Home > The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(11)

The Grendel Affair (SPI Files #1)(11)
Author: Lisa Shearin

I’d been in Ollie’s office before tonight. It didn’t even have a closet, so there’d been nowhere for the thing to hide. Dr. Falke had been nervous enough when he’d heard us, but apparently he hadn’t heard a ten-foot-tall monster so much as breathe before it started killing him.

“I didn’t know veils could hide sound,” I said in a small voice.

A single muscle twitched along Ian’s jaw. “Apparently this one can.”

Yasha spat a single word in Russian. I didn’t need a translation for that one.

Dr. Falke must have heard the floorboards creak when we did. The screams started right after that—when the poor man had seen what was about to kill him. The screams were silent in the video, but we’d gotten to hear it at full volume and in person.

Now I was grateful the camera didn’t record sound. I’d heard it once, and it’d probably be the soundtrack for my nightmares until something even scarier came along. The camera’s field of vision was only what was directly in front of the window. Ollie’s office wasn’t all that large, so even if Falke had had a chance to run, there’d been nowhere to go, and in a matter of seconds, blood spattered in a sheet across the window, and even Kenji stopped eating.

The monster was too fast—for Falke and the camera. It was almost like the thing knew it was being filmed and stayed just out of sight. When the slaughter stopped, the only movement visible through the bloody window was the overhead light swinging back and forth.

A massive shadow loomed over the office door. The monster was standing just out of our view. Waiting.

It had heard us running up the stairs.

I instinctively froze. I knew I was watching a recording, but that didn’t stop my survival instinct from telling me not to move or even breathe. Knowing that thing had been on the other side of the door from us was entirely different from actually watching it. My knees felt a little weak and I found a chair and all but fell into it.

The monster made its escape out the window, easily leaping down into the alley two stories below, too quick for the camera to catch anything other than a blurry shadow. Suddenly something dark passed across the lens of the camera mounted on the roof of the building across the alley from Ollie’s office.

“Now this is the scary part,” Kenji said.

The camera automatically refocused. Filling the screen was an eye divided by a vertical slit pupil. The eye narrowed, and a blink of that monster eye later, the screen went blank.

I just stared. “The second monster.”

“Safe bet,” Kenji said. “I wouldn’t want to run into either one in a dark alley.”

“Kanil already did,” Ian muttered.

“My guess is that whatever it was ripped the camera out,” Kenji said. “We’ll need to fix that.” More clicking. “I’ll get the job req started.”

I blew out my breath. “Crap. Time to go find Ollie.”

Ian nodded. “The sooner, the better.”

“I am your driver,” Yasha told Ian. “Dragon lady wants you to have both hands free.”

“What for?” I asked.

“Keeping you alive,” Ian said. “Whoever sent the boss that letter could have sent that thing to kill Adam Falke, or it could have been acting on its own. Either way, I think she’s right—our mastermind can’t risk those two things being found before New Year’s Eve. Kanil Ghevari was sharp; I can’t imagine anything that could’ve come up on him without him knowing. And you saw what it did just now. It’s got veils stronger than anything I’ve ever heard of.” Ian stood and instinctively checked to make sure his gun and knife were where they were supposed to be. I suspected he had more. My partner looked down at me, his dark green eyes unreadable. “Only one person here can see through those veils.”

I knew what that meant. “That would be me.”

“Unfortunately, yes. And the worst you’ve had to deal with so far has been a gang of horny leprechauns.” He reached for his coat. “We need to go.”

I stood. “I have some ideas about where Ollie might be.”

“Good. But we’re making a pit stop first.”

“Where?”

His scowl told me he didn’t like what he was about to say.

“To see Sam and get you a real gun.”

5

JUST for the record, a real gun loaded with silver bullets is a lot heavier than a plastic water pistol filled with tequila.

While we had no way of knowing if silver bullets could take out either monster, they would work on many of the supernaturals that the monsters’ host could have at his disposal and possibly send after us.

It was eight o’clock in the morning, and Ian, Yasha, and I were staking out Li Fong’s just off Mott Street in Chinatown. We’d been here an hour.

It hadn’t taken me long to figure out where Ollie was likely to be. I used simple logic then simply followed the bouncing ball. Almost every time I’d come to see him, regardless of the hour, Ollie had take-out boxes from Li Fong’s scattered around on the counter or his desk. For Ollie, Chinese food was comfort food. I was a hot and sour soup aficionado myself, and no one made it better than Li Fong, so I was a regular customer as well.

