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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
“Go to hell, you skinny-assed bitch.”
All the frustration of the last hour flared and when I grabbed her, my hands glowed white.
The woman shrieked. “You’re burning me. You bitch, you’re—”
I pushed her off the bed and she landed on the floor, half on top of an elderly homeless woman. I apologized to the old woman, but she seemed beyond hearing me.
The biker chick scrambled up and charged. I raised my fists. She put out her claws, scratching and spitting and yowling. A blow to the stomach stopped her before I got my hair pulled. When she staggered back, I downed her with a kick.
“You’re going to regret this,” she whined from the floor. “I know people.”
“Men, you mean. Big, ugly men who ride big, ugly bikes.” I loomed above her. “Word of advice? If you’re going to trash-talk, get your ass off the bitch seat and learn to fight for yourself.”
She whined and hissed a little more, then shut up. Beside her, the old woman straightened.
“Did someone call a lawyer?” she asked.
I turned to the bars. No one was there.
“Is that your lawyer?” she said. “Can he help me? I need to get out of here.”
I followed the old woman’s gaze to the middle of the room. Still no one.
Jaime moaned. I hurried over and helped her to the cot. Before she lay down, she glanced at it.
“I’m not sure I want to touch that,” she said.
“You’re washable,” I said. “But on second thought …”
I pulled off my jacket and wadded it up for a pillow, so her hair wouldn’t connect with whatever critters might be living on the mattress.
“Thanks,” she said. “How much trouble are we in?”
I crouched beside her. “We haven’t been charged with the bombing but … something’s fishy. That powder and note weren’t mine, obviously. Neither of us were processed. Neither of us have been charged. But we’re locked up.”
“Medina works for someone,” Jaime said, her words coming slow, as if it hurt to speak. “The movement or a Cabal.”
“I thought so, too. I called her on it, and now she’s convinced I tried to threaten her with a gang called the Cortezes.”
She stopped and cocked her head. A frown. Then she peered around the cell and at the empty hall beyond.
“Ghost?” I said.
“I’m … not sure. I thought I heard …” She trailed off, shook her head, then paled, as if the movement made her stomach churn. “Oh, God. What did I eat?”
“Just a pastry and a coffee hours ago.”
“A latte. Must have been the milk. I feel like—”
“Did someone call a lawyer?” the old woman warbled again.
I turned to see her staring at an empty spot with a look I recognized from all my years hanging around Jaime. She was seeing a ghost. It happened sometimes with the mentally ill.
“Is it my father?” I said to Jaime. “Is that who you think you heard?”
She nodded, eyes still closed.
“Can you look? See if he’s here?”
A faint, pained smile. “If it was your dad, I’d hear him loud and clear. Kristof Nast does not allow himself to be ignored. He took off to hunt for you after the explosion.” She frowned and opened her eyes. “I didn’t hear back from him—”
She blinked, then stared at the same empty spot as the old woman.
“Oh,” she said.
“Yes, but … faint. Something’s wrong.” She pushed up and struggled to listen. Then another, “Oh.”
“What’s he saying?” I asked.
“He’s barely coming through. Maybe because I’m sick.”
Jaime tried her best to communicate, with no success. When she started getting frustrated, I stopped her and said, “You rest. I may have a second avenue of contact today.”
I nodded at the old woman, who’d been following our efforts placidly.
“Mmm, not sure that’s such a good idea,” Jaime said. “She’s crazy enough to see ghosts, but that also means she’s not exactly coherent.”
“Well, no offense, but you’re not doing so hot yourself. Rest and I’ll see what I can get.”
The biker chick scuttled away as I sat down beside the old woman.
“Are you going to get me out of here?” the old woman said, staring up at the blank space above us.
“You can see him, right?” I said.
“Good,” I said. “So now he’s going to talk and you’re going to tell me what he says.”
“I want out.”
“Which he’ll do, as soon as you’ve helped me talk to him.” She turned her dark eyes to me. “So you can’t hear him?”
She smiled. “Then I have him all to myself.” She looked up and said, “Get me out of here.”
My father managed to trick her into passing on a message, telling me to demand to call Lucas, but after that, she caught on. She whined at him that she wasn’t stupid and he was supposed to help her, with me. Then she started to wail.
“Ignore her,” Jaime croaked as I tried to calm the old woman. “I can hear him better now.”
I got up and went over to Jaime. My father must have followed, because the woman let out a scream of frustrated rage. She flung her hands out and shouted something I didn’t catch.
Then she smiled and lowered herself to the floor and started mumbling to herself.
“Shit,” Jaime muttered. “She’s not crazy. Or not only crazy. She’s a necromancer.”
“She just banished your father.”
“She used a nastier method. One I’ve never learned because I don’t want to be tempted to use it. It knocks a spirit through dimensions.”
“Shit!” I leaped to my feet and looked around.
“Don’t worry, Savannah. Your dad will find his way back. Or your mom will track him down.”
“Can you let her know?”
She shook her head. “Not now. When she’s on assignment, I can’t call.”
I wanted to argue that this was an emergency, but I trusted Jaime wouldn’t let my father suffer unnecessarily. Okay, she might, but only if my mother wouldn’t find out about it, which in this case, she eventually would.
“All right,” I said. “My father was telling me to go ahead and demand my phone call. I’m not sure I like the sounds of that, but …”
“He wouldn’t suggest that if it wasn’t safe. So go ahead. Try to flag someone down.”
