Of course, it didn’t go the way I planned at all.
First I called Marissa Sayers. “Have you heard from Tim Radansky yet?”
“What?” She snorted. “Why would I?”
“Wasn’t he in love with you? That’s what Karen Yester just told me.”
“Jesus Christ.” She groaned. “Yeah, we did it a few times in college, I guess. He was a nice guy, all right? I thought it was just a fling, a crush. He did—he’s called me a few times, but that was all a long time ago.”
“Fine. If I’m wrong, then—” I didn’t really know. “I’ll contact him and set up a meeting for him to turn the papers over. On the condition that you leave Karen Yester alone from here on out. Okay?”
She laughed again. “Of course. I don’t care if I ever see her again. Go ahead. My place, 8:00?”
I nodded. “It’s a date.”
Then I called Radansky. “Marissa Sayers is willing to meet with you in exchange for those papers. This is your chance to—”
“Wait, what?” He sounded slightly drunk at 3:00 in the afternoon. “What are you talking about? Who is this?”
I took a deep breath. “Tom Jurgen, Remember?”
“Oh.” He hesitated. “Yeah. What do you want?”
“That’s why you robbed me, isn’t it? Just leave your gun at home. Eight o’clock.” I gave him the address. “Do you need me to pick you up?”
“N-no. I can get there. But—why?”
“I’m just trying to help a client. I’ll be there.”
Rachel opened my door as I hung up. “I think these will do it.” She dropped a shopping bag on my table. “Did you set it up?”
“Yeah.” I was nervous. I’d made myself a sandwich, but I could barely eat half of it. And I didn’t want another beer until later, because I’d need a clear head. “Eight o’clock.”
“Okay.” She started unloading her bag. “This is crazy, you know that?”
“Yeah.” I sipped some water, my hand trembling. “We should just quit right now, right?”
I almost hoped she’d say yes. Instead she went to work. “Come on. We don’t have much time.”
“Yeah.” I reached for the ingredients from her bag.
At 7:30 we sat in my Honda outside Sayers’ building. I looked at Rachel. “You ready?”
She jabbed her elbow at my ribs. “Are you?”
Not really. But I’d started this, so I couldn’t just drive away. So I pulled my phone from the pocket of my windbreaker.
One buzz, two . . . “Yes?”
“Marissa? Tom Jurgen here. I’m downstairs.” I looked up at her building. Lights in every other window, some flickering, some steady. Which one was hers? I had no idea.” You should know something before Tim Radansky shows up with the papers.”
“Oh really?” Sayers chuckled. “Well, maybe we can all discuss that when you’re all here.”
“He doesn’t have all the papers. There’s a page missing. So don’t do anything stupid.”
“Just come up. Now.”
I unlocked the doors and looked at Rachel. “I don’t suppose there’s any way I can convince you to stay here?”
We’d had this argument before, too many times for Rachel to even slug my shoulder now. Besides, she was part of my intricate plan. She sighed, unbuckled her seat belt, and stood up. “Come on, jerk.”
The doorman buzzed us in. We took the elevator up. I knocked on Sayers’ door, my arm trembling
Curtis opened the door, his face blank. “Yes. Come in, please.”
I held Rachel’s hand as we walked inside.
The glass-topped table in the middle of the room was laid out like an alchemist’s lab, beakers perched above Bunsen burners, cups filled with ingredients like a chef’s spices, bottles filled with dark, smoky fluids. Sayers stood over it in a silk blouse and black slacks.
Karen Yester’s notebook sat in the center of the table. And the missing pages lay next to it. A glass of wine sat nearby.
Radansky lay on the leather couch, unconscious. Curtis stood over him, Radansky’s pistol in his hand.
Rachel nudged me. “Told you so.”
I was suddenly sweating too hard to argue. I tried to pull my eyes away from the handgun. “What is this?”
Radansky groaned, shifting on the couch.
Sayers smiled. “I need someone to try it again on. Now that I have the entire notebook—” She held out a hand. “Give it to me, please.”
