Home > Boundary Broken (Boundary Magic #4)(8)

Boundary Broken (Boundary Magic #4)(8)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

The two werewolves shifted their feet around, and Dunn let out a low whine. I thought I understood—they didn’t want to tear up the body with their claws. I looked at Simon. “You think you can help me lift him out?”

He gave me a grim nod. We each crouched down and took hold of a wrist, pulling gently as the wolves paced around us. The body was in rigor mortis and Matt had been heavily muscled, so it felt like trying to yank a boulder out of quicksand.

When the dune finally relinquished its prize, Simon and I nearly fell over. Matt’s body was naked, frozen in a more or less prone position, with a thick layer of sand matted on his chest. Simon crouched down, using his gloved hand to brush at the sand on Matt’s chest. It came away reddish, and Simon peered closer.

“I think this is a bullet hole,” he reported, looking up at me.

“A lead bullet?” I asked, without much hope. I just really wanted this to be a random crime. Anything else was going to be a political nightmare for Maven.

Simon shook his head, of course. “A regular gunshot would have healed before they died. This was silver.”

Next to him, Dunn let out a low growl of anger. Mary, who had been nosing around the hole left by the body, gave a sort of yip. We turned, looking in the hole, and I could see a small patch of purple fabric that had been uncovered when we’d lifted the body. “Cammie?” Simon asked, following my gaze.

“I think so.”

We repeated the excavating process. The sand was still fairly loose, and it didn’t take long to pull out Cammie’s body and lay it beside her husband’s. Unlike Matt, she had been wearing clothes: a dark purple windbreaker and jeans. She had a bullet wound too, but she had been shot in the head.

When the two bodies were side by side, the werewolves moved in, sniffing and nosing at their packmates with an air of mourning. Simon and I fell back to give them space. Simon collapsed on the ground to rest, and I let myself drop down beside him. Everything I was wearing was already full of sand; more wouldn’t make a difference.

We took a moment to drink some water and eat an energy bar. “Do you think we were meant to find them?” Simon asked me, still chewing.

It was a good question. “Impossible to know,” I said, after thinking it over. “If they were in a hurry, they might have made the grave shallow by necessity. It’s also possible this grave wasn’t shallow last night, if the winds changed and were strong enough. There are too many variables.”

Dunn and Mary finally backed away from the bodies, and Dunn’s massive head swung to look first at me, then in the direction we’d come from. Swallowing a sigh, I nodded and stood up. It was a long walk back to the parking lot. “Let’s get them on the sleds.”

Simon and I tied the bodies onto the sleds with some parachute cord from my backpack. Dunn and Mary both paced around us as we fumbled with the ropes, letting out the occasional short snarl as we bumped or pushed at the bodies. They were fairly terrifying, but I had gotten used to being around them, and managed to sound calm when I told Dunn there was no other way to get Matt and Cammie back. This seemed to pacify him, at least enough to stop snarling.

When we were finished, Matt’s legs hung over the side of his sled, but there just wasn’t any way to fit all of him on without mutilating the body. I removed my coat and my sand-smeared long-sleeved shirt. Shivering in a tank top, I quickly put the coat back on and wrapped the long-sleeved shirt over Matt’s lower body, tucking the sleeves under so it would cover his groin. It was a little silly, but it was the only respectful thing I could think to do for him. Without a word, Simon did the same thing, taking off his own button-down shirt and tying it around Matt’s legs where they extended past the sled. The shirt would be ruined, but at least his legs wouldn’t get cut up by the sand.

We made a sad processional back through the dunes: Dunn in the lead, followed by two humans pulling sleds with corpses on them, and Mary bringing up the rear. My entire body was exhausted, like after a particularly grueling workout—and I was in good physical condition. Simon got a lot less exercise than I did, and I couldn’t imagine how he must be feeling. He walked in front of me, and whenever he started to stagger, I called for a short break and some water. Dunn gave me a pointed look each time, but I didn’t care. If Simon dropped from exhaustion, there was no way I’d be able to bring him, Matt, and Cammie across the dunes by myself.

It seemed to take us hours to reach the dry creek bed, but at last we came over a crest and I saw the glint of sunshine on small ice patches. I sighed with relief. There wasn’t another car or person in sight, so Simon’s ward was holding up.

By the time we tramped across the expanse of wet sand, my legs had started to tremble with exhaustion, but at last we reached the willow trees. Simon and I left the sand sleds there for the moment and went to collapse against the Jeep while we waited for the werewolves to change.

I glanced around the parking lot, trying to spot any video cameras. I didn’t know much about the security systems at the national parks, but it certainly seemed possible they kept surveillance on the lot. “Do you have enough juice to do that security camera thing?” I asked Simon. “Before we bring the bodies closer?”

He sighed. “Maybe?” Leaning against the car for support, he struggled to his feet. “If I can walk that far on my jelly legs.”

