Home > Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(11)

Knights Magica (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #5)(11)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

“Well, that makes me feel better.”

“Just tell him that you expect him to be on his best behavior, except when you want him to play the asshole. He’s good at that, and his mother and sister have him trained to take orders from women.”

“Frankie didn’t mention what role Oriel is playing,” Michaela said.

“Officially, and unofficially, he’s not part of our party. He’s just here because of me, and he’s paying his own way.” I shrugged. “As far as I can tell, the Fae don’t worry about money, or hierarchies, or specific roles.”

I stopped by Trevor’s room on my way to my own room. As I suspected, he had three computers set up, and two of them were running programs.

“Pulling background information on the people we’re supposed to meet with,” he said when I leaned close to look at a screen. “If you want me to run any searches, just let me know.”

“Friedman.”

“Did you bring your laptop?”

“Yes.”

He handed me a thumb drive. “Everything I could find. I think it’s all false bullshit. Nothing that would indicate he’s Fae, although some of his associates are people you told me are Illuminati. Officially, he’s a member of the Universal Church, and he’s been working with some of the Knights Magica’s congressional lobbyists. His Church affiliation seems to be recent. No mention of it prior to last year.”

“But he’s been around longer than that?”

“Private business until about three years ago, then a big political campaign contribution followed by a high-level congressional appointment.”

I went back to my room and plugged in the thumb drive. Oriel looked over my shoulder while I read through Trevor’s report.

“He looks like a completely normal human,” I said.

“Probably a glamour.” Oriel had donned his own glamour, close enough to his real human appearance, but not as exotic. People would notice him because he was so handsome, but his features and hair were human norm.

“How long can you hold a glamour?”

“Forever, even when I’m asleep.”

“Can other Fae see through a glamour?”

“With the proper spell, but just like you can, I would know he was Fae if I was in his presence.”

“And he would feel you.”

“Yes. But if I can get close to him without him seeing me, I can tell you exactly what he is.”

Our group met with a group of witches from Chicago at a mansion in a ritzy part of the city the morning after we arrived. Only the four official members of our delegation and Jolene went into the meeting while the bodyguards remained outside. Jolene recorded the meeting through a charm she had cast.

Oriel and I walked an illusionary dog around the neighborhood and wrote down the license plates and descriptions of people sitting in cars. After the meeting was over, we identified three of those cars following the Westport group, and three more following the witches.

The afternoon meeting with three mages from Atlanta was held in a hotel across the river in Arlington. Again, Oriel and I hung around the hotel looking for magic users.

I knew that Washington had a high number of paranormals and supernaturals, but compared to my previous visits, the shadow world’s presence had increased substantially. Even walking down the street to the National Mall later that afternoon, we identified more magic users than I had ever seen in one place.

That was to be expected with the conference starting the following day, but I suspected a lot of them were area residents. We wandered over by the Capitol, and the feel of magic around the place was as strong as a Saturday night at Rosie’s.

The one thing that was noticeably different about the city were the military troops. Soldiers ringed the Capitol and other government buildings. The White House had a new fence around it and troops patrolling the grounds. The newspaper I had picked up that morning was full of stories about skirmishes between the Knights and other groups, including the military.

Dinner with the congressional magic users was at a private dining room in a swanky steakhouse downtown.

“Erin,” Frankie said, “you’ve told me that the Illuminati had a number of operatives embedded in the government. Including, I think you said, some elective officials.”

“Yeah. I think two senators and several representatives.”

“I want you to join us for dinner. If any of the people we’re meeting with are Illuminati, I want to know about them.” She handed me a list of names.

“That might be a problem. I don’t recognize any of the names on this list, but that doesn’t mean anything. I might know them by another name. There are also some names that I might recognize, but I’ve never seen their faces. It’s liable to be hit-or-miss. And even if I don’t recognize them, they might recognize me.”

It was decided that Oriel would also attend the dinner so he could cast an illusion over me. It wasn’t a glamour, but I had a difficult time understanding his explanation of the difference. It turned out that it was a good thing we took that precaution. I hadn’t known the name Gerard Dahlgren, Senator from Minnesota, but I recognized him as soon as I saw him. He was Illuminati, and I had met him twice when he visited the City of the Illuminati to confer with Master Benedict. I knew him as Master Jerold, and he had even expressed a desire to sleep with me on the second occasion he saw me, but I managed to avoid him for the rest of his stay.

