Home > Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(9)

Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11)(9)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Maybe he didn’t like werewolves.

Mary Jo’s voice broke into my concentration. “Why in the world would someone make zombie goats?”

“I don’t know,” I told her. “Let’s see what we can find out.”

We headed toward the house, the deputies trailing after us.

According to what I’d been told, the Salas parents spoke only a little English. The giant—who looked even more hard-bitten up close, an impression not detracted from by the Marine tattoos he wore—stepped forward.

“Mr. Salas did not call the werewolves in,” he said.

I weighed a dozen responses, glad I had Mary Jo with me and not Ben. I could count on Mary Jo to let me take point.

“There are zombie goats running around,” I said. “We can deal with them without getting hurt. It would help to know as much as possible.”

“They were my goats,” said the boy in a soggy voice. “I milk them and breed them for money to pay for college.”

The Marine reached back and rubbed the boy’s head.

“Mercy is one of the good guys,” the boy said. “She killed the troll on the Cable Bridge. I saw it on TV.”

Not me, but the pack.

The man looked at Salas. The boy said something in Spanish.

Salas met my gaze and held it. Then his wife patted his arm and said something to the Marine.

He nodded respectfully to her, and when he turned back to me he dropped most of the hostility. “They were his idea. His pets. Some”—he changed the word he was going to use at the last moment—“jerk killed them all. He found them at feeding time, about seven at night last night.”

“It took the sheriff’s office this long to get here?” I asked.

He glanced around at the uniformed people behind me and hesitated. Finally, he said, “Arnoldo thought they would wait until morning, ma’am. They thought they would ask their neighbors if anyone saw anything.”

“The police have important things to do,” said the boy. “Maybe dead goats, even twenty of them, would not be important.”

The hostile deputy snorted, the one with the runner’s build. “If your parents are both legal, why wouldn’t they call the police?”

And the figurative temperature shot to the ceiling.

“With an attitude like that, I wonder why they didn’t call you in,” the big Marine standing next to Salas said.

Time to take control of this situation so that Mary Jo and I could go looking for zombies and no one would get arrested or shot.

“I know of a few incidents around here that might make some people a little worried about calling the law in,” I said softly. I met the hostile deputy’s eyes. His name tag read Fedders. He saw the color of my skin, I could see it in his eyes.

“You probably know about those incidents, too,” I said.

He started to say something, but I interrupted him.

“Be very careful,” I said softly. “I’m not afraid of you. Before you say anything more, you should take a deep breath and remember that I’m also second in the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.” His face tightened and I continued. “And we have a very good lawyer.”

“And she kills trolls,” said the boy.

I nodded. “And I kill trolls.”

The deputy’s friend nudged him. “My brother, the one in the Pasco PD, was on that bridge,” he said. “Time to stand down.”

Fedders’s face flushed, but he took a deep breath. I don’t know whether it was his friend’s urging, the thought of the lawyer, or the troll killing, but he backed down. He didn’t say anything, but it was in his body language. He lost three inches of height and he took a step back. Good enough for me.

“The Salases are legal,” the Marine told me firmly.

“I don’t care,” I told him. “As these gentlemen aren’t with immigration, they shouldn’t, either.” I didn’t actually know if that was true or not, but it should have been.

A young, very blond deputy, who had remained quiet, said a few words in liquid Spanish.

I caught “how” and “killed.”

Salas looked at the Spanish-speaking deputy and frowned.

The deputy said something else and Mrs. Salas laughed, then covered her mouth and carefully looked away from Fedders.

Salas looked at his wife, at his friend, then began speaking, and the young deputy took notes.

“He says,” the deputy told me when Salas had finished, “that they all had their throats cut. There was no sign of a struggle. Someone collected their blood.” He glanced around at the other deputies. “I think, given the circumstances, that we should believe him?” At the last he looked at me.

I shrugged. “I’m not an expert in zombies,” I told them. “I’ve never had much to do with them.” But I knew that they were witchcraft, and witchcraft was powered by body parts with a leaning toward blood and bone. “But if something weird happened, any weirdness that preceded that is probably connected. We”—I indicated Mary Jo—“can find the goats. I don’t know exactly what to do with them, but I have resources. Let me make another call.”

