Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(21) by Jennifer Estep
Jade shrugged. “I wanted to make sure you realized that I didn’t have anything to do with what happened on the Delta Queen, and neither did my girl.”
“Duly noted. I appreciate the information.”
Her red lips curved up into a sly grin. “I hope you’ll remember that the next time I need your special brand of . . . assistance.”
Suddenly, her reasons for tipping me off were crystal-clear. But that was just the way the world worked, especially in Ashland.
“Naturally,” I replied in a wry tone.
Her grin widened. I couldn’t help but like Jade Jamison. She was certainly ballsy, and she watched out for her people, both traits that I admired.
“So this guy, did he have a name?”
Jade snorted. “Mr. Smith.”
I ground my teeth together at the likely alias. Just when I thought I was finally getting somewhere . . .
“Don’t worry,” she purred, sensing my frustration. “I haven’t gotten to the best part yet.”
“And what would that be?”
Jade reached into her red clutch, pulled out a slip of paper, and slid it across the counter. “He’s still there. He called my girl again this morning and booked another session for this evening at her hotel, so it doesn’t seem like he has any plans to leave town anytime soon.”
I stared at the piece of paper. Mr. Smith. Room 321. Blue Moon Hotel.
Anticipation surged through me, but I calmly took the paper, tucked it under a slot in the cash register, and reached for the ice cream and the blender again.
“What are you doing?” Jade asked.
I grinned at her. “Making you another milkshake You earned it.”
Jade drank one of her strawberry milkshakes, complaining the whole time that it would go straight to her ass, but she left with a smile on her face, the other milkshake in a to-go cup, and a cardboard box full of barbecue sandwiches, sides, and all the fixings for her crew.
As much as I would have liked to have gone straight over to the Blue Moon Hotel, shown Mr. Smith the business end of one of my knives, and gotten some answers about what was going on, I still had a restaurant to run. Besides, if the bomber or someone else was watching the Pork Pit, he might see me leave, follow me over to the hotel, and warn Smith to skedaddle before I could get my hands on him. I didn’t want anything to jeopardize the very pointed conversation I planned on having with Smith.
But even more than that, I wanted some time to think, to plot and plan, before I confronted Smith. I had a lot of puzzle pieces floating around in my mind, and I needed to put them in some sort of order—before the bomber tried again. So I stayed in the storefront and started my morning chores, including putting together a batch of Fletcher’s secret barbecue sauce.
By the time Catalina Vasquez came in, along with the rest of the waitstaff, I knew what I wanted to do about Smith, even though I’d have to wait several hours to actually lay eyes on him. But I went ahead and texted Finn, asking him to drop by the restaurant so I could put the first part of my plan into action.
Finn strolled into the Pork Pit at about one-thirty and slid onto a stool next to the cash register. Silvio was sitting two seats down and typing on his tablet. The vampire was always perfectly punctual, and he had arrived earlier this morning, just as I was turning the sign on the front door over to Open.
Finn slapped him on the back. “Hey, Silvy. How’s it going?”
Silvio grunted and went back to his tablet. Finn grinned at the annoyed pinch of the vampire’s lips. The two of them had a bit of a rivalry going on, with each out to prove that he had more contacts, sources, and spies and both of them racing to get all the scoop on the Ashland underworld before the other guy did. Today I was going to put their competition and connections to good use.
Silvio had already eaten a grilled chicken-salad sandwich and sweet-potato fries, and I fixed Finn’s order—a barbecue-chicken sandwich with a side of onion rings and a slice of peach crumb cake for dessert, along with a vanilla milkshake.
While Finn ate, I filled him in on everything Jade had told me. Silvio had heard it all before, but he still typed down a few more notes. I didn’t really know why. Maybe it made him feel like more of an assistant. Or maybe Silvio wanted Finn to think that he had some insights that my foster brother didn’t. Either way, Silvio had insisted on checking out Jade’s information by calling the hotel and verifying that Smith was actually staying there, just to make sure that Jade wasn’t trying to trap me in some way. But Jade was a smart woman. She knew how badly setting me up would end—for her.
“The Blue Moon Hotel?” Finn asked, popping the last of his onion rings into his mouth. “That makes sense.”
He looked at me. “Because they have one of the best cigar bars in Ashland.”
“So the bomber’s cigar most likely came from there.”
He nodded. “But wait. It gets better.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I just happen to know the hotel manager,” Finn crowed. He leaned over and elbowed Silvio in the side. “And I’m betting that you don’t, right, Silvy?”
The vamp sniffed and straightened his tie. “No, I do not happen to know the manager of that particular hotel.”
Finn’s grin widened.
“It doesn’t matter who knows who,” I cut in. “Just that we get eyes and ears on Smith.”
Finn frowned. “You mean you’re not going to just bust into his hotel room and, you know . . .” He made a slashing motion across his throat, pantomiming me using one of my knives on someone, and threw in several choking gurgles for good measure.
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