Raising Innocence(Rylee Adamson #3)(14) by Shannon Mayer
My yelling echoed through the small room. Will was visibly shaken and he took a half step back, lowering his eyes.
“Now let’s find the threshold the bastard used to cross the Veil. That’s a good start.”
But no matter where we looked, there was nothing. No doorway, no break in the concrete. Running my fingers over the walls showed nothing. I even checked with my second sight—still nada. The walls were smooth and unblemished, regardless of how I looked at them. The furnace made the room almost unbearably hot, and sweat quickly slid down my face and arms. Fuck it all to hell and back!
I didn’t answer him, my hands on my hips; frustration mounting, I stared at the floor. The toddler was fading fast, and I reluctantly let go of his threads, and stopped Tracking him. Feeling a child die is a horrible thing, one that can’t truly be described. I didn’t need that, not today. I thought about the Lighteater I’d killed while Tracking him. That had been almost as bad as feeling a child die. Almost, but not quite.
“Back to the police station, I guess,” I said quietly, knowing the next time I Tracked the toddler he’d be dead. Gods, this was an ugly world.
“Are you all right?”
Looking up, I caught his gaze as it softened with understanding.
I nodded and clamped down on the urge to cry. Stupid as it was, it didn’t matter how many kids I’d Tracked, this hurt never lessened regardless of the times I felt it. Lots of them passed on before I had even begun to Track them. And yet when a child died during a salvage, I felt it the most, like a keen blade taking another piece of me. It hurt, and I hadn’t even met the kid.
Clearing my throat, I pointed at the door, “Let’s go.”
As we made our way back up the stairs, I thought about what O’Shea would do. Probably go and take a closer look at the files, see if there was some connection other than what the police had already found. Maybe find a motive. Damn him for opening my eyes. Life was a hell of a lot simpler when it was just about a salvage and not about the ‘why’ of a case.
Even though he wasn’t with me, O’Shea was still making my life difficult.
And that made me smile, even if just a little.
The police station looked old, as in ancient times before modern anything. Lit inside by wall sconces that had obviously been converted from gas to electric, it was apparently not the main police station, but instead an office set up for Interpol and Will’s division of SOCA. Will had filled me in on the way to the station. SOCA had a department set aside to deal with the supernatural, just like the FBI. And just like the FBI, that division of SOCA didn’t truly exist in the hierarchy of things.
“Makes it hard to get things done, when you aren’t taken seriously,” Will said as we stood in the entryway of the station. “Not to mention the difficulty of working with humans who don’t really believe in the supernatural.”
“I can imagine that would be difficult,” I muttered.
Will gave a wry smile. “You’re about to find out just how difficult it can be. You’re about to be introduced to the ‘team’ assigned to this case.”
I didn’t like the sound of that, but still I followed Will into the station, keeping Alex right with me. Even if this was the department for the supernatural goings on, I had no doubt that Alex would not be made welcome. Eyes followed us, none of them particularly friendly. Excellent.
“I see the welcoming party was laid out for me,” I said.
Will snorted. “You aren’t the only one they aren’t happy with.”
“Let me guess, you don’t play well with others, either?”
He laughed, and I had to smile. Us supernaturals, we did our best to blend in, but the humans almost always picked up on something. Energy, weird traits, odd sayings, maybe just the way we talked or moved. Things that we thought nothing of, but to the rest of the world, well, we would never be like the rest of them. Which was just fine by me.
Weaving our way through the room, Alex got his share of wide-eyed glances too. But it wasn’t until a heavyset older woman in a too tight bright red dress suit squealed and pointed that I thought we might have a problem.
“You can’t bring a dog in here! People have allergies to dogs,” she screeched, her accent so strong I struggled to understand her.
Alex lifted his one paw up and opened his mouth to speak. I could just hear him now. “Not dog, werewolf!”
I clamped a hand over his muzzle, stopping the flow of words that was coming. “He’s a sniffer dog. And he’s on the case, so shut your fat mouth.” That last was directed at both the woman and Alex as my fingers tightened incrementally. He blinked up at me, winked in a big, slow comical blink of one eyelid, and I snickered, the laughter squeaking out past my clamped lips.
Will lifted an eyebrow and tipped his head toward the woman, whose face was almost as red as her suit. Ooops.
