Home > Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(6)

Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(6)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Before I could put the car in gear, the passenger door opened and Mary Jo plopped into the seat beside me.

“Who do you suppose he was talking about?” Mary Jo said as she looked around for the seat belt. She tipped her head back to show she meant the dead goblin when she said “he” rather than any of the other choices.

“There isn’t a seat belt on the passenger side yet,” I told her. “And which of them was talking about who? And don’t you have your own car to drive?”

She quit fussing and settled in. “Ben’s going to arrange for someone to pick it up. Ben’s allergic to law enforcement, so I got elected to accompany you. And as far as the ‘which of them was talking about who’ . . . first, it should be ‘about whom.’ Second, didn’t you notice that the goblin was nattering on about someone, a ‘she’ who told him he should come here? That we’d give him protection from the humans?”

“Oh, those whos,” I said. Let Mary Jo try to figure out if it should be those “whoms” or “whos”—though for the record, I was pretty sure I was right this time. “I’d ask our passenger, but he’s not talking.”

I thought about the rest of what she’d said—and the way she’d settled into my car as if she had no intention of getting back out.

I said, “I don’t need company. Thank you for the thought, but, as I said, there is no seat belt for your seat yet. I would rather not drive up to the sheriff’s office with someone sitting illegally in my car that—if examined by a stickler—might not be legal to drive.”

I must not have gotten quite the right amount of unfelt gratitude in my voice because she laughed. “Look. Adam will not be happy if we let you go by yourself.”

She brought out the Alpha card, and we both knew she was right. If I made her get out—and I wasn’t sure I could do that—I could very well be getting her into trouble.

But it was my job to protect the pack, not theirs to protect me. “I thought you were still flying under the radar about being a werewolf,” I said. “Won’t some of the people at the sheriff’s know you in your firefighting identity?”

Just because some of the werewolves were out didn’t mean that all of them were. For instance, Auriele aka Lady Mockingbird was a teacher, and we weren’t sure just how well the school district would take knowing she changed into a werewolf. Her husband, Darryl, Adam’s second, had been outed when fighting that troll on the Cable Bridge. He worked for a think tank with all sorts of government secrets for which he needed clearance. He’d run into a few bumps on that—though he’d gotten through.

Mary Jo shrugged. “I told my department and everyone in it after the troll incident.” Her body language was casual, but I could smell her contentment. “They took it better than I expected, actually.” She grinned a little self-consciously, a more open expression than any I’d seen from her since Adam and I had become a committed couple. “They quit giving me crap about being a weak woman. Now they’re trying to figure out just how quick and strong I am.”

Hazing? I wondered. But she didn’t seem unhappy about it so I let it go.

“Okay,” I told her. “Just remember, if we get pulled over because you don’t have a seat belt on, you are an adult and so the ticket belongs to you.”

She snorted. “I think that’s only when there is a seat belt to wear.”

She might have been right. I guessed that if a police car pulled me over, they might be more concerned with the disembodied head than whether Mary Jo was wearing a seat belt. I’d given her an out, reminded her what she risked—that was all I was responsible for.

I put the Jetta in gear—the clutch was stiff so it took a little effort. We puttered off the field and onto the bumpy dirt road: a werewolf, a coyote shapeshifter, and a goblin’s head.

I called Tad. No Bluetooth in the Jetta so I had to break the law to do that, too. Seat belt and cell phone—in for a penny, in for a pound.

“Mercy?” he said, sounding groggy. “What’s up?”

“I’m delivering a goblin’s head to the sheriff’s office. I don’t think they’ll be worried about me getting out in time to make it to work this morning.”

Tad grunted. “Anyone I know?”

I had to stop and wait before turning onto a better class of graveled road because there was a line of cars speeding past. You know you’re in a hotbed of agriculture when there is a traffic jam at four in the morning on a gravel road. They were trying to beat the heat that was supposed to be over a hundred degrees by midafternoon.

“I don’t know who you know,” I told him grumpily. I hated being late to work. The traffic didn’t make me happier, either. “He killed a policeman and a child, and he’s dead now.”

Tad snorted. “Jeez. Grouchy much? No worries, Mercy. I can handle it until you get in. You need to hire someone else to answer phones, though, if you need me to keep twisting a wrench.”

