Brock parked behind Uncle Matt’s Jeep. Parker and Nelly, two of the huge Irish Wolfhounds that lived at the Gary farm but didn’t really belong to anyone specific, raced up to his SUV. Parker let out a deep bark, his tail wagging so hard Brock feared he might dislocate it. Nelly jumped up, her paws muddy.
He sidestepped so she wouldn’t plant those messy feet on his pants. “Down, Nel.”
She made a disappointed sound, not quite a bark, and lowered her front like a bow.
He laughed and scratched her ears. Parker shoved his face in his hand, pushing Nelly out of the way.
Brock smirked. “All part of my plan!”
Matthias grinned, a flash of white teeth, and sipped his beer. “Where’s your sister?”
“Working, I assume.”
Matthias grunted. “She still hasn’t come out.”
“She said she’d come to dinner Thursday.”
“Yes, I know. Let it be, Uncle.”
He cocked an eyebrow at Brock. “You giving me cheek?”
“Getcher ass in this house, boy,” Matthias growled, eyes twinkling. He turned and retreated inside, leaving Brock to follow.
Brock started up the stairs but stumbled. A different room intruded on his awareness like an overlay.
~Bee? Jesus, you have shitty timing!~
~I’m gonna kill myself on these stairs, is why. What’s up?~
~You near Dr. Z?~
He felt a spurt of fear in his stomach. ~Why?~
~It’s not what you think. I need you to ‘look’ at a victim with me and tell her what you see. He’s in a coma, but I think it’s magical and not physical~
~All right. Give me a minute to get in the house, will you?~
Now she’s sorry. He rolled his eyes and walked into the organized chaos of the kitchen in full swing. He saw Dr. Z. in the dining room, arguing with Ginger. As usual.
He greeted everyone on his way by, not really seeing who he talked to, and made it into the dining room. “Dr. Z?”
“Brock! About time you got here!”
“You got a minute?”
Her head swiveled around and she stared up at him. “Is everything all right?”
He pecked Ginger on the cheek and turned back. “Everything’s fine, but Belinda wants a favor.”
“Oh?” Her eyes sharpened. “Let’s go in the library.” She rose and led the way.
He sat down across from Dr. Z. on one of the white wicker chairs by the window and Dr. Z took the one across from him.
He sat back against the cushions with a sigh. He loved these chairs. “Belinda’s with a victim. She says they’re in a coma, but she thinks it’s magical.”
Dr. Z. cocked her head. “And you can see this?”
Brock nodded. “He’s male. Early thirties. Blond. They have him on an oxygen feed of some kind. His pulse is normal, regular beat.”
“Take my hand,” Dr. Z. ordered.
Brock did as she asked and felt a jolt.
~Hush, children, I’m working~ Dr. Z’s mental voice sounded tart, much like her in-person voice. ~It’s not physical, you’re right about that. Look there~
Brock had the sensation of his awareness being directed by something outside his own control. Dr. Z. pointed out a faint tracery of light blue lines just over the skin of the victim, like a net.
~Disrupt those, and he should wake up~
~Thanks, Dr. Z~ Belinda sounded tired but grateful.
Dr. Z. let go of Brock and stood. “I’m going to go talk to Tilly,” she told Brock quietly. “Finish up before she finds out what you’re doing.” With that enigmatic advice, she slipped out of the library.
He got a feeling. ~Bee? Where are you?~ Brock asked.
~The hospital, I told you~
~Don’t lie to me~
He felt her spurt of anger like it was his own. ~It’s none of your business!~
~He’s here with me~
~And if I called and asked him, where would he say you are?~
~I’m in Milwaukee. Are you happy now?~
Shit. No wonder Dr. Z. didn’t want to let Gran know what happened. ~Are you out of your mind?~
~I’m hunting a murderer, Brock. I had to go where the witnesses are~
~So if I go tell Gran it won’t be a big deal?~
The door opened suddenly, making him jump. “Tell me what?” Gran walked in, her hair arranged in a braided crown around her head. She wore a soft gray pantsuit that Brock’s mom designed for her; it fit her perfectly.
His heart sank. “Hey, Gran.”
