The atmosphere was tense, the silence oppressive. Some asked what was going on, but Ezra gave the same answer: “Felix will explain.”
Finally, the back door thumped and a moment later, Felix strode out of the kitchen with Kai right behind him, still clad in his black warrior gear, looking none the worse for having spent the last several hours tagging rogues. As Felix took a spot in front of the bar, facing the gathered mythics, Kai swept around the table and stopped on my other side.
“I’ll get straight to business.” Felix glanced at me, then continued. “A rogue guild dubbed the East Hastings Gang has been targeting Aaron for two weeks. Tonight, while Kai led a team against them, another group showed up here. Liam was critically injured in the fight, and Aaron was captured.”
“Was that group part of the rogue guild?” Zora demanded.
“We’re not sure.” Felix’s jaw flexed. “We learned from the rogues that they were hired to abduct Aaron. We also learned tonight that Tom Newburg, our clairaudient, has been passing information to either the rogues or the unknown party—or both.”
Gasps rang through the group. “Tom? Are you sure?”
“Without a doubt,” Felix said, raising his voice over the shocked muttering. “Our top priority is finding out who the other party is and why they’ve targeted Aaron. I haven’t been able to reach Darius, but I sent him a detailed message. Same for Girard—he’s in Seattle. For now, it’s just us.”
I counted the assembled mythics. Twenty-six. Just over half the guild.
“What do we know about the group who captured Aaron tonight?” Lyndon asked.
Felix, Ezra, and Kai looked at me.
I cleared my throat nervously. “Three people came in through the back door. One was Tom. He mocked me for figuring out he was eavesdropping on conversations so the rogue guild could attack Aaron while he was vulnerable, but—”
“How is Aaron vulnerable?” Cearra interrupted, her tone suggesting I was an idiot for thinking Aaron could be exposed to danger.
“Anytime Ezra and I aren’t with him,” Kai answered shortly.
“I think Tom was passing his tidbits along to this other group, and they were giving it to the rogues.” I tugged nervously at the hem of my shirt. “The two other people with him were a telekinetic man and a woman who can … control people.”
“A mentalist,” Ezra added. “A powerful one with a touch-dependent gift. She forced Aaron to leave with them.”
“Including Tom, that’s three Psychica mythics,” Zora pointed out. “Do we know of any rogue guilds with a heavy inclusion of psychics on their roster?”
“I can think of a few,” Andrew responded grimly. “But I don’t know why any of them would go after Aaron. They have no reason to—”
“Revenge.” Tabitha’s cool voice preceded her out of the kitchen. She pushed through the saloon doors, her jaw-length bob perfectly smooth and her ice-queen expression undisturbed.
“What?” Zora snarled. “Who wants revenge on Aaron? For what?”
“Not for anything Aaron has done, but revenge on the Crow and Hammer.” Tabitha stopped beside Felix and held out her phone. A green call symbol glowed on the screen. “Go ahead, Darius.”
“Good evening, everyone.” The deep, vaguely familiar voice of the guild master echoed from the phone’s speaker. “Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
Felix’s wide eyes darted from the phone to Tabitha and back.
“A few minutes ago, I received a call,” Darius continued. “The caller demanded I present myself at a specific address in two hours. If I fail to arrive, or do not arrive alone, he will kill Aaron.”
Lightheaded terror swept through me and I clutched the table for balance.
“Unfortunately, the caller did not give me the opportunity to inform him I’m three thousand miles away. I can’t meet his demands, so we’ll need a different approach.”
“Who the hell are these guys?” Sin yelled, her hands balled into fists as she glared at the phone.
“Thank you, Sin. I was just getting to that,” Darius replied dryly. “Six months ago, I instructed Girard, Tabitha, and Alistair to investigate the activities of a local guild—Kirk, Conner & Qasid.”
At the guild’s name, faint recognition pricked me.
“Ostensibly a law firm, the guild’s membership is composed entirely of Psychica mythics. Though they present as a legitimate guild, their activities behind closed doors are distinctly unsavory. In short, it’s a guild of predators, cheaters, and conmen. Over the past half year, Girard, Tabitha, and Alistair have done an admirable job of catching their members in numerous illegal activities. The MPD has cracked down on them, banning members and levying destructive fines. Any further charges and the guild will risk dissolution.”
