The Impossible Wizard: Chapter 9

If you ended up here before reading the earlier chapters, you can return to Chapter 1 here

 

Numb wanted to argue when Bone left him alone with the dead woman, which didn’t bother him, and the magic stone, which did, but he’d gone before Numb could work up the nerve. He knew he shouldn’t be such a coward, especially in this job. On the other hand a little fear had kept him alive more than once when the other guys got in a killing mood. Those days when the wrong word or even a funny look might get you gutted.

Fuck it. Best to just do the job and go before someone showed up. He fumbled around in his bag and finally came up with the black stone. It chilled his hand to the marrow. Was there somewhere in particular he should put it? Mistress Raven hadn’t said.

He shivered when he thought of the wizard. If ever there was a person to fear it was her. Numb didn’t know how Bone found the guts to risk going against her. He’d do just what she said, when she said it. Way safer than plotting against the terrifying woman.

“Hey!”

Numb fumbled the stone and it bounced into the corner of the room. He spun and found two men that looked like twins with matching brown hair and eyes. They wore grease-covered overalls with tools jutting out of the pockets.

“You ain’t supposed to be here,” the left-hand man said.

“Is that Gerty?” the other brother asked. “What’d you do to her?”

Numb groped for the hilt of his knife and finally dragged it free of the sheath on his belt. Bone would be back soon. He could hold off a pair of mechanics for a minute or two.

The brothers pulled out their heaviest tools, a monkey wrench and a long screwdriver. Not the most wicked weapons, but either one of them could do you in if it hit you in the head.

“We’ll bash you good for what you done,” the guy with the wrench said.

He lunged at Numb who dodged the clumsy blow and opened a long slash in the mechanic’s forearm, not deep, but bloody. 

Numb grinned. These chumps didn’t know how to fight. They were just stupid carnies who walked into the wrong place at the wrong time. He could take them. No problem.

“Jobe!”

The brother with the screwdriver leapt at Numb with no thought for defense. Numb’s knife drove deep into the man’s chest, but his weight bore the biker to the floor.

Numb struggled to throw the body off.

“You bastard! You killed my brother.”

The second guy fell on him. The heavy wrench crashed into Numb’s head and set the room spinning. A second blow turned out the lights for a moment.

When his vision returned Bone was standing behind the wrench guy, his big dagger poking out the front of the carnie’s chest. Bone tossed the body aside and knelt beside Numb. He reached down and Numb flinched when he touched the side of his head.

“Don’t look good, Numb.”

Numb tried to say he’d be okay, but only garbled nonsense came out. That, combined with the way Bone was looking at him said he wouldn’t be okay. That look said he was about to die.

Bone cleaned his dagger on the dead mechanic’s overalls and returned to Numb. He held the ugly blade and shook his head. “You can’t ride, brother.”

Numb tried to argue, but more nonsense emerged. His thoughts were so jumbled he couldn’t even form an argument in his own mind.

Bone reached for him with the dagger. The razor edge touched his throat and the lights went out again.

* * *

Bone grimaced as he watched the last of Numb’s blood spill out across the floor. It was a shame when you had to kill a brother, but he couldn’t ride, and that mushy spot on the side of his skull wasn’t something they could just sew up. Maybe a hospital could have done something for him, but Bone doubted it. Numb’s brain was as pulped as his skull.

The black gem sat on the floor in the corner of the mechanical room. Bone had no intention of touching it. A quick search of the bodies turned up a pair of pliers in one of the brothers’ pockets. It opened just wide enough for Bone to pick up the gem and drop it on the woman’s chest.

It seemed to melt into her, a black stain that covered her from breasts to hips. Dark sparks shot out and formed lines and squiggly figures. Bone had seen enough.

“So long, brother.”

He left the bodies where they lay and fled the room, pausing only long enough to push the door to the hidden room shut. A catch clicked, securing the door so that not even a glimmer of light leaked out. That should satisfy the bitch.

Bone paused at the mouth of the cave. No one was waiting and nothing moved in the unlit carnival. At least the fight hadn’t drawn any attention.

He ran back the way they’d come, following the outer fence until he reached the opening. Once he was clear of the carnival grounds Bone slowed to a walk and took his time getting back to the bike. He’d have to call Iron Skull and tell him what happened. He needed one of the guys to come pick up Numb’s bike.

Bone had been preparing for this moment for months. He knew exactly where he’d hide the box. Maybe he was wrong and the wizard wouldn’t betray them. He hoped so, but if she did he’d make damn sure the witch suffered the consequences.

When he finally reached his bike Bone sat down and pulled out his phone. Now the tricky part: breaking the news to Iron Skull in such a way that their unpredictable leader didn’t blow up.

