Rogue Oracle

Rogue Oracle by Alayna Williams Read Free Book Online

Book: Rogue Oracle by Alayna Williams Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alayna Williams
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy, Contemporary
that some poor forensic tech would have the task of taking the machine apart to look for unusual fibers. The bed had been crisply made with hospital corners, a jacquard and velvet comforter stretched so perfectly over it that it looked like a page from a catalog.
    Not so much as a speck of dust had settled into the posters of the bed. Tara squinted at the carving on the upper posts. What she first took to be scrollwork actually resolved into a pattern of wings … reminding her of the Lovers card from her Tarot readings. In the card, an angel watched the Lovers from on high. What had these wooden angels witnessed?
    Tara peeled back the covers, pulling them loose from the pile of decorative pillows. She ran her gloved hands over the cool, plum-colored sheets. The mattress was dented in the center of the bed, suggesting that Lena usually slept alone. But her mind kept tracking back to the Lovers card from her Tarot reading. She turned over the pillows carefully, wondering if the housekeeper had washed them recently.
    “Harry,” she said. “Look at this.”
    She pointed to a slightly darker stain on the underside of a pillow. It was almost imperceptible against the darkness of the fabric, a small smear scarcely larger than a finger.
    “Looks like blood,” he said, squinting at it. “Could be anything. Could be from a nosebleed, given the placement on the bed.”
    “Or it could come from our abductor.”
    “I’ll get forensics in here to look at it. This will be the most fun they’ll have all day.” Harry left Tara alone in the room. She could hear the clatter of coins in his pockets as he jogged down the steps. He was frustrated. But Tara knew that she could still trust him to be methodical. He was, after all, her Knight of Pentacles. Whether he still wanted to be, or not.
    She spun on her heel, thinking. Lena’s bedroom looked very much like a showplace. There was little here to suggest any personality … no photographs of family or friends on the dresser. Everything here fit precisely into a design scheme, and felt oddly impersonal. In some ways, it reminded her of Aquila’s office: no personal life on display.
    Except for one thing. On the dresser was a painted Russian doll, a matryoshka. Tara picked it up. The delicate hand painting depicted a woman with dark hair in a kerchief, holding a basket of roses. She turned it over, seeing a legend scribbled on the bottom: For my Matryoshka, my darling of many faces. Love, Carl.
    Tara’s intuition prickled. Was this a gift from Carl Starkweather, who had also served on the Rogue Angel project? She opened the doll, unscrewing it at the waist.
    Any other matryoshka Tara had seen had been the same: six or eight successively smaller nested dolls, all depicting idyllic country girls in cheerful colors. But this was not a doll like that. The doll inside was a bear … and not a teddy bear. The bear’s jaws were parted in a ferocious expression, golden paint glittering on its claws.
    The next doll was equally strange. A wolf was painted in silvery gray stripes, looking down its long snout at Tara. A pink tongue lolled from between its teeth.
    Curious, Tara continued to open the dolls. Next was a girl, dressed like Red Riding Hood with a crimson cloak and picnic basket. Then, a red fox, its tail wrapped around its feet. A gray tabby was next, smiling like the Cheshire cat. Tara involuntarily thought of Oscar. Underneath its paw was a feather. The smallest doll was a bird … a dove, holding a piece of olive branch in its mouth.
    Tara arranged the shapeshifting matryoshka in order. Something in her subconscious tickled her, and she thought of the World Tarot card. The woman in the center of the card was surrounded by beasts, and she was not what she seemed. Tara made a mental note to go over Lena’s personnel record. From what little she’d gleaned on the ride over, she’d been told that Lena had been associated with Rogue Angel. She might have been anything from a

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