The crows murder, p.10
The Crow’s Murder,
Part #5 of Kit Davenport series by Tate James
She grunted a noise of disgust, and her lips twisted. “Fool boy. Sure, I’ll tell you what she did. It’s no great secret around these parts anyway.”
Conversation paused as a girl came in carrying a tea tray, which she placed down on the coffee table. I couldn’t help but notice the look of interest she gave me or the way she brushed a little too close as she passed me, and it made me tense with the memory of the last time we were in Harrow. That crazy bitch, Chesca, had said I was one of them.
She was wrong, though… I was something else.
“All right, I’ll make this short and sweet because I have bingo this afternoon at the town hall. Yes, my fool boy was once in love with that harlot, but it didn’t last long. He had hero worship for her. They’d met inside that lab, Blood Moon. Bridget had healed him from near death and brought out his fox—which was a surprise, let me tell you.” She huffed a short laugh, and I raised my brows in a question.
She narrowed her eyes at me like I was a moron. “Because I’m a wolf, dumbass. Our bloodline, or his daddy’s, must have had some fox in it somewhere though, and that was what appeared when Bridget healed him. Anyway, he and those other two fools—N and L—they were totally enamoured by her. None of them saw her for the vile witch she really was… not until she took things too far, that is.”
Granny Winter paused to pick up a teacup and stir in some sugar. Both Caleb and I left ours untouched.
“How did she take things too far?” Caleb prompted.
“She got greedy, didn’t she? Power hungry. Wanted stronger dianoch than lowly foxes like N and my boy Vic. But despite her best efforts, she couldn’t bind a fourth guardian to her. Rules said Ban Dia could only have three, and when she failed to bind a fourth over and over again, she decided to cheat the system. If she could only have three, then she wanted the strongest three.” Her wrinkled lips tightened with anger, even after all these years. “So she decided to get rid of her weakest guardian and create a space for the new one she’d found. A dragon. One of the last.”
“She tried to have Vic murdered?” I asked, just to clarify what I was hearing.
Granny Winter nodded sharply. “Nothing can heal from dragon fire, not even with shifter magic. She underestimated my Vic, though, and Lachlan. The two of them together fought back and won, killing the dragon, but not without great cost.”
“Vic’s scars,” Caleb murmured in understanding. “That’s what broke them all apart? What happened to Lachlan, and how come Nicholai stayed with her?”
“She quickly saw what was happening, that conniving bitch. She saw her loyal dianoch turning their backs on her in disgust, and she backpedaled, throwing geas at them to try and bind them to her. It worked the strongest on N, that poor boy. He does his best to control her now, but for the most part, he is powerless to leave her. On Vic, as he was already so injured, just the silencing stuck. He couldn’t ever share her secrets, but he sure as shit never needed to see her hateful face again.”
“And Lachlan?” I prompted, and she gave a sly smile.
“We’re not sure. He seemed to escape untouched, but he knew she’d be tracking him down. Ain’t no way she was letting him—out of all of them—leave her. Not her strongest. It’s no surprise he’s in hiding, really.” She sniffed and pursed her lips again. “But that is why I feel the way I do. She is a selfish, murderous, two-faced harlot who deserves to rot in hell for what she did to my boy.”
“Thank you for telling us,” I responded politely, seeing she was clearly done with us as she picked up her cane and levered herself from the seat. “We appreciate the insight.”
Granny Winter huffed a noise and scowled down at us both.
“See that you make her pay whenever you catch up to her.”
“We will,” Caleb confirmed, and we made our way out of the house.
We’d come to Harrow to find some answers, and although they weren’t exactly what we’d hoped for, I had no doubt the answers we’d received would come in useful sooner or later.
“Let’s get back,” I told Caleb as we walked back out into the street. “We’ve probably already missed Kit’s call, but just in case…”
“You got it, Alpha,” he replied and opened the portal to take us home.
