Edward spent the morning just after sunrise checking the perimeter of the woods bordering Anita's house and saw no signs that Olaf had been there during the night. Apparently, Stephen and Gregory had not heeded his warnings because he saw fresh wolf and leopard tracks, but no human tracks other than his own. Olaf was smart enough to cover his tracks, but there were no signs of the trees being disturbed by a human sized being.
He turned around from having checked the west side of the house's exterior for any signs that Olaf had been there and practically walked into the other lycanthrope woman. "Can I help you?" he asked. Cherry and the others in the house Edward could find it in himself to be cordial to during this ordeal, but this one had bitch written all over her. She had not asked one question about Anita and had expressed no interest in what was going on.
"I was just wondering what you were doing," the blonde said.
"Just checking things out before I go on my way."
"You're leaving," she practically shrieked.
"I've got a job to do, sitting immobile is not going to see it done."
"She's not worth it, you know?"
"Who's not worth what?"
"Anita. She's not worth dying for."
"Oh really," Edward asked, crossing his arms over his chest. "And you've come to this conclusion how exactly?"
"As am I, sweetheart, your preaching to the wrong choir if that's the sermon you've chosen for the day."
"Yeah, but you're Death. Why do you care?"
Edward's hand was around her neck, wrapped around her throat tightly so quickly she did not have time to react. "Is this how you repay her hospitality? How you repay her offer of protection?"
"I don't need her protection," the blonde spat.
"Oh really," he hissed, squeezing tighter. "Then why, pray tell, are you here?" She swallowed hard, Edward could feel her throat working at the juncture between his thumb and his index finger. "Oh, was that a stumper, honey? Is the test too hard for you?"
"Is there a problem here," Cherry interrupted, looking more than a little angry.
Edward released the blonde and shoved her away from him in repulsion. She fell to the ground and propped herself up on her elbows apparently trying to get up again until he strode up to her. People like her made Edward sick. He bent down as if to talk to her, drew a knife from his boot and held it against her throat. The blade was silver, and he loved seeing the flicker of fear in her eyes as their eyes met. If there was any doubt if she was dealing with Ted, Edward or Death it was quickly and wordlessly answered. "Get away from me and stay out of my sight. If I find out that anything happened to Anita while she is under my protection I will come back for you and you will find out just why it is that your kind fear Death," he said hovering over her, his lethalness conveyed with far more than mere words. "I don't care if it's a hangnail that kills her," he clarified. "So you'd best hope that Anita has a very uneventful time of it until my job is done."
"Edward," Cherry said, drawing him out of his darker self. It was the first time she had addressed him by his name.
He regarded her, the blonde still in his peripheral vision, the blade still at her throat. "Yes, Cherry?"
"Leave Elizabeth alone."
"Elizabeth, is it? Thank you, now I have a name to go with the face and now I know I can find her if it comes down to it. And don't think I won't. You all stay here at Anita's invitation because she's kind enough to take you in and offer you sanctuary." He stood after sliding the knife back into his boot. "You let her talk like this in Anita's home?" he asked Cherry.
"It's not my place to discipline her," Cherry said. As if that was a suitable explanation.
"Fine. It doesn't appear that he has been here, so I'm going to have to head out and see if I can't find him."
"You're leaving?" Cherry asked as Elizabeth stood and stormed off. Apparently, Edward's knife had scared her. Good.
"That's the same thing she said. Yes, I'm leaving. I'm going to see if I can't find him and talk some sense into him before he actually brings the game here to St. Louis."
"But he's already brought it here, he left the flower and note."
"Yes, he did, but he more than likely left when he saw she did not come home and will regroup. He'll lay low until he believes Anita thinks it is safe to return home and then come back, assuming I'll be gone by then."
"What are we dealing with here exactly?"
"A man," Edward said simply.
"Just a human?"
"Not just a human, but he is human, yes."
"Will you be back? What do we do while you're gone?"
"I'll be back eventually, I'm sure, I always come back. St. Louis draws me, it's like a magnet," he said with a shrug. "As far as what to do while I'm gone, just don't tell anyone she's back. No one. I hate that Stephen and Jason know she's back, because they could go back to Richard and the pack and let it slip, but I think they're loyal enough to her - and to Jean-Claude - not to do that. But, no one else can know. Anyone calls for her, she's not here and that's all you know. I'll talk to her boss at Animators, so that will be taken care of. Her friend, the blonde private investigator."
"Ronnie," Cherry offered.
