Rogue Page 15

Parker’s voice carried over the line, surprisingly clear. “Don’t worry.

We covered it back up with garbage, and we’re still in the alley. It’s not like we can walk around Metairie smelling like day-old crawfish. What do you want us to do?”

My father’s silence caught my ear, and I looked up to find him standing still, his eyes closed in concentration. While we didn’t bury bodies on a daily basis, disposing of a corpse was nothing new for an enforcer, and generally required little more than a phone call to the Alpha to report the situation.

Unfortunately, this case couldn’t be handled quite so simply; the body was found in the middle of the day, in a very wel -populated place. That hardly ever happened, because even most strays had the sense to take care of werecat business in the dark, and in complete isolation from human society. To do otherwise was to risk revealing our existence to the human world. It was an issue of self-preservation, which—unlike humans—most members of our species seem to understand instinctively.

Stil , every now and then we came across a werecat—be he stray, wild, or Pride—who showed no interest in hiding his activities, and thus our very existence, from the rest of the world. While public exposure would be most threatening to strays, who had no network of protection, ultimately we all stood to lose everything we had. And we weren’t about to stand back and let that happen.

Disclosure—the Council’s term for the failure of a werecat to keep his existence secret—was a capital crime, and leaving a body unburied fel well within the definition of disclosure. The Territorial Council’s policy on capital criminals—called rogues—was to eliminate them as soon as possible, using any means necessary. Enter my father, Alpha of the south-central Pride and head of the Territorial Council.

The fate of the rogue who’d kil ed the Metairie stray was already sealed. My father was his judge, and Marc his executioner. And there would be no appeal.

However, before we could worry about catching and eliminating the murderer, we had to figure out what to do with his victim, a rather interesting dilemma. How do you dispose of a murdered werecat in the middle of the day, in the outskirts of New Orleans?

Ethan shifted on the couch, and his movement drew my attention. He scratched one bare shoulder absently as he stared at our father, clearly as intent on listening in as I was.

Finally, my father stopped pacing. He stood in front of his desk with his back to the room, the phone still pressed to his ear. “What other businesses open into the alley?”

“Um…hang on,” Parker said. Holden’s slightly higher-pitched voice came through, muffled and indistinct, then Parker was back on the line.

“It looks like…a florist, another restaurant, a print shop, an antique store, a hardware store, and…I think that’s a dry cleaner. Why? What do you have in mind?”

“Where did you leave the van?” the Alpha asked in lieu of an answer.

Parker had taken our old twelve-passenger van, loaded with Holden’s luggage.

“On campus, about four miles away.”

“Have you already unloaded it?”

“Yeah, last night,” Parker said.

“Okay, listen carefully,” my father began, and an attentive silence descended in the office, as well as over the line. “Send Holden into the hardware store for two pairs of painter’s coveralls and two pairs of work gloves. When he gets back, you put on one set of coveralls and gloves, then give him the keys to the van and some cash. Tell him to take a cab back to campus, empty several of his moving boxes and throw them in the back of the van, to give you both a reason to be in the alley. While he’s gone, you stay with the body, just in case.

“When Holden returns, back the van as far into the alley as you can without drawing attention, while he puts his gear on. Then, get the plastic sheeting and a roll of duct tape from the emergency kit in the van.

Lay some plastic in the bottom of my van. Use a double layer. If you get rotten food in the carpet, you’ll spend all night scrubbing it out.”

I frowned, disturbed by the realization that my father was more worried about the carpet of his fourteen-year-old van than about the body whose disposal he was planning. But that was one of the things that made him a good Alpha. He did what had to be done. And he thought of everything. Everything.

My father plucked his glasses from his desktop, wiping the lenses on a handkerchief from his pocket, the phone propped on his shoulder. “I assume you’re alone in the alley?”

“At the moment,” Parker said. “A guy came to dump trash from the restaurant a minute or two ago, but he went back in. He didn’t even notice us.”

“Good.” My father balanced the glasses carefully on his nose and began pacing across the hardwood floor again, from the front of his desk to the back of the couch where Vic and Ethan sat. “Put the body in the van, close the doors, wrap him in more of the plastic, and tape it up. Do it quickly, and do it in that order. Then take off the coveralls and wrap them up separately. Drive Holden back to school. Obey the speed limits and draw no attention to yourself.” That was standard practice, the reminder of which Parker didn’t need, but Marc couldn’t hear often enough. “After you drop him off, come home, and we’ll handle the disposal from here.”

I turned to face Marc, my eyebrows arched at him in question.

“Why?” I mouthed silently, hoping he understood an Alpha’s thought process better than I did. After al , he’d been an enforcer for more than a decade.

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