Unbound

Unbound by Meredith Noone Read Free Book Online

Book: Unbound by Meredith Noone Read Free Book Online
Authors: Meredith Noone
people in the town of Tamarack who had access to all of those plants, and the ability to trap and kill crows and mice and rabid coyotes. And there were only so many people skilled enough in magic to hide the smell of sweet rotting death, and to throw off the nose of a wolf so completely when he had their trail.
    Unless, the wolf supposed, it was someone from out of town, but surely the police would’ve investigated everyone spending inordinate amounts of time in the local hotel? Or were they staying one town over? Or in the next county and just coming to Tamarack to kill on Tuesday nights?
    The wolf thought of Dale Devereaux, wild-eyed and ranting, with his hair in disarray and spittle on his lips, as if he was rabid himself. He would be exactly the sort of person to do something like this, but as far as Ranger knew, Dale was safely contained in the Fox Creek Psychiatric Hospital in Norfolk.
    He sighed.
    “I don’t know what to do,” the detective said, sounding broken. “And I’m afraid the killer will go after Sachie soon. He’s – he’s vulnerable, you know? You’ll keep him safe, though, right?”
    Ranger wasn’t so sure he could.
    He hopped off the couch, yawning widely, and went upstairs to curl up on the floor in Sacheverell’s room.

    Late on Sunday morning, while Sachie and the detective took a drive down to Norfolk to go to the specialty crêpe café there as a special treat, but mostly because the detective was hung-over, Ranger went to visit Madam Watkins over on Cedar Quill Street. He found her out in her garden, preparing it for the winter by pulling out the dead and dying annuals and bedding down the perennials. A squat, hairy, warty little boggart was helping her by ripping up withered plants.
    Madam Watkins was a short, round, old woman with a face creased by long years of smiling and short-cropped gray hair. Were it not for the swirling tattoos creeping down onto her hands from beneath her sleeves and the dangling wren-feather earrings hanging from her ears, she might’ve been anyone’s grandmother. She certainly looked the part.
    “Oh, hello dear,” she said to the wolf, as he stepped over the dogbane and skirted around the mandrake warily. Her garden could be a dangerous place to the unwary – she supplied everything from poisons to herbs to the local apothecary in town. “Give me just a moment to finish with the datura, and then we can go inside and chat. I’ve got apricot-oatmeal cookies, and I can brew tea. How do you feel about chamomile?”
    The wolf sat down next to her and watched as she ripped up the withered old plant that she said was datura.
    “End of its life,” she explained to him, digging it back into the soil for reasons that the wolf could not fathom. “It’s not annual; this one was three years old actually, but this plant tends not to live very long, for the most part. Can be a hallucinogenic, under the right circumstances. Very good for visions. Usually just very toxic.”
    He twitched an ear, to show he was listening.
    She got to her feet a little laboriously, her knees and back creaking. “Right, then. How about that tea? Did you perhaps prefer Earl Grey?”
    Ranger snorted, and the boggart scurried off into the bushes, cackling to itself.
    “Bother. I’ll have to catch him again the next time I need his help, and he’s a crafty fellow. Chamomile it is for you, young wolf, and you’re not to fuss.” She wagged a finger at him as she wandered slowly towards her back door, shaking the cricks out of her feet as she went. By the time she was kicking her rain boots off at the door, she seemed quite spritely.
    The wolf followed her into the kitchen, knowing better than to nose curiously at the plants hanging on the drying rack against the wall.
    Madam Watkins opened up the cookie jar, laying out a half dozen cookies on a little ceramic plate, then she set about filling the kettle with water and heating it up on the stove. While the tea steeped, she talked about

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