"Enrique must've knocked me out somehow." Her frown reminded him that they'd gone over this topic many times. "I'd never get into a van with a stranger."
"No, you wouldn't."
"Then, why - " Horror bloomed on her face. "No," she whispered, rocking back and forth. "No, you're wrong."
Judd wanted to be wrong if it would wipe that look off Brenna's face. He'd been blinded by her loyalty to the pack when they'd first broached this topic and even now had not even a shred of evidence to support his theory, but he had instinct. The details of the kidnapping were the one thing Brenna, and only Brenna, knew about.
It made far more sense than her being targeted because of the statement she'd made about Tim's murder. She'd been openly shaken at the time, and a smart wolf could have talked his way around anything she claimed to have seen. But with her gone, no one would ever be able to prove what Judd now suspected - that a fellow wolf, a packmate, had sold her out to Santano Enrique...to be butchered like so much meat.
Nikita uploaded the data crystal she'd received that morning onto a computer in her penthouse suite. The crystal held a file she'd paid a premium amount to acquire. Her contact had considered it little enough compensation for putting his life, and his sanity, on the line. Nikita had had to agree. Kaleb's little gift - it was rumored he had the ability to cause permanent insanity - made even the most experienced of them reconsider.
The file finished loading. It was several pages long and stamped with the seal of the training facility where Kaleb had been placed at age three, when he'd first begun exhibiting his considerable telekinetic strength. As was usual, the juvenile files had been sealed at Kaleb's majority, which was why she'd had such trouble getting them...and why she hadn't known the name of Kaleb's trainer: Santano Enrique.
Filing away that unexpected piece of data, she scrolled down. She soon began to notice odd gaps in the record. There was a continuous accounting of his progress up to age seven years, four months, but the next entry didn't appear until age seven years, seven months. What had Kaleb been doing in the intervening three months? Again and again, the pattern repeated itself. The gaps were highly irregular. Training logs were meant to be kept strictly up-to-date.
She restarted from the beginning and immediately noticed a second pattern hidden in the first. Each gap in the log appeared one week to the day after Kaleb had had a personal training session with Enrique. With any other trainer, it would've been a cause for concern, but not a major problem overall.
However, Santano Enrique had been no ordinary cardinal. He'd been an exceptionally high-functioning sociopath, one of the small minority whose aberrant brain patterns had been given free license by Silence. Enrique had escaped all the procedures set in place to detect such anomalous minds and become Council. Now it appeared that Kaleb had been far more than merely Enrique's student. He'd been his protege.
The NetMind's recent slew of fragmented reports, especially in relation to the unknown serial killer, took on a new implication in light of this information. The last time they had had such problems, the NetMind had been under Enrique's control.
Returning to the file, she saw that Kaleb's power arc had also been unusual. Most cardinals followed a steady and predictable progression from ungoverned and unreliable to total control. Her daughter, Sascha, of course, had been a different story. It would have been far easier for Nikita to terminate the fetus as soon as the in vitro psychic tests showed the near-certain presence of the E designation. It was, in fact, what the Council had ordered in the early years of Silence. The ability of E-Psy to heal emotional wounds had been considered redundant in a race that had no emotion.
A decade later, they had discovered the Correlation Concept - a direct if not scientifically provable relationship between the number of latent E-Psy and the overall stability of the populace. In simple terms, the fewer the E-Psy, the more cases of sociopathy and insanity. Now E-Psy were brought to full term and forced to contain their abilities under several undocumented layers of conditioning. That was what had led to Sascha's irregular development.
Nothing like that could account for the nature of Kaleb's psychic growth. At ten years of age, he'd been as focused as an adult. His concentration hadn't lapsed during the occasionally problematic period of adolescence, but evidenced a sharp decline at age sixteen. That would have been a cause for severe concern, except that Kaleb had stabilized within the month. Despite considerable testing, the M-Psy had been unable to find any evidence of psychic or physical trauma that could account for his relapse. In the end it had been noted down as a delayed adolescent reaction.
Nikita had reason to disagree with that diagnosis. Closing Kaleb's file, she pulled up another. It had been opened after the Council became aware of Enrique's sociopathic history. They were using all of their resources to make a list of past murders that may have been committed by the now-dead Councilor - in case he'd left behind evidence aside from any possessed by the changelings. Loose ends had to be stifled before they spoke.
She scanned the list they had to date and found it at once. A changeling female - a swan - had disappeared seven days before Kaleb's logged decline. And the decline had begun approximately twenty-four hours after Kaleb returned from one of those unexplained absences, likely times when he'd been with Enrique.
Not a protege. An accomplice.
This could become a problematic issue if Kaleb ever lost control of his murderous appetites. Until then, she'd continue working with him. Every one of the Councilors was a killer in some form. Kaleb simply did his killing in a less sanctioned way.