Archangel's Prophecy (Page 31)
“I’ll need it.” She allowed herself a small, fierce smile. She might not be able to feel her wing muscles, but maybe she’d saved Demarco and future Slayers from a lonely life in the shadows.
A small win, but she’d take it.
The next hour was full of failure.
Beth’s neighbors were all home now. However, most hadn’t been around during the incident, and the ones who had been had seen nothing suspicious. Wings tugging heavily at her back and frustration mounting, she was about to write off the entire thing as a colossal waste of time when she walked around the block to knock on the door of the property situated directly behind Beth and Harrison’s home.
It proved to have a full security system, cameras included. Better yet, that system had been on at the time of the assault on Harrison. Her skin prickled, her heart kicking. The camera, contingent on its angle, could’ve caught the assailant’s rushed exit.
“Would you be willing to give me the footage?” Elena asked the middle-aged man who’d answered the door; his hair stuck up in black tufts, the eyes behind his round lenses a rich shade of brown, and his unlined skin two or three shades darker.
“Oh, of course.” The neighbor shivered. “Terrible what’s happened. They’re such a lovely young family. We talk over the fence sometimes.”
“Imagine, that could’ve been you, Al!” interjected the neighbor’s wife.
A short Hispanic woman wearing a T-shirt bearing the logo of a local boutique bakery, she’d introduced herself as Anita, then asked Elena if she wanted a slice of fresh pie. Elena and her bottomless pit of a stomach—she probably had ringworms, immortal ringworms—had been tempted, but demurred. “Where’s the recorded footage stored?”
“It’s on my computer.” Al gestured for her to come inside, quickly realized her wings would make that awkward. “Hold on, I’ll bring the laptop out here.”
He returned just as the snow began to fall, the flakes soft and delicate.
“Pretty,” he said. “But I’m glad I’m not outside in it.”
“Al!” Anita glared at her husband.
Shoulders going up and head lowering, he said, “Sorry,” to Elena. “Just came out.”
“I’m not as vulnerable to cold as I used to be.” True enough, except that her teeth were threatening to chatter and her skin felt encased in ice where the snow kissed it.
Putting the laptop on a small hallway table his wife quickly cleared, a reassured Al angled the table so that Elena could see the screen. “I haven’t actually looked at the footage myself,” he said. “You never do, do you? Not unless something goes wrong.”
“We only got the entire setup to help out a friend who was selling them,” Anita confided. “Otherwise, who thinks of cameras? But Al’s good with computers, so we use all the features. Can even see through the cameras when we’re on vacation!”
Al pointed to a file icon on the screen. “That’s the recording from the past forty-eight hours.” He scratched his head. “We leave the cameras running on a loop, but I delete the files every few days, and this is the only one we’ve got right now.”
“It’s more than enough.” Elena clamped down on her excitement. “Can you pull up a specific time?” She gave him a time five minutes before Jeffrey and Eve’s arrival.
“Yes, I just type the time in here . . . and . . .”
Anita hovered beside him as he worked.
“There we are.” He hit play.
As expected, the relevant security camera was focused on their own backyard, but the angle meant the camera did also catch a relatively large section of Harrison and Beth’s property as well.
“Stop.” Elena leaned forward, breath hitching, as the image of a fleeing individual disappeared off the side of the screen.
“Oh, my goodness.” Anita pressed her fingers to her mouth; Al was already backing up the footage then setting it to run more slowly. “Well, gosh darn it.” Lines furrowed his brow. “You can hardly see him. He must’ve run down that left-hand part, where the camera can’t see.”
Nonetheless, Elena had seen enough to confirm their theory about intelligence and planning. The assailant had been dressed in a long coat, boots, and a brimmed hat, with a scarf wrapped around their face. From this distance, she could see no details of their features, but even their run was measured and purposeful rather than panicked. A person who moved as if they had a right to be there. A visitor in a rush.
Nothing to cause alarm.
“Can you copy the footage to me?” Elena caught Al’s gaze. “I’d also recommend you not try to do anything yourself. This individual is dangerous.”
“Oh no, don’t worry, dear,” he said while his wife gasped, “I leave the heroics to young people like you.” He took down her details. “I’ll put the files into the cloud and send you the access link.”
“You take care in the snow, honey!” Anita called after her. “And if you decide you want pie after all, come on back!”
Smile curving her lips, Elena continued to do the rounds, but no one else had anything to offer. Her back and shoulder muscles ached badly by the time she called things to a halt—all from just making sure her wings didn’t drag on the ground. The task hadn’t been this wearing since the weeks after she woke up with wings and was learning how to fly, her body unused to the exertion. Good wing posture had become second nature in the years since.
Her left wing threatened to drop again.
She was standing by Beth’s house fighting the urge to lie down flat to ease the strain on her back when the throaty purr of a motorcycle engine sounded down the street. She glanced over . . . and grinned.
“Why are you prowling these streets?” she said to the black-leather-garbed rider who stopped in front of her. “Sara said you were around earlier, too.”
Ransom pushed up the visor of his helmet to reveal gorgeous green eyes that had seduced more than one woman. “Coupla kids tagged a pic of you walking around the neighborhood. Showed up on my feed.”
When she raised an eyebrow, he sighed. “Nyree wants to move around here in preparation for when we start trying for a mini-me. I’m doing reconnaissance.”
Elena knew him well enough not to fall for his put-upon scowl. The hunter who’d avoided entanglements like the plague was delightfully entangled with a woman who took no bullshit and who loved Ransom with ferocious honesty.
Elena grinned. “How about a ride?”
“Any time.” He patted the back of the motorcycle he’d only recently bought, after his previous one fell down a cliff during a fight with a young vampire in bloodlust. He’d loved that bike, but he hadn’t sulked at the loss—he’d said it was worth it to stop a vampire who’d already murdered three innocents.
The vampire’s angel had paid for the new bike—and requested Ransom for all future hunts. Elena wondered how her friend would handle things when he did have children. Most people transitioned to teaching at the Academy or low-risk hunts for stupid vamps, but Ransom wasn’t the kind. Hunter-born rarely were.
“Hold still.” She straddled the bike behind him but didn’t sit—no way to do that safely with wings. Instead, she got her feet settled on the foot stands and put her hands on his shoulders. “Ready.” She lifted her face to the wind as they roared off and, yes, it was just as much fun as she remembered. Especially when they stopped at traffic lights and a bored driver glanced over . . . to do a serious double take.