Flight from mayhem fly b.., p.29
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       Flight from Mayhem (Fly by Night #2), p.29

           Yasmine Galenorn

  She shook her head. “Takes more than a few giant arachnids to harm me. Seriously, though, I have a feeling by morning I wouldn’t have had my eyes or my tongue.”

  Alex almost said something, then caught himself. “Well, luckily we won’t find out.” But he glanced at me, and I could see the wariness in his eyes. I gave him a silent nod, a promise that I would keep my mouth shut about what he had told us. But as I watched her, I realized my curiosity was eventually going to get the better of me. I would have to watch myself.

  As we approached the vehicles, Gerta remained silent and suspicious. It occurred to me that the real Gerta had never met us. We had been talking to the diatrofymata the entire time. I motioned to Alex and we stepped one side.

  “What should we do about Gerta? She doesn’t know any of us except Bette, and she only knows Bette from what little she saw her in the cavern. Should we ask her if she even wants to go with us?”

  Alex glanced at the Elder Fae. Hell, come to think of it, we really didn’t know if she even was Elder Fae. “You make a good point. The last thing I want is for her to feel like we’re kidnapping her, too.”

  He motioned for everybody to stop, then turned to Gerta. “You don’t know who we are, but we have an idea of who you are. The diatrofymata was imitating you. What do you want to do now that you’re free? Do you want to go with us? We’re headed back into the city—into Seattle. It would help if you could answer some questions for us, but we understand if you don’t want to. We have the general idea of what happened with you, Stone Weaver, and the diatrofymata.”

  She held his gaze for a moment, unsmiling. Then, in a voice that sounded like she was speaking through wind chimes, she said, “I don’t like cities. They unsettle me. I just want to return to my home.”

  “Where do you live?”

  “The realm of the Elder Fae. I know there’s a portal near here. I can find it on my own.” She paused, then asked, “Is it true that Stone Weaver is dead?” Her voice wavered ever so slightly, enough to tell me that the diatrofymata had it right. Gerta had truly loved the Elemental Fae. That was one thing the creature hadn’t lied about.

  In a soft voice, Alex said, “Yes, it’s true. I’m sorry.”

  “Then I’ll go home. There’s nothing left here for me now.” And a stream of tears trickled down her face, falling to the ground in the shape of golden coins. She looked at them, then looked at us. “Consider them my ransom fee, paid in full.” And with that Gerta, the Golden Frog, turned and vanished into the forest without a sound. I wondered if we would ever see her again.

  * * *

  The return trip was silent. Thomas had been seriously injured, but he would survive, and he was in the back of Frank’s vehicle. Bette leaned against the left backseat door, her feet up and resting on Chai’s lap. Tonya was on Chai’s right, and Ralph rode home with us, in the back with all our supplies. Chai was rubbing Bette’s ankles, which still bore the marks of the duct tape that had bound her.

  “I suppose Chase will be happy to hear that the serial killer is dead. And trust me, that creature was the killer.” Bette sounded discouraged. “I suppose you’re wondering what happened?”

  “Well, yes. Ralph went to the boat to drop off something and found the mess there. But we know what happened.” I went on to explain what we had figured out about how the diatrofymata had created a persona to mingle with the others, and how it had imitated Gerta. “So it managed to pinpoint its marks well ahead of time. As Estelle, the creature was able to dig into the background of everybody there. It wouldn’t take much spying to find out that you work for a private investigator. And, as Gerta, it listened in to our plan to set you as bait.” That explanation was true, yet skirted anything that might expose what Alex had told us.

  “Damn thing thought of everything, didn’t it? I hope to hell they’re a rare breed because I don’t ever want to go up against another one. Anyway, I was getting ready to go down to the center when Estelle came knocking on my door. Of course I let her in because, hey—it was Estelle. Once she was inside the boat . . .” Bette’s voice drifted off. “You know, I don’t remember anything else until I woke up in the cave, strapped up tighter than a hog on butchering day. I don’t know what happened.”

