Home > Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)(13)

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)(13)
Author: Patricia Briggs

He worked in the vineyards, ten-hour days this time of year, with random days off. In the winter, he worked reduced hours and took other jobs to fill in. Last year I’d introduced him to Adam, and he’d done some fill-in security jobs. In his not-so-copious spare time, Joel was restoring a Thing, VW’s version of a jeep, and he liked to chat with me while I worked.

Usually, Joel and I talked cars, but today he had other things on his mind.

“—so this guy comes by my house this morning, knocks on my door to see if we had any pit bulls for sale—and then he points at my wife’s prizewinning bitch, and says, ‘Like that one.’” Joel set the part he’d come to pick up on the nearest counter and leaned against it while he watched me work.

“That’s a problem?” I asked, because he was obviously pretty hot about it. I knew werewolves, not dogs, at least not at his level.

He nodded. “It told me right up front I was dealing with someone who didn’t know anything about dogs. Aruba—that is Arocha’s White Princess Aruba to you—is an American Staffordshire terrier. Amstaffs look a bit like the American pit bull, but any dog fancier can tell the difference. Someone had apparently told him we had pit bulls, and he needed one to guard his house and do some fighting for him—and he gives me a wink.” Joel grimaced. “A wink. Freaking dog fighters. They think it makes them macho to take their loyal dogs and get them all chewed up. To me, it just shows that they aren’t worthy of having a dog. I told him not right now and asked him for his number, in case something turned up.” Joel handed me an extension for my ratchet before I could reach for it.

“So he gives me the number”—he continued in the same aggravated tones—“the freaking moron. And then I ask him where he’s found fighting dogs, acted as though I might want to get in on the action. Damn fool was happy to tell me. As soon as he was gone, I called the police. Second dog-fighting outfit I’ve turned in since Christmas. If it were up to me, I’d shoot all those bastards, no trial, no nothing.”

“Or make them go fight it out in the pit with each other,” Tad offered from the next bay over.

“And shoot the last man standing,” I agreed. “Good for you, Joel.”

“Yeah,” he said. “You know what really chaps my hide, though? Someone told him to look at me for dogs. Someone, sometime got a dog from me and is involved in dog fighting. If I ever find out who it is, I’ll take my dog back and hope he objects.”

My cell phone rang, and Joel took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’ve got to get going anyway.” He tipped his hat. “Catch you later, Mercy.”

“Take care, Joel.”

“’Bye, Tad. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

“’Bye, Joel. Don’t juggle porcupines.”

Joel paused. “Porcupines?”

Tad grinned. “One bit of obvious advice for another. If I tried doing something you wouldn’t do, it would be jail or the morgue.”

They exchanged a few more juvenile remarks while I peeled off the sweaty latex gloves I only wore because of Christy and her manicured hands. By the time I got them off, the phone had quit ringing. The screen told me I’d missed the call I was hoping for, and I wasted no time calling him back.

“Heya, Mercy,” said Hank’s cheerful voice. “I got a message that you wanted to talk to me about finding Coyote. You sure you want to talk to him?”

I glanced at the garage-bay door, but Joel was safely out of sight and presumably out of hearing range.

“Talking to Coyote is on the top of my to-do list,” I told him, and in the other bay, Tad straightened from under the hood of the car he had gone back to working on.

“Mmmm. And you think to call me about this why? Unlike some I could name, I don’t turn into a coyote when I get the urge,” said Hank, whose other form was a red-tailed hawk.

“He didn’t leave a phone number for me to call,” I said. “And, all joking aside, I need to find him. If you can’t help, do you know how to get in touch with Gordon?”

Hank grunted. “Gordon’s in the wind, kid. I haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks. I called around for you, but no one else has seen him, either. You serious about it being urgent?”

“I had a fae artifact,” I told him. “I gave it to Coyote, and now the fae want it back. Yesterday.”

There was a short silence, then Hank said, “I thought the fae were shut up in their rez for the foreseeable future.”

“Apparently some of them are still out and about,” I told him after an on-the-fly decision that I owed no loyalty to Beauclaire and the rest of the fae folk. Besides, Hank wouldn’t spread it around.

