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Bonds of Justice (Psy-Changeling 8) - Page 75


—From the private case notes of Detective Max Shannon

Ryan Asquith entered the conference room looking as unruffled as ever, but that, of course, was de rigueur for the Psy. Max didn’t say anything for several long seconds after the intern arrived. Taking her cue from him, neither did Sophia. Finally, Ryan glanced at his watch. “Am I early, Detective?”

“You didn’t tell us you’d undergone reconditioning,” Max said, instead of answering his question.

The young male didn’t so much as blink. “Everything is in my file.”

“And you didn’t think to mention the fact that you’d killed using Tk when we’re investigating a murder that may have had a Tk component?”

Ryan’s eyes skated away from Max’s. “I assumed you already knew. The personnel department did a full screen on me when I applied for this position.”

“Interesting thing is,” Max murmured, “seems the department just does a basic screen for short-term interns.”

Sophia put her organizer on the table. “The detective doesn’t understand, Ryan,” she said in a quiet, calm tone.

“Oh?” Max raised an eyebrow.

“Those of us who go through a reconditioning,” Sophia answered, “aren’t considered criminals for any acts committed during the period of fracture, because there is no intent.”

Ryan nodded, holding Sophia’s gaze. “Exactly. I knew if I told you of the incident, you would focus on me, leaving the true murderer to go free.”

“But you can see,” Sophia said, “how this places you in the center of the investigation.”

Ryan glanced down, then up, saying nothing.

Sophia tapped Max’s foot at almost the same instant. Getting the hint, he rose to his feet. “I’m going to grab a bottle of water from outside while Ryan gets his thoughts in order. Sophia?”

“Thank you, some water would be great.”

Watching the door close behind her cop, Sophia turned her attention to the boy in front of her. And he was just that, only a boy. A boy, who, somewhere deep inside, was terrified of his own abilities. “Tell me what you were hesitating to say in front of Detective Shannon.”

“Will you keep it confidential?”

Right then, Sophia saw something in Ryan’s eyes that she’d never expected. “As long as it doesn’t affect Councilor Duncan’s safety, it won’t go beyond these walls.”

“At the time of Edward Chan’s murder, I’d locked myself in one of the meeting rooms that almost no one uses because I needed to meditate.”

“Do you continue to have trouble with your Silence?”

“Yes.”

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It was a confession that could have this boy sent back to the Center, which made Sophia more inclined to believe him. “Why did you tell me?”

Dark gray eyes locked with her own. “You’re a J. I thought if anyone would understand the pressure, you would.”

Sophia wondered if she was being played very skillfully. “Which meeting room?”

Ryan gave her the details without hesitation. “And I’m not strong enough to teleport,” he said, confirming what they’d already determined. “That’s never been in my skill set.”

“Thank you.”

Ryan opened his mouth, paused, then said, “Nobody really pays attention to an intern.”

“What have you heard?”

“There are rumors in the city that Nikita is as flawed as her daughter.” Ryan’s tone dropped. “I thought, at first, that it was just uninformed talk, but the whispers are gathering in momentum—and that kind of thing doesn’t happen without something, someone, feeding the fire.”

“Do you have any idea of who it could be?”

“Not Marsha,” Ryan responded. “She has no genetic offspring. I believe she has given all her loyalty to the Councilor. I can’t narrow it any further.”

The door opened then and Max walked in. Sophia said, “Keep your ears and eyes open, Ryan. Let me know if you hear anything.”

“I will.” Rising, he glanced at Max, his expression opaque, his dress faultless—the perfect Psy . . . on the surface. “Do you have any further questions for me, Detective?”

He left as soon as Max shook his head. “I believe him,” Sophia said after filling Max in. “I think he applied to work for Nikita because of Sascha.”

Max tipped back his chair. “Explain.”

“It’s obvious his reconditioning didn’t work as well as everyone believes.” Reaching out almost automatically, she pushed his chair back on all four feet. “I think he’s hoping that since Nikita has a daughter who feels emotion, she’ll go easier on him if the truth comes out.”

“Nikita’s got a heart of f**king stone and I’m being cruel to the stone there.”

Sophia had heard whispers of how Nikita had ascended to the Council—her sheer cold-blooded nature couldn’t be doubted. “Yes.”

“I hear a ‘but.’ ”

“She allowed her daughter to grow to adulthood, when it would’ve been far easier for Sascha to have had a fatal ‘accident’ in childhood,” Sophia said, knowing he understood what she didn’t say, the parallels she’d drawn. “And in the end, the reality matters less than the perception. Ryan wants to find something, someone who’ll be on his side.”

“I get why he’d latch on to her,” Max said, “but if Nikita’s the best he can do, the kid’s in serious trouble.” He tapped the two printouts he’d just put on the table. “We take Ryan and Marsha out—I’m with the kid on her loyalty, plus Sascha confirmed they were together when Chan died—and we’re left with Andre Tulane and Quentin Gareth.” Tiny lines fanned out from the corners of his eyes. “I’ve got a couple of things I want to check where those two are concerned.”

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