Sputtering, spit visibly flying from her lips, she said, “How dare you speak to me that way!”
Full-on laughing now, I managed to say, “Oh piss off.” Then I adjusted my grip on the leash and motioned for Will to continue leading the way. She wasn’t my boss; if anyone wanted to make an attempt to bully me it would have to be Agent Valley.
Will did as I asked, I followed and we left the bright red woman shaking with rage behind. At least that was a positive.
He led us to a mid-sized office, big enough for ten or so people. Of which it had almost double already. They all turned as we stepped inside the doorway, all those eyes taking us in. I met those eyes that I could, not willing to show weakness of any sort in front of this many suits.
Alex gave a low whimper and pressed into my side. Under his breath, so low I could barely hear him, he said, “Werewolf.”
Ah, f**k, that would not be helpful. Of course, Valley would know that there was another werewolf involved in the investigation, wouldn’t he?
I scanned the room, taking in the predominantly male, old, grumpy faces. Yup, my day just got that much harder. Will introduced me and my ‘working’ dog. I nodded my head, found Agent Valley and made my way over to him. This many people in such a tight space was too much, and I wasn’t even claustrophobic.
A tall, thin, balding man rapped his knuckles on the small table in the middle of the room. “As most of you are aware, there was another kidnapping this morning. Officer Gossard was on scene. Can you fill us in on anything?” The tone implied that Will should have captured the criminal with one hand tied behind his back. These f**king humans, they just didn’t understand what it meant to deal with a supernatural who stole children. There were no hard and fast rules when it came to magic and the world we lived in.
While Will spoke about what we’d done to try and track the kidnapper, I leaned down to Agent Valley.
“How much do they know about me?”
His lips barely moved. “Everything.”
I closed my eyes and stood back up.
“Ms. Adamson?” My eyes opened, and I forced them to do so slowly. No need to let them get the upper hand.
“Hmm.” I arched one eyebrow and lifted my hand in the air. “Present.”
A low snicker went around the room.
“Would you care to share your particular findings?”
I shrugged and took a step forward like I would if I were called on in school, tucking my hands against my lower spine. “I Tracked the kid, Johnny, until he died. Everything else that happened, Officer Gossard already told you.”
Silence met my words. Perhaps that wasn’t the best way to pass on the info, but what the hell, I wasn’t one of them, never would be.
The man licked his lips, frowning. “The child is dead?”
I didn’t get a chance to answer. Alex did it for me, being helpful, as usual.
“Yesssirrrreee.” He let the word end in a light howl, then his eyes flew to mine and he clamped his paws over his muzzle. “Sorry, Rylee. Alex forgets.”
If I thought the room had been silent before, it was nothing to the emptiness that filled it after Alex spoke. I could almost feel the panic swirling into the air.
“Ah, f**k it. Someone else in here’s a werewolf too, so don’t get your panties in a twist that I brought one in,” I said, motioning at the rest of the room with a broad sweep of my hand.
Now the panic let loose, grown men scrambling to get out of the room until it was the tall man, Agent Valley, Will, and one other Officer left with me and Alex.
Agent Valley shrugged. “I told you she was difficult, and you wanted all your Officers to get a good look at the supernatural Tracker. Well, now you did. Are you happy?”
Was he standing up for me? Booyah!
The tall thin man shook his head. “We can’t have her going rogue on us, not after Feen. We have rules—we expect them to be followed.”
Much as I wanted to tell him to take his rules and shove them up his ass, I thought I’d let Agent Valley speak up for me.
Which he did, in spades. I liked the short ugly man who wanted to be my boss better and better.
“She has a higher success rate than all of your officers and my agents combined. I’m inclined to let her do as she wishes” —he gave me a look that told me he wasn’t really giving me free rein at all— “within reason.”
Will stepped forward. “I’ll keep an eye on her. I can partner with her while she works the case.”
Alex clapped his paws and his tail thumped. Out the side of his mouth he did a stage whisper. “I like the kitty.”
The other man—the one sitting in the corner—stood up, anger darkening his features. His head was shaved to the wick and his eyes were hooded, hiding the colour from me, but I’d have laid money at that moment they were a tawny yellow. “You bitch, who do you think you are collaring a werewolf?”
He stalked toward me and my normally submissive Alex stiffened against my leg, his body inching forward. “No mean to Rylee!”