“Thank you!” I called as he trudged toward the center of the lot. One of Simon’s trades witch spells was a hex that would short out video cameras in about a one-block diameter. Because it was delicate—“fussy,” according to Lily—it would last only about half an hour. But we would be gone by then anyway.

The sound of painful cries from nonhuman throats began in the willows, and a few minutes later Simon was back, dropping down beside me on the asphalt. “So,” he said in a low voice, “ “who do you think killed them?”

I shook my head, wanting to be careful. I doubted the werewolves could hear us at the moment, but I wouldn’t take chances. “I don’t know. But whoever it was knew the wolves would be here, and I’m guessing that’s not a long list.”

We fell silent, too tired to talk, though we both stripped off the goggles, hats, and scarves now that the Jeep blocked the wind.

Eventually Dunn and Mary emerged from the willows, wearing the same loose, disposable clothes as before. Dunn was composed, but Mary’s face was clouded over with anger. She stalked straight toward me, towering over me with her hands on her hips. I was still exhausted and didn’t want to stand, so I just tilted my head back to look at her. “Who did this?” she demanded.

I blinked. “How would I know? I didn’t even know wolves were in Colorado until you showed up at my house.” I was tempted to say broke into my house, but it wasn’t the time.

“Did you smell anyone else out there?” Simon asked mildly.

Dunn answered first. “Yes and no. Whoever buried them had on too many layers—all I could smell was rubber and the kinds of durable fabrics commonly found in outdoor clothing. I might be able to recognize that exact combination of fabrics again, but if he’s smart, he’ll dump the clothes right away.”

Mary pursed her lips, not ready to drop the subject, but Dunn raised his hands. His eyes were weary and sad. He was the alpha; Matt and Cammie were his responsibility. From his perspective, he’d failed them. “We can argue about who killed them later,” he said tiredly. He shot Mary a look and promised, “And we will.” Turning back to me, he added, “But right now we need to get them back to Cheyenne for a proper burial.”

Mary’s shoulders slumped, and as she turned away, her eyes were wet. “This is bullshit,” she muttered, to no one in particular. I didn’t hold it against her. If I were in her position, I’d be looking for someone to yell at too.

Dunn carried each of the bodies carefully to his Forester. Mary climbed in the back, and the two of them gently maneuvered the bodies into place. Simon and I stayed on the ground, leaning against the Jeep. The werewolves didn’t seem to need any help, and at the moment I wasn’t sure we could have mustered the energy to lift a bottle of water.

When they were finished, Mary stayed in the Subaru, emptying Cammie’s pockets, although I couldn’t see what she’d found. Dunn came over to stand in front of us. “Are you sure about this?” I asked Dunn, eyeing the Forester. “If you get pulled over for something . . .”

He gave me a wan smile. “We’ll wrap them in a tarp, but we need to get them home.”

I nodded slowly. It seemed like a huge risk, transporting the bodies so far, but I didn’t have a better idea. There was a hidden compartment in the Jeep that could hold a body, but not two, and not in rigor mortis.

Mary hopped down from the Forester, holding what looked like a hotel room key card and the keys to the truck, which she jingled, frowning. “Why leave the truck here?”

Dunn looked thoughtful. “It does suggest he wanted us to go out there and look for them.”

“Or it could just be that he forgot to take the keys out of Cammie’s pocket before he buried them,” Simon pointed out. “Or there’s only one killer, and he didn’t want to take the time to move the truck and come back for his own vehicle.”

The alpha werewolf nodded. “When we get back to Cheyenne, we’ll take a closer look inside, see if we can find anything.” He looked at Mary. “We should get going. You drive the truck; I’ll take the Forester.”

Mary tightened her fist around the key ring but didn’t move. “I should drive the Forester. You’re alpha; if you get pulled over with bodies in the back—”

“My pack, my call,” Dunn broke in, in a voice that left no room for argument. He stepped closer to Mary and rested his hand on her cheek for a moment. “I’ll see you back home,” he promised. “Go on.”

Mary started toward the truck, but I called after her. “Where were they staying?”

She turned and gave me a perplexed look, and I added, “The hotel key? Where were they planning to spend the night?”

“Oh.” She reached for the key card, which she’d shoved in the pocket of her cutoff sweatpants, and examined it. “The Holiday Inn in Alamosa,” she said.

“Why? What are you thinking?” Dunn asked me.

“I’m thinking there’s no way in hell Simon and I can make the drive back without rest, and I would deeply love a shower. He and I can go to the Holiday Inn and get our own rooms. While we’re there we can pick up Matt and Cammie’s stuff.”

“I can just call there and have them ship it back up to Cheyenne,” he pointed out, but there was interest in his eyes.

I shrugged. “If you’d rather. But if we’re stopping anyway, we might as well clean it out for you.”

Dunn nodded again, meeting my eyes. I didn’t know a ton about wolves, but I’d been careful not to stare at him in a challenging way. It was a lot easier to make eye contact when I was sitting on the ground and he was standing. “Appreciate it.”

   
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