Grace isn’t a good singer. But she’s not a comically bad singer despite the jokes. She’s just not good.
What she lacks in ability, she makes up for with enthusiasm. She had the window down on Christie’s battered Malibu as they meandered through the northwest central Illinois night. She had her arm out the window, one of those deep arms out the window where you have your armpit wedged against the door and your head could loll out into the window at any moment. She was singing, loudly, in the darkness.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I think I’m turning into a bug.
I see double what I see I think I’m turning into a bug.
I ain’t got no self-esteem; I think I’m turning into a bug.
Bet you 50 dollars — I’m a man, I’m a scholar And I turned into a bug.
Mama-like-a-daddy-like-a-baby-like-a-baby Like I turned into a bug.
He is Franz Kaf-ka! Franz Kaf-ka!”
Christie looked glanced over at her “What in god’s name are you doing?”
Grace flopped back against the seat “Centering. Using a mundane activity to quiet the mind and block out distractions. It’s only the fucking foundation of fucking magic man, you should know this. I’ve never tried singing before, it works pretty well.”
Christie scowled “That is not singing by any definition.”
Grace nodded “Yeah, I’m not a great singer. But hey, at least I’m not a murderer like you huh?” She grabbed him in an awkward half-hug and tousled his hair like a sitcom dad from the 50’s “Come ‘ere you little murderer you! You little murderin’ son of a gun you!”
Christie warded her off with his free arm “Get off me, I’m driving! What is wrong with you? Are you high?”
Grace sat back against the seat and closed her eyes for a long moment “Maybe. I’ve heard other people talk about magic like it’s a drug. I’ve never done that much magic in that short amount of a time before. I feel . . . . fuzzy. I feel drunk kinda . . . kind of. So maybe. My heart is racing like I just ate an entire sleeve of Oreos. Maybe I’m having a cardiac infarction.”
“Is that possible?”
Grace shrugged “Sure, why not, it’s magic, anything’s possible right? Can’t this thing go any faster? We need to catch up to this guy before he sets another trap for us.”
It couldn’t. Not much faster anyway. Over an hour later, they drove into Rock Island and shortly thereafter into the parking lot of OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. There weren’t many other cars in the lot at 4 AM but one of them in the staff area was their target’s Palisade.
Grace looked around “Well, according to my spell he’s in there.”
Christie frowned “Why would he be in a children’s hospital?”
“Probably because he knows we’re after him and he wants to be some place where we can’t just grab him. He’s probably in there right now organizing his bug-men and zombies to attack us. Interesting that he’s a doctor, the other bug mage I encountered was a plastic surgeon. Have most of the people you’ve dealt with been in the medical community? Is that part of it?”
He shook his head “I don’t think so, but I didn’t ask them for their resume.”
“How did you track the infection back to the source normally?”
“Uh . . .”
“I’m going to assume that means you didn’t. You’re a shit bug hunter, you know that?”
Christie looked like he wanted to mouth off/and or punch her but he wisely did neither “What are we going to do?”
Grace tipped her head towards the building “We’re going to run into a children’s hospital and grab him.”