Cindy Spencer Pape - [Guardian Investigations 01] (4 page)

BOOK: Cindy Spencer Pape - [Guardian Investigations 01]
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Is the FBI involved?” It took me a couple
tries, but I managed to get the words out. For sure, I wasn’t ready to deal
with the Feds again.

He shook his head, making the silvery tips
of his hair glitter in the sun. “The clients have solid reasons for not
trusting the Feds. Right now, they haven’t even called the cops. Just

“Where are the clients?”

“Less than an hour from here. That’s why
the office called me. I’m the closest.”

“And I just happened to be here.” The donut
tasted like ash now, so I put down the uneaten half. “Coincidence or fate—or
maybe Will set this up somehow. No matter how you look at it, there’s no way I
can say no. I can’t stand aside if a life is at risk. That’s why I became a cop
in the first place.”

He nodded again, and reached over to clasp
one of my hands with one of his. “Anything you need, you tell me. If it gets to
be too much, you back off. I’m not about to face your brother and tell him I
let you get hurt. Got it?”

“Got it.” I smiled. He wasn’t worried about
Will, he was worried about me. And that was so sweet, it felt like a big warm
blanket being wrapped around me. “Hope the client doesn’t mind jeans. I didn’t
bring anything else with me.” I hadn’t brought my sidearm, either. I hoped that
wasn’t going to be a problem. All I had was my little snub-nosed .22 that I
kept in an ankle holster. Honestly I’d thrown that into my bag in case of
rattlesnakes. Hadn’t even had it on me when I’d run into the damn bears. I’d have
made a lousy Girl Scout.

“They’ve worked with Guardian before,” he
muttered. “They’ll cope.” I watched the muscles of his throat work as he
drained his coffee and fought the urge to lick my way up that strong, tanned
, I promised myself. Hopefully we could wrap this up
quickly and be back to the cabin by nightfall.
Yeah, right.
Nothing ever
worked out that easily. Not in my life.

We finished breakfast in a rush. I called
the auto club about my car while Evan used his laptop to print out directions
to the clients’ home. I put on my ankle holster and grabbed my purse, while he
put on socks and hiking boots, along with a well-worn shoulder holster and a
big-ass handgun. The fact that he handled it like he knew what he was doing
reassured me more than a little.

Evan’s Jeep was around the side of the
cabin, which explained why I hadn’t seen it the night before. That and it was
olive green with so much mud on it that it was pretty much camouflaged amid the
trees. Evan scooped up a sheaf of papers from the passenger seat and tossed
them into the back. I kicked aside a couple of empty cardboard coffee cups, and
settled in. “So tell me about the clients.”

He drove with the casual confidence of
someone who knew these mountain roads well and trusted his reflexes. He sipped
coffee from a thermal mug as we went. I’d opted for a bottle of water—Evan’s
coffee was nothing to write home about.

“They’re not your typical Californian
yuppies,” he began. “Very wealthy and kind of eccentric.”

“Wealthy, how?” Criminals?
bigwigs? Neither idea was reassuring. “Give me
the background here, big guy. I don’t like going into situations blind.”

He stuck his coffee mug between his knees,
put both hands on the wheel for a second, and sighed. “This is where it gets
tricky. Will told you a little bit about Guardian, but he doesn’t seem to have
mentioned that we cater to a rather—unique—clientele.”

“Unique in what way?” Dread pooled in my
stomach. Whatever was going on, I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to get
involved in.

“There are more things in heaven and Earth,
Horatio…” He quoted. “Than are dreamt of in your—or any—philosophy.”

I went silent, waiting for the bomb to

“As a psychic, you know how hard it is to
have powers, abilities that most normal people don’t believe in, let alone
understand, right?”


“Well, you can’t possibly believe you’re
the only one, can you? You’ve got to assume there are other people out there
who are just as different as you are, maybe even more so.” He kept his eyes
fixed straight ahead on the road and didn’t once turn to read my expression.

“Hmm. Guess I hadn’t really thought about
it one way or another.” Though I should have. It did seem awfully egotistical
to assume my family was the only one out there with out-of-the-ordinary gifts.
“You’re saying that Guardian caters primarily to other psychics? Maybe even
implying that your family is another—gifted one?” Was Evan a psychic himself? I
could live with that. I’d never been involved with another one, but depending
on what his powers were, it could be cool. It would sure be nice not to have to
downplay or hide my abilities.

