Authors: Jen Rasmussen
“And what about you?” asked Thea. “What do you think?”
Marshal stood up. “I’m just trying to get my wife through this.” When Thea didn’t get up right away he added, “And as you might recall, we agreed to end this interview if Laurel got too upset to continue.”
. She hadn’t gotten any hints about Talbott, or had a chance to work the conversation around to something that might have been his. “Of course. But before I go, would you have any… family photos? Of the Lexingtons?”
Marshal frowned at that. “Why don’t you give me your card, and I might be able to email you something?”
Because I can’t touch a digital picture. Or bleed on one.
“Or anything of Talbott’s that I could borrow for a minute, just to take a picture of it? Like, did he leave any stuffed animals or toys or anything here?”
Marshal stared at her. “What?”
Shit. Don’t be so clumsy.
“I’m not trying to be exploitative,” Thea added quickly. “But more people will read my article if it’s got that personal connection. And the more people who read it, the bigger the outcry, and the more likely we are to get answers for your wife.”
But Marshal was looking at her with suspicion now, if not outright hostility. “I don’t think it’s my wife you want answers for. You want to put a picture of one of his
with your story? What kind of tabloid do you work for?”
Thea’s frustration started to rise. Her heart sped up.
Not now, Thea. This would be a very bad time to lose control.
“You’re right. It was probably a bad idea.” Thea pasted on a fake smile. Her smile, at least, had never failed her. Especially not with men.
But Marshal’s face didn’t soften. He just looked tired. Thea did a quick scan of his virtues and sins, looking for some angle she could use. There was plenty of loyalty and compassion for his wife. But once lost, his patience would be difficult to recover.
“Thank you for your time,” she said finally.
“I’ll walk you out,” he said.
“Can I just say goodbye to Laurel?”
“I’ll pass on the message.”
Why did he insist on shutting her down? Could he not give her just the tiniest bit of fucking cooperation? Thea’s fingers were tingling again. Her ears were ringing.
Calm down. Deep breaths, light voice. Smile.
“I’d really rather thank her personally. It would only take a second. I promise I wouldn’t mention—”
“I need you to leave,” Marshal said bluntly. “Now.”
“No! Will you just wait a second?”
He grabbed her elbow. Thea’s claws came out.
And Marshal Bowman saw them.
“What the HELL!”
Laurel heard his scream and came running back into the living room, but Marshal had already lunged at Thea.
Luckily, the brief bubble of wrath had passed. Thea chose to retreat rather than attack. She pulled out of Marshal’s grip and hurried for the door.
“Get out of my house!” Marshal shouted. “I have a gun!” He was reaching for her again, pushing her in the back. Could he feel her wings, despite the illusion? She’d never thought to ask if it was only visual.
Thea ran out of the Bowman house. She was shaking when she got back into the SUV.
What just happened?
The flares of temper, the impatience, how quickly it all seemed to boil over these days. She’d been telling herself it was nothing, or that it was just stress. That she would deal with it when she had time to think about it.
But she’d gone too far, now.
Something was wrong with her.
Something was wrong with Boyd Lexington, too.
Shit. Shit shit shit.
Thea desperately wished she could ditch the SUV and just fly back home. She needed to talk to Langdon. But she’d be in huge trouble if she didn’t bring the company car back.
Breathe. Drive. Use the time to calm yourself down.
Her phone rang half an hour later. It was Detective Holgersen.
“Why were you asking about Seth Bates today?” he asked without preamble.
“Because I wanted to see him and nobody would tell me where he is,” Thea said. “Why were they giving me the runaround about it?”
“Why did you want to see him?”
“Is this another one of those things where only you get to ask questions?”
“It’s pretty much always one of those things.”
“Yeah well, too bad. I didn’t agree to be interrogated this time.” She hung up.
Okay. That was a little unstable. You’re not doing the best job of calming down.
When Holgersen called back a minute later, Thea mentally prepared a greeting, determined to keep her voice light and controlled this time. But he spoke before she could.
“Seth Bates died this morning.”
Her already overloaded mind had no idea what to make of that.
“How did he die?” she asked finally.
“Nobody seems to know. They think he was under the influence of something. A drug, a toxin. Did your people hex him again?”
didn’t hex him the first time.”
“Was it a hex, is all I’m asking?”
