Grave Visions (Alex Craft, #4)(7)

So I waited.

Jenson emerged a few moments later pushing another gurney. I waited until he was almost to the edge of my circle before dropping the barrier. The cold wind that had been contained with me inside escaped as the circle fell. Jenson stopped, his eyes going wide as the wind rustled his short hair. Equipment rattled somewhere farther off in the room and I could distinctly feel that there were eight bodies still in the cold room—three females and five males. I pushed back against the grave essence clawing at me from those corpses. If I let too much of my attention touch them, we’d have a whole lot more shades than we needed.

Jenson had stopped moving when my power escaped the temporarily released circle. I focused on him. “I recommend getting that body in here so I can finish,” I said between gritted teeth.

The detective hesitated like he wasn’t sure he wanted to get any closer. Then he seemed to shake himself and he pushed the gurney until it was beside Emma’s. I nodded in acknowledgment and waited for him to retreat from the circle. But he didn’t move.

“Behind the chalk line unless you want to be locked in here with us.”

Jenson looked from me to the faintly drawn circle, and then scurried safely behind the line. That was all I was waiting for. Tapping into the power in my ring, I siphoned it into the circle, making the barrier spring to life around me once again. I all but sighed with relief when the essence clawing at me cut down by well over half. Jenson also looked considerably relieved as the spillover from the land of the dead was once again contained.

I turned my focus onto the new body—Jeremy, theoretically. Letting my senses stretch, I reached with my power, letting my magic seep into the corpse. What I found made me frown.

“He hasn’t been raised before, right?” I asked, taking a step closer to the gurney.

“Of course not. Who the hell would I have gotten to raise him, and why would I be talking to you now if I had another witch?”

True. On both points. Jenson and I were not friends, and Tongues for the Dead boasted the only grave witches for at least a hundred miles, but . . . I siphoned more magic into the boy’s body.

Shades were just memories given shape with grave magic. In the same way that every cell held a complete strand of a person’s DNA, every cell held a complete lifetime of memories, but it took either a whole lot of magic or a massive amount of those strands of memories woven together to form a shade capable of communicating. As bodies deteriorated so did the number of those strands available to use.

This body had so few I’d have believed it was little more than ancient bones if I hadn’t been able to feel that it was a fresh corpse. The only other way I knew of to lose so much of what made a shade a shade was magic. Every time a shade was raised, it wore out some of those strands of memories, which made it terribly irresponsible for grave witches to raise shades for entertainment reasons and why there was currently a bill in front of the Senate making such rituals illegal.

But if Jeremy had never been raised . . .

I closed my eyes and poured more power into the body, letting magic fill in the gaps in the shade. The cold in my body sank deeper, like ice moving through my blood, freezing my bones. Still I pushed harder, feeding the body more magic.

A shade sat up from under the sheet, thin, weak, even in my vision that was so far across the chasm stretching between the living and the dead. Outside my circle Jenson leaned closer, squinting at the nearly transparent shade.

“What’s your name?” I asked the shade.

The shade’s mouth moved, but the only sound inside my circle was the whisper of distant wind and my own heartbeat. Reaching deep inside myself, I pulled on my reserves of power, forcing them into the shade. He solidified ever so slightly. I asked my question again.

“Jeremy Watts.” Even packed with as much magic as I could summon, his words were a barely audible whisper.

“Why can’t it speak?” Jenson asked from outside the circle. “And why is it so see-through?”

I frowned, shivering. Apparently while the shade was barely audible to me, for those not in touch with the dead he was completely silent. Not much I could do about that though. I had nothing left to throw into the shade to strengthen him. I was already expending as much of myself as I dared. If I tried to make the shade any more visible, I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough strength after the ritual ended to walk out of this room.

“The shade is weak. Faded. Whatever happened, it . . . drained him,” I said to Jenson, and then turned back to the shade because I wasn’t going to be able to hold him long. “How did you die?”

“Snakes. I was covered in snakes.”

Well, that confirmed what Emma had said, and I repeated it to Jenson before continuing. “And where did the snakes come from?”

“Everywhere. The couch. The electrical socket. The windows. Then the hammer in my hand transformed into a snake and wrapped around my arm.”

I turned to Jenson to see his reaction before remembering he couldn’t hear the shade. I repeated what Jeremy had said, and Jenson’s face darkened. I could guess what he was thinking. He’d been afraid fae might be involved, and snakes that appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared just as mysteriously—not to mention objects that transformed from inanimate to a deadly creature—sounded a hell of a lot like glamour.

I questioned the shade for several more minutes, asking questions Jenson threw at me in rapid succession and repeating the shade’s answers. Jeremy confirmed that—to his knowledge—no one besides him and Emma had been in the house when the snakes appeared. It was his day off work, and he hadn’t gone anywhere that day or even seen anyone besides Emma in the twenty-four hours prior to his death.

Kalayna Price's Books