Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(15) by Jennifer Estep
“I have no idea.”
A mace wasn’t something that was commonly used as a rune. Like Owen said, it wasn’t a weapon that a lot of people wielded anymore. Guns, knives, swords, the occasional chainsaw, sure. But a mace? Even I didn’t have a mace in my arsenal of weapons at Fletcher’s house. Of course, it probably represented strength and power—most weapons did—or maybe some family or specific business. Or perhaps the watcher had drawn it simply because it represented his own affinity for metal—or, more likely, his twisted bombs.
“What made you look over here?” I asked. “I thought you were going over the trail that the fake waiter had made again.”
Owen pointed through the trees. “This spot is directly across from the Delta Queen’s paddle wheel. If I had wanted to keep an eye on things, I would have started here at the back of the boat and worked my way forward toward the front.”
I looked out across the river. He was right: we were lined up with the back edge of the paddle wheel. Owen’s reasoning made perfect sense. No doubt the watcher had paced back and forth along this patch of woods, spying on all the happenings on the vessel.
“You find anything?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Whoever the elemental is, he didn’t leave anything behind, except for his bomb in the leaves. I’ll take it to Finn and see what he makes of it. He always likes to play with explosives. We’ve done all we can here. Let’s go back to the riverboat. Finn and Bria should be there by now.”
Owen nodded and headed toward the trail that would take us back to the parking lot. I had started to go retrieve the bomb from where I’d left it when a faint smoky scent tickled my nose.
I stopped and drew in a breath. An ashy sort of tang hung in the air, almost like someone had been smoking a cigarette. I drew in another breath. No, it was richer, deeper, stronger than that. Not a cigarette—a cigar.
I crouched down and scanned the ground, running my hands through the loose piles of leaves that were closest to the tree. A minute later, I found a cigar stub smushed into the dirt, as though the watcher had crushed it under the toe of his boot after he finished with his rune drawing. Jackpot.
I brought the stub up to my nose and sniffed it. I was by no means a cigar connoisseur, but it would have to be an expensive brand to have that sort of deep, dark, rich, coffee-like scent. Finn would know. Like alcohol, cigars were one of those things he thought made everything else better.
I wrapped the cigar in some dry leaves and slid the whole thing into my jacket pocket. Then I straightened up, pulled out my phone, and snapped several photos of the mace rune that had been carved into the tree.
I put my phone away and started to go catch up to Owen, but I found myself rooted in place, staring at the carving. The wind whistled through the trees, but that chill was nothing compared with the one slithering up my spine. The mace rune, the watcher’s metal power, the boxes full of nails . . .
It all reminded me of . . . something.
I didn’t think that the watcher was related to a job I’d done, since everyone I’d gone after as the Spider was dead. Of course, he could have been a friend or a relative of someone I’d assassinated, but the danger from those folks was almost always immediately after a hit, since that’s when they would be most vehemently searching for whoever had killed their loved one. No, this was something else, some vague wisp of memory I couldn’t quite bring into focus.
Still, the longer I stared at the crude mace, the more cold worry seeped through my body.
Because I had seen that weapon, that rune, somewhere before.
Now I just needed to remember where—before it was too late.
Phillip must have sent the majority of his staff home, because no one was in the parking lot next to the Delta Queen when we pulled back in there, and most of the cars were gone. But I did spot two familiar vehicles sitting side by side: a serviceable navy-blue sedan and a silver Aston Martin.
Owen and I walked up the gangplank to find two people talking with Phillip and Silvio on the main deck. One of them was a woman about my size, with shaggy blond hair, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks. She was dressed in black boots, dark jeans, and a white button-up shirt, with a gold detective’s badge and a holstered gun clipped to her black leather belt. She was as no-nonsense as her sedan, a stark contrast to Mr. Aston Martin, who stood beside her in an expensive Fiona Fine suit, his walnut-brown hair slicked back into a carefully messy style, his sly green eyes taking in his surroundings.
Detective Bria Coolidge and Finnegan Lane both turned at the sound of our footsteps as Owen and I approached. They rushed over to us, and Bria, my baby sister, wrapped me up in a tight hug.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “I got Silvio’s text and came straight over. He and Phillip just finished telling us what happened.”
“I’m fine. I always make a habit of surviving nasty situations. You should know that by now.”
She smiled at my joke, but the worried lines on her face didn’t smooth out.
Finn reached over and clapped me on the shoulder. “See? I told you that Gin was all right. She always is.”
“Ta-da.” I swept my hand out to the side with an elaborate flourish, giving a not-so-modest bow.
“Hey,” Finn protested. “That’s my move.”
“And now it’s mine,” I chirped.
He huffed in mock annoyance, then clapped me on the shoulder again, his firm grip telling me how worried he’d really been.
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