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    It was intoxicating. Freeing...eard myself laugh, and reached out to touc...littering chain of molecules. Lightning sparked through the net and flashed in my eyes down in the real world.

    It was like playing God. Beautiful and terrifying.

    The first lightning strike hit the roof, and the concussion was so intense at this close range tha...ent temporarily deaf and blind, and every hair follicle on my body seemed to rise in the electrical aura. When it passed...arely had time to dra...reath before the next bolt hit steel, and the...hird. Hammer of the gods.

    When the wind hit the smoking, glowing structure, spinning down i...ark spiral from the low-hanging clouds, the metal just collapsed in on itself lik...ropped Tinkertoy model, and the whole beach seemed to vibrate from the impact. Fire licked and hissed as some of the more flammable components caught, but it wasn't likely to spread; the rain was intense, and concentrated right on the worst of it.

    Venna hadn't moved. She was smiling slightly, and when she looked at me she said, "Now you have to balance it."

    "What?"...elled over the roar of thunder and pounding, wind-driven surf...tumbled toward her and swiped wet hair back from my face. "Balance what?"

    "The scales," Venna said. "Make it all go away, but don't let the energy bleed over into more storms."

    "You mean it's not over?"

    Venna shook her head. She'd let the funnel cloud dissipate, its purpose completed, and the rain was slacking off fro...onsoon t...ownpour. "You'd better hurry," she said. "The Wardens will be screwing it up if you don't hurry. They never can get it right."

    I had no idea what she meant, but Venna was notably not helping me. She crossed her arms and stood there, Zen Alice, untouched by the chaos she'd helped unleash.

    I turned my attention to the storm.

    "The Wardens teach you to do this from science," she said very softly...idn't know how it was possible to hear her over the wind, but she came through as if it wer...till, silent day. "Science can fail you. Learn to listen to it. Sing to it. It doesn't have to be your enemy. Even predators can be pets."

    I struggled to make sense out of wha...as seeing. So much detail, so much data, all in spectra the human eye wasn't meant to see, much less understand...an't do this. It's too big. It's too much.

    I too...eep breath, stretched my hands out to either side, and stepped into the heart of the storm.

    It hurt. Not only physically, though the windblown sand and debris lashed at me lik...ozen whips. It got inside my head, and howled, an...lailed blindly for somethin...ould touch, could control, could stop...

    And then, whe...pened my eyes on the aetheric, it all made sense. The swirling chaos becam...hifting puzzle of infinite intricacy, and where the pieces met, sparks hissed through the dark, bright as New Year's fireworks lighting the sky...eached out and moved two of the pieces apart; the spark leaped and died in midair...ried it again and again, until the grand, gorgeous pattern of the air was whisper-quiet, glowing in peaceful shifting colors.

    Whe...linked and fell back into the real world...ould see the stars.

    Venna gav...ery quiet sigh. "Yes," she said. "Exactly like that. Now you are Ma'at."

    So no...as guilty of some kind of supernatural sabotage, at the very least, bu...igured it probably boiled down to plain old insurance fraud. Something simple and skanky, something with an immediate financial benefit for Eamon, of course.

    But hey, at least I'd learne...seful skill.

    "Astonishing," Eamon murmured, looking at the wreckage and all of the emergency crews swarming around the scene in the predawn light. We were sitting on the low rock wall-Eamon, Venna, me, and Sarah, with the two Wardens asleep behind the rocks, held in that state by Venna...idn't think Eamon could see Venna at all, because he hadn't asked about her, and she didn't exactly fit in.

    Didn't seem prudent to mention her.

    "Complete destruction," Eamon said, and seemed utterly satisfied. "You ar...ne-woman wrecking crew, love."

    "Thanks,"...aid with an ice edge of chill. "We done now?"

    "Done?" His eyes were preoccupied, and it took hi...econd to pull his attention away from the human aftermath on the beach to focus on me completely. "Ah, yes...id say tha...anted only this one thing from you, didn't I?"

    Bad feeling bad feeling bad feeling. "That's what you said."

