Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 4 - Page 19

Wulfe, who looked like a sixteen-year-old boy, had been a witch or wizard as a human, and sometimes dressed like a medieval peasant. I supposed he could be faking it, but I suspected that he was older than Marsilia, who dated from the Renaissance, so the clothes fit.

Marsilia had been sent here to die, but she hadn't. Instead, she'd seen to it that her people survived. As civilization began to grow, life in the seethe became easier. The fight for survival mostly a thing of the past, Marsilia had settled into a decades-long period of apathy - I'd call it sulking. She had only just begun to take an interest in things going on about her, and as a result, the hierarchy of the seethe was restless. Stefan and Andre had been loyal followers, but there were a couple of other vamps who hadn't been so happy to see Marsilia up and taking charge. I'd met them: Estelle and Bernard, but I didn't know enough about vampires to figure out how much of a threat they were.

The first time I met Marsilia, I'd kind of admired her... at least until she'd enthralled Samuel. That had scared me. Samuel's the second-most-dominant wolf in North America, and she and her vampires took him... easily. That fear had grown with every meeting.

"Not to be argumentative, Stefan," I said. "But she's bug-nuts. She wanted to create another of those... those things that Andre made."

His face closed down. "You don't know what you are talking about. You have no idea what she gave up when she came here, or what she has done for us."

"Maybe not, but I met that creature, and so did you. Nothing good could ever come of making another one." Demonic possession isn't a pretty thing. I inhaled and tried to control my temper. I didn't succeed.

"But you are right. I don't know what makes her tick. I don't know you, either."

He just looked at me, expressionlessly. "You play human very well, driving around like Shaggy in your Mystery Machine. But the man I thought you were could never have killed Andre's victims like that."

"Wulfe killed them." He was making a point, not defending himself. It made me angry; he should feel the need to defend himself.

"You agreed to it. Two people who had already been victimized enough, and you two snapped their necks as if they were nothing more than chickens."

About that time he got angry, too. "I did it for you. Don't you understand? She would have destroyed you if she'd known. They were nothing, less than nothing. Street people who would have died on their own anyway. And she would have killed you!" He was on his feet when he finished.

"They were nothing? How do you know? It wasn't like you had a conversation with them." I stood up, too.

"They would have had to die anyway. They knew about us."

"There we disagree," I told him. "What about your vaunted power over human minds?"

"It only works if the contact with us is very short - a feeding, no more than that."

"They were living, breathing people who were murdered. By you."

"How did you know that Mercy was at Andre's?" Warren's calm voice broke between us like a wave of ice water as he came down the stairs. He walked past me and used the key to open the cage door. "I've been wondering about that for a while."

"What do you mean?" asked Stefan.

"I mean that we knew she'd found Andre because she told Ben, thinking he couldn't tell anyone else because he'd not changed back from his wolf in all the time since the demon-possessed died. Ben changed so he could tell us, but we still couldn't go after her because we didn't know where Andre was. You had no way to know what she was doing. How did you know she was off killing Andre, just in time to cover up the crime?"

Stefan made no move to come out of the cage. He folded his arms and leaned a shoulder against the bars instead as he considered Warren's question.

"It was Wulfe, wasn't it?" I said. "He knew what I was doing because one of the homes I found was his."

"Wulfe," said Warren slowly, after Stefan didn't answer. "Is he the kind of man who would be outraged that Marsilia would call down a demon to infest a vampire? Would he want it stopped at the cost of Andre's destruction? Go to you for help doing it?"

Stefan closed his eyes. "He came to me. Told me Mercy was in trouble and needed help. It was only later that I wondered why he'd done it."

"You've had these thoughts already," Warren said. "So what did you decide?"

"Does it matter?"

"It's always a good thing to know your enemies," answered Warren in his lazy Texas drawl. "Who are yours?"

Stefan gave him the look of a baited bear, all frustration and ferocity. "I don't know." He gritted out. Warren smiled coolly, his eyes sharp. "Oh, I think you do. You aren't stupid; you aren't a child. You know how these things work."

"Wulfe used me to get to you," I said. "Then he told Marsilia what you'd done."

Stefan just looked at me.

"With you and Andre out of the way, there is Wulfe, Bernard, and Estelle." I rubbed my hands together and wondered if knowing what had happened would do Stefan any good. It wouldn't change things, and knowing that he'd fallen into Wulfe's trap wasn't going to help Stefan now. Still, as Warren had said, it is a good thing to know your enemies. "And Bernard and Estelle, Marsilia already doesn't trust them, right?"

Stefan nodded. "They work against her where they can, and she knows it. They are of another's making, given as gifts by a vampire not easily refused. She must take care of them, as she would any such gifts - but that doesn't mean she has to trust them. Wulfe... Wulfe is a mystery even to himself, I think.

You believe Wulfe engineered this as a rise to power?" He looked away and didn't speak for a minute, obviously thinking about what I'd said.

Finally, he wrapped his hands around the bars of the open cage. "Wulfe already has power... if he wanted more, it was his for the asking. But it looks like he had a part in my downfall for whatever reason suited him."

"If Marsilia knows that you helped when Mercy killed Andre, why isn't Mercy dead?" Warren asked.

"She was supposed to be," Stefan said savagely. "Why do you think Marsilia starved me until I was no more than a ravening beast, then dropped me into Mercy's living room? You didn't think I did it myself, did you?"

I nodded. "So she thought she'd get it all without cost to her or the seethe? If you'd killed me, she could have claimed you'd escaped while she was punishing you. Too bad you showed up in my house and killed me. But she underestimated you."