Hunter by Sarai Henderson by Sarai Henderson - Read Online

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Hunter - Sarai Henderson

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Chapter One

I was a type one telepath, a mind reader. I found the trail in people’s thoughts that led me to the bounty. Currently I was freezing to death in the middle of Seattle, Washington, where the sun didn’t shine and the rain came and went like waves on the shore. I was searching for a mark that was proving to be a pain in my ass. It had been three weeks since we had taken the job and today was the closest we had been to finding her, to finding Dawn Miles.

My heart skipped a beat when the com in my ear buzzed. Hunter, we’re running out of time. You know what happens if someone else gets to Miles before we do. All this work would be for nothing.

In the bounty hunter line of work, you never knew who else was out there searching for the same prize, especially when one paid as well as this did. I exhaled and tried to calm my nerves. This one wasn’t going to get away.

I’m trying. There are a lot of minds to sift through. I spoke quietly to my partner Bear, trying not to look like a crazy person. My mind was lost in the sea of people, drifting through their inner monologues, almost losing myself in their stories. Sweat dripped from my temples as I pulled myself from almost passing out.

Come on, doll. You got this. Get the job done and we can go home and you can sleep as much as you want. I won’t even bother you for a whole twenty-four hours. Bear’s words of encouragement were mildly funny. He wasn’t much of a jokester, but he tried. He was a type two telepath. He couldn’t read minds, only block them.

Bear was the brawns of the operation, and I was pretty sure his call sign came from the way he acted first thing in the morning before he had his coffee. I’d been subject to this cranky behavior on too many occasions. That first morning I woke up next to him in his bed made me realize he wasn’t a morning person.

I let my mind wander farther, even though letting that amount of voices in my head at one time was starting to get to me. The all familiar ache was seeping into the spot between my eyes, a sign of too many hours in the field tracking down the mark and not enough sleep.

Then I heard her. I heard Dawn, the woman we had been searching for weeks for.

Gotcha! I mumbled under my breath.

She was young, probably only a few years older than I was and since I was only sixteen, she was too young to be in this kind of trouble. Dawn’s mind screamed so loud to me that I couldn’t ignore it. She stood out in the crowd like a sore thumb, but panic and anger rolled through her thoughts. I felt the way she wanted to escape, the need to be free from all this trouble and to start over. My heart ached as I, too, wanted to be free. Her troubles had become my troubles as I searched deep into her thoughts, the imprint of another mind. Her mood was rubbing off on me already, a hazard of the job.

She had sold information to the wrong people, done some unsavory things that brought her to this place, put her in this situation. The information was above my pay grade, but bits and pieces slipped from her mind as I probed her thoughts. There was something about a new drug that cured certain kinds of cancer, but it was killing people instead. It wasn’t my problem. In fact, the sooner this was over, the sooner I could get her images of panic and terror out of my head. I only cared about getting the job done and getting back to base so I could sleep. That’s what I was going to do.

I pulled my hood up over my head as the rain began to pour from the skies and bounce off the sidewalk in a serene rhythm. My hands were shaking from the adrenaline that surged through my body. The hunt never got old. All right, Bear. I’m in pursuit of the mark. Get ready.

About time, slow poke. He chuckled to himself, but I wasn’t amused. Dawn had put me in a bad mood and it would take a while for it to wear off. If only he was close enough to punch, maybe I would feel better.

The sidewalk turned a corner sending me into a crowded marketplace where the people bumped shoulders more often than not. The smell of fish hit me like a ton of bricks making me crinkle my nose in disgust. There was nothing I hated more than seafood. Well, maybe large cities with all the loud voices in my head, but fish was a close second.

I dug my hands deep into my jeans pockets to keep them from shaking. Anxiety from listening to the varied streams of consciousness coursed through my body. I had to concentrate.

Dawn’s presence was moving closer through the crowd, I could feel it. Her thoughts told me that she didn’t like fish much either but this was where her contact had told her to meet him. My heart skipped a beat with the mention of another person around, possibly a telepath. Great, we didn’t have much time.

Bear, I shouted into the com. She’s here to meet someone and it sounds like they’re going to send her into hiding. I need you close by. This is happening now.