    "I don't think that will be possible after all," Eamon said, and smiled jus...it. Just enough to keep me from killing him. "This is the start o...eautiful and very profitable relationship, Jo. Afte...arry your sister-"

    "After you what?"...lurted. "Time-out! Nobody's getting married. Especially not to you."

    Sarah didn't even look up to meet my fierce stare. Haggard and strung out, but my sister, dammit. My family. "You can't tell me what to do," she said.

    "Sarah, wake up! He'...riminal! And he'...urderer!"

    "Yeah, well, what about you?" she flung back. "You think you're not guilty of things? You think you aren't just as bad? Don't you dare lecture me!"

    "Keep your voice down!"

    "Or what? You'll call the cops? Go right ahead, Jo; they're right over there!"

    Sure enough, two uniformed cops standing next to their cruiser were looking in our direction...wallowed and tried to moderate my own voice to something in the range of reasonable. "Sarah, you do not want to jump into this. Really. You don't know this man. You don't know what he's capable of doing."

    Eamon took her hand. His long, lovely fingers curled around hers, and then he kissed her fingers, staring at me with bright, challenging eyes the whole time. "She's not jumping into anything," he murmured. "And really, Joanne, you're making far too big an issue out of this...nly want to make her happy."

    "You want to use her,"...aid. "You want to threaten her to get me to do whatever you want. Trust you to fin...ay to make money off of disaster."

    He mad...sking sound. "Construction companies, insurance companies, cleanup crews, police, fire, ambulance, paramedics, hospitals, doctors, funeral parlors, coffin makers...all those people make money off of disaster. And thousands more. I'm merel...ovice."

    "You want to cause them!"

    "Don't be so negative," he said. "Freak accidents happen. No reason not to arrange them to our benefit once i...hile."

    Venna hadn't moved. She continued sitting on the wall, neat and prim, kicking her black patent-leather shoes lik...id, watching the emergency crews with every evidence of total fascination...hot her an exasperated look. "Help me out here."

    "It's human stuff...an't," she said serenely. "Besides, they can't see or hear me. I'...igment of your imagination, Joanne."

    Hardly. My imagination would have conjured u...unky, half-naked guy Djinn, preferably one who looked like David...lared at her.

    "Do you want me to kill him?" Venna asked, and met my eyes. It wa...hock, seeing the complete flat disinterest in them. "I can, you know...an kill anyon...ant. Any human, anyway. Then you don't have to worry about him anymore...ould make it fast. He wouldn't even feel it."

    I stared at her fo...ong, silent second, and then shook my head. No...asn't prepared to do that. Not even to Eamon.

    Venna sighed again, jumped down off the wall, and looked up into my face. "It's been long enough," she said. "We should think about going now. Do you want their memories before we go?"

    "Do I...what?"...as aware it looked to Eamon and Sarah lik...as talking to empty child-sized space, because they were exchangin...ook. The she's-lost-her-mind kind of look.

    "Like what you did before, although you didn't do it very well," Venna said. "I can take their memories and give them to you. If you want. But you may not like it. Decide now, because we can't stay here much longer."

    Memories. Sarah was the key t...ot of my childhood, wasn't she? Who else woul...et that kind of thing from?

    I nodded.

    "Oh, you don't want hers," Venna said. "Hers won't be very good for you. You want his."

    Venna didn't even bother touching me. She just turned those incandescent blue eyes on Eamon, an...as sucked int...ifferent world.

    Chapter Ten

    TEN

    Eamon was thinking about murder, in an abstract kind of way. He had no real objection to killing, but he did dislike complications, and he was, at that moment, royally pissed about just how complicate...erfectly simple scheme had become.

    "All you had to do was pay her off," he said, staring at his business associate. Thomas Orenthal Quinn-Orry to his less than savory friends-shrugged. They were sitting a...afe near the Las Vegas Strip, surrounded by noise and color, an island of calm i...ea of frantic activity. Eamon was sipping tea. Whatever Orry was drinking, it wasn't quite that English.

