Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 6 - Page 36

"Remember that nightmare I had on the way to Horsethief Lake?" I said. "I saw something that could have inspired a drawing like that." And I told him what I remembered of the dream. By the time I'd finished, we were at our campsite. Adam didn't say anything for a while, and I helped him set up to feed an unknown number of people.

"Do you often have dreams like that? About people you don't know?"

"No," I told him. "Usually the people I do know are sufficient to spawn any number of nightmares without inventing any."

He stopped what he was doing and pulled out his magic phone.

Okay, the phone isn't magic, but it does things my computer struggles with.

"Good," he said. "We have a signal. What was your teacher's name? Do you remember?"

"Janice Lynne Morrison," I said.

He glanced at me, a little surprised by my ready answer. I had trouble remembering the names of people I should know. An unfortunate number of my customers were known to Zee and me as Yellow-Spotted Bug or Blue Bus. I've had to check my paperwork to make certain of the names of people I'd known for years.

I shrugged. "Horror has a way of making things stick."

He tapped into his magic phone for a while. If I had a phone that complicated, I'd have to bring Jesse along to run the damned thing.

"There's a Janice Lynne Morrison who teaches third grade at a school in Tigard, one of the Portland suburbs," Adam said with a frown. He turned the phone so I could see its screen. The face that looked back at me was grainy and too formal.

"That's her," I said, my heart sinking to my feet. "What am I doing dreaming about real people, Adam? What am I doing dreaming about their deaths?" I gripped his wrist because I needed to hold on to something solid. "Is it a true dream? I don't do true dreaming. Did I see the future, so I should warn her somehow?" I knew I was babbling, but this was Adam I was babbling to. He didn't mind and wouldn't think I actually expected him to have an answer.

He tucked his phone away with his free hand and let me hold on as tightly as I needed to.

"I don't know," he said. "But we'll find out. Warning her without more information won't help, either. People don't tend to take warnings about monsters who are going to eat them very seriously. Especially when they come from total strangers."

"This is true," said Gordon heavily as he walked around the end of the trailer. "It is why those who know things must sound mysterious. It is like fishing. The mystery the bait, the truth the hook-- which is why it sometimes hurts."

"The fish ends up dead," I said dryly. "Not the ending we are hoping for," Gordon said with a sigh. "But always a possibility." Today he wore jeans and a Dresden Dolls T-shirt.

He looked at me. "Who was your father, Mercedes Thompson?"

"Hauptman," said Adam coolly. "Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman."

"Joe Old Coyote," I said, leaning against Adam a little and relaxing my grip on his arm, both signals that I was okay, and he needed to ease up the protection deal, as much as I appreciated it.

"Ayah," said Gordon. "Killed by a car wreck and finished off by vampires. I told him he drove that thing too fast, but he seldom listened to good advice. Do you know who your father was?"

"Just hit me on the head and put me in your basket with the rest of the dead trout," I told him. "Get to the point."

He smiled at me.

"Some people like fishing," said Adam dryly. "Necessary or not."

Gordon laughed. He had a good laugh. "I do. That I do. Still, sometimes in the struggle much is gained that would not be otherwise." Then the amusement faded out of his face. "Sometimes the fish gets hurt. I will tell you a story while you get ready to feed the people who are coming. There will be just three more in addition to those of us who are here." He smiled at my frown. "I am an old man. And old men get to act mysterious. I talked to Jim about ten minutes ago. He and the Owens brothers are coming. Calvin has been set to watch at the hospital, where Benny is showing signs of not being as well as they previously thought. He keeps trying to get out of bed, and they have had to restrain him."

I thought of the way Janice Morrison, whom I would never meet, had walked willingly into the river with her struggling children.

"What do you know of how those who are like you came to be, Mercy?" Gordon asked.

"I don't, much."

Adam encompassed us both with a single sharp look, then went to the campsite grill and stuffed newspaper and charcoal into the charcoal chimney. He granted us the illusion of privacy because Gordon obviously wanted to talk to me-- but he would listen.

It made me itch, that protective streak of his. But one of the things the past few months had taught me was that it ran both ways. Anyone who tried to hurt my wolf had me to deal with. I might be a thirty-five-pound coyote, but I played dirty.

Gordon grunted in approval. "One time before this, Coyote came upon a village where the chief had a beautiful daughter. Coyote disguised himself as a handsome young hunter. He killed a deer, slung it over his shoulders, and took it to the chief as a gift. `Chief,' he said, `let me court your daughter for my wife.' "

"Is this the polite version?" I asked dryly.

Gordon displayed his missing front tooth but didn't slow down his retelling. "The chief didn't know it was Coyote who looked at his daughter. `Hunter,' said the chief, `you can court her, but my daughter chooses her own husband.'

"So Coyote began to court the chief's daughter. He brought her fresh meat, tanned hides, and beautiful flowers. She thanked him for each of his gifts. Finally, Coyote went to her father, and said, `What gift can I bring her that would impress her enough to take me as her husband?'

"`Ask my daughter,' said the chief.

"So Coyote the Hunter went to the daughter and asked her what gift she wanted most of all.

"`I would most like a pool of quiet water where I could bathe in private,' she told him.

"So Coyote, he went out to a quiet place in the woods, and he built her a pool at the base of a waterfall. He perted a stream so that it flowed down the fall and into the pool. When the chief's daughter saw the pool, she agreed to marry Coyote--still in his guise as a hunter. She welcomed him to her pool, and they laughed and played in it until the woods rang with their happiness." The old man paused. "I think that is enough of the story. It ends tragically, as it usually does when two such different people love each other." There was a sharpness to his tone as he said the last sentence that made it obvious he wasn't just talking about Coyote and the chief's daughter.