Home > Tangled Truths (Death Before Dragons #3)(9)

Tangled Truths (Death Before Dragons #3)(9)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

I slumped against the Jeep. I hadn’t needed anything else to worry about.

6

The other road leading to Harrison was also destroyed.

I was inland now, the area dotted with as many farm fields as stands of evergreens, with the lake out of sight to the west. The pavement was buckled and even pulverized in places, and the land to either side torn up, as if giant tunneling worms had burst up all over the place.

I sat in the Jeep and stared at the mess. This time, there were other cars around, but their drivers were in the process of turning around and heading out.

My phone struggled to get enough reception to pull up a map, and I ground my teeth at the delay. Two destroyed roads could not be a coincidence. Someone didn’t want outsiders—or maybe me specifically—arriving in Harrison. But my family had traveled over yesterday and was already there. Only Mom was stuck on the road somewhere, like me.

The map showed another possible route, but it involved going all the way back to Coeur d’Alene, down the far side of the lake and beyond before swinging around. There was nothing direct about it.

“And what happens when that road is destroyed too?”

When the last of the cars sped off, I put the Jeep into four-wheel drive and rolled into the mess. There wasn’t a possibility of falling into a lake this time, so unless I encountered a sinkhole, I should be fine.

“Nothing like thinking about sinkholes to make them pop into existence,” I muttered, voice rattling as the Jeep bumped and ground over the broken asphalt and chewed-up terrain.

It occurred to me that Shaygor would be able to spot me easily from the sky. Even though I’d activated my charm, he had seen my vehicle, and it wouldn’t be camouflaged.

I touched Sindari’s cat figurine and summoned him. His dragon-detecting range reached farther than mine, and once I got to town, he would more easily spot goblins or other magical beings lurking about.

Sindari materialized in the back where I always left the seats down so he had more room, though he was too tall to stand up fully.

The tires dipped into a pit, and he braced his forelegs.

Are we being attacked? Sindari looked toward the side windows.

“No, I’m driving.”

The Jeep crawled out of the pit and over the next obstacle.

I do not believe you’re doing it correctly.

“This is called off-roading. It’s fun.”

His head bumped the hard ceiling. It was not necessary for you to bring me to experience this fun.

“Were you busy hunting again?”

No, I was napping. Peacefully. The Jeep pitched sideways, and he growled.

I opened the back windows so he would have more air and could smell our surroundings. “We’re almost out. Someone destroyed the road and doesn’t want us to reach town. Also, one of Dob’s relatives is here on Earth, and he tried to tear the truth about Dob’s death out of my mind. Zav showed up in time to stop him, but he’s not sticking around. He’s after those dark-elf scientists back in Seattle.”

We reached the far side and rolled onto the undisturbed pavement. I put the vehicle back into two-wheel drive and sped toward town as fast as I could, worry knotting my stomach.

I assume that means Lord Zavryd did not tell the truth to the Dragon Justice Court?

“He covered for me, but he wouldn’t let them read his mind, so they’re skeptical he was telling the truth.” I glanced back at Sindari. “They doubt him because of me, and that sucks. I’m tempted to tell that inquisitor dragon that I was responsible, but I’m pretty sure he’ll kill me instantly if he finds out.”

You are in a difficult situation.

“No kidding.”

Is that the reason your cloaking charm is activated?

“Yeah. I’m hoping he won’t be able to find me and that he’ll go harass Zav instead. Or better yet, go back to his world.” I didn’t mention my new concern that Shaygor would be able to tell Amber was my daughter if they crossed paths. My fantasy of walking up and chatting with her and Thad while I was here on my mission dissolved. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe I should accept that my life was too dangerous and the only people I could hang out with without worrying for their safety were Sindari and Zav.

A depressing thought. Did I even consider Zav a friend? He still wanted to order me around, but at least he was more interested in protecting me than using me now. Or at least equally interested.

Inquisitors are tenacious. And you said he is a relative?

“Dob’s father, yes.”

He will not give up easily then.

“I know.” The turnoff for Harrison came into view, and I took it, butterflies battering the sides of my stomach with their wings. What if the town was on fire? What if it had been pushed into the lake? What if the earth had swallowed it whole?

But as the first houses came into view, nothing appeared amiss. I drove in to the little tourist town perched on the slope of a hill overlooking the lake. Shops lined the single main street, and a grassy green park overlooked a marina and campground on a flat piece of land jutting into the water. A railroad-turned-bike-trail meandered along the lake.