His voice was actually shaking, he was so pissed off. Thea had been so caught up in trying to control herself, she hadn’t noticed that Holgersen sounded on the verge of losing it himself.
“I honestly don’t know if he was hexed or not,” she said.
There seems to be a lot of hexing going around that I don’t know about. Or understand.
“Well, how the hell do I find out?” Holgersen was nearly shouting. “Because I’d really like to do that before an official explanation comes down and closes my damn case right out from under me.”
“Closes it under you? That makes no sense.”
“Yeah well, pardon me for not being good at metaphors or whatever the hell it is.”
Thea frowned down at her phone. Holgersen had seemed so unflappable before. What had changed?
“What do you mean, an official explanation?” she asked. Then she remembered something he’d said, in Alecto’s office.
The IRS has never heard of you any more than the FBI has, or Homeland Security. Pretty much every Federal agency I can think of laughed me off the phone today when I checked with them.
It occurred to Thea for the first time to wonder what this investigation looked like, from his end.
“Holgersen, are you the only one there who even believes in us?”
“Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of others who believe in you. Plenty who know all about you, in fact. But they’re not people someone at
has access to.”
Thea bit back a smile. So Alecto’s comment had gotten to him, then.
“And if you go to the ones you do have access to, like your actual boss, for example, with a story about flying purple people…”
“Exactly,” Holgersen said. “My immediate superior does not want to hear about furies. The consensus among most rational people is that the picture—
picture—is a hoax. That whatever happened at Hemlock Heights was some kind of chemical leak, or something.”
“That’s what Laurel Bowman thinks,” Thea said. “She’s Boyd Lexington’s sist—”
“I know who she is. I interviewed her.”
“So take more pictures,” Thea said. “You know where the colony is. You could find a way to show him the truth.”
It would do Holgersen no good to try to show his boss Hexing House directly. Being a stranger, the man would see nothing but ruined buildings and kudzu. But Holgersen himself had been invited onto the campus once before, which meant he would always see the truth. And presumably be able to photograph that truth, although Thea wasn’t absolutely sure whether the enchantment allowed for that or not.
“As a matter of fact, I showed him a picture.” Holgersen sighed. “He was not inclined to pursue that avenue of investigation. I don’t even know if that’s an order from above, or he’s just being pigheaded.”
“He just what, told you to forget about us?”
“Pretty much. It doesn’t matter if a dozen protesters were standing right outside your gates the other day. Or that your picture is all over the internet. Or that I have Alecto’s fucking
. Officially, you guys don’t exist.”
“Which is why you’re talking to me. Even though the other day you were treating me like a suspect and refusing to discuss anything you knew at all.” Thea finally put it all together, the reason for his call, why he was being so open with her about his problems.
“Your hands are tied.” She tried not to laugh as she said it. “If you want to investigate anything fury-related, you need me to do it for you.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Holgersen said. “But if what you told me was the truth, if Hexing House is being blamed unfairly for this other colony’s actions, then you have just as much of an interest in resolving this matter as I do. We’re sort of…”
There was an uncomfortable pause, which Thea made no attempt to fill.
“On the same side,” Holgersen finished finally. “So maybe we can help each other.”
“And right now, you want to know if Seth Bates was hexed,” Thea said.
“Well, you’re in luck. Because I want to know the same thing. I’m looking into it.”
“You keep me in your loop and I’ll keep you in mine,” Holgersen said. “How’s that for now?”
“Works for me.”
But for the moment, she had an even more urgent matter to attend to. One that couldn’t be put off any longer.
As soon as Thea got back to Hexing House, she flew to the Wellness building, where she drove Darnell so crazy with her pacing that he got her in to see Langdon within the hour.
“That’s not going to do you any good.” Thea nodded at the blood pressure cuff around her arm. “This isn’t a physical problem. Langdon, I seriously think I’m going crazy. Is there such a thing as a sin disease?”
Langdon laughed at that. “Nope, although I’m sure there are plenty of sinners who’d prefer to blame a disease.”
“So a hex is the only thing that can really
“That I know of. And of course, a hex always passes, eventually. Not to mention that you, my dear, are hex immune.”
“I’m not immune to the superhex.”
“Which passes more quickly than any other hex we’ve ever encountered,” Langdon reminded her. “What’s this about?”
“I’m manifesting sins,” Thea said. “Wrath. Impatience. Lack of compassion. Sins that have never even been a problem for me before. And it’s getting worse, and way harder to control. I just got kicked out of a guy’s house because I couldn’t stand that he was telling me no.”