I couldn’t wait to see what our girl thought of our new home…
Nurses came and went over the next day, checking my vitals and providing me with oxygen, but it was all a hazy blur. It was pretty clear to me that my healing was on the fritz, just the same as my magic, but I couldn’t bring myself to give a shit.
Wesley was dead. What else even mattered?
“Hon,” a young nurse said softly, laying a gentle hand on my arm. “How are you feeling? Your throat is probably going to be sore for a couple of days as the doctors needed to intubate your trachea when you came in, but your airways weren’t compromised. You’re okay to go home now. The doctors have given you the all clear.”
I blinked up at her, hearing her words but just not comprehending what they meant for me. What would I do now? Where would I go? I couldn’t just… go home. It felt wrong on so many levels.
I touched a hand to my throat. It didn’t feel sore, but who the hell cared? My whole damn body was so numb it wouldn’t make a difference.
“Is there someone we can call for you?” the nurse offered, and I nodded automatically.
“Yes,” I croaked, my voice husky from the smoke I’d inhaled. “My…” I trailed off. In this age of mobile phones, I just never really bothered memorizing numbers any more. I had no idea where my own phone had ended up, but without it I didn’t have contact details for any of the guys.
There were only two numbers I knew by heart.
“Can I use a phone?” I asked, hoping to make the calls myself, just in case the first one didn’t pan out.
The nurse chewed her lip, then nodded. She disappeared back out of my curtained cubicle, then returned moments later with a cordless landline.
“Just dial 0 to get out and don’t forget the country code,” she whispered to me, looking like she was doing something illegal. “I can give you a couple of minutes, okay?”
“Sure,” I murmured. “Thanks.”
Giving me a short nod, she left and pulled the curtain closed behind her, leaving me wondering why it was such a big deal for me to make my own calls. Weird.
Quickly I tapped in the first number I’d ever memorized and placed it to my ear. It rang a few times as I picked at my scratchy blanket, then sadly went to voicemail.
“Hey Luce,” I croaked after the beep. “I...” I had no idea what to say next. This was our emergency line which we hadn’t used in years and she might not check it for weeks, so there was no point asking her to come get me. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about Wesley either, so instead I just sucked in a breath and started again. “I just wanted to call and see how you were doing. Anyway, I’ll try your cell when I get back from Ireland.” My voice cracked with tears as I said this, knowing I’d be returning alone. Instead of sitting there crying down the phone to my best friend’s voicemail, I disconnected the call and wiped my face on the blanket.
There was one other number I knew I could call, but for a moment I debated if I might be better off just going it alone. Somehow my wallet and phone had disappeared into the fire, and my fake passport had been in the now destroyed rental car... but I still might be better off alone.
I drummed my fingertips against the phone a couple of times while I thought. In the end, I dialed the damn number and held it to my ear while holding my breath. It rang three times before I lost my nerve and went to disconnect the call, but just as my thumb brushed the end-call button, he answered.
“Kit? What’s wrong?” The sound of my adoptive father’s voice made me freeze, and I felt the steady track of silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I couldn’t speak. Hearing his voice brought back the memories of our last meeting, which
“Kit, hon,” Jonathan sucked in a breath, then released it in a sigh. “I promise you I had nothing to do with those agents chasing you in LA. They weren’t Omega.”
It was what I’d suspected, but hearing him confirm it for me was like massive weight lifted from my shoulders. Especially now.
“You still tried to blow us up,” I said in a croaky whisper, but he heard me anyway.
“Well, yeah. But I can explain if you’ll let me.” His voice was pleading, and I said nothing. I wanted him to have a good explanation. The idea that my adoptive father had betrayed me was almost too much to accept, and I needed some sort of closure from him. Hopefully he’d have a really great reason why he tried to blow us up, then crashed our car.
“Hon, you called the emergency line. Are you okay? You don’t sound like yourself.” His question was gentle and full of concern, which sent more tears rolling down my face. I needed him to ruffle my hair and tell me to keep my chin up. He was the closest thing I had to a parent... and I really needed him.
