Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(13) by Jennifer Estep
We got into Owen’s car, and he drove out of the parking lot and over the nearest bridge to the opposite side of the river.
The highway curved past this part of the Aneirin River, and Owen steered his car off the road and into a gravel lot that fronted a series of wide stone steps leading up to a scenic overlook. A series of trails started at the lot and wound in either direction through the woods, rising and falling with the slope of the riverbank.
Given the number of trees that had already shed their leaves, I could see the gleaming white wood of the Delta Queen peeking through the brown tangles of branches, making the overlook and surrounding trails the perfect spots to spy on all the comings and goings on board the riverboat. Ambling along with a pair of binoculars slung around his neck, as though he were looking for birds, the watcher would have blended right in with the nature lovers on the trails, out for a fall stroll.
I’d have to talk to Phillip about rigging up security cameras or maybe even posting some guards over here—for his sake. I wasn’t the only one with enemies who wanted me dead, and since Phillip had been so public in supporting me as the new big boss, no doubt his name had climbed to the top of several folks’ hit lists too.
Owen and I got out of the car.
“Where do you want to start?” he asked. “The overlook?”
“Nah. Too many people come and go there all day long. The watcher wouldn’t want to risk a jogger or biker seeing him and wondering what he was doing hanging around the same spot for so long. He’d go someplace more private where he wouldn’t be disturbed. Let’s try over there.”
I pointed to the area where I thought I’d seen the flash of the watcher’s binoculars, and we headed in that direction, meandering along the winding paths. It was after five now, and the trails were mostly deserted, except for a few dedicated outdoor types. I scanned the faces and body language of every person we passed, but they only seemed concerned with keeping their heart rates up or making sure that their dogs did their business before they headed home.
Owen and I moved farther down the path, and soon we were the only hikers on the trail. The sun was already weakening in the sky, its rays growing fainter and barely penetrating what was left of the fall foliage. The dappled shadows took advantage, clumping together and spreading out into murky pools that darkened and lengthened by the second. The air was cool, and the scent of the leaves and earth mixed pleasantly.
We followed the curving trail until it ended, then stepped off the asphalt and began making our way deeper into the woods.
Owen grabbed my arm. “Stop. Someone’s been using magic here—metal magic. I can feel it. Much more of it than I should be able to. Almost like . . . he left something behind for us to find.”
“Like another bomb?”
Given the fact that I’d survived the initial blast, the watcher had to realize that I would come here looking for clues. If I were him, I would have left behind a nasty surprise or two, if only on the off chance that he could blow me up that way.
Owen nodded. “Yeah. Like another bomb.” He scanned the woods, his violet eyes glowing and his head tilting to one side as he reached out with his magic, trying to sense the other elemental’s power trail. Owen pointed to the left. “Over there.”
We headed in that direction, watching where we put our feet and scanning the surrounding trees. A hundred feet deeper into the woods, a fading patch of sunlight glinted off the corner of something metal, drawing my attention.
I pointed at the object, which was half-hidden underneath a pile of brown, curling leaves. “You were right. Someone left us a present.”
“Some present,” Owen muttered.
We crouched down and scanned the ground for trip-wires. A few seconds later, I spied a thin strand of fishing line strung ankle-high between two trees. A crude but effective trap. I palmed one of my knives and sliced through the fishing line, so we wouldn’t accidentally trip the bomb.
I carefully brushed the leaves off the object, wincing at the faint crackle-crackles they made at my touch. Just in case the bomb was booby-trapped some other way, I grabbed hold of my Stone magic and hardened my skin, ready to throw myself down on top of the bomb to protect Owen from any potential blast.
But there were no more traps, and I was able to study the bomb. It was identical to the one on the riverboat—a metal box with a cell phone taped to the top to serve as a timer and trigger. I hadn’t had time to open the box that had been on the Delta Queen, and I reached for the simple latch on the side. It wasn’t welded or magicked shut, and I slowly cracked open the top, still maintaining my grip on my Stone magic.
A small block of what looked like gray clay lay inside—the explosive—while several holes had been drilled into the lid. Red and black wires snaked through the openings, connecting the explosive to the cell phone. I unhooked the wires to disarm the bomb.
To my surprise, the explosive only took up about a third of the space inside the box. So if this device was the same as the one on the riverboat, Phillip had been right, and the blast from that bomb had been relatively small. I wondered what the damage would have been if it had detonated on deck. Enough to kill just me, since I’d been the person sitting closest to the bomb? Enough to take out half the folks at the conference table? Or maybe even everyone on deck? I didn’t know, but I was glad I hadn’t found out.
But I’d been right too, because the rest of the box was filled with nails, just like I’d thought the one on the Delta Queen had been. I slowly tilted the box to one side, and the nails rolled around, the sharp points glittering like diamonds in the fading sunlight.
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