“Not exactly.” He grimaced. “Or rather, not
psychics. The Carters—the couple whose daughter is missing—they’re




Chapter Four


Silence reigned in the Jeep for the next
several minutes as I struggled to come to grips with what Evan had said. I’d
have accused him of making up stories, but every instinct I had—both psychic
and feminine—told me that he was telling the truth, at least, as he believed
it. I wondered if my brother knew one of his partners was crazy.

But if Evan was crazy, then God help me, I
was buying into the madness. Granddad had told me to listen with my heart, and
my heart was telling me to trust the big burly man beside me. Finally I spoke.
“So if they’re werewolves, can’t they just track the bad guys by scent?”

Evan nodded slowly. “Normally they could.
But in this case, some kind of chemical was used to mask the trail. Derek
Carter and his wife both got a whiff of it and were nearly poisoned. Both of
them were unconscious for a while and woke with their sinuses burnt out.”

I thought about that for another minute.
“So that implies that the kidnapper knew they would try to use scent. So our
unsub probably knows what kind of people he’s dealing with.”

“Yep.” His knuckles had gone white on the
steering wheel in sharp contrast to his sun-bronzed skin.

“And the daughter—presumably she’s a
werewolf, too? Or doesn’t it work that way?”

“It is a hereditary thing, but she can’t
turn into a wolf yet. According Derek and Leah, the changing doesn’t start
until puberty. Since Ericka is only eleven, she doesn’t have the fur or fangs

“Any ideas on who snatched her? Or why? I
don’t suppose there’s a chance of a simple ransom and retrieval, is there?” I
knew better, of course. Like I said, nothing in my life ever works out that

“Doubtful.” Evan shook his head. “Derek
thinks it’s a cult thing. A while ago, they were approached by a
quasi-religious group who tried to recruit them. They call themselves Sons of
the Wolf. They’ve borrowed a bit from Native American traditions, added some
Druid mythology and mixed in a handful of bat-shit insane.” He swallowed hard.
“Tonight’s the full moon, so they’re probably planning some kind of ceremony.
Derek’s big fear is that they plan to use Ericka as a sacrifice.”


“Yeah.” His hands flexed on the wheel.
“Still up for this?”

“Oh, hell yes.” Now more than ever. No way would
I allow some psychotic bastard to get away with this. Not while there was
breath in my body. “So tell me every damn thing you know about the Carters.”

* * * *

By the time we turned onto the
well-maintained two-lane private road, Evan had given me as much background as
he could about the Carters, the cult and werewolves in general. What he knew
wasn’t much. Derek Carter had inherited a small fortune but, through smart
investments, had turned it into a large one. Apparently he was part owner of
several major
Silicon Valley
firms. Leah
Morrison Carter was also a hereditary werewolf, but from a more middle-class
background in
or somewhere, where some of her relatives were still ranchers. Ericka was their
only child, a straight-A student at a local public school, and was driven to
and from everyday by her mother, though recently a bodyguard/driver had been
added to the trips. Apparently, there had been a half-hearted attempt to coax Ericka
away a few weeks earlier, right after her father had rejected the offer to join
Sons of the Wolf.

We stopped at an unmanned gate. Evan spoke
into the intercom, and we were allowed to pass.

“Good fences, personal bodyguard. Can’t
have been too easy to get the girl. Where was she snatched?”

“From her bedroom in the middle of the
night,” Evan grunted. “Security system never detected a peep. Guardian’s
computer guru is on his way down to find out why.”

Minutes later, we pulled onto a circle
drive in front of the biggest log cabin I’ve ever seen. It was a sprawling,
three-story structure, but it was designed to blend into the natural
environment rather than to stand out from it. We left the car right in front of
the house and walked side by side up the stone steps. Evan raised his hand, but
the wide, double doors were whisked open before he could knock.