“No,” I sniffed. “I need help.”
“Anything, little fox. What do you need?” It was the perfect response, and my cold heart warmed just a fraction.
“I just...” I paused to clear my throat. “I need you to get a message to River for me. I don’t have my phone or my wallet or...” I trailed off as my throat thickened with tears again. “Can you do that?”
“Kit,” Jonathan sounded pained, “I can try and send an encrypted message for Wesley to intercept again—”
“No,” I cut him off. “That won’t... I mean, he c-can’t...” Words failed me, and I needed to move the phone away from my face while I sobbed for a moment.
“Okay, something is really wrong. I’m coming to get you, okay?” My adoptive dad had his no-nonsense voice on, but really, I didn’t want to argue with him.
“Okay,” I squeaked back, sniffing. “They’re discharging me today, so I’ll go back to the guest house to get my—our—things.” The nurse twitched the curtain aside and gave me a clear hurry-up look, so I quickly rattled off the name and address of where Wes and I had been staying.
“Got it,” Jonathan confirmed. “I’ll take the jet and be there in twelve hours. Just hang tight, hon. I’m coming.”
When the call disconnected, the most dreadful sense of hope invaded me. Despite the fact that my soul was dying inside and every mention or thought of Wesley felt like a hot knife slicing through my flesh, my dad might not be the asshole I thought he was.
“Thanks,” I whispered, handing the phone back to the nurse. “Is it possible to get a ride back to where I’m staying? The cops said my purse was lost in the fire, so I’m a bit stuck.”
She gave me a pitying smile and nodded. “My shift ends in twenty minutes; I can drop you off on my way home.”
“No.” I shook my head. “You don’t need to do that. I just meant if I could get a taxi or something and then pay when we get there.” I was pretty sure I still had some euros sitting on the bedside table that had been pulled out of my pocket at some point.
“It’s no bother.” She smiled with warmth. “I live in the next village anyway. How about you get dressed and I’ll come back and get you when I’m done?”
She didn’t wait for me to answer before disappearing again and leaving me to change into my smoke-heavy clothes once more. I cringed a bit pulling on my soot-crusted jeans, but was fully clothed and sitting on the edge of the bed when she returned for me.
On the drive back to the village, she made a few attempts at polite conversation, but when I barely responded, she gave up and we drove in silence. Pulling up in front of the guesthouse where I’d been staying, I murmured thanks and opened my door to get out.
“Wait.” She laid a hand on my arm. “I just wanted to say I’m really sorry about your friend.” She paused, chewing her lip. “But you might want to get out of Ireland pretty quick. I overheard those gardaí talking earlier about finding a reason to hold you for questioning. This area, it’s not exactly known for the most honest law enforcement, if you catch my drift?”
Nodding my understanding, I gave her a bitter smile. “I know all too well. Thank you for telling me.”
Closing the car door firmly behind me, I needed to swallow the huge lump in my throat before I could bring myself to step foot back into the guest house. Was I really ready to re-enter into the room I’d shared with Wes for the past week? Where we had left the sheets still rumpled yesterday morning when we left... when he was so excited to learn more about his magic.
The answer was a resounding no. But I couldn’t just stand outside all night, so I pulled up my metaphorical big girl panties and took a deep breath before knocking on the owner’s door. I needed a spare key to get back into our room. After that... well I’d deal with it when I got there.
I barely remembered much past that point. Not Jonathan arriving or him scooping me up from the puddle of emotion I had collapsed into upon entering the room full of memories. Everything reminded me of Wesley. His clothes crumpled on the chair. The pillows smelled of his shampoo. It was all too much.
The flight back to Seattle was a blur. Either I was asleep or I was staring blankly out the window. Every now and then I felt Tyson and Sam trying to communicate with me, but I was so far lost inside my own head their message just wasn’t getting through, and eventually they gave up.
