Mercy Thompson


Mercy Thompson Book 7 - Page 44

"Tad!" I hadn't intended to yell or run, but I was doing both.

Asil paced me, but we split up as we reached the apartment building. He went in the same way Tad had and I, not blessed with supernatural strength, had to run up the stairs instead.

I ran up those steps as fast as I've ever run. The door opened, and Jesse and Gabriel spilled onto the stairs with various Sandovals clinging, pushing, and sobbing. I counted and came up one short - no Sylvia - even as I slid over the guardrail to stand on the outside of the bars on the edge of the stairs to let the youngsters by.

"Your mom?" I said, as they passed.

"At work," Gabriel said.

I tossed him the keys to Marsilia's car. "Take the car, it's over by the garbage bins three buildings that way." I pointed appropriately. "Get to Kyle's house but don't speed. You have a body in the trunk and no child car seats."

"Body?" said the oldest of Gabriel's sisters. If I weren't clinging to the stairway while there was a lot of noise coming from above where someone who might as well have been my little brother had gotten tossed through a wall just a few seconds ago, I could have remembered her name. Right now I could barely remember my own.

They were tough, those Sandoval kids. They'd be okay with a body in the trunk of the car.

"Bad guy," I said. "Tried to kill me and got taken out by my backup."

"Cool," said one of the littler ones - Sissy.

They hadn't paused in their downward trek, and once on solid ground, Gabriel rearranged everyone so the littles were carried. Jesse took advantage of the lull to mouth, "Dad?" at me.

"He's alive," I told her. "But that's all I know. Get out of here."

And then I rolled back over the railing and up the last set of stairs and headed into the apartment - only then remembering that I'd left my gun in Marsilia's car. I stripped out of my clothes and let my coyote out.

In the distance, I could hear sirens. The police department wasn't too far from here, and there was no way anyone could have ignored the noise coming from Sylvia's apartment.

As human, I stood no chance against something that could throw Tad through a wall. As a coyote, I was definitely outmatched - but I could be distracting, and I was just that much faster on four legs than on two. Fast enough to outrun most werewolves, anyway.

I skulked into the living room - the only room I'd been in before. On top of the scent of the Sandoval family I could smell werewolf, Tad, and ... something fae. The fae smell mostly like the old philosopher's division of the world to me - earth, air, fire, water - with the addition of green growing things. Ariana smelled like forest, and so did this fae.

The noise was coming from a room farther into the apartment. Someone screamed, and I couldn't tell who it was. I set caution aside and bolted down the narrow hallway and into the master bedroom at the end.

The dead woman's partner was nightmare hideous. His head was misshapen and too large for his body. One large eye, emerald green and liquid, stared off to the side, while the other was only half as large and solid black. Two odd lumps that looked like nascent antlers emerged from his temples. His nose was two slits above a mouth too large for his face and filled with uneven, spade-shaped, yellow teeth. A black tongue flicked out and across his nose slits as he fought.

For all his horribleness, he wasn't more than four feet tall. His body was slender, almost delicate-looking, with wrists smaller than mine, in human shape. His outsized, four-fingered hands gripped a sword made of some sort of black metal that was nearly as tall as he.

Asil had a baseball bat and was using it like a katana - turn and turn and never let the bastard get a good hard strike on your weapon. The Japanese had had lousy steel and had learned to compensate. Tad had a pair of kitchen knives and was keeping the fae from getting into a good rhythm with them - unhappily, it was interfering with Asil, too.

The fae fought well. Like someone who had learned the sword when it was the weapon of choice.

Not all fae were long-lived. Some had lives comparable to insects' - a few seasons, then gone. Most of those, Zee had told me once when he was a little drunk, were gone in truth. Their more fragile lives incapable of dealing with the steel and concrete that was conquering the earth.

Others lived nearly human long - twenty years for some, a hundred and fifty for others. Originally only a small percentage of fae were nearly immortal. The rise of humans and technology had selected for those tougher fae, and they now accounted for a far higher percentage of the fae than they ever had before.

A human lifetime was long enough to become an expert swordsman - my own karate sensei was accounted quite good in various weapon forms, including the sword. But Asil was a famous swordsman with centuries of practice, and this fae was more than holding his own. He was old.

Tad wasn't doing badly - his father had taught him, he'd told me once. If Tad had had something bigger than kitchen knives, if he and Asil had fought together before, they could have worked together. As it was, they had difficulty staying out of each other's way.

I slunk down low and, keeping to the outside edge of the room, slowly moved closer to the fight. I slid under the bed. Under my bed, dust bunnies, underwear, and a random shoe or two were common residents, but Sylvia was more organized than I and all she had under her bed was one of those thin plastic containers full of wrapping paper. I crawled from the head to the foot of the bed and, with my nose under the bedspread, watched for a chance to be of use.

The fae, leaping back to avoid Asil's baseball bat, hit Sylvia's desk and rolled over it, sending monitor and keyboard crashing off the top, along with a small clay jar filled with writing implements. Several neat stacks of rubber-banded papers escaped the hit. The fae hissed and damn near levitated off the desk like a cat thrown in a swimming pool and all but crashed into Asil to get away.

In the Tri-Cities, whose population has largely been employed by the government in one way or another for more than half a century, there is an abundance of those old, clunky steel desks straight out of the 1950s. I've seen them at rummage sales and every other kind of sale - and once, memorably, a good friend went to a government sale and thought she was bidding on a pallet with two desks and a dozen broken chairs, but ended up with a row of pallets - nearly fifty desks, three hundred and fifteen broken office chairs, a nonfunctional electric pencil sharpener, and four boxes of pink erasers. My office chair at the garage was actually four of those chairs, all Frankensteined into one that worked.

These industrial-strength desks were painted various shades of gray and institutional green or yellow. Sylvia's desk was of the yellow variety and, like all of them, made of steel.