Home > Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(14)

Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(14)
Author: Patricia Briggs

He looked mummified, but my nose told me that he, like everyone else in the room, had been alive only a few hours earlier. I didn’t recognize him, but I knew the ghost who lingered, petting the corpse.

Sherwood’s voice was grim. “Adam said this was Elizaveta’s grandson and that likely Elizaveta had done most of the damage to him herself.”

His name had been Robert. The ghost looked at me, then spat over his shoulder and scowled. I ignored him as I sniffed dutifully at the pitiful body.

I made Sherwood wait until I’d sniffed around all of the bodies again, paying special attention to fingers and faces. Then we both escaped the basement of Elizaveta’s house. I don’t know who was more relieved: me, Sherwood, or that poor kitten.

* * *

• • •

I couldn’t change back. Adam assigned someone to take my car back to our house. Then he packed me, Sherwood, and the kitten into his SUV to head for the veterinary clinic while the pack pulled the bodies, human and otherwise, from the house. Pack magic would keep neighbors or low-flying aircraft from noticing what the pack was doing.

Everyone would wait for Warren to return with the firestarters. The plan was for Joel and Aiden to turn Elizaveta’s family—and all the dead animals—to ash.

Sherwood suggested that the house be burned down, too—which I was highly in favor of. Given the state of things that I’d seen, I doubted that anyone would ever be able to get a peaceful night’s sleep in that building without someone doing a major exorcism or something of the sort to lay the ghosts to rest. I’d never seen an exorcism performed in person, so I didn’t know if one would work.

Adam decided against burning Elizaveta’s house because he didn’t want to draw the attention of the authorities. And because it was a decision that should not be made without Elizaveta’s say-so.

I was glad to be in the SUV headed away from that charnel house. Adam didn’t say anything—and Sherwood was never exactly a font of words. The only sound for most of the trip was the kitten’s squeaky moans. I’d never heard a cat make that sound before—and I hoped I never did again.

“He’s dying,” said Sherwood, breaking the silence. His attention was on the animal he held on his lap. He sounded casual, but my nose told me better. It didn’t take a psychologist to understand why he’d be concerned with an animal rescued from a witch’s lair.

“He made it this far,” Adam said bracingly, proving that he’d understood Sherwood, too. “It’s just a mile more to the clinic.”

Sherwood pulled the kitten up to his face with big hands that supported its whole body evenly and breathed its scent. “Did you know?” he asked. “About the black magic in that house?” His head tilted away from Adam told both of us how important it was to him.

Adam shook his head. “No. I’d have put a stop to it. I had no idea.”

Sherwood nodded. “And what are we going to do about it?”

“We will do nothing,” Adam said. “This is something for me to do.”

Sherwood studied Adam for a long moment.

“There will be no black magic in my territory,” Adam said softly. He gets quiet when he is very angry.

Sherwood relaxed in his seat.

The kitten survived until we reached the clinic.

I waited behind the very black windows in the SUV while Adam and Sherwood took the kitten in to the emergency vet. I wasn’t advertising what I was—there had been a couple of times that the only reason I survived the bad guys was that they didn’t know I could change into a coyote. The fight with the goblin this morning was a good example.

They came out about a half hour later, looking grim.

Adam told me as he got in the car, “Touch and go. Lots of broken bones, some of them half-healed. Lots of superficial and not so superficial damage. Minor skull fracture. Dehydrated and starving. They have him on IVs and have treated everything they can treat. It’s up to him now.”

“They thought it was us who had tortured the kitten,” said Sherwood.

Adam nodded. “Until a lady in the waiting room recognized me and got so excited. Sometimes the publicity can be useful.”

“There will be headlines,” said Sherwood, sounding more settled now that the cat was out of the car and out of his care. “Werewolves rescue tortured kitten.”

Adam grinned suddenly and said, “Spotlight will be on you this time. That useful lady took a picture when you kissed the kitten’s nose.”

Sherwood snorted. “I posed for her.”

“Sure you did, softy,” Adam said as we pulled out of the parking lot and headed for home. “That photo will be all over the social media sites by morning.”

“Werewolf contemplates dinner,” said Sherwood. “Dinner contemplates werewolf back.” Then the humor left his voice. “I hope he makes it.”

Adam reached out and put his hand on Sherwood’s shoulder. “Whatever happens, we’ve done all that we can.”

