Moon Called


Chapter 3


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I slipped through the office and opened the outside door cautiously, but the smell of perfume and herbs hanging in the night air told me we were still all right. A dark Cadillac was stretched across the pavement just beyond Stefan's bus. I pushed the door all the way open as the uniformed chauffeur tipped his hat to me, then opened the car's back door, revealing an elderly woman. I stuck my head back in the office, and called, "It's all right, Mac. Just the cleanup crew." Keeping the humans ignorant of the magic that lives among them is a specialized and lucrative business, and Adam's pack kept the best witch in the Pacific Northwest on retainer. Rumors of Elizaveta Arkadyevna Vyshnevetskaya's origins and how she came to be in the Tri-Cities changed on a weekly basis. I think she and her brood of grandchildren and great-grandchildren encouraged the more outrageous versions. All that I knew for certain was that she had been born in Moscow, Russia, and had lived in the Tri-Cities for at least twenty years. Elizaveta rose from the depths of the big car with all the drama of a prima ballerina taking her bow. The picture she made was worth all the drama. She was almost six feet tall and little more than skin and bones, with a long, elegant nose and gray, penetrating eyes. Her style of dress was somewhere between babushka and Baba Yaga. Layers of rich fabrics and textures came down to her calves, all covered with a long wool cape and a worn scarf that wrapped around her head and neck. Her outfit wasn't authentic, at least not to any period or place that I've heard of, but I've never seen anyone brave enough to tell her so. "Elizaveta Arkadyevna, welcome," I said, walking past the bus to stand by her car. She scowled at me. "My Adamya calls and tells me you have one of his wolves dead." Her voice had the crispness of a British aristocrat, so I knew she was angry-her usual accent was thick enough I had to make a real effort to understand her. When she was really angry, she didn't speak English at all. "Werewolf, yes," I agreed. "But I don't think it is one of Adam's." Adamya, I had learned, was an affectionate form of Adam. I don't think she'd ever called him that to his face. Elizaveta was seldom affectionate to anyone likely to overhear her. "I have the body in my shop," I told her. "But there is blood all over here. The werewolf chased me with a torn artery and bled from here over to the storage facility, where he tore up the fence in two places before he bled to death out on the street. The storage facility has cameras, and I used Stefan's bus"-I pointed to it-"to move the body." She said something in Russian to her chauffeur, who I recognized as one of her grandchildren. He bowed and said something back before going around to open the trunk. "Go," she told me, and flung her arms in a pushing gesture. "I will take care of the mess out here without your help. You wait with the body. Adam will be here soon. Once he has seen, he will tell me what he would have me do with it. You killed this wolf? With a silver bullet so I should look for casing?" "With my fangs," I told her; she knew what I was. "It was sort of an accident-at least his death was." She caught my arm when I turned to go into the office. "What were you thinking, Mercedes Thompson? A Little Wolf who attacks the great ones will be dead soon, I think. Luck runs out eventually." "He would have killed a boy under my protection," I told her. "I had no choice." She released me and snorted her disapproval, but when she spoke her Russian accent was firmly in place. "There is always choice, Mercy. Always choice. If he attacked a boy, then I suppose it must not have been one of Adamya's." She looked at her chauffeur and barked out something more. Effectively dismissed, I went back to Mac and our dead werewolf. I found Mac crouched near the body, licking his fingers as if he might have touched the drying blood and was cleaning them off. Not a good sign. Somehow, I was pretty certain that if Mac were fully in control, he wouldn't be doing that. "Mac," I said, strolling past him and over to the far side of the garage, where we'd been sitting. He growled at me. "Stop that," I said sharply, doing my best to keep the fear out of my voice. "Control yourself and come over here. There are some things you should know before Adam gets here." I'd been avoiding a dominance contest, because my instincts told me that Mac was a natural leader, a dominant who might very well eventually become an Alpha in his own right-and I was a woman. Women's liberation hadn't made much headway in the world of werewolves. A mated female took her pack position from her mate, but unmated females were always lower than males unless the male was unusually submissive. This little fact had caused me no end of grief, growing up, as I did, in the middle of a werewolf pack. But without someone more dominant than he, Mac wouldn't be able to take control of his wolf yet. Adam wasn't there, so it was up to me. I stared at him in my best imitation of my foster father and raised an eyebrow. "Mac, for Heaven's sake, leave that poor dead man alone and come over here." He came slowly to his feet, menace clinging to him. Then he shook his head and rubbed his face, swaying a little. "That helped," he said. "Can you do it again?" I tried my best. "Mac. Get over here right now." He staggered a little drunkenly over to me and