Nine dead bodies with Des and I’s names literally written all over them. A smoking gun that should have been in the Tonka Truck’s glove box. And now our dear friend Kevin Hart holding out handcuffs to take us in to the big house. The shadow that had been floating over our heads had finally decided to fall, and it had fallen hard.
I knew that in a jail cell Des and I wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of finding out the truth behind these murders, and that we’d be far too easy targets for anyone looking to take us out of the game permanently. I sent Des a quick telepathic thought.
Close your eyes.
And then I triggered my flash-bang ring right in the faces of Kevin and the assembled members of S.I. People that Des and I knew. People we cared about. And now people that would be hunting us down. Desmond grabbed the .357 and I triggered my veil watch, instantly cloaking us in a shroud of invisibility the mundane police would have no chance to see through. As Des and I scrambled off into the night I could see Kevin’s face full of disappointment and fear. He was calling for his men to form a perimeter, but I could tell he knew he’d never catch us. We left our friend in the dark of the night, and I prayed he’d still be our friend when all of this settled. Hell, I prayed we’d all be alive.
- - -
“I’m pregnant, Desmond,” I said to my husband as we huddled in the burned out remains of the Need Want’s basement, the crushed .357 lying in a ball at my feet.
Desmond found himself in a situation that he normally never finds himself in, he was at a loss for words. His face was equal parts fear, disbelief, and worry. I wished he could have worn the happy face of joy that he would have, had Kevin not called us downtown to arrest us for a mass murder spree.
“Are you sure?” he asked, knowing full well I’d spent most of my life dealing with miscarriages and the pain of being unable to have children.
“Yeah, I’m about two months pregnant. I even have a tiny little bump going on. It’s for real. I can feel him, and he’s strong, Des,” I said with what must have been fear coating my face.
“How do you kn-” Desmond began to ask before I gave him a look that told him that I just knew.
Des came over and gave me a deep hug and I returned it to him. We stayed like that for awhile before he took my face in his hands and looked into me eyes.
“We are gonna get through this,” he said, putting a hand on my belly, “all three of us.”
- - -
We had no doubt that the Black Council had finally decided to make its move after we snuck into the Buffalo morgue to take a closer look at the night’s victims. Sam had been a bit reticent with helping two fleeing suspects in a mass murder case, but in the end he’d decided to trust us. Nine bodies, all killed with powerful magic, and all bearing the call signs that Desmond and I had been the murderers. The Black Council was moving in Buffalo, and its first target was Des and I. With the Sight I was able to see the dark cruelty that was done to those poor people, and it hardened my heart for what we had to do.
Ever since we discovered the powerful thaumaturgy circle in Winter I had had a fear of who or what could have done such powerful magic. As time kept creeping on after we’d saved the day I had always kept a worry in the back of my head. In one decade Buffalo had seen more supernatural craziness than most cities do in a century, and with the discovery of the Black Council I had a deep suspicion that there was indeed a guiding hand behind much of the adversity Des and I had faced in our time together.
We decided to start with the beginning, the case Des and I had worked on together right before I invited him to live with me. We focused on the question that had been burning inside me for more than a decade, who had introduced the Pole to Donald Evrose? To his credit, Baron Wojinski didn’t give us his usual run around and tough guy routine. He simply took out a large file from a cabinet in his office (right next to an entire draw labeled Wizard/Waters) and told us the truth. He’d been introduced to Evrose by a group calling themselves the Crowleys (yeah, I know) and that had been as far as he’d gotten involved with the group. We warned the Baron of the danger looming over his city, and said our farewells.
Snooping around led us to an atrocious Goth Club and one of its sniveling members, Black Templar 666 (yeah, I know). The fellow put on a tough guy act, but a pissed off Desmond slamming him into the wall and name dropping the Pole took the piss right out of him, literally. Turns out that something of a ‘Dark’ Paranet had been operating for over a decade, and it had been connecting people with a shadowy group of powerful figures all the while. Dizzy and Jason had alluded to as much when we’d asked them about the Crowleys, but Black Templar (sigh) had confirmed it.
