Home > Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(14)

Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(14)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Charles murmured, "Before you depart. Sally forth. Close enough."

Anna was never sure how many of the Latin phrases she knew were right, and how much her father simply had made up on the spot. She'd quit speaking it in front of Bran because he'd get this pained look on his face. Charles seemed mostly to find it funny, a joke they shared. He claimed not to speak Latin, but apparently Spanish and French were close enough to allow him to comment.

"Charles is not here to enforce justice, at least not on you or yours." She nodded at Isaac. "We were coming to you to ask for information. There are dead werewolves and the FBI and police apparently don't have anything but bodies. We were sent here to help them. We were coming to ask you the questions the FBI probably already have in the hopes you could answer differently for us. How were our people taken and killed? Where were they taken from?"

"Information on the dead guys?" Isaac raised his chin and met her eyes. He waited for her to drop hers - and when that didn't happen, he frowned thoughtfully. Likely he'd never met a wolf before that he couldn't either stare down, or felt driven to bow before.

The Omega part tended to confuse a lot of wolves who were used to immediately sizing up others when they first met them. Is this wolf more dominant or less? Will she do as I ask, or do I have to do what she tells me? Are we close enough in rank that I have to worry about a fight to determine who rules and who is ruled, who protects and who is protected? Anna didn't register at all on the obey-or-be-obeyed scale - and she apparently came with something that made all the dominant wolves need to protect her.

Finally Isaac shook his head. "My take is that it is some seriously powerful fae, vampire, or something of that ilk. I don't know about the other two - I can give you the addresses of their hotels and their stated businesses. But they've been here before, lots of times. Neither was in the habit of causing trouble, so I don't have them shadowed anymore. But my boy, Otten, he was taken right while he was out jogging along the Charles River about five in the morning."

Isaac glanced over his shoulder as if he could see the river from where they sat, though it wasn't possible. "That's early; I know that's early. But there are other people, and damn, he's a werewolf, right?" And Anna realized he'd turned his head so they couldn't see the expression on his face. "Still, no one saw anything. No sign of a struggle - and Otten, he's pretty old, right? Old, tough, and a fine scrapper in wolf or human form. He knew how to watch his back. Not someone to be surprised. Pack bonds hit me hard about three hours later, dropped me right down and out - he was hurt that badly. But there was so much static I couldn't get a fix on him when I woke up."

He focused on Charles, meeting his gaze for longer than she'd ever seen anyone outside of his father. "They cut him. Raped him and killed him while they cut into him." His voice was raw with rage, and golden embers sparked in his dark eyes despite the tears on his cheek.

"They," said Charles intently. "How many?"

Isaac looked startled at the question, and then surprise jerked his head up and he frowned. "Two? Two...is wrong; there was a third. I just got impressions. Mostly pain. Didn't think the shadows I got were important. Let me think." He closed his eyes and tilted his head, a wolflike motion that was familiar. They all did it, now and again. If Anna's nose quit working, she'd still know a werewolf when she met him, just from that motion.

Isaac frowned and shook his head.

They cut him, Isaac had said. The FBI had shown them only select views of the later victims, as if to hide damage that had some significance they hadn't wanted to share. Or else they were trying not to shock a civilian consultant who might pay so much attention to the dead body, he failed to see anything else. But cutting...She knew a kind of creature who might cut up a werewolf before killing him.

"Were the cuts random?" asked Anna. "Or were they in a deliberate pattern?"

Isaac caught on to where she was going. "Witches? You think witches are behind this?"

Charles shrugged. "This is the beginning of our hunt, Isaac. I try not to think anything at this point."

Isaac nodded and looked at Anna. "Could be the cuts were deliberate. Or it could just have been someone playing, like a cat with a mouse - they seemed to enjoy it. The bond between an Alpha and his wolves isn't a mating bond - I just caught the worst of what he was experiencing here and there." Something unhappy grew in his face, and his eyes widened as he kept the tears in. "He wasn't scared, you know? Even when the pain was bad. Otten was a cool one, just waiting for his chance - but they didn't give him one."

"I knew him," said Charles, and his voice said a lot more than the words. It acknowledged and agreed with Isaac's assessment of the man and told Anna - and Isaac - that the dead man had been someone Charles respected and liked. "Thank you for talking to us, Isaac. You've helped. We'll stop them, and when we do, you'll know that you helped."

