Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(29) by Jennifer Estep
Gone—the bastard was gone.
“Oh, excuse us, young lady,” the woman said, finally noticing me. She grabbed the man’s jacket and yanked him back out of my way. “Let her through, Fred. She looks like she has places to be.”
“Not anymore,” I muttered.
My target had escaped, so all I could do now was slide my knife back up my sleeve, give the old couple a bland smile, turn around, and head back to our room.
“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Finn drawled as he and Owen walked down the hallway to meet me.
“Tell me about it,” I muttered.
“Don’t worry,” Owen said. “We’ll track him down. He won’t be so lucky next time.”
I nodded, then glanced over my shoulder. The elderly couple had finally made it to the elevators, and they stepped inside one of the cars, the doors sliding shut behind them.
“C’mon,” I said, jerking my head at Smith’s room. “We need to get in there, nose around, and get out before anyone else realizes what’s happened to him.”
Finn ducked back into our room to grab some latex gloves from his briefcase, while Owen and I looked up and down the hallway, making sure the coast was clear. Finn came back out, gloves already on, and waited while Owen and I pulled on our own gloves. Then Finn whipped out his master key card, and the three of us slipped into the dead man’s room.
Smith lay where he had fallen, his dark, sightless eyes fixed on the chair where Pike had sat and watched him bleed to death. I didn’t waste time examining his body, since I’d already witnessed his murder. But Pike hadn’t bothered to search the room before he’d left, and I was going to cash in on his sloppiness. Because there was one thing in here that might actually tell me more about the metal elemental.
So I went over, stuck my hand into the space between the nightstand and the wall, and fished out Smith’s phone, which he’d dropped before Pike had paid him a visit. It was a burner cell, but I still passed it over to Finn.
“See what info you can get off that. Like Pike’s number and any texts he might have sent to Smith.”
Finn nodded and tucked the phone away in his jacket pocket. “Anything else?”
“Well, there’s this.” Owen pointed to the spoon-turned-dagger that Smith was still clutching in his dead hand.
He crouched down and plucked the makeshift weapon out of Smith’s fingers, careful not to disturb the rest of the body. Owen got to his feet and held the dagger out where we could all examine it.
I’d assumed that the weapon was crude when I saw it on the TV monitor, but it was anything but. Long, light, thin, with razor-sharp edges that tapered to a deadly point. Oh, the craftsmanship wasn’t nearly as good as the five knives that Owen had forged for me, but it wasn’t some plastic toy you’d get out of a cereal box either. Pike was even more dangerous than I’d thought.
“He did that with just one little burst of his metal magic?” Finn let out a low whistle. “Impressive.”
“Look closer at it,” Owen said, pointing at the bottom of the knife. “Right there. See it?”
Finn and I leaned down, and I noticed a symbol stamped into the metal—a long line topped by a spiked ball. I thought of how Pike had pressed his signet ring into the spoon when he’d been shaping it. He’d been marking his impromptu weapon. Well, now I knew exactly what was engraved on his jewelry.
“A fucking mace,” I snarled.
The rune was more confirmation that Pike was the bomber and another reminder of my failure to kill him. Frustration surged through me, and my fingers itched to grab every single thing in the room that wasn’t nailed down and throw it as hard as I could. The dirty dishes, the room-service platters, all those ridiculous leopard-print boxers.
But I drew in a couple of deep breaths and let them out, pushing down my anger. Trashing Smith’s room even more than it already was would make far too much noise. It wouldn’t solve anything, and it certainly wouldn’t help me track down Pike before he struck again.
So I searched through all the cabinets and drawers, then patted down the pockets of Smith’s clothes in case we’d missed something, but there were no other clues to be found.
“All right,” I said. “Time to go.”
Finn nodded, went over to the TV, and started messing with the wires, unhooking his spy gear and putting everything back the way it was supposed to be. Owen nestled the spoon-turned-dagger back in Smith’s hand in the same position as before.
A couple of minutes later, Finn finished with the TV. He made sure the hallway was clear, then slipped next door to our room. Owen followed him, but I lingered next to Smith’s body, staring at the pool of blood that had spread out around the dead man. It almost looked like he was sleeping on red satin sheets.
I just wondered whose blood would be spilled next—Pike’s or mine.
* * *
An hour later, Finn, Owen, and I were among the gawkers standing outside the Blue Moon Hotel, watching as a stretcher bearing a black body bag was carted out of the main entrance.
A man wearing dark blue coveralls steered the stretcher across the sidewalk and over to a van waiting at the curb. The flashing blue and white lights of the hotel marquee and its crescent-moon rune made his black hair and skin gleam like polished jet. Silver glasses perched on his nose, and a small black goatee clung to his chin, giving him a serious, distinguished air.
Dr. Ryan Colson handed the stretcher off to one of his workers, then turned and looked out over the crowd. His hazel gaze locked with mine. I’d ditched my wig-and-glasses disguise, so he could see exactly who I was. He blinked a few times, as if to make sure that his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him. When he realized that it was indeed me, Colson crossed his arms over his chest and quirked his eyebrows, silently asking if I was the one who’d left behind such a bloody mess. A valid question, given the jagged wound in Smith’s neck, which was similar to many that I’d dished out over the years.
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