Halfway through my breakfast, Flynn texted me that he’d be back in town in thirty minutes and was free the rest of the day to show me where he’d found the knife. I revised my plans for the day and asked him to pick me up and drop me off at the location. Once there, I could drop a pin for Agent Boone. I wanted to let Flynn avoid DPI if possible. In the best-case scenario I imagined, they’d try to rope him into working for them too. Too many negative hypotheticals came to my mind to choose one as the worst case. I finished my breakfast, picturing all the ways they could complicate Flynn’s and Lugh’s lives. Since I still had time before Flynn arrived, I put in a to-go order to thank him for the ride.
Flynn smiled at me and smiled wider when I held up the to-go container for him. You can never go wrong greeting a werewolf with food. Lugh once told me that he thought they had to eat enough for their human and wolf forms. Cormac passed through a door and reformed in the back seat. Flynn opened the box, lifted the breakfast burger out, and took a bite before merging back into the morning traffic. I held the container under his burger-wielding hand to catch the yolk and grease so it couldn’t stain the seats.
“Thanks for the burger, Casper. I’m always starving after running with the pack,” he said.
“You didn’t get a chance to eat before coming back?” I asked.
“Oh no, I did. But a bit extra always helps the day after a long run.” He finished the burger and started in on the fries.
“What days?” Cormac asked.
“He ran as a wolf last night,” I told him. “We’re not alone, by the way, Flynn. I’ve got a ghost along for the ride in the back seat. Can werewolves sense ghosts at all?”
“Maybe some can. It doesn’t seem that unlikely when you consider my talent for smelling magic. What’s their name?”
“Cormac,” Cormac and I said at the same time.
“Nice to meet you, Cormac,” Flynn said, looking into the backseat via the rearview mirror as if he could see the ghost.
“I like this guy. He’s got manners. Tell him I said likewise,” Cormac said.
“He says it’s nice to meet you too,” I relayed.
“What are you hoping to find out here?” Flynn asked.
“I doubt I’ll find anything, but the DPI wants to look anyway,” I said.
“The DPI. How’s that going?”
“It’s too soon to say,” I said.
“Maybe it won’t be so bad. Do you get a badge and gun?” he joked.
“Just an official I.D. card,” I said, holding up the DPI consultant card they’d given me. “It’s okay, though. I’ve never really felt the desire to own a gun.”
“Not much need for one when you can drop somebody with your magic,” he said.
“Yeah,” I agreed.
“Fair enough. Did they put any napkins in that to-go bag?” he asked. I pulled out a small stack of napkins. The hand he ate with looked like it needed more than a dry wipe-down, so I used a spell to wet one of them. He let me clean and dry his hand instead of trying to do it himself while driving.
“I just don’t want to end up selling out any innocent supernaturals to keep myself out of trouble,” I said.
“You’re not like that. I have faith in you.” He placed his freshly cleaned hand on my thigh and smiled at me.
“That makes one of us.” I meant it to come off as a joke, but the words fell flat.
“If it really gets bad, we can always run away together,” he joked.
“You gonna convince Lugh, or am I?” I asked, knowing even in a hypothetical neither of them would leave without the other.
“He’d be down. Sometimes I think the only reason he’s still in Minnesota is that I’ve got the pack here,” Flynn said.
“Have you ever thought about finding another city with a pack that would take you in?” I asked. I didn’t know much about Flynn’s pack.
“Briefly, when things first got serious with Lugh. I know he’d never ask me to give the pack up for him, but I might have if they didn’t accept him.” He told me. “It all worked out, though.”
He squeezed my leg and then moved his hand back to the steering wheel. I couldn’t imagine how strong his feelings must be if he’d considered leaving his pack. Not all werewolf packs were as accepting as others. I’d heard wolves in Iowa shunned anyone who chose a non-wolf partner. Flynn worried his pack wouldn’t accept Lugh, but he didn’t say why. I’d assumed they were more relaxed based on Flynn’s usually calm and kind demeanor.
“Where are we?” I asked. I’d been so caught up in our conversation that I didn’t notice the transition from city streets to nature.
“Fort Snelling state park. I come running here between pack runs sometimes,” he said. “We’ll have to get out and walk soon.”
“I haven’t been to a park in years,” Cormac said cheerfully. He’d been so quiet I’d forgotten he sat behind me. I relayed what he said to Flynn.
“Why not?” Flynn asked.
“Not much point for ghosts. No one to haunt besides the occasional hiker. We gotta play the numbers if we want to find a living that can see us,” Cormac answered, and I repeated.
“That makes sense,” Flynn agreed as he parked.
We walked in companionable silence until I started sensing a familiar wrongness. The closer we got, the more I wanted to turn back for the car. The knife had definitely been here. Flynn led us to a withered tree. The twisted emptiness started there and radiated out. The blade must have pierced the tree somewhere and started absorbing its life force. If this enchantment worked the same on every living thing, none of us would be safe.
“I found the knife buried at the base of this tree,” Flynn said.
“They must have hit a root when they put it in the ground,” I said. “Was it an accident or a test?”
“Does it matter?” Cormac asked.
“If they were testing the enchantment’s power, that means they have ambition and intention to do this again,” I said.
“I think it’s safer to assume they mean to do it again. They probably have more weapons like the one that did this,” Flynn said.
“I wish that weren’t true, but I think you’re right,” I said. “You should go before I call the DPI with this location.”
“I’m not leaving you here alone,” Flynn argued.
“I’m not alone. I’ve got Cormac to keep me company.”
“You know that isn’t what I meant. No offense, Cormac, but a ghost isn’t proper backup when there’s a psychopath with enchanted knives on the loose,” Flynn said.
“None taken. He’s right, you know,” Cormac agreed.
“Shut up,” I said.
“Did the ghost just agree with me?”
“No,” I lied.
“Did too,” Cormac said.
“You liar,” Flynn spoke over him. “The DPI doesn’t scare me.”
“I don’t want them to pull the same bullshit with you they did with me. The second you admit to finding and moving the knife, they arrest you for evidence tampering and then offer you a deal to work for them. That is, if they are recruiting werewolves and not just trying to lock them up,” I said, all in one breath.
“Calm down, Casper. I’ll leave before they can catch me. I promise. When they arrive, I’ll shift and take off. I can always come back for the car later,” Flynn said. The look on his face convinced me I wouldn’t win this argument.
“Fine,” I conceded. Before I sent my location to Agent Boone, we walked out of range of the hollowed-out tree. Then we waited.