Black Heart Page 51

“Has he got fae assassins coming after him or something?”

“Yes, exactly,” J.B. said.

“I thought Titania wouldn’t kill her own child,” I said accusingly to Beezle.

“She wouldn’t,” Beezle said. “It’s got to be Titania’s enemies trying to punish her.”

“That’s what I think,” J.B. said. “But we’ve got him pretty well hidden. Right now they think he’s just disappeared into thin air.”

“How did you hide him?” I asked.

“It was some pretty nifty magic on Nathaniel’s part,” J.B. admitted. “Nathaniel combined his blood with Bendith’s and then used magic to disguise Bendith’s essence with his own. So if anyone tries to track Bendith magically, they’ll come up empty. The only power signature he exerts now is Nathaniel’s.”

“That is some powerful magic,” Beezle said. “And it’s a lot like what Michael the archangel did all those millennia ago, to disguise Lucifer’s children and his bloodline through Evangeline so thoroughly that even the Prince of Darkness himself would not be able to find them.”

“Nathaniel’s pretty frightening, actually,” J.B. said. “He’s got an unbelievable amount of power now. The only thing that’s holding him in check is you.”

“Me?” I said. “What have I got to do with it?”

“When someone they love dies, men respond in one of two ways. They smash everything in sight, or they break inside. Nathaniel broke. And if he hadn’t, there probably wouldn’t be a city for you to return to, because he could level Chicago with a look.”

I shook my head. “I don’t understand. Why would Nathaniel think I was dead? He sent me through the portal so I would be safe. He knew where I went.”

J.B. shook his head. “Actually, he didn’t know where you went. It seemed he was taking telepathic instructions from Puck and he wasn’t really thinking at the time. He assumed that Puck didn’t mean you harm, so he did what his father said. Then I came home with the news that Sokolov had been crowing about your death at work. Nathaniel believed you had died in the place where he sent you.”

“You know, I used to think you guys were smart,” I said. “And you’re both pretty powerful. So how did you get fooled by such a simple ruse?”

“Someone was making sure they were fooled,” Beezle said.

I nodded. “That’s what I think, too. And there’s only a few characters that have that kind of power.”

“Alerian, Daharan, Lucifer and Puck,” Beezle said. “Titania and Oberon. Probably a few others. But those are the usual suspects.”

“So we have to figure out why one of the usual suspects wanted everyone to think I was dead, and then went to the trouble of laying out a spell to make sure that nobody questioned it.”

“Welcome home to your newest conspiracy!” Beezle chirped.

“Someone wanted me out of the way,” I said.

“Lots of creatures want you out of the way,” J.B. said. “The trouble is narrowing it down.”

“Let’s see,” I said, tapping my finger on my chin. “Puck sent me to an alien world, and went to the trouble of making sure I stayed there to kill off an entire population. I vote for Puck.”

“Daharan was there, too,” Beezle reminded me. “Who’s to say he’s not in on the conspiracy?”

I shook my head. “Daharan wouldn’t do that to me.”

“How do you know?” J.B. asked.

“I know,” I said.

“Maddy . . .” J.B. began.

“No,” I said. “Don’t say that I’m being naïve, or that I just met him. I know.”

“Don’t argue with her,” Beezle stage-whispered. “She’s pregnant.”

“Pregnant doesn’t equal brain damaged,” I said. “Or deaf.”

“Puck could also be doing work for Titania,” J.B. pointed out. “He said he was acting of his own accord, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

“Yeah, and Titania is highly motivated to get rid of you,” Beezle said. “Plus, the whole thing kind of has the feel of a faerie plot, doesn’t it? They’re always putting you in a new game board and watching to see if you get killed.”

“You think Titania told Puck to send me to that place, and Puck used Nathaniel as his vessel because my uncle knew I would trust him?”

“That’s faerie logic at work right there,” J.B. said. “Titania wants you dead, but she would prefer that the actual bloodletting be done by someone else.”

“And Puck tried to throw me off the scent by saying that Titania didn’t want him there, that she was planning on using the Cimice for mass destruction?”

Beezle nodded. “She probably wanted the Cimice dead for some queenly reason of her own and decided to use you to take care of them for her.”

“So, worst-case scenario—I kill off a bunch of her enemies. Best case—I kill off her enemies and die in the process,” I said.

“Sounds about right,” Beezle said.

“No, it doesn’t,” I said. “Something’s not fitting together here. I met one of the Cimice. It beheaded a woman right under the Southport El platform in the middle of the day and I chased it down and killed it. And before I killed it, it told me that it was the vanguard of millions and there was nothing I could do to stop it.”

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