Brenna was on the floor, bleeding from cuts on her lip and cheek. He went to pick up her attacker and throw him into the wall, but she shook her head slightly. He froze. The man whirled to face Judd, but he never got the chance to speak. Brenna swept out a leg and smashed him to the ground before jumping on his back and swiping her claws down hard enough to reveal flashes of bone.
The killer screamed.
Judd put him in a telekinetic choke hold. "You don't have the right to scream."
Brenna looked up as the man gurgled, desperate to breathe. "You were right - he was there." A feral snarl as she held him down. "He was the reason I got into that van. He offered me a ride." Gripping her attacker's hair, she jerked back his head. "Let the bastard speak."
Judd released his hold, aware of others arriving at the scene. "I can tear his mind open, download everything he knows. Of course, he'll be a drooling mess by the end."
Brenna's captive coughed and tried to speak. "No. I'll talk."
Brenna jerked his hair harder. "So talk, Dieter."
There was no mercy in her and Judd approved. This man had used his position to prey on those who trusted him. Judd remembered him squatting beside Timothy's dead body, pretending to help, telling them how perfect the room was if you wanted to surreptitiously dispose of a body, how the killer had to be someone smart.
"I met him a few months before you got taken," he coughed out, "Santano Enrique."
Someone hissed in the doorway, sounding more cat than wolf.
Brenna dug her claws into his shoulder, scraping bone. Dieter's scream was high and shrill, rising above the shriek of the emergency alarm, but she kept him conscious. "Did you give me up to him?"
"Yes." Dieter coughed up blood and Judd realized he was crushing the man's internal organs. He forced himself to pull back. This was Brenna's fight.
"Why?" Betrayal laced her voice. "You were my brothers' friend. You were Pack."
"It was a straight business deal. He gave me Rush at a real low price. Made me rich." Dieter didn't try for Brenna's sympathy, as if he knew he'd get none. "All he wanted was a favor now and then."
"Like picking me up on the way to class," Brenna whispered, tone raw. "Like telling me I was needed at the den. Did he come back from the grave and ask you to shoot Andrew, too?" Her next move was so fast, Judd almost missed it. She smashed Dieter's face to the floor, hard enough to cause unconsciousness but not death. The alarm cut off at that same instant.
Getting up, she wiped the blood off her mouth with the back of her hand. "Elias, Sing-Liu," she said to the two soldiers who'd stopped in the doorway, "take him to the lockup."
Judd blocked the doorway. "I'll take him."
Brenna growled. "You'll kill him. We need to know what he fed Enrique."
"I can get that." Judd could almost taste the man's death on his lips.
"His execution belongs to Tim's family." She stepped around the body to face him. "Tim died. I didn't."
Blood for life. Life for life. Changeling justice.
But Judd wasn't changeling. Dieter's heart pulsed in his psychic hold. Just one - Brenna gripped the front of his shirt. "Stop."
He stared at her. "No." His mind recognized killing, was drawn to the taste of it.
She kissed him, bit down hard on his lower lip. Dissonance crashed into him, combining with the sensory pleasure, the iron-rich taste of blood, and the hunger for violence. It scrambled his pathways for an instant. That instant was enough. When she drew back, he was still homicidal, but he could think past it. "You're right. We need to know what he knows. I'll take him."
This time, she didn't try to stop him as he hauled the changeling over his shoulder and strode out, Elias by his side. The other man kept growling low in his throat until Judd dumped Dieter in the lockup and secured the door. "Does he need a healer?" Judd wanted him very alive for the questioning.
Elias's eyes were flat. "He needs to be dead, but I'll call Lara. It might be a while if there were injuries in the nursery."
Judd had forgotten the alarm in the emotional chaos of the attack on Brenna. "Are you capable of guarding him? I know he was your friend."
"I want to tear him to pieces." His claws were out. "But I won't let him die - Tim's family deserves the honor of ripping his two-faced heart from his f**king chest."
Accepting that, Judd left to return to Brenna. He found the apartment full. Surprisingly, Lara herself was looking at Brenna's cuts, while Hawke asked her questions and her brothers swore in low, continuous bursts. Outside, someone was already trying to repair the door he'd busted. He heard Sing-Liu's cool voice giving the orders.
"Judd." Brenna's face lit up the second she saw him. She went to hold out a hand but dropped it halfway.
He grabbed it anyway. Damn the consequences. "The nursery?" he asked Lara.
"Looked worse than it was," she said. "No kids hurt but that was by sheer luck. If a pup had crawled into the doorway when it came down - " She shook her head.
"A diversion," Judd said. "He had to get D'Arn away from Brenna."
"D'Arn's already beating himself up about it." Riley blew out a breath. "But Dieter knew what he was doing - I would've taken off for the nursery, too. Bren can look after herself, pups can't."
Brenna shot her big brother a smile at the vote of confidence, before returning her attention to Judd. "I was telling Hawke how it happened. I left to grab my comm equipment from my room and when I came out, he was standing here." Her voice shook, not with fear but anger. "He smirked at me, said no one's here to protect you now, little girl. He had that injector in his hand." She pointed to the small cylindrical object lying in a corner.