Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 3 - Page 35

And it had to have been obvious I'd been enjoying the conversation - to the point that I'd forgotten that I was supposed to be gathering information about Bright Future.

All this went through my head in the time it took him to clear his face of the hurt and anger I'd seen. But it didn't matter. I didn't have a clue on how to get out of this without hurting him - which he didn't deserve.

I liked him, darn it. Once he got over himself (which took a little effort on my part), he was funny, smart, and willing to concede a point to me without arguing it into the ground - especially when I thought he was more right than wrong. Which made him a better person than I was.

"A bit possessive, isn't he?" he said. His voice was light, but his eyes were blank.

There was a spill of dry cheese on the table and I played with it a little. "He's usually not bad, but we've known each other a long time. He knows when I'm having fun." There, I thought, a sop for his ego, if nothing else. "I haven't had a debate like that since I got out of college." I could hardly explain that I hadn't flirted on purpose without embarrassing us both, so that was the closest I could come.

He smiled a little, though it didn't go to his eyes. "Most of my friends wouldn't know de Troyes from Malory."

"Actually, I've never read de Troyes." Probably the most famous of the medieval authors of Arthurian tales. "I took a class in German medieval lit and de Troyes was French."

He shrugged...then shook his head and took a deep breath. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get all moody on you. There was this guy I know. We weren't close or anything, but he was murdered yesterday. You don't expect someone you know to be murdered like that. Austin brought me here because he thought we both needed to get out."

"You knew that guy, the one who was a guard at the reservation?" I asked. I'd have to be careful now. I didn't think that my connection to Zee would have been newsworthy, but I didn't want to lie either. I didn't want to hurt him any more than I already had.

He nodded, "Even though he was pretty much a jerk, he didn't deserve killing."

"I heard they caught some fae they think did it," I said. "Pretty scary stuff. It would bother anyone."

He examined my face, then nodded. "Listen," he said. "I probably ought to collect Austin and go - it's almost eleven and he has to leave for work at six tomorrow. But if you are interested, some friends and I are having a meeting Wednesday night at six. Things are apt to be a bit odd this week - we usually met at O'Donnell's. But we do a lot of discussion about history and folklore. I think you'd enjoy it." He hesitated and then finished in a bit of a rush. "It's the local Citizens for a Bright Future chapter."

I sat back, "I don't know..."

"We don't go out and bomb bars, or anything," he said. "We just talk and write to our congressmen"  -  he smiled suddenly and it lit up his face - "and our congresswomen. A lot of it is research."

"Isn't that a little bit of an odd fit for you?" I asked. "I mean, you know Welsh and, obviously, all sorts of folklore. Most of the people I know like that are - "

"Fairy lovers," he said matter-of-factly. "They go to Nevada on vacation and hang out at the fae bars and pay fae hookers to make them believe for an hour or two that they aren't human either."

I raised my eyebrows. "That's a little harsh, isn't it?"

"They're idiots," he said. "Have you ever read the original Brothers Grimm? The fae aren't big-eyed, gentle-souled gardeners or brownies who sacrifice themselves for the children in their care. They live in the forest in gingerbread houses and eat the children they lure in. They entice ships onto rocks and then drown the surviving sailors."

So, I thought, here was my chance. Was I going to investigate this group and see if they knew anything that would help Zee? Or was I going to back out gracefully and avoid hurting this fragile - and well-informed man.

Zee was my friend and he was going to die unless someone did something. As far as I could tell, I was the only someone who was doing anything at all.

"Those are just stories," I said with just the right amount of hesitation.

"So is the Bible," he said solemnly. "So is every history book you read. Those fairy tales were passed down as a warning by people who could neither read nor write. People who wanted their children to understand that the fae are dangerous."

"There's never been a case of a fae convicted of hurting any human," I said, repeating the official line. "Not in all the years since they officially came out."

"Good lawyers," he said truthfully. "And suspicious suicides by fae 'who could no longer bear being held so near cold-iron bars. "

He was persuasive - because he was right.

"Look," he said. "The fae don't love humans. We are nothing to them. Until Christianity and good steel came along, we were short-lived playthings with a tendency to breed too fast. Afterward we were short-lived, dangerous playthings. They have power, Mercy, magic that can do things you wouldn't believe - but it's all there in the stories."

"So why haven't they killed us?" I asked. It wasn't really an idle question. I'd wondered about it for a long time. The Gray Lords, according to Zee, were incredibly powerful. If Christianity and iron were such a bane to them, why weren't we all dead?

"They need us," he said. "The pure fae do not breed easily, if at all. They need to intermarry in order to keep their race going." He put both hands on the table. "They hate us for that most of all. They are proud and arrogant and they hate us because they need us. And the minute they don't need us anymore, they will dispose of us like we dispose of cockroaches and mice."

We stared at each other - and he could see I believed him because he pulled a small notebook and a pen out of his back pocket and ripped out a sheet of paper.

"We're holding the meeting at my place on Wednesday. This is the address. I think you ought to come." He took my hand and put the piece of paper in it.

As his hands folded around mine, I felt Samuel approach. His hand closed on my shoulder.

I nodded at Tim. "Thank you for keeping me company," I told him. "This was an interesting evening. Thank you."

Samuel's hand tightened on my shoulder before he released it completely. He stayed behind me as I walked out of the pizza place. He opened the passenger door of his car for me, then got in the driver's side.

His silence was unlike him - and it worried me.