“Well, since you said please.” Rachel reached into her leather jacket.
Sayers snatched the page. “Thank you.”
“How does this work?” I looked at the equipment spread across the table. was nervous. I hadn’t expected the gun, and I could barely think straight enough to form words. Did Curtis have enough free will to use it on his own? Would he obey Sayers if she told him to shoot us? Was I going to throw up first or pee my shorts in fear?
“It will take all night. The potion in the wine will keep Tim asleep. When I’m ready, we’ll suffocate him so his body will have only minimal damage. The process won’t repair a major fatal wound. If it works . . .” She glanced at the final page. “He should be completely restored.”
“And possibly a little miffed?” I glanced at Radansky. He lifted an arm, then let it drop, as if he was trying to wake up. I wondered what Sayers had knocked him out with. And whether he could hear us.
“He’ll be alive.” She shrugged, as if her success was all that mattered.
“Why are you doing this?” Rachel shoved her hands into her jacket pockets. “Killing animals and people just to bring them back to life? It’s not like you can resurrect murder victims or dead soldiers, right? What’s the point?”
She started mixing ingredients. I didn’t see any eye of newt, but I was pretty sure it was there, or at least an equivalent. “My mother died when I was six. I would have done anything to have her alive again.”
I got that, at least. My father died when I was in college, and I still remind myself to buy him a birthday card every year before remembering that he’s gone.
I don’t think he’d want me to commit murder to bring him back, though.
“What about us?” I let myself look at the handgun. Curtis held it loosely in his hand, pointed at the floor, his finger nowhere near the trigger. Not that I was going to see how fast he could get it there.
“You’ll have to stay here until I’m finished.” She measured out a teaspoon of liquid and dropped it into a cup. “I don’t want you calling the police.”
“Or you’ll shoot us? That’ll bring the police pretty quick too.”
Before she could answer, her phone rang. Curtis picked it up with his left hand. “Ms. Sayers’ residence. . . . One moment please.” He looked over at Sayers. “Karen Yester?”
What the hell? Sayers had the same puzzled look on her face that I felt. Rachel rolled her eyes and glared at me as if Karen was all my fault.
“Send her up.” Sayers mixed the ingredients in her cup. “Damn it. I don’t have time for this.”
Rachel still had her hands in her pockets. I rubbed mine on my pants, trying to wipe the sweat from my palms.
Curtis answered Karen’s knock, still holding the handgun. She staggered through the doorway, looking haggard from her day of driving. “Marissa? What are you—oh my god.” She pushed past Curtis, oblivious to his handgun, and looked down at Radansky. “Tim? Marissa, what the hell are you doing?”
“What we started doing a long time ago.” She pushed the notebook aside to reach for a bottle of clear liquid. “You wanted to do it too. Don’t get in the way, or Tim won’t come back.”
Karen walked to the table. “This is insane! You can’t do this! Animals were bad enough but—”
We had to act now, while Sayers was distracted. I glanced at Rachel. “You take the book.” I reached into my pocket, my voice low. “I’ll take Curtis.”
Rachel nodded. I could tell she wanted to slug me, but we didn’t have time.
I pulled a bottle out of my pocket and twisted the cap. Rachel brought an identical bottle out of her jacket.
Sayers looked away from Karen. “What—”
Rachel dumped her bottle all over the notebook.
I threw mine at Curtis’ face.
Hydrochloric acid. It will eat through almost anything—except, apparently, the bottles we were packing it in.
And you can buy it at Home Depot.
“What are you doing?” Sayers shrieked in fury as the book sizzled.
Curtis staggered backward, his eyes wide and confused, silent as the acid burned his face. He dropped the handgun—thank god—and reached up to touch his cheek, jerking his hand away as the acid stung his fingertips. Then he stumbled to the ground, whimpering.
Sayers picked up the book. Karen grabbed her arm. They struggled, Karen’s face red with rage.
