“It ties up so neatly—but at the same time, it doesn’t make sense,” she said to Max the next day as she finished locking up her bag for the return trip to San Francisco. With the families of all the victims having been notified of what was happening behind the scenes with Bonner, and with no hope of finding any further remains, Max had decided they needed to turn their attention back to Nikita’s situation.
“Isn’t Krychek a telekinetic?” Max asked, shadows under his eyes from the lack of sleep.
“Exactly—and he’s teleport capable.” It hurt her to see him hurting—she couldn’t wait until they were home, where she could wrap her arms around him, give him the surcease he’d given her so many times. “He would’ve been smart enough to teleport in to do the kills while he wasn’t officially known to be in the region.”
Taking her bag and slinging his own duffel over his shoulder, Max headed to the elevators as she pulled the door to her hotel room closed. “From what I know of Councilor Krychek,” he said as she came to stand beside him, “he’s a stone-cold operator. I can’t see him wasting time with the theater of a fake suicide.”
“I’ve never heard a confirmation, but there are constant whispers that he was raised by a sociopath, that he’s a murderer at heart.” She’d seen Krychek once—on the other side of a hotel lobby—but his presence had made her alter her route, take the long way to her destination in order to avoid him. It had been self-preservation, the otherness in her recognizing an intelligence as lethal—and far, far colder.
Max rubbed his hand over the jaw she’d watched him shave a few minutes ago when she’d gone into his room ostensibly to talk about the case. The experience had been starkly, beautifully intimate. “The pattern’s too political for a serial killer,” he said, waiting until she stepped into the elevator before following. “That kind of a sociopathic drive wouldn’t have allowed him to keep his urges leashed to the extent of only committing murders on the verge of a big deal.”
“There’s another rumor that might be more apropos,” Sophia said, curling her fingers into her palms to keep from touching the smooth skin of his jaw, breathing in the fresh pine of his aftershave. ”That Nikita and Krychek have some kind of an alliance.”
“Now that fits the pattern,” Max murmured as the doors opened at the garage level. Heading to the vehicle they’d rented at the airport, a vehicle that had spent the entirety of the past forty-eight hours sitting in the garage—Max having had access to an Enforcement car, while Sophia remained in the hotel to work—he dumped their bags in the trunk. “Someone’s trying to cause suspicion between the two.”
“Do—” She was cut off by the beeping of her cell phone. Pulling it out, she said, “Sophia Russo.”
“Thank God I caught you—Max’s phone won’t go through.” It was an unfamiliar voice, trembling as if the speaker had run a hundred miles. “This is Faith NightStar.”
Getting into the car when Max opened the door for her, Sophia immediately realized the reason for the call. “You had a vision.” And the visions of a cardinal F-Psy were accurate to within a hundredth of a decimal point.
“Yes,” Faith said as Max snapped on his safety belt and went to put his thumbprint on the starter. “The car is rigged. Do you understand?” Frantic words. “Don’t start the engine.”
Max’s thumb brushed the ignition switch.
“No!” Sophia jerked Max’s hand away from the ignition with a wrench that had his head snapping toward her.
“Sophia!” Faith’s voice merged with Max’s demand to know what was going on.
“I’m fine,” she said to Faith, tremors shaking her frame. “We’re both fine. Here, you better speak directly to Max.”
Leaning back in her seat, she tried to get her heart to beat in a normal rhythm as Max had a short, sharp discussion with Faith. Closing the phone, he ordered her to step out of the car. Neither of them said a word until they were standing in front of the innocuous-looking vehicle.
“I’m getting the bomb squad,” Max said, using her cell phone to make the call when his own proved to have a flat battery. “They’ll be here in five minutes, tops.”
“So soon?” She had to focus on the mundane, on the practical . . . rather than on the fact that Max had come terrifyingly close to death.
Max touched her lightly on the back, and she realized just how much she’d missed the contact in the frenetic pace of the past two days. No one had ever told her that touch was something you became addicted to, the loss of it a hunger, an ache deep within.
“They work out of the same Enforcement building we used as a base.” His hand dropped away as an Enforcement vehicle drove into the garage. “Still, that was damn fast.”
Two men and one woman stepped out, all three in the protective gear of the bomb squad. “Tell me what you know,” the woman said.
“We got the heads-up from an F-Psy—” Max began.
“Foreseer?” The woman whistled. “I didn’t realize they made civilian predictions—heard it was all business.”
“Faith NightStar,” Max said. “She’s part of DarkRiver. She saw the car explode after I started the engine.”
“Hmm. Given current technology, it’s got to be some kind of a detonation message being sent to the actual device.” She was already moving toward the car, equipment in hand. “You two might want to clear the garage. You’re not wearing protective gear.”