  Something about her memory loss made me nervous, but I kept my mouth shut. It could be that the creature had knocked her out with some sedative, or cast a spell that it managed to get from somewhere. Whatever the case, we could figure it out later. At least Bette was safe, we had freed Gerta, and our serial killer was dead. And that was as much as we could ask for, when I really thought about it.


  On the way home, I put in a call to Chase to let him know we had caught the serial killer. I got hold of Yugi, and he promised to call Chase as soon as he was off the phone with me.

  “So is it what you thought it was? Chase told me it was some sort of doppelgänger.”

  “It was even stranger than that, but you don’t have to worry about it anymore. We took care of the situation.” I wasn’t sure exactly how far to go in terms of telling Yugi what had happened. I figured Alex would decide how much we should tell the cops. I was still finding my way around interacting with humans and human authorities, and I didn’t want to overstep my bounds. But I did have a question. “Do you know anything new about that baby’s skeleton?”

  Alex jerked his head, flashing me a puzzled look. But he kept his mouth shut and went back to focusing on the road.

  “Given the circumstances, we had one of our Otherworld specialists look into it. She determined that the baby was human, and yes, the bones are those of Mary’s missing son. Of course, we’ll run them through testing with the medical examiner, but I guarantee you the results will be the same. The child had a broken neck.” Yugi was silent for a moment, then let out a soft breath. “Mary will probably get blamed for the death, but somehow I don’t think she did it.”

  “She didn’t. Her husband did. Who will take possession of the body?”

  “Probably Mary’s relative—Elena. One way or another, the child will be properly buried.” He paused again, then asked, “That’s what you are wondering, isn’t it?”

  “You nailed it on the head.” As I punched the End Talk button, I wondered about Yugi and exactly who he was. I knew he was human, but he was a very special human.

  “The skeleton was Mary’s baby.” I let out a sigh and leaned back in my seat. “I want to cleanse that house. I want to put her to rest. I wonder, do you think she’s there, searching for her lost child?”

  “You might be right.” Tonya leaned forward, peeking between the seats. “Even though we know her husband drove her over the edge and that she killed her family, we also know that he’s the one that killed the boy. It could be that when she finds out that we know the truth, it might set her free.”

  I glanced at the dashboard clock. It was just past one A.M. “I know it’s been a long night already, but what do you think about telling her?” I suddenly had a strong need to clear that space as soon as possible. “I don’t know how to explain this, but I’m actually afraid of letting it go for another night.”

  “What do you think might happen?” Ralph asked.

  “I don’t know, but it feels like we stirred up things when we found the child’s body. I’m nervous.” And then a thought hit me, and my stomach curled in that way that told me I was right on key. “I know something—I know whatever that creature is we met in the house, and that’s still there, is her husband’s ghost. He’s still abusing her from the spirit world. He drove her into insanity and now he’s punishing her.”

  “You’re right. I know you’re right!” Tonya shifted in her seat. “I’ll go with you. I’ve got my tool bag with me. I didn’t want to leave it in the house in case—” She paused, glancing over at Alex. “I didn’t want to leave it there in case Glenda returned and took it in her head to destroy anything else.”

  Alex let out a low growl. “Rest assured, I’ll take care of the bitch.”

  That startled me. Alex seldom cursed in front of women.

  He flashed me another look. “By the way, are you going to tell me what you’re talking about? What skeleton did you find and where?”

  We filled in both Alex and Bette on what had happened early in the morning. “So much has gone on today that it’s hard to remember who knows what.”

  “As soon as we make sure that Thomas is all right, we’ll head over to your place. We might as well tie up as many loose ends as we can before the night’s over.” As Alex eased the car onto the freeway and we headed west toward Seattle, Tonya and Chai and I discussed how we were going to tackle Mary. And Ralph, he just stared out the window. I had the feeling he was thinking about his upcoming marriage.