That led us on to the conflict between the vampires that had culminated in the massacre at the HSBC arena (or whatever bank owns it now). Stopping by Trina’s mansion gave Des and I a chance to hide from the looming police search in style, and let me have a chance to talk to Trina about the movements of the Reds back then. Trin didn’t have anything concrete, but considering some of the choices the Reds had made over the years (including a full blown war with the White Council) the two of us agreed that the Black Council’s touch was likely.
Which led us to the first real suggestion of an overt action by the Black Council, the time spell in Winter. Des and I headed right for Kyle’s apartment in our second stolen car for the night and almost didn’t get let in the house. Reminding Kyle that his big sister/master/dear friend was likely not an actual murderer eventually got us in the house and got Kyle thinking about the vastly complex time spell I’d seen in Winter all those years ago. And it turns out the spell wasn’t all that complex. Sure, it wasn’t doing the dishes easy, but it certainly wasn’t a spell you’d need to be a Senior Council member to pull off. After Kyle drew up the blueprints for how he’d do the spell I realized that it probably wasn’t a few extremely powerful people that had made the spell, but that likely a lot of moderately powerful people had done it. Which meant the Black Council was a lot bigger than I had first thought. Des and I wished Kyle well, and I told him that I would be needing him and his sister before the end. The twins were young, but they were damn good wizards. It was time to stop codling them and start putting them to work.
The trail kept moving on, thready, full of guess work and cold evidence. Dizzy had suggested that Mavra’s involvement with teaching vampires magic was odd to say the least when questioned, and I agreed. But what could be said other than the Black Council may have been involved. Hell, I was getting the skin crawling feeling that the Black Council may have been a huge part of Des and I’s life for a long time.
The question of Mother Goose’s coming to town, and the nearing of dawn, led us deep into the forests of Clarence. Close to home, but not close enough. I rode on Desmond’s back as he effortlessly bounded through the dark forest, every so often letting out a fierce dog howl and waiting for the inevitable wolf howl to answer him. In this way we found Rafe, and he told us all he could about Mother Goose, which wasn’t much. He did however suggest we talk to someone at the source of the fae, and so after we bid Rafe farewell Des and I found a small pool in the woods, and we summoned up CoCo. She was as beautiful as she was the last time we saw her, and she was more than willing to give us info, for a price. Her father was teaching her quite well, and I knew that in only a few decades she’d be a much different ‘person’ than the CoCo Des and I knew. I knew that she’d always have a soft place for Des and I, we had given her the majority of the power she’d needed to become a Sidhe Lady, and we’d done it with respect and no small amount of love. That said, a fae is a fae.
All she asked for this time was a kiss. A kiss from Desmond. He gave it to her, and it looked as soft and sweet as Desmond’s kisses always were. It was actually kind of weird to see it as an observer. And yes, I busted his balls about it, but I wasn’t really jealous. First off, CoCo was like family. Second, if Desmond resisted the temptations of certain fallen angels of lust I knew that I would never have to worry about him being unfaithful to me. Third and final, I loved Desmond, he loved me, and that covered any worry I could have possibly had. CoCo told us of people stirring up trouble in the Nevernever around that time. A short asian woman and a tall man in a heavy hood. Cowl and Kumari, I was sure of it. It seemed that that was the first real sighting of the two of them together, and the first real connection to the people I knew in my heart were the ones doing this to Desmond and I. As dawn came Desmond and I curled up in a far away cave in the woods, him in grim form to keep me warm, and we slept.
The next day we met Jason and Desie at the park, and we talked about the Denarians. We had nothing but speculation as to what pointed Tess and Nicodemus into all of our lives, and maybe we were making more boogey men when we already had some, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Cowl and Kumari, or at least the Black council, had pointed those demons into our lives. The Denarians had almost ended Desmond and I. Almost. It all got me thinking about Cowl and Kumari more, and of the time Des and I had actually faced them.
