Dorian recovered in less than a second, pushing up his door and running out to catch the woman as she collapsed. Her eyes were already filming over with the haze of oncoming death, her plain white shift so bloody it stuck to her slender frame. Flashes of ravaged flesh showed where the fabric had been torn by whatever it was that had cut through her body with such lethal ferocity.
"Hold on," he said, bending to gather her into his arms so he could drive her to the nearest hospital.
"I can't get her to respond to telepathic messages." Ashaya's shock was vivid enough to escape even her incredible control.
"Keep trying." He picked up the woman, even though he could hear her heart beginning to stutter. She stared up at him but he knew she didn't see him. "Who did this to you?"
The answer came out strangely clearly. "My father."
She had soft brown hair, gilded skin. And the pitch-black eyes of a Psy in the death throes. Then those eyes faded to gray, her body going limp against him. He felt his arms clench, his heart twist. But the memories evoked by the sight of this girl's body could wait. Leopard and man both had only one priority right now - to protect the woman who stood beside him, one hand clasped around the lost girl's. "Leave," he said.
Ashaya looked up at him. "Dor - "
"She's dead. A Psy team will be sent out to investigate within the hour." Sascha had taught him that - death alone was an acceptable excuse for leaving the PsyNet. All Psy who dropped from the Net without explanation were searched for, a search that didn't stop until a body was found, or death confirmed. "It might be sooner if she got out a telepathic mayday. You can't be here when they arrive."
Ashaya didn't release the girl's hand. "What about you?"
He met her eyes. "I won't leave her alone in the dark."
"A silly emotional choice," Ashaya said, but her voice shook. "One I find myself wishing I had the freedom to make."
He shook his head, his leopard clawing at him in angry panic. "Go, Shaya. I keyed the car to you and the route's preprogrammed. Set it to automatic and get the hell out."
She withdrew her hand slowly from around the girl's. "This was a frenzied attack. She was cut so badly that she can't have come far."
His snapped command made her give a stiff nod and run back to the car. A minute later, she drove past him as he carried the girl off the road and through the stand of manicured trees that lined the road. The line of greenery acted as a fence for the complex of homes behind it. Small, contained buildings no predator would live in, but that suited the Psy. It was obvious the girl had come from the nearest house.
The door stood open and even from the bottom of the drive-way, he could see the bloody handprint on the door. It was stretched, as if she'd slipped. More blood lay drying on the steps leading down from the entrance hallway, on the white cobblestones of the drive, on the ground inches from his feet.
Carefully skirting the last of her lifeblood, he carried the girl's body back up to what had once been her safe haven. Like the site of Kylie's murder. The scent of an abattoir hit him as he neared. There was a sick miasma to the smell that he knew he'd never be able to explain to anyone who didn't possess the same acute sense of smell. Something had gone terribly, violently wrong in that small white house.
Then he was on the doorstep and what he saw made him wish, for one selfish instant, that he'd driven by a minute earlier, that he'd missed seeing the carnage. Now these images were imprinted on his retinas, to be filed away beside the ones that tormented him night after night. Holding the girl tighter, he stepped inside the house.
A single delicate hand was all that showed of what had to be another female body in the room to the left. He glanced inside, saw that she couldn't have been more than thirteen. She'd been stabbed only once but the weapon had hit her heart. The acetic furniture preferred by the Psy lay overturned, as if she'd made a desperate bid to escape. She hadn't even reached the doorway.
Not moving from his position in the center of the hallway, he looked to the right. Another room. Another body. This one was a male. Slender, perhaps in his early twenties. He'd fought hard - his hands were bloody and broken as they lay upturned on the pale carpet, his chest a veritable mass of stab wounds. The room paid silent testament to his struggle to survive, the hard-wearing plastic of the chairs cracked and splashed with the rust red of drying blood.
He looked down at the carpet. Following the trail of lost life, he found himself in what had to be the bedroom area. In the first room, he discovered a lone middle-aged male. The man lay on his back, dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted stab wound to the heart. One of his hands was still wrapped around the blade. There was no peace in his face, none of that icy Psy calm either. No, this man looked tormented. As if he'd seen a glimpse of hell itself.
A flicker of movement behind him. Dorian turned slowly.
The Psy who'd teleported in was dressed in the head-to-toe black of elite Psy guards. His uniform bore the now familiar image of two golden snakes twined in combat - Ming's emblem.
Their eyes met. Cool Psy gray. Bright changeling blue.
Dorian recognized him in a single instant. Ming's emblem but Anthony's man. Zie Zen's pickup.
The Tk-Psy's attention went to the girl's body. "You need to leave." He raised his arms.
Dorian held her tighter. "What will you do to her?"
"Erase her," was the pitiless answer. "Erase all of them."
Dorian's jaw set. "No. Give me her name."
The Psy male held his gaze for almost a minute, then blinked very deliberately. A thin piece of plaspaper appeared in his hand. "Her birth ID."