"You find those bastards" - it came out in a low growl from Isaac's belly, a command by one who was used to giving orders - "who killed Otten..." He sucked in his breath and looked abruptly away and down. Anna glanced at Charles but she couldn't see the expression on his face that Isaac had responded to; it was already gone.

When the Boston Alpha spoke again, the command was gone from his voice. "You find them, and I would take it as a personal favor if you called me for backup."

He handed Anna a card. It had only a phone number below his name, so she put out her empty hand demandingly. He lowered his lids and stared at her as she met his gaze unflinchingly - then wiggled her fingers. "Gimme."

He laughed, wiped the tears from his face with both hands, and looked at Charles. "What is she?" But without waiting for a reply - that wasn't forthcoming anyway - he handed Anna a pair of cards that had The Irish Wolfhound embossed on them. "Don't bend 'em all up. We reuse them."

Anna snorted as he popped up to his feet and jumped on top of the wagon he'd been on before in an easy leap. With a half wave of his hand, he took off, moving fast without giving the appearance of fleeing. He lightly hopped from one kiosk to the next, rocking them but not enough that anything fell off the shelves.

Charles rose unhurriedly, but without any wasted motions, either, and gathered the debris of their meal. "Let's go while he's still distracting everyone."

THEY WALKED BY the Old State House on their way to the condo. It was sitting right in the middle of a bunch of skyscrapers, looking like a bright gold and white anachronism in the middle of all the dark glass and chrome of its near neighbors. Boston...Anna'd been expecting something like Seattle, since so many people compared the two. And there were some things that reminded her quite strongly of the Emerald City - the ocean, for instance - and the whole educated-and-liberal feel to the place. But Boston was different, at least the part of it that she had seen.

It wasn't just older; it felt older - and somehow still fresh and brash and still moving on. New World - ish, maybe. Built by people unsatisfied with their lives who crossed an ocean, risking and giving their lives for a new start, right here.

There was the architecture, too. So many buildings here had historic import; they'd been left where they were, no matter how inconvenient. Barricaded on the left and right by busy roads and huge modern buildings, the Old State House was polished and painted and cared for in a way it probably hadn't been back in the colonial days when Crispus Attucks and four other men were shot on the street next to it in the Boston Massacre.

Little narrow colonial roads had mostly disappeared into the wide modern streets, but still popped up here and there - holding such treasures as antique stores and old bookshops. The end effect of massive steel and glass buildings standing guard over their smaller and more delicately built forerunners was eclectic and charming.

"Do you think the killers are werewolves?" Anna asked as they briskly walked back to their condo.

"Werewolves?" Charles considered it and shook his head. "No. Isaac would have known if Otten had been hunted down by werewolves."

They walked about half a block in silence; then Charles shook his head again. "Maybe...maybe Isaac wouldn't have picked up on it if the killers had been werewolves. He's young. But the hunt is wrong for werewolves. No one is eating these victims. A werewolf who is hunting like that...Other werewolves could smell the sickness of spirit on them." He paused. "I could smell it on them. There is no wolf in the country who was alive forty years ago that I have not met since the time the killings began. But it could be vampires - or witches."

"Five thirty this time of year is pretty light for a vampire," Anna said. "But if he's been hunting this long, successfully killing fae and werewolves alike, he's got to be some kind of supernatural, doesn't he? I can't imagine that a vampire wouldn't also drink from the victims - and if that was the case, no one is telling us."

Charles shrugged, dodging around a small tour being led by a man in a powdered wig wearing Revolutionary fashion and carrying an unlit lantern on a stick. Anna dodged the other way and caught a bit of the tour guide's spiel.

"Revere did not ride alone that night, nor was he, in his own time, famous for the act. Paul Revere is famous because his name is the one Longfellow, nearly a hundred years later, chose to use in his famous poem instead of my good friend William Dawes, who was the other rider out warning of the British invasion." Before his voice was drowned in the sounds of a busy city at midday, Anna noted that he had a fruity British accent pasted over a Southern drawl: not a Boston native.

Charles continued their conversation as if he'd never paused at all. "It could be an organization of people who hate the fae and werewolves - like Bright Future or the John Lauren Society. Or a bunch of hunters who see us as a challenge."

"Or a group of black witches, if there was more than one killer."

"Right," agreed Charles. "I don't know enough yet. The FBI were pretty careful about what information they gave us."

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