Home > How to Rattle an Undead Couple (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #9)(17)

How to Rattle an Undead Couple (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #9)(17)
Author: Hailey Edwards

“Amen to that.” She yawned into her fist. “Working dayshift kills me.”

They exited the sewers together, Leisha in front. She went her own way without saying goodbye.

All things considered, given her temperament, Linus was relieved when she didn’t linger.

Corbin repositioned the manhole cover and waited for the ward to reactivate. “What are you thinking?”

“Are the terms of your NDA different from the others?”

“I’m not sure.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “I didn’t exactly get a copy for comparison.”

Even with the NDA exposed, as well as most of its secrets, Corbin danced around the edge of the truth. But Leisha didn’t have that problem. She had also read the exterior and interior wards with greater ease and accuracy than he anticipated. Because she was gifted? Or because she had never truly severed her ties to them? Leisha was talented, of that he had no doubt—his mother wouldn’t have hired her otherwise—but this? He wasn’t sure Grier could have done a better job, and she was extraordinary.

Gazing down the alley, he wondered, “Why can Leisha talk so freely about all this but not you?”

“Your mother trusts her more?”

Linus shifted his focus onto Corbin. “Mother trusts no one above family.”

The vampire squared his shoulders, and pride at belonging tipped up his chin. “What are you saying?”

“We should escort her, make sure she gets home safely.”

Fangs on display, Corbin smiled.

Nine

Rather than scurrying home to her bed as promised, Leisha pulled her car into a neighbor’s driveway. She exited the vehicle, walked with purpose up the flower-lined path, then let herself in with a key.

Delicate surveillance was easier with Cletus, but the sun overhead made calling on him impossible.

“I got this.” Corbin unfastened his seat belt. “This is what I do.”

“We’ll go together.” Linus spared him a smile. “This is also what I do.”

“Fair point.” He reached for his door handle. “Let’s trade.”

Linus twisted to face him. “I’m listening.”

“We need ears and eyes on Leisha now.” Corbin nudged open his door. “You go ahead. There’s a house a block down with old newspapers piled on the porch. I’ll drop our ride there and make my way back to you.”

“All right.” Linus left Moby running. “Be careful.”

Chuckling, Corbin hopped out then leaned in across his seat. “I will, Pops.”

Shaking his head, Linus exited the vehicle and began stalking the house. Like Cletus, he was at a distinct disadvantage in the daylight when his power was less. He would have to do this the old-fashioned way.

Three houses on his left had no fences in their yards. He strolled down the sidewalk, picked one at random, and trusted the empty driveway meant he wasn’t about to prompt the owners to call the police.

The cramped backyards, defined only by their landscaping, made sneaking up on the home Leisha had entered a simple matter. The distance from the road, and prying eyes, helped too.

Once he reached his target, he crawled through a thick hedge of azaleas to a spot where he estimated the living room might be. With the modified pen in his pocket, he drew an amplification sigil with an emphasis on hearing onto his hand then held his palm facing the siding. As the magic tingled over his skin, he relaxed, shut his eyes, and relied only on his ears to alert him to anyone who might approach.

“You’ve done it now,” Leisha snapped. “Linus is on to me.”

“I did what we agreed upon.”

The second speaker resonated with a peculiar multilayered voice that rang both foreign and familiar, but no one Linus could identify beyond the eerie distortion that allowed her, for it was a woman, anonymity.

“Two weeks early. What were you thinking?”

“I have my reasons, and they are not for your ears.”

“Goddess, what a mess. I’m out. I’m rather fond of my head. I would prefer to keep it attached to my neck. I did what you asked. I seduced the Deathless vampire.”

“How bad was the sex if he ran from your bedroom never to return?”

“The sex was fine. Great even. That’s not the point.”

“You were supposed to use him to gain access to Grier.”

“He’s loyal to her. He’s a dead end. There’s no way he would get me into Woolworth House.”

Rustling drew Linus’s eyes open in time to spot Corbin belly-crawling into the hedge with him.

Noticing the sigil in use, Corbin pointed to his eyes and then to the house.

Linus nodded that he had things in hand.

Corbin retreated to a more defensive position.

“Do you feel that? The wards have been breached,” the first woman snarled. “Someone followed you.”

