Riley nodded. "The instant word of his body gets to Enforcement, we lose all hope of figuring out how he ended up here."
"I've got enough training to process this," she said. "We bring in our techs and we give away the game." There was nothing much out here - two people might skate under the radar, but a team would be highly visible.
"That's what I thought."
"Anyway, it could be simple drowning or suicide." Putting on thin protective gloves, she checked the corpse for evidence of how the male might've died, while Riley took photographs with a small but high-resolution camera. "Fish have nibbled a bit and he's been banged around, but I'm not seeing anything that screams murder. Of course, I'm no expert."
He tapped a finger on his knee. "Can you take samples without it being obvious you took them?"
"No problem - I'll go through one of the bite sites." She was drawing blood as she spoke. "Haven't done anything like this for a while."
"Remind you of med school?"
A pointed glance. "That background check sure was thorough."
"Of course." He kept an eye out around them as he spoke, making certain to look skyward, too. "Falcons are coming today. They want us to grant them permission to fly over pack land."
She took a number of swabs, making quick notes on where they'd been taken from. "Been in the works for a while." The WindHaven clan occupied territory - a large slice of Arizona - that bordered SnowDancer land. Their request wasn't unprecedented. The bird changelings, especially the species that were meant to fly far and wide, often negotiated such treaties - the right to flight along strictly drawn paths.
If WindHaven wanted even limited landing privileges, they'd have to agree on some kind of an alliance, but first SnowDancer - and DarkRiver, as the wolves' main ally - had to find them worthy of an alliance. A weak partner could cause incredible damage. However - "They seem pretty solid."
"Guess we'll find out when we meet." He looked at her as she removed her gloves and put them in the biohazard bag before closing the lid on the whole kit. "Done?"
"Yeah. At least we got this much." She made a face. "Probably won't be enough for any real answers."
"Maybe we'll get lucky with the blood work." He held out his hand for the kit. When she raised an eyebrow, he didn't so much as blink. "I'm stronger. Suck it up."
Her mouth fell open as he turned something she'd said to him more than once, right back on her. Taking the chance to grab the kit, he loped over the rocks and up to the car ahead of her.
Since his back was turned to the cat prowling up behind him, he missed the smile tugging at the curve of her lips.
Mercy checked her phone when they got back to the car. "Falcons postponed," she told Riley. "Meet's set for day after tomorrow instead."
"Must've been something big," Riley murmured. "They've been working for months to reach this point."
Agreeing, Mercy cleared the message. "I'm thinking we get a Rat to call in an anonymous tip on the body. No use leaving him out there to rot. Who knows what's in his system."
"I have to meet more of these Rats. Teijan wasn't what I was expecting."
Mercy made the call before answering him. "They don't like you wolves as much as us leopards," she said, closing her phone. "Apparently, you've been known to threaten to skin any Rat you see sniffing around."
Riley gave a grim smile. "That was when they were spies with no allegiance to anyone. Now they're valued associates."
Mercy snorted, but the cat was intrigued by his logic. As agile as it was, it needed a mate who could match it mentally as well as physically. "Getting back to the body - I can't quite figure out how this guy fits into the recent slew of Psy going nuts. You heard of anything going down where the perpetrator wasn't found?"
"Me, either. But it's not like Enforcement sends us memos."
"What about that cop?"
"Who? Max?" Mercy frowned. "He went back up to New York."
"He might have contacts."
Mercy nodded. "I'll ask Clay to tap him. But if the Psy decide to hush it up, no one will know anything." She blew out a frustrated breath.
"Mercy." A tone so restrained, it spoke of the greatest emotion.
"What is it?"
"Am I out of the hole I dug myself with the last op?"
"Maybe." But she couldn't help it - he was so serious. Reaching across, she brushed her fingertips over his jaw, tenderness tugging at her very soul. It would, she thought, be so very easy to hurt this man and never know she'd done it, he held everything so close. "You're out of that hole."
He winced. "You found out."
"How long did you think the mating dance was going to escape my notice?" She folded her arms, though she wanted only to stroke him.
"Can we talk about this later?"
"Hmm." She glanced at the kit he'd put on the backseat. "After we drop off the samples."
"I'll get one of my men to take it up to Sierra Tech. Work for you?"
Mercy nodded. Most of the respected R & D company was commercial, but a small area had been set aside to research things the packs needed to know. Since DarkRiver and SnowDancer paid for that section out of their own funds, the minority shareholders weren't bothered. And both packs had a place where they could get work done in efficient privacy. "Let me call Ashaya and tell her about the samples. She'll probably want to head up."
As she was finishing the conversation with the M-Psy, she remembered something else. "Did you manage to talk to Nash again?"