Home > Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)(15)

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8)(15)
Author: Patricia Briggs

I hadn’t told him Honey’s name. No one knew I’d brought her with me. Her coloring was honey-toned, though. Maybe it had just been an unexpectedly accurate guess. Honey wasn’t exactly an unusual endearment.

I sneezed, and Gary’s eyes focused on me. He gave me a small smile, his eyes warm.

“So, little sister,” he said to me. “What can I do for you?”

“Why the change in attitude?” I asked suspiciously.

“Word came only that coyote walker needs to talk to me,” he said with a shrug. “Usually my brother and sister walkers are con artists, thieves, and gamblers.” He tilted his head toward Honey. “Not too concerned with saving anyone’s hide except their own.”

Honey wiggled in her seat in an un-Honey-like fidget.

“What?” I said.

“Mercy cares,” Honey said in that same funny voice she’d used before. She tapped a finger on the table. “She always cares.” This time it sounded more normal.

“I saw it,” Laughingdog said. “And that’s why I am suddenly a lot more interested in being helpful than I was ten minutes ago. What do you need, child?”

“Child?” I curled my lip, because letting a wolf get away with patronizing me would have been dangerous. A coyote was likely to be more annoying than dangerous, but in either case, it was better to stop it before it became a habit. Not that I expected to spend a lot of time with Gary Laughingdog; however, “better safe than sorry” was my phrase of the day.

He raised a hand in surrender. “I’m a lot older than I look, older by a damn sight than you and your bodyguard, too. Something I can tell because of this thrice-dammed useless foresight gift He left me with when I was about your age.” He nodded at Honey. “Said He’d come by and take it back, but He hasn’t.”

Beside me, Honey went still. Peter had been pretty old for a werewolf, at least two centuries. I didn’t know how old Honey was—and for the moment I didn’t care.

Werewolves don’t age physically. I’d always assumed that, like my human mother, I’d have a normal life span, and Adam could live to be as old as … well, as Bran Cornick, the Marrok, who ruled the North American werewolves and sometimes talked casually about things that happened in the Middle Ages. Through Hank and his brother, I had met a few other walkers, and they seemed to come in all varieties of young and old. I had known couples, growing up, where the werewolf looked to be in his twenties, and his wife was dying of old age. I didn’t want to do that to my mate. I worried about Adam because he didn’t talk about it at all, and Adam was all about discussing problems he thought had solutions.

I raised my chin. “How old will I get?”

He opened his mouth, then shook his head. “It’s not that kind of foresight. I don’t get dates, just possibilities. And if I did know, I don’t hate you enough to tell you.”

“She doesn’t know any other coyote walkers,” said Honey. “She is married to a man who will be young a hundred years from now. She wants to know that she is not going to leave him tied to a woman who will slowly die on him.”

Laughingdog looked at me. “I don’t know. Most walkers age like humans—most are mostly human anyway these days. Coyote doesn’t walk this ground much anymore.” He smiled a little, but it wasn’t aimed at me. “Most of Coyote’s children don’t have to worry about a long life, anyway. A fool and his life are soon parted, you know.”

“I’m only half-human,” I told him, mouth dry. I’d never said it before, even to myself. But Laughingdog needed to know it all so he could give me an accurate answer. “Coyote is my father. Sort of my father. He was wearing the skin of a rodeo cowboy who didn’t know that he was Coyote at the time.”

Gary Laughingdog tilted his face toward me. “Really?” He grinned. “Exactly half sister in truth, then.” He let out a huff of air and shrugged. “You are the only real sibling I’ve met—but those of us closer to the magic in our heritage tend to live longer.”

I sat back in my chair, feeling light-headed.

“Death could find you tomorrow, though,” Laughingdog said. “So don’t get overconfident. Knew a boy who was Raven’s child, and he died from measles when he was six years old.” He watched me, glanced at Honey, and his eyes gleamed gold from a stray glint of light off the overhead fluorescent tubes. “But you didn’t come here to ask me that.”

“I need to talk to Coyote,” I told him.

He scooted his chair back from the table abruptly, as if to get away from my words. Both guards came to alert, and Luke had his hand on his weapon.

“No one needs that kind of trouble,” the man who apparently was sort of my half brother said.

Startled by his extreme reaction I said, slowly, “I’ve talked to him before without the world being destroyed.”

“Has he tried to kill you yet?” he asked.

