Home > Boundary Broken (Boundary Magic #4)(16)

Boundary Broken (Boundary Magic #4)(16)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“Technically,” I said, “they just told me to stay away from the problem. One could interpret that geographically.”

Quinn started to protest, and I held up a hand. “Don’t worry. Right now, the witches are just talking. From what I understand, binding another witch’s magic would require help from out of state, and that takes time. I’m not going to do anything crazy tonight.”

He relaxed a little, but said, “You know we have to go fill Maven in on all of this, right?”

“Yeah.” I checked my watch: one thirty in the morning. Driving back into Boulder wasn’t exactly appealing after so many hours in the car, but Maven had a thing about discussing sensitive stuff on the phone. I thought she was a little paranoid, but Quinn had once pointed out that she’d been around when telephones were first invented—and when the only way to talk was on a party line.

I looked down at myself and wrinkled my nose. “I’d like to clean up first, though, so I don’t stink of werewolf blood.”

“Good idea.” His voice was carefully mild, but he was obviously relieved I’d suggested it first. Men.

“I also haven’t had a chance to look at those files Maven sent.”

He nodded. “Why don’t I go talk to Maven, and you stay and look at the files? If she needs time to think, I’ll just come back here. If she has something else for us tonight, you can meet me in town.”

“We only have one car here.” He’d driven Maven’s Jeep. Since I wasn’t about to drive the dead couple’s vehicle either, it was the only vehicle I could use.

He grinned. “I’ll take the bike.”

Quinn had spent most of his spare time over the summer restoring an old BMW motorcycle—there were advantages to months with no Old World violence—which now resided in my garage. We’d gone for a few leisurely rides during the warmer months, but it was way too cold for me to take it anywhere now.

Vampires weren’t bothered by low temperatures, though, and the idea clearly appealed to him. “Wear gloves,” I warned him. “And your helmet.”

Quinn wrinkled his nose. “I know,” I said before he could argue, “you can survive a crash. But riding bareheaded on a motorcycle when it’s twenty degrees outside does not scream ‘I’m passing as a normal human.’”

He smiled. “You’re not wrong.”

After Quinn left for the coffee shop, I went back into the bathroom, took off my shirt and sports bra, and scrubbed off every speck of red I could find with a washcloth. I didn’t find any blood on my jeans, but I changed into a new pair just in case, taking care to replace the holster at the small of my back and secure the revolver. I wasn’t going anywhere without silver bullets until we figured out who had killed Dunn and the others.

Back in the kitchen, I held a fresh ice pack to my forehead as I pulled the files out of the drawer. I spread them over the table, choosing Keith Zimmerman’s folder first. There was a photo of him attached to the inside of the cover, and it looked like an employee ID photo: Keith smiling a little awkwardly, wearing a red polo shirt embroidered with the logo of a shipping company. Keith, I read, was currently middle management at Sierra Trading Post, a Cheyenne-based retailer for outdoor gear and exercise equipment. Before that, he’d been an engineer with the Wyoming Department of Transportation. It seemed like an odd career change, but as I understood it, a lot of werewolves had to switch jobs after being turned. Something to do with the change in their temperament.

Scanning the file, I found several typed pages of biography, a few more photos, and a newspaper article about an attack on a campsite near Yellowstone—probably how he had been turned into a werewolf. I had once asked Maven how Trask had built up his pack so quickly, and she’d said soberly that in addition to absorbing existing packs, he and his people “recruited” at popular public campgrounds. Becoming a werewolf was an excruciating, life-altering event that left you reliant on the pack for physical, emotional, and often financial support. An unscrupulous alpha could target anyone he wanted and they would be entirely dependent on him.

According to the article, Keith had been turned only five years earlier, so he would never have met Trask. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of Trask’s people were still engaging in his “recruitment” methods in Wyoming. There just wasn’t much I could do about it.

Other than that, there wasn’t a lot to the file, and I found myself setting it aside. Keith had no history of violence or conflict within the pack. In the file—and when I’d met him—he came off as a boring middle manager who’d adopted the same position in the pack as he filled in life. It made sense that he’d come looking for Mary, a more dominant wolf, after she’d slipped off the radar. I was still pissed about him attacking me in my home, but it was probably the bravest thing he’d ever done.

It didn’t take long to skim through the rest of the files. Finn Barlow was the newest pack member, a huge, muscular man who looked like he’d been rejected from the WWE for scaring the other wrestlers. When I read through the bio, though, I saw that he was also an ex-marine, a friend of Dunn’s from Minnesota. Barlow had been diagnosed with fast-progressing ALS before he was forty. There was a Minneapolis police report of a suicide attempt; then he’d seemingly left his home state, turning up in Cheyenne a few months later as a healthy man who’d received a false diagnosis.

It was so easy to read between the lines that Maven’s investigator hadn’t bothered to spell it out: Dunn had changed Barlow to save his life. I frowned. That didn’t mesh well with the theory that he’d murdered the alpha . . . unless maybe the werewolf magic had driven him insane? He was big enough to take out the Ventimiglias, and trained in combat, vehicle mechanics, and weapons. Was it possible he’d arranged things this way so the rest of the pack wouldn’t know he had betrayed the alpha?

