Archangel's Legion

Page 13

An . . . interesting image, but as a distraction from the state of our defenses, it was inspired. If, however, I didn’t know Ransom was much in love with another, I’d now have to kill him.

No touching my friends, remember?

I wouldn’t have to touch him to kill him.

Very funny. Having made it to the roof, she flared her wings and, sweeping off the edge of the building, flew in the direction of the gun shop as Raphael returned to Tower business. She’d debated heading for the pro first, men being men, but according to Sara’s intel, Darrell hadn’t visited the woman in over two months. The gun shop, however, was one he went to every time he was in town.

The owner, bearded and with a serious beer gut, was happy to cooperate once she reassured him he hadn’t somehow earned the wrath of the Tower. “Darrell? He’s a good customer, nice guy, too, but I haven’t seen him for, let’s see . . . going on a week now.” A chuckle. “He really stocked up that last time.”

When Elena heard what Darrell had bought, her head almost exploded. He has an arsenal, she messaged Ransom and got #%&! as a reply, then a call.

“Indoor shooting range was a wash. Literally.” Ransom’s tone was taut. “Burst water pipe five days ago, but the owner says Darrell came in every day before the damage, was a crack shot with multiple guns.”

“Shit.” If Darrell had moved from fists to guns this fast, they could be talking massacre.

“I’m heading to check out his mother’s place. They’re not close, but if he was angry, he might’ve turned up there.”

Elena’s next stop, the resupply store, had her slamming up against an ex-cop who gave her a blank face and said he didn’t gossip about customers. Too fucking worried to put up with bullshit, Elena laid her cards on the table, no sugarcoating. “Darrell is in trouble. The kind of trouble where he might pick up a gun”—not to mention the freaking assault rifle he’d bought—“and put it to his head or someone else’s.”

“And what?” Flat cop eyes. “The Tower cares?”

That was his problem? “The Guild cares.” She slapped down her license.

“I heard you were still hunting,” he said, after examining the badge, “but I guess I figured that was horseshit.”

“Yeah, well, it isn’t.” She slid away the license. “Now, Darrell?”

“Saw him three days ago.”

“What did he buy?”

“No, it wasn’t here. I saw him at the corner bar couple of blocks over with a stacked redhead. Legs up to her ears.” A shrug. “I figured the man was enjoying his time off, and who was I to bother him.”

The pro’s apartment, too, Elena realized, was only two blocks over.

People pointed and whispered the instant she stepped out of the store, this part of town busy, but no one crowded her. All it had taken for her to get her space was shooting a crossbow bolt into the boot of an idiot who wanted to get up close and personal. He’d lived, despite his whining, and now she had a rep. Exactly as she liked it.

“Ransom,” she said, cell phone to her ear as she walked, just like every other New Yorker on the street, “the pro. Redhead with long legs?” Curving around a businessman engrossed in his miniature tablet, she heard a crash and turned to find him staring openmouthed at her, his expensive gadget on the ground.

“Tourist,” sniffed a passing black-suited executive, her hair a sleek blonde bob and a cup of take-out coffee in her hand.

The acerbic comment made Elena grin, then they’d moved past one another.

“Wait,” Ransom said. “I was just looking up her photo—yes, that’s her. Double D chest, too.”

“Should’ve known you’d notice.”

“I’d have to be dead not to notice that. I got a nibble about a bar on—”

“I can see your bike.” Hanging up, she jerked up her head. “Bar staff know anything?”

“They saw him three days ago, that’s it.”

Crossing the street without a word, they made it to the pro’s apartment building in under a minute. Her doorman, his eyes bugging out at the weapons bristling from their bodies, didn’t put up a fight at their questions, divulging that the woman hadn’t left her apartment for forty-eight hours and counting.

“And Honey, she never misses her book club. That was last night.”

Elena’s eyes met Ransom’s at the doorman’s coda, the acrid taste of fear on her tongue. There was a very good chance that Honey Smith was no longer able to read a book, able to do anything, her decomposing body lying irreparably broken in her apartment.

Elena was so sick of being too late.


Having taken the stairs to the roof, Elena swept down, intending to look through the windows of the apartment, only to find the blinds shut. She returned to meet a gun-toting Ransom in front of one of the doors that lined the stylishly decorated and dimly lit penthouse floor. Her own gun out of its holster, she moved quietly to the other side of the door wide enough that her wings wouldn’t be a hindrance in a fight.