sat at my feet. "When Adam comes," I told him firmly, "whatever you do, don't look him in the eyes for longer than a second or two. Some of this should be instinct, I hope. It isn't necessary to cower-remember that you've done no wrong at all. Let me talk. What we want is for Adam to take you home with him." "I'm fine on my own," Mac objected, sounding almost like himself, but he kept his head turned toward the body. "No, you're not," I said firmly. "If there wasn't a pack, you might survive. But if you run into one of Adam's wolves without being made known to the pack, they'll probably kill you. Also, the full moon is coming soon. Adam can help you get control of your beast before then." "I can control the monster?" asked Mac, stilling. "Absolutely," I told him. "And it's not a monster-any more than a killer whale is a monster. Werewolves are hot-tempered and aggressive, but they aren't evil." I thought about the one who had sold him and corrected myself. "At least not any more evil than any other person." "I don't even remember what the beast does," Mac said. "How can I control it?" "It's harder the first few times," I told him. "A good Alpha can get you through that. Once you have control, then you can go back to your old life if you want. You have to be a little careful; even in human form you're going to have to deal with having a shorter temper and a lot more strength than you're used to. Adam can teach you." "I can't ever go back," he whispered. "Get control first," I told him. "There are people who can help you with the rest. Don't give up." "You're not like me." "Nope," I agreed. "I'm a walker: it's different from what you are. I was born this way." "I've never heard of a walker. Is that some sort of fae?" "Close enough," I said. "I don't get a lot of the neat things that you werewolves have. No super strength. No super healing. No pack." "No chance you might eat your friends," he suggested. I couldn't tell if he was trying to be funny, or if he was serious. "There are some benefits," I agreed. "How did you find out so much about werewolves?" I opened my mouth to give him the short version, but decided the whole story might better serve to distract him from the dead body. "My mother was a rodeo groupie," I began, sitting down beside him. "She liked cowboys, any cowboy. She liked a Blackfoot bull-rider named Joe Old Coyote from Browning, Montana, enough to get pregnant with me. She told me that he claimed to come from a long line of medicine men, but at the time she thought he was just trying to impress her. He died in a car accident three days after she met him." "She was seventeen, and her parents tried to talk her into an abortion, but she would have none of it. Then they tried to get her to put me up for adoption, but she was determined to raise me herself-until I was three months old, and she found a coyote pup in my crib." "What did she do?" "She tried to find my father's family," I told him. "She went to Browning and found several families there with that last name, but they claimed they'd never heard of Joe. He was certainly Native American." I made a gesture to encompass my appearance. I don't look pureblood; my features are too Anglo. But my skin looks tanned even in November, and my straight hair is as dark as my eyes. "But otherwise I don't know much about him." "Old Coyote," said Mac speculatively. I smiled at him. "Makes you think this shifting thing must have run in the family, doesn't it?" "So how was it that you were raised by werewolves?" "My great-grandfather's uncle was a werewolf," I said. "It was supposed to be a family secret, but it's hard to keep secrets from my mother. She just smiles at people, and they tell her their life stories. Anyway, she found his phone number and called him." "Wow," said Mac. "I never met any of my great-grandparents." "Me either," I said, then smiled. "Just an uncle of theirs who was a werewolf. One of the benefits of being a werewolf is a long life." If you can control the wolf-but Adam could explain that part better than me. His gaze was drawn back to our dead friend. "Yes, well." I sighed. "Stupidity will still get you killed. My great-grandfather's uncle was smart enough to outlive his generation, but all those years didn't keep him from getting gutted by a moose he was out hunting one night." "Anyway," I continued, "he came to visit and knew as soon as he saw me what I was. That was before the fae came out and people were still trying to pretend that science had ruled out the possibility of magic. He convinced my mother that I'd be safer out in the hinterlands of Montana being raised by the Marrok's pack-they have their own town in the mountains where strangers seldom bother them. I was fostered with a family there who didn't have any children." "Your mother just gave you up?" "My mother came out every summer, and they didn't make it easy on her either. Not overfond of humans, the Marrok, excepting their own spouses and children." "I thought the Marrok was the wolf who rules North America," said Mac. "Packs sometimes take their public name from their leader," I told him. "So the Marrok's pack call themselves the Marrok. More often they find some geographical feature in their territory. Adam's wolves are the Columbia Basin Pack. The only other pack in Washington is the Emerald Pack in Seattle." Mac had another question, but I held up my hand for him to be quiet. I'd heard Adam's car pull up. "Remember what I said about the Alpha," I tol