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    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Wizard Part XII



    Part XII

    It had started the day after I'd left to see my Uncle. It seemed to me that while I had been flying overhead, whoever had killed my Uncle had hit the road and made a beeline for me. Serendipity maybe, pure dumb luck more likely. At least I hoped it was the same people. It'd save me a hell of a lot of bother if it was.

    According to Carl they'd drive by slowly at night looking for any sign someone was living here. Carl said he kept the lights off at night except for the TV and then pointed to the windows of the living room, where I hadn't noticed that he'd hung black trash-bags over the wood slat blinds so the light wouldn't leak out.

    I winced a bit inside when I realized he'd used duct tape to do it. That was definitely going to remove the finish. I'd have to stain them again.

    Now that the van was in the driveway, I could readily assume I'd be having visitors. I pulled a couple hundreds from the draw of the desk in the study and handed it to Carl. I told him to get a hotel room until the whole thing blew over.

    It took two more beers and me having to listen to Carl apologize a few more times before I could convince him I'd be fine. After he left I annoyed Mr. Toots by rubbing him on the head then went out into the back yard.

    One of the other reasons I liked this house, beyond the hardwood floors and trim was the fact that the back yard butted up against the School for the Deaf. All that lay between my property and theirs was a narrow access road. I liked the fact that even though my yard ended and their lawn began, that almost all I could see was a nice hill of green grass. This view wouldn't change any time soon.

    Back inside I laid a map of the Island on the kitchen table. I doused the lights and lit four candles I'd placed on the north, south, east and west corners. It was adjusted to true north. The first time I'd done this trick I'd forgotten to align the map with true north and I'd spent a week walking in the wrong direction. Ever since then I used a compass. My internal sense of direction was for shit. I can't say why, or what started it or made it stick, but ever since I was about nine I thought whatever direction I was facing was north. The first day I learned to use a compass I almost fell in love with it.

    The map and candles set, I opened the drawer next to the sink and pulled out a small silk bag. Inside were twelve chicken bones I'd won in a game of poker off the Carolina coast. I don't so much remember the card game as the man I won it from. His name was Black Earl, and these were his prize divining bones. Lord knows how long it took him to fix 'em the way he did, or where he learned, but these bones were as solid as anything I'd ever seen.

    I mumbled under my breath and rolled the bones from my hand. They lay on the map a second then began to right themselves. Slowly, the smoke from the candles moved inward, drifting to the map and coalescing into human forms like tin soldiers on a field. It seemed that there were five death runners on the island tonight, but only one was Emily. It took me a second as I scanned the group. Picking her out wasn't too hard. She wasn't at the house, but by the river. She always was a bit of risk taker.

    A half a mile from the house I remembered that I hadn't fed Mr. Toots in almost a day. While he hadn't complained or begged for food I felt bad just the same. He was relying on me now, I had to get that thorough my head. It'd been a long time since any body, or anything had relied on me for something so basic as food.

    Emily was watching the lights from downtown Knoxville dance on the water. She'd crept close, but not so close she couldn't pull back if the wind kicked up a surge. Even a bit of the river water would rip her right off the land and carry her where she belonged. She heard me coming and turned to watch me as I made the last few meters to the water's edge. Her face went from fifty-six to twenty-five in half a second.

    Aubrey, it's good to see you again. What brings you to the river?

    I need to know Em, I need to know where my Uncle is. I need to find who killed him, and you're the only Death Runner I can trust.

    Emily smiled and moved toward the river a step.

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