Home > Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(14)

Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(14)
Author: Patricia Briggs

He'd had a pretty good idea whom they'd send in from Homeland Security because they had only eight people specializing in preternatural matters, and he had files on them all.

Political climber, he told Anna silently, returning Pierce's smile. Pierce's face became a lot less happy and he pushed his chair back a few inches. On his way to public office. Do you think I should work on my smile?

Anna glanced back at him and frowned. Behave, said his mate, seriously enough. But he read her amusement in the little upturn of her lips.

"Dr. Steven Singh," said the second Homeland agent.

An old-fashioned patriot, Charles informed Anna after exchanging martial arts - style nods with the doctor. He's on record as personally classifying the fae and werewolves as domestic terrorists. Charles tended to agree with him. Neither is here because they desire to help catch a serial killer. Pierce won't have anything to add. Singh is smart enough that he might be of use, even though he doesn't care about the crime.

The Cantrip agents were more interesting. He didn't know as much about Cantrip, as it was an even newer agency than Homeland Security, having come into being when the werewolves outed themselves. Though funded and authorized by the government, their role was "to collect and share information about nonhuman and altered-human groups and individuals," which left them a lot of leeway. They had two main offices, one on either coast, and otherwise seemed to travel around the country to concern themselves mostly in criminal cases that involved fae, werewolves, or anything else that looked odd to them.

His father tended to dismiss the Cantrip agents as harmless, since they had no authority to arrest or detain anyone. Charles was less sanguine, as they were one of the government agencies required to go armed at all times - and they carried guns with silver bullets. He had files on a lot of their people, but had decided to see who they sent before refreshing his memory.

The older of the two Cantrip agents tried (and failed) to meet his eyes, then stared rather intently at Anna, which caused Charles's hackles to rise - and Brother Wolf didn't like him much, either.

"Patrick Morris," he said. "Cantrip, special agent."

"Formerly of the FBI," said Ms. Fisher with a cool disapproval that said anyone who chose to leave the FBI was a fool.

"Les Heuter," said the younger man, and abruptly became more interesting.

Heuter is a poster child for Cantrip, Charles told Anna. His father is a senator from Texas. If someone from Cantrip is interviewed in the press, three times out of four it is Heuter. Which was one of the reasons, Charles thought, that people tended not to take Cantrip more seriously.

He should have recognized Heuter right away, but he looked different in person, not as stalwart, impressive, or pretty, but more earnest and likable. He smelled eager, like a hunting dog waiting for the scent. Charles wondered if it was the werewolves or the serial killer that caused the young man's adrenaline rush.

He had a good poker face, though. Charles doubted any of the humans in the room would detect how excited Les Heuter was to be here. Charles had never been human, but he decided it must be like walking around with earplugs and nose plugs in all the time.

Goldstein looked around. "People, let's get the ball rolling." He looked at Charles. "The man who set this meeting up tells me that three werewolves weren't likely to be victims by happenstance. According to him, there just aren't that many werewolves out and about. He speculated that three victims has to mean that our killer is targeting werewolves and suggested we lay out all the victims from the beginning for you, Mr. Smith, and see what you think before I start asking questions. In that light, I'll tell you what we know about this one, and would appreciate anything you can give us."

Charles folded his arms and leaned against the wall, his attention on Anna, telegraphing as loudly as body language could that Anna was in charge.

This was Anna's job - if Charles had to deal with them, they'd likely run scared and start shooting werewolves themselves.

"Who did set this up?" asked Heuter abruptly.

Goldstein turned to look at the younger man and said blandly, "I have no idea. The man who called me didn't identify himself beyond that, just suggested I take notes and his advice. As most of it seemed common sense, I did so."

Bran, thought Anna.

Probably, agreed Charles. Or Adam Hauptman.

Anna met Heuter's gaze and shrugged. "I know who set up our end. I have no idea who set up yours."

Goldstein had taken out his laptop and hooked it up to the video system in the room. He cleared his throat. "Agent Fisher, would you secure the door, please? Some of these images are graphic and I would rather not startle some poor maid."

The door was locked and Goldstein took his glasses off and cleaned them as Agent Fisher turned off the lights. When he put the glasses back on, he donned with them the mantle of authority; the faint air of weakness, of age and harmlessness, vanished. For just an instant, Agent Goldstein was a man who hunted other men, then the aura of weakness returned like another man might don a comfortable old shirt.

"We call our UNSUB - " He paused. "That's FBI-speak for 'unknown subject,' which seems a little more professional and less hysterical than 'killer' and more grown-up than 'bad guy.' This UNSUB is known as the Big Game Hunter, because for the first two decades all the kills took place during the traditional hunting season. The first kill we know of was in 1975, though, given the sophistication of the killings, it is likely that he killed earlier than that." He looked at Anna, who must have changed expression, and said, "Yes. We are absolutely certain this killer is a man."

He hit a button and two pictures came up on the big TV screen, side by side. The first was a school photo of a teenage Asian girl - Chinese, Charles thought. She was smiling gamely at the photographer and there was a bright orange headband in her hair. The second photo was very grainy and showed a naked body, head shrouded in shadows and a white sheet or blanket flung over her hips.

"Karen Yun-Hao was fourteen. She was abducted from her bedroom on..."

Charles let the man's voice drift; he'd remember what Agent Goldstein said later if he needed to. For now he concentrated on the faces, looking for clues, for people he had known, for victims who were pack.

The first year their killer took four girls, each a week apart. Asian and young, none over sixteen or under twelve. He kept them and raped and tortured them until he was ready to take the next victim. The FBI thought he killed one victim just before he took the next - though there was some possible overlap. As soon as hunting season was over, he stopped. The first year was Vermont, the second was Maine, where he stayed for a few years, then Michigan, Texas, and Oklahoma.

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