“Let’s get through a couple of months first,” I told him. “I hate to hire someone if we’re not making enough to pay ourselves.”

“Optimist,” accused Tad, and then he disconnected.

Traffic finally allowed me to continue our journey. Eventually we made it to a paved road that was much less busy. I breathed a sigh of relief because the shocks on the car had not been a priority for me before now. “I wonder what he meant when he said he was the first of thirty.”

“Who?” Mary Jo asked.

I’d been talking to myself—which probably was rude, so I didn’t admit that to Mary Jo. Instead I tilted my head toward our backseat (if there had been a seat) passenger. “Him. He bragged about being the first of thirty. Maybe ‘a first of thirty.’”

“The goblins were soldiers, right? In the various fae wars. Maybe they divided themselves up into groups of thirty.”

She said it as if it were common knowledge. I’d never heard it before and I’d had a book written about the fae by the fae. I started to ask her about that, but she kept talking.

“Or,” she said, wiggling in her seat, “maybe there were once thirty tribes of goblins and he was chief. He’s dead now, so it hardly matters. Mercy, you need to do something about this seat. It sucks.”

I frowned at her. “This is a Wolfsburg Edition. That’s an original leather seat.”

“It’s broken,” she said. “It tilts to the outside. I’d be more interested in who sent him here.”

“She,” I muttered, wondering if I could fix the seat or if I was going to have to get a new one. It looked like it was pristine, but Mary Jo was the first person I’d had sit in it. Hopefully it was just a bad weld. “The goblin said ‘she.’”

“I don’t like it when troublesome fae get sent to our territory,” Mary Jo grumped, wiggling until her seat made a thump-thump sound. “It makes me wonder who else they may have sent.”

“And why,” I agreed. “If you keep moving that seat, it might give up altogether and you’ll be sitting with our other passenger in the back.” She snorted, but quit wiggling. Thoughtfully I continued, “At least it was a ‘she.’”

She lifted an eyebrow.

“That means it wasn’t Coyote. Anyone other than Coyote I can deal with.”

She hissed like a scalded cat—and I didn’t think she had even met Coyote. “You know better than to tempt the fates like that. There are thousands of things and people out there that are worse than Coyote.” No, she had never met Coyote. “Knock on wood,” she demanded.

I grinned, because she really sounded panicked. “Feeling superstitious, werewolf?”

She turned so that she could sneer at me—and her seat broke loose, tipping her abruptly toward the door. She smacked her head into the window.

“Looks like you took care of knocking on wood,” I observed serenely. “I don’t think it was that important, but hey . . .”

She growled at me.

I patted the cracked dashboard and murmured to the car, “I think we are going to be good friends.”

* * *

• • •

    The tarp had been old, and apparently it had a few places that weren’t leakproof.

It might be a trick getting into the sheriff’s office with it dripping blood. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was located in the heart of downtown Pasco in the county courthouse complex, and even though it was still very early, there were a few people out and about.

I looked at the little building that served as the secure entrance into the complex and realized it was closed.

I don’t know why that thought was the nickel in the gumball machine that made my common sense start working. But it finally occurred to me, as I gripped the top of the Jetta’s door so I could lean down and examine the tarp a little more closely, that I might be in trouble.

I have never had difficulty understanding the rules of living as a human. Nor had I had difficulty understanding the rules the werewolves who had raised me lived by—or the supernatural community as a whole. Granted, I did a better job of living by human rules, but I’d been older when I started—and I didn’t have Bran Cornick, the überking of the werewolves, trying to shove the rules down my throat.

What I understood for the first time, contemplating that bloody tarp, was that I seldom had to deal with both sets of rules at the same time. It had made sense, by werewolf rules, that the renegade goblin should die. Even if we had apprehended him, I don’t think any jail would have held him for long. And what he would have done to the population of prisoners in the meantime didn’t bear thinking on.

There was no doubt of his guilt. He had confessed, eventually and sideways, to killing a child as well as killing the police officer. Justice had been unholy swift, maybe, but it had been his king who had carried out the sentence. All a little medieval, but that was the way of the fae and of werewolves.

   
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