4

Unusually, there was no one home when we arrived. Our house serves the pack as hotel/hospital/meeting place as well as host to the weekly pirate video game tournament that was the pack’s obsession. Not even Joel’s rescue dog, Cookie, greeted us. Medea was, presumably, around somewhere, but like most cats, she usually didn’t bother to greet her people when they first came in the door. I desperately wanted a shower, but for that I wanted to be in my human shape. I don’t mind wet fur, but the whole process is simpler without it.

Adam went directly to the kitchen and we followed him.

He looked in the fridge, made a growly noise, and said, “I don’t know why I thought there might be leftovers in this house.”

We had werewolves living here. Food did not go to waste.

Adam sighed, opened a cupboard, and said, “Toasted tuna sandwiches it is.”

He sent Sherwood out to the freezer in the garage to grab a couple of loaves of bread, then set him to thawing the bread in the microwave.

Adam made the tuna mixture with the swift economy of someone who knows what it is like to cook for a lot of people. Darryl was our usual cook, but Adam sometimes fed everyone, too. He’d told me once that it satisfied his wolf’s need to care for the pack.

“Two or three?” he asked me as he diced dill pickles.

I yipped twice.

“Three,” he said, grinning when I flattened my ears at him. “When you can talk, you can crab at me. Sherwood?”

“Four,” said Sherwood, pulling one loaf out of the microwave and putting the other one in.

Despite my best intentions of sticking to my guns (if Adam hadn’t planned on listening to me, why did he bother asking?), I ate all three sandwiches—and half of a fourth. Then I tried changing. Adam made more sandwiches.

Sherwood finished his four, then looked at me. He said abruptly, “I need to shower.”

Adam looked up. “Are you okay?”

Sherwood started to nod, but stopped. “I stink like that house—and I have no wish to listen to Mercy revisit what we found there.”

“Go shower,” Adam said. “I have some business to discuss with you and Mercy, but it can wait. I’ll get Mercy’s impressions. When we’re done, I’ll let you know.”

Sherwood nodded, got up from the table, and left. Though there was a shower he could have used upstairs, I heard him take the stairs to the basement.

The downstairs shower was the one the pack usually used if they needed to. We kept a variety of clean clothes in a closet next to the basement bathroom, sweats mostly, but some of the pack kept full changes—so his decision to go downstairs instead of upstairs made all sorts of sense. However, I was pretty sure it would be a day or two before I could go down to any basement, even our own, without trepidation. Sherwood, evidently, was made of sterner stuff.

I ate the other half of the fourth sandwich, two more sandwiches, and two chocolate chip cookies that Adam had apparently secreted in the garage freezer along with the bread. And then I tried changing again.

Usually my change is instantaneous and painless, but sometimes, when I’ve pushed it too far, it sucks. It doesn’t happen often, because there just aren’t that many situations, miniature zombie goats aside, that require me to bounce back and forth between shapes.

It took a subjective hour, probably no more than five or six minutes, but I managed the shift. I lay on the floor panting, too tired to move, and waited for my eyes to focus. How, I wondered, did the werewolves put up with this or worse every change? There were a lot of things that made me happy to be what I was instead of a werewolf.

“Okay, then,” Adam said. “Let’s get you something to wear.” I heard him run up the stairs.

By the time he dumped clean clothes on my stomach, I was sitting up. I was going to need a nap soon, but I wasn’t going to go to our bed smelling like Elizaveta’s house—even a pigsty smells better than black magic. Shower first, nap second. But all that had to wait for the interrogation.

I sorted out the clothes and started to put them on.

“Wait,” Adam said, crouching beside me. He ran a light hand over a tender spot on my shoulder—and I winced.

“Oh,” I said. “That must have been the goblin.” I didn’t remember getting the bruise or scrape Adam had found, but it hadn’t been the goats.

One of the goats had kicked me in the shin, and another had bitten me in the arm. The arm was bruised, but I’d knocked the little goat loose before he’d broken the skin. Getting bitten by a zombie wouldn’t make someone turn into one, I was pretty sure, though getting bitten by something that was dead might result in the mother of all infections. But I knew they hadn’t gotten the shoulder, so that must have happened when I was fighting the goblin.

Adam leaned his forehead against my uninjured shoulder and wrapped his hands around both of my arms. The weight of him was bracing against my back.

“I wish,” he said, his voice muffled a little against my skin, “that you healed as quickly as one of the pack. I wish I didn’t need you to go fight goblins and zombie goats because I am stuck in stupid meetings with idiots.”

   
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