He felt the fear that radiated from Manetka Resort, could taste the blood of tortured victims in the stale air. It was once a joyful gathering place for shifters, now a prison for all those who served under the Alpha. And Jinx was there to stop it.
He strolled through the empty lobby to the reception desk, the clicking of his cowboy boots echoing through the open space. The freshly polished wood reflected the light from the chandeliers. Manetka Resort was one of the few places that catered only to shifters. For years it had been a must visit destination. That was until Avery began abusing his members. Now everywhere Jinx looked, it was clear the resort had begun to suffer.
A small seating area sat catty-corner to the reception desk, with large comfortable looking chairs, and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the massive swimming pool and hot tubs.
“Welcome to Manetka Resort! How may I help you?” A girl in her early twenties stood behind the counter, and he could smell the tigress, her apprehension drifting toward him.
“Yes, I’m checking in.” He came to stand in front of the counter and set his bag down. “I have a reservation. Jinx.”
She glanced at the leather bound book to confirm it, not bothered by the fact he only had one name. It wasn’t uncommon for shifters to use just one name. It gave them an identity that didn’t tie them to family members. Allowed them to go forth without prejudices. Since shifters tended to have a very long lifeline this made things easier for them to intermingle without centuries-old grudges hanging over their heads.
“It appears to be an open check-out date. Do you have an idea how long you’ll be with us?”
“I suspect just through the weekend, but I’d like to leave it open if that’s okay. I have some business that I need to attend to while I’m in town, and timing might be an issue for the other party.”
She wrote something in the book and nodded. “That won’t be a problem. You’re welcome to stay as long as you like. I’ll have your room key ready in a moment.”
“I’m not in a hurry.” He glanced around the lobby again. “Slow time of year?” He knew the reason for the place being empty, but wanted to hear the official line Avery had come up with.
The woman paused, and bit her lip before gathering herself. “Actually, we were supposed to have a conference here but they had to cancel. It left most of the resort empty, since we were closed to only their members for the week.”
He nodded, amused by the interesting cover story. A conference? Did Avery really think someone was going to swallow that? Shifters didn’t hold conferences. Clans had their own things going, but they would never rent out a hotel to hold it in, not when they had their own land to do it on.
“Lucky me, seems like I’ll have the place to myself.”
“If you prefer isolation, then it’s the perfect time for a visit.” She laid his room key on the counter. “I’ve booked you on the eighth floor, you’ll have an excellent view of the grounds. No other rooms are occupied on that floor, so you’ll have all the privacy you need. Enjoy your stay.”
He smiled at her and grabbed the key. “Thank you.” Manetka’s keys were old fashioned, none of those electronic ones you slid into a card reader. It appeared Avery didn’t trust technology. The resort had a website managed by a solitary shifter, deeply hidden so humans couldn’t stumble upon it, but that was as far as his technology reached. Even security cameras were absent.
He grabbed his bag and headed to the elevator. Having the floor to himself would allow him to come and go without being seen, giving him the opportunity to check the passages Shadow had discovered on the blueprints that linked the other buildings to the main one.
As he made his way to his suite he kept his sunglasses on, taking in everything without anyone being suspicious. Not that it mattered—the place was deserted. Other than the woman behind the counter, no one else was around. Even with his enhanced shifter hearing he couldn’t pick up on any movements behind the walls. Where was everyone?
Stepping off the elevator was like stepping into a ghost town. A thin layer of dust covered the surfaces, all the curtains were drawn, light bulbs had gone out and no one bothered to replace them. The resort was going to need some work to get it back into the condition it had been only weeks before.
Once Tex had escaped the tortures and vowed himself to the Alaskan Tigers, the news spread of what was happening under Avery’s control. People cancelled their reservations to the resort, choosing to stay home or go to another resort that catered to their kind, and things fell into disrepair quickly.
He slid the key into the lock, and opened the door. Inside was much the same as the rest of the floor. The only difference was someone had tried to clean up before he checked in. The bedding and towels had been changed, a quick sweep of the duster, but nothing could replace the staleness in the air. The room had been closed for too long.
His cell phone vibrated with a text message. Instead of answering it, he took a wand the clan had developed to check for any listening devices and scanned the room.
