Raising Innocence(Rylee Adamson #3)(13) by Shannon Mayer
“Doesn’t mean jack shit to me. I could print this out at home.”
His eyes lit up. “Just because you are ignorant, doesn’t mean something isn’t real. SOCA, Serious Organised Crime Agency. We’re in charge of this particular case.”
“Thought it was Interpol who called us in.”
“We are a part of Interpol.”
I could hear the fatigue in his voice. Like he’d been up all night and didn’t appreciate explaining what he viewed as ‘the basics’ to me. Then again, maybe I was wrong.
“Right. I’m ready.” I snapped my fingers and Alex bounded over to me, skidding to a stop, his eyes widening at the sight of the officer. Clapping his oversized paws on his muzzle he whispered out the corner of his mouth.
Kitty . . .? My body reacted while my brain was still spelling it out for me, and I yanked the knife from its sheath in my lower back. My big bowie knife was the next best thing to my swords, which I’d had to leave with Valley.
The officer narrowed his eyes, the colour bleeding from a soft brown into a deep green. Interesting.
“Okay, so we have a problem. You showed me ID, but I still don’t know you’re here from the police.” I had no doubt there were supernaturals around, lots in all sorts of fields. But it seemed too much of a coincidence that a shifter would come for me at the hospital. How did I know it wasn’t one of Faris’ cronies? Fuck, I did not want to start this day off with a fight and bloodshed.
The officer glared at me and the hair stood up on the back of my neck as a low growl, just like that of a pissed off kitty cat, rippled out of his lips.
“Ah, stop f**king around, the both of you,” Jack yelled from the bed. “I’ll vouch for Will. He’s worked with me before. Now play nice, Rylee. He’ll help you if you let him.”
The shifter eased his stance, and then thrust out one hand. “Will Gossard.”
I slid my blade back into its sheath, then slowly took his hand in mine. “Got that from the ID, genius.” A pleasant heat tingled along his skin, danced across my fingers and settled into me. I snatched my hand back, but he seemed as surprised as I was. Interesting. Though I’d felt energy from other supernaturals upon meeting them, never anything quite so . . . intense.
Alex pushed me out of the way and held out one paw. “Alex.”
Will blinked and looked over Alex’s head to me. I shrugged. “Play nice with the doggy.”
The two shifters ‘shook’ hands, and Alex seemed immensely happy, to the point of spinning in place.
“Alex, not now!” I bent and grabbed his dangling leash, and gave it a sharp jerk. He stopped and rolled on the floor, wiggling like a giant puppy.
A choked sound brought my eyes up. Will looked as though he was having a heart attack. His green eyes had faded back to hazel, but were wide with horror, and his face was pale.
I tightened my hand on the leash, bringing Alex to my side. “What?”
“You . . . you leashed him? Like a pet?” I could hear it in his voice, the fear of what I was capable of.
Perfect. At least he would show me some respect.
“Yup, and if you don’t behave, I’ll do the same to you.” I bent down to Alex. “You’d like a kitty cat to play with, wouldn’t you?”
The werewolf started to shake all over. “Yes! Kittyyyyyyyy!” He let out a long howl, and I clamped my hand over his muzzle. Too late. An alarm went off and I mentally cursed myself. Alex wouldn’t have howled if I hadn’t gotten him all riled up. Shit, that’s what I got for poking at people.
Will shook his head. “The howl wouldn’t have set the alarms off.”
Jack let out a cough. “But a missing child would.”
I swiveled back to him, my heart flooding with adrenaline. “What floor are the kids on?”
I ran past Will, down the hallway, and hit the door to the stairwell at full speed, banging it open. Alex stayed right with me, and if the footsteps behind us were any indication, Will was close on our heels.
Two flights of stairs passed in a blur of seconds and we burst into the pediatric ward, the alarm going full tilt, a red light flashing over the desk. Will grabbed the closest nurse.
I loosened up the leash on Alex. “We’ve got to find that kid, buddy.”
As serious as he ever got, he lowered his nose to the floor and immediately shook his head, scratching at the end of his muzzle. “Too many smells.”
I didn’t rebuke him for speaking. With everything that was going on, it would be a wonder if anyone noticed.
Will made a motion, and I followed him to the end of the hall. From outside one room I could hear sobbing, and a man’s voice making an attempt to shush the crying. That would be the room we were looking for.