“Boss,” he said when Iron Skull answered. “Job’s done. Yeah, there was a problem. Numb bought it.”

Bone held the phone away from his ear while Iron Skull shouted. When his leader fell silent Bone said, “It was just bad luck. A couple carnies showed up while I was out cleaning the kill sight. Numb killed one of them, but the other bashed his head in before he could free his knife. Yeah, I gutted him. The magic stone did its thing. Can you send a couple of the guys over to ride Numb’s bike to the dump site?”

Bone gave Iron Skull the address and hung up. It would take at least twenty minutes for the others to arrive, plenty of time to set things up.

Half an hour later when Bloody and Tough showed up he had everything transferred over to Numb’s saddlebags. Numb getting himself killed made his plan much simpler to put into motion. Bone had no idea how he would have explained his missing bike to the guys, but having to hide Numb’s made a perfect excuse.

Tough climbed down from behind Bloody who roared off back to the house without a word.

“So what happened?” Tough asked.

Bone gave him the condensed version, leaving out the bit about cutting Numb’s throat himself. “We’ll drop his bike at the storage site down by the docks.”

Tough nodded, not offering so much as a word of argument. Unless fighting and killing were involved Tough generally didn’t have many opinions. That’s what made him so valuable, especially at times like this.

The two bikers roared off to the east. A small part of Bone almost wished the wizard would betray them just so she’d see what it felt like to have someone beat her.

* * *

Mom stood in front of the apartment door with her arms crossed. “You can’t go.”

“Why not?” Conryu had thrown on his comfortable, frayed jeans, shapeless t-shirt, and boots with the intention of heading out to the Shadow Carnival. A few hours without having to think about wizards and politics was way up on his to-do list.

Ten had just come and gone. It was the last day of the carnival and he needed to go if he didn’t want to miss it. He was supposed to grab Maria and then they were going to meet up with Jonny and Rin.

“Why not? You were almost murdered yesterday!”

“Come on. I can’t stay in the apartment for the rest of my life. There’ll be hundreds of people there. No one would be dumb enough to try something with that many people around.”

“Did that man yesterday strike you as the rational sort? Sho, say something.”

Dad was sitting in his robe at the kitchen table reading the paper. Conryu’s face covered half the front page. He gave it a shake and looked back over his shoulder toward them. “Connie, he has a point. Conryu can’t hide in here forever. If he wants to go, let him go.”

Conryu grinned, but his mother didn’t budge.

When the doorbell rang she jumped a foot off the floor. “Who could that be?”

“It’s probably Maria, wondering where I am.”

Mom looked out the peephole. “I don’t know him.”

“Let me see.” Conryu stepped up to the hole and looked out. “It’s Detective Chang.”

Conryu opened the door. Lin Chang stood in the hall wearing his usual rumpled blue suit and scuffed shoes. Thick, black eyebrows went up when he saw Conryu.

“What brings you here, Sarge?”

“Business. Can I come in?”

Conryu stepped aside so the detective could come in out of the hall. He spotted Dad in the kitchen and bowed. “Sensei, Mrs. Kane. I’ve been assigned to investigate the man that attacked Conryu yesterday. I can’t share many details, but I wanted you to know, from our preliminary efforts, he appears to have acted alone, egged on by others in his online community. We see no ongoing threat to your son. Conryu just had the misfortune to draw the attention of a disturbed individual.”

“See, Mom? No ongoing threat.”

She sighed. “Fine, you can go. But for heaven’s sake be careful. And bring me back a bag of caramel corn.”

“Will do.” Never one to question his good fortune, Conryu reached for the door before she changed her mind.

He took the elevator upstairs and found Maria waiting out in the hall for him. She had on a cute black dress with a scoop neck, silver necklace and bracelets, and white sneakers. Conryu gave her a wolf whistle. “You’re going to cause a wreck on the highway.”

She swatted him on the shoulder. “What took so long?”

“Mom didn’t want to let me go.”

Maria winced and they stepped back into the elevator. He hit the button for the garage.

“I guess I can’t blame her. I saw what happened on the news last night. It was kind of funny. It looked like the cameras terrified you, but the guy with the knife was no big deal.”

“I know how to deal with a guy with a knife, I’ve trained for it. Cameras and reporters?” He shook his head. “Way out of my comfort zone.”

The elevator chimed and the doors slid open. Unlike last time, today the garage was almost full. They wove their way through the cars toward his bike.

“Conryu! Conryu Koda!” A slim, nice-looking brunette in a pale blue suit with a cameraman behind her was running his way. He didn’t recognize her or which station she worked for, nor did he care. They were all of a piece to him. 

He shouldn’t have been surprised, especially since Mr. Kane had warned him the press would come calling, but he was. He had hoped maybe they’d take Sunday off, like normal people.

