I could hear sirens outside as Dex and I searched the restaurant. Apparently our little fight hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“So, what happens when the police get here and find two dead gargoyles?” I asked, kicking down the door to the manager’s office.
“We don’t need to worry about that.” Dex pushed past me, suddenly looking very anxious to be moving. “They’ll be gone by the time the police get here.”
He immediately attacked the manager’s desk, pulling open drawers and then slamming them shut again with hardly a glance at what was inside. Sweeping his arm across the top, he spilled the manager’s stuff onto a messy pile on the floor.
“Wait, what’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“We don’t have time, Amber!” Going to the filing cabinet, he tugged on one of the drawers but found it locked. A quick tap from his scepter melted the lock. “We need to find what we’re looking for and get out before—”
A soft thud came from outside, but Dex’s head jerked up like it’d been a gunshot. I raised my eyebrow at him, waiting for him to stop screwing around, but the look in his eyes told me this was no joke. Whatever he thought was going to happen next, it scared the bejeezus out of him. I turned to glance into the hallway, but he zipped across the room and grabbed me by the shoulder. Shaking his head, he pulled me further into the office, and then stuck his head out through the door. His hand was in his jacket, ready to pull out his scepter at a moment’s notice.
“Just the table he threw falling over,” he said, coming back in. He didn’t relax, though. “Come on, help me find it so we can get out of here!”
I joined him at the desk, my heart beating harder than it had during the fight. “What are we looking for?”
“Anything that’ll tell us where the thief went.”
“Gee, that’s helpful.”
“Just start looking, Amber!”
Still not knowing what we were trying to find, I started scanning the room. The only thing the gargoyles had said was that she, whoever she was, had paid them a lot to keep us from following her. Unless Dex could talk to money, though, I wasn’t sure how finding that was going to help us.
“She’s going somewhere,” Dex began to mutter, madly pulling files out of the cabinet and throwing them on the floor. “She has to be. Nobody would steal from Hendricks if they didn’t have an escape plan.”
“What if she just teleported out of here?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Why come here in the first place, then? She would have just teleported away from the house.”
“Maybe she knew that you’d be able to follow her there, so she used the gargoyles to keep you from doing it again.”
He froze. “Let’s hope to God that’s not it, because she could have cast the spell anywhere in this freaking town.”
Tossing the last file on the floor, Dex anxiously ran his hands through his hair, muttering to himself like a lunatic. I looked around the room one more time, but still couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. If he was right, and the thief had left some kind of clue behind that would tell us where she was going, the gargoyle brothers had hidden it better than he’d expected.
LET ME, the monster growled inside my head. I HUNT. I FIND.
I paused. That wasn’t such a bad idea. The wolf jumped in glee, but I wasn’t planning on letting it out. Instead I closed my eyes, ignoring its frustrated snarl, and breathed in through my nose. The scents from the office flooded my senses, painting a picture almost as clear as my eyes could see. It wasn’t as clear as it would have been in my wolf form, but it did the trick.
I could smell both of the gargoyles. They’d spent entire days of their lives in here. Their scent was almost overpowering, but I could just barely make something else out below it. Walking across the room with my eyes still shut, I followed that weak scent. So small it almost wasn’t there, but the fact that it was different made it easier to notice.
My foot bumped against the plastic trash can, and I opened my eyes to see a few wadded up pieces of paper inside it. Dex was too busy tearing pictures down from the wall, apparently looking for a safe, to notice. Kneeling down, I picked them all up. The first was an email from the health inspector. Apparently the gargoyle bros needed to have the place sprayed for roaches. The next was a copy of this month’s electricity bill. For a second I was worried that I was wasting my time. The sirens were getting closer, and Dex looked nervously at the door every few seconds, reminding me of this other mysterious threat he wouldn’t tell me about. But the different scent was coming from here. Taking the last wadded up sheet of paper, I unfolded it and…
“Dex!” I exclaimed.
He spun around with his scepter out, gem glowing, but relaxed when he saw it was just me.
“Don’t scare me like that!” he griped, making his way over. “Did you find something?”
I held it up for him to see, and his eyes widened. It was a map of a town, apparently named Benton Vista. Judging by the way a building toward the southern end of town was circled, I guessed that must have been where we were. A line led from the restaurant, through the town, and to another building on the eastern side that it pointed to.
“That’s it!” Dex whispered, pointing at the arrow. “That’s where she’s going!”
A thrill of excitement shot through me, and I clenched the map tight in my hands. “That’s where we’ll find her!”
I don’t know why I was so excited. If I found her and got the stupid glove back, all that meant was that I would go back to my miserable life with Hendricks. Things might even be worse when he found out I’d tricked him. But at the same time, it would mean I’d finally done something right. That I’d actually succeeded. Even if that success meant giving a horrifically powerful weapon to a psychotic demon, it would still be a victory, and God knew I hadn’t had many of those over the past few years.
“Let’s get going, then!” I said, grabbing Dex by the hand and pulling him out of the room. The office exited into to the kitchen, and the door leading to the restaurant was at the far end. I hurried towards it, eager to get this all done with—
But then Dex tackled me.
I fought back, trying to throw him off, but he was surprisingly strong for such a scrawny guy and managed to keep me pinned to the floor.
“Don’t…make…a sound!” he hissed into my ear.
The fear in his voice made me freeze. When he saw that I’d calmed down, he slowly climbed off of me and pointed toward the swinging double doors. As quietly as we could, we crept over to them and peered through the foggy plastic windows.
What I saw nearly tore a scream from my throat.