Home > Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(11)

Hunter's Trail (Scarlett Bernard #3)(11)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“What’s in the bag?”

I looked up, startled by the new voice. It was one of the two werewolves on the van’s roof. He was a slender black man with a shaved head and sharp slanted cheekbones. It was forty degrees outside, but he wore jeans and a gray ribbed tank top that showed off wiry arms.

Anastasia turned her body sideways, so she could look at him without turning her back to me. The man slid neatly off the van and onto the paved driveway. The second his sneakers hit pavement, the other wolf slithered down after him, flanking his side as he approached us. As he got closer I realized that his arms were covered in thin crisscrossing scars. One of them traveled diagonally down his shoulder to disappear under his shirt. He must have gotten them before he was changed, or he’d been in a lot of fights against silver knives, which can leave scars. Interesting. I wondered if werewolves got pack nicknames. His would definitely be Scarms.

He hit my radius and stumbled a little—he’d obviously never been near a null, because it took him longer than most to recover his balance. I used the beat to gauge his strength, with mixed results. Scarms was definitely more powerful than Miguel, but what I could do wasn’t precise enough to get an answer to how he compared to Anastasia. They were pretty close.

Then he was only a foot away from me. After a couple of seconds, Scarms repeated himself. “What’s in the bag?” I didn’t answer. Without being told, the wolf behind Scarms left his side and flowed past us, entering and then leaving my radius, toward the front door. He was a short, barrel-shaped guy who had probably been chubby before he’d been changed. He had those tight, artificial-looking curls that usually signified a perm, but his must have been natural. When werewolves change back and forth, they lose things like perms and tattoos and piercings. He bent down and examined the bleach-covered blood smears. “Blood here, I think,” he said to either Anastasia or Scarms. “But there’s bleach all over it; I can’t smell anything.”

He pulled out a key ring—goddammit, of course all the wolves had keys to Will’s house—and opened the front door. “Same here,” he called. He disappeared into the house, probably to look for more blood.

Thank you, Clorox. I dismissed him and turned back to Scarms and Anastasia. “There was a fight,” I lied. “Will called me to get rid of some furniture and some bloodstains. I’m taking it with me, and you’ve delayed me enough. Molly? Give me a hand?”

I passed the tied-off garbage bag to Molly, gripped my cane, and took a step forward, forcing Miguel to either step aside or plow into an injured girl half his size. Confused, he stepped aside, but Scarms right behind him did not. The werewolf didn’t move at all, just stood there and looked at me with a curious, detached expression, like I was a turtle who’d fallen out of its shell.

“A fight between whom?” he said. Anastasia made a quiet crowing noise behind me. I’m sure she was just impressed with the use of “whom.”

“We haven’t met,” I said to him. I kept my voice confident and coldly polite, like the terrifying people who run the DMV. “I’m Scarlett Bernard. You are?”

“Terrence,” he said. “Whittaker.” I nodded. My name for him was better. “That’s Drew,” he added, tilting his head toward the house.

“Nice to meet you, Terrence,” I replied. Putting my weight on my left foot, I straightened up as tall as I could and met his eyes. “I haven’t seen you at one of my crime scenes before, so let me explain how this works. I come and pick up the bloody crap. I take it with me. I get rid of it. I don’t get details or names; I’m just the cleaning lady,” I said, emphasizing each word.

“I want to see inside the bag,” he said tersely.

I gritted my teeth and said, “Tough rocks. I do not answer to you, or to Anastasia, or to anyone but Will, Dashiell, and Kirsten. I have another call across town tonight”—total lie— “and I do not have time to fuck around with cutting open garbage bags, cleaning up anything that falls out, and rebagging. So either get out of my way”—I pulled my cell phone out of my jacket pocket—“or I will call Will and you can explain to him why you’re interfering with me.”

Terrence glanced uneasily at Anastasia. “Don’t listen to her,” she interjected, her eyes wild. “Let’s stick with the plan. We hold her until she gives up the cure.”

I could tell Ana hadn’t meant to mention “the plan.” I fought against a crush of panic, grateful once again that they couldn’t smell my fear.

Terrence and Anastasia stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment, with Miguel flicking his own gaze from one to the other. There was a palpable intensity between the two, even in human form, and I knew a dominance fight when I saw one. I wasn’t going to get anywhere with Ana, so I looked at her opponent and said softly, “Terrence. Will knows Molly is helping me tonight. If you dick around with the treaty, you’ll answer to Dashiell.”

Miguel made a small noise in the back of his throat. We don’t talk about the actual treaty much, because in the Old World, threatening someone with it is more or less the social equivalent of the nuclear option. The treaty is very simple: don’t fuck with anyone. People who violate the treaty, or kill another Old World member under any circumstances, go to Dashiell. And everyone was afraid of Dashiell, with damned good reason.

Terrence stared at Anastasia for another long moment, and then stepped out of my way without breaking eye contact with her. Finally his eyes jerked over to me. “Another time,” he said roughly. Anastasia folded her arms, anger and frustration written all over her body, but she didn’t speak. Molly’s presence had ruined her plan, and she knew it.

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