Home > Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)(12)

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)(12)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Someone had done a fair job of gutting him: I could see pale intestines and the white of bone where the flesh had peeled away from his ribs.

He might be alive, I told myself. My ears were still ringing. I was breathing too hard, my heart racing too fast and loud: it might be enough to cover the sound of his heart, of his breath. This was more damage than I'd ever seen a werewolf heal from, far more than the other two dead wolves or the one I'd killed last night.

I put the rifle back on quarter cock, and waded through the remains of the table to touch Adam's nose. I still couldn't tell if he was breathing.

I needed help.

I ran to the kitchen where, in true Adam fashion, he had a tidy list of names and numbers on the counter just below the wall phone. My finger found Darryl's name with his work, home, and pager number printed in black block letters. I set my gun down where I could reach it fast and dialed his home number first.

"You have reached the home of Dr. Darryl Zao. You may leave a message after the tone or call his pager at 543-" Darryl's bassy-rumble sounded intimate despite the impersonal message.

I hung up and tried his work number, but he wasn't there either. I'd started dialing his pager, but while I'd been trying to call him, I'd been thinking about our encounter last night.

"This isn't the time," he'd told Ben. I hadn't given it a second thought last night, but had there been a special emphasis in his voice? Had he meant, as I'd assumed: not after all the effort Ben had put into being on his best behavior since his banishment from London? Or had it been more specific as in: not now, when we have greater matters to deal with? Greater matters like killing the Alpha.

In Europe, murder was still mostly the way the rule of the pack changed hands. The old Alpha ruled until one of the younger, hungrier dominant males decided the old one had grown weak and attacked him. I knew of at least one European Alpha who killed any male who showed signs of being dominant.

In the New World, thanks to the iron hand of the Marrok, things were more civilized. Leadership was mostly imposed from above-and no one challenged the Marrok's decisions, at least not as long as I had known him. But could someone have come into Adam's house and done this much damage without help from Adam's pack?

I hung up the phone and stared at the list of names, none of whom I dared call for help until I knew more about what was going on. My gaze dropped and rested on a photograph in a wooden frame set out beside the list.

A younger Jesse grinned at me with a baseball bat over her shoulder and a cap pulled a little to one side.

Jesse.

I snatched up my rifle and sprinted up the stairs to her room. She wasn't there. I couldn't tell if there had been a struggle in it or not-Jesse tended to live in a tumult that reflected itself in the way she kept her room.

In coyote form, my senses are stronger. So I hid both of my guns under her bed, stripped out of my clothes, and changed.

Jesse's scent was all over the room, but I also caught a hint of the human who'd confronted Mac at my garage last night. I followed the trail of his scent down the stairs because Jesse's scent was too prevalent to find a single trail.

I was almost out the door when a sound stopped me in my tracks. I temporarily abandoned the trail to investigate. At first I thought perhaps I had only heard one of the pieces of overturned furniture settling, but then I noticed Adam's left front paw had moved.

Once I saw that, I realized I could hear the almost imperceptible sound of his breathing. Maybe it was only the sharper senses of the coyote, but I would have sworn he hadn't been breathing earlier. If he was alive, there was a very good chance he'd stay that way. Werewolves are tough.

I whined happily, crawled over the wreckage of his table, and licked his bloody face once before resuming my search for his daughter.

Adam's house is at the end of a dead-end road. Directly in front of his house is a turnaround. The SUV I'd seen take off-presumably with Jesse-had left a short trail of burning rubber-but most cars have very little individual scent until they grow old. This one had not left enough behind for me to trail once the tang of burnt rubber faded from its tires.

There was no more trail to follow, nothing I could do for Jesse, nothing I could do for Mac. I turned my attention to Adam.

That he was alive meant I really could not contact his pack, not with him helpless. If any of the dominants had aspirations to become Alpha, they'd kill him. I also couldn't just bring him to my house. First, as soon as someone realized he was missing, they'd check my place out. Second, a badly wounded werewolf was dangerous to himself and everyone around him. Even if I could trust his wolves, there was no dominant in the Columbia Basin Pack strong enough to keep Adam's wolf under control until he was well enough to control himself.

I knew where one was, though.

