As far as I know, I am the only wizard on the planet earning a significant portion of his income working for a law enforcement agency. I stopped and looked around, taking inventory. Two bodies, naked, male and female, still intertwined in the act. One little pistol, illegal in Chicago, lying upon the limp fingers of the woman. Two gunshot wounds to the temples, one each. There were two overlapping fan-shaped splatters of blood, and more had soaked into the carpet.
The bodies stank like hell. Some very unromantic things had happened to them after death. I walked a little farther into the room and looked around. Somewhere in the apartment, an old vinyl was playing Queen. Freddie wondered who wanted to live forever.
As I listened, the song ended and began again a few seconds later, popping and scratching nostalgically. The walls were covered in photographs.
I mean covered in photographs. Completely papered. I glanced up. So was the ceiling. I took a moment to walk slowly around, looking at pictures. All of them, every single one of them, featured the two dead people together, posed somewhere and looking deliriously happy.
I walked and peered. Plenty of the pictures were near-duplicates in most details, except that the subjects wore different sets of clothing—generally cutesy matching T-shirts.
Most of the sites were tourist spots within Chicago. It was as if the couple had gone on the same vacation tour every day, over and over again, collecting the same general batch of pictures each time. She was a tiny, compactly muscular woman with blond hair and a button nose.
Murph knows martial arts. She waited and said nothing. Or, ah, in medias res. I know. I checked several of the pictures and went over to eye the bodies.
Greg and Cindy were both in it, along with an older couple and a younger man. They were brother and sister. There were no signs of struggle. Clothes, champagne flutes, and an empty bubbly bottle lay scattered. They were together—and they went insane doing it. This has the earmarks of someone tampering with their minds.
Bad Guy X gets into their heads and makes them fall wildly in love and lust with each other. Big difference. Which is it? Could it be another one of those Skavis vampires? Gosh, I wish I could have thought of that on my own. That was crap work, and as such had been dutifully passed to SI. I lowered my voice. You start from here. She knew what it was like to be the victim of mental manipulation. Freddie reached a crescendo, which told us that love must die.
The presence of so much magical talent on the far end of the call meant that at times the lag could stretch out between Chicago and Edinburgh, the headquarters of the White Council of Wizardry.
Anastasia Luccio, Captain of the Wardens, my ex-girlfriend, had been readily forthcoming with the information the Council had on any shenanigans going on in Chicago—which was exactly nothing. He has a gift for sensing problem areas. But no one has seen him for weeks, which is hardly unusual.
There were some seriously irrational components to their behavior. Her voice was hard. Luccio had been a victim, too. I found myself smiling somewhat bitterly at no one.
She had been, among other things, mindboinked into going out with me. Which was apparently the only way anyone would date me, lately.
So use caution anyway. She had already apologized to me, sort of, for abruptly walking out of my personal life. It made me happy. My throat felt tight. The Little Folk, who could usually be relied on to provide some kind of information, had nothing for me. Their memory for detail is very short, and the deaths had happened too long ago to get me anything but conflicting gibberish. I made several mental nighttime sweeps through the city using the scale model of Chicago in my basement, and got nothing but a headache for my trouble.
I called around the Paranet, the organization of folk with only modest magical gifts, the kind who often found themselves being preyed upon by more powerful supernatural beings. They worked together now, sharing information, communicating successful techniques, and generally overcoming their lack of raw magical muscle with mutually supportive teamwork.
No one had any answers. Then I started contacting the people I knew in the scene, starting with the ones I thought most likely to provide information. Or an investigator. Or a wizard investigator. Ordinary PIs have a lot of days like that, where you look and look and look for information and find nothing. I get fewer of those days than most, on account of the whole wizard thing giving me a lot more options—but sometimes I come up goose eggs anyway.
I just hate doing it when lives may be in danger. Four days later, all I knew was that nobody knew about any black magic happening in Chicago, and the only traces of it I did find were the miniscule amounts of residue left from black magic wrought by those without enough power to be a threat. There were also the usual traces of dim magic performed subconsciously from a bed of dark emotions, probably by someone who might not even know they had a gift.
In other words, goose eggs. Fortunately, Murphy got the job done. Sometimes hard work is way better than magic. More than once, it had been pounded badly, but always it had risen to do battle once more—if by battle one means driving somewhere at a sedate speed, without much acceleration and only middling gas mileage. Then she tried the door. It opened easily. You want to get cited? And produced a ball-point pen.
