Priceless(Rylee Adamson #1)(9) by Shannon Mayer
Believing Alex, I got dressed, then bundled him into the Jeep and headed to the front desk to check out. Sure, it was four in the morning, but I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, wondering who exactly was trying to break into my room. I might not be able to be turned into a werewolf, that didn’t mean that they couldn’t still rip me to shreds.
“Alex, stay.” I raised my hand to him and then went to the back of the Jeep. Digging around in the back seat I found his collar. It was a simple, wide leather collar with two diamonds in the top. Yes, I said diamonds, and yes the collar had cost me a bundle, but it was worth it. The diamonds were part of the spell woven into the collar to keep people from seeing him for what he truly was.
Another pang centered around my heart. Milly was such a huge part of my life, how was I going to do all I needed to without her help? Again, I shook off those thoughts and fingered the collar. Once on Alex, all the average person saw was a very large black dog of indiscriminate breeding. Others, those who could see through the veil, saw him for what he was, but most of them wouldn’t point fingers for fear of being pointed at themselves.
Slipping the collar over his big head I said, “Now, while you’re with me, you don’t leave my side, not for an instant. Got it?”
Alex nodded and crossed his heart with a big claw. I laughed. Some days he seemed so human. It broke my heart a little to see him trapped like this, knowing there was no way out for him.
I shook off my melancholy and walked down to the office, Alex tight against my leg. He was very literal, which was always good to remember.
The office was quiet when I stepped in, the creak of the door the only noise. “Mary?” I called out. John should have been off his night shift by now, his wife Mary taking over in the early hours of the morning. There was no answer. I tried again. “John? Hello, anybody?”
A shuffle from behind the back door and Alex began to growl. I wrapped my hand through his collar. No need to make matters worse and have Alex making more werewolves.
Another shuffle, and the door opened. “Checking out, Ry? Kinda early, ain’t it?” John wheezed out.
I blinked. “Yeah. You okay, John? You look like you’ve pulled an all nighter.”
He blushed. “Maybe you of all people would be the one to believe me. I got a funny feeling near the end of my shift last night. Hairs I got left all stood up on end and I got the feeling like I needed to have all the lights on. Find a shotgun and protect the homestead. Weird, huh? I didn’t like what I was feeling, so I told Mary to stay in bed and lock the door.”
His description didn’t really surprise me. Humans don’t like the feeling those from the veiled world give off, even though we all pretty much live side by side. It seemed Alex was right; it had been his pack leader. She was quite the bitch and the amount of power she carried around could make even the strongest heart stutter. She must have set old John’s spidey senses into overdrive. His rheumy eyes looked up at me and then flicked down to the large black dog at my side.
Before he could ask, I cut him off. “This is my dog, Alex. He followed me here and I didn’t have the heart to leave him out in the Jeep. If there’s an extra charge or penalty for having him in the room . . .” I trailed off at the look John was giving Alex.
“Never seen a dog quite that big before. Seen a wolf once. ‘Bout that size.” He stared up at me, his mind behind the rheumy eyes far more shrewd than I gave him credit for.
It was my turn to blush. “I guess, if you say so.” I pulled out two one-hundred dollar bills, more than twice what the room was worth for the night, and laid them on the counter. “Will that cover it?”
John smiled at me. “That’s fine, Ry. You and your . . . dog . . . are always welcome here. He don’t bite, do he?”
I shook my head. “No, of course not. I’d have to have him euthanized if he was to start that sort of thing.” My hand tightened on the collar. Alex may be simple, but he wasn’t stupid and he was very sensitive to the vibes people threw off. His tongue lolled and he kept his eyes lowered.
We left the motel, heading west on I-94, stopping only for breakfast at a McDonalds drive-thru, mostly for Alex. I ordered a coffee, black, for myself and a breakfast sandwich to ease my hunger pangs. Alex had three sandwiches, a stack of hotcakes and a large hot chocolate that he lapped up eagerly. There were still some very human things about him, despite his less-than-human exterior.
“Ready for a road trip, buddy?” My hands already on the wheel, my fingers licked clean of the fast food grease.
“Road trip!” Alex howled out the window, which set the dogs in the area into a frenzy.
“Back in the Jeep,” I said as I leaned over and rolled the window up. He slumped in his seat and gave me his best hound dog eyes.
I let out a sigh. “At least wait till we get on the interstate. Then you can howl out the window all you like. All right?”
