Home > Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(13)

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(13)
Author: Patricia Briggs

All of this information I received between one breath and the next. At that point, they all realized I was there, too.

From Adam came a flash of betrayal—I had promised to keep safe. That faded as he understood that I was there because of the baby, that I could help Zack. A pause. Acceptance. He knew about protecting the weak.

I knew that he, Darryl, and Joel would do their best to keep the attention of the troll away from the van with the fragile humans trapped inside. Zack and I were to get the people to safety.

Zack was very relieved. More relieved, I thought, than was really justified. I hoped I could help. I hoped not to be just another civilian to protect.

I was nearly to the van, noting almost absently that it had been manufactured in the same era as most of the VW bugs I kept running. It had been lovingly restored to a high polish not very long ago. The front end was crunched, though whatever it had hit was gone—maybe it had been the troll himself.

Antifreeze from the van’s radiator ran down the bridge in narrowing rivulets. I could feel Zack’s presence on the left side of the van, but it was the right side that had working doors, so I decided to leave it to him to keep an eye out for the troll while I took a look inside the van.

I started around the van but stopped. I trusted Zack—but I snuck around the front of the van and looked for the troll anyway.

I found him in the Pasco-bound lane, the far side of the bridge, smashing the shiny blue Nissan into the metal rails. I caught a glimpse of a white sheet of paper on the rear window with a date written in black Sharpie. The Nissan had been someone’s new purchase. I hoped their insurance would cover trolls.

“Smashing” was maybe the wrong word to use for what the troll was doing, I decided, though metal, glass, and fiberglass were getting crumpled. “Smashing” implied that the troll was beating the car into the rails. The troll’s actions were more . . . playful than that.

He pushed the car forward, then let go as it rolled with some force into the rails. Bits of car broke off in the impact, then it rolled back into his hands. It was either in neutral, or he’d destroyed the transmission in some interesting fashion I’d never encountered before.

After a particularly hard impact, the front window shattered. The troll bounced around in excitement—the bridge moved under my feet—and then he propelled the Nissan with even more force than before. The car sped into the rail. The rail bent, and the little blue car got stuck.

Mood abruptly altered, the troll tossed back his head and let out an ear-piercing scream of rage. He grabbed the car in both hands, shoved it through the guardrail and the railing on the far side, and over the edge of the bridge. Hooting in triumph, the troll jumped up and grabbed one of the bridge cables and climbed up it so he could watch the car in the river.

I tried not to reflect on the strength it would take to force a car through both sets of rails designed to prevent just that as I took a chance while it was distracted and moved back to the front of the van with slow caution, so no sudden movement of mine would attract the troll’s attention. Then I sprinted to the passenger side of the van.

The sliding door was open and bent, so it would never slide open or shut again. From the marks, I was pretty sure that Darryl had opened it, or maybe Zack before he was wholly wolf.

Zack stood beside the open door, looked at me, then rounded the back of the van again to resume his observation of the troll. I felt him settle into a guard position on the driver’s side of the van. If the troll made a move toward us, he’d warn me and do his best to keep us safe.

The car seat was nearest the door. On the other side of it, a woman held a bottle to the baby’s mouth, keeping the baby happy and quiet. Smart woman.

“Hey,” I whispered.

She was not much older than Jesse. One of her arms was obviously broken just above the elbow, and she held it against her side.

“I’m here to help,” I told her. I was being quiet. The troll was making more noise than World War III, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t hear us.

“I can’t get my baby out,” she said. She took her cue from me and kept her voice down, but it vibrated with desperation. “The seat belt jammed, and the bottle is almost empty. When it’s gone, she’s going to start crying.”

The baby was not very old, swaddled in a pink blanket and set backward in the seat. She was still in that plastic stage where her mouth and nose looked like every other baby’s mouth and nose instead of the person she would someday become. Her eyes were wide and blue and focused on her mom as she sucked.

I took a good look at the car seat. It wasn’t one of the ones that the bucket holding the baby just popped out. I didn’t know a lot about baby seats, but it looked to me as if it were an older model, and something had jammed the latch, something with a big fang. The button was pressed in, but the catch hadn’t released.

I pulled out Tony’s knife and started working on the tough webbing of the seat belt. The knife looked good, but the blade was as dull as a bad-skin-cleanser commercial.

“When we get out of this,” I said, very quietly, “remind me to give Tony a whetstone and a book on how to use one.”

“Who is Tony?” she asked.

“The police officer whose knife I borrowed,” I told her. The stubborn belt parted at last, and I pulled the seat free. I took a step back—and that’s when I saw that the arm wasn’t the only injury the woman had. Her knee was swollen to twice its normal size.

“Can you walk on that leg?” I asked.

She bit her lip and shook her head. “But you can get Nicole out,” she said. “Get her out, and I’ll be okay. I told the werewolf that.”

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