“Shit!”

“Did Dad tell you what to say to them?”

“He said, nothing.”

“He didn’t offer you any advice?”

“No, his advice was to say nothing. Which was excellent as that’s what I planned to do anyway.”

They ignored the shouting woman and hurried on to his parking spot. By the time they got their helmets on and mounted the bike the reporter was five feet away and right in their path.

“Kat Gabel, Channel 7 news. Just a few questions.” She showed no sign of moving. “How does it feel to be the first male wizard?”

Conryu touched the ignition and twisted the throttle. Without a helmet the roar from the big engine reached an almost deafening volume in the enclosed garage. The woman frowned and covered her ears. When the engine had died back down to an idle she took a breath to try again.

She was determined, he had to give her that. He twisted the throttle again, farther this time. The volume forced the reporter back a step. Conryu cupped his hand beside his head and shrugged.

The reporter shook her head and moved aside, motioning her cameraman to join her. Conryu tapped the side of his helmet with his index finger and roared up the ramp, grinning beneath his helmet.

It was a ten-minute ride to the carnival grounds. The company that ran it set up in one of the city parks not far from the government offices. You could see the Ferris wheel from a mile away. They parked in a field just outside the shadow and headed toward the grounds. A temporary fence surrounded the carnival with a single opening, a slanted shack sitting beside the gate. He hoped the carnival company didn’t pay whoever built it too much.

They stepped into the shadow and entered another world. The bright morning sun changed to twilight. Conryu glanced up, but the bottom of the floating island lay in shadow so deep he couldn’t make out any details.

Sunday was always the darker of the two carnival days since the island hung directly over the grounds from dawn to dusk. The Ferris wheel looked like it almost brushed the bottom of the island, but that had to be a trick of the light. The island flew over skyscrapers, certainly a Ferris wheel would be in no danger of hitting it.

“Does it look lower than usual this year?” Maria asked.

“I thought it was my imagination. It can’t be though, can it? I mean the island flew over dozens of buildings to get here. It must be a trick of the shadows.”

Maria cast a worried look up at the island and shook her head. “You must be right. Where are we meeting Jonny and Rin?”

“By the snack stands, where else? By the way, you still owe us a pizza.”

Maria stopped and dug through her purse. She finally came up holding a thick silver ring covered in runes. “Mom would have killed me if I forgot to give this to you.”

Conryu accepted the band and looked it over. It was simple enough, smooth and cool to his touch. “Thanks, but what’s it for?”

“It’s magic. Mom enchanted it herself. The ring creates a barrier around whoever wears it powerful enough to stop anything short of a point-blank shot with a large caliber bullet. It’s useless against knives or clubs, something about velocity and deflection. I didn’t really follow her whole explanation.”

If Maria couldn’t follow the explanation Conryu didn’t even want to try. He slipped the ring on and it seemed to shrink a little for a better fit. At least it wasn’t gaudy. And if it worked as well as Maria said, it would be worth wearing. “I’ll be sure to thank your mom, but don’t think you’re getting out of buying lunch.”

“I just gave you a potentially life-saving magical artifact.”

“Yeah, thanks again. I like pepperoni and sausage on my pizza.”

“You’re horrible.”

They resumed walking through the twilight toward the carnival gate. It was definitely darker than last year and it would only get worse the closer they came to the center. Conryu fished a ten out of his wallet and when they reached the little shack handed it to a woman in a clown suit. She stamped their hands with little smiley faces and they went onto the grounds.

“Thanks.” Maria got a nostalgic smile when she looked at the stamp.

“Sure. Does your bling do anything?”

“My necklace does the same thing as the ring I gave you and I just thought the bracelets looked pretty.”

They walked down a path lined with rip-off games featuring cheap stuffed animals and plastic jewelry. Six people sat in a row, trying to hit a clown’s nose with water guns so they could pop a balloon. Conryu grinned when they passed a ring toss game that used glass milk bottles for targets.

“Remember the year you made me spend thirty bucks trying to win you a stuffed cow at the ring toss?”

“Sixth grade. I was in my ‘barnyard animals are cute’ phase. I thought you were going to strangle that carnie when he tried to talk you into taking the giraffe instead of the cow.”

“I could have bought you an actual calf for what I spent on that game. I wasn’t going anywhere with a stupid giraffe.”

“You were really sweet.” They linked arms and continued on.

A little past the bumper cars Conryu caught a whiff of frying food. Not far now.

“Five bucks says Jonny has funnel cake in one hand and a giant soda in the other.”

“Double or nothing Rin’s trying to steal some.”

“You’re on.”

 

I hope you enjoyed reading Chapter 9. Click here to read Chapter 10

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