His eyes lit up and his tongue lolled out past his wicked sharp teeth. I laughed at him and hit the gas as I drove up the on ramp. At least this trip would be anything but boring.
If only I knew how true that would turn out to be.
It was his day off. He should have been relaxing at home, not rehashing a case, but he couldn’t settle himself down. For some reason, Adamson’s digs still stung. It didn’t help that he knew she was out there hunting for India. Picking up a sheaf of papers he had on his retro black-and-white kitchen table, he flipped through the pictures.
India, the missing girl, showed a distinct resemblance to a young Adamson. He put the two pictures side by side; although Adamson was in her teens when her picture was taken, they looked close enough to be sisters, and that was a little spooky. Both of them had auburn hair that fell in waves, and there was a softness to both sets of eyes that got under his skin, made him feel like a big bastard.
With a sudden jerk, he threw the papers back on the table and let out a sharp gust of air. He never had trouble controlling his temper, but something about Adamson set him off, and she revelled in poking at him. Like it had become an Olympic Sport for her.
He fingered the tracking device he’d brought home with him, thinking maybe he’d drive out past her place, but the thing had flicked off like it was wont to do. No amount of changing batteries, updating software, or switching out parts made a difference. He’d learned it would come back on line when it felt damn good and ready, and not a bloody second before.
Reaching into the fridge, he pulled out a beer, paused and then put it back. Just in case he got a hit on the tracker.
Sitting back at the table, he spread the file out, flipping through it a page at a time. The similarities in the cases Adamson managed to pull out of her hat on her own were more than a little suspicious. The kids would go missing without a trace, local law enforcement could do nothing, somehow the parents would track Adamson down, and they would pay her to find the kids. And on all the cases she’d been brought in on, she’d found the kids, though not always alive.
And there was the rub. She had a better rate of success than any FBI agent, than the whole freaking agency! He slammed a fist onto the table and the tracking device lit up, blinking softly.
Grabbing it, he smiled. She was heading south. This wasn’t the first time and the pattern was too obvious; someone in New Mexico was helping her, and it was time O’Shea met up with them both and had a chat with them.
Grabbing his jacket and keys, he jogged out to his vehicle. The wind was picking up and it whistled through the alley alongside his house. With a couple of days off in a row, it was a good time for a road trip, and this way no one would be the wiser to his deviation from procedure.
The drive to New Mexico was uneventful. I sped like crazy, trying to catch time I didn’t have in the first place. I could feel India, feel her fear and confusion and, worse than that, her strength slipping away from her. Not like she was dying, but that her willpower was slowly being eaten away. Whoever had her was making a push to get her under their control. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was what happened to Berget. The two cases were too damn similar for my liking. The park, the time of day, the damn date—even down to the swing India had been on. The only difference I could see was Berget wasn’t a spirit seeker, which was what I thought India was. My hands were wet on the steering wheel from my sweat, as I continued to roll the two cases over in my mind. My lower back felt clammy, and I feared the worst. That this case would end the same way Berget’s had—in a death where I couldn’t even bring the body back to her parents for closure.
I shook the thought away. No, I wouldn’t go there. Guilt rolled over me. I’d been so young, both in age and ability, that when Berget had been snatched, I didn’t know what I was doing. Still, I felt like it was my fault she was snatched, that I was somehow responsible for her going missing. It wasn’t hard for the detectives on the case to decide I was guilty, not when I tended to agree with them.
“This time will be different,” I said, startling Alex out of a light doze. He cocked his head at me, then closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
After what was etched into my bathroom mirror, I knew they, whoever they were, knew I was coming for her. They also knew all about Berget, so I had to be ready to face whatever they would throw my way. None of this was making me feel better, not one bit.
Going as fast as I dared, only taking a short four hour nap when I could no longer keep my eyes open, I cut our driving time by an hour and a half, getting us into Roswell by four thirty in morning the next day. Or at least into the north side of the town.
Despite the town’s reputation for UFO’s because of that one singular crash, there was actually very little supernatural activity in the area—unlike North Dakota, which had more than its fair share of the weird and the wild. There was only one place I would stay while in Roswell, and it was run by a very large ogre who wore a ring similar in make to Alex’s collar. In other words, he passed for human.
The Landing Pad, an apt name for the area, was a small motel with an attached bar catering to those needing to be discreet.