I looked at Dex, and then down at the sidewalk where people were finally starting to notice the dead Douglas-Amber. A chill ran down my spine, but along with it there was…something else. Something that felt familiar, but at the same time was so new I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
“He really thinks I’m dead?” I whispered.
Dex nodded. “It was too much for you. Someone stole the gauntlet, and you were so scared of what Hendricks would do to you that you threw yourself from the top floor of the hotel.”
I turned away from the hole in the wall and walked silently down the hallway, not even noticing when I paced through Stewart’s blood. It was over. Hendricks had actually fallen for it. I could go wherever I wanted, do whatever I wanted, and he wouldn’t be there to ruin things. I was…
No, you’re not, reality said, easing down on me with all the crushing weight of a deflated blimp. I sighed, that fleeting moment of happiness gone. Getting away from Hendricks had never been my problem. I could have left whenever I’d wanted—or so he’d claimed. I don’t know if he’d really have let his prize Silverblood simply walk away, but the fact remained that I didn’t work for him because I was his slave. I’d stayed there in that stuffy, dark mine, put up with his tortures and harassments, because he was the only thing standing between me and Majestic.
And, once I found his stupid glove, I was going to come running right back.
“Fine. What now?” I asked bitterly.
Dex blinked. “Wow, that didn’t last long.”
I shook my head and pushed past him, heading for the place where the thief had warped away. “No point in hoping for a happy ending when you know there isn’t one.”
I stood there, arms crossed and head down, dark feelings rolling over me. I heard Dex take a step toward me from behind, but then hesitate. A moment later his hand touched my shoulder.
“Why do you think that?” he asked.
“Because I’ll either spend the rest of my life working for Hendricks,” I answered, “however long that life might be, or I’ll end up on Dr. Lacken’s operating table.”
“You know problems have solutions, right?”
“Not all of them.” I shook my head and sighed. “Not these ones.”
Dex didn’t say anything for a minute, but he took his hand away. Then, when the silence began to drag on, he walked past me and began to trace out the teleportation ring again with his scepter. I stepped into it without a word when he was finished, and suddenly we were back in the victims’ garage again.
“So, Hendricks won’t follow me when I go looking for our thief,” I said, pushing past him to get to the door. The smell of fresh corpses made my stomach growl, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten since that breakfast Dex and I had split. “That still doesn’t tell us where the thief went.”
“And you’re positive that I can’t convince you to—”
I spun on him. “If you ask me that one more time, I’ll throw you out the window!”
Dex smirked. “There’s only one floor in this house, so that’s not as scary as you probably thought it sounded.”
I glared at him, and we faced off like that for almost a minute. I knew I was being petty, but I wasn’t in the mood for his crap right now. I don’t know if it was me or my wolf side that refused to let me be the first to look away, but eventually Dex sighed and went into the kitchen where the corpses waited for us.
“If we can’t do this the easy way,” he said sufferingly, “then I’ll need a piece of whoever killed these people.”
He knelt down next to them and starting looking for something.
“What’s that mean?” I asked, getting on my knees next to him.
“Exactly what I said.” He was trailing his fingers across the floor. “Something that the killer left behind. Hair. A skin flake. Something like that.”
“Blood, maybe?” I asked, scratching a line in the dried blood on the floor.
He shook his head. “Nah, there’s too much of their blood here. It’d be too mixed up to do us any good.”
While he searched, I sat back to think. A piece of whoever had killed these two. Was he going to, like, make a voodoo doll of them or something? Was voodoo even real? After everything I’d seen, it was a little surprising to find out I could still not believe in something.
But where would the killer have left something behind? By the looks of things, the fight had been entirely one sided. Apart from the corpses, nothing else was here to suggest a struggle. The things on the counter hadn’t been disturbed, the table and chairs were right where they should have been. It looked more like an ambush than a fight, the more I looked at it.
My stomach growled again at the smell of fresh meat. The thought of eating people made me sick to my stomach, but I couldn’t turn off my wolf side. Not entirely. And to it, one kind of meat was as good as another. I looked down at the woman whose throat had been torn out. The werewolf who had done it obviously hadn’t had any qualms about…
I paused, looking at her. Then, without a word, I crawled over to her on my hands and knees to get a closer look.
“What is it?” Dex asked, looking up at me. “Find something?”
I didn’t answer. With careful fingers, I began to feel around the woman’s neck. I knew it was too much to hope that the wolf had lost a tooth when he’d bitten her, but this was the one place in the whole house where we knew for sure he had been. There had to be something…
There! I spotted it sitting on the collar of her light blue shirt. A thick, raven black hair. I snatched it up, holding it to the light to see it better. The man was a brunette and the woman was blonde, so it wasn’t from either of them. A quick surge of excitement went through me.
“Perfect!” Dex said, grabbing it from me. Before I could ask, he stood up and went back to the living room.
“Okay, now what?” I asked.
“Now, this!” he said, holding the hair out in front of him in one hand. In his other hand, he lightly touched the hair with his scepter. The gem flashed, and the hair began to glow bright yellow. He released it, and it stayed hovering in the air. Then, suddenly, it zipped away from him.
Laughing, Dex took off after it.
“Come on, Sugarsnout!” he called. “The trail is hot again!”