He grinned when Stasya greeted him with a full-on hug. Patrick settled for affectionately punching him in the shoulder. “Hey, Baby Bear.” Stasya let him go. “What’s the situation?”
“Still something of an unknown.” Adam took a deep breath. “Dealing with…” He blinked, then looked around. Patrick’s suitcase was sitting open on the table, but Stasya’s dress was flung over the back of a chair. “So, what exactly happened after I got teleported out of the back of that limo?”
“Well, you see…” Patrick shrugged and spread his hands. “Son, there are bird, and there are bees, and when…”
“Oh, shut up.” Adam chuckled, then turned to Stasya. “You have terrible taste in men.”
“I know.” She nodded.
“Anyway…” Adam winked at Patrick, who grinned. “We are dealing with a couple witches. One managed to block some of Wren’s magic…” And he’d cheerfully kill to learn how the man had pulled that off. “And the other apparently put Sima through a wall.” That one he wanted to high five.
“So, it was a wolf or a vamp.” Patrick sat, putting his feet up on the table.
“Sima claims she’d have known if they were.” Adam shrugged and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Additional complication, they both appear to be LEOs.”
“Cops are not attention we want drawn, Baby Bear.” Stasya smacked Patrick’s feet down before sitting in his lap.
“I know.” Adam twitched a shoulder.
“You alright, Baby Bear?” She narrowed her eyes.
“I’ll be fine, Mama Bear.” He smiled. She gave him a skeptical look, but nodded. “We’ve got the names of the cops.”
“This a recruit or capture mission?” Patrick put his arm around Stasya as he sat up a little.
Adam frowned. “It’s take them in alive, by whichever method.”
“So maximum chances for things to go horribly wrong.” Patrick nodded. “Alright, let’s do the legwork thing.”
It was a surprisingly nice city. There was a line of excellent little shops along a boardwalk overlooking the ocean. Apparently, no few rich people lived around the city, in mini-mansions around the lakes and on the coast. Sections of the city catered to them and to tourists. She admired a couple leather handbags, trying to decide which one she wanted before just shrugging and purchasing both. The total came to more than her father had been willing to allow her for a car. Wren handed over her credit card and smiled.
For the life of her she couldn’t figure out why Adam still got mopey over their new life. Then again, perhaps Sima had a point. She did neglect him sometimes. Wren stopped at another shop, and ran her hand over a lovely leather-bound sketchbook. The pattern on it looked vaguely Chinese, like some of the artwork his father collected. She added the sketchbook to her growing collection of items, then headed for a cafe.
If she could figure out how to bring his clothes with she would have pulled Adam in to join her. Though by now he was probably already collecting his team and getting to work. Her Adam had a team. The thought amused her. He’d always hated most team sports. She finished her lunch, then started to reach for her tablet.
“Excuse me?” Wren looked up to see an elegantly dressed oriental man. He gave her a slight bow. “Forgive the interruption, my dear, but are you from the area?”
“Just a tourist, I’m afraid.” She gave him a polite smile.
“Ah, then I apologize for interrupting. I admired your necklace and wished to know if it was the work of a local artist.”
Her hand touched the talisman. “I’m afraid not. I fear the artist in question died some time ago.”
“Ah, an heirloom, then. More is the pity.” He bowed again. “Do have a pleasant rest of your day.” He smiled before moving on.
She shrugged and went back to her tablet.
He leaned over Patrick’s shoulder. “What do you have?”
“Lloyd Andrew Michaels.” Patrick nodded at the screen. “Jock turned Marine. Went boots on the ground in Iraq, has a couple medals to show for it.” Patrick leaned back. “Boy has himself a bronze star. Those don’t exactly come in cracker jack boxes.”
“Only two I know anything about is the medal of honor and the purple heart.” Adam raised an eyebrow.
“It is a medal of honor, just not the big one. Means he impressed Marines, and jarheads don’t impress easy.
