Nightshine, p.12
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       Nightshine, p.12

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
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Page 12


  “I think we should release them next week. ” She scattered the last of the food before turning to him. “The man is awake, and healed. The woman is weary. She did not sleep or eat. ” She rubbed her temple. “Her mind is powerful. During the day it sleeps, but it becomes like a beacon after dark. If she suspects . . . ”

  “I will see to it that she does not,” he promised. He cupped her cheek. “You are flushed. ”

  “I have been hot this morning. ”

  Her smile didn’t reach her eyes, and he understood the warning. “Then I will have to keep you wet. ” He lowered his head.

  Her fingernails dug into his arms as he kissed her, signaling a frustration he shared. Since Colotl was a boy he had known Tlemi was for him—those choices had been made soon after they came to the master—but unlike the others he had not resisted his duty. Not until they had come to the island.

  She tasted of coconut and mint, and her warmth sank into him until he could feel her in his bones. Every time he touched her he wanted to be inside her, a need that he’d assumed would dwindle over time. It hadn’t; in the years since their first night he had grown obsessed with having her as often as he could.

  She broke the kiss first, her breath rapid and unsteady. “You make me forget myself. ”

  The passion should have been a gift. Instead it had become a burden they both carried.

  “You make me burn,” he murmured against her lips. He eased his hand between her taut thighs and stroked her, watching her eyelids droop and her lips part. “Do you need me now?”

  Sadness tinged her laugh. “I need you always. ”

  He picked her up in his strong arms and carried her out of the pool.

  “Señor Frasier?”

  Drew looked up from the newspaper he couldn’t read to see a woman he couldn’t stop staring at. His eyes shifted from the top of her glossy black hair down to the open toes of her ivory pumps, and then traveled back up again to her heart-shaped face. Her irises didn’t match—one was the color of sand, the other as jet-black as her hair—but the effect made it seem as if some unseen beam of light had caught her eye.

  She appeared as immaculate as if she’d just come from a photo shoot for a high-end fashion magazine. The cream color of her silk suit set off the tawny smoothness of her skin, and had been cleverly tailored to complement her petite proportions without overemphasizing them. The jewelry she wore was made from narrow, hammered gold and glinted discreetly from her ears, throat, and wrists. Dark red gloss accentuated her full lips, but if she wore any other makeup, he couldn’t see a trace of it.

  Somehow he got to his feet. “I’m Agent Martin Frasier. ” The gray-bearded Mexican detective who had left him to wait in the empty office had said something in broken English about a translator. “Are you the interpreter?” Please say yes.

  “No, but I do speak English. ” She put down the portfolio she carried and held out her hand. “My name is Agraciana Flores. I’m an agent with La Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente. ”

  Drew resisted the urge to rub his hand against the side of his trousers before taking hers. “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand all that,” he said as soon as he forced himself to let go. “Does that mean you’re with the police department?”

  “PROFEPA is in charge of governing and protecting Mexico’s natural resources,” she explained. “I have been called in to consult on this case. ”

  He frowned. “Why?”

  “Part of the investigation involves Las Islas Revillagigedo, a group of islands off the coast that are under federal protection as a priority biosphere reserve,” she told him. “Under our laws, no one is permitted within six nautical miles of the archipelago. My agency has been tasked to oversee any operation that takes place in their vicinity. ”

  She wasn’t a cop; she was some sort of government conservationist. “I’m sorry; I don’t understand. What do these islands have to do with my case?”

  “It is somewhat complicated. ” She glanced down at the cup in her hand. “Detective Ortega suggested I bring you some coffee from the squad room, but I like Americans. ” She offered him the cup. “I bring this from home for myself. It is a little like, ah, hot chocolate?”

  Drew accepted the cup and took a sip. The thick, hot drink tasted dark and smoky, and was only slightly sweet. The tingle it left behind after he swallowed was unexpected but oddly satisfying. “It’s very good. Thank you for not hating me and my countrymen. ”

  She didn’t smile, but a delicate pink color appeared on her cheekbones. “I hope you feel the same after we have discussed the case. ” She pulled out a chair and gestured to his. “Please, sit down. Is this your first visit to Manzanillo?”