“Evan. Thank God you’re here.” A petite,
frazzled looking woman in her late thirties grabbed Evan by the hand and
practically dragged him over the threshold. Her shirt was buttoned crooked, her
wavy, chestnut-brown hair was pulled into a haphazard ponytail and there were
stress lines alongside her amber-brown eyes.

“Evan.” The man who spoke was almost as
tall as Evan but more compact. His hair was dark brown with thick silver
streaks at the temples. “Thank you.” He reached around his wife and shook
Evan’s hand then offered his to me.

“Glad I was nearby,” Evan said as he shook
the man’s hand. “Rhys is on his way in the helicopter to check the electronics.
And this is Hannah Lightfoot—you’ve met her brother Will. She’s on loan from
the San Diego Police Department.” As Evan introduced me, I mentally steeled
myself to shake hands with the couple. I didn’t often get psychometric flashes
off of people, but it had been known to happen, especially when it came to
crimes of passion. If he’d been involved in whatever happened to his daughter,
the emotions would probably be close enough to the surface for me to pick up.

Derek Carter’s grip was strong and firm.
All I detected was fear and love and white-hot fury. I let out the breath I’d
barely realised I was holding and shook hands with his wife. Same deal. Except
her rage was, if possible, of a more lethal nature than her husband’s. If Leah
Carter got her hands—or rather paws—on whomever had taken her daughter, the man
was as good as dead. Since I had no particular problem with that, it was time
to get to work.

“Can you show us Ericka’s room?”

Both Carter’s looked startled at my request
and turned questioning eyes to Evan. He shrugged. “Hannah is psychometric. She
can sometimes form a mental link with someone by touching things they’ve
touched. You said Ericka disappeared from her room sometime during the night.
That seems like a logical place to start.”

Wow. Apparently my brother had told his
partners all about me. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but now wasn’t
the time to worry about it.

Derek Carter raised one eyebrow but
shrugged. His wife smiled broadly and clasped my hand again. “Oh that’s
wonderful. Come on, it’s on the second floor.” She dragged me towards a wide
curving staircase.

“Second floor?” Evan asked as the two men
followed. “So probably not in or out the window, unless you found ladder-prints
in the soil outside.”

“No prints,” Derek rumbled in a voice that
was nearly a growl. “But there was no scent—er—trace in the hallway. The only
place we think there was an intruder was in Ericka’s room.”

“Hannah knows you’re shifters,” Evan
assured them. “Remember her brother is part of Guardian, so she comes from a
rather—gifted—family herself. You can speak freely.”

Gifted. I suppose that was one way to put
it. Derek just nodded and Leah squeezed my hand. “Her room is right here.”

It looked like a typical little girl’s
room, dominated by a white canopied bed, neatly made with bedding in a pink and
turquoise flower-power pattern. A shelf on the wall held rows of books and
horse figurines. An open pink backpack stood by the door, and there were
several school books sitting on the desk, along with a box of coloured pencils
and a spiral notebook.

“Did you make her bed, or was it not slept
in?” Evan asked the parents while I looked around.

“It was like this,” Derek answered with a
shake of his head. “If she’d left on her own—I can’t imagine she wouldn’t have

He gestured at the bed. A well worn, floppy plush wolf cub sat centred on the
frilly pillows.

“None of her shoes are missing, either,”
Leah added. “Or even a jacket. And she was in her pyjamas.”

“That’s her favourite toy?” I gestured at
the bed.

Both parents nodded.

I looked up at Evan. “Stay close, okay? If
I get in too deep, it helps to have someone on hand who can pull me out.”

Evan compressed his lips and his brows knit
together, but he nodded. “You sure you’re okay with this?”

I shrugged, though his concern wrapped
around me like a hug. “It’s what I do.” I turned to the girl’s parents. “It
would help if you’d step out of the room, though. If they’re hurting her—let’s
just say you wouldn’t want to watch that.” The big fear, of course, was that I
wouldn’t be able to link with her at all—which could well mean she was dead.

I sat on the bed and leaned back against
the headboard, while Evan walked the parents out of the room. He assured them
we’d be with them soon, then shut the door and came back. He leaned against the
bedpost, standing as close as he could without actually touching me. “What do I
need to watch for?”

BOOK: Cindy Spencer Pape - [Guardian Investigations 01]
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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