She paused while Langdon shined a penlight into her throat, then stared ahead as he did the same with each eye.
“Lately, the second someone argues with me, I just want to roll right over them,” Thea said. “My claws come out. I can’t even stop them.”
Langdon laughed again. “Wrath, impatience, lack of compassion? Is that what you just said?”
“Those aren’t sins,” he said. “Those are the defining traits of a fury.”
Thea blinked at him. “What?”
“Thea, did you really think you’d just grow wings and sprout claws and that would be the end of it? When your blood changed, your
“Not enough,” she said. “Elon always tells me I’m too soft-hearted. I was supposed to become hard, like the rest of you. But I didn’t.”
,” Langdon said. “You’ve got your wings, but it’s not that simple. You don’t just wake up one day and find that you’re a fury, and all traces of your humanity are gone. You’re still changing. It’s going to take time.”
“How much time?”
And what if I don’t like what I’m changing into?
But it was far too late for that.
She had made the decision so rashly. She’d wanted to find Flannery, to become somebody else, to be strong. She’d wanted all those things so badly that she hadn’t stopped to think about what the flip side of strong would look like.
Less than a year ago, Thea had barely been able to leave her house. The bells, the counting. She’d
her damn door closed on a regular basis. It was like having a genie grant a wish, to shed those burdens so quickly.
But had she really been foolish enough to think it wouldn’t come with a price?
“It’s a bit like a hex, really,” Langdon said. “It’ll take as long as it takes for you to find your equilibrium. You’ll get control back, don’t worry. But you’re changing your entire makeup, Thea. That’s not an easy transition. It will be uncomfortable at times. The fury you’ve become is basically waging war with the human you were.”
“And you’re sure that’s all this is?”
“I’d wager quite a bit on it,” he said. “I haven’t presided over any other human transformations, besides yours, but I studied about them, as part of my training. I know it doesn’t feel this way to you, but what you’re going through is normal.”
But as she walked out of the Wellness building, Thea thought of Boyd Lexington, and she wasn’t so confident.
Boyd was his own monster. Cindy Lexington, Miss Wanda. They had monsters, too.
Am I my own monster?
It was well into dinnertime by then, but Thea didn’t go to the dining hall, or back to her residence. Instead she flew across the campus into the woods, and went straight to Nana’s. The old fury’s visions were stronger than Thea’s. Maybe she could help Thea work through some of the mysteries crowding her mind, fill in some blanks that Thea couldn’t reach.
But Nana wasn’t alone. The smell of roasting lamb, rosemary, and fresh bread wafted out her front door as she greeted Thea. It wasn’t the kind of meal you made for one.
“Come on in, there’s plenty of food,” Nana said.
“I don’t want to intrude if you have company.”
“Not at all. This is one visitor that improves the more company you have to go with him.” Nana gestured for Thea to follow her inside.
Thea stopped when she came into the cottage and saw Graves, half-sprawled over the table, head in his arms. The once-elegant fury who’d recruited her had fallen on hard times since he’d been found guilty of treason and lost his wings. He did menial labor now, his tailored suits replaced by rough work clothes. His hair didn’t look especially clean.
Thea moved closer and got a strong whiff of rum.
“He drinks a lot, since,” Nana said simply. “Probably asleep.”
“Am not sleep!” His head snapped up and he glared at his mother with a drunk’s aggressive but unfocused stare.
Nana sighed. “I get the luck of being the one person in the colony who
to take him in,” she said. “Come on, help me set the table. He won’t give you a hard time.”
“She zerves a hard time,” Graves said, finally seeing Thea. “Thiz’z your fault.”
“Graves, you brought what happened to you on yourself, and you know it,” Thea said. But though her words were hard, she felt none of the impatience and anger that had plagued her at the Bowman house. Which made no sense, because Graves deserved her contempt more than just about anyone. He’d lied to her, manipulated her. He’d done horrible things to a lot of people. And the superhex he’d helped develop had done even more horrible things to even more people.
But looking at what he’d become, all Thea could manage to feel was pity.
She ignored Graves—easily done, since he dozed off again—and talked to Nana, helping her finish the meal, until they sat down at the table. Then Thea said, “Graves, how have you been?”
“I’m a glorified gardener with no wings,” Graves said. “How d’you think I’ve been?”