  * * *

  We reached the FH-CSI shortly after Frank and his men arrived. The medics brought out a stretcher to carry Thomas inside. As we followed them in, Tonya craned her neck. I had only been here a few times, but I did my best to explain to her how the organization was set up, even though I didn’t know all that much about it. Yugi met us and led us back to the medic unit, where we sat in the waiting room, along with Frank and his men.

  “I want to thank you. You really helped us out tonight and we appreciate it.” Alex leaned over and held out his hand to the werewolf. I knew it was difficult for him; vampires and werewolves usually didn’t get along very well. Ralph and Alex were an exception. But Frank returned the smile and then accepted the proffered handshake.

  “My pleasure. It takes a united effort at times to overcome a common enemy. That creature wouldn’t have stopped with Fae. It would have gone on to wealthy Supes. But I am concerned about the werespiders. They aren’t unnatural. And your friend here, he said they were magical constructs. If that’s true, then who created them and why?”

  “That’s an extremely good question and not one I have any answers for at this point. But I suppose we should look into it. I’m concerned about what else might be lurking out there.” Alex usually didn’t make it his business to look into matters we weren’t hired to investigate, but I could tell the werespiders had unsettled him in a way I had never before seen.

  “Why don’t you give me a call tomorrow night around nine P.M.? I’ll do a little digging and see what I can come up with. I know some friends of mine had a problem with hobo werespiders a couple years ago, and there were coyoteshifters involved. I don’t know much more than that, but the rumor mill gets around.” Frank rubbed his chin, then jumped up as one of the medics approached.

  The elf looked barely old enough to vote, let alone be a doctor, but I knew the Elfin race, and they usually were far older than most people thought. Most of them were ancient, although not as old as Dragonkin.

  “My name is Mallen. I’m the head medic here. We’ve done a cursory examination on your friend Thomas. I don’t think there’s any internal bleeding, but he suffered multiple broken bones. I know werewolves heal quickly so I wanted to talk to you about the best way to proceed. If you could follow me, you can give me information on his background.”

  Frank stood, but before he left he turned to Alex. “So I’ll talk to you tomorrow night? Nine P.M.?”

  Alex nodded. “I’ll expect your call. Go take care of your buddy. And wish him swift healing from us, if you will. Send the bill to Chase Johnson.”

  As Frank followed Mallen into a private office, Chai, Bette, Ralph, Alex, and I all stood. We made our good-byes to the remaining werewolves and headed out the door.

  “Can you drop me off at my boat? I’m tired and I want a shower. And from what it sounds like, I need to clean up my place and see what’s broken.” Bette let out a long sigh. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t go ghost hunting with you tonight.”

  “Do you want some company?” Alex lightly placed a hand on her elbow, looking worried.

  She bit her lip, glancing at me, and I realized she was worried what I might think.

  “Go ahead. You can come over later. Tonya, Chai, and I can take care of the ghost.” I glanced at Ralph. “Do you want to come with us?”

  He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m wiped. I’d like to help out but I just don’t have any oomph left in me tonight.”

  “Then go home and rest. And, I guess, start planning your wedding.” I winked at him, wanting him to know that we supported him.

  “Yeah, I guess there is that.”

  Bette tapped him on the shoulder. “You’re going to need someone to help you. Geek boys don’t make the best wedding planners. Why don’t you come over to my place? I’ve got beer, and that way Alex can go with Shimmer and the others.” She held up her hand as I started to speak. “No, sugar. It’s all right. Ralph can watch after me. Not that I need watching after. And I’ll look after him.”

  She wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Alex dropped them off at her houseboat. Ralph assured us that he could pick up his car from the office later on, and the rest of us headed to my house.

  * * *

  By the time we reached my neighborhood, it was almost three. With a heavy heart, I climbed the stairs to the front porch, hoping that somehow Coolray and Wriggly had managed to survive in their interim tanks. I hesitantly unlocked the door and we entered. I hadn’t set the alarm when we left because I wasn’t sure of how much water damage there was and whether it had affected any of the wiring. Chai struck up a light without being asked, a soft glow that illuminated the entire room.