Cowl had been the most powerful opponent I’d ever faced (this side of Nick). I had hit him with a monster of a spell, and he’d taken it like I’d tapped him lightly on the shoulder; then he’d hit me with a Mack Truck of power right back. At the ritual, as Cowl had tried to summon up the spirit of a monster in man’s flesh through the veil, I had pierced his body with his own ritual knife, and sent a massive conduit of power straight into his being. He should have died, but I don’t think he did. Those fears led me to researching the book Cowl had used in his ritual, and how similar magic could be used to funnel power directly into one’s being or into an object over time. Considering the pentagram layout of the murdered people the night before I knew that nothing good was in our future.
That’s when Adam called the house (which we had snuck into) and things went from horrific to earth shattering. Calculated attacks across the world in many of the world’s biggest and most important cities. The Council calling for Ebenezar’s head. Attacks on the White Council itself. Adam’s phone line getting cut, suddenly and abruptly. The Black Council was moving, and it looked like it was winning. I decided to get desperate. When Desmond had been ‘dead’ Belzor had come after me with a vengeance. When we killed him he’d told us that a hooded figure had been the one to give him power, and who had summoned He Who Walks in the first place. That screamed Cowl, and I was going to find out.
The creature I summoned in the basement was a terror of darkness, but that was bread and butter for Des and I. In exchange for one of Desmond’s True Names the demon more or less told us that Belzor’s biggest contacts were indeed shadowy figures that looked very much like Cowl and Kumari. He told us that Kumari had done the talking, and the more the demon spoke of the woman I knew as Kumari, the more my hair stood on end in fear. Fear about who she could have been, and what that would mean for me, and Adam. If Adam was even still alive. The Black Council had gotten close to tearing the White Council apart when Abigail Rosetta’s plan almost came to fruition. It looked like they may have succeeded on their second attempt.
We had one final stop, to find out just who had pushed Hamish McHale toward us, and to see if I could find anything else about Kumari. I wont bore you with the details. There were certain water towers. There were certain havens of Red Court vampires. There was the casting of powerful air magic to toss vampires out into the night air and drop them several hundred feet to the ground. There was Warden sword slaying. There was giant grim dog chomping. In the end we’d linked the Black Council to the Reds, and I was starting to believe that Kumari, Cowl’s apprentice in the dark arts, was actually Marie Kane, Adam’s long lost daughter.
Back home (I need to tell Kevin to train his men better, they are too easy to sneak by) I was digging through the box of things Adam had sent me when he’d asked me to get the fae courts on our side. In the box I found a very old photo album, and in it a very old photo of a twelve or thirteen year old Marie Kane. It was the very loosest of connections in magical terms, and drawing a magical connection with it would be nearly impossible for me.
But maybe not for Kyle.
I’ve called my brother a prodigy before, but that boy (wrong word) that manly wizard fellow, pulled off a tracking spell with a sketch book and a wooden circle in only three hours. It took him three hours when damn near any other wizard in the world probably couldn’t have done it, period. With some graphite and Kyle’s age progression photo of Marie Kane he funneled magic into it and let the spell go. To my surprise the tracking spell linked on to someone. Someone who was in Buffalo at that very moment. My heart dropped into my stomach. Marie Kane was alive, and she was very likely Kumari.
So Desmond and I suited up. We got in our third stolen car of the past few days, and we followed the tracking spell downtown to the HSBC tower, the highest point in the city. We climbed every floor of the tower and found ourselves at the door that lead to the roof far above the city. We crashed out of the door to find the small form of Kumari, and the tall hooded form of Cowl. As I watched Kumari I could see it then, the line of her jaw, the set of her eyes. She was Adam and Mi-Hyun’s child, that much was obvious now. If that was a surprise it was nothing next to Cowl’s big reveal.
I was standing there, ready to be the Jedi to Cowl’s Sith Lord, when he started to speak in a raspy voice. To condemn Desmond and I. To try and break our confidence, to stir our fear. He told us we would see how our ‘greatest failure’ would become our undoing, and he took down his cowl, and turned around.
And he wasn’t Cowl anymore. His face was burned and deformed. His hair stringy and sparse. His voice raspy and cruel. But through it all was something else. Familiarity.
“It’s been far too long, Desmond and Constance,” Harry Dresden said into the hot summer night.