“Do you sense goblins or anyone else magical about?”

Like a dragon.

Not at this time. Sindari peered out the window opposite the park, toward evergreens carpeting the hill above the town. It was easy to envision hidden goblin dwellings in that direction.

“Huh. Maybe they’re doing their thieving at night.”

Two kids standing on the sidewalk with ice cream cones saw Sindari’s head and shrieked and pointed.

“Maybe you should activate your own magical stealth.” I parked under a tree. A car rolling around without a driver, as it would seem to anyone looking toward me, was just as strange as one with a silver tiger hanging out the window.

The denizens of this town should witness what a magnificent predator has come to visit them, Sindari said.

“If kids see you, they’ll want to come over and pet you. You know how you feel about people with presumptuous hands.” With my meager cell coverage, I did a slow search for local hotels.

This is true. I will camouflage myself.

I thought you might.

Sindari stealthed himself before opening the door—how did he manage that without thumbs?—and letting himself out onto the grass of the park.

A bed and breakfast and a lodge were my only options, other than the campground by the marina. I did have camping gear in the back, since missions out of town sometimes took me far from civilization, but it wasn’t my preferred lodging option when enemies were nearby. When I was sleeping, I liked stout bulletproof walls around me and a roof over my head. That was doubly true if dragons were nearby, though I’d seen Zav flatten houses, so roofs did not guarantee safety.

While I made calls, Sindari rubbed his scent all over the trees and peed in carefully selected spots in the grass. Probably covering up some poor dog’s attempt to mark territory.

You’re my weirdest friend, Sindari.

Sindari rubbed his side on a picnic table. I assure you I’m completely normal for a Zhinevarii.

On the far side of the park, a Dachshund sharing a picnic blanket with her people looked in Sindari’s direction and barked uproariously.

Does that dog see you or just smell what you’re laying down?

The latter. Such an inferior predator couldn’t see her own tail if she were spinning in circles.

The two hotels were booked. Not surprising since this was summer, the height of the tourist season. Droves of three-wheel rental bicycles with orange flags on the backs meandered past on the trail below. Reluctantly, I called the campground, but I could see from above it that all the RV lots were filled.

We may end up sleeping in the Jeep alongside the road, Sindari. I refused to call Thad and ask if I could stay with them, especially after that parting warning from Zav.

You may end up sleeping there. I sleep in my homeland in a comfortable den.

Lucky you.

The campground had a cancellation and an available tent spot.

“Well, that’s slightly better than sleeping in the rig.”

As I drove down the hill toward the marina, two Coeur D’Alene Police Department boats docked. A couple of unmarked SUVs drove down behind me, heading straight for the dock and parking in a no-parking area.

Curious, I left my Jeep near the tent-camping area and trotted over with my camouflage still activated. This had to have something to do with the destroyed roads. Hopefully, it had nothing to do with dragons.

Uniformed men stood on the boat while men in plainclothes carried boxes out of a hold. I half-expected crates of guns and ammunition, but there were tomatoes and cartons of orange juice pictured on the sides. They loaded the groceries into the backs of the SUVs.

A woman in a skirt and blouse got out of one and walked over to talk to the senior police officer. I wandered close so I could hear the conversation. Sindari checked out trees and benches beside the bike trail while children played at the nearby beach.

“…repair the roads?” the woman was asking as I came within hearing range.

“Teams are heading down to work on them, Mayor Aspen. We’re just now getting reports that the road from St. Maries has also been destroyed—that happened within the hour. Nobody saw how it was done or saw anyone suspicious in the area. As with the others, the road was destroyed in an area without houses around. For now, boat is the only way in and out of town.”

The woman—Mayor Aspen—rubbed her face. “This is crazy. Things like this don’t happen to Harrison.”

This week, they do, I thought grimly.

“We’ve heard you’ve had a number of, ah, sasquatch sightings,” the police officer said.

Aspen gave him an exasperated look. “Somebody must be messing around out there. I’m sure it’s a hoax.”

“Hm.” Maybe the officer was a believer in magical beings. “But there were houses broken into and ransacked?”

“Yes, but not by sasquatch.”

“Did you see who did it?”

“No, but they made horrible messes. You should see the place up on Cliff Way. The owners live out of state. I don’t know when it’ll get fixed up. We just rely on the county sheriff’s office here, so it’s hard to police the neighborhoods. Are any of your men here to stay and help out?”

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