None of the Laurens did. Indigo didn't have to point out which one of the family had the skill to commit the crime. Heart chilling, Brenna gripped the lieutenant's arm. "You don't seriously think it could've been Judd. He wouldn't - "
"How well do you know him, Brenna?" Indigo shook her head. "The man's a f**king shadow. No, I don't think it was him - if it had been, we would have never found a body - but you're kidding yourself if you think he isn't capable of executing someone."
Brenna's gut was a huge knot. "Could it have been one of us?"
"You didn't hear this from me." Indigo's namesake eyes narrowed. "Hell, I don't know why I'm telling you - maybe to piss off your brothers. Why do you let them get away with that overprotective shit?"
She didn't want to go there today. "You were telling me about Timothy."
The other woman snorted. "Charming son of a bitch. Had a talent for sweet-talking his way into beds he shouldn't have been in."
"That's not a motive." Wolf changelings were highly sexual and single packmates often hopped beds. As for mated pairs, they didn't cheat. Ever. "If someone was mad over a stolen lover, they would've just challenged him to prove dominance." A fight but not to the death.
"Yeah, I think so too, but it's a lead. And that wasn't the only mess he got himself into. Timmy had indications of drug use. If he, for whatever reason, threatened to expose the piece-of-shit dealer and it was one of us...well, everyone knows Hawke's view on drugs."
Brenna nodded. "He would've sliced the bastard open." That one of her own pack could be evil enough to deal drugs staggered her. "It wasn't Jax, was it?" she asked with a fresh wave of horror. "He wasn't messed up." The Psy drug had a devastating effect on changeling bodies, leaving them trapped midshift. Death followed in days if not hours.
"No." Indigo gave a distasteful shiver. "Ruby Crush, street name, Rush."
A drug developed by a changeling piece of vermin and adapted to their physiology. "It boosts normal physical strength during the high, right?"
"As it scrambles the brain." Indigo shook her head. "Rush freaks turn into witless, giggling idiots. Tim had to have been very careful. No one ever saw him high." She glanced at her timepiece. "Got to go. Tell Judd I need to talk to him if you see him."
Brenna nodded, but hours passed and Judd didn't appear. Her frustration turned to worry, then jackknifed into anger. Where the hell was he and why couldn't he have called?
...You're kidding yourself if you think he isn't capable of executing someone.
...He's not the kind of man you need...
She tried to ignore the voices, but part of her listened. Part of her finally began to see.
Judd met the Ghost beneath Father Perez's church, having showered and changed in the small room Perez kept for situations like this. It wasn't yet noon, but it might as well have been midnight in the centuries-old crypt under the light-filled building.
"Why do you think some humans feel the need to inter their dead?" The voice came from the black pool where two corners met. "Changelings let their dead turn to dust."
Judd had neither the time nor the inclination to engage in a philosophical discussion. He wanted to return to the den and see if Brenna was okay. The talk with Faith had appeared to help her, but if she'd had more of those dreams, she could be in trouble. And he was the only one she trusted enough to come to for...comfort.
"Are there other labs?" he asked point-blank, well aware that his urgency to see Brenna was a minor breach of Silence, the first step on the road to temptation. He wouldn't touch her, he justified, simply make sure of her welfare.
"Of course, but the one you disabled this morning was the most important."
"Are you certain? With Ming involved, we could be looking at Europe."
"No, the Council would've preferred that - there's a problem with their head scientist, Ashaya Aleine, refusing to relocate."
"Must be something big if they haven't overridden her objections." No one stood against the Council without either an unimpeachable reason or an ace in the hole.
"I'm working on it - they've got a blackout around her. Everything's classified."
"Do you know her designation?"
"Gradient 9.9 M-Psy."
"Rare." Most Psy that powerful tended to cross the 0.1 boundary over into cardinal rank. Judd had always considered his own 9.9 Tk status an advantage. The telekinesis, when combined with his 9.4 ability in telepathy, made him far more of a threat than many a cardinal. Yet he didn't have the night-sky eyes that betrayed his power. When he tried very hard, he could even appear harmless. "How much damage did we do?" It might've only been a few hours, but data traveled fast in the Net.
"Unconfirmed reports state the prototype was destroyed. If that's true, it'll take them at least six months to reconstruct it. However, if we take Aleine out of the equation, we set them back years. She's the brains behind the entire project."
Judd had killed before. And he'd done so with clean efficiency. Not one of his hits had ever been labeled an execution, much less traced back to the Arrow Squad. "I'll need more data before I make that decision." He no longer trusted anyone when it came to this aspect of his abilities.
"I want to hold off in any case. We may end up needing the information in her head." A pause.
Judd's need to return to the den pushed at him to finish this and leave. "What?"
"I've heard rumors that Aleine might not be in full support of Protocol I."
That she was the scientist in charge of developing the implant nonetheless was no contradiction in terms - the Council had ways of ensuring cooperation. "What are the chances of turning her?"