Page 54 of The District

Eric’s gaze wandered to Christina, who crossed her chopsticks in front of her. “I’m not part of the occult world, and I certainly didn’t know about it.”

“I don’t understand.” He dumped some rice on his plate, followed by some shrimp. “My kidnapping was connected to the serial killer my father was investigating. Some said that he arranged the abduction himself to throw the police off his trail.”

“Do you believe that? Did you ever believe that?”

“I didn’t hear the stories until later, and I didn’t know what to believe. Are you suggesting that the real serial killer contacted this coven to kidnap me, or that my father himself contacted them?”

“I don’t know anything more than the fact that the coven was involved.” He screwed up his lined face and chased a peanut across his plate with his chopsticks.

“This is just too incredible to believe.”

“Believe it or not, it’s the truth, and that’s why so many in the occult world know about you and your ordeal as a child.”

Again, he glanced at Christina, who had filled her plate with food.

“Stop looking at me like I’m the devil. You know I have minimal contact with my father and sister, and we certainly don’t discuss coven business when we do talk.”

“It’s all so,” he mused as he made a ball with his hands, “circular.”

Nigel cocked his head. “Life is that way, isn’t it? I’ll leave it to the two of you to piece together, since I’m sure there are things you can’t discuss in front of me.”

“Let’s lay this out. This coven, in which Christina’s family has a prominent...”

“Wrong already.” Christina tapped his water glass with her chopstick.

“Correction. This coven, to which Christina’s family belongs, but is not involved with, started using its powers to perform evil deeds. The witching world let it go for a while and then some rogue witch started taking action by eliminating the members of this coven—whether or not they were involved in any of the black magic.”

“Don’t forget my sister’s take.” Christina glanced at Nigel. “She believes there’s another reason someone is targeting the coven—because he or she covets their dark powers.”

Nigel nodded. “Not out of the realm of possibility. Where is your sister?”

“Sealed to secrecy.” She drew a line across the seam of her lips.

“That could be. I’m giving you what I know. I’ve always been peripheral since I don’t have the gift myself. There are a lot of us like that—on the outside looking in.”

“You sound...regretful.” She waved a spoon over the plate of kung pao shrimp. “Does anyone want to split the rest of this with me?”

Eric nodded. “I will.”

Pushing his plate away, Nigel said, “I am regretful. I’d like to experience having the power that you choose to neglect.”

“I’m not interested in abracadabraing my way through life.”

“You joke about it, but isn’t it clear we’re dealing with some powerful forces?”

“It’s clear we’re dealing with a bunch of people who are putting too much stock into some extrasensory feelings. These people in my father’s coven who are turning to crime, like kidnapping, are just bad people. They don’t have any more power than any other criminal.” She popped the last piece of shrimp in her mouth.

He shook his finger at her. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”

The waiter dropped off the bill and Nigel pushed back from the table, dropping his napkin in his plate. “I’m assuming you can write that off as a business expense, since I’m a witness or something, right?”

Eric picked up the check and waved it at him. “We’ve got it.”

Nigel bowed, placed a gray felt fedora on his head and hobbled from the restaurant.

Eric stared after him with narrow eyes. “How far do we trust him?”

“Are you changing your mind? Do you think he might be involved in the murders?”

“I don’t know.” Eric reached for his wallet and snapped his credit card onto the tray. “All that stuff about members of the coven being involved in my kidnapping.”

“It makes sense, Eric.” She tapped her chest. “You recognized the necklace. Nigel didn’t know anything about that memory.”

“If it’s all true, maybe the Phone Book Killer was part of the coven. If I can find out more about what went down, I can clear my father’s name once and for all.”

“And solve this case?”

His chest flashed with heat. “Do you think I’m losing focus?”