Without thinking, I started pushing my way through the flow of people. We had to get to Dawn first and hopefully get her to the extraction point before whoever she was supposed to meet got here.

Hunter, wait for me to get there before you spook her. Bear was winded, indicating he was moving my way quickly. I wasn’t supposed to take down the mark by myself. It was too dangerous, but that’s what I liked about this job, the unexpected. Bear didn’t see it that way. She’ll run.

People closed in around me, but all I could hear was the screaming noise from Dawn’s mind. She was feet away, inches away. With all the people pushing in around me I didn’t see the person who slammed into my shoulder, causing me to stumbled back momentarily confused.

It was a woman I had collided with. She fumbled with her phone before dropping it on the sidewalk. The impact had distracted her from her conversation, but it was long enough for me to catch my bearings. The screen of the phone shattered, but before it turned off, I saw the name Smith, then it was dead.

Shit. The woman mumbled under her breath.

I’m sorry… I… The apology started to flow, but as the tall red head stood and looked me in the eyes my heart began to beat faster and the excitement of the hunt kicked in. She was the mark. I had collided with Dawn Miles as she was trying to find her contact and now we stood with our eyes locked on each other waiting for the other to make the first move.

My hand slowly moved for the Taser I had hidden in the belt of my jeans. Fifty thousand volts of electricity to jumble Dawn’s thoughts and incapacitate her just long enough for me to get the cuffs around her scrawny little wrists. With one quick movement my hand jerked in front of me, the stun gun pointed at the mark, ready for the take down. Who needed backup anyway?

The second before I pulled the trigger, Dawn pushed me in the chest as hard as she could. I stumbled back, colliding with several bystanders and a fish cart. The slimy creatures tumbled all over the ground around me as I struggled to free myself from the entanglement of people I had been caught up in. Damn it!

Dawn had already been swallowed up by the crowd, but I didn’t need my sight to find her. The frightened inner monologue screamed loudly with many profanities that should never be repeated in good company. It would be easy enough to track and it was moving away from me quickly. My heart beat faster as my hunting instinct picked up her trail.

Hunter? What just happened? Bear was closing in on my location, but it wouldn’t be quick enough to catch Dawn. I was on my own still, not that it bothered me.

I shot to my feet and pursued Dawn through the crowd, pushing people out of the way as they cursed at me for being rude. The mark is on the run. Tall redhead moving north on First Avenue.

Copy that. Bear was closing in. I could feel his presence with the absence he left in my mind’s vision. The quiet spot in my thoughts that let me know when another telepath was around that I couldn’t read.

Dawn’s long fiery mane whipped around as she turned the corner sharply to head up Pine Street. She was fast, but the crowds slowed her down and I was right on her tail. This take down was mine.

I turned the corner, expecting to find Dawn halfway down the sidewalk with a clear shot for my Taser to do its magic, but I felt him before my mind comprehended what I was seeing. Bear had Dawn in his grasp and he was clamping his cuffs around her wrists. My heart sank. I never got to use my cuffs. They were still shiny and unscratched. The same way they had been last Christmas when Bear gave them to me.

Don’t look so upset. Bear smiled at me as his chest heaved from over exertion as he tried to melt away my bad mood. I’ll let you call this one in, if it would make you feel any better.

He tossed his cell phone at me as he held Dawn secure with his other hand. She struggled for a moment, but when she realized that she wasn’t escaping Bear’s grasp, she calmed down and accepted her fate. Even Dawn’s inner voice was done running as the line of profanities continued to come, but with a different mood to them.

My chest rose and fell as I tried to catch my breath from the short sprint around town. Running wasn’t really my thing, but it was necessary every once in a while to catch the mark, or so Bear always told me. I still hated it.

The phone rang in my ear as I waited for someone on the other end to pick up. It seemed like forever when it was only a few seconds before the all familiar voice spoke. Go for Big Red.

It’s Hunter. I tried to keep my breathing even. We have the mark and we need an extraction.

