Mercy Thompson

 
 

Mercy Thompson Book 9 - Page 58


“So it is you!” she exclaimed, with the air of a vaudeville cop finding the villain. She waited a moment, relaxed, and said, “You smell of my home. True russkiy dukh. I should take you home for supper—I would have just a few centuries ago. Sharpened my brass tooth in your honor . . . silver would be more appropriate, but I broke that one in 1916.” The brass tooth threw me for a moment, then I remembered that Baba Yaga was supposed to eat people with metal teeth that she would take out of her mouth and sharpen in front of her victims. In the stories I’d heard, the teeth were supposed to be iron, not brass.

Baba Yaga had not slowed down her patter, though. “More to the point,” she said, then giggled. “Point—tooth, do you get it? I am so funny. But as I was saying, I am civilized now. Tamed for the sake of the others, you know. A fine handsome man as you? Now I take him home for other things.” She licked her lips hungrily.

Adam growled at her.

“Stop it,” I said to her, because I was afraid that if she kept talking, someone would make a stupid move and get themselves killed. “Everyone’s on edge, there’s no use pushing them over. What do you want?”

“Who are you?” asked Margaret.

The witch, who was a Gray Lord, took the sides of her sundress, one side in each hand, and curtsied. “Baba Yaga, at your . . . well, not at your service. That would be a lie. Say rather I’m not opposed to you—or not as opposed to you as I am to some others who were in the hotel tonight.” She dropped her skirt and held up a hand, displaying a business card with a cartoon Baba Yaga figure on it and a phone number. “For if they bother you, dearling. Just give us a ring. They being the other Gray Lords, of course.” She dropped the silliness for a moment. “Margaret, I owed your father, and he cannot collect. Take the card. Put it in the bottom of a drawer somewhere, but remember it. When you need me, you can call the number or rip the card in half, and I will come to your aid, once.”

Margaret put her hand on Thomas to steady herself and walked a few steps forward so she could take it. “My father told me stories about you,” she said. “He spoke well of you. Mostly.”

Baba Yaga smiled, her teeth white and straight. “How good of him. I speak well of him, too—mostly.” She looked at me. “I like what you’re doing, Coyote girl—even though you had to kill my favorite troll. That’s not your fault, though. I know who sent him. They are claiming they forgot how strong the call of water would be on him—that it was an accident that they lost control. You and I know better.” She held out another card, this one poison green.

“You don’t get to call upon me for a favor,” she said when I took it. She glanced at Adam and licked her lips again. “Not unless you want to share the Russian wolf.”

“No,” I said, closing my fist on the card so it crumpled into a ball.

She cackled again, and said, “If you rip that one up, it will just be harder to read. You should call me for information—I think you might need advice soon. And I will call upon you from time to time. No obligation on either side, of course. You don’t have to tell me anything, nor do I have to tell you anything. But I don’t want a war with the humans, and some idiot among us—or more properly, some idiots among us—are determined to start one. If I know trouble is coming your way, I’ll tell you. Keep that card—you’ll need it soon.”

“All right,” I said slowly. “No promises implied or given.”

She smiled. “Just so.” And she disappeared. No mortar and pestle this time, she was just gone. Her scent lingered behind her.

“That’s all right, then,” said Margaret. “We needed a finale.”

“Don’t trust her,” Zee told me. He looked at Margaret. “You’re probably all right, if you’re cautious.”

“I am,” she said, tucking the card into the small handbag she’d been carrying. “And if I’m not cautious enough, Thomas is happy to point it out.” She looked at me. “Mercy. I really would like a chance to talk to you. Would you mind driving our car?” She gave her hands a rueful look. “I’m getting better, but my hands aren’t trustworthy to drive yet. Thomas, would you mind riding with Adam?”

The answer I saw on Thomas’s face was that he minded very much, but he said, “I can do that.”

“Sure,” I said. “We’ll have a girl’s car and a guy’s car. It’ll be fun.”

Thomas picked Margaret up and put her in her seat, and watched gravely while she belted herself in. He shut her door and handed me the keys.

“Drive carefully,” he said.

“I will,” I promised.

He gave me a stiff nod and strode over to Adam’s SUV.

I didn’t have to adjust the seat to be comfortable. Thomas wasn’t very big to be that scary. I took a moment to familiarize myself with the car, so I wouldn’t have to do it while I was driving.

“Thank you,” Margaret said.

I gave her a startled look, because, as a rule, the fae don’t thank you—and you’d better not thank them, either. “Thank you” implies debt, and most fae will hold you to that. Margaret laughed.

“I’m not that old, Mercy,” she said. “About a hundred years, and most of that was spent in the Heart of the Hill—underground, imprisoned in a forgotten chunk of mine tunnel.”

She’d said that she’d had no food, no drink, no light. I tried to imagine what going without food and water for almost a hundred years would have been like. A werewolf would have died, starved to death like a human in that situation, maybe even faster than a human. There were degrees of immortality, some more terrible than others.