Twice Tempted Page 17
The officer nodded. Maximus drew me to a lone hut about thirty yards away. Before last night, it had been a concession stand. Now it was empty, the harsh scent of chemical smoke replacing the popcorn, cotton candy, and funnel cake aromas. I took my right glove off with a sigh. I'd leave fingerprints this time, but I had no choice. Then I stroked the piece of plastic.
The first thing I relived was an investigator finding this shard. From his thoughts, I knew it wasn't plastic, but titanium, a material sometimes used in bomb making. Underneath that, I had the faintest impression of another person digging in the dark, but the essence trail was too weak. The fire must've burned most of the traces away.
’’You were right. Doesn't look like an accident,’’ I said.
’’I knew it,’’ Maximus muttered. ’’Did you see who did it?’’
I stroked one of the wires next, disappointed when the only impressions were from another crime scene investigator. Then I touched the final wire and the concession stand vanished.
I whistled as I pressed the wires into the plastique, then used thin surgical forceps to twine the ends around the trigger. After examining them, I closed the shell over the device and leaned back, taking off my mask. Finished. I gazed proudly at the bomb. By far my best work. Pity no one would appreciate its intricate design, but most of it would disintegrate on detonation. Just as the client wanted.
That image dissolved and I was back in the concession stand with a huge vampire disguised as the wolfman. I smiled at Maximus with a coldness I hadn't thought myself capable of.
’’I've got the bomb maker.’’
His name was Adrian, and it took two days of linking to him to discover where he lived. One of the drawbacks to finding people in the present was not being inside their heads. People didn't have their addresses tattooed onto their forearms, so determining their location wasn't always easy. Adrian didn't help me out that first day, either. He mostly slept.
The next morning, he walked to his local Starbucks, ordered a double shot of espresso, and then read the news on his iPhone. Twenty minutes later, Maximus and I were on our way to Chicago.
He drove. Chivalry or control freak, I didn't know, and after several hours, I didn't care. I'd stayed up most of the previous night trying to determine Adrian's location. On top of lost sleep, linking to someone for long periods of time drained me. I'd been determined to stay awake in case Maximus changed his mind about splitting up the drive, but at some point between Atlanta and Chicago, I nodded off.
I floated above a white hallway. Doors were at either end, one wide with a computer keypad that a curly-haired woman sat beside, the others so nondescript as to be drab.
That second set of doors opened and Vlad strode through. His trench coat was open, the sides fluttering like dark wings. I gasped, trying to disappear into the ceiling, but he didn't seem to notice me. He continued down the hallway at a pace that had the doctor behind him running to keep up.
The curly-haired guard rose. ’’Who are you?’’
’’Shut up and open that door,’’ Vlad snarled.
He'd passed by me, so I couldn't see if his eyes were lit up. Even if they weren't, the barely restrained violence in his tone must've been enough for the female guard. She punched in a few numbers on the keypad and the wide door swung open.
As soon as the doctor caught up, Vlad grasped him by the collar, lifting him off his feet. ’’Now, show me her body.’’
Another snarl that throbbed with the promise of the grave. The doctor nodded as much as Vlad's fist around his neck allowed. Vlad dropped him, and once he righted himself, the doctor hurried inside the room, Vlad right behind him.
I knew I should leave, but I couldn't stop myself from floating toward the open doorway. Before I reached it, I heard a metallic creak and then Vlad's harsh ’’Now get out.’’
The doctor ran from the room, his head passing through my legs as his body briefly converged with mine. My formless state should have worried me, yet I was oddly unconcerned. If I was dead, there was nothing I could do to change that. Plus, as long as I didn't have a real body, then Vlad wouldn't know I was here. I floated past the guard, who was huddled behind her chair, mumbling something that sounded like a prayer.
Even though no one had been able to see me thus far, I only peeked into the room beyond. It had several metal tables, a long sink with multiple basins, and a wall made up entirely of what appeared to be square steel cabinets.
Vlad stood next to an open cabinet in the wall. A slab holding a black plastic bag jutted out in front of him. His head was bowed, dark hair hiding his expression as he unzipped the bag. Fire engulfed him from hands to shoulders as he stared at its contents. Then, very slowly, those flames extinguished as he reached inside.
Now I knew where I was. A morgue, and though I had a good idea of what was in the bag, I had to be sure. I floated over, keeping close to the ceiling, and peered down.
My first surprise was how little it contained. A skull, two femurs, and a spine comprised the pieces big enough for me to identify. After that, it was anyone's guess as to what the other charred, smaller bits were. My next surprise was seeing Vlad stroke the bones. He traced the curve of the spine, the length of the femurs, and then the skull, all with a touch so gentle it barely disturbed them. I still couldn't see his face, but the light piercing through his hair was so intense that I half expected it to burn the bones like twin emerald lasers.
My biggest shock was hearing him sigh, ’’Leila,’’ as he stroked the bones. He thought these were mine? But Vlad was in Romania and I'd supposedly been blown to bits in Georgia -