"Yeah, that's it, I'll take care of her, too, before I go."
"Are we going to be safe? What if he comes to the house tonight, knowing you're gone?"
"I don't know, but I can't just sit here. It's not the way I work."
"Right," she said wryly.
"Any of you afraid to be here, then go somewhere else. That's all I can tell you. I could offer to teach some of you how to fire a gun, but I don't have enough time to teach you properly and I have no extra weapons on me. Well, no legal ones at any rate, and I wouldn't feel right giving you Anita's weapons."
"I think we'll be fine, but I'll let the others know that if they want to go they can."
"Keep an eye on her, I don't trust her," he said with a gesture of his head toward the house. There was no other woman but Elizabeth he could be talking about as she and Cherry were the only two women at the house currently.
"I will," she said, lowering her head almost embarrassed.
"Does she even know where Anita is?" Edward asked and saw the surprise in Cherry's eyes when she lifted her head to look at Edward once again.
"So you don't trust her either then. Good," he said simply. "Are you all okay for supplies and stuff at the house? Food and what not?" he asked walking toward the house. It was time to go. It was going to be a good fourteen-hour drive to where he was going and he wanted to get going now.
"Yeah, we're fine."
He collected his bags from where he had set them down the night before. He had slept for a couple of hours the night before, but he did not need too much sleep when he was on the hunt. He slung one bag over his shoulder by its strap while he carried the other two with both hands. "Well, I guess this is good bye for now. I'll call if I have any news for you, otherwise, assume the status has not changed." His eyes fell on Jason. "Walk with me," he said simply, it was not a command but it was not merely a request either.
Edward walked with Jason out to the rental Jeep, placing his bags in the backseat and then turned to face Jason. "I don't normally concern myself with the feelings or thoughts of lycanthropes, but if you have a problem withholding information from Richard now is the time to tell me and go on home."
"I'm fine. I probably shouldn't be, but my loyalties run more to Anita and Jean-Claude than Richard."
"Because they've proven that's where your loyalties should lie," Edward said simply. "I'd like you to stay at the house as much as you can. Between you, Gregory and Stephen I think you should be okay. I don't know Nathaniel, but he does not seem strong enough."
"Not emotionally, no," Jason agreed, seeming to know what Edward was driving at. "I'll stick around, don't worry. But for Anita and the others, not for you."
"I won't talk to anyone at the house but you or Cherry, I trust the both of you, and I expect what information I tell the two of you only to be shared between you."
"Are you going to tell Anita you're leaving?"
"I'm not going to the Circus to tell her. I'll call her, though," he said simply and got into the Jeep without a good bye and drove away, heading back the way he had just come the other day, back through Chicago and then north. He had to start searching for Olaf somewhere, and there was one place Edward knew of where Olaf might go to lay low for a while.
It was after ten o'clock that night when Edward pulled into the town of under twelve thousand, too late for him to do any good surveillance on the lake house Olaf used in the area occasionally. He checked into a hotel that had a restaurant located right next door where he got himself some dinner. He walked across the street to a local bar where he got himself a gin and tonic before placing a call from his cell phone to the Circus.
"Jean-Claude please," he said.
"May I tell him who's calling?"
"Mister Forrester," he replied evenly.
"Please hold," was the response.
Edward waited for longer than he normally would have for Jean-Claude to come to the telephone, but then again he could not come up with another instance he would have reason to telephone Jean-Claude. "Monsieur Forrester," came the master vampire's smooth voice.
"I just wanted you to know that I left St. Louis and am now searching for our friend."
"Do keep in touch, Monsieur Forrester."
"You know I will," he replied dryly. Jean-Claude knew full well that once Anita was safe Edward would call immediately so that Anita would get away from the Circus and Jean-Claude.
"I will reimburse you for any expenses you incur on this little outing."
"I appreciate the offer, but it's not necessary. I'm not doing this for financial gain," he said his grip on the small cellular phone tightening at the idea that Jean-Claude thought he would take money from him for helping Anita.
"As you wish, Monsieur. Good night then. I'd say be careful, but I assume that's not necessary."
"No, it's not, I always am," he said simply and disconnected the call.
After his gin and tonic, Edward returned to his room for the night. He checked his bag that contained his supplies to ensure he had the proper gear for the type of surveillance he would be doing tomorrow. Satisfied, he had what he needed, Edward showered and went to sleep for the night, setting his alarm clock for five o'clock.
Story ©Susan Matthews/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com