“Don’t ‘Hey Gran’ me, young man. Where is your sister?”
“Working on a case.”
“Give me your phone.”
“Gran, I –”
“Now!” she snapped.
Brock sighed and pulled the phone out. Gran hit the ‘call’ button and waited. He could tell Bee picked up by the way her mind seemed to get distracted and dropped their mental connection.
“Where are you, young lady?” Gran demanded.
He didn’t hear Bee’s side of it, but he could imagine. ‘Gee, Gran, I’m out of town without permission, but you don’t care, do you, because it’s not like I’m actually in the coven anymore…’ He’d slap his sister silly if he thought it would do any good. She insisted on mourning Monica all by herself, that damned tough-cop routine she tried to hide behind…
As he predicted, Gran started shouting after less than thirty seconds on the phone. Uncle Matthias appeared in the doorway, blocking the view of anyone else who might be in the hallway, but it effectively trapped Brock. Which, come to think of it, probably played out exactly as his Uncle intended it.
Gran snapped the phone shut and glared at Brock. “How long have you known about this?”
“I didn’t, Gran! I just found out when she called me today!”
“She’s in Milwaukee!” Her fury hit him like a steam train, but under that came real fear.
His stomach dropped and a bolt of cold went through him. Her fear added to his own. “I didn’t know, Gran!”
She narrowed her eyes and pointed a finger at him. “If I find out differently, young man, you are in big trouble!” She whirled and then stopped in her tracks, staring at her brother. “Do you mind?”
“Belinda isn’t a child, Tilly.”
Oh shit. Brock wondered if he could jump out the window.
“Don’t you start with me, Matt. She’s in Milwaukee, without so much as a by-your-leave –”
“Yeah, and Marjorie Bells is going to keep an eye on her. I just talked to her before you started your screaming match.”
Gran fell silent, glaring at her brother. “Madge is in Milwaukee.”
“Which you’d know, if you stopped seeing Belinda as if she’s twelve.”
“I don’t see her that way, Matt! She isn’t acting rationally. Not since Monica died. She needs to let it go, move on, and stop being such a sourpuss!”
“She’s not –” Brock started.
“No, Brock,” Matthias snapped, flicking a glance in his direction.
A glance was enough. Brock snapped his teeth closed.
The fight went on from there, modulating from a low-voiced argument to a full-on shouting match. Brock sank lower in his chair, miserable. No one else came to intervene. In fact, the whole house felt still, like everyone froze in their tracks. Then Brock heard angry footfalls approach.
“Mom, why are you fighting about this?” Heather demanded.
“You stay out of this, honey!” Gran shouted. “If you weren’t so indulgent, you’d see that!”
“Tilly!” Matt shouted.
“Mom, you don’t understand, you never have. It would be like me losing Morgan! Or when Uncle Matt’s Jocelynn died!”
Brock saw Gran pale and actually sit down. He felt shocked as well, no one ever discussed the fiancé of Uncle Matt, killed the last time they sealed the gate.
“I…” Gran trailed off.
“Why do you think she stayed away?” Heather demanded. “You keep hounding her to do the Samhain ritual, to let go of Monica, and you risk pushing her away for good!”
Gran drew breath to argue and Matt stepped forward. “Enough!”
“Uncle Matt –”
“I said enough, Heather! Let it go.”
“Matt, this is ridiculous. You can’t just –”
“I can’t just what, Tilly?” Matt snarled, rounding on his sister. “She’s coming to dinner tomorrow, and you can bully her then. But now, this conversation is over!”
“Fine, Matt. We’ll talk about it with her tomorrow. When she comes to dinner.”
Matthias studied his sister, clearly not convinced, and then stepped back into the hall. She followed and then disappeared toward the kitchen. Heather stormed out and Brock heard her run upstairs.
Eddie stuck her head in and smirked at Brock. “You’re dumb enough to get in between the two o’ them fightin’, you’re lucky you still have your head.”
He rolled his eyes. “Shut up.”
She cackled and disappeared toward the living room.
Old busybody. He decided to go out and see if the dogs needed food or water. Or a trip to Mexico. He rubbed his neck, a headache starting.