Flynn still hadn’t come home before the paper airplane I’d given the coroner tapped on the sliding glass door of Lugh’s balcony. I opened the door, and it flew into the room. The plane circled me three times before landing in my hands. Writing on the wings said: 9:30 Come Alone. That only gave me fifteen minutes to get back to the morgue. I hugged Lugh and promised to come back as soon as I could. Flynn should have returned already if he’d just opted to run home. My worry couldn’t come close to what Lugh must have been feeling. Werewolves are tough but not indestructible. I felt guilty leaving while we still hadn’t heard from Flynn, but I couldn’t miss this meeting.
My feet ached by the time I got back to the morgue. I’d run most of the way there, not wanting to keep them waiting too long. I wouldn’t have been late if I could’ve afforded a taxi. It would have hurt my pride a little too much to ask Lugh for money on top of everything else he’d done for me. I walked into the morgue breathing heavily at 9:37. Jones stood next to a witch who wore a lilac leather moto jacket and matching boots. The necromancer smiled at me with perfect white teeth. I think he meant it to be reassuring, but I wouldn’t let my guard down that easily.
“You okay?” Jones asked.
“Yeah. Sorry, I’m late. It’s been harder to navigate the city without a phone,” I said.
“No worries. Johnny knows how to keep me entertained,” the necromancer said, still smiling.
“Has he told you anything about why I asked to meet you yet?” I asked. I didn’t want to know what sort of entertainment they’d indulged in while waiting for me.
“Not much. He wanted to wait for you to get here,” he said.
“I figured it would be easier not to repeat anything,” Jones said. He didn’t strike me as a Johnny. Maybe he would if I met him in a less professional setting.
“I think he was more worried about pissing you off. What did you say to spook him?” the necromancer asked, still all smiles.
I shrugged. Our earlier conversation didn’t stick in my mind after all the day’s other activities.
“We should get started,” Jones said, blood rushing into his cheeks.
“Fine,” the witch said. Jones gestured to lead us over to the autopsy table and folded the sheet back to reveal Peter’s body. “Hey, I know this guy.”
“How?” I asked.
“He brought me in for a couple of cleansings. Nice guy. Who would want to do this to him?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” I said.
“Let’s ask him, shall we?”
The necromancer’s magic warmed the room. I stood a little straighter as an unseen pressure wrapped itself around me. It reminded me of the comfortable warmth of bed in the morning. Once I’d made that connection, I swear the sensation shifted to embrace the thought, as if his magic read my mind. I took my first deep breath since walking into the room, and it didn’t smell like chemicals or cleaners. I inhaled the smell of cherry firewood. My muscles relaxed as I savored the scent. I’d expected his magic to feel more disconcerting. Instead, it comforted me. He put his hands on Peter’s temples and closed his eyes. Nothing happened. The warm pressure of his magic wrapped tighter as he pushed for something that never came.
“He won’t come,” the necromancer said. His magic cut off, and the room cooled back to its true chill.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“I couldn’t summon him back to his body.” He removed his hands from Peter’s head.
“Does that mean he’s moved on?” Jones asked.
“No. He hasn’t found peace. His spirit has been bound somewhere.”
“Can you tell me anything else?” I asked.
“Whatever they did to take his soul out, they broke this body’s ties to magic in the process,” the necromancer said.
“How is that different from any other body?” Jones asked.
“Even without a spirit in there, my power normally allows me to manipulate the body.” He waved at the mortuary cabinets, and several bodies knocked three gentle wraps in sync. “But I have no power over this body. My magic flows off it like water.”
“You said his spirit is bound somewhere. Can you find out where?” I asked.
“I’m not sure.”
“Please try,” I said.
“Okay, but I’m not dealing with DPI. If I find anything out, I’ll bring it to Johnny.”
“Fair enough,” I said. I didn’t plan on contacting DPI again, anyway.
“We gotta go,” the necromancer said.
“What?” I asked.
“Johnny’s about to get another delivery, and we don’t want to get him in trouble, do we?”
“Oh, yeah, no,” I said, a little thrown by his casual tone.
“Come on; I’ll show you the back way out,” he said.
I followed him, hearing a knock on the main entrance before getting very far. His magic unfurled down the hall in front of us as we walked. I didn’t question it but brought my own magic to the surface. The comfort his magic inspired in me made it a bit difficult to hold on to my anxiety. Normally I’d welcome that change. Without knowing why he’d summoned his power, though, I wanted to fight the relaxation. I didn’t think he would attack me, but maybe he sensed another threat ahead that I hadn’t picked up on. I wondered how he’d known someone was coming back there. He hadn’t set up any early warning spells; I would have felt those when I showed up if they were there. Something else told him.
“And freedom,” he said as we stepped outside into a small parking lot.
“Thanks,” I said.
“If you find whoever did this without me, promise me something,” he said.
“End them quickly. Anyone willing to bind a soul isn’t someone you want to toy with. They’re messing with the natural order in a way I’ve never seen before. I wouldn’t give them any time to see what else they’re capable of.”
“All right,” I said.
I took my time going back to Lugh and Flynn’s apartment. I used a spell to skip paying the bus driver. The exhaustion of the day caught up to me as soon as I sat. I couldn’t solve what happened to Peter tonight, but I hoped Flynn would be home. Even if he didn’t find anything out, I just wanted to get back to that reassurance. We didn’t know if this ritual worked on more than just witches, but I didn’t want to find out. Lugh would never forgive me. I’d never forgive myself.