  Alex stared in silence at the shattered aquarium and the glass that covered the floor. The standing water was gone, having saturated the carpet, drained out the open door when we left, and—I feared—soaked into the floor. There was a grimy line around the wall about six inches off the floor and the room smelled vaguely of mildew. I cringed as I saw dead fish everywhere. And even though things mattered to me a whole lot less than my fish, the sight of my ruined furniture disheartened me. My books on the bottom shelf were goners. Feeling helpless, I stood there shaking my head.

  Alex slowly walked into the room, and when he turned, the look on his face almost broke my heart. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this happened. I promise, I’ll make it right. I’ll pay for all the repairs and I’ll replace anything that got damaged. I can’t do much about the fish that were killed, but you’ll have new fish. And Glenda will cease to be a problem.”

  There wasn’t much I could say. I knew he meant well, but until Glenda was long gone, it would be hard for me to trust that she wouldn’t come back to make matters worse. “Why don’t we head over to take care of Mary?”

  As we trooped back outside and across the street, I wasn’t sure why I felt so confident this was going to work. But something inside whispered that all she needed to do, all she needed to hear, was that we knew she hadn’t killed her baby. Somebody needed to believe that she hadn’t killed the infant.

  We cautiously skirted the holes on the porch and I opened the front door, letting myself in. Tonya followed, and then Chai and Alex behind us.

  “Mary? Mary are you here?” I glanced around, hoping she would just show up.

  A noise from the kitchen alerted us, and I headed in that direction. But I had no more than reached the doorway leading into the dining area when something came sailing through the air at me. I screamed, “Duck!” as I dropped to the floor.

  Luckily, the others reacted just as quickly as a cleaver went sailing over our heads.

  “So you want to play?” Chai whispered as he quickly moved to the front and motioned for us to stay back. “Wait for my signal.”

  Another loud noise crashed in the kitchen and I heard Chai yell, “Get in here but be careful!”

  We rushed in just in time to see a menacing figure standing there. A large man, and I knew from Tonya’s description of her vision that it was probably Mary’s husband. He turned to us and let out a thundering roar that shook the house.

  “Get out of here or I’ll kill you!” His voice reverberated through the walls, and I heard someone cry out.

  I turned to see Mary s
tanding in the corner of the kitchen, holding her head as she rocked back and forth. “Make him stop, make him stop, please make him stop!” She was screaming and he turned to her and held out his hand. A dark plume of smoke engulfed her and she began to scream louder.

  “Shut up, you bitch! I should have killed you when I had the chance.” His voice ricocheted along the walls, knocking bric-a-brac to the floor.

  “Mary, listen to me!” Tonya moved forward, fumbling in her bag until she found what she was looking for. She pulled out a silver dagger and Alex flinched to the side.

  “Mary, hear me!” Tonya drew a pentagram in the air and as we watched, it took on a faint blue light. “We know you didn’t kill your son! We know that it was your husband who killed your baby. We know he made you bury it in the yard, and we know that his abuse drove you insane. We found your baby.”

  There was a sudden hush as both Mary and her husband turned toward us. The look on her husband’s face was terrifying, like some grotesque mask or demon’s face. But Mary heard us. She slowly lowered her hands and straightened her shoulders.

  “You found him?” Her focus was solely on Tonya, ignoring her husband as if he didn’t exist.

  “We found him. He’s going to be properly buried. We know how hard your life must have been. We’re so sorry.” Tonya slowly moved forward, her dagger outstretched, moving the pentagram along in front. “By the powers of Hecate, I free you from your torture. I free you from your memories. I free you from the spirit of your husband. You can go now, Mary. He can’t keep you here anymore.”

  Mary’s eyes grew clear and the cunning look that I had seen on her face was gone, along with the fear. She hesitantly stepped toward Tonya. “You mean I can leave? It’s okay for me to leave? I can rest?”

  The spirit of Mary’s husband roared and he charged toward Tonya. Chai let out a shout and within the blink of an eye was between them. The spirit froze, a look of fear crossing his face as Chai blazed with a brilliant, fiery light and held out his hands.

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