After a few minutes of riding, Layla stopped. Her hand hovered over her hair, right above where Okami had swept away some leaves. She fingered thoroughly through the strands and her scalp. No tracker. Maybe he had been a simple hiker.
As she rode on, Layla gradually found the idea to be ludicrous. His wolfish grin, his lack of a campfire to suggest he’d been there overnight, and his entire demeanor was off-putting. She rolled over the image of him in her head. There was something familiar about his description, something that fit an intelligence report Jax had once given her. Once the realization dawned on her, Layla stopped her bicycle.
Then she started off again, faster than before. On her mind was the mistake she’d made by letting Okami live, for momentarily believing him. Her dear grandmother would suffer for it.
The first sign was the silence that followed her feigned bird call. Her grandmother had taught her the trick, and then it became their way of finding each other. The second sign was that the door to her grandmother’s house was ajar. The alarm installed in the house was terrifyingly quiet. The third sign was the broken down basement door, which was the true entrance to where her grandmother resided.
The final sign was seeing Okami bending over her grandmother’s body, a knife plunged in her side. She lay groaning on blindingly white tiles in a navy robe, her silver hair splayed. There was blood on his hands—her grandmother’s blood. When the Wolf finally looked away from his kill, Layla could not meet his gaze. All she could do was stare at the life leaving her grandmother’s body.
“You’ve finally arrived,” Okami said, wiping his hands on his shorts.
Red spots and tears blurred her vision, but Layla knew exactly where her target stood as she lunged at him. He blocked her, and her following attacks, easily. It almost disappointed him that her hand-to-hand combat was so weak.
“I understand that she’s your grandmother,” began Okami, “but she’s also a murder.”
Quick as a viper, Layla jabbed him in the gut. The toned muscle there left her fingers stinging. She stepped away from him long enough to plan her next move.
“You’re telling me, then, that this was all some act of justice?” spat Layla. “Justice from a murderer himself?”
“My death, just as much as your grandmother’s, would be justified,” he said with a sick resolution in his face.
In one swift movement, Layla had her backpack off her shoulders. She hurled it at his chest. Before he could drop the backpack, she wrenched her locket off her neck and lobbed it at his face. Impossibly quickly he caught it, but it was his downfall. The small explosive within it detonated at his touch.
Layla avoided looking at Okami’s devastated corpse as she approached her grandmother. The resilient old woman looked up at her with a grim smile.
“You could always take care of yourself, my Little Red,” the old woman rasped.
Layla helped her grandmother sit up with difficulty. Afterwards, the young agent retrieved the envelope from her backpack.
“Mission accomplished,” Layla said wryly, handing it to her grandmother.