“I don’t smell decomp.” It was a bare whisper.

Elena didn’t either, but what if their quarry had been smart and changed the temperature inside? “Air-con,” she mouthed and saw Ransom’s lips flatten into a thin line.

“Ask or go?”

“Go soon as we have an in.” Ransom slid away his weapon. “Can’t take the risk he has a gun to her head if she isn’t already dead, and he’s in there with her.”

Motioning for her to keep out of sight, he put on his shades and pounded on the door. “Hey, sweetheart.” It was just loud enough that the resident, if she was alive, would worry about her neighbors. “Open up. We had a date and I paid in advance!”

Hearing rustling sounds from inside the apartment, Elena scowled at Ransom to pull away from the door in case Darrell shot through it. When he stayed put, she gritted her teeth and prepared to shove him out of the way the instant she picked up anything that sounded even vaguely like a weapon.

Except the next thing she heard was the door being unlocked and pulled open, the security chain jerking it to a stop. “Shut up, you drunk moron,” hissed a clearly irate woman. “You’ve got the wrong apartment.”

“You Honey Smith? I made the appointment through your website.”

“I’m not taking new bookings.” Unhidden frustration. “You must’ve made a mistake.”

“I have a fucking confirmation number.”

“Show me.”

“Here.” Lowering his hand into a pocket, Ransom slammed out with some kind of a metal tool and the security chain was gone.

The redhead screamed as they came in, guns out . . . to find themselves facing the wrong end of a Glock semiautomatic held by a tall, lean man in jeans that hung low on his hips and at least three days of beard growth on his face. “Honey.” The black-satin-robe-clad woman slid behind him at the curt order.

Ransom was the first to lower his gun. “Shit. We thought you fucking lost it, man.”

Darrell didn’t lower his own gun an inch until Elena slid hers back into the holster.

“The Guild,” she said to Honey, in an effort to defuse the tension, “will pay for the damage.”

The other woman rolled pretty hazel eyes set in a Botticelli face. “I’ll send them a bill. Now shut the damn door and come in before you get me kicked out of my apartment. I’ll make coffee.”

“Ellie found out about the weapons,” Ransom said to Darrell after the redhead disappeared down the hallway. “We were afraid you were planning to go on a rampage.”

“I thought about it.” A flat statement, his skin several shades lighter than his grandmother’s, eyes a dark gray. “It was when I started working out the best vantage points for a sniper that I locked all weapons except this one in my gun safe, changed the combination blind so I couldn’t open it without a blowtorch, and came here.”

“Whatever your excuse,” Elena said, tone hard because Darrell needed it to be hard, “you should’ve checked in with the Guild—and your gran.”

It was her final statement that got his attention, his eyes tortured. “I knew she’d be able to tell I was in trouble, and she’s so sick. I didn’t want to worry her.”

Elena threw him her phone, unable to forget the trembling of Ms. Flaherty’s hands. “Do it now.”

The smell of coffee filtered into the air just as he finished the call, and Honey padded back to the entranceway. “Y’all planning to come in and visit, or just stand around looking badass?”

Elena grinned, deciding she liked the other woman, just as Ransom folded his arms high on his chest. “I’m always up for looking badass.”

“Except for the hair, right?” Darrell said, a glint in his eye.

Ransom showed him the finger and all at once there was no more tension.

A half hour and a cup of coffee later, Darrell turned himself in to the Guild, ready to undergo a psych evaluation and to actually cooperate with the counselor. It was a small win for the good guys, but Elena would take it. Now she had to fly home and do her best to help Raphael forge an alliance that could mean the safety of hundreds of thousands, the scale of death that might result from an archangelic war incomprehensible.

• • •

After a day that had involved countless subtle strategic moves as he positioned his city in readiness to defend against an attack from an unknown enemy, Raphael stood beside his consort on the lawn of their home, watching Elijah and Hannah come in to land. The other pair had decided to stay at an undisclosed location about an hour’s flight from the Enclave, though they’d notified Raphael the instant they crossed over into his territory.

“It’s like a courtship, isn’t it?” Elena murmured, her flowing gown of blue-green silk a cool kiss of spring in the arms of winter. “Both of you being so well behaved and formal.”

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