I set that folder to one side to show Quinn and flipped through the rest. None of the other pack members seemed to scream “murder suspect.” Alex Elliott was the other person I had seen, but not officially met, during the sandworm incident. Alex was nonbinary, an accountant for Dunn’s construction company. The included photo showed a cool, assessing gaze, and once again, their bio spoke of infinite loyalty to Ryan Dunn. Alex was not a great candidate either.

The last two pack members, Nicolette Wan and Lindsay Magner, had been brand-new werewolves at the time of the sandworm attack, so they hadn’t accompanied the others to Boulder. They were both twenty-year-old college students at the University of Wyoming who’d been turned while on a mission trip to Costa Rica. After taking two years off to adjust, both women were now trying to finish their degrees, although Lindsay had switched from animal studies to ecosystem science, probably because most animals would be terrified of her. Nicolette and Lindsay were sharing an apartment in Cheyenne, commuting to classes in Laramie. If either of them had killed Dunn, I would eat the stack of files.

Which left Mary. I still didn’t think she could have anything to do with the murders, but I took a look at her file anyway, out of simple curiosity. Mary had moved to Wyoming from Houston, where she’d spent her early twenties partying and experimenting with drugs. As a human, she had a few arrests for possession, and there were photos of her copied from another arrest record—the werewolf boyfriend who’d regularly beaten the shit out of her.

Mary’s story just got worse from there, and even under current circumstances I felt guilty about reading her file. On the other hand, I thought I might now understand why Mary had taken a liking to Simon, enough to save him from the sandworm. He was the spitting image of her brother, who’d died trying to save her from her abuser.

There was nothing in the file to make me think Mary had the slightest interest in hurting Dunn, though.

I picked up my cell to call Quinn, but before I could even unlock the phone, the dogs abruptly went nuts—barking furiously and swarming the front door. I stood up and started toward them, in no particular hurry—they freaked out several times a day over squirrels, and vampires or werewolves were capable of sneaking up on them. “Guys, come on—” I began, but then I saw a folded piece of neon-green paper slide under the door.

Chapter 15

Without looking at the note, I waded through the dogs, flipped on the exterior light, and flung the door open. Big wet snowflakes were still falling, so all I could really see was a dark outline moving quickly away from the house. “Stop!” I yelled, pushing open the exterior door so I could follow. I made a belated effort to block the dogs, but four of them nearly trampled each other to race outside after the intruder. I cursed and sprinted after them, my bare feet instantly freezing on the fresh snow. I was fast, but the dogs were faster, and in seconds I heard a girlish scream as they overtook the trespasser.

“No!” The figure stopped and held up their hands like this was a gunfight on television. The gesture only excited the dogs, who thought they were being offered a treat. Tails wagging frantically, they began to jump up on the newcomer, trying to reach the raised hands. The revolver was in my hand, but I kept it pointed at the ground, my finger out of the trigger guard. The dogs would have reacted very differently if the intruder were a werewolf.

“Please,” a woman’s voice begged. “Call them off. I give up!”

She sounded so terrified that I actually felt sorry for her—and I wanted to get the hell back inside the house and get some shoes. “Chip, Cody!” I shouted, skidding to a halt twenty feet away. “Come here!” The two lab mixes were the ringleaders when it came to security.

A little begrudgingly, the two big dogs turned and trotted back toward me. Pongo, my black-and-white mutt, gave the woman’s legs one last sniff and followed the others back toward me. “Now turn around,” I yelled, trying to look dignified while hopping from one foot to the other. Holy crap, my feet were cold.

She pivoted slowly, but I still couldn’t make out her features. Her head was tilted toward the ground, where Stitch, the enormous new foster, remained at her side, gazing up at her with his tail wagging happily.

“Is it going to bite me?” she asked fearfully.

“Of course not,” I said, a little exasperated. “Put your hands down; he thinks you’ve got a treat.” I didn’t actually say you idiot, but it was kind of implied.

“Oh.” Sheepishly, she crossed her arms protectively over her chest. Without being told, she began trudging back toward me. Stitch danced at her side, his tongue lolling out one side of his mouth.

The voice hadn’t been familiar, but when she reached the glow of the front security light, I could see that she was petite and Chinese-American, dressed in an expensive knee-length quilted coat. Her glossy black hair flowed out from under a snow-dotted ski cap that perfectly complemented the coat.

And I knew her.

“Tracy?” I asked, genuinely shocked. The young witch was a member of Clan Pellar—and Simon’s ex-girlfriend. In the years since I’d learned about the Old World, we’d probably exchanged twenty words, all of them variations on “hello.” I’d gotten the impression that she was frightened of me. Now she was on my doorstep in a burgundy winter parka, looking like she was about to cry. “It’s two thirty in the morning. What are you doing here?” I asked, holstering the revolver. This woman was not going to hurt me.

   
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