    "Look at it this way," Orry said, and stirred the thick, dark drink in front of him. "She was badass enough to kill poor old Chaz. You should've seen what was left of him; Christ, it was disgusting...ouldn't take the chance she might come back for more. Dead is simple, right?"

    "Generally," Eamon agreed. "Dead Wardens, not so simple. They'll investigate...on't want them finding any link to you, forensically or otherwise." He glanced around-habit-although he was certain nobody was within earshot. Amazing what people would ignore. "You're sure she's out of the picture?"

    "I'm sure." Orry gave hi...ight, unpleasant smile. He wa...ondescript man, and few who met him seemed to understand what lay underneath that unremarkable exterior. Eamon knew, and respected it. He might have been insane, but he was definitely not insane enough to cross Thomas Quinn without cause. "Unless she can breathe underwater, she's not bothering us again."

    "You need to be sure."

    Orry shrugged. "Let's go. I'll show you."

    I felt that slippery fast-forward sensation, and fought to hold on to the memory. Eamon's filthy, cold mind made me shiver, but at the same time it was real, it was life, an...anted more.

    Even thoug...el...ick sensation of dread at what he was heading toward on this particular trip down memory lane.

    I watched as Eamon and Orry drove into the desert, taking unfamiliar roads deeper into the wilderness. When Orry finally pulled the car off the road, Eamon was bored, thirsty, and regretting the idea, but he followed Orry up the hill and into the darkness o...ave.

    It stank, but it wasn't the stink of decomposition. Orry switched o...lashlight and led him throug...eries of narrow passages. Boxes stacked against the wall-Product, Eamon thought, and mad...ental note to move it when this was done. It wa...ilthy place to store anything. He hear...old chatter of bats overhead, and thought again about murder. Orry, dead, would solve so many of his issues.

    "Fuck," Orry said tonelessly. His flashlight played ove...ilky pool of water, its surface placid and undisturbed. "She was right here. Right here."

    Eamon hated being right. "And you were certain she was dead."

    "Yeah. Christ...trangled her befor...rowned her. What is she...oddamn superhero?"

    If she was, Eamon thought, they were in fo...reat deal of trouble. "Anything else?"

    "Such as?" Orry was poker-faced, but Eamon knew his weaknesses too well.

    "Hav...ittle fun before you did her in? Or tried?"

    Orry didn't answer, which was answer enough. Perfect, Eamon thought in disgust. Probably DNA evidence as well. "Did she see you? See your face?"

    "No."

    "You're certain."

    "Yes, dammit, I'm sure. She can't identify me."

    "Even if that's so, we have very little time," Eamon said. "We need to clear everything out and clean up as much of the forensic evidence as possible, in case she's able to lead them back here."

    "Eamon..." Orry turned toward him, looking at him oddly. It took Eamo...econd to realize that it was an expression of apology. "I really thought she was dead."

    Murder would be such an easy answer. But in all his travels, Eamon had met only two other people in the world who could match him for ferocity and ruthlessness, and it would b...hame to los...artner over something so essentially trivial. If she couldn't identify him, they could simply avoid the entire issue.

    Still. Killing Orry sounded very tempting, and for an unblinking moment Eamon imagined how he'd do it. The knife concealed in his jacket, most likely, driven up under the ribs and twisted. Fast, relatively painless, no...uge amount of blood. Or he could snap his neck, though Orry wa...iry bastard and, a...op, fully trained to prevent harm to himself.

    No, the knife was better, far better.

    "You going to stare at me or move the **ing boxes?" Orry snapped. "I got things to do."

    Eamon smiled slightly. "By all means," he said. "Let's move boxes. It's easier than moving bodies."

    Blur. This time we jumped years.

    Eamon, i...ar, parked outside of an apartment building. Watching someone with field glasses. As with Cherise...ould feel what he was feeling. Unlike Cherise, what Eamon was feeling was completely alien to me.

    I didn't know people could feel that way. Dark, cold, detached. Mildly annoyed at the inconveniences.

    He was thinking about ways to hurt the woman he was watching...idn't want to see any of that, but Venna wasn't discriminating; if it was in Eamon's head, it spread into mine lik...ick, fatal virus.

    ...
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