Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(30) by Jennifer Estep
I shook my head. I hadn’t killed anyone tonight—for a change.
The corners of Colson’s lips curled up into a small, wry smile. He nodded at me, then went over to help his worker load the stretcher into the coroner’s van.
Bria pushed through the revolving doors, having finished her questioning of the hotel staff. She headed in my direction, trailed by a giant who was around seven feet tall with a shaved head and ebony skin. Despite the late hour, a pair of aviator sunglasses was hooked into the neck of his white polo shirt. Xavier, Bria’s partner on the force.
“Anything?” I asked Bria.
After Finn, Owen, and I had left the hotel, I’d called Bria and given her a heads-up about Smith’s murder. We’d hung around until she, Xavier, and the rest of the cops had arrived.
Bria checked the notes on the small pad in her hand. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Guy’s name was Harold Smith, according to his credit card and driver’s license. It looks to be his real name. Been staying here for the past few days. Didn’t hassle the staff, although one of the housekeepers told me what a slob he was. No bomb-making materials and no trace of any explosives ever being in his room.”
I rubbed my head, which was suddenly aching. “That’s because Pike was the one who actually built the bombs, probably somewhere else. Smith was just his delivery boy. When I messed up his plan and Smith didn’t die in the explosion, Pike came here and finished the job.”
Not for the first time, I wish that I’d moved quicker and had managed to catch Pike in the hallway outside Smith’s room. A couple of swipes with my knife, and I could have ended this whole thing before anyone else got hurt. But I’d wanted to watch Pike, to see if I could figure out why he seemed so familiar, and I’d blown my chance. Well, that and I didn’t want to plow through that elderly couple and traumatize them by stabbing Pike right in front of them. Or worse, put them in the crossfire. Unlike Pike, I tried to keep collateral damage—and witnesses—to a minimum. Either way, he was in the wind, and I was back to square one.
“Anything on a guest named Pike staying at the hotel?” I asked, even though I knew that he wouldn’t be dumb enough to stay at the same hotel as his minion.
Xavier shook his head. “No one by that name is registered here, but I’ll start checking the other hotels. You think that’s his real name or an alias?”
“Real name,” I said automatically.
Xavier frowned. “Are you sure? How do you know that?”
How did I know that? I couldn’t come up with a reasonable answer. But the more I thought about it, the more certain I felt that Pike was his real name.
But I couldn’t explain to Xavier what I didn’t know myself, so I shrugged. “I just do. Call it a hunch.”
But it was more than a hunch, which didn’t make any sense either. And the name Pike nagged at me, the same way the mace rune had been nagging at me since yesterday. Most of the time, I was good at remembering names and faces, especially of dangerous elementals. It was practically a job requirement, both as an assassin and as the head of the underworld. I knew this guy—I knew I did—but I’d be damned if I could recall when or where we’d met or why he wanted to blast me into oblivion.
“I’ll let you know if we find out anything else or if Pike shows up at any of the local hotels,” Bria said.
“Just be careful. Okay, guys?”
She and Xavier both nodded at me, then headed back to the hotel, pushed through the revolving doors, and disappeared inside to see what other leads they might come up with.
There was nothing else to see or do here, so Finn, Owen, and I got into Finn’s car, and he drove us over to Fletcher’s house before heading back to his apartment.
Owen had promised Eva, his baby sister, that they would hang out after her last evening class, so he kissed me good night and went home. After he left, I checked in with Silvio, who promised to reach out to his sources and meet me at the Pork Pit bright and early the next morning with a complete update. Sometimes I wondered if the vampire ever actually slept. If he did, he probably had his tablet and phone nestled on the pillow next to him.
But Silvio wasn’t the only one with resources, so I tossed my phone onto the coffee table in the den, got up off the couch, and went to Fletcher’s office.
I flipped on the lights and looked out over the old man’s personal space. A battered desk, bookcases, filing cabinets. Given our life of crime, Fletcher had spent a fair amount of time keeping tabs on our enemies, in addition to spying on and collecting information about all the folks in the Ashland underworld. So his office was a veritable treasure trove of dirty little secrets, despite the benign furnishings.
For the longest time, I didn’t have the heart to tidy up Fletcher’s cluttered office, but I’d finally had to start going through all the papers and folders that he’d accumulated over the years. Assassin smothered by piles of papers was not a headline I wanted to read.
Plus, Fletcher had had his own unique filing system, organizing most—but not all—of the files by the runes people used to represent their magic, family, business, or crew. I’d never understood why he’d done things that way, rather than just using people’s names, but I supposed it had been the system that worked for him.
Over the past several weeks, I’d slowly started sorting through all the files and reorganizing them in a way that would let me understand and access the information more easily when needed. But I’d left the majority of the furniture, pens, pads, paperweights, and other knickknacks in their usual spots, as an homage to him, and every once in a while, I would brew a cup of chicory coffee, bring it back here, set it on his desk, and let the fumes permeate the office, just as they had when Fletcher had been alive.
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