Grayling Cross

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Description

Psychic Anna Gareau and public relations expert Collie Kostyna keep things quiet for local magicians and for their biggest client, an underground supernatural society known as the Embassy.

In Grayling Cross, an investigator arrives in town on the trail of a missing teenage psychic, and hires Anna and Collie to be his liaisons to the local magic community. Troublingly, though, he turns out to have a knack for suppressing magic, leaving magicians powerless and vulnerable. And when an Embassy employee is found murdered in a house nobody should have been able to enter, with a weapon that never should have killed him, suspicion naturally falls upon Anna and Collie’s new client.


Praise for Grayling Cross

"Froese's writing is taut, laced with humour, and as efficient as one might want for what is, at its core, a diverting romp. She never takes the story too seriously, but neither is there any air of dismissiveness. The larger than life characters are rendered with broad gestures, lacking subtle nuance, but this too is appropriate for such an outsized tale."
~ Robert J. Wiersema, Quill & Quire


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Publié par
Date de parution 15 mars 2011
Nombre de visites sur la page 0
EAN13 9781897126851
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0064 €. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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GayleenFroese
COPYRIGHT © GAYLEEN FROESE 2011
All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior consent of the publisher is an infringement of the copyright law. In the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying of the material, a licence must be obtained from Access Copyright before proceeding.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Froese, Gayleen, 1972-Grayling Cross / Gayleen Froese.
ISBN 978-1-897126-73-8
I. Title.
PS8611.R634G73 2011 C813’.6 C2010-906765-7
Editor: Leslie Vermeer Copy editor: Andrew Wilmot Cover and interior design: Natalie Olsen, Kisscut Design Author photo: Sebastian Hanlon
NeWest Press acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Edmonton Arts Council for our publishing program. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund for our publishing activities.
# 201, 8540–109 Street Edmonton, Alberta T6G 1E6 780.432.9427 www.newestpress.com
No bison were harmed in the making of this book. printed and bound in Canada 1 2 3 4 5 13 12 11 10
To Edmonton: I kid you, but you make a fine home.
Wann wann nich wäa,wäa Koohschiet Botta. – Mennonite adage
“IF YOU THINK I’M STUPID, why would you want to hire me?” The office door was stuck open again, hung up on a bump under the short grey carpet. Anna could see that from the bottom of the stairs, as clearly as she could hear Collie’s voice. She took the stairs two at a time, not that it mattered. She was already late. From the landing, she could see the client. Prospective client, anyway. He looked young, late teens or early twenties, with long dark hair and sharp features. “I. . . don’t? Why —” He stopped because Anna had reached the doorway. He gave her a curious look and she answered it with a guilty smile, then turned the contrition to Collie. “Sorry. There was a. . . thing.” “Gotta hate things,” Collie said cheerfully. So she wasn’t pissed about the lateness. Anna made her way to her desk, careful not to bump the client’s arm as she went past. “This is Anna Gareau,” Collie told the prospect. “We work together. You don’t think I’m stupid, or you don’t want to hire me?” The prospect twisted in his seat and looked at Anna as if trying to place her, then faced Collie again. “I don’t think you’re stupid.” Collie was tapping one key on her laptop, too lightly to actually depress it. It was her latest fidget. “Then let’s try this again. Your name is. . .” The client, who had been slouching in a youthful way, sat up straight. “Rowan Oake.” Collie smiled. She wasn’t even pretending to mean it. “One more strike and you’re out of here, kiddo.” Anna felt a little sorry for the guy, who seemed to have decided words weren’t working out for him and was now trying a shrug. His hair moved when he did it and Anna saw thin braids woven into it. Not many, just a few on each side. It would probably have looked ridiculous on most guys, but this one had natural good looks that saved him from that fate. “Maybe I’m overreacting,” Collie said. “Anna, if someone asked you to find their mother, how helpful do you think it would be to know that someone’s real last name?” “It’s not Oake?” Anna asked. Collie gave her the same nasty smile she’d used on the prospect. “It is not.” “It might as well be,” the kid said. “I don’t know my real last name. Or hers.” Collie leaned back in her chair. One click back. The chair had three positions, one upright and two slanted. When Collie was good and fed up with someone, the chair went two clicks back. Apparently Rowan Whoever still had her attention. “There are channels,” she said, “for adopted kids who want to find their parents. There are also agencies that specialize in it.” “I know. This is different. Ian said I should talk to you.” “Ian. . .” Collie said. As if there could be more than one answer. “Ian McLaren.” Anna let her head drop to her desk . From that position, she heard Collie’s response. “Mandrake.” “Uh. . . I don’t think he likes being called Mandrake,” the prospect said. “I don’t think we liked the last four clients Mandrake sent us,” Collie countered. Reluctantly,
