Tracking the Tempest (Jane True #2) - Page 30


Finally, the barghest broke the silence. “Have you uncovered any recent leads on your murders?”


Ryu sighed. “We had a lead but Conleth beat us to it.”


I blanched. “Is Hampton dead?”


Ryu nodded. “He was still smoldering when we got there.”


“How the hell did Conleth find him?”


“Silver's missing,” Ryu replied. “As are the people we had watching his house.”


I looked down at my hands, shocked. Everyone so far who Conleth had killed had been just pieces of paper or photos for me. I'd had a drink with Silver. He'd seemed like a nice man. Well, except for the bit where he kept children prisoner for the government.


“And as far as the murders in Chicago are concerned, we're fucked as far as getting info on them. Julian's working on finding recent fire-related deaths in their police records, but…” Ryu shrugged. “There's only so much info we can get from the Borderlands.”


Anyan gave Ryu a long look, as if weighing his options. Finally, he spoke.


“You get me some names and I'll see what I can do.”


His eyes narrowing as his lips pursed, Ryu stared at the barghest. “Are you telling me you have contacts inside the Borderlands?”


Anyan merely shrugged.


“Do our king and queen know of this?” Ryu demanded angrily. “If you know things we don't—”


“Cool your britches, baobhan sith,” the barghest replied. “I haven't kept anything that needs to be known from anyone. My life is my own,” he growled, clearly ending Ryu's line of inquiry.


Amen to having our own lives, I thought, thinking about how I kept getting uprooted. Ryu, however, was far less pleased with Anyan's response than I was, and he glowered at the barghest from the other side of the table.


Always eager to ease tension, I asked Anyan about chasing Conleth. For my efforts, I got a strangely sad smile and then everything that happened after Conleth attacked us in Rockabill. There'd been lots of chasing, a few fights, and finally Anyan had tracked the ifrit halfling down to a squat here in the Boston area. Con had fled, not to return. But at least we now knew where he'd been living.


After Anyan finished, he and Ryu built up how they thought Con had ended up in Maine in the first place.


They figured he'd attacked us in the garden, assuming I was just another human “dinner companion” of Ryu's. Might I add that I managed to keep my face beautifully reposed at this hypothesis. Anyway, when I helped Ryu with his shields and Con saw I was a supe, he'd become interested and hacked Ryu's computer. Apparently, Ryu had downloaded a junk mail game called Elf Bowling, which had contained a malware virus thingy that had eaten into his computer and left a bunch of hardware that spied. Or spyware. Or something. Ryu's explanation, probably originally explained by Julian, was garbled, but I tuned out the minute he started with the jargon, anyway. In my defense, when I'd looked over at Anyan, he was staring out the window like a math major in freshman composition.


A few days after Con had discovered where I

lived, he'd set off for Rockabill.


“He must really want to get to me,” Ryu said ruefully, “to attack you like that. I'm sorry, baby.” He raised my hands to his lips to kiss my palm, but was interrupted by a contemptuous grunt from the barghest.


“Oh, he's not interested in you, baobhan sith.”


Ryu frowned. “What do you mean by that?”


“You never asked what I found in the squat.”


My lover's eyes narrowed. “Don't be cryptic. What did you find?”


The barghest stood up. “You'll have to see it to believe it. We might as well get this out of the way.” Anyan turned to me, his face gentling. “Jane, this is going to freak you right the hell out. But I'd rather you see it yourself, see how serious it is. And you'll be safe. I'll be there, and Ryu's team's already there. I called Caleb earlier.” Ryu frowned, clearly ticked off at Anyan's intervention with his own men, but the barghest paid no mind.


“Ready?” he asked, standing up.


“No,” I answered, very honestly. “But let's get this over with.”


For, while I wasn't sure what “this” was exactly, I knew it couldn't be good.


* * *


The squat was in Southie, in an abandoned tenement. Anyan was behind us, on a beautifully refurbished Indian motorcycle that I really wanted to get a closer look at.


