Home > Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(16)

Boundary Lines (Boundary Magic #2)(16)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“The working theory is that some kids from the university got hold of a bundle of clothes,” Lafferty went on, “maybe from a homeless man, and decided to dump a chemistry experiment all over it. We already took photos, so I’m ready when you are.”

I glanced at Simon. I’d nearly forgotten he was here to do a job. My friend had straightened up a bit, lowering his hands and breathing hard out of his mouth. I recognized his expression, because it was the same one he’d worn all the time when we were first experimenting with my abilities. Simon was fascinated.

He stepped forward and handed me his cane without taking his eyes off the bundle. Lafferty gave him a pair of latex gloves, and while he put them on, she opened another cupboard and pulled out a pan full of sterile instruments. She set it on the table near the tray.

“Do you know what it is?” Elise asked Simon, her tone a little more demanding than the situation required.

“It’s the strangest thing,” he murmured, and from his distracted tone I wasn’t sure he’d even heard the question or if he was just thinking out loud. He had bent over to get a closer look at the mound of slime, so I did too, trying to breathe as slowly as possible. On closer inspection, I could make out some bits of clothing and what might have been the sole of a shoe.

Simon murmured, “It almost looks like a—”

“Gastric pellet?” Elise interrupted, excitement in her voice.

To my surprise, Simon nodded. “Exactly,” he said. For the first time his eyes lifted from the bundle, to fall on Elise. He and Lafferty both stared at her.

She ducked her head, embarrassed but pleased. “I saw a thing about Komodo dragons on the Discovery Channel.”

Lafferty looked impressed, but Simon just nodded, his attention moving back to the thing on the table. “Gastric pellet?” I asked no one in particular.

“When birds and lizards swallow insects and small animals,” Simon explained, spinning the tray slowly so he could study the thing from all angles, “they regurgitate a little pellet of undigestible materials—bones, fur, claws, and so on.” He selected a large set of tweezers from the tray and looked at Lafferty. “May I?”

She shrugged in a “be my guest” kind of way, and Simon gently probed the edges of the sphere, looking for a weak point. While he was doing that, he continued, “But the largest living animal that produces gastric pellets is probably the Komodo, and those are maybe the size of a softball.” He found a spot he liked and inserted the tip of the tweezers, the tongs tightly closed. Then he slowly released pressure on the handle, and the tweezers opened, cracking the pellet open like an egg. Although it seemed impossible, the smell somehow intensified. The two halves of the bundle fell apart with a disgusting wet sucking noise, exposing more scraps of fabric, the sole of a sneaker, and a large piece of rounded bone. The table was big enough to hold both halves, but only just.

Frowning, Lafferty and Elise both leaned in for a closer look. Simon used the tweezers to gently lift the bone and turn it to the side, revealing two serrated metal pins. His eyes met mine, and now I could see the horror behind them.

“It’s the ilium,” he said softly. “Hip bone. It’s human.”

Chapter 9

As soon as Lafferty realized that the pellet contained human remains, I was hustled out of the room and delivered to a patrol officer, who escorted me back to the lobby. They were polite about it, and besides, I couldn’t really blame them: I was a civilian with a record. I wouldn’t want me anywhere near evidence, either.

I wandered over to a black leather bench and closed my eyes, trying to slow my whirling thoughts. In the last twelve hours, two vampires had been killed, probably by werewolves, and something had killed—or at least, eaten—some or all of a human body and spit it out again. I supposed it was still possible that the gastric pellet had been faked; that it really had been the brainchild of a bunch of CU students with too much free time and a key to wherever the university stored their research cadavers. But it seemed too coincidental that this would happen right when a different animal threat was intruding on Colorado.

At the same time, I couldn’t see a connection between the werewolves and the gigantic regurgitated pellet. I didn’t know a lot about how birds or lizards digested their food, but I was certainly familiar with canine digestive tracts, and they didn’t spit out hairballs, much less swallow clothes and bones. Just for my peace of mind, I did a quick Internet search on my phone and confirmed that wolves don’t regurgitate gastric pellets.

Then again, I thought as I pocketed the phone again, werewolf digestion could be different from that of natural wolves, couldn’t it? Was it possible that werewolves, I don’t know, spat out their undigested food when they changed back into human form? I had no idea. I was still learning about the magic in my own blood, much less werewolf physiology.

I ran out of ideas after that, and the exhaustion began to catch up with me. I even dozed off for a little while on the black leather bench, but I woke up in a hurry when I heard a familiar voice barking out my name.

“Allison Luther,” said Detective Keller’s snide voice, “shouldn’t you be in handcuffs?”

My eyes flew open. Keller hovered over me on the bench, holding a paper coffee cup with “Espresso Roma” printed on the side. He was a balding, tight-lipped man on the wrong side of forty, and he’d had the misfortune of being the officer in charge both times I was arrested. He’d also been on the receiving end of my father’s unasked-for lawyer. Twice. To say he had it in for me would be a hilarious understatement.

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