Anna lifted her head. “What exactly did Mandrake say about us?” she asked. The prospect turned to her with undisguised relief. Apparently he was tired of talking to Collie. “He said you were a retrocognitive clairsentient.” “And do you know what that means?” Anna asked. “Because I don’t.” Collie made a choking sound, which alarmed Anna until she realized it was the start of a laughing fit. “Did Mandrake tell you that we specialized in anything?” Anna asked. “He said to ignore the sign on your door.” Anna glanced at the door. Maybe it had changed since her arrival five minutes earlier. Nope. It still read, “Colette Kostyna, Public Relations.” “Most people ignore it,” Anna said. She glared at Collie, who had more or less finished laughing. “Please step in anytime.” “We’re, uh, not well-qualified detectives,” Collie said. “We just have some specialized knowledge and, because of that, we’re able to work within a certain community. I really am a PR person most of the time.” “Huh.” The kid tried to lean back. His chair didn’t do that, so he gave it up and settled for resting one leg on the other, right ankle over his left knee. “I would have figured a retrocognitive clairsentient would be more broadly useful than that.” “Regardless,” Collie said, “the situation is as I described it. So Ian was probably wrong to point you in our direction.” “He told me what you did in Victoria,” the kid said. Anna was surprised to hear herself snort. “And you took that as a recommendation?” He looked at her, emotion seeming to push his sharp features forward. Yes,” he said. “I told you I was in kind of a different situation.” “Look,” Anna said, “Rowan. . . is it actually Rowan?” The kid smiled. Something about the smile made Anna feel bad for him again. “Ever since I can remember.” “Rowan, Colette and I have one, ah, skill in this detective thing. One. You can call us if you have a problem you can’t explain to the police or to a real detective without sounding like you’re crazy. That’s it. If you can explain it to a normal person, or if you don’t care that you sound nuts, we are not for you. I mean. . . unless you’re pretty sure things can’t get much worse, I would question hiring us for any reason at all. Except PR. Collie knows how to do that.” Collie raised her travel mug to Anna. “We have got to get you on tape, make some infomercials.” “I’m just saying,” Anna said, looking Rowan in the eye, “we can’t guarantee that we will not screw up and cause trouble. Unless you need our. . . unique point of view. . . you’re better off with professionals.” Rowan shook his head and Anna got the sense her little speech had meant nothing to him. He had the look of a guy in the midst of a downpour who’d been threatened with a squirt gun. “You have another skill.” So that was what retrowhatsis meant. She’d figured as much. Fucking Mandrake. “That’s not on the table,” she said, as evenly as she could manage. It wasn’t the kid’s fault Mandrake had been out of line.
His eyes seemed to widen and narrow at once. Anna had been able to do that, too, when she was a teenager. One of the few gifts of adolescence. “Why the —” He stopped. “I’m sorry. None of my business.” From the look on Collie’s face, she was as gobsmacked by that as Anna was. “Wow,” Collie said. “I didn’t think anyone your age knew those words.” “Not with those pronouns,” Anna agreed. The kid didn’t smile. Fair enough, since he was the one getting ripped on. “Sorry,” Anna added. That made the kid smile, just a little. “Even if you don’t want to —” he stopped again, but this time it was different. His eyes had lost focus and he’d turned his head toward the door before freezing in place. Anna looked at Collie, who was looking at her. “What. . .” Anna shook her head. “I don’t —” Rowan shook his head, sharply. The thin braids flew. His eyes focused and he smiled at them as he got to his feet and grabbed a worn leather jacket from the back of his chair. “Gotta go. I’m sorry. Can I come back tomorrow? Same time? I really do have my reasons for wanting to hire you guys.” “Uh. . .” Collie looked at Anna. “When are you off?” “I can be here by seven,” Anna said. “Seven’s good,” the kid said. “Thanks.” And he was gone, out the door and down the stairs at a run. He did not shut the door behind him. “Wanna follow him?” Collie asked brightly. Anna gave Collie a look that she hoped would convey her deep love for asinine suggestions. “That would be one of the many detective skills we do not have.” “True,” Collie said. “I guess you could feel up the sidewalk and figure out where he went.” “Thank you,” Anna said. “For a moment, I’d forgotten that I was going to kill Mandrake.” “Oh, yeah,” Collie said. “That’s right. No time like the present.” Before Anna could say anything, Collie had the phone in her hand and was dialing. Anna remembered, suddenly, that she had a headache. She’d had one since about noon. She dug in her purse for Advil as Collie spoke. “Mandrake! We just spoke with a friend of yours. . . yes. Rowan. He was charming, but he had this notion that one of us was a psychometrist for hire. Where would he have gotten an idea like that, Mandrake?” Anna made her way to the kitchenette, which was what Collie insisted on calling the stand where they kept their kettle, microwave and coffee pot. As she grabbed a bottle of water from beneath the table, Collie spoke again. “He did, yeah. But. . . no. I don’t. I. . . what?” Anna swallowed the pills, finished the water and tossed the bottle into the recycling box. As she went back to her desk, Collie was still talking. “We can do that. The usual place?”