“Weren’t you a marine?” Stasya tilted her head.
Patrick snorted. “Navy SEAL, sweetheart, and don’t you forget it. We’re the ones that go in when the Marines wuss out.”
“Yeah, not getting into a which branch of service has bigger dicks —”
“— argument cause we do not have that kind of time.” Adam rolled his eyes.
“Anyway, jarhead with a bronze is not somebody to fuck with. If you are most people, which we admittedly are not.” Patrick shrugged. “Gout out and immediately joined the police force. Solid but not impressive career until he partnered up with this guy here.” He clicked over to another screen.
“Pretty.” Stasya let out a low whistle.
“Gabriel Wililams. Get this, guy is a seminary school grad.”
“Priest turned cop?” Adam blinked.
“Nah, psych major. Shrink turned cop. Not sure which one is worse.” Patrick scrolled down a little. “Though his next of kin is a priest. This guy made detective in record time, and is pretty much the department golden boy.”
“Couple witches team up, start getting things done.” Stasya waved a hand.
“Yep, which…” Patrick pulled up an article. “Brings me to exhibit A. This town has itself a couple vigilantes doing the superhero thing.”
“The Crimson Crusaders?” Adam stared at the article. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“These two never hear term ‘low profile’?” Stasya ran a hand down her face. “Why did it take so long for our people to notice them?”
“Good question.” Patrick nodded. “I suggest we stakeout their places tomorrow, see what our boys get up to.”
“I volunteer to watch the pretty one.” Stasya held up a hand. When they both looked at her, she smiled shamelessly. “I’ll need camera with telephoto lens and good angle on his shower.”
“I’ll take the other house. Patrick, you go with Stasya.” He smirked. “And remember, you’re watching a house, keep the making out to a minimum.”
“Hey.” Patrick glared. “I’m a professional.”
Wren watched Adam unwrap the sketchbook. He smiled at it before looking up at her, and she ran her hand down his cheek before kissing him. “I thought maybe we could go out to dinner tonight, just you and me.” She seated herself in his lap and put her arm around his shoulders. “There is this nice looking little Italian place on the boardwalk.”
His arms went around her, holding her close. “I’d like that.” He nuzzled her neck. “You smell good.”
She laughed. “There was this adorable little boutique with lotions. I had some fun with the testers.” She offered him her wrist.
He sniffed it, then caught it in his hand and made a show of play-biting her. “Cookies.”
“Wait…” She giggled, then leaned back and offered him her ankle.
Adam sniffed, then blinked and sniffed again. He extended his tongue and touched it to her skin, then sniffed again. “I think they were going for pineapple.”
“They called it tropical zest.” She offered him her other wrist.
“That just smells…” He sniffed it again. “Kinda like snow.”
Slowly, she shifted to straddle him, then undid a few buttons on her blouse. “And?”
“Mmmm…” He bent his head to sniff at her breasts, then pulled back before leaning in to sniff again. “Can’t identify it.” He smiled up at her. “Might need a taste test.” He caught her and pulled her to him, making her squeal.
She was moaning when he lifted his head again. “Chocolate covered Wren?”
“That’s the one.” She laughed.
“My favorite.” He bent his head back toward her breasts.
Reluctantly, she drew back. “What did your team find?”
His voice went from slightly husky to business-like. “We’ve got addresses on both cops. Plan is to stake their places out tomorrow, see where they go and who they meet with. Patrick thinks they are freelancers. Might not even know what they are.”
“Bring them both in alive. We have questions for them.” Wren nodded.
The leather cover or the sketchbook felt warm beneath his fingers. He opened it, and stared down at the first page. Then he took his pencil and began to sketch from memory while he waited. Wren, in their junior year. Playing Cleopatra on the stage, center spotlight.
“A pretty girl.” Adam jumped. He turned to see an old man standing behind him, observing. The man gave him an apologetic smile. “Forgive me. I was simply admiring. You are quite a talented young man.”