“No . . . no . . .” Sayers slapped Karen’s face and lurched back, her eyes blazing. “You can’t do this, you can’t—” Then she looked over Karen’s shoulder. “Tim?”
Radansky had lurched to his feet, unsteady but conscious enough to scoop his handgun from the carpet. Rocking from side to side, he lifted the weapon with both hands and pointed it at Sayers.
“What are you—wait! Tim!” Sayers waved her hands. “Put the—”
“Shut up.” His face was pale. “I only wanted—just . . .” He blinked his eyes, fighting to stay awake and upright.
Karen scampered away. I pulled Rachel back. “Tim, you’re all right. Don’t do this. You can just go home and—”
He shook his head. “You won’t come back from this.”
I didn’t count the shots, and I don’t know how many bullets the handgun held. He apparently emptied the magazine, though, because after a few seconds it went silent and dropped back onto the carpet. Then Radansky sank back onto the leather couch, unconscious again.
Karen screamed. Rachel didn’t. I might have.
Blood spattered Sayers’ expensive silk shirt. She
Sayers rolled on the floor, gasping, blood spattering her expensive silk shirt. Then her head drooped over and she stopped breathing.
She was dead. And yeah, she wasn’t coming back.
Rachel kicked the gun out of his reach. Karen knelt next to Sayers on the floor, sobbing. I grabbed my phone to call 911.
We told the police the truth: Marissa Sayers had planned to kill Tim Radansky and then make him rise from the dead. Karen Yester was surprisingly calm as she explained about her college magic group.
The cops were willing to accept that Sayers was crazy. But one of the detectives—Joran—knew me, and she pulled me aside.
“Jurgen.” Her face was disgusted. “Is this for real? Again?”
I sighed, exhausted. “What do you think?”
She shook her head. “If she was crazy, why did you do any of this? You didn’t know she was going to kill Radansky before you got here. Why destroy the book anyway?”
“She was going to try to kill someone. We destroyed the book to stop her.”
Joran shook her head again. “Your friends downtown are going to love this one.”
I straightened up. “I have friends downtown? Best news I’ve heard all day.”
She laughed and shoved me away.
EMTs took Radansky and Curtis away on stretchers. Radansky mumbled incoherently, but Curtis was completely unresponsive. Eventually they let the rest of us leave. It was close to midnight.
In the elevator Karen Yester closed her eyes. “What happens to Tim?”
“Well, he killed her.” I watched the floors count down. “We’ll probably have to testify. Or maybe he’ll make a deal.”
“God. This is a nightmare.”
In the lobby the doorman held the door for us. Outside the building Karen wiped her eyes and stared at me. “Wait—you gave her the missing page?”
I’d wondered if she’d ask that. “No.” I looked at the sidewalk. “I had a plan.”
“And it worked out so well.” Rachel leaned against a light pole. “I had to go to three stores to find a notebook that matched the page. Then I had to copy your handwriting. Then I had to make up something that sounded like it matched.” She punched my arm.
I nodded, embarrassed and annoyed. “We just hoped it wouldn’t get far enough for her to figure out that it was all wrong.” I reached into my pocket. “Here it is.”
Karen snatched the page from my hand. She stared at it, and then started ripping it up. Tears streamed down her face as she tore it into the smallest shreds possible. Then she dropped it into a puddle in the street, next to a storm drain. We watched the remnants disappear.
“I shouldn’t have—I don’t know.” She rubbed an arm across her nose. She looked down the street. “There’s my car.”
I felt like I’d failed. “Look, I can send your check back if you want.”
“No, that’s okay. Keep it.” Karen shook hands with me, and then Rachel. “Thanks.”
Rachel and I walked back to the Honda. “You want to go home?”
She squeezed my hand. “Yeah. Alone.”
“That’s fine.” It had been a tough night. Not the first time we’d witnessed a murder, but it never got easy. I unlocked her door.
Rachel looked up at the sky. “It’s bad magic.”
“I know.” I stood next to her for a long time, watching the few stars we could see above the streetlights. And trying not to think about what happens after death.
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