people to try to get us.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded.
She looked into my eyes and waited until I was focused on her.
Then she spoke, her voice still calm as a grave.
“We’re going to kill him, Jonathan.
I don’t care what it takes.
Sharon worked in the Special Collections department of the UCB Libraries.
Parking, even in the summer, was always a bitch, but eventually I found a space and made the hike over to the Norlin building that housed the main library.
The wind picked up as I crossed the campus, but the morning sun was warm.
The students looked impossibly young to me.
When I entered the Special Collections, Sharon saw me and smiled.
“I expected you yesterday,” she said as she approached.
She wore her dark hair tied into a ponytail, and when I looked into her eyes, I could see the sparkle of ancient wisdom.
She held out her right hand, palm up.
I gave her the Rockies tickets, two silver dollars, and the two silver coins I’d shown Naomi.
“No,” Sharon said.
“Take them back, Jonathan.”
“If I had another choice, I would.
I’m making my payment, and I need you to take me to the stacks.”
“I can’t,” she said.
“I have a lunch date.”
“It’s nine o’clock.
We have plenty of time.”
She frowned at me.
“Time moves differently there.”
“Then tell me how to get to your replacement.
Maybe he can take me there.”
“Only if you’re dead.
At that point, he’ll accept payment, but as long as you’re alive, you can’t go there unless I take you.
“Tomorrow is too late.”
“Take these back,” she said, refusing to close her hand over the coins.
“You don’t have a choice, Sharon.”
“I have not accepted the payment,” she said, “so I
have a choice.
Take them back or I’ll drop them.
You don’t want to watch them turn to puffs of smoke when they hit the floor, do you?”
She angled her hand, and the coins slipped off the tickets.
I caught them and held them up.
“You told me to use them when I needed your help.”
“Help with something bigger than you can handle.
Why waste them now?”
“Because I need information, and if it’s available, it’s only in the Forbidden Texts.”
“If it’s just information you need, I can get that for you.
All you have to do is ask.”
“Then I’m asking,” I said.
Of course, I knew she’d get me information.
The problem wasn’t just information.
I knew we’d need her help to get through this.
I also knew that for her to provide that help would likely make her a target that could disrupt the life she’d built for herself here.
She needed to know things were serious, and the coins made that abundantly clear.
“Come with me,” she said and led me to her office.
Two large bookshelves dominated the room.
I know that’s a shocker—bookshelves in a library, who’d have thought?
Standing guard in front of the books on the third shelf were two Spike action figures from
Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
One Spike had the full vamp face; the other was normal.
The normal one looked more like Billy Idol than James Marsters, but there you go.
Sharon sat down at her desk and pulled up a file on her computer.
She looked up at me with a very serious expression.
“Nobody can know about this.”
“Nothing for them to know,” I said.
Her voice dropped to a whisper.
“I’ve been digitizing the Forbidden Texts.
If we’re lucky, I’ll already have your information here.”
This was huge.
She’d been sneaking into the stacks, removing books to bring back to our world, then returning them.
The risk versus reward seemed way off balance to me, but by the same token, Sharon loved information more than anything.
“What will this cost me?” I asked.
“A favor to be named later.”
“I need to know exactly what it will cost.
Unnamed favors leave the door too wide open.”
“I won’t abuse the open door.”
“The cat opens its mouth, tells the bird, ‘Hop in. I won’t bite down.’”
“Fine,” she said and pushed away from the computer.
“Come back tomorrow.”
“I need the information today.”
She gave me a studied look.
“What is it you humans say?
If I scratch your back, you scratch mine?
I do this for you, and you owe me one.”
“If the information isn’t here, we call it a mulligan.”
“All right,” she said.
“What do you need?”
“Information about how to destroy the spirit of an ancient sorcerer.”
“That Ravenwood person turned out to be real?”
A real pain in the ass.”
She pulled up a special file, and her fingers flew over the keyboard.
She nodded a few times, grunted a few, and her fingers kept flying.
Five minutes later, she got out of the chair.
“Sit down and read the highlighted paragraph.”
“Can’t you just print it out for me?”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” she said.
I sat down in her chair and read the paragraph.
It was a detailed and wordy section that took up the entire screen, but paraphrased a bit and adjusted to our particular situation, we’d need a powerful wizard to sever Ravenwood’s link to the power lines.
Then we had to kill his host body while the wizard keeping Ravenwood cut off committed suicide and used his spirit to destroy Ravenwood’s.
There was a bit more to it, some incomprehensible, ritualistic thing.
It read like complete nonsense, but it didn’t matter because I knew we couldn’t use it.
When I finished, Sharon closed the file and turned off the computer.
“Get what you need?”
“Thanks, but I don’t think it’s going to work.”
It makes sense to me.”
“Oh, it makes sense if you have a spell to take away his magic.”
“You just need a reasonably powerful wizard who can catch him off guard.”
Catching Ravenwood off guard, not likely.”
“You can distract him.
So what’s the real problem?”
“The wizard has to die.”
“So that’s a bad thing.”
“Depends on how you feel about wizards.
You owe me one.”