Ollie had to have heard what happened last night at his shop; and if so, he was in hiding. Or he’d come to open his shop this morning, seen the police crawling all over the place, ran away, dug a hole, and pulled the dirt in after him. Regardless of which scenario Ollie was operating under, he needed comfort and Ollie had two means of comfort: money and food. He got twitchy at the mere thought of having to go for long without either one. The police still had his shop closed and surrounded with crime scene tape. That meant no money today for Ollie—and probably not for the rest of the week. He was probably holed up somewhere agonizing over the thought of all the potential after-Christmas shoppers he was missing out on; though most stores ran specials on tacky Christmas sweaters, not shrunken heads and vampire stakes. If he couldn’t be making money, food had just been bumped up the list to his number one comfort. And that meant Li Fong’s.

Ollie had an apartment off Canal Street. Not surprisingly, he wasn’t there this morning. Considering the type of people he did business with, it’d be in his best interests to have a hidey-hole on the side. For Ollie, there was comfort in proximity, so he’d want to be close to his food source. There were rooms for rent above some of the restaurants and shops close to Li Fong’s, so I was betting that Ollie was hiding in one of them. And he had to be one of Mr. Fong’s best customers, so if Ollie wanted takeout first thing in the morning, Li would accommodate him.

I was quite proud of myself for my train of thought. What made it even better was that Ian had agreed with me. Though after sitting for the past hour, the shine had started to fade from my choo choo and my butt was asleep.

“Who orders Chinese at eight in the morning?” Yasha asked.

Ian shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “A man who thinks it might be his last meal.”

We sat some more, and watched and waited for almost another hour when there were signs of life just inside the front door of the still-closed restaurant. A tall and lanky teenager came out and shut the door securely behind him, insulated delivery carrier in his hand.

Finally.

“That’s Scott, Mr. Fong’s grandson and delivery boy,” I said. “Looks like Ollie just ordered breakfast.”

I reached for the door handle; Ian’s hand over mine stopped me.

“But we’ll lose him,” I said.

“We won’t lose him,” Ian said. “And if we wait, he won’t see us—which is the point of following someone.”

Scott went less than a block, stopping in front of a narrow brick building with no windows and what looked like a steel door. Balancing the takeout in one hand, Scott punched numbers into a keypad.

I swore. “See? Now we can’t get in. If we’d followed him when I—”

“Not a problem.” Ian kept his eyes on Scott, and extended his hand back to Yasha, who flipped open a small case attached to the underside of the dash.

“One super-secret spy gadget coming up,” the Russian said.

He passed something to Ian that was about half the size of a smartphone, and Ian wrapped his gloved fingers around it before I could get a good look.

Ian started to open the door. “Okay, Mac. We’re going to get out, and once you have a clear view down the street in both directions, I want you to take a good look. I’ll check out the humans; I need you to ID any supernaturals who don’t look like they’re minding their own business.” He opened the door and got out. “Let’s go.”

“I will make sure no one follows you,” Yasha said. “Let me know if this Ollie does not want to leave. I will help change mind.”

Ian grinned. “I’ll do that.”

The market down the street had opened, and two clerks were setting up a fresh fruit and vegetable display just outside the door. Despite the freezing temperatures, folks were out and about, opening their businesses, shopping, or just getting outside. The sun was out for the first time in days, and people were taking advantage of it. Unfortunately, they were all bundled up like they were setting out on an Arctic expedition. I could see through veils, but I couldn’t see through five layers of sweaters, coats, boots, hats, and scarves wound around faces so only their eyes were peeking out. And since most everyone I saw was wearing sunglasses against the snow glare, I couldn’t even see eyes. It was funny; I could see the supernaturals’ auras floating around them, so I knew what they looked like. But the humans all looked like loaded and walking coatracks. I didn’t know what the heck the humans were up to; but the trio of gnomes, the two elves, and the one troll seemed intent on their own business.

“Clear?” Ian asked.

“As far as I can tell.”

We crossed the street as quickly as the icy slush would allow. When we got to the door, Ian pushed a button on the device and held it up against the keypad. It beeped, and Ian turned it around to look. A tiny display showed the keys glowing in various degrees of brightness. Ian quickly pushed the keys beginning with the dimmest to the brightest.

   
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