Were they meeting Ian? Anna raised her eyebrows at Collie, who offered a completely unhelpful shrug. “Okay. See you in ten.” Apparently they were meeting Ian. “You decide to make it a fair fight?” Anna inquired. “Face to face, fair warning?” Collie was rooting around under her desk, probably looking for the purse she’d left beside the kitchenette. “Sure, because that would make a fight with Mandrake fair.” She shrugged. “He sounds contrite. He wants to talk. At Katja’s.” No surprise. Ian was probably getting kickbacks from the place. Not that Anna minded. “Your purse is over there,” Anna said. Collie nodded. “I was just testing to see if you’d spotted it,” she said. They were on the street a minute later, weaving through packs of underdressed students on their way to Whyte Avenue. This early in September, it still felt like summer, at least until the sun went down. Collie was dressed for it. Slight of build, she was suited to sundresses and strappy shoes. She hated having to shove her long red curls under a wool hat or bury her narrow shoulders under enough material to keep her vaguely warm. Anna, being a thousand feet tall and wide as a barn, switched to sturdy fall clothes the moment the first leaf turned. Boots and sweaters and heavy jeans. She was regretting that decision today. About a block along, Anna remembered something. “Col?” “Yeah?” “Why wasn’t his last name Oake?” Collie was looking at her, paying no attention to where she was walking and still managing, somehow, to avoid hitting anyone. And she thought Anna was the one with a mysterious power. “Rowan Oake? That doesn’t ring a bell? Vanished colony? One of the great mysteries of the last two hundred years?” Anna shook her head. Collie grinned. “And you an occult detective. You crack me up.” “I’m a riot,” Anna said. “Watch where you’re going. I am not an occult detective.” “Well. . .” Collie paused, then had to scramble to catch up. “To be fair to us, we did solve that case in Victoria. I mean, we figured out who did it and we put a stop to it, right? Technically, we —” “Bitched it up,” Anna said. “We just kept shaking the jar until the murderer got nervous. What do nervous murderers do again? Refresh my memory.” Collie glared at her. “Give themselves away,” she said. “By murdering,” Anna said. “I get that,” Collie said. “But it’s not as if we knew what we were doing. And you were the one who pretended to be a real detective. I was just trying to find out who killed my friend.” “You knew damned well I was not a real detective,” Anna reminded her. “Look, you can’t argue that we’re pros because we did such a good job in Victoria and then argue it wasn’t our fault the body count went up because, hey, we didn’t know what we were doing.” Collie said nothing for many more steps. Just heels clicking, quick and hard on the sidewalk. “Apparently,” she said, as they crossed at Whyte, “I can. Argue that.”
Anna nodded. “Not convincingly.” Katja’s was less loud than usual, if no less crowded. The tiny coffee shop insisted on hosting live musicians, from solo acts to small jazz combos, on a stage not much bigger than a manhole cover. The acts were usually pretty good, and geared to an old enough crowd that the U of A freshmen stayed away. The food wasn’t bad either. On the other hand, having a conversation within two feet of three other tables and three feet of a double bass was challenging at best. “There,” Collie said. At least, she said something and pointed toward a table at the back, where Ian was enjoying a beer. One of those microbrew things he liked, thick enough to stand a spoon in. Anna nodded and took the lead, clearing a path to Ian’s table. If she kept her eyes on where she was going and moved without hesitation, she found that most people got out of her way. “Ladies.” Ian raised his beer in salute. He was holding it in his normal hand. The other was gloved and hanging at his side, a faint orange glow slipping out between his glove and shirt. He still hadn’t told them how he’d come to have a glowing orange hand, and Anna didn’t suspect he ever would. Anna nodded and took a seat. Collie scooted past her and sat next to Ian. He’d parked himself near the stage, as usual, but it was just a guitarist and not a particularly loud one. Talking, and not screaming, was a definite possibility. “Mandrake,” Collie said brightly. Ian shook his head. “You make it difficult to do favours for you.” “You know, that’s —” Collie stopped. “Just a sec. Anna, have you eaten?” Anna hadn’t, but this conversation could go in any direction and she didn’t think it would be smart to commit to a meal. “I’m okay,” she said. “I’ll get something later.” Collie turned to Ian. “Where were we?” “Favours,” he said. “Right.” Her expression softened. “Ian. I’m not gonna say don’t do us any favours, because we all know you throw us most of the work we get.” “Not me,” Ian said. “The Embassy.” Collie waved a hand. “Whatever. It comes through you. But telling normal people about Anna is not a favour.” Ian looked at his fingers, which were covered in condensation from his beer bottle, and rubbed them lightly against the wooden tabletop. “Normal?” He sounded as if he wasn’t so much questioning her word choice as asking her to define a word he’d never heard before. Collie gave him a disgusted look. “You know what I mean.” Ian responded with his most beatific smile. “You are what you do.” “I also eat, sleep, and watch TV.” Anna said. “Nobody shows up at our office spouting those fun facts.” “Hire them,” Collie said in a passable impression of Ian’s thin voice. “The dark-haired one