"And you told him no."
Jim drained a third of his glass. "I told him it was too risky. The Reapers travel together, fifteen, twenty, sometimes thirty per group, always armed."
"As if they know they're going in and out of enemy territory."
"And they can't be tracked by scent? They have to have a base of some sort."
Jim looked like he'd just bitten a lime. "The problem isn't tracking. The problem is the location of their base."
"Where is it?" Why did I have a feeling this wouldn't be good? With my luck, the next thing to come out of his mouth would be something crazy, like Unicorn Lane . . .
"In Unicorn - "
I held my hand out. "Got it."
Unicorn Lane gave no quarter. Savage magic roiled there, streaming through the gutted corpses of skyscrapers, too powerful to harness, too dangerous to fight. Ordinary objects became suffused with lethal power. Horrible things that shunned the light hid in Unicorn, feeding on lesser monsters and spinning foul magics of their own. Lunatic cultists with secret power, deranged loups, cast-out Masters of the Dead, when they had nowhere to go, when every friend and every family member turned them away, when the apprehension directive on their profiles became "Shoot on sight" and desperation muddled their minds, only then did they try to enter Unicorn Lane. Most became nourishment for abominations. The rare few who survived went mad, if they weren't already.
There was a reason why Andorf the Bear who had rampaged at the last legal Games chose Unicorn Lane as his refuge. There was a reason why Curran had set our first meeting on the outskirts of Unicorn, just deep enough to weed out the scared and kill the stupid.
To follow thirty monsters in human skin into Unicorn Lane in the middle of the night was a cruel and unusual way to commit suicide.
"Scouting their base is right out," Jim said. "But suppose we did somehow spring the girl before they hit Unicorn Lane. We just kidnapped one of their own. Guilty or not, human or not, they would go to war with us after that. We can't afford another damn war."
"Not without cause," Doolittle put in.
"All he had were some funny smells and a girl with a big mouth. I told the kid to stop chasing tail and bring me some proof. He went there one more time, but I could tell the girl made an impression."
"I've seen her," I told him. "I can't blame him."
Jim started. "How?"
"You finish first, then I'll tell you my side."
Jim shrugged. "Derek clammed up. I saw reason wasn't getting through - he would try to rescue her one way or another, and I pulled him out of it. The tickets to the Games are hard to get and go for three grand apiece. I knew he didn't have three grand lying around, and even if he managed, the type of ticket he could get wouldn't let him into the lower level. I put a tail on him, told him to chill, and thought that was the end of it."
Ahh, but Derek had seen Saiman at the Games and recognized him by scent. He knew Saiman in his Durand persona owned part of the House and had "go anywhere" tickets.
"While Derek was cooling off, I put Linna into the Games in his place." Jim placed a second photograph in front of me. A corpse of a woman lay on the surgical table. The outline of her body was distorted, uneven. I studied the photo and realized she was in pieces. The body had been severed into sections and reassembled bit by bit.
"They carved her into twelve pieces," Doolittle said. "Each piece exactly six inches long. She was probably alive while they did it. And no, she didn't change shapes either. Her clothes were still on her."
"I was picking her off the pavement when you came by." Jim clenched his teeth. "Then my tail returned. The kid lost him. And then we found Derek."
I didn't need further explanation. Jim's crew had chased the scent, retracing the trail of Derek's assailants, and found me dipping my fingertips into his blood.
"What do you have?" Jim asked.
I told him. When I came to the part where I led Curran to Linna's dump site, Jim closed his eyes and looked as if he wanted to strangle me. I kept going until the whole story was out on the table. Jim decided he needed more tea. He probably needed something a lot stronger, but he'd have to fight Doolittle for it. The Pack doctor took a dim view of alcohol consumption.
"Did you tell Curran?"
"Does he know about this office?" Please say yes.
"No. This is one of my private places."
"So as far as he knows, you and your crew went AWOL?"
"Rogue," Doolittle said. "The correct term is 'rogue.' What the cat isn't telling you is that right now Curran thinks a good chunk of his security force split from the Pack. He's turning the city upside down looking for Jim. There is an order out for Jim to contact Curran."
"I'll call him in the morning," Jim said.
"Which will only make things worse, because the Beast Lord will give the order to return to the Keep, and, you see, this young man here will decline."
Jim growled low in his throat. It bounced from Doolittle like dry peas from a hard wall.
"Now why would you do that?" I stared at Jim.
"I have my reasons," he said.
"To refuse a direct order is a breach of Pack Law," Doolittle said. "By tradition, Jim will have three days to change his mind. And if he doesn't, Curran will have to do what the alpha does when he is defied." Doolittle shook his head. "It's a hard thing to contemplate, killing your friend. Bound to make a man crazy."
Crazy Curran ranked right up there with monsoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
I turned to Doolittle. "And you? How did he get you into this mess?"
"We kidnapped him," Jim said. "In broad daylight with much noise. He's safe from Curran."
"And right after I got Derek into the tank, I had to treat my kidnappers for injuries." Doolittle shook his head. "I didn't take kindly to being shoved into a cart and sat upon."
Since Jim had gone through all this trouble to set Doolittle up as an innocent victim, Jim must've expected a shit storm of hurricane proportions when Curran found them.
"I was kidnapped." Doolittle smiled. "I have little to worry about. But someone who helps Jim hide from his alpha of her own free will, well, that is a completely different story."
"Don't you have someplace to be?" Jim's eyes flashed green.
Doolittle got up and rested a heavy hand on my shoulder. "Think before you sign your death warrant."