I buckled up. Murphy beamed at me. Head for I Her cheeks looked a little pink. Neither of us said anything for a little while. Ten days? And the Bardalackis got pulled over for speeding on I, five minutes out of Springfield and bound for Chicago. I just hope that if I get you into the general area, you can pick up on whatever is going on. You get combinations of smells at such events like none found anywhere else. Popcorn, roast nuts, and fast food predominate, and you can get anything you want to clog your arteries or burn out your stomach lining there.
Chili dogs, funnel cakes, fried bread, majorly greasy pizza, candy apples, ye gods. Disinfectant and filth walking by the Porta Potties, exhaust and burnt oil and sun-baked asphalt and gravel in the parking lots, sunlight on warm bodies, suntan lotion, cigarette smoke and beer near some of the attendees, the pungent, honest smell of livestock near the animal shows, stock contests, or pony rides—all of it charging right up your nose.
I like indulging my sense of smell. Smell is the hardest sense to lie to. Murphy and I got started midmorning, walking around the fair in a methodical search pattern. It took us all day. The state fair is not a rinky-dink event. How about dogs and a funnel cake? She had cut the meat from the bone and onto a paper plate, and was eating it with a plastic fork. Little soul tuft under his mouth? She glanced a little bit away. He worries about you. It sucked. It sucks less now.
Fish in the sea, never meant to be, et cetera. She ate her turkey leg. Twilight would go on for a while yet, but the light left in the sky would no longer hold the creatures of the night at bay. Murphy glanced up at me, sensing the change in my level of tension.
She finished off her drink while I stuffed the last of the funnel cake into my mouth, and we stood up together. We were near the carnival, a section of the fair full of garishly lit rides, heavily slanted games of chance, and chintzy attractions of every kind.
It was full of screaming, excited little kids, parents with frayed patience, and fashion-enslaved teenagers. Music tinkled and brayed tinny tunes.
Lights flashed and danced. Barkers bleated out cajolement, encouragement, and condolences in almost-equal measures.
We drifted through the merry chaos, our maroon-shirted tail following along ten to twenty yards behind. I walked with my eyes half closed, giving no more heed to my vision than a bloodhound on a trail. Murphy stayed beside me, her expression calm, her blue eyes alert for physical danger. Then I felt it—a quiver in the air, no more noticeable than the fading hum from a gently plucked guitar string. I noted its direction and walked several more paces before checking again, in an attempt to triangulate the source of the disturbance.
I got a rough fix on it in under a minute, and realized that I had stopped and was staring. There goes our tail. We turned and gave pursuit. A footrace on open ground is one thing. If you look at the figure sitting with his head in his hands, this is actually from Homs in Syria, he's literally crumbling and decaying, the twisted wreckage of the city at his feet. The crusader on horseback continues his messianic mission towards enlightenment or damnation, to his left.
The central erupting volcano represents the internal make-up, annihilation, destruction, consumed in the firmament and chaos giving way to a purifying and cleansing power, unfolding of fertile new ground, paths and inner-awakening. The emergence and arousal of powerful universal forces, simultaneously.
An intermingling and exchange of these two energies. A life-force. Interestingly I wasn't really attuned to these motifs when I chose the volcanic imagery. It was a few weeks after finishing the artwork that I randomly found myself getting into a deep discussion with a quantum physicist about the ground of reality and existence.
During that conversation William Blake was mentioned and later the next day I was reading a book about alchemy and it there it spoke of William Blake, inner-volcanoes, the purging and restorative effect of flames and his poem entitled The Gates of Paradise , similar to the title of this EP.
I was very struck by this and how I was being led along this route. No accident, no coincidence. Pure synchronicity. So I think we have both the positive and negative illustrated on the opposite sides but still, part of the same whole. Each implies the other, inseparable, they are one. This is the concept of mutual arising and one of the track titles on the record. Bareis and bassist Michael Valentine to form Love and Death.
But this one sounded like a record on the rough mixes. The lyrics are more of a third-party perspective than Welch's last project. It's heavy. It's got a lot more melody that I'm used to. They love each other, Lord you can see that it's true, Lord you can see that it's true, Lord you can see that it's true. He could pass his time, around some other line But you know he choose this place beside her.
Don't get in their way, there's nothing you can say, Nothing that you need to add or do. Its' nothing, they explain, it's like a diesel train you better not be there when it rolls, over, And when that train rolls in, you wonder where it's been, You gotta try and see a little further.They love each other. Lord you can see that it's true, Lord you can see that it's true, Lord you can see that it's true. He could pass his time, Around some other line. But you know he choose this place beside her. They love each other. Chorus. Don't get in their way, There's nothing you can say, Nothing that you need to add or do.