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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
“Good on a stage,” Jaime said. “Lousy in a fight. We’ve got another necro.” She nodded at the old woman. “And I’m guessing one reasonably innocent bystander.” A glance at the biker chick, now huddled on the floor.
“Keiran Courville,” the blonde said. “My mojo’s not much better. Been sick as a dog since they brought me in. Drugged, I think.”
“Shit.” I looked at Jaime. Not food poisoning after all. Either Medina or Holland must have injected her somehow. My money was on Medina.
So we had four supernaturals in a cage, three probably drugged. A drugged werewolf on the loose. What the hell was going on?
“You ladies fighting over me already?” a voice asked.
We all flinched as the werewolf sauntered back into view.
“You need a key,” I said.
“Fuck the key—can’t be bothered. I want in now.”
He grabbed the door and yanked, neck tendons bulging, and the door snapped open.
I stepped in front of Jaime.
“Okay, big guy,” I said. “You know you’re in serious shit right now. That blood tells me someone’s dead. And considering this is a police station, that someone is a cop, meaning—”
He grabbed me by the shirtfront. “You like to use that mouth, bitch? I’ll show you where you can use it.”
“Let me guess?” I said. “Here?”
I kneed him in the groin. Yes, it’s a cheap shot, but I wasn’t really concerned with fighting fair right now. Or with preserving his ability to procreate.
He dropped me on my ass. And he should have dropped himself, because it was a helluva blow. But he only snorted, then came at me as I scooted back.
“Hey, handsome,” Jaime called. “Forget the little girl. I’ve got something you want.”
He looked from me to her, then lumbered toward her. Keiran hit him with an energy bolt.
“What was that?” the biker chick screeched as the werewolf fell back, a scorched spot on his side.
I launched a fire ball—well, more like a firefly—but my aim was good and it hit him in the eye. He bellowed louder than he had when I’d gotten his crotch.
That shot of rage jump-started his stalled Change. His brow and jaw receded, mouth and nose jutting. Thick, black hair sprouted from his chest and back.
“What the hell?” the biker chick shrieked. “What the fucking hell?”
“Is that a werewolf?” the old necromancer said. “I’ve never seen a werewolf.”
He charged her. I cast a binding spell. It didn’t work. Keiran launched something and maybe it