I maneuvered him to a steel patio table sitting between the house and the workshop. We sat in the hard metal chairs. From here both of us could watch the workshop and the driveway, where Andrea prepared to swipe the m-scanner out of the Jeep and Grendel prepared to escape the moment she swung open the door.

The portable m-scanner resembled a sewing machine covered in clockwork vomit. It detected residual magic and spat the result out as a graph of colors: green for shapeshifter, purple for undead, blue for human. It was neither precise nor infallible, and reading an m-scan was more art than science, but it was still the best diagnostic tool we had. It also weighed close to eighty pounds.

Andrea opened the Jeep door and thrust her hand in. Grendel lunged and collided with her palm. The impact knocked him back. Andrea grabbed the m-scanner, yanked it out of the Jeep, and shut the door in Grendel's furry face. The attack poodle lunged at the window and let out a long despondent howl. Andrea turned and headed to the workshop, carrying the eightypound scanner with a light spring in her step, as if it were a picnic basket. Shapeshifter strength came in handy. Too bad the cost of Lyc-V infection was so high. Henderson watched Andrea walk across the yard. "A shapeshifter?"

"Yes." You got a problem with that?

"Good." Henderson nodded. "We could use her nose."

I took out my notepad and my pen. "How many people are assigned to this detail?" Rene had said twelve, but it never hurt to check.

"Twelve, including me."

"Three shifts of four guards, eight hours each?"

"Yes. Day, night, and graveyard."

I wrote it down. "Which shift do you work?"

"I alternate between evening and graveyard. I worked the evening shift yesterday, fourteen hundred to twenty-two hundred."

Figured. Most trouble happened after dark, and Henderson struck me as the type of man who wanted to meet trouble head on and punch it in the teeth. And the one time it did show up, he'd guessed wrong and missed it.

"When was the body discovered?"

"Oh six hundred at shift change." Henderson crossed his arms. The good master sergeant plainly didn't like the way my questions were going. Strange. Rene had already given me most of this information, so why did talking about it twist his panties in a bunch?

"Could you walk me through how the body was found?"

"Each shift has a shift sergeant. At five fifty-five a.m., day shift sergeant Julio Rivera and graveyard shift sergeant Debra Abrams made a routine check on the subject in the workshop."

"Why the workshop? Why not the house?"

If Henderson's face could harden any more, it would crack. "Because the man was last seen entering the workshop."

If I still had my Order ID, this entire conversation would've gone a lot smoother. The ID commanded instant respect, especially from a former soldier like Henderson. His world broke into two camps, pro and amateur, and right now he pegged me for a hired gun of the second category. Rene had ordered him to cooperate and he was a company man, so he answered my questions, but he didn't exactly recognize my right to ask them.

"Did Adam often work through the night?" I asked. "Night, day, morning, whenever it struck him. Sometimes he'd work all day, sleep for two hours, and go back to work, and sometimes he'd do nothing for two days."

Aha. "When was the last time he was seen?"

Muscles played along the master sergeant's jaw. "Three hours past midnight."

I closed the notebook. "If I had an erratic subject who wandered to and fro between the workshop and the house whenever the inspiration struck him, I'd have my guys checking on him every hour. Just to make sure he didn't break perimeter and blunder off into Sibley in a creative daze. And I don't even have two stripes on my sleeve."

Henderson hit me with a hard stare. It was a heavy stare, but it had nothing on looking into Curran's golden irises when he was pissed off.

I held his gaze. "My job isn't to pass judgment. My job is to find Adam Kamen and his device. That's all. Whatever happened here is between you and your chain of command, but I need to know what it was so I can move on. If you make it hard for me, I'll go through you."

He leaned forward an inch. "Think you can?"

"Try me."

Henderson was a large man, and he was used to people backing down when he pushed. He was a guard and a soldier, but he wasn't a killer. Oh, he would shoot back if someone shot at him first, and he might stab you if it came to it, because it was his job, but he wouldn't slice a man's throat and step over his twitching body while the hot blood spurted on the ground. I would. And it wouldn't bother me much. In fact, I'd been out of action for over two months now. I missed it, missed the edge and the fight.

We stared at each other.

I would kill you in an instant with no hesitation.

A slow recognition rolled over Henderson's face. "So it's like that," he said.

That's right.

Henderson narrowed his eyes. "Why would Rene bring your kind in?"

"What kind is that?"

"You're not a soldier, and you're not a PI."

"I used to be an agent of the Order." I nodded at the workshop. "And she is a retired master-at-arms knight. Rene brought us in because it's not our first rodeo. What happened to your shift, Master Sergeant? This is the last time I'm asking." Henderson drew himself upright. He wanted to send me packing. I saw it in his face. He thought about it, but he must've glimpsed something he didn't like in my eyes, because he unhinged his jaw. "The graveyard shift fell asleep."

"All four guards?"

Henderson nodded. "Except de Harven."

"At their posts?"

Henderson nodded again.

Crap. "How long?"

"Approximately from zero four until the shift change."

Two hours. More than enough time to kidnap a man. Or to slice his throat, bury him in the forest, and steal his magic project. How the hell did de Harven fit into it? Did he surprise the thieves? Of course, Adam Kamen could've killed his ?ber-bodyguard and bolted with the goods. Because he was secretly a ninja, adept at mortal combat and vanishing into thin air. Yes, that was it. Case solved.

Trained Red Guardsmen didn't just fall asleep on their own for two hours in the middle of their shift. Magic or drugs had to be involved. Even so, three of the guards passed out while de Harven went into the workshop. And why wasn't he impersonating Sleeping Beauty? "Where are the guards now?"

"Both graveyard and day shifts are waiting by the house. I figured you'd want to talk to them." Henderson paused. "There is more. We've searched the area."

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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