One moment, Hunter, while I locate your coordinates. The woman paused for a moment, the sound of her fingers typing frantically away on her keyboard echoed through the receiver. I have your location in Seattle. Your extraction is a few blocks southwest on pier sixty-two. A boat is waiting.

Pier sixty-two. Got it. I had already started walking down the sidewalk with Bear and Dawn Miles on my heels.

Big Red out. The call ended. I punched the coordinates into the GPS on Bear’s phone. It was several blocks away, under the freeway and near an aquarium. They couldn’t have picked a better location? It was out in the open and surrounded by people.

The extraction would have to be quick. We still didn’t know who Dawn was here to meet or where they were. This could be a problem if they decided to show up and take their friend back.

We made quick time down Pine Street and through the market. This time I plugged my nose so I wouldn’t have to smell the stink of fish. I grunted and moved on, but Bear found it a good time to laugh at me. He was going to get it later.

The rain turned into a sprinkle as the pier came into view. It was a long jetty that protruded into the bay. Its wooden planks were slippery from all the rain and the spray from the waves splashed up the side of the walls.

For a second I thought that I felt something, a blank place in my mind that usually indicated another telepath in the area. It wasn’t unusual for a type two to wander by. Most didn’t know they had an ability, but I had a feeling this was more than that. Just as quick as the feeling came, it was gone, leaving me apprehensive and on edge.

What is it? Bear half-dragged Dawn down the pier toward the waiting boat hidden just over the edge. He always knew when something was bothering me.

Although the feeling of emptiness was gone, I still couldn’t let it go. There was something, but now it’s gone.

We reached the end of the pier to find the skiff bouncing in the waves of the bay. The driver helped Dawn with her cuffed hands down into her seat inside the cabin that was only spacious enough for the driver and the three of us. Bear climbed in after her leaving me the last seat by the door. Don’t worry about it. The job’s done.

I took my seat as the driver started the engine. Our little boat with its small roof and four covered seats jumped in the surf of the bay as we headed to our safe point. I watched the pier as it shrunk in the distance. There was someone standing at the end. Someone with a hood over their head as the rain came down. They were too far away for me to sense their absence in my mind, but I knew it was them. It was the person that Dawn was here to meet. I took a deep breath as I realized we had escaped Seattle, but barely.

Chapter Two

The water on the bay was choppy and rough. The skiff was tossed side to side as the cold spray soaked the outer cover of our shelter. It was hard to hold on without knocking into something or someone, but we managed to make it to the other shore and unload our precious cargo with few bumps and bruises.

Our safe point was across the bay in Bremerton, Washington, where we docked alongside a small jetty. Dawn Miles tried to struggle as Bear pulled her onto the wooden planks, but his strong grasp didn’t falter.

You have no idea what you’ve done. Miles yelled with tears in her eyes. Her thoughts were painful to listen to, torture and death, and all kinds of terribly unnerving situations that I didn’t need to see. She knew she had been caught and there was nothing she could do about it.

For a second I felt sorry for her. Would the people who took the bounty out on her really torture and kill her? Or was it just all part of Dawn’s imagination playing games with me? I had to stop thinking like that. It wasn’t my place to know what happened after the bounty was paid, nor did I want to know.

Bear grunted with a smile on his face. It’s not my job to care, Ms. Miles.

Our point of contact was a man named Shadow. He was the middle man who took all the marks to their final destination and paid us for our work. I sighed when I saw him standing at the end of the jetty with his arms folded over his chest and his black hair shaved down to the nub. Good old Shadow was never late for a drop.

Bear, Hunter. It’s good to see you well. Shadow spoke with an English accent. Did you have any trouble with this one?

My jaw set tight as I remembered the smell of the fish market and my fumble in the crowd. No, Shadow. She was no trouble at all.

Good. Shadow handed Bear an envelope. You have twenty-four hours to get back to your base of operations and report for your debriefing. There is a plane waiting for you at the Port of Bremerton.

Bear removed his handcuffs from Dawn Miles’s wrists and handed her over to Shadow’s waiting grasp before she could make a run for it. Shadow led her to an SUV with blacked out windows and opened the door for her. She looked back at me with tears in her eyes as Shadow stuffed her headfirst