The Southern Magicks Chapter 29: Long Drive

When she sat back down, she had a hard look on her face. “Do you remember the last time you were here?”

“When I was a kid?”

 “Don’t worry.”

“Are you trying to tell me that Evelyn and Dorian are both more important to what’s happening then I think?”

“You need to pick a side. Make sure it’s the right one because the wrong side will get people killed.”

“Killed?”

“Is that the price you’re willing to pay just to tell Nate Island where to shove its control?”

 Thankfully, I was sitting because I felt like someone had pulled the floor out from under me. Did her cold bluntness towards me have something to do with the blank spaces in my memory?

“Solve the Alissa Thornton case. I think Evelyn’s toy boy needs to pay for what he did.”

“Why won’t you tell me who did it?”

“I don’t trust you.” She gave me a thin smile. “I’ll help you follow the same path of evidence that Dorian and I did all those years ago.”

“That’s not good enough.”

“You’d never believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.”

She let out a long, shaky breath. “I can’t. If you follow all the evidence we did, I’ll have deniability, when the powers that be want a scapegoat.”

“You’ll think they’ll blame you.”

She nodded. “I’m a mundane who knows about magic and doesn’t respect them, the way they think I should.”

“How are you allowed to live in Dunn, if they hate you?”

“I was born here. I used to stay for my family, but now I stay just to fuck with the powers that be. Why should I leave the home I’ve lived in since I was eighteen?”   

“My grandfather seemed to dislike that Gran and Pop lived in Dunn.”

“Their house was located just outside the official town limits, but it was a stupid idea on your gran’s part,” Irene said. “When I settled in Dunn with my first wife, I didn’t understand the future I was spiralling towards.”

“Dexter?” Cory walked into Irene’s living room. I was as shocked to see him as he was me.

What the hell was he doing there?

Irene looked from me to Cory. “Could you do me a favour Darlin’ and drive this one home? I may have let him get a little too into the special lemonade.”

“Ahh… what?” Cory looked between us, confused.

“I had to mix this pussy’s vodka with some of my lemon juice,” Irene said.

“It’s okay. I was just going to order a car,” I said.

“Order a car? Through one of those ride share apps? All the way out here?” Irene asked.

“My friend’s cousin drives for all the apps,” I said.

Irene let out a bitter chuckle. “About the only person who’d do it. It’s industrious I’ll give them that.”

“You let him get drunk?” Cory looked at Irene sharply and pointed at me.

“Not drunk. He’s good at holding his drink.”

“He can barely stand, Irene.”

“After two drinks, I wanted to see what his limit was.”

“Fuck it, Irene.” He looked at each of us before his mossy gaze landed on Irene. “You’re coming with us to make sure he doesn’t choke and pass out on his own vomit.”

“He’s the one who drank like that in polite company.” She pulled a cigarette from her pocket.

“You are not polite company.”

She smiled. “He doesn’t know that. I pride myself in drinking people under the table, it gives me my sick thrills. There’s not a lot for an old woman to do in this town. Apart from tacky old people shit like church, bowls and bingo with folks who would have turned a blind eye to my murder thirty years ago. The only decent person in this town over the age of sixty is Henry Monette, and we fell out after Dorian died. He was too devoted to Evelyn to see her cra-” She cut off suddenly as her dark eyes landed on me.

I realised she was talking about Uncle Henry, Gran’s cousin. Did he know something about this? Gran told me he used to be an independent monster hunter. If he was friends with Irene and Gran, maybe he was close to Dorian. Could Dorian or Irene have said something to him back when they were investigating the case? 

“You can’t just get people drunk,” Cory spoke, breaking me from my train of thought.

“You sound like a church mum. Dexter isn’t your wayward son who hit up the candy drinks at a sleepover.”

“You can’t just get someone drunk mid-afternoon.”

She gave Cory a hard, almost pleading look. “As you and my young friend here seem to be acquainted, I believe your old-fashioned sensibilities allow me to leave him in your care.”

“You’re coming, or I’ll make sure to grab one of those fancy vases of yours so he can use it as a vomit bucket.”

She raised an artificially darkened eyebrow. “You drive a hard bargain.”

I watched her walk out the front door. With a sigh, Cory slowly guided me out the door after her.

She looked at her watch. “It’ll be dark by the time you get back. You can do my lawn tomorrow afternoon.”

I looked at Cory. “You mow her lawn?”

“No one my age mows their lawn,” Irene remarked. “Why put all that effort in when you can guilt someone younger into doing it?”

“Christ.” Cory followed her across the road to a small cottage-like townhouse, where his car was in the open garage. He placed me in the back passenger seat beside Irene.

“Where is your car?”

“I walked here.”

He wanted to ask where I’d been but didn’t in front of Irene. “Why are you here? Every time I think I can trust you; you do something weird.”

“Be a little nicer to our friend,” Irene commented.

“I need Irene’s intel on the case I’m investigating.”

“Case you’re investigating!” He chuckled. “Are you moonlighting for CSI Dunn now? You know this whole thing is ridiculous? You can’t play Sherlock with every ghost you encounter. It’s too dangerous. You realise that, right?”

“No one will remember her in thirty years,” I said. “I need to do this and finally have her killer brought to justice.”

Cory just shook his head and didn’t look directly at me. He’d soured on the investigation after what happened with Siegfried Thornton.

There were several cars parked just off the Lacy’s driveway when I arrived home.

Fuck…

Cory met Irene’s eyes in the rear vision mirror, and they seemed to have a silent conversation. For all I knew, they could have been, but I was sure Dorian would have mentioned it if Irene had magic. I couldn’t trust Irene’s own assessment that she was mundane. The claim was suspicious after she’d investigated magical crimes with Dorian for decades. He had to know this was coming. Why hadn’t he told me more about her? She’d been his closest friend but was almost a stranger to me.

“How do you two know each other anyhow?” I caused them both to blink when I spoke.

“I was married to Cory’s Grandma for almost fifteen years. He’s my grandson.”

“Unfortunately.” Cory smiled as he unbuckled his seat belt.

“Ha de ha.” Irene opened the door to a worried-looking Eli, Julie, Kat and Cynthia. She smiled at them. “Hello.”

“Is he okay?” Eli asked.

“I just plied him with a little too much alcohol.” Irene pointed at Cory. “Once an adult noticed, I had to send him home.”

“Why don’t you come in for dinner? We have plenty to go around.” Cynthia smiled and held out her hand to Irene.

 Irene hopped out of the car and accepted her handshake. “Irene Milton and this is my unfortunate grandson, Cory.”

“I know Cory, I work with him from time to time,” Cynthia said. We let Cynthia and Irene walk ahead as they drew each other into a conversation.

“That’s Detective Milton? Why did you visit without me?” Kat gave me a dirty look. “We’re supposed to be working on this together.”

“I thought we were stopping this after the events earlier today?” Eli gave Cory a stern look. The two of them had clearly talked and come to the same conclusion. Did they know each other better than I thought? They were rather chummy with each other.

“I’m not behind this. I just wanted to get him home safe. You asked me to see him home safe if I saw him, remember?” Cory challenged.

“What happened earlier?” Julie said. “I’m the only one not in the loop.”

Eli sighed. “This is too dangerous, and you don’t want to be involved with it.”

“The reason we were attacked was because I screwed up,” Kat said. “It has nothing to do with the case. I shouldn’t have brought him into that house.”

“If Dexter is right about Alissa being a Doubleganger, we could really mess with shit we shouldn’t. The average person wouldn’t have gotten away with her murder.” Eli said. “Meaning the chance that her killer is from an elite family is high. One of us will absolutely know him.”

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