“Thank you.” He smiled.
“Are you a professional?” The older man raised an eyebrow.
“I, uh…” He’d intended to be, once. Adam shook his head. “No, not really.”
The old man made a clucking sound of disapproval. “Pity. I do hate to see gifts go to waste.” He held out a business card. “I own a gallery. Should you ever tire of your current situation and wish to devote yourself to the arts, do call me.”
Adam couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Yeah, I’ll…” Would that he could. He took the card. “I will. Thank you, Mr…” He glanced at the card. “Ishi.”
“Your pet is off already?” Sima raised an eyebrow.
“Wanted to get to the target before he left for work.” Wren nodded. It had been exciting, having both Adam and Sima in her bed. Sima was nothing if not creative, and she’d taught Adam several new tricks while the three of them lay together.
“He seemed a bit unhappy, yesterday.” Sima shrugged. “Pets do prefer knowing the rules, and knowing their mistress is strong and firm.” She waved a hand before stepping into a dress. “Socialization is important but its possible not everything he is learning from his companions is good for him. Those mercenary types can be so undisciplined at times.”
“They are rough, but the ones he spends the most time with seem alright.” Wren chuckled as she fastened an earring. “They actually seem to enjoy wandering around half-broken statuary.”
“True. And the cabal does vet well. Traitors are a rare problem, and dealt with decisively. That is part of why Giroux retains my services. A situation like this child can be…” Sima zipped up a boat. “Fraught with temptation. We had best be careful.”
“Agreed.” Wren nodded.
Adam sighed, then picked up the phone. “Anything?”
“They aren’t here. They aren’t at work.” Stasya’s voice sounded frustrated.
“Think they cleared out?”
“Williams has ties to the community. Strong bonds. His uncle is like local pope or something.” Stasya giggled suddenly.
“Tell Mr. ‘I’m a professional’ to get his hand out from under your shirt. You two are traumatizing me.” Adam smiled. “What about Michaels?”
“No family to speak of. Closest one is an uncle out in…” Patrick took over the phone. “Nope, scratch that. He died a couple years ago. Maybe one of us should go stake out the priest?”
“Couldn’t hurt. I’m going to go in and take a look around this guy’s place. I’ll let you know what I find.”
“Stash your clothes somewhere safe, Baby Bear.” Stasya’s voice was brusque. “Those are Armani. And it is chilly outside. If they get wet you will catch cold.”
“Thank you, Mama Bear.” He rolled his eyes and grinned before hanging up the phone. Then he moved to where he couldn’t be seen from the road and his clothes wouldn’t end up in the mud. A hot burst of pain and a fly was heading in. He had to shift to an ant to get in the door gap, then he went back to human. The windows were curtained and it was dark inside the house. He could remain undetected unless his luck got bad.
The house was a bit nicer than he expected for a guy who lived alone. He frowned. There were sketches attached to the refrigerator. Various little cartoons. The front most one was a drawing of a voluptous woman whose head had been replaced by a donut, complete with sprinkles. The woman was holding a beer in each hand and was labeled ‘Michaels’ dream girl’.
He frowned. There was a teenage feel to the drawings, but Patrick had said Michaels didn’t have family. A friend’s kid? He looked around the kitchen. The pot sitting next to the sink had a spatula melted to the inside and a post it note was stuck to the handle. An arrow pointed at the mess and the word ‘seriously?’ was written in block handwriting.
A quick look in the bedrooms confirmed his growing suspicions. Michaels did not, in fact, live alone. The bathroom mirror had a series of post-it notes stuck to it, detailing what appeared to be a long running argument regarding the toilet seat being left up or down, with a note in the middle written in a third hand. It stated that the toilet seat would not be returned until the others promised to leave them out of the debate.