Darius paused as though gathering his thoughts. “The reason I assigned this task to our most experienced officers and most powerful mage is because of the threat KCQ presents. It was not a task I wanted other members involved in. Though psychics are often underestimated, KCQ has attracted some dangerous individuals. Tabitha?”
The second officer raised her chin. “Four weeks ago, Alistair and I tagged one of KCQ’s most promising new recruits—an empath with a frightening ability to influence the emotions of everyone around him. He’s now in MPD custody. After his arrest, all activity from the guild went quiet.”
Her dark eyes flashed to me. “The moment I heard what had happened tonight, I knew who was behind it. We took a gifted and powerful young member from KCQ—and now they’ve taken our most gifted young member in turn. But that isn’t the extent of their revenge. Aaron is Darius’s protégé, and they’re using him as bait to lure Darius into the open.”
“They don’t just plan to punish us by killing Aaron,” Lyndon growled. “They want to kill Darius too.”
“I believe that is their goal,” Darius agreed, his voice calm but deepened by intensity. “We will not allow them to accomplish either goal. They will deeply regret every moment of their supposed vengeance.”
A silent, restless shiver ran through the gathered mythics. I could taste the impending violence in the air.
“Tabitha has the address my caller provided, but we can assume that location is a trap. They are likely holding Aaron elsewhere. KCQ has two offices, one registered and one not.” His tone shifted, becoming more businesslike. “Tabitha, in my and Girard’s absence, you are in charge. Aaron’s life is in your hands.”
“I’ll get him home safely,” she promised.
“Good. I’ll await your update.” The line clicked.
Tabitha slipped her phone into her pocket. “We have no time to waste. Taye, contact all our Psychica members who aren’t already here. Delegate others to go to their homes if you can’t reach them by phone. Felix and Kai, pull up all the information you can find on the three addresses we’ll be targeting. I already texted them to you. With one office downtown, one in the West End, and the shipping yard where they told Darius to go, we’ll need to coordinate our movements carefully.”
Felix and Kai sped toward the stairs to the second level.
“Andrew and Zora,” Tabitha continued, “organize the combat mythics present into three teams. Sin, get a hold of our healers. Ezra, print off the profiles of every known KCQ member, six copies each.”
Giving my hand a quick squeeze, Ezra hastened upstairs as well. Sin disappeared downstairs for a quiet place to make calls, and Zora herded the other mythics to the far end of the room. As the purposeful bustle consumed the pub, I squeezed my hands together.
No one protested the perils of the mission. No one questioned or complained about their assignments. They moved with determination, with anger burning in their faces. Every person here had come to help Aaron, and not a single one showed the slightest hesitation about going up against a guild Darius had deemed too dangerous for regular members to tackle.
Tabitha turned to me. “What happened this evening when Aaron was captured? I need all the details.”
Stumblingly, I described every moment of the encounter, every word I could recall. When I finished, Tabitha nodded.
“Very well,” she murmured. “You may leave now.”
“Your home is the safest place for you.” When I started to argue, her cold stare silenced me. “You are a liability, and I will not put any more lives at risk to protect you.”
My whole body went cold, the chill sinking even deeper than hours in a refrigerator could inflict.
“Consider your employment terminated,” she added without sympathy. “You were brave, but allowing you to set foot in this building was a mistake from the start. All else aside, I will not see you hurt or killed on my watch.”
I glanced around desperately, but Kai and Ezra were upstairs and Sin was in the basement. Not a coincidence. Anyone who might have come to my defense was busy elsewhere.
Tabitha noticed my searching look. “Do you plan to distract them at such a critical time? Go home, Miss Dawson. You do not belong here.”
My throat constricted so tightly it hurt to swallow. She was right. I didn’t belong here. Even if I wanted to argue with her, I couldn’t do it now. I couldn’t distract Kai and Ezra from saving Aaron, who had less than two hours to live. Giving Tabitha my information about tonight’s attackers was the extent of my usefulness. The best thing I could do was get out of the way.