Home > Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)(11)

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)(11)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Something woke me up that morning about an hour before the alarm, but though I turned down the music and listened, all I heard was a car with a well-muffled Chevy 350 driving away.

I rolled over to go back to sleep, but Medea realized I was awake and began yowling at me to let her out. She wasn't particularly loud, but very persistent. I decided it had been long enough since Adam's note that letting her run wouldn't make him feel like I was deliberately defying him. It would also buy me some quiet so I could catch that last hour of sleep.

Reluctantly, I got out of my warm bed and pulled on jeans and a T-shirt. Happy to have me up and moving, Medea stropped my shins and generally got in the way as I staggered blearily out of my room, across the living room to the front door. I yawned and turned the doorknob, but when I tried to open the door, it resisted. Something was holding it shut.

With an exasperated sigh, I put my shoulder against the door and it moved a reluctant inch or so, far enough for me to catch a whiff of what lay on the other side: death.

Wide-awake, I shut the door and locked it. I'd smelled something else, too, but I didn't want to admit it. I ran back to my room, shoved my feet in my shoes, and opened the gun safe. I grabbed the SIG 9mm and shoved a silver-loaded magazine in it, then tucked the gun into the top of my pants. It was cold, uncomfortable, and reassuring. But not reassuring enough.

I'd never actually shot anything but targets. If I hunted, I did it on four paws. My foster father, a werewolf himself, had insisted I learn how to shoot and how to make the bullets.

If this was werewolf business, and, after the previous night, I had to assume it was-I needed a bigger gun. I took down the. 444 Marlin and loaded it for werewolf. It was a short rifle, and small unless you took a good look at the size of the barrel. The lipstick-sized silver bullets were guaranteed, as my foster father used to say, to make even a werewolf sit up and take notice. Then he'd put a finger alongside his nose, smile, and say, "Or lie down and take notice, if you know what I mean." The Marlin had been his gun.

The rifle was a comfortable, fortifying presence when I quietly opened my back door and stepped out into the predawn night. The air was still and cold: I took a deep breath and smelled death, undeniable and final.

As soon as I rounded the corner of the trailer I could see the body on my front porch, blocking my front door. He was on his face, but my nose told me who it was-just as it had when I first opened the door. Whoever had dumped him had been very quiet, wakening me only as they drove off. There was no one else there now, just Mac and me.

I climbed the four steps up to my porch and crouched in front of the boy. My breath fogged the air, but there was no mist rising from his face, no heartbeat.

I rolled him onto his back and his body was still warm to my touch. It had melted the frost off the porch where he had lain. He smelled of Adam's home; a fragrant mix of woodsmoke and the pungent air freshener favored by Adam's housekeeper. I couldn't smell anything that would tell me who had killed Mac and left him as a warning.

I sat on the frost-coated wood of the porch, set the rifle beside me, and touched his hair gently. I hadn't known him long enough for him to have a hold on my heart, but I had liked what I'd seen.

The squealing of tires peeling out had me back on my feet with rifle in hand as a dark-colored SUV shot away from Adam's house like the fires of hell were behind it. In the dim predawn light, I couldn't tell what color it was: black or dark blue or even green. It might even have been the same vehicle that the villains had driven last night at the shop-newer cars of a similar make all look alike to me.

I don't know why it had taken me so long to realize that Mac dead on my front porch meant that something bad had happened at Adam's house. I abandoned the dead in hopes of being of use to the living, tearing across my back field at a sprinter's pace, the rifle tucked under my arm.

Adam's house was lit up like a Christmas tree. Unless he had company, it was usually dark. Werewolves, like walkers, do very well in the dark.

When I came to the fence between our properties, I held the rifle away from my body and vaulted the barbed wire with a hand on top of the post. I'd been carrying the Marlin at quarter cock, but as soon as I landed on the other side of the fence, I pulled the hammer back.

I would have gone through the back door if there had not been a tremendous crash from the front. I shifted my goal and made it around the side of the house in time to see the couch land half-in and half-out of the flower bed that lined the porch, evidently thrown through the living room window and the porch rails.

The werewolf I'd killed last night notwithstanding, werewolves are taught to be quiet when they fight-it's a matter of survival. Only with the broken window and the front door hanging wide open, did I hear the snarls.

I whispered the swear words I usually only bring out for rusty bolts and aftermarket parts that don't fit as advertised to give me courage as I ran. Dear Lord, I thought, in a sincere prayer, as I ran up the porch stairs, please don't let anything permanent have happened to Adam or Jesse.