The hall had been empty since I’d arrived. I walked over and leaned against the bars, but couldn’t see anything. I started casting a sensing spell, then stopped. I shouldn’t automatically reach for a magical solution when mundane methods would do the job. Now that I was the spell-powered equivalent of a twelve-year-old, I had to conserve all the juice I had. And, I suppose, it was a good rule in general.
So I called for a guard. When no one answered, I shouted. When still no one came, I started the sensing spell again. Stopped again. Walked over to Jaime.
“Do you have a mirror?” I asked.
“They took my purse and patted me down.”
I stood there, waiting, until she sighed and pulled a necklace from under her blouse. It was a locket. I popped it open. On one side was a tiny picture of Jeremy. On the other, a mirror.
I shook my head. “With some people, it’s hidden weapons. With you, mirrors.”
She pulled a face.
“Watch it,” I said. “Or I’ll make you look in it.”
“No, thank you,” she muttered, raking her fingers through her tangled hair.
I angled the mirror to look both ways down the hall.
“I see a desk,” I said. “But it’s empty. Looks like pages scattered on the floor.”
“Make a ruckus. You’re good at that.”
I yelled again for a guard. Then I grabbed Jaime’s shoes and clanged the bars like a B-movie convict.
I looked again at those dropped pages—someone had left in a hurry. I remembered the biker chick shrieking during our fight. Then the old woman screaming when my father ignored her. If no one had come for that, they sure as hell weren’t coming for my clanging.
I crouched and studied the lock.
“You gonna pick that with your hairpin, sweetheart?” the biker chick sneered.
“No, I’m going to pick it with hers.”
I walked over to Jaime and held out a hand. She plucked two from her hair.
“See, you do come ready for trouble,” I said. “Mirrors, stilettos, hairpins. I get the feeling you’ve been in jail before.”
She flipped me off as she lay back on the cot.
I hunkered down by the lock again. Of course, there is no way in hell you can escape a jail cell with a hairpin. But it made a good cover story while I worked at the door with an unlock spell.
Two days ago I’d been told—by some mysterious otherworld entity—that my spells weren’t actually gone. My power supply had just been cranked way down. Like a neophyte witch, I could build power through practice, and so I’d been practicing.
I’d been able to successfully cast simple things like a light ball. And that flare of magic with the biker chick had reinforced something I’d experienced once before—that if I tapped deep enough into my power, I could cast on emotion, without even reciting a spell. That was serious mojo. If this temporary power drain meant I could reach that level someday, then it was worth it. But right now, I needed all the juice I could get. I was determined to open this door, however much time and concentration it took. It took a lot. Twenty minutes later I heard a little click.
I stood and pulled on the door. It moved about a quarter inch then caught, something inside grinding.
“You can’t open a cell with a hairpin, you stupid twat,” the biker chick said.
I turned to snarl at her, then gathered that frustrated anger and flung it at the door instead. Another click. When I yanked, it gave a little more, but still wouldn’t open.
“You’re getting there,” said a voice behind me.
I turned to see Jaime, wobbling slightly. She squeezed my shoulder.
“You’re getting it. Just keep—”
The door at the end of the hall flew open, a cacophony of shouts blasting through before it closed again. Silence. Then the thud of heavy boots.
A moment later, a man came into view. He looked like a stereotypical cop, right down to the mustache and lantern jaw. He wasn’t wearing a uniform, though. He was wearing blood.
Bare chested. Skin dappled with red. More blood dripping from his hands, which were dangling at his sides, his fingers stubby, nails thickened to claws.
There’s not much I’ll back away from. A werewolf partway into his Change is one of those things.
I backed up into Jaime, my arms wide to shield her. She started around me, her chin going up, mouth firm, lower lip quivering slightly.
“I—I can handle this,” she said.
“He won’t touch me. I’m the Alpha’s …” Her voice dipped, uncertain, then came back stronger. “I’m the Alpha’s mate. He wouldn’t dare touch me.”
“Under normal circumstances, I’d agree. But I don’t think this guy cares.”
The werewolf stopped in front of the cell. If those partially changed hands didn’t confirm something was wrong, his eyes did. Pupils so huge his eyes seemed black. The whites suffused with red. His breathing came hard, ragged.
“Drugged,” Jaime whispered. “Who’s stupid enough to drug a—?”
“Hello, ladies,” the werewolf said, his voice a deep rumble, almost a growl, as if his vocal cords were changing, too. So was his face—nothing drastic, but the planes and angles were off-kilter, making him look disfigured.
“Wh-what’s wrong with him?” the biker chick quavered.
The woman who’d been silent so far—a thirtyish blonde in a suit jacket and slacks—had risen to her feet. “Shut up,” she hissed to the biker chick.
“Don’t we have some pretty ladies here,” he said, his gaze tripping over Jaime and me. “Pretty ladies in a cage.”
“Which is locked,” I said. “If you want in, you’ll need to get the key.”
“Yes.” Jaime stepped closer to the bars and raked back her hair. “If you want to visit us, you need to find the key.”
“Are you fucking—?” the biker chick screeched to a stop. Frozen. Caught in a binding spell.
“Nice one,” Jaime whispered.
“That wasn’t me.”
The blonde stepped up beside Jaime and flicked open the top button on her blouse. “Go find the key,” she said to the werewolf. “Then we can play.”
He inhaled, nostrils flaring, then lumbered off.
When he was gone, the blonde whispered. “You know what he is?”
“Canis lupus,” I said. “Human variety.”
“And you are?”
“Sav—?” Her eyes widened. Then she nodded. “Good.”
“Not so good. My mojo is on the fritz, so we’re going to need to rely on you.”
“What about … ?” she looked at Jaime. “Wait. I know you. You’re—”