Chapter 5

A Vanagon resembles nothing so much as a Twinkie on wheels; a fifteen-foot-long, six-foot-wide Twinkie with as much aerodynamic styling as a barn door. In the twelve years that VW imported them into the US, they never put anything bigger in them than the four-cylinder wasser-boxer engine. My 1989 four-wheel-drive, four-thousand-pound Syncro's engine put out a whopping ninety horses.

In layman's terms, that means I was cruising up the interstate with a dead body and a wounded werewolf at sixty miles an hour. Downhill, with a good tailwind, the van could go seventy-five. Uphill I was lucky to make fifty. I could have pushed it a little faster, but only if I wanted to chance blowing my engine altogether. For some reason, the thought of being stranded by the roadside with my current cargo was enough to keep my foot off the gas pedal.

The highway stretched out before me in gentle curves that were mostly empty of traffic or scenic beauty unless you liked scrub desert better than I did. I didn't want to think of Mac, or of Jesse, scared and alone-or of Adam who might be dying because I chose to move him rather than call his pack. So I took out my cell phone.

I called my neighbors first. Dennis Cather was a retired pipefitter, and his wife Anna a retired nurse. They'd moved in two years ago and adopted me after I fixed their tractor.

"Yes." Anna's voice was so normal after the morning I'd had, it took me a moment to answer.

"Sorry to call you so early," I told her. "But I've been called out of town on a family emergency. I shouldn't be gone long-just a day or two-but I didn't check to make sure Medea had food and water."

"Don't fret, dear," she said. "We'll look after her. I hope that it's nothing serious."

I couldn't help but glance back at Adam in the rearview mirror. He was still breathing. "It's serious. One of my foster family is hurt."

"You go take care of what you need to," she said briskly. "We'll see to things here."

It wasn't until after I cut the connection that I wondered if I had involved them in something dangerous. Mac had been left on my doorstep for a reason-a warning to keep my nose out of someone's business. And I was most certainly sticking my whole head in it now.

I was doing as much as I could for Adam, and I thought of something I could do for Jesse. I called Zee.

Siebold Adelbertsmiter, Zee for short, had taught me everything I knew about cars. Most fae are very sensitive to iron, but Zee was a Metallzauber-which is a rather broad category name given to the few fae who could handle metal of all kinds. Zee preferred the modern American term "gremlin," which he felt better fit his talents. I wasn't calling him for his talents, but for his connections.

"Ja," said a gruff male voice.

"Hey, Zee, it's Mercy. I have a favor to ask."

"Ja sure, Liebling," he said. "What's up?"

I hesitated. Even after all this time, the rule of keeping pack trouble in the pack was hard to break-but Zee knew everyone in the fae community.

I outlined the past day to him, as best I could.

"So you think this baby werewolf of yours brought this trouble here? Why then did they take our kleine Jesse?"

"I don't know," I said. "I'm hoping that when Adam recovers he'll know something more."

"So you are asking me to see if anyone I know has seen these strange wolves in hopes of finding Jesse?"

"There were at least four werewolves moving into the Tri-Cities. You'd think that someone among the fae would have noticed." Because the Tri-Cities was so close to the Walla Walla Fae Reservation, there were more fae living here than was usual.

"Ja," Zee agreed heavily. "You'd think. I will ask around. Jesse is a good girl; she should not be in these evil men's hands longer than we can help."

"If you go by the garage, would you mind putting a note in the window?" I asked. "There's a 'Closed for the Holidays' sign under the counter in the office."

"You think they might come after me if I opened it for you?" he asked. Zee often ran the garage if I had to be out of town. "You may be right. Ja, gut. I'll open the garage today and tomorrow."

It had been a long time since Siebold Adelbertsmiter of the Black Forest had been sung about, so long that those songs had faded from memory, but there was something of the spirit of the Heldenlieder, the old German hero songs, about him still.

"A werewolf doesn't need a sword or gun to tear you to bits," I said, unable to leave it alone, though I knew better than to argue with the old gremlin once he'd made up his mind. "Your metalworking magic won't be much help against one."

He snorted. "Don't you worry about me, Liebling. I was killing werewolves when this country was still a Viking colony." Many of the lesser fae talked about how old they were, but Zee had told me that most of them shared a life span similar to humankind. Zee was a lot older than that.

I sighed and gave in. "All right. But be careful. If you're going to be there, I have a parts order that should be in. Could you check it for me? I haven't ordered from this place before, but my usual source was out."

" Ja wohl. Leave it to me."

The next call I made was to Stefan's answering machine.

   
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