Hank huffed a laugh at my dry tone. “Politicians never have to follow their own laws, right? Jeez, kid. Don’t do trouble by half, do you? Let me ask around a little more pointedly, and I’ll get back to you, tomorrow latest.”

I ended the call feeling the sharp edge of panic. It looked like getting in touch with Coyote was going to be more difficult than I’d anticipated. I hadn’t really thought Hank would know how to contact Coyote, but I’d been counting on talking to Gordon, who would.

Tad asked, “Who wants the walking stick?”

“Alistair Beauclaire,” I told him.

Tad blinked. “Dad was wondering what he was doing flitting in and out and about the reservation without an apparent purpose. I wouldn’t have thought that the walking stick was important enough for a Gray Lord, though.”

I shrugged. “Who can predict the fae? Not even the fae as far as I’ve been able to see. Your dad knows that Beauclaire isn’t a fan, right?”

Tad gave me an oddly gentle smile. “Beauclaire would kill my father in an instant if he weren’t too noble to take out the whole rez and Walla Walla at the same time. Outside of massive, wholesale destruction, my father is more than a match for him.”

I took a breath. “Did your father really kill Lugh?”

Tad went back to the job at hand, but he nodded. “As my father tells it, Lugh was old, powerful, and starting to get scary. Really scary. Started out as a hero and was turning into something a lot different.”

He gave me a sly look as he pulled out the battery and set it aside. “Of course, my father wasn’t a white knight back then, either. He killed Lugh because he was more interested in making a cool weapon than killing someone who might be a danger to the world—but, as he likes to point out, it served both purposes, so he is happy to take credit. The fae world heaved a sigh of relief, shook their collective and disorganized finger at my dad, and then went about their business.”

My phone rang again, and the caller ID said it was Hank.

“That was fast.”

“I have a name,” said Hank. “Gary Laughingdog. He is a coyote walker like you. Maybe he can help you—word is that he has Coyote’s ear when he needs it.”

“Do you have a phone number?”

“He is locked up at the Coyote Ridge facility in Connell. You’ll have to go see him there.”

“In jail?” I asked.

I heard the smile in Hank’s voice. “He is not a violent criminal, Mercy. But he has little respect for the law or personal property, and that lands him in trouble from time to time. This time it landed him in prison for two years, of which he has served eight months. He likes women, has a reputation with them.” There was a little pause, and Hank said, “Most of the coyote walkers have trouble with the law.”

“At least they don’t have trouble passing elementary school like the hawk walkers,” I said because Hank liked to tease and could take as good as he gave.

Hank was laughing when he disconnected.

“Do you know how to visit someone in prison?” asked Tad.

“Do you?”

He shook his head. “No. When they locked up my dad, he wouldn’t let me come home.”

“Adam will know,” I said, and dialed him.

“Adam Hauptman’s phone,” said Christy. “Can I help you?”

“Is Adam there?” I asked. There would, I knew, be a good explanation of why Christy was answering Adam’s phone—especially since he’d told her not to answer her own phone. I’d noticed before, when she wasn’t living in my home, that Christy always had good reasons for doing the wrong thing, reasons that made everyone look stupid for questioning her.

“Yes,” she said. “But he can’t come to the phone right now.”

“I see.”

“Is this Mercy?” she said brightly. “I didn’t know it was you. He’s on the house phone talking to the arson investigator. Can I give him a message?”

I couldn’t tell across phone lines, but I was pretty sure she was lying about not knowing it was me calling in the first place. My name would have scrolled across the caller ID.

“No,” I said. “It’s all right.”

I hung up and stared at my phone for a while. Adam had gone to work this morning the same time I had. He’d called in some of the wolves to watch over Christy. So why was he home, and why did she have his phone?

“I’d make you some brownies,” I told Tad. “But she’s always in my kitchen.”

The expression on his face was compassionate. “I expect that the jail has a web page with phone numbers of people who can help you figure out how to visit the guy you need to see.”

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center is a minimum- and medium-security facility just outside of Connell, which is about an hour’s drive north of the Tri-Cities. It’s a little town of about five thousand inhabitants, not including those who are incarcerated in the prison.

I didn’t go alone.

I glanced at my passenger and wondered if I’d made the right choice. Not that there were a lot of pack members who’d have been free to head out on short notice, especially now that Adam was keeping four wolves at our house all the time.

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