Judd glanced at her, then gave a small nod. "Timothy was killed using the same type of method, but the details are different. The biggest being that he was male."
And Santano Enrique, the bastard who'd tortured Brenna and killed so many others, had taken exclusively women. Because he'd liked to do certain things, things that required a woman's - Brenna shoved the memories back into the locker inside her mind where she kept the darkest, filthiest pieces of what he had done to her. "You think someone's copying him?" The idea made her gorge rise. Even dead, the butcher's evil continued.
"Likely." Judd halted at a fork in the tunnels. "This isn't your fight. Leave the investigation to those who have experience in that area."
"Because I only have experience at being a victim?"
The metallic scent of blood rose from his shredded flesh as he folded his arms. "You're too blinded by your own emotions to do Timothy justice. This isn't about you."
She opened her mouth to tell him how wrong he was but shut it as quickly. Admitting the truth wasn't an option - it would sound insane, the ravings of a broken mind. "Go get your wounds tended," she said instead. "The smell of Psy blood isn't particularly appetizing." She was worried about how deep Tai had gouged him, but damn if she was going to admit that.
Judd didn't even blink at her insulting tone. "I'll escort you to your room."
"Try it and I'll claw out your eyes." Turning, she strode off, able to feel his gaze on her every step of the way until she turned the corner. It was tempting to collapse then, to release the mask of anger she wore like a shield, but she waited until she was safely back in her room before giving in. "I did see it," she told the walls, terrified.
The flesh parting under the blade, the blood pouring, the pallor of death, she'd seen it all. It had left her a trembling, shaken mess, but she'd found comfort in the fact that it had been nothing more than a nightmare.
Except now her nightmare had taken the ugliest of forms.
Judd ensured Brenna was in her quarters before he returned to the crime scene and spoke at length with Indigo. Then he made his way to his own room. Once there, he stripped and showered to remove the dried blood on his arms. Brenna was right - the scent would only draw attention to him, given the changelings' acute sense of smell, and tonight, he needed to be invisible.
When he stepped out, he didn't bother to look in a mirror, simply thrust a hand through his hair and left it at that. A part of his mind noted that his hair was past regulation length. Another part dismissed the issue as irrelevant - he was no longer a member of the Psy race's most elite army. The Psy Council had sentenced his entire family - his brother, Walker; Walker's daughter, Marlee; and Sienna and Toby, the children of his dead sister, Kristine - to the living death of rehabilitation.
If they hadn't defected, they would have had their minds wiped clean, their brains destroyed until they weren't much more than walking vegetables. It had been a calculated gamble to come to the wolves. He and Walker had expected to die, but they had hoped for mercy for Toby and Marlee. Sienna, too old to be a child, too young to be an adult, had decided to take her chances with the wolves rather than face rehabilitation.
But the SnowDancers hadn't killed the adults on sight. As a result, he now lived in a world where his old life meant nothing. Getting dressed, he pulled on his pants, socks, and boots first. A man could defeat an opponent bare-chested; having bare feet was a far greater disadvantage. It was as he was pulling on a shirt that the expected message came through on his small silver phone. Leaving the shirt buttons undone, he read the encrypted words, translating them in his mind.
Target confirmed. Window: One week.
He deleted the message the second after reading it. His next act was to push up the long sleeves of his black shirt and wrap plain cotton bandages around his forearms - they would help mask the smell of rapidly regenerating skin. Brenna would have been very surprised to see how fast he healed.
His mind went over the murder scene one more time. He was certain they were dealing with a copycat. The cuts had been superficially similar to those made by Santano Enrique but nothing more. Where Enrique had taken pride in the precision with which he mutilated his victims' bodies, this killer had hacked rather than sliced. Indigo had also confirmed that no Psy scent had been found at the scene. The final deciding factor was that Santano Enrique was most definitely dead - Judd had witnessed the other Psy being torn to pieces by wolf and leopard claws.
There was no need for Brenna to worry that her tormentor had come back from the grave. Of course that was Psy logic at work and she was indisputably a changeling. More to the point, she didn't know that Judd been present at Enrique's execution and, by extension, her rescue. He had no intention of changing that. Because, while he might not be much good at predicting emotional reactions, he had learned enough about Brenna during the healing sessions - where he'd "lent" his psychic strength to Sascha as she worked to repair the fractures in Brenna's mind - to know she'd react negatively to the knowledge of his involvement.
I'm not a baby anymore.
No, she wasn't. And he wasn't her protector. He couldn't be - the closer he got to her, the more he could hurt her. Silence had been invented for those like him - the brutal killers and the viciously insane, those who had turned the world of the Psy into a blood-soaked hell so bad, Silence had become the better choice.
The second he broke conditioning, he became a loaded gun with no safety switch. That was why he was never going to do what Sascha had done and end the Silence in his mind. It was the only thing keeping the world safe from what he was...the only thing keeping Brenna safe.