Elizaveta Arkadyevna was our witch on retainer. It sometimes amazes me how much of the supernatural world has adopted lawyerlike techniques. I don’t know whether that says something about lawyers—or something about the supernatural.

Elizaveta was in Europe. She’d gone to help me, and stayed when Bonarata had made her an interesting temporary job offer. But her family was still here and obliged to our pack.

I called Elizaveta’s number and a woman’s voice answered it, soft and Southern. “This is the home of Elizaveta Arkadyevna,” she said. “I’m afraid that she’s not here and her family is all tied up right now. What can I do to help you?”

No one in Elizaveta’s family had an accent like that. Elizaveta clung to her Russian accent, but everyone else sounded newscaster American, the born-in-the-Pacific-Northwest kind of voice.

I had a very bad feeling. Especially since I was pretty sure that her “all tied up” wasn’t a figure of speech. It wasn’t that I could tell if she was lying or not—over the phone, sometimes I can tell and sometimes I can’t. It was that I heard the sound of people in pain.

I cut the line. There was nothing I could say that would be useful under the circumstances. Zombies and something off at our local witch’s home. Coincidences are always possible, even if unlikely.

I thought a moment and called Adam. His voice mail picked up again and I said, “We have miniature zombie goats in Benton City and when I called Elizaveta’s house, a strange woman with a thick Southern accent picked up the phone. Background noises suggest that Elizaveta’s family is in trouble.” Then I called Darryl.

Darryl Zao was our pack’s second. Unless you included me, who, as Adam’s mate, was technically above Darryl. Our pack’s ranks were currently a little convoluted as tradition belatedly met women’s liberation and sputtered. The road to enlightenment was a little bumpy, but we were on the right path.

Anyway, I called Darryl. He’d be up. He ran every morning at six A.M.

He answered, his voice distorted by his car’s phone system. “Yes.”

I explained the situation to him. “I have the goats covered, more or less. We’ll figure out what to do with them until better-educated minds can be put to the problem.”

“I’ll grab a few wolves and head over to Elizaveta’s,” he said.

“Just recon,” I told him. “Unless Adam picks up his phone or listens to the message I just gave him. See what is going on over there. Then we contact the wicked witch herself and let her make the calls. There are witches who can control wolves,” I reminded him.

He paused. “Should I bring Post, or leave him out of it?”

I frowned. “He doesn’t remember anything. Why bring him in?”

Sherwood Post (not his real name—but it would do until he figured out what that was) had been discovered when the Seattle pack cleaned out a nasty coven of witches. It had taken a while for him to regain human form—and he was never able to regenerate one of his legs, which was weird. Werewolves either regenerate or they die. He didn’t remember anything and no one knew who he was except (we all thought) Bran, the Marrok. Bran had gifted Sherwood with his unusual name and sent him off to our pack.

“Because,” said Darryl, “he’s sitting right next to me.”

“Well, then,” I told him, exasperated. “Ask him if he wants to go or not. Take him if he wants to go, drop him off somewhere if he doesn’t. This isn’t a war mission, it’s a recon. We’ve got enough on our plate. We’ll leave any warfare to Elizaveta unless she asks otherwise.”

“Problems?” asked the Spanish-speaking deputy.

“I hope not,” I said. “But I think we’re on our own.”

3

Mary Jo and I spent the next couple of hours catching adorable zombie goats. She could just pick them up in her massive jaws and deliver them. I had to let my coyote find them, then shift back to my human self to catch and carry them back. They might be small for goats, but the adults weighed nearly what my coyote did.

Luckily I usually carried a backpack in my car that I could shove my clothes into. Otherwise, I’d have spent the morning walking around naked, carrying dead goats with red eyes and a taste for blood.

Not that the zombies could actually eat anything. In the first place, their throats were cut. One of the adults I’d caught was so deeply wounded that its head just lolled around; there was no muscle to move its neck. In the second place, they were dead. No systems go. But it didn’t stop them from causing lots of mayhem. Small animals—squirrels, quail, chickens, and the like—didn’t fare well. I would have thought that zombies would be slow, like in the movies. But these, at least, were not.

Because we were using our animal forms, we had to leave our phones in the car. I had to trust that Adam got my messages and that Darryl was staying safe.

   
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