  “Yes. ” Drew wasn’t sure what to think of it, either. Down by the water the Mexican seaside town had reminded him of the more expensive parts of the Caribbean, all palm trees and white palatial hotels. But turning east he had left behind the glitz and glimmer and followed the narrow streets up the surprisingly steep hills into the heart of the city, where he expected the powerful sunlight to bring out every detail of the poverty and urban decay the tourists never saw. Instead he found a town as clean and charming as any theme-park resort. “What’s with that gigantic blue fish statue down at the oceanfront?”

  “El Monumento al Pez Vela. ” She smiled a little. “Sportfishing is very important to the local economy. We call it el camarón—the shrimp—because of the way it is curled up. Are you staying in Obregón Garden?”

  “No, I haven’t gotten a room yet. ” Drew had driven past some dazzling hotels by the twin bays, and stopped to stare at one that had been built as a replica of a massive Mayan temple, but they were too high-profile for his needs. “I’ll take care of that later. ”

  From her briefcase she removed several slim files and some sketches, which she set between them in two neat piles.

  Drew tried not to stare at the top sketch, which bore a striking resemblance to the photos of Samuel that he had pulled off the Internet. “You’ve found the victims?”

  “Unfortunately, we have not. ” She opened one file and produced a photograph of a boat. “This vessel was found abandoned at the public docks. ” She gave him the registration. “Is this the boat that was stolen from Monterey?”

  He took out his notepad and compared the numbers. “Yes. Did you recover the victims?”

  “There was only one victim. ” She showed him another photo, this one of a dead man on his back, his face covered in blood.

  Drew almost snatched the picture from her, but relaxed when he saw the man’s black hair and small stature. “This isn’t Samuel Taske. ”

  “We have already identified him. His name is Pedro Tacal. ” She regarded him steadily. “He left Mexico City last week to visit a sister in Sacramento. We assume he was traveling back home when he was attacked and abducted. ”

  “I’m sorry to hear that. ” Drew put down the ghastly picture. “I’d like to help with your investigation, but my priority is to find the Americans who were kidnapped. ”

  “You have not heard. . . . Of course, you have been traveling. ” She put away the photos. “Last night Señor Tacal was killed in front of dozens of people on the public docks, not far from where the boat was abandoned. ”

  So that was the connection. “Do you think he was killed because he saw the sniper and his victims?”

  “I cannot say why he was murdered. ” She hesitated before adding, “But the descriptions of Tacal’s killers match those of the man and woman whom you claim were kidnapped in San Francisco. ” She checked her own notepad. “Samuel Taske and Charlotte Marena. We have issued warrants under those names for their arrest. ”

  Drew felt as if he’d been kicked in the stomach. “These people were kidnapped, Agent Flores. If they killed anyone, it was in self-defense, probably while trying to escape. This Tacal must have been the sniper who abducted them. ”

  She s
hook her head. “According to our witnesses, Tacal was unarmed and begged for mercy. The American male—presumably Taske—bludgeoned him until Tacal lost consciousness, at which time his female companion shot him in the head. They then stole another boat. ”

  “This is bullshit. ” Drew shoved out of his chair and began pacing the length of the room. “Samuel Taske can barely walk, much less beat a man unconscious. Charlotte Marena is a paramedic and the first responder to reach the victims on the bridge. ” He turned and looked at her. “Neither of them would harm anyone. ”

  “Perhaps not until last night. ” Agent Flores averted her eyes as her tone became brisk. “You can examine the sketches made by our artist; they are based on the descriptions of the witnesses and match the photos that were sent to us from the San Francisco police. I will also arrange for you to see the statements collected by the police. They, too, are very detailed. ”

  “I’m sure they are, but I don’t read Spanish any better than I speak it. ” Drew dragged a hand through his hair. “What are your people doing to find Taske and Marena?”

  “My agency has sent two of our patrol boats to search the islands and the waters surrounding the archipelago,” she said. “We have also radioed all the ships in the area and asked them to report any sighting of the stolen vessel. ”

  “How long will this take?”

  She shrugged. “Days, perhaps weeks. Assuming the suspects remain in the search area. ”

  “Two kidnap victims don’t turn into murderers overnight,” Drew said finally. “I’ll need to talk to these witnesses myself. In person, Gracie. ”

  She eyed him. “Then it is regrettable that you don’t speak Spanish, Marty. ”

  Before Drew could reply, Detective Ortega lumbered in and spoke sharply to Agent Flores, who said very little in return. Drew noted how the older cop’s eyes kept drifting south toward Gracie’s sternum, and the casual way he reached down to adjust his package.

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