“Bryn, get out of here!” Dad yelled as Konstantin raised his sword again.
Weaponless, I did the only thing I could do—I charged at Konstantin. As I ran at him, he pivoted, turning his sword on me. I felt the thin blade sliding sharply through my shoulder, but I barely registered the pain. The only thing that mattered was stopping Konstantin from killing my dad.
I knocked him to the floor, and I managed to punch once before he threw me off him. And then I heard other voices behind me. Other members of the Högdragen had been alerted by the yelling.
In a flash, Konstantin was on his feet and diving out the window behind the Queen’s desk. Glass shattered, and the cold and snow billowed into the room. The other guards ran after Konstantin, but I went back to my dad, kneeling beside him.
His shirt was stained red, and I pressed my hand to the wound on his chest, trying to stop the bleeding. Dad put his hand over mine, and his dark eyes were filled with worry.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner,” I told him as I tried to blink back my tears.
“No, Bryn, you saved my life.” He reached up, touching my cheek with a bloody hand. “You did amazing tonight.”
I stayed with my dad, pressing my hand hard against his chest, doing everything in my power to hold the life in him, until the medical staff came and pulled me off. They whisked him away, promising that he would be just fine, and thankfully, they ended up being right.
But after they’d gone, I stayed behind, alone in the office. My crisp white uniform was now stained red with my dad’s blood, mixing with my own from my shoulder wound. I stared out the broken window.
It was snowing so hard that it had already covered up Konstantin’s tracks. Whatever I had been stupid enough to think I’d felt for Konstantin was gone. He had been my hero, but none of that mattered now. He’d tried to kill my dad, and now I would stop at nothing until he was brought to justice.
April 8, 2014
Three years of tracker school—including extensive combat training, courses on social etiquette, and peer integration—and none of it ever changed the fact that I really hated human high school. Every time I started a new school to get close to a new charge, I found myself rethinking my career choice.
Back before I chose to go to tracker school, rather than finishing out Kanin high school to become a farmer or a teacher or maybe a horse trainer, I remember watching the trackers come and go from missions. They all seemed so worldly and powerful. They earned the respect and admiration of everybody in Doldastam.
I imagined the kinds of adventures they must be having, traveling the world. Most of them stayed in North America, but sometimes I’d hear stories of a tracker going off to England or Italy, and some even went as far as Japan.
The prospect of traveling and protecting my people sounded exciting and noble. Then I had graduated, and I spent the next four years actually doing the job. If only I had known how much of my “missions” as a tracker involved wearing itchy school uniforms and trying to keep up on slang so I could fit in with spoiled rich kids, I might’ve reconsidered.
It was during lunch on my fifth day in Chicago, as I followed Linus off the high school campus, when I realized they were watching him, too. I wasn’t exactly sure who “they” were, but I’d spotted the car—a black sedan with tinted windows—parked nearby several times since yesterday morning, and that was too much for coincidence.
As I trailed behind Linus and two of his friends, deliberately staying far enough behind so he wouldn’t see me, I wondered if the mystery men in the sedan had noticed me yet. If they were staking out Linus, then they had to have seen me, since I’d been interacting with him. But that didn’t mean they knew who I was. At least not yet.
Tracking was usually simple when done correctly. The first step was surveillance. I found the target—in this case Linus Berling—and for the first day or two I did nothing but watch him. The goal was to figure out who he was and what he liked, so it would be easier to earn his trust.
The second step was infiltrating his life, which was why I was wearing a ridiculous prep school uniform with a blue plaid skirt and a cardigan that felt too warm.
With a combination of bribery, charm, and a bit of Kanin skill, I’d gotten as many classes with Linus as I could, and started bumping into him “accidentally.” We’d talk a little, I’d bring up his interests, laugh at his jokes, and ingratiate myself to him.
This would lead to step three. Once I had the target’s trust, I’d drop the bombshell on them about who they really were, and hope like hell that they’d believe me. Usually they already had inclinations that they were different, and if I’d done my job right, everything would fall into place.
Then it was just a matter of getting them back home, preferably with trust fund in hand.
Now there was this issue with the black sedan, bogging things down right at the beginning of the second step, and I had to figure out what to do.
Linus and his friends from school had gone into a restaurant, but I didn’t follow them. I stayed outside, watching through the front window as they sat down at a table. In his dark blue blazer, Linus’s shoulders appeared broad, but he was actually tall and lean. After watching him fall half a dozen times during gym class, I knew he’d be no good in a fight.
The restaurant was crowded, and his friends were talking and laughing with him. Whoever was following him in the dark sedan, they were trying to be inconspicuous, which meant that they wouldn’t want to create a scene in a place like this. For now, Linus was safe.
I walked away, going around the restaurant and cutting through the alley. When I came back to the street, the sedan was parked a few feet from me, but I stayed in the alley, peering around the corner. I did my best to blend in, and once again, I found myself wishing that I had more Kanin blood in me.
Even this close, the tint on the windows of the car was still too dark for me to see through. I needed more information, so I decided to call Ridley Dresden.
He was the Rektor, so he might have a better idea of what was going on. The Rektor was in charge of trackers, organizing placements, assigning changelings, and basically just keeping us all in order. Because of his position, Ridley was privy to more information than I was, and he might be able to shed some light on the sedan.
Before I called, I decided to use the video option on my phone. It seemed like a smarter choice, because then I could actually show Ridley the car instead of just describing it to him.