"No," Nathan agreed. He had other reasons for thinking the killer nonhuman, but Browning wouldn't want to hear them. Which was just as well. Nathan didn't intend to offer them.

This hunt was his, not the sheriff's. If he was right about the nature of this killer, sending humans after it would just result in dead humans. "The bite marks will provide physical evidence, though. You must have noticed. They're punctures, the sort made by sharp canines. Human teeth don't puncture the flesh that way."

Browning had his jaw clenched so tight Nathan could almost hear the teeth grinding. "It'll be a goddamn circus when that gets out. A goddamn circus."

"You going to notify MCD?"

"Damned well have to, don't I? When the autopsy report comes in, anyway."

In the wake of the Turning, Congress had passed a law making it mandatory for local jurisdictions to inform the FBI's Magical Crimes Division of suspected supernatural crimes or attacks. Not that MCD had the personnel to follow up on every report; there was a long waiting list for trained supernatural investigators. But so far, the police chief had resisted notifying them at all, claiming he was waiting for solid evidence a supernatural agent was involved.

Idiot. But a lot of humans swung between denial and hysteria these days, and Chief Roberts was highly territorial.

Browning chewed on his own teeth for a few more paces, then heaved a sigh. "Guess we've been lucky till now. We didn't have a lot of the weird-ass nasties come through in December the way some places did."

Nathan nodded agreeably, though the lack of nasties troubling Midland had little to do with luck. He'd hunted twice since the Turning. The first hunt had mostly been to create a climate for negotiation. Unlike their larger cousins, river trolls weren't entirely unreasonable once you got their attention, and this was a poor spot for them. No flowing water.

The other had been a hunt in truth. You don't negotiate with a ghoul.

"You think this whatever-it-is can't drive?" Browning asked. "Most nonhumans do."


"Lupi do, certainly. Brownies don't, but gnomes can... or so I've heard," Nathan added with a polite disregard for truth. "But as you said, this creature isn't native to Earth. It came through with the power wind. It wouldn't know how to drive."

"You think it's smart enough to learn?"

Now Nathan frowned. His picture was mixed. "Might be best to think of it as smart, but not in a predictable way."

"Clever enough to fool people into thinking it's human, though. Shaw engaged in sex with it. Her. Him. Whatever."

"Or the preliminaries to sex. Yes."

"So it looks human."

"Or can." This wouldn't be an easy hunt. The burn in his blood approved of that.

"Illusion? Do you... crap." Browning stopped moving to scowl at the plain sedan cruising toward them. "Should've known he'd turn up. You'd better go. We've got Shaw's place of employment  -  the Exxon station at Midkiff and Wadley. Talk to them, see what you can find out."

"The family?"

"That's my job."

The sedan was slowing. Nathan watched the driver, not the car. Slim and dapper, with a round face that looked like he buffed it after shaving, Eldon Knox was the detective in charge of the city's investigation. He was clever, ambitious, and bigoted, and he hated Nathan.

"Knox is my enemy," Nathan agreed. "But not an important enemy. He won't provoke me."

Browning gave him a look. "Yeah, it's that attitude that makes him love you so much. Fun as it is to see the chief's favorite lapdog froth at the mouth when he gets around you, I'll deal with him better if you're gone. Go on. Clear out."

"Yes, sir." He turned to go.

The detective's car stopped and he climbed out. His door thunked closed. "Hunter!"

Nathan ignored him. Browning could handle the man. When he got in his car he was thinking about enemies, prey, and Kai.

His immediate task was to interview Shaw's employer and coworkers. He didn't expect to learn much; at most he might find out if Shaw was known to be Gifted. That was the way of investigations. Most of what you learned wasn't useful.

But his gut had a different priority.

He'd do both, he decided. It wouldn't take long to swing by the apartments, and Kai wouldn't have a client this early. She'd be home.

Minutes later, he parked and ran lightly up the outside stairs. His shoulder barely twinged. He'd tell her that. She'd be glad to hear that her surgery had worked so well.

He knocked. Nothing.

Knocked again. No answer.

Fear was a startling acid. It flushed thought from his system so fast that for a moment he stood stock-still and saw her bloodless body instead of the bland metal of the door.

Only for a moment. Then his mind performed one of its more human tricks and sneered at him. Was he going to imagine her dead every time she wasn't where he'd expected?

His mind was less amenable to order than his body, but he hushed it as best he could. After a second it produced a more useful thought: She might be running.

Of course. Kai ran when she was stressed or upset. It helped her deal with her Gift as well as her emotions, and both had been given a workout last night.

She'd have her phone with her, he thought as he padded back down the stairs. His was in his car. He could call her, find out where she was. Or he could track her.

The decision floated up from his middle without input from his brain. Tuning in to her scents  -  both the physical and the psychic  -  was as automatic as adjusting the focus of his eyes. He set off at an easy lope.

Chapter 6

Sweat stung Kai's eyes. She had her contacts in, so she blinked furiously instead of rubbing and wished she'd remembered her sweatband. One corner of her mind contemplated laser surgery for the hundredth time, but most of her remained cradled in the steady, reassuring thud of her feet against the ground.

When she ran, when she focused on the physical, her thoughts stayed close, tight to her body. She scarcely noticed them at all, and the residue of others' thoughts slipped past, unseen. The world turned crisp, its edges purely material and lovely to her.


The voice behind her jarred her out of her near-trance. She lost the rhythm, found it again, and raised a hand to acknowledge Nathan's greeting. Though she kept moving, she couldn't find the smooth, centered place she'd been floating in. Her thoughts rose around her in a mist of worry-gray.

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