Aftermath Page 2

“He’s our number one suspect,” Ethan said. “Wait—replace number one with only. Only suspect.”

Adne smiled, but her eyes remained worried. “Why did he want those books?”

“What were they about?” Connor asked. He’d picked up pieces of a broken vase and was entertaining himself by trying to fit them back together.

“That’s what worries me,” Adne said. “They were about the Keepers’ heritage. Family lines. Legacies.”

“You’re worried because Logan’s checking out his family tree?” Sabine asked. “Maybe he’s just lonely. After all, he’s the only Keeper left, right?”

“No, he’s not.” Ethan frowned. “There are a few younger Keepers still scattered around the world. They’ve gone into hiding, trying to prevent us from tracking them down. Though it’s sort of a moot point. I think they’re more paranoid about us finding them than we’re interested in hunting them. They’re harmless now. Just humans dabbling in the dark arts.”

“Exactly,” Adne said.

Connor dropped the vase fragments. They broke into even smaller pieces when they hit the floor. “I think you skipped a few steps. I didn’t get a resolution from that conversation.”

Adne smiled. “Sorry. I mean that the younger Keepers, who didn’t end up as withered husks because they weren’t living on borrowed time like Lumine Nightshade, are still out there. But they don’t have power—at least, not power like they used to.”

“You think Logan wants to get it back.” Sabine ground her teeth.

“Maybe . . . probably,” Adne said. “The books that are missing aren’t only family trees. They recount the origins of the Keepers.”

“Hmm,” Connor said. “Oh . . . uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh is an understatement.” Ethan fingered the hilt of the dagger belted at his waist.

Sabine asked, “Can he do it? Find a way to restore their power?”

Adne rubbed her temples, suddenly looking weary. “I don’t know and I’m not sure how we find out. Logan took the books that hold the clues we need.”

“But we do have this.” Connor produced a small wooden box from inside his long leather duster. “Check it out.”

“What’s that?” Sabine asked. She took the box from him, since Adne’s head was still bowed. The box was intricately carved of ebony wood, and it was locked.

“We took this off the thief we did manage to catch,” Connor said. “It was the only thing he was carrying. The other guy had the books.”

“Hmm.” Sabine ran her fingers over the patterns and deep grooves of the wood. “I wonder what’s inside.”

“Let’s find out,” Connor said. He snatched the box out of Sabine’s hands and picked the lock. He opened it, peered inside, and frowned.

“Give it here.” Adne reached up and Connor handed it to her.

Adne gave a little gasp. “Oh!”

“What is it?” Sabine peered over her shoulder.

Within the box lay a torn sheaf of paper, a small, oddly shaped white stone, a pair of gold rings, and a pendant.

Sabine reached inside and picked up the rings. “They’re engraved on the inside of the bands.” She peered at the tiny markings. “A. Hart, E. Morrow. Amor et fidelitas.”

“Love and loyalty,” Adne murmured. “Wedding rings?”

“That’d be my guess,” Sabine said.

“Women.” Ethan reached over Sabine and grabbed the piece of paper. “Going for the jewelry before the evidence!”

Sabine elbowed him. “The jewelry is evidence.”

“Right.” Ethan winked at her before reading the faded ink. “Alistair Hart Nightshade, 1388–1666, Great Fire of London.”

“That’s weird.” Adne took the paper from Ethan, turning it over in her hands.

“You mean that he died at age 278?” Connor asked. “I’d say that’s par for the course in our line of work.”

“No,” Adne said. “I mean that the stuff in the box is way older than this note. This is paper, not the parchment they would have used in the Middle Ages.”

She held the paper up to the light. “I think it’s signed on the back, but the ink is really hard to make out. Wait . . . yeah . . . here’s the name. C. Nightshade, 1859. Oh great.”

“What?” Sabine asked.

“That has to be Cameron Nightshade,” Adne said. “He built this place. Rowan Estate is named after his wife. He came over from England in the eighteenth century, she showed up a little later—they were the first Keepers in North America.”

“Are you jockeying for Silas’s old job?” Connor asked. “What’s up with the history lesson?”

Adne stuck her tongue out at him. “I just happened to spend some time reading the books I was cataloging and not trying to get out of my responsibilities . . . like some people I know.”

Connor shrugged. “I’d rather be out in the field than in a musty old room.”

“It wasn’t musty until all the shelves were obliterated,” Adne said.

“So Cameron left a note in Alistair’s box?” Sabine asked.

Adne nodded. “If I’m remembering right, Cameron was Alistair’s son.”

“But why would Logan care about this stuff?” Ethan reached into the box, picking up the small white stone. “And what the hell is this white rock doing in here?”

Sabine took a closer look at the object and began to laugh.

Ethan threw her a sidelong glance. “What?”

“That’s not a rock,” she said. “It’s a knuckle bone.”

“Gah!” Ethan dropped the bone. Fortunately, Adne shoved the box out in time to catch it.

“Why would anyone keep a bone in there?” Ethan said, rubbing his hands on his coat.

“It was a thing,” Adne said. “Usually it was only for saints and other famous types, but the bones of the dead were thought to have great power . . . that’s more bad news for us.”

“You think Logan wanted this stuff to work some nasty mojo?” Connor asked.

“I’d say that’s a safe bet.” Adne picked up the pendant. “This is a lot prettier than the bone.”

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