Stepping across the threshold, I squinted, checking my second sight for any nasty surprises. Nothing. That was good and bad. No surprise. Good. No clues. Bad.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry, but do you have a picture of your kid?” This was the part I hated, dealing with the parent. The father looked up, his face shell-shocked, short white blond hair sticking out in every direction.
“Yes, we need to start circulating it immediately. And a name.” I had no doubt that the cops that were even now rushing to the hospital would find nothing. Whoever was taking the kids knew what they were doing.
The father fumbled with his back pocket and I resisted the urge to hurry him up. Sure we were on a crunch, but there was no way the kid would be more than a block or two away.
He handed me a worn picture of a little boy, looked about two years old, same white blond hair as his father.
“Johnny, his name is Johnny. We only stepped out of the room for a split second and he was gone . . . I don’t understand . . . .”
I reached for the kid, Tracking his threads, and sucked in a sharp breath. There was no way that was possible!
The kid was so far away I could barely feel him. Like he’d been somehow transported through space and time with the snap of a finger.
“Thanks,” I said, tucking the picture into my pocket. With a sharp tug on Alex’s leash, I snagged a small stuffed toy from Johnny’s bed, then stepped back out of the room and leaned against the wall. So far away, so quickly, how was that possible? The only person I knew who had capabilities in that range was Charlie. Could it be a brownie taking the kids? And if so, what the hell would they want with them?
Will moved up beside me and Alex crowded in close. “What are you picking up?”
“The kid is gone. Shit, whoever is taking them has some way to move them fast. Like as in some sort of . . .” I paused mid-sentence, not wanting to mention my other sudden suspicion, not yet at least. But there was another possibility. But no, no one would be that brassy. Would they?
Will’s eyes tightened around the edges, his accent deepening. “You’ve thought of something.”
“Any place to cross the Veil close by?”
He shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. That doesn’t mean there isn’t.” He frowned. “With buildings, it’s usually in the basement or lower levels that the Veil is torn, closest to the earth.”
“Then let’s see what we’ve got below,” I said, hanging onto Johnny’s threads, feeling him slip further away with each second. Will gave a sharp nod and put his hand on my lower back, guiding me. Like I was some sort of princess. I pushed his hand off my back. “Just lead, man, no need to get touchy feely.”
I wanted this case over so bad I could taste it. Berget was—I Tracked her—somewhere to the southeast. A distance for sure, but here in Europe, nonetheless.
We made our way down the stairwell, a flood of police officers going up as we went down. The fact that Will wasn’t all that worried about the rules was good. Even I knew that we should have waited there to find out what the next step was with the local police detachment.
“Here,” Will said, motioning at a door that, by the plaque, led into the boiler room. “This is the lowest room in the hospital.”
I took the leash off Alex and let him sniff the teddy bear. “You smell Johnny down here?”
The werewolf lifted his nose to the air first, and then sniffed around our feet. With his head still down, tail straight out in line with his spine, he lifted one paw and pointed at the closed door. “Yuppy doody.”
“He’s quite the ham, isn’t he?”
“You have no idea,” I muttered. Opening the door, the three of us slipped inside. The furnace was going full tilt, the orange glow through the grills flickering light across the room.
“Spooky,” I said.
Alex gave a shiver, rubbing his arms with his paws. “Spooky shit.”
Will choked back a laugh. Score for Alex, he’d won over another person.
There was a heavy scent of mold and rot in the room, even though the boiler was running full tilt. Alex sniffed a couple of times, and then pinched his nose. “No like. Yucky.”
I agreed. It was the kind of smell that clung to you, one of old graves and dead things; unpleasant was a freaking understatement. At least the room didn’t take long to search. I Tracked the kid, and his life threads were already thinning. “He’s going to die,” I said, my heart breaking at the thought of the little one not only dying, but dying in the hands of a stranger.
A sharp spike of fear came through my connection to him, and then it faded, as he fell asleep, most likely a spell or a drug to knock him out.
“We can get to him in time,” Will said, his determination admirable.
But I knew what was coming.
I shook my head. “I’m not giving up, but I can feel how close he is to death. He must have been hooked up to a respirator or something that was keeping him going. At the most, the kid’s got five minutes. Maybe.”
Will stared at me. “Just like that, you sentence him to death?”
Anger whipped up through me. “Fuck you. You don’t know what I do, you can’t possibly understand! I can feel his heart giving out, feel each beat getting weaker as if my fingers were right over his pulse. I’ve done this enough times to be able to read what’s going to happen. He will die, and it won’t be in vain because we’re going to catch this son of a bitch who took him and make him pay. Got it?”