"You think they're that dangerous?" I asked.
She gave me a look. "You've read Heinrick's resume, what do you think?"
I shrugged. "Yeah, he sounds dangerous." I went over the list of known associates again. "None of these rings a bell." I closed the folder and laid it behind the two pictures. I picked up the second photo this time, the one of the pale-haired man. His hair looked white in the photo. White or a very, very pale blond. There wasn't much background to help me judge his size. It was a full-face shot, up close, only his upper body showing. He was leaning over a table, talking. This was a better photo, more detailed, but I still couldn't place him.
"Was this taken with one of those concealed spy cameras?"
"Why do you ask?"
I moved the photo so she could look straight down on it. "It's an odd angle for one thing, up, like the camera is low, about hip level. You don't usually take photos from the hip. Second, he's talking but not looking at the camera, and it's too natural. I'd bet good money he doesn't know he's being photographed."
"You could be right." She took the photo from me and looked at it, turning it a little to get a better angle on it. "Why does it matter how the photo was taken?" Her eyes had gone nice and cold, good cop eyes, suspicious, wanting to know what I knew.
"Look, I've watched you guys try to question Heinrick and his friend. They sound like a f**king broken record. You can hold them for seventy-two hours, but they can spend every hour of that time saying nothing."
"Yeah," she said.
"We could go fishing. Tell Heinrick that his friends really need to watch themselves better. You can't tell where these photos were taken. The blond is just in a room."
O'Brien shook her head. "No, we don't know enough to go fishing, not yet."
"If I remember where I've seen these guys, we might," I said.
She looked at me, as if I'd finally done something interesting. "We might," her voice was cautious.
"Even if I don't remember where I saw them, if it gets close to the seventy-two hours, can we try bluffing?"
"Why?" she asked.
I crossed my arms over my ribs, and fought the urge to hug myself. "Because I want to know why this bugger is following me. Frankly, if he wasn't following me specifically I'd be more worried about St. Louis in general."
She frowned. "Why?"
"If Heinrick and crew were in town in general, then I'd say we have terrorism to worry about. Probably something with a racial bent." I touched the folder without opening it. "Though he's worked a few times for people of color, as the saying goes. Wonder how he justified that to his white supremacist friends?"
"Maybe he's just a mercenary," O'Brien said. "Maybe the fact that he's worked for the white supremacist is coincidental. They were the people who had the money at the time he needed it."
I looked up at her. "You believe that?"
"No," she said, and smiled. "You think more like a cop than I thought you would, Blake, I'll give you that."
"Thanks." I took it as high praise, which it was.
"No, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck, and his dossier reads like he's a white supremacist that isn't above taking money from the very people he wants to destroy. He's a racist, not a zealot."
I nodded. "I think you're right."
She looked down at me for a second or two, then nodded, as if she'd made up her mind. "If the seventy-two hours gets close, you can come and we'll play go fish, but I think we're going to need better bait than a couple of grainy photos."
I nodded. "I agree. I'll do my best to come up with more before we have to beard the lion in its den."
"Beard the lion in its den?" she shook her head. "What have you been reading?"
I shook my head. "I have friends that read to me, if there aren't pictures, I'm pretty much lost."
She gave me another of those looks, half disgust, half trying not to smile. "I doubt that, Blake, I doubt that very much."
Actually, Micah, Nathaniel, and I were taking turns reading aloud to each other at night. Micah had been shocked that neither Nathaniel nor I had ever read the original Peter Pan,so we'd started with that. I'd then discovered that Micah had never read Charlotte's Web.Nathaniel had read the book to himself as a child, but no one had ever read it to him. In fact, he didn't ever remember being read to as a child. That was all he said, just that he'd never had anyone ever read aloud to him when he was small, but that one bit of knowledge seemed to speak volumes. So we were taking turns reading aloud to each other, a bedtime ritual that was more homey, and strangely more intimate than sex, or feeding the ardeur.You didn't read your favorite childhood stories aloud to people you f**ked, you read them to people you loved. There was that word again, love.I was beginning to think I didn't know what it meant.
"Blake, Blake, you in there?"
I blinked up at O'Brien and realized she'd been talking to me, and I hadn't heard her. "Sorry, really, I guess I'm thinking too hard."
"Whatever you were thinking about didn't look too happy."
What was I supposed to say, some of it was, some of it wasn't, like most of my personal life. What I said out loud was, "Sorry, it's unnerved me a little to have someone like Heinrick after my ass."
"You didn't look scared, Blake, you looked like you were thinking too damned hard."
"I've had hit men after me before, but not terrorists who specialize in politics. There is nothing political about what I do." The moment I heard it leave my mouth, I realized I was wrong. There were two types of politics that I was deeply involved in, furry, and vampire. Shit, had Belle hired him? No, it didn't feel right. I'd touched her mind too intimately; she still thought she could own me. She wouldn't destroy what she believed she could control, or use.
Richard was still digging out of the political mess he'd made of his pack when he tried to make them a true democracy. You know--one vote per person. It so hadn't worked, because he'd forgotten to keep that presidential veto power. He was Ulfric, wolf king, but he'd gutted the office of Ulfric and still hadn't built back up the respect and power base he needed. I was helping him rebuild, but some of the pack saw my involvement as another sign of weakness. Hell, so did Richard.
But to my knowledge no one was trying to move in on Richard's pack. Neighboring packs were giving us a wide berth until the dust settled. There wasn't anyone worthy of challenging him for pack leader except Sylvie, and she had held off, because she liked Richard, and didn't want to have to kill him. If Richard hadn't been afraid of what Sylvie would do as Ulfric he might have just stepped down for her, but he knew, and Sylvie had admitted, that her first order of business would be to kill anyone she suspected of disloyalty. That could be a dozen, or two. Richard wasn't willing for that to happen. But Sylvie would have come directly to my face if she had a problem. So . . .
I looked up at O'Brien. She was watching me, trying to read me. I had no idea what she'd seen as the different thoughts played over my face. I was definitely not on top of my game today.
"Talk to me, Blake," she said.
I decided for half-truth, better than nothing. "I was thinking that there's one type of politics I do participate in."
"And that is?"
"Vampires. I've got close ties to the Master of the City of St. Louis. I don't think Heinrick would knowingly work for a vampire, but he might not know. Most people like this work through intermediaries, so no one ever sees faces."
"Why would some vampire want to kill you just because you're dating the Master of the City?"
I shrugged. "The last time someone tried to kill me, it was for pretty much that reason. They thought it would weaken . . . the Master, make his concentration bad."
She leaned on the edge of her desk, arms crossed on her stomach. "You really think that's it?"
I frowned and shook my head. "I don't know. I don't think so, but it's the only politics I could think of."
"I'll put a note in the file, pass it up the line," she said. "We could offer you some police protection."
"You got the extra budget for that?"
She smiled, but not like she was happy. "Heinrick has terrorist in his dossier. Trust me, right now, with the T-word in the picture, I could swing the man power."