Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(7) by Ilona Andrews
I got up, walked over to the phone, and dialed the Guild. If Eduardo took a job, the Clerk would know. When someone called the Guild with a problem, the Clerk figured out which zone it fell into and called that merc. If the merc was busy or couldn’t handle the job, the Clerk would then call the next person in “the chain” until he found someone to take the job. If he failed to find anybody, he’d pin the gig ticket to a board, which meant anybody could grab it. Some jobs went to select people because they required special qualifications, but the majority of gigs followed this pattern. The gig distribution ran like a well-oiled machine and the Clerk had been there for so long, nobody remembered his name. He was just Clerk with a “the” in front of it, the guy who made sure you had a job and would get paid. If Eduardo had taken a gig on Monday, the Clerk would know when and where.
The phone rang.
“Yeah?” a gruff male voice said.
“This is Daniels. Let me talk to the Clerk.”
Odd, the Clerk usually worked the night shift during the first week of the month.
“What about Lori?” Lori was the Clerk’s standby.
“When will either of them be in?”
“How the hell should I know?”
What the devil was going on at the Guild?
I turned back to George. “We’ll go by there first thing in the morning.” Even if the Clerk wasn’t there now, he or one of his subs would be there in the morning. “I know this is a hard question, but is there any way Eduardo could’ve gotten scared off and left?”
George didn’t hesitate. “No. He loves me. And if he left, he wouldn’t have abandoned Max.”
“Max?” I asked.
“His pug,” she said. “He’s had him for five years. He takes his dog everywhere with him. When I came there on Monday, Max was in the office with just enough water and food to last through the day.”
Eduardo had a pug. For some reason, that didn’t surprise me.
“What’s Jim doing about this?” I asked.
“Nothing,” George said. “I reported Eduardo missing to him in private. He told me that he would look into it, and then two hours later he said that Dad was aware Eduardo hadn’t checked in.”
I glanced at Curran.
“Mahon pulled the clan card,” Curran said. “Eduardo’s disappearance is a Clan Heavy matter. Unless the shapeshifter is an employee of the Pack overall or the clan requests Jim’s assistance, he can’t do much. He can tell his people to be on the lookout for Eduardo but won’t actively search for him.”
“Can’t or won’t?” I asked.
“Both,” Curran said. “An active search would involve questioning members of Clan Heavy, which would infringe on Mahon’s authority as an alpha. There are strict guidelines that protect the autonomy of each clan within the Pack, and this would cross the line. George is right. Jim needs Mahon to keep his power base together. He won’t do anything to intentionally aggravate him. In a year or two when Jim’s well established, it might be different, but for now Jim knows he’s walking a tightrope. If he actively searches for Eduardo, Mahon can spin it as Jim insulting him and abusing his position as the Beast Lord. The moment Mahon publicly confronts Jim, it will be seen as a vote of no confidence in Jim’s ability to lead, and the rest of the clans will scream that Jim is a dictator who is infringing on their rights. If that happens, Jim can’t win. If he doesn’t do anything, he’ll look weak, and if he challenges Mahon, he’ll look like a dictator. It’s a bad place to be, and Jim is too smart to go there.”
Curran was right about Mahon. It was unlikely that the Bear, as Mahon was known, had made Eduardo disappear. It wouldn’t fit with his ethical code. But if Eduardo had managed to disappear on his own, Mahon could take advantage of the situation. He simply wouldn’t have to search for him that hard. George had a huge family on her side. She had grown up in Atlanta, and if she vanished, the entirety of Clan Heavy would look for her. But Eduardo was an outsider. He’d arrived in Atlanta roughly three years ago, and as far as I knew, he had no family in the state.
“I don’t even know if he’s dead or alive.” George’s composure broke. Tears wet her eyes. Her voice turned into a ragged snarl. “He could be dead in a ditch somewhere and nobody is looking for him. I keep seeing it in my head, him cold and dead somewhere, covered in dirt. I might never see him again. How does this even happen? How can someone you love be there one second and then gone the next?”
Curran pushed away from the wall and put his monster arms around her gently. “It will be okay,” he said quietly. “Kate will find him.”
I didn’t know if I should be happy he had complete confidence in me or mad because he was making a promise I wasn’t sure I could keep. I decided on happy, because I could see a mine buried in our path and I had to tell them about it.
George cried soundlessly, worry and anger leaking out from her eyes. She had watched my back during the trip to the Black Sea. She’d fought for the Pack and she’d sacrificed her arm to save a pregnant woman from being murdered. She was the one who was always upbeat, always confident and comfortable in her own skin. She laughed easily and she said what she thought, because she had no trouble defending her opinion. And now she was crying and frantic, and it made me angry, as if something had gone really wrong with the world. Life was unfair, but this was pushing it. I had to fix this.
George stepped away from Curran and rubbed her face with her hand, trying to erase the tears.
“We have a problem,” I said. “Once we start pulling on this string, the other end might lead back to Clan Heavy. Even if George officially hires us and Cutting Edge to look for Eduardo, Jim can still block it. It’s in our contract. When the Pack authorized seed money for Cutting Edge, they put in a clause that in the event a member of the Pack is implicated in any crime, the investigation has to be cleared by the Beast Lord. Jim has the power of veto.”
“Who put that in?” George growled.
I nodded at Curran. “He did.”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said.
“So how do we get around this?” I asked.
Curran looked at George. “I am going to ask you a question and I need you to think about it very carefully before you answer. Have you ever heard Eduardo Ortego express an intention to leave the Pack as part of my separation staff?”
Nice. If Eduardo left the Pack with Curran, then Curran would have both the authority and the duty to protect him.
George drew herself to her full height. “Yes.”
I had a feeling she had just lied.
“I also intend to leave the Pack with you,” she said.
“Think it over,” Curran said. “This means you’ll be severing ties with your clan. Your parents won’t be thrilled either. If it turns out that your father had nothing to do with Eduardo’s disappearance, you might regret it.”
“Give me the contract,” George said.
Curran didn’t move.
“Curran, give me the paper.”
He walked over to the shelf, took a binder from the top, and opened it to a blank separation contract. “Once you sign it, you have to completely separate yourself from the Pack within thirty days.”
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