I hesitated just inside the door, my heart in my mouth and the Marlin at the ready. I was panting, from nerves as much as exertion, and the noise interfered with my hearing.

Most of the destruction seemed to be concentrated in the high-ceilinged living room just off the entryway. The white Berber carpet would never be the same. One of the dining room chairs had been reduced to splinters against the wall, but the wall had suffered, too: broken plaster littered the floor.

Most of the glass from the shattered window was spread outside on the porch; the glass on the carpet was from a mirror that had been jerked off the wall and slammed over someone's head.

The werewolf was still there, a sizable chunk of mirror embedded in her spine. It wasn't a werewolf I knew: not one of Adam's because there were only three females in Adam's pack, and I knew all of them. She was near enough to truly dead that she wasn't going to be a problem for a while, so I ignored her.

I found a second werewolf under the fainting couch. (I liked to tease Adam about his fainting couch-How many women do you expect to faint in your living room, Adam?) He'd have to buy a new one. The seat was broken with splinters of wood sticking through the plush fabric. The second werewolf lay chest down on the floor. His head was twisted backward, and his death-clouded eyes stared accusingly at me.

I stepped over a pair of handcuffs, the bracelets bent and broken. They weren't steel or aluminum, but some silver alloy. Either they were specifically made to restrain a werewolf, or they were a specialty item from a high-ticket BDSM shop. They must have been used on Adam; he'd never have brought a wolf he had to restrain into his house while Jesse was here.

The noises of the fight were coming from around the corner of the living room, toward the back of the house. I ran along the wall, glass crunching under my feet and stopped just this side of the dining room as wood cracked and the floor vibrated.

I put my head around the corner cautiously, but I needn't have worried. The fighting werewolves were too involved with each other to pay attention to me.

Adam's dining room was large and open with patio doors that looked out over a rose garden. The floors were oak parquet-the real stuff. His ex-wife had had a table that could seat fifteen made to match the floor. That table was upside down and embedded in the far wall about four feet from the floor. The front of the matching china closet had been broken, as if someone had thrown something large and heavy into it. The result of the destruction was a fairly large, clear area for the werewolves to fight in.

The first instant I saw them, all I could do was hold my breath at the speed and grace of their motion. For all their size, werewolves still resemble their gracile cousin the timber wolf more than a Mastiff or Saint Bernard, who are closer to their weight. When weres run, they move with a deadly, silent grace. But they aren't really built for running, they are built for fighting, and there is a deadly beauty to them that comes out only in battle.

I'd only seen Adam's wolf form four or five times, but it was something you didn't forget. His body was a deep silver, almost blue, with an undercoat of lighter colors. Like a Siamese cat's, his muzzle, ears, tail, and legs deepened to black.

The wolf he was fighting was bigger, a silvery buff color more common among coyotes than wolves. I didn't know him.

At first, the size difference didn't bother me. You don't get to be the Alpha without being able to fight-and Adam had been a warrior before he'd been Changed. Then I realized that all the blood on the floor was dripping from Adam's belly, and the white flash I saw on his side was a rib bone.

I stepped out where I could get better aim and lifted the rifle, pointing the barrel at the strange werewolf, waiting until I could take a shot without risking hitting Adam.

The buff-colored wolf seized Adam just behind the neck and shook him like a dog killing a snake. It was meant to break Adam's neck, but the other wolf's grip wasn't firm, and instead he threw Adam into the dining table, sending the whole mess crashing onto the floor and giving me the opportunity I'd been waiting for.

I shot the wolf in the back of the head from less than six feet away. Just as my foster father had taught me, I shot him at a slight downward angle, so that the Marlin's bullet didn't go through him and travel on to hit anyone else who happened to be standing in the wrong place for the next quarter mile or so.

Marlin. 444's were not built for home defense; they were built to kill grizzlies and have even been used a time or two to take out elephants. Just what the doctor ordered for werewolves. One shot at all but point-blank and he was dead. I walked up to him and shot him one more time, just to make sure.

I'm not usually a violent person, but it felt good to pull the trigger. It soothed the building rage I'd felt ever since I'd knelt on my porch next to Mac's body.

I glanced at Adam, lying in the midst of his dining table, but he didn't move, not even to open his eyes. His elegant muzzle was covered in gore. His silver hair was streaked dark with blood and matted so it was hard to see the full extent of his wounds. What I could see was bad enough.

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