“Kit?” Jonathan crouched in front of me, his brow creased with worry. “Can I get you something to eat or drink? You’ve been sitting here for hours.”
The fuzz in my brain made it hard for his words to sink in, but I gave him a small headshake. I wasn’t hungry; I was just in pain. We’d gotten back to Jonathan’s house sometime before. Ever since we’d arrived, I had been sitting in the egg chair on the balcony and staring out at the pond in the backyard.
He crouched there, frowning at me for a while before sighing and leaving. He didn’t press me to talk, for which I loved him. Chances were, someone had filled him in on what had happened. Probably the guest house owner.
Eventually it got dark, so I shuffled back inside and lay down on the bed. I’d never been to this house of Jonathan’s before but wasn’t exactly in the mood to explore. I just... wanted to sleep.
This continued for several days, until one morning Jonathan came in and threw open the curtains of my room, waking me from the weird half sleep I’d been in for fuck only knew how long.
“Get up,” he ordered. “I’ve given you time; now I want to show you something.”
“Leave me alone,” I muttered, dragging the pillow over my face. “I need sleep.”
“Bullshit,” he snorted, yanking the blankets off me. “You’ve had more sleep than a hibernating bear. Now, get up. Come as you are if you want. Doesn’t bother me.”
I glared up at him, then glanced down to check what I was wearing. Sweatpants and one of Wesley’s hoodies. No way I was taking that off, so it’d have to do.
“Fine,” I muttered, pushing my ratty hair out of my face and swinging my legs over the side of the bed. Several days without eating had left me lightheaded, so it took a moment for me to get my balance before standing up. “What do you want to show me?”
“Through here,” he said, holding a door open to what looked like an office-type setup, except with multiple screens displayed on one wall. They were all off, but as we entered the room, Jonathan hit a button, turning them all on.
“What’s this?” I asked, stepping a little closer to see what was on the screens. They were security cameras or spy cameras by the look of things. Each one showed a different scene. Some were empty rooms, some had people in them... none of them made sense to me.
“I’ll show you,” my legal guardian said, pulling out a chair for me to sit in, and then he placed a large mug of coff
I glanced at it for a moment, then pushed it aside to focus on what Jonathan was doing.
He frowned at me and at the rejected mug, then used a remote to bring up an older recording on one of the screens. When it played, it was a scene I was a little familiar with. A cage fight. Except...
“Are those shifters?” I exclaimed as one of the fighters swiped at his opponent with clawed hands. While I watched, his face began morphing too, until he was half man, half wolf.
“Unfortunately, yes.” Jonathan paused the footage on the horrified face of the wolf-man’s opponent. “Worse still. This guy was human.”
“Was?” I repeated, blinking up at him in horror. I’d known about shifter fight rings; Vali and Cole had been researching them. But I had no idea they’d been fighting against unsuspecting humans.
“Was,” Jonathan confirmed. “He loses this match, and it seems these fights are to the death. There were three hundred people in attendance at that particular fight, and most of them had their phones out to film the action. This particular recording had already hit four million views on YouTube before being taken down for questionable content.”
“No shit,” I breathed, still horrified. “Cole and Vali are looking into these fight rings, but they never mentioned humans being killed.”
Jonathan shrugged. “They might not know. There are a few different organizations running these things, and they all do it differently. Their goal is being achieved though.”
Rubbing the bridge of my nose, I stared at the paused footage. “Which is?”
“Panic,” Jonathan replied. “They’re outing supernaturals, and the humans are responding exactly as expected—they’re panicking.”
“To what end?” I puzzled. “What good can possibly come from causing widespread hysteria that the boogeyman is real?”
Jonathan sighed and sat down on the bench under the window, facing me. “There is a war coming, Kit. Whether you like it or not. Those supernaturals that survived the plague, they’re bitter and angry. They’re sick of hiding in the shadows and curbing their instincts. So when someone offers them an alternative—power—it was an all too easy choice for them to take.”
The Crow’s Murder by Tate James / Fantasy / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes