Dead Heat Page 53

“FBI Special Agent Leslie Fisher,” said Leslie as Dr. Vaughn came into the room and put a photo on the table with an air of quiet triumph.

“Anna Smith,” said Anna, staring at the photo of two small children trying to tug a rope from an enormous black animal, “special consultant. And that is a werewolf.”

Charles sat in the front passenger seat, since Leeds had taken one look at him trying to fit in the back and said, “Hey, man, that is just not going to happen, is it? No worries, I’ll catch the backseat.”

Charles wasn’t thrilled with having a stranger behind him, but even Brother Wolf couldn’t make that man feel like a threat, so he figured it would be okay. He didn’t like Marsden’s driving, either. He drove too fast and he didn’t have a werewolf’s reflexes. But if there was a wreck, Charles figured that he, at least, would walk away, so he kept his comments to himself.

“So we’ve concentrated our efforts in Scottsdale because Leeds thinks that this fae probably doesn’t have a huge hunting ground. The ones that steal children tend to get attached to one place even more than the usual fae.”

He waited, so Charles said, “It sounds like a reasonable way to make an impossibly big search smaller.”

“Okay,” Marsden said. “The first place we’re going is a foster home to visit with a fourteen-year-old girl. The girl’s parents gave her up to the state, said they couldn’t deal with her anymore. Claimed she was possessed, things flying around the room with no one touching them, which is why we are visiting even though she’s older than the girl who was taken. Her parents said she was dangerous, but the counselor who gave us this one said she was uncommunicative but showed no signs of violence. The foster mom says we’re okay to talk to her as long as we do it with the foster mom in the room.”

“Why isn’t she in school?” asked Charles.

“Yeah,” Marsden agreed. “I don’t know. But we’ll ask.”

The house they drove to looked pretty much like all the rest of the houses on the street. This was not an upscale neighborhood, but it wasn’t poor, either.

The woman who met them at the door was a human in her midfifties, if Charles was any judge. She introduced herself as Judy White, examined Marsden’s and Leeds’s badges, and frowned at Charles. She wasn’t unhappy about them, but she was careful.

“Consultant,” said Leeds. “No official ID.”

She looked grim. Grimmer. But just nodded. “Blair’s not going to talk to any of you,” she said. “She came here two weeks ago and she hasn’t spoken a word to anyone. She doesn’t eat much. If I could have a word with her parents…” She sucked in a breath. “Well, don’t stand out here. Come in.”

She led them into a house that smelled of … Charles shut his eyes to get a deep breath. Cookies, recently baked. Fresh homemade bread. A man, a woman, three children, and someone in between; that would be the girl they were looking for. Sorrow. This house had seen a lot of sorrow, but there was a warmth to it, too. Nothing smelled like the fetch, which had carried hints of greenwood, magic, and darkness.

He shut the door behind him and tried not to feel like an invading giant when the woman led them to a room with two couches and a couple of those soft squishy chairs, the kind that could unfold with footrests. Charles would let himself be shot before he sat in one of those. They always felt like they were trying to swallow him, and they were impossible to get out of quickly.

He was still trying to decide where to sit when the woman brought in a tall girl of about fourteen wearing clothes that would fit a woman twice her size. She didn’t look at any of them, just sat on the edge of one of the person-swallowing chairs, a pale-skinned, pale-haired girl who was little more than skin and bones. The word that occurred to him wasn’t “starving” but “fading.” This was why no one sent her to school. Even blind humans must be able to tell that she was mostly gone already.

Judy White introduced Marsden and Leeds but made no mention of Charles—and he was fine with that. He watched as Marsden and Leeds did a fair job of good cop/bad cop, Leeds unexpectedly playing bad cop. The girl saw them all right, but she said not a word and gave no reaction to anything they said.

She is abandoned, something whispered in his left ear. Into his right, something else said, Her true name is sorrow.

He did not always act upon the things the spirits told him. They were interested in this girl. They hovered unseen, even by him, in the air around her.

She could be anger, they told him. She could be vengeance, for she has much to be angry about, much to avenge. Those who should have cared for her acted for themselves when they rightly should have acted for her. She has been much sinned against.

This, he thought, this half child, half woman was where the sorrow that was trying to enfold this house was coming from. He’d told the Cantrip agents he wouldn’t talk, but he couldn’t let this lie. Someone needed to help her before she chose to leave this existence. He had the sure feeling that she would be needed somewhere in the future, that terrible things would happen without her. But that was not why he chose to act. Brother Wolf liked her.

He knelt on the floor at her feet, interrupting Marsden trying to coax her to speak. Judy White leaned forward as if she would have put herself between them, then paused as she realized this was no attack.

Tempering his usual fierceness not at all, Brother Wolf said, “Little sister. What makes your eyes weep with dry tears and your bold heart ache with pain? What service can we do for you? We will stand for you in any way you need us.” And because it was Brother Wolf speaking, Charles felt the words reach through the barriers she had erected between herself and the world.

She blinked at him, and no one in the room said anything as he waited for her to speak.

She cleared her throat. “I’m not your sister,” she said hoarsely.

But she was confused, not reputing them, so Charles and his wolf waited. They were here to serve her, not to pull information from her, not to take. Too many people had already taken from her.

“My baby,” she said, finally. “They made me … and I thought, what could I do with a baby? Her father didn’t want her and my parents didn’t want her. So I let them. I should have stopped them. I should have protected her. She didn’t have anyone else. She’s dead, she’s dead before she had a chance to be born and no one cares. They wanted to pretend that nothing was wrong.”

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