Oriel had cast my illusion as a chubby blonde woman. The added pounds didn’t deter John Conrad, the Congressman from Colorado, who sat next to me. He flirted outrageously and rubbed his leg against mine under the table.

The glamour Oriel cast for himself was that of a handsome dark-haired man in his middle thirties, and he glibly chatted up the one woman from the Congressional group.

“We have tried to head off additional regulations on paranormals,” Senator Dahlgren said. “But I think we’ve reached the point where we’re better off helping to craft those regulations. It doesn’t look as though we have a chance of blocking them.”

“What about regulating the Knights?” Langermann asked. “We’re close to an open warfare in Westport.”

“There’s a problem with separation of church and state,” one of the congressmen said. “The Universal Church has declared that the Knights Magica are part of the Church.”

“So, all we have to do is take over a religion?” Michaela asked.

“Suppose we take paranormals under our wing,” Reverend White said. “Declare all witches as ley clergy, for instance.”

“Do you think your church would go along with that?” the Congresswoman asked.

White shrugged. “We might have to split off and create our own church. I’ve spoken with paranormal clergy all across the country, and there is some sympathy with that course.”

“The feedback I’m getting,” Langermann said, “is that many of the participants at the conference tomorrow are going to vote in favor of creating our own political movement to lobby Congress and create a political action committee to fund sympathetic candidates for office. The prospect of Wheeler winning the presidency is alarming, and Terrance winning is unthinkable. If he does win, there will be open warfare.” Terrance was the anti-magic candidate for President.

“That would mean backing President Backstrom,” another congressman said, “and I’m not sure anything is going to save him. He’s fighting Terrance in the primaries and having to move more toward regulation. We are faced with a set of unfavorable choices.”

“I’m a member of Wheeler’s party,” Dahlgren said, “and it’s all but certain he’s going to win the nomination. The Universal Church isn’t very strong in my state, and I’m not up for re-election this year, so I don’t have to agree with him, but those who oppose the Church have Church-backed candidates running against them in their states’ primaries. It’s looking ugly.”

By the time the dinner ended, I was quite depressed.

The congresswoman and Oriel took some time to say goodbye to each other, and while I waited for him, Representative Conrad slipped his arm around my waist. I wondered how he didn’t detect the illusion.

“If you’re going to be in town for a while, perhaps you could join me for dinner some evening. I have a townhouse in Georgetown that is nice and private.”

“Actually, I’m flying out as soon as the conference is over,” I said. “But perhaps next time I’m in town.”

He slipped a business card into my hand. “That’s my private number. Let me know.”

On our way back to the Willard, I said to Oriel, “Never use that illusion on me again. I have no desire to either sleep with Representative Conrad, or to have to fight him off. He’s greasy.”

“He’s a politician,” Oriel said with a grin.

“So, do you have an assignation with Representative Owens?” I asked.

“Tomorrow evening. Her husband is back in Ohio with their children.”

“Good thing for you that I’m not the jealous type.”

He put his arm around me and kissed me on the cheek. “You don’t have anything to worry about. But I can’t miss the chance to make her view the Fae kindly. Allies are going to be important in the days ahead.”

“You’ll tell her you’re Fae, and she’ll favor your people because she thinks you’re good in bed?”

He laughed. “No, she won’t know I’m Fae, but as long as I’m in her head, I’ll make sure she thinks the way I want her to.”

“That’s evil.”

“Not as evil as the Knights. Nothing I do to her will harm her. We’ve been entrancing humans for millennia, and they never complain.”

Considering some of the things I had done for the Illuminati, I couldn’t get very self-righteous, but his plan did make me queasy. He was right, though. Without some of the games and use of our powers, humans probably would have exterminated all magic users long before I was born. And considering what I knew the Knights were capable of, it wasn’t hyperbole to say we were in a battle for our lives and the lives of everyone we knew.

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