Sunday, June 2, 2013
Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk
It was the morning of my twenty fifth birthday, and all I wanted was a decent cup of coffee, a hot breakfast, and a couple hours away from the stink of used magic that seeped through the walls of my apartment building every time it rained.
My current fortune of ten bucks wasn’t going to get me that hot breakfast, but it was going to buy a good dark Kenya roast and maybe a muffin down at Get Mugged. What more could a girl ask for?
I took a quick shower, pulled on jeans, a black tank top, and boots. I brushed my dark hair back and tucked it behind my ears, hoping for the short, wet, sexy look. I didn’t bother with makeup. Being six foot tall and the daughter of one of the most notorious businessmen in town got me enough attention. So did my pale green eyes, athletic build, and the family knack for coercion.
I pulled on my jacket, careful not to jostle my left shoulder too much. The scars across my deltoid still hurt, even though it had been three months since the creep with the knife had jumped me. I had known the scars might be permanent, but I didn’t know they would hurt so much every time it rained. Blood magic, when improperly wielded by an uneducated street hustler, was a pain that just kept on giving. Lucky me.
One of these days, when my student loans were paid off and I’d dug my credit rating out of the toilet, I’d be able to turn down cheap Hounding jobs that involved back-alley drug deals and black-market revenge spells. Hell, maybe I’d even have enough money to afford a cell phone again.
I patted my pocket to make sure the small, leather-bound book and pen were there. I didn’t go anywhere without those two things. I couldn’t. Not if I wanted to remember who I was when things went bad. And things seemed to be going bad a lot lately.
I made it as far as the door. The phone rang. I paused, trying to decide if I should answer it. The phone had come with the apartment, and like the apartment it was as low-tech as legally allowed, which meant there was no caller ID.
It could be my dad–or more likely his secretary of the month– delivering the obligatory annual birthday lecture. It could be my friend Nola, if she had left her farm and gone into town to use a pay phone. It could be my landlord asking for the rent I hadn’t paid. Or it could be a Hounding job.
I let go of the doorknob and walked over to the phone. Let the happy news begin.
“Allie, girl?” It was Mama Rossitto, from the worst part of North Portland. Her voice sounded flat and fuzzy, broken up by the cheap landline. Ever since I did a couple Hounding jobs for Mama a few months ago, she treated me like I was the only person in the city who could trace lines of magic back its user and abuser.
“Yes, Mama, it’s me.”
“You fix. You fix for us.”
“Can it wait? I was headed to breakfast.”
“You come now. Right now.” Mama’s voice had a pitch in it that had nothing to do with
the bad connection. She sounded panicked. Angry. “Boy is hurt. Come now.”
The phone clacked down, but must not have hit the cradle. I heard the clash of dishes
pushed into the sink, the sputter of a burner snapping to life, then Mama’s voice, farther off, shouting to one of her many sons–half of whom were runaways she’d taken in–all of whom answered to the name Boy.
I heard something else too, a high, light whistle like a string buzzing in the wind, softer than a wheezy newborn. I’d heard that sound before. I tried to place it, and found holes where my memory should be.
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