Page 45 of The District

“We know the motive now.”

“Is that really the motive? Who knows?”

They walked down one block to a busier part of the district, and Eric pulled his phone from his pocket. “I’m going to call a taxi.”

She rubbed his arm. “I’m okay. Are you? All these people seem to know you.”

He ordered a taxi and shoved the phone back into his pocket. “I don’t understand why all these old witches seem to know Brody business. What was it about my father’s case that attracted their interest? You should know. You’re an expert on my father’s case.”

Biting her lip, she kicked the curb with the pointed toe of her shoe. “You said it yourself. One of your kidnappers was wearing the same necklace that Liz Fielding had on at the time of her death—the symbol of the coven—the dark coven, apparently.”

A taxi barreled down the street and did a U-turn, pulling to a stop in front of them. They collapsed in the backseat and Eric called out the name of their hotel in union   Square.

“Where was Nigel after the break?”

“He left.”

Christina sucked in a breath. “Before or after my...encounter in the quad?”

“Before.” He took her hand and toyed with her fingers. “He’s pretty old. Do you really think it could’ve been him?”

“Maybe the stiff posture is all an act.”

“I doubt it. Would help if we could locate Uma. She’s the one who told you to go out back.”

“What about the guy you thought was Darius?”

“Never got a good look at him. I think he left at the break, too.”

“I don’t think any of those people necessarily want to help. It’s like they’re giving their tacit approval of the decimation of this coven.” Her gaze slid to the back of the driver’s head, but the radio and the street noise from his open window kept him oblivious to their conversation.

“Why would they want innocent people hurt? Unless...” He rubbed the scruff on his chin with his knuckles. “...they’re not so innocent.”

“By all accounts, Nora was a sweet girl.”

“All accounts or just Libby’s? Nora worked for her. Do you think Nora would discuss her penchant for black magic with her employer?”

“What about Liz Fielding?”

“It’s in the report—junkie, former prostitute, petty thief.”

“So, that makes her a devil worshipper?”

“No, but she was no saint either.” Keeping possession of Christina’s hands, he turned to face her. “That meeting didn’t give us what we expected, but it did give us something. Someone thinks this coven is on the wrong track, and that someone has taken matters into his own hands.”

Her hand wriggled from his grasp, and she pounded her chest with her palm. “But what about me? Why go after me?”

“You came in wearing the symbol of your coven proudly.” He traced the circle with his nail. “What were they supposed to think?”

“So the person who attacked me may not even be the killer or in with the killer. But why the formaldehyde? Were they expecting us?”

The taxi shot across the tracks ahead of an oncoming cable car and squealed to a stop in front of their hotel.

Eric paid the driver and grasped Christina by the shoulders before they went inside the hotel. “I don’t know if they were expecting us or not. I don’t know if the symbol on your car windshield and the near miss in the crosswalk were threats to you or warnings. But I think we need to dig a little deeper into the victims’ lives—not what they showed the public, but what they were doing behind closed doors.”

When they got to their rooms, Eric followed Christina into hers.

Eric wore a path from the window to the door, his hands clasped behind his neck. “What do you think this coven’s involved in?”

Christina stretched out on the bed and toed off her shoes which fell to the floor with one clump and then another. “I don’t know.”

She patted the bedspread beside. “You look so tense. Sit down.”

He paused in midstride, dropping his arms to his sides. “I guess there’s nothing we can do about anything right now. I’ll add tonight’s festivities to my report. The cops are going to want to know why you didn’t report the attack.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t tell them.” She waved him over. “Let me work some of those knots out of your shoulders, and if you don’t mind, snag one of those bottles of wine from the minibar for me.”

He crouched down in front of the minibar and selected a little bottle of white wine from the door. “Is this okay?”