I started to say “no” before realizing it wasn’t true. “Not deliberately,” I said instead. “I’m pretty sure it wasn’t deliberate.” I paused. “Either time.”

Honey stared at me.

Laughingdog sucked in a breath. “Ye gods, woman. Why would you want to invite Him into your life?”

“Because I gave him a fae artifact, and if I don’t get it back, the fae who came to visit me in the middle of the night might turn the Tri-Cities into a barren graveyard.”

Laughingdog made a funny, high noise, then coughed. He waved off the guards and managed to tell them that he’d just swallowed wrong, and his choking became chortles while he was still trying to catch his breath.

When he could breathe without laughing again, he said, “What did you do that for?”

“Which?” I asked.

“Give Coyote an artifact some freaking fae wants,” he said.

“Because at that moment it was the best thing to do,” Honey said coolly. “Sometimes the only action you can take leads to more trouble. But she would have considered that when she did it. Mercy is no fool, no matter what her heritage. It is not for you to judge. Can you contact Coyote or tell Mercy how to?”

He looked at her. “Mercy isn’t the only one who protects her own here, is she?” He shook his head, and to me he said, “Spent all my life trying to make sure He didn’t visit me. Why would I want to know how to call Him? To say, ‘Hi, Father, could you f**k up my life any more than I already have? Gee, thanks. I think that will work’?”

Stress made his voice sound thinner, and he glanced around the depressing room before he said, “Not that He didn’t come anyway and screw with me. But at least I didn’t invite Him in, you know?”

This meeting had been useful, if in an entirely different way than I’d intended. But if Laughingdog didn’t know how to call Coyote, then no one did. If Beauclaire killed me, it wouldn’t matter how fast I aged.

“When did he come to you?” I heard Honey ask through my despair. “Was there any pattern? Did he say anything to you about why he came?” Funny how clearly that capital letter disappeared when Honey talked about Coyote.

Laughingdog closed his eyes. “The last time—He stopped in long enough to make sure that I’d spend a few years here in prison instead of getting safely back to my apartment when I left the bar at closing time. I was walking down the sidewalk, and there He was. He said He was pleased I was about to become interesting again.” The expression on his face was suddenly horrified, and I felt a wave of the same magic that had sent me sneezing. “Don’t do that,” he told me as the pupils in his eyes widened until the brown was a narrow ring around it.

“Don’t do what?” asked Honey.

But I knew.

“Don’t ‘be interesting,’” I said. “Thank you for talking to me.”

He shook his head, his face bleak. “Don’t thank me for that.”

I reached out and touched his hand. It didn’t seem too forward an action when he was my almost half brother.

“Don’t worry so much,” I murmured. “I have support.”

He gave a bitter laugh and stood up, signaling the guards that the visit was over. “Nothing will protect you from Coyote. From…” His voice changed, deepened, and he said something in a language I’d never heard before. He stopped, then began again, “He is coming and his children cry his name into the world.” He threw his head back and howled, the high, whining cry of a coyote. As the guards broke into a run, he said something that sounded like Coyote’s name, but not quite, three times. It was oddly accented, making the first consonant a guttural sound and the final softer. “Guayota, Guayota, Guayota,” he repeated again in a soft chant that gave me goose bumps. “His children howl his name and hunger for blood until the night is broken with their cries.”

Before the guards touched him, he fell off the chair, body writhing for a moment, then every muscle in his body seized. His back arched off the floor, and his eyes rolled back in his head. I dropped to the floor and pulled his head into my lap so it wouldn’t slap the floor a second time. Honey protected his tongue by putting her fingers in his mouth. She didn’t flinch when he bit down.

When he lapsed into total unconsciousness, it was so sudden that it was more frightening than his sudden fit.

Luke crouched beside me. “We’ve called for help. You need to leave now.”

Honey and I were escorted out of the room with more speed than gentleness, but when we retrieved our IDs, Luke found us again.

“He has these fits, sometimes,” Luke told us. “The doctor thinks it’s the result of doing hallucinogenic drugs when he was young.”

Luke didn’t, quite, ask me what I’d been doing there—but only because Honey growled at him.

“Thank you,” I said. “He was helpful. Treat him kindly when you can.” Something in me rebelled at leaving him here, caged like a zoo animal. My half brother, he’d said. Coyote’s children. I shivered and hoped that his last words were hallucinogenic remnants, but it had felt, had smelled, like magic to me. It had smelled like Coyote.

   
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