He knew it was Ty who wanted an update. With the mission hanging on what he found inside the resort, he couldn’t take any chances. Ty didn’t like that Jinx was risking himself to do a little recon before they took down Avery. Jinx was the Alpha to the West Virginia clan, and he had people willing to do this for him. It had never been his way. He had Elder guards, all Alphas did, but he rarely used them. He didn’t like to ask someone to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.
The scan came up clean and he pulled his cell phone from his belt and dialed Ty’s number. Even with another Alpha, Ty couldn’t stop himself from trying to protect everyone. Thankful for that, Jinx didn’t mind. He knew Ty was just trying to protect him. With the future as it was for the Alaskan Tigers, Tabitha soon to claim her place as queen, Ty needed the support of the West Virginia Tigers.
“It’s about time. You were supposed to check in ten minutes ago,” Ty bitched.
“Traffic and the receptionist had me delayed.” He tugged open the curtains, bringing light into the dark room. “As we expected, the place has fallen. I don’t believe there’s a guest in the entire resort. They put me on the eighth floor, a corner room near the stairs. Seems slightly odd it wouldn’t be closer to the elevator since she mentioned there was no one else here.”
“I don’t like this. Avery might know who you are, and suspect why you’re there.”
“I won’t be here long enough, and I didn’t make it to Alpha without knowing how to protect myself.” Jinx slid his hand into his pocket, playing with a silver talisman that had been in his clan for centuries, handed down from Alpha to Alpha. “He’s fearful of technology. No security cameras, even the registration isn’t done on a computer.”
“Tex suspected it, but he was rarely allowed to leave Avery’s compound. It was just by luck he was the only one available to go to the landing strip to guard the helicopter until Adam and Robin got there, or we’d still be in the dark about what’s happening there.”
Jinx set his bag on the edge of the bed and pulled his weapons out. Walking into the resort in full battle gear would have raised alarms, but there was no way he’d leave them behind. “With the place dead, I’m going to scope it out. See if I can find out anything else. In the meantime, call Avery and put the second part of our plan into action. If we can get him away from here to confront him it would be best. There are too many floors, rooms, and passages to take him down without people getting hurt.”
“I’ll let him know I’m coming to the area to return Tex. I’ll see if he’s willing to meet me at the same landing strip. If not, we’ll have to do it there, so we need you to find an access route to him.”
“I have the blueprints, and I’m going to check out the places Shadow marked.” Jinx slid a second gun into his shoulder holster before strapping a knife to a wrist sheath.
“Don’t get yourself killed,” Ty ordered.
“I won’t. I’ll call you when I get back.” He slid his light jacket back into place, hiding his weapons.
“You have one hour or I’m sending a team in after you.”
“Make it two. I don’t know what I’ll find.”
“That’s the reason. You could end up lying somewhere bleeding out and we wouldn’t know it. One hour. If you run into danger get the hell out of there.”
“I’m not here to try to get myself killed.” Jinx smirked.
“No, you’re there because you’re an idiot. We don’t need you risking yourself when we could storm the place and end it.”
“We’re wasting time,” he reminded Ty.
“Be safe.” Ty hung up before Jinx could say he would.
* * *
Finding the basement and access to the tunnels had been no problem at all. The issue came when Jinx realized there were more than just those on the blueprint. Additional passages had been dug out, some of them leading nowhere, others leading to new sections altogether. With each turn he made, the danger level rose. There were too many places someone could attack from. The tunnels were a maze meant to confuse anyone who found themselves where they didn’t belong.
He couldn’t leave a trail of breadcrumbs, or a rope leading back to where he came from. Instead he counted his steps, marking it down in a small notebook he shoved into his back pocket on his way out the door. It wasn’t the best way of keeping track of where he had come from, but there were few options. If he had to run back the way he came, he’d be out of luck.
He could either continue on or turn back. Rather than admit he’d failed, he continued forward. Following the most likely route Shadow mapped, he carefully kept track of how he’d come, the steps and direction of his movements.
His cell phone vibrated and mentally he cursed Ty. This was not the time. According to Shadow’s notes there were only another seventy-five feet separating him from what should be the entrance to Avery’s compound. He thought about ignoring it but when it vibrated again he snatched off his belt and read the text message.
Get out! Get to your SUV now! Call when you get there.