I was peering back at the barghest in my side mirror when Ryu suddenly lurched the car forward, then backward, and then I swear he made it go directly sideways into a parking spot that would have given a kindergartner on a tricycle trouble. I considered barfing on him to clarify my opinion of his driving. But just then my door was opened, and I was confronted by an enormous penis.


Eventually, the penis moved aside and a large hand descended to help me out of the car.


Caleb, I thought.


“Pants,” I muttered.


“Hmmm?” the being connected to the schlong asked politely.


“Nothing,” I replied, telling myself that if he was comfortable with the Platonic ideal of going commando, then it was his genitalia and I could get over my human prudishness. So I took the goat-man's hand and let him help me out of the car.


He smiled at me benevolently and I decided I liked him. Until I slipped on a patch of ice, reached out to steady myself, and put my hand directly on his crotch. Horrified at making contact with bare flesh, I let go before I could steady myself… and promptly fell forward, planting my face directly into the concrete sidewalk.


“Jane!” Ryu barked, as four strong sets of hands lifted me off the ground.


My nose was bleeding and I was seeing stars. They wound their way around the concerned faces of Ryu, Anyan, and Caleb, who reached out to grab my nose with a warm burst of healing magic. The fourth set of hands must have belonged to Daoud, who was grinning at me like a jack-o'-lantern and pressing a clean, white handkerchief to my chin to catch the blood streaming down my face. I didn't want to know where the handkerchief had come from.


“Are you all right? What happened?” I peered

at Ryu over Caleb's fingers.


“Apron,” I mumbled, my mouth partially covered by the satyr's palm. “Or a loincloth…”


Daoud was openly laughing now, but Ryu still looked confused. I realized he'd been on the other side of the car and hadn't seen what happened.


“What?”


Daoud clapped a hand on Ryu's back. “She's fine, sir. She got distracted by the size of Caleb's… horns. That's all.”


Ryu gave me a funny look as I shot Daoud an eyeball so hairy it would make a chinchilla envious.


“All better,” Caleb interrupted.


I muttered an embarrassed, “Thank you,” unable to meet his eyes.


“Well, then, let's get going, shall we?” Ryu suggested, putting a strong arm around my waist. “On both feet this time, Jane?” he murmured in my ear, earning himself an elbow in the ribs.


We walked up to the main door, where Anyan waited. Then we all walked upstairs. The barghest led us to an apartment on the third floor and then put a hand on my shoulder.


“Remember, Jane,” Anyan said, “we're all here. And that all of this is in Con's head. You haven't done anything.”


I nodded, my stomach falling. I really didn't want to go in there.


But I did; we did. Anyan first, then Daoud, then Ryu and I, his arm wrapped protectively around my waist. For once, I was glad of the possessiveness that often irked me. Caleb followed, and I was happy to have him at my back.


What greeted me wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be. Partly, I was distracted by how sad Con's life was. I now understood why they called squats “squats.” There was a filthy mattress in a corner, and a battered lawn chair, but that was it for furniture. Whatever clothes Con owned must have been with him, for there were only a few old T-shirts and a pair of discarded, very unclean-looking boxers. From the litter on the floor, it appeared that Con lived on cheap junk food, probably stolen.


That said, I should probably have been more freaked out. For decorating the walls were pictures of me. They'd been printed on a shitty printer, on regular paper, but they were clear enough. I saw, among them, the same photos from Ryu's digital picture frame, only none of the ones with him were present. Taped to the wall above the dirty mattress were the pictures I'd seen of me sleeping and me sticking my tongue out while sitting on the cathedral steps.


“It's not Ryu he wants. It's you,” Anyan said from the side of me unclaimed by a very perturbed vampire. “You okay?”


I looked up at him. “Yeah,” I said. “It's not as bad as it could be. I thought things would be… stickier. Photos just hanging there I can handle.”


Anyan smiled at me and his hand raised as if to stroke my hair, but he stopped. Not least because Ryu had tugged me closer and away.


I pulled myself out of the clutches of Mr. Jealous Pants and turned back toward Anyan.


“But I don't get it. Why me?”