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

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

“Tibicena?” Detective Willis tasted the unfamiliar word, but that wasn’t enough to hold his attention for long. He turned to look at the bridge, not at Adam and Joel, who had slowed to take advantage of the cover provided by the strewn-about cars. “What can you tell us about the thing on the bridge? Why can’t we shoot it? Bullets don’t seem to do anything to it.”

“I don’t know what your monster is,” I told him. “I haven’t had a chance to see it yet. The tibicena is the scary black doglike creature running beside Adam. Adam is the werewolf, and the tibicena is a friend. Please tell everyone not to shoot them, okay?”

Willis gave a quick look at Adam and Joel, then frowned and narrowed his eyes, as if he’d finally realized that Joel wasn’t just a weird werewolf. “That thing is a tibicena? What the hell is a tibicena?”

“My friend,” I said coolly. “Who is risking his life to help out.”

Willis grimaced at me. “Don’t take offense where none is meant, Mercy Hauptman.” He put a hand to his face and pressed a button I couldn’t see because he said, “Do not, I repeat, do not shoot the scary black dog . . . doglike creature. Don’t shoot the werewolves, either. They are on our side, people.”

Tony, who’d followed me over to Willis, said, presumably to me, “We have a couple of SWAT snipers up on top of the Lampson Building and a couple more on top of the Crow’s Nest on Clover Island—for all the good that’s doing us.”

Clover Island was a boating and tourist mecca just west of the bridge, lots of boats, lots of docks, and, on the tiny island itself, a hotel, the Coast Guard office, and a few restaurants. The Crow’s Nest was the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel. “They can’t get a shot, the wind is too high.” His voice was cool and controlled. “Pasco’s got a couple of marksmen up on their side of the river, too. At this rate, we’re more likely to shoot each other than whatever that thing is. And given how effective our bullets have been, it wouldn’t matter anyway.”

“It’s over the hump, and I haven’t been able to see it,” I said. “What’s it look like?”

“King Kong,” said one of the officers I didn’t know. “If King Kong were green and covered in moss with a nose set higher than his eyes. And it is well and truly a him because that part isn’t green.”

“Like Christmastime,” agreed a woman I’d seen before but hadn’t been introduced to. “Red and green.”

“That’s more than I saw,” said a guy in sweats with a long streak of dried blood on the sleeve. “I was too busy getting out of there with my battered civilians.”

“What’s it doing?” I asked. “I mean, why is it still on the bridge and not somewhere else? Have the werewolves been keeping it on the bridge?”

“If it wanted off the bridge,” said an officer grimly, “it would be off the bridge.”

“Adam’s people are doing a fine job of keeping it occupied,” said Tony. “According to the Pasco police, they’ve been distracting it whenever it seems to be thinking about heading off. But it really doesn’t seem to want off.”

The guy in the bloody sweatshirt spoke up. “One of the victims I escorted out said it just stopped and ran back to the middle of the bridge. It’s been back on our side a couple of times, Pasco, too—but mostly seems to be hanging out in the center section.” He looked at me. “That thing was coming right for me, and this big black guy ran past and hit it with a baseball bat. I figure I’ve played baseball most of my life, and I never saw a human swing a bat like that. Broke the bat, which I have seen, but not like that. He saved my life and the lives of the four people I was helping off the bridge, too. Is he one of your guys?”

Darryl. Darryl carried a baseball bat in his car, a baseball bat and a baseball. In Washington, it was illegal to carry only a baseball bat in your car. Darryl wasn’t out as a werewolf at his work. I suppose that cat would be out of the bag after today.

“Probably,” I said.

“Then why wasn’t he sprouting fangs and hair?” growled someone else.

I opened my mouth to snap something back, but then I located the voice. She had a compression bandage on her arm, which was in a sling, and a rosy flush that would be black-and-blue tomorrow covered half her face.

“No time,” I told her. “Most werewolves take a while to change—ten minutes or even fifteen or twenty. My friends—the two werewolves who beat us here—were driving by when they realized what was going on. They called us, then dove in to help.”

“Thank goodness for that,” one of the patrolmen said. I didn’t think I was supposed to hear him because he said it under his breath.

“The other one was changing,” one of the guys who looked familiar said. “It was pretty freaky.”

“It’s hard for a werewolf not to change when something’s trying to kill him,” I told them. “A werewolf in midchange isn’t helpless, just not as good in a fight because he’s distracted.” And not as likely to be able to control himself. But they didn’t need to know that.

“We were hoping you might ID it for us,” Willis said. “So we know what to do about it.”

I’d helped the police with fae affairs before. But I wasn’t an expert by any means—and my fae connections weren’t available. Samuel and his fae wife, Ariana, were in Europe, and would be for another month or more. Zee and Tad were, as far as I knew, prisoners on the reservation in Walla Walla. But I had been studying up, and I’d had access to information that most humans wouldn’t have had.

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