The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Thirty-Six part one
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Wednesday January 25, 1995
The blood had spread out from Carol Bloom’s body, tracing along the seams of the tiled floor, and welling up at the carpeted border between the kitchen and the living room. Her eyes were open, her face locked in an expression of surprise and loss. Her son’s red fingerprints were all over her work clothes and face.
The door of the house swung open and a pair of men stepped cautiously inside. The lead man’s baggy, cream colored clothes were a stark contrast to his dark-skinned, athletic form. His graying dreadlocks were pulled back and tied with a ribbon. There was an odd, almost cat-like expression on his face. “Well?” he said.
“We’re too late Zeth.” The other man closed the door behind them; he was wearing jeans, a battered leather jacket and a T-shirt with ‘NOT INSANE’ printed on the front in tall black letters. He was short with curly close-cropped hair and dark, inscrutable eyes. “We were looking in the wrong place.”
Both men were wearing gloves.
“No.” Zeth paused a moment before the empty birdcage before turning to look at the body sprawled in the kitchen, “You were looking in the wrong place.”
“Right place, wrong student.” Jason Magwier stepped gingerly around the blood and crouched near Carol’s body, “I was sure it was Warren Talbot.”
“All that work as a janitor for nothing.”
“Janitor slash groundskeeper.”
Zeth walked down the hallway, peering in each of the bedrooms, “Whereas I found out that Tristam Bloom was really Tristam Wight, son of the director of Project Pharos in one trip to the County Clerk’s office.”
“He consumed her Akh.”
“No surprises there.” Zeth walked into Tristam’s room and looked around.
“Why didn’t I see this?” Magwier frowned. “Why didn’t I see any of this?”
“Jason.” Zeth called, “He was keeping a journal. Listen to this… ‘Made it all the way to the capital last night. Stayed far away from any other people but a bird did fly through me. For some reason that didn’t hurt…’ The boy has lousy penmanship.”
“Anything else?” Magwier stood and walked over to where a cordless phone sat on an end table. He stared at it.
“We were wrong about the Monarchs.” Zeth called, “This Tristam was a natural, he was untrained… at least at the start.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you used to work with a Phil?”
“Phillip Adorskil.” Magwier started to pick up the phone than drew his hand back, he closed his eyes as if he were trying to remember something long forgotten, “That was a lifetime or two ago.”
“It looks like Phil took the boy under his wing.”
“Yeah, he was training him…” Zeth said, “I guess you could call it training. This is stuff I would never put in my journal.”
Magwier reached for the phone and then stopped himself again. He rolled his eyes back in his head and mumbled under his breath.
“Get this.” Zeth said, “He gave the boy a runestone.”
“How do I know what kind? All he did was call it a runestone. Looks like he used it defensively… hold on here it is. It was under his pillow. It looks like it came from Olathoe.”
“Like trying to protect yourself from a hurricane with an umbrella…” Magwier grumbled. He took a deep breath picked the phone up off the receiver and put it to his ear. At the sound of the dial tone he gasped and hung it back up again.
“On the last page there is a list of names, all of them crossed off. I wonder what he did to them.”
“What would you do?” Magwier started to pace, walking from the body to the phone and back again, “If you were a teenager with the power to do whatever you wanted and not get caught? The lucky ones are the ones he used and discarded, the ones on that list may be marked forever.”
Zeth walked out of the room, slipping the runestone into one of his pockets, “Sounds like he may have gotten what he deserved.”
“The problem is that this all goes beyond one boy with a list of grudges. Thirty-five years ago the Monarchs tried to breach this world and the world got lucky. Now thanks to Tristam Bloom and Phillip Adorskil they’re going to get another chance.” Halfway through pacing the room, Magwier turned on his heel and pounced on the phone. He started to dial and then froze.
Zeth shook his head, “What in the world are you doing? You know how I hate your little surprises.”
“What do I do?” Magwier stared at the phone, “If I call 911 it will start a chain of events that will bring Gawain Wight and his Pharos Agents here. On one hand he might end up helping to put a stop to the coming disaster, on the other hand he might just make things worse.”
“I can see both things happening with equal clarity.” Magwier looked pleadingly at his companion, “Which do I choose?”