“You’re being paranoid. It was probably a squirrel.”

“Get out.”

“But Linus—”

“He’s your problem now.” Footsteps punctuated her anger. “Don’t contact me again.”

Smudging the sigil on his hand, Linus broke the connection to allow himself precious seconds to reorient.

The front door opened then slammed shut, and Linus glanced up in time to peer through the leaves as Corbin moved to intercept Leisha.

That left the mystery woman for him.

Easing out from under his cover, he crept to the back door. Finding it locked, he used a sigil to remedy the problem, entered the home, then began a careful sweep of the living space, tensed for confrontation.

Aside from a used coffee mug in the sink and a rumpled bed, he found no signs that anyone lived there. With online home rentals at an all-time high, he had run across more than one person who preferred a furnished home for a weekend or week, enjoying the local experience, rather than staying in a hotel.

An open window explained where the mystery woman had gone, but there was no sign of her now.

Certain he was alone, he pulled out his phone and dialed. “I’ve got an address for you.”

“Let me have it,” Bishop answered. “And then tell me what to do with it.”

Linus rattled off the address. “Find out if this is a rental and who rented it last.”

“That won’t take but an hour or two. Keep an eye on your phone. The analysis of Orin’s footage ought to be ready by then.”

“Thank you.”

“Welcome.”

There was no point in combing the space, of that much he was certain. It was too clean, too staged. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t go through the motions regardless. Drawing a sigil of Grier’s design onto his palm, he swept his arm throughout each room in search of bronze powder or filings, which was lethal to gwyllgi. The best he could hope for at this point was that Lethe could spare someone to come pick up the scent of the renter, and he didn’t want them harmed due to his carelessness or impatience.

The house yielded no answers, or further threats, but the ward, however, might tell him something.

Exiting the home, he began his search for signs of who and what had moved against them.

“Leisha is bound and gagged and waiting on the backseat,” Corbin announced. “I got a call from a friend with the SPD, who gave me a heads-up a neighbor reported suspicious activity around a rental house. She then lectured him on how the neighborhood was going downhill since the Truetts started letting strangers vacation in their home.”

A quick text to Bishop with that information halved his newest workload.

“A quiet street like this,” Corbin mused, “anyone who doesn’t belong is going to stick out. Big time.”

The reverse was also true, and it made excellent camouflage for predators. “We need more stringent guidelines for these rentals.”

“People using the human app versus the para app know exactly what they’re doing.” Corbin shook his head. “They can slide in and lay low without having to announce themselves to the local factions and go through the whole rigamarole for a lousy weekend out of town with the family.”

The problem being, a weekend out of town with a family often entailed multiple locals disappearing and investigations that stretched across state lines as the perpetrators were hunted down for prosecution.

“The two apps ought to be integrated, on our end, so that we can crosscheck renters by ID and photo.”

“Punt it over to Bishop,” Corbin suggested. “He loves that kind of thing.”

“That’s another item for our to-do list. We need to find our own Bishop. We can’t depend on Atlanta’s resources forever. Hadley has been generous, but she needs them focused on their own work.”

“I would volunteer for duty, but I can’t even remember my password for online banking.”

The surprise of learning Grier was pregnant, and the concerns of what, exactly, she carried had stalled out much of their plans for the year. They had put off assembling her a local team in favor of leaning on his former Atlanta team to see them through. With the baby—their son—due in two weeks…

“Two weeks,” he murmured. “That can’t be a coincidence.”

When Corbin raised his eyebrows, Linus filled him in on what he had overheard.

“It sounds like they wanted your mother out of the picture before the baby made his debut.”

Though he agreed, it made no sense. “What does one have to do with the other?”

Aside from the obvious, that it would have ruined their son’s birthday and shifted the focus from him onto the Grande Dame’s disappearance, much as the shower had been ruined for the same reason.

“I’m not sure.”

The doll was another riddle to solve, but Lacroix was dead and gone. How that related to his mother, he had no clue. Unless they were dealing with two separate incidents? A taunt for Grier and the abduction.

“I hate to bail on you.” Corbin rubbed his eyes. “I’ve been up going on thirty-six hours. My brain is mush.”

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