Spider's Trap(Elemental Assassin,book 13)(31) by Jennifer Estep
As a final touch, I’d framed a photo of the old man that I’d taken on Bone Mountain and placed it on the corner of his desk, so I could see it and be reminded of him. In the picture, Fletcher stood on a snowy mountain ridge, his hands in the pockets of his blue work pants, his green eyes bright, and a soft smile creasing his face, as he looked out over the scenic landscape. It was my favorite picture of him.
I ran my fingers over the glass and his smiling face before digging into the files. I went through all the ones I had organized first, looking for the name Pike and the mace rune, but I didn’t find either one. I sighed. I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. My life never, ever was.
So I started in on the files that I hadn’t organized yet, the ones that were still in Fletcher’s old system. An angry growl rumbled out of my throat with every folder I opened, closed, and set aside because it wasn’t the right one. Soon I had flipped through them all and had nothing to show for it. I growled again, longer and louder. Once—just once—I would like to come in here, grab the file I needed, and start reading it without all the rigmarole of searching high and low for it.
But Fletcher had stuffed files in odd locations before, hiding the really important ones for me to find in case I ever needed them. In fact, it seemed like a game that he’d arranged to play with me, even from beyond the grave. So I ransacked the rest of the office, opening all the desk drawers, peering in, under, and around all the furniture, looking for secret compartments everywhere I searched.
And I found some.
Several, as a matter of fact. False bottoms in the filing cabinet drawers, hollow panels in the bookcases, even an empty space under a loose floorboard. And all the hidey-holes had at least one folder tucked away inside them—if not more.
I sat with my back to Fletcher’s desk and eagerly flipped through them, eyeing the runes the old man had drawn on the tabs, which included everything from knives dripping blood to lightning bolts shooting through skulls to a heart made out of jagged icicles that had been arranged together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. That last file was hidden by itself in a secret compartment in the very bottom of the lowest drawer in Fletcher’s desk, as if it were particularly special.
But there was no mace rune and no Pike.
Nothing. Once again, I had nothing.
I punched the side of Fletcher’s desk in frustration. Of course, my hand had a lot more give to it than the thick, solid wood did, and I hissed in pain and glared down at my bruised knuckles.
After a moment, I shook the pain away and forced myself to think things through.
Fletcher had kept files on everyone who was anyone in the Ashland underworld, along with all the folks we’d gone after as the Tin Man and the Spider, just in case someone came looking for payback. But there was nothing in any of the folders about anyone named Pike. As far as I could tell, no Pikes had ever been part of the Ashland underworld.
It could be that Fletcher simply hadn’t known about Pike. Maybe the metal elemental wasn’t from Ashland and thus had never pinged the old man’s radar. But I still felt like I knew Pike, or had at least heard of him, even if I couldn’t remember when or where. And I was firmly convinced that the memory, as vague and hazy as it was, was the key to figuring out exactly who Pike was and what he wanted.
Or maybe Finn was right, and my crazy paranoia was showing again.
Either way, my failure in Fletcher’s office was just another in a string of missed opportunities. If only I’d taken Pike out in the hotel, I wouldn’t be sitting in the floor with busted knuckles and a bad attitude. Yep, Gin Blanco was batting exactly .000 tonight.
Out in the hallway, one of the grandfather clocks chimed out the late hour. I sighed and got to my feet, throwing the stack of hidden files on top of Fletcher’s desk. Then I slapped off the lights, left the office, and headed upstairs to try to get some sleep.
All I wanted to do was forget about all the mistakes I’d already made regarding the mysterious Mr. Pike—and what they might cost me.
Feeling more frustrated than ever before, I trudged upstairs, took a long, hot shower, and went to bed. For the longest time, I laid in the dark, glaring at the ceiling, thinking about all of Fletcher’s files that I’d looked through and how useless they had all been.
But the thing that made me the angriest was that I knew there was something in his files that would tell me all about Pike. Just like I knew I’d seen Pike somewhere before, along with his mace rune. I just couldn’t quite arrange all the puzzle pieces and vague wisps of memories together into one clear, solid picture. So I laid in bed and tried again, but the answers were as elusive as ever.
Eventually I drifted off to sleep, although I wasn’t quite sure when the dreams began, the memories that so often plagued me about all the things I’d seen, done, and survived over the years . . .
“What are we doing here?” I asked.
Fletcher looked at me, his green eyes dark and serious. “I’ve got a job to do, Gin. A very dangerous one. So you’re going to stay here until I finish it.”
Here was a cabin out in the woods in the middle of nowhere. Fletcher had woken me up early this Friday morning, told me to pack whatever I needed for a couple of days, and driven us out here in his old white van. Finn was at some outdoor adventure camp in Cypress Mountain, so he wouldn’t be back until late Sunday.
The cabin was nothing special, just thick logs that had been stacked together, the sort of quaint, rustic structure that leaf-lookers, bird-watchers, and other folks would pay an obscene amount of money to vacation in. I was surprised that someone wasn’t staying in it already, since it was late October and the height of the autumn tourist season in Ashland.
Copyright © 2015 by Read Best Books Free Online