Adam smiled, closing his eyes against the tears as the faces of James and Coraline swam into his mind. He took a ragged breath before going back to looking around. From what he saw in the second bedroom, the other occupant was definitely female. Pictures and a couple sketches were stuck into the dresser mirror. A brown skinned girl with colorful hair and slanted eyes stood next to the detective. Both wore ridiculous flowered hats and were making faces at the photographer. Another picture showed a man who looked about fifty standing with his arm around the same girl. The prettier cop apparently warranted a picture with just him in it. He was shirtless and standing on a boat. There were a couple hearts drawn on the picture.
In the top dresser drawer were three driver’s licenses. All had different birth dates claiming a Laura was twenty one years old, though the last names varied. Someone had written the word ‘NO’ on each license in big block letters with a permanent marker.
The detective had a teenage girl living with him. A daughter? Damn, he really didn’t want to share this information with the likes of Sima. If Sima thought they could use this “Laura’ for leverage, then things were going to get bad. He looked at the picture again. She was just a kid, no older than Coraline. Killing werewolves was one thing. Bringing an innocent kid into it was something he didn’t think he could stomach.
Not that they’d give him a choice. But in the meantime, if they didn’t ask, he’d just forget to bring the information up. He unlocked and partially opened a window so he could get back in easily, then headed out to retrieve his clothes.
Wren set the phone down. “Two days after encountering us, these guys can’t be found?”
“Where is your pet now?” Sima raised an eyebrow.
“I told him to stay on Michaels’ house. That Russian woman is watching over your new pet, and the big guy went to go stake out one of your new pet’s relatives.”
“Good. Leverage is always useful for taming a pet properly.” Sima smiled. “A pet must learn that his mistress must be the most important person in his life. His very world should revolve around her.”
Her hand went to the talisman. Where ever Adam went, his soul remained with her. “Dinner was nice.” She smiled a little, then blushed. “There was a guitar player on the boardwalk. Adam paid him a twenty, then sang to me.” She giggled. “Like forty people must have thought it was an act, because they tossed money in the guy’s guitar case.” She looked up at Sima. “When we get back, I’m going to get him a fancy guitar.”
“I look forward to seeing him perform.” Sima nodded.
A car pulled into the driveway. Adam quickly shifted into a cat, then went to the open window and entered the house. He was behind the couch before the detective and his companions got all the way inside. None of them noticed him. A mouse might have been harder to see, but the cat’s ears picked up human speech better.
There were four of them. The two cops, the girl, and the older man from the picture. He watched for a minute. They were apparently expecting guests, and none of them were happy about it. Michaels went down the hall to get dressed, as for some reason he was just wearing a pair of shorts. The girl, Laura, flung herself down on the couch and gave a dramatic sigh. “They better behave themselves. I don’t want them wrecking Michaels furniture.”
The older man picked up the pot. “No, that is apparently your job.” He sent an affectionate smile at her before glancing at the spatula. “How?”
“I was going to boil some eggs but uh…” She put her feet up on the coffee table. “Veronica called and I got really distracted. It’s fine. Erilon is like the best fire prevention system in the universe which if you think about it is like super ironic.”
Michaels was on his way back down when someone knocked on the door. The other cop, Williams, sent a glance at Michaels and waited for Michaels to nod before going to the door. An older woman entered, followed by…
Adam’s eyes nearly fell out of his head when she was followed in by the werewolf they were hunting. His heart started racing as the werewolf was followed in by both kids. The girl looked ready to pop at any moment. They were followed in by a black man who walked with a cane, and a blond man about Adam’s own age. Shit. He needed to get to his phone and fast. He started to will himself into a new form.
His heart skipped a beat when nothing happened. He concentrated, trying to shift into the form of a fly, and there wasn’t even a hint of pain. His form didn’t alter in the slightest. Adam stared down at his paws, closed his eyes, and tried again. Nothing.
This was very much not good. Their target was in sight, and his magic wasn’t working. And shit, the girl was supposed to be some kind of mind witch. If she picked up on… A little tabby cat was not going to come off quite as well against an alpha werewolf as a great white shark.