Indigo nodded. “We need to extend our patrols even farther than we’ve already done. It might be an idea to ask units of men to spend a few days roaming the more far-flung areas in rotating shifts.”
“Organize it,” Hawke said before turning his attention to Riaz. “Can you pick up some of Indigo’s normal duties?”
The male lieutenant gave a quick nod. “Has Judd got anything yet?”
Hawke’s breath was white in the early morning chill. “This smells like Council, but he’s confirmed the Council is no longer functioning as a cohesive unit so it could be any one of them.”
That, Andrew thought, was very, very interesting. He’d have to bring it up with Max when he met with Nikita’s security chief.
Hawke turned to Indigo. “Do we need to ask Riley and Mercy to cut short their trip?”
“I don’t think it’s that serious yet.” Indigo’s eyes were almost azure in the light up here, vivid against her golden tan. “We can handle it for the time being—some of the soldiers can pull a few extra shifts to cover.”
Andrew leaned up against the trunk of a nearby pine, folding his arms to keep from reaching for Indigo and making his claim clear to the other dominants—especially Riaz. “They both need the break.” His brother had been shattered when Mercy was injured just after they had mated. The couple had come through the trial with their bond even stronger but—“I don’t think they’ve had much of a chance to honeymoon.”
Hawke’s lips curved upward. “I wonder if Riley considers his current situation a honeymoon or purgatory.”
Everyone laughed, but the sound was muted, their instincts on alert for any sign of intruders. As soon as there was enough light, they split up into their assigned groups and headed out to comb for needles in haystacks.
“We found ten devices located on the northern edge of our territory,” Andrew told Max over a beer that night in a dark little Chinatown tavern that served the best microbrew in the city. “We did a fairly comprehensive sweep along the other sides, but got nothing.”
“Still, it’s an enormous area,” Max said, “and these devices sound small.”
“Yeah.” Watching the condensation run down the glass of his bottle, he met the cop’s eyes. “But whatever they were up to, we’ve put a dent in their plans by increasing security across all the isolated sections.”
“You have a theory?”
“A couple.” He left it at that.
“I can confirm it’s not Nikita,” Max said, without waiting for Andrew to ask.
“How can you be certain?”
“No reason to hire me if she’s got someone capable of organizing that kind of an operation.” A shrug. “And, given the access she’s handed me to Psy data, I don’t think it’s some kind of a massive double cross.”
The only other Councilor in the area was Anthony Kyriakus, whose daughter, Faith, was mated to another DarkRiver sentinel. The cats had already sent through word that Anthony wasn’t involved. It wasn’t like SnowDancer to accept anything on face value, but this time, Hawke had. Which said a hell of a lot about the SnowDancer-DarkRiver alliance.
“Did Nikita have anything else to say about this?” Andrew asked.
Max took a sip of his beer, making an appreciative noise at the back of his throat. “She paid attention when I told her, but something else is keeping her distracted.”
“Want to share?” He drank some of his own beer.
Max leaned back against the maroon leather of the booth. “I didn’t want to work for a Councilor, but now I do—and as long as she doesn’t break the deal we’ve got going, I’m loyal.”
Andrew didn’t ask what the deal was. He could guess. “Fair enough.” It would make his task harder, but at the same time, it solidified his wolf’s respect for the cop. “But does it have anything to do with dead Psy in the city?”
Max tilted his beer bottle at Drew. “I wondered how long it would take for you lot to twig to that.” Putting down the bottle, he braced his forearms on the table. “Four suspicious deaths, all psychic hits.”
“Nothing in the media. You covering up for Nikita?”
Max’s skin pulled tight over his jaw. “I’ll allow that only because I would’ve come to the same conclusion six months ago.” His anger was a cool flame in his eyes. “It’s no cover-up. Enforcement’s fully aware of the situation, just keeping its mouth shut for once.”
Andrew heard the ring of truth in that. “Sorry, man. I had to ask.”
“Yeah, well, don’t do it again.” The cop blew out a breath. “Look, we’ve warned the targeted group—low-Gradient Psy—but we’ve done so quietly because there’s a good chance the kills are politically motivated, meant to cause unrest in the civilian population.”
“We’ve heard rumors of trouble in the Council ranks.”
Max nodded. “Probability the murders are part of that is very high.”
“Interesting.” Andrew shared the e-mail Pure Psy had sent to SnowDancer wolves. “Connected, you think?”
“I’d bet on it.” Max handed back the ugly e-mail. “I have to keep an open mind about the murders in case some other crazies were ‘inspired’ by Pure Psy, but my gut says Henry Scott and his fanatics are knee-deep in it.”
“Gloria,” Andrew said, watching the cop’s face, “she was erased.”