worthless, ungrateful beasts, I stood and stretched until my joints popped. Unless I wanted to trash the summoning of Mzatal tonight, I needed a nap.
I stumbled into the house but paused by the open door of the laundry room. A nest of soft blankets held a pile of sleeping kittens—and Mama Fuzzykins was still on the back porch. Smiling, I gently extracted Fillion from his siblings and snuggled him to my cheek. The kitten wasn’t old enough to know it was supposed to hate all summoners.
Fillion and I snuggled into my bed, and the next thing I knew the dubious harmony of ringing phone and mewing kitten hauled me out of a deep sleep. I fumbled for the phone, squinted at the too bright screen before hitting the answer button. “Hey, Pellini.” I croaked.
“It’s only seven thirty,” he said gruffly. “I didn’t think you’d be asleep yet.”
“Life of leisure and all that.” I sat up and put the kitten on my lap.
“How about one p.m. for the plantation?”
“How about you tell me why you need me to go out there with you?”
“I don’t need you,” he said, “but with the kidnapping, murder, and rape charges on Farouche’s people, I think there might be a connection to the Palatino-Gavin murder case.”
Idris’s sister. The body in the semi-trailer. Damn. Pellini was actually sniffing down the right trail—one that led straight to my doorstep. I needed to keep a sharp eye on that. “And since my task force is attached to both cases, you want my input.”
“I figure it’s worth checking out.”
“I can rearrange my schedule to make that work.” Might as well let him think I was doing him a big favor. The truth was, after the near-disaster with my valve, I needed to get out to the plantation ASAP to make sure the valve node there remained secured and relatively stable.
“Meet me at the police station,” he said. “I’ll drive.”
“Works for me. See you then.” I started to disconnect, but hesitated when I didn’t hear the expected “bye” or “see ya” from Pellini. “Is there something else?”
“Uh,” he said then cleared his throat awkwardly.
, I thought in sudden desperation.
Please don’t let him ask me out for a beer again!
“Did you, uh, hear about the dog?” he said instead, as if we were making small talk over coffee at Grounds for Arrest. “The one animal control shot today?”
The kitten crawled off my lap to investigate a cozy spot beside my leg. “I heard a little on the radio,” I said, doing my best to keep my voice casual. “What about it?” And why on earth was Pellini bringing it up to me?
“The, uh, dog showed up outside the station and scared the shit out of a clerk, then ran when a couple of officers came out,” Pellini said. “I couldn’t get outside quick enough to do anything. Animal control tracked him all the way to Leelan Park and tried to tranq him, but it didn’t work.” His voice carried a definite edge of distress and none of the confrontational air of the beginning of the conversation. “They shot him.”
Him, I noted. Not it. Pellini sounded as if the incident affected him on a personal level. Was he a total softy when it came to animals?
“I know they wouldn’t have killed it if there’d been any other way to stop it,” I said as I filtered everything he’d told me. Given that the kzak first showed up at the police station, I had a sneaking suspicion it had arrived through the valve in the parking lot there. I stuck the PD at the top of my mental list of valves to check. It wasn’t a long list, but it was a start.
Perhaps the kzak had been trying to escape through another valve? If so, it might have disappeared because it succeeded rather than because it died.
“They didn’t find its body,” I said in an attempt to reassure him. “Maybe they missed, and he got away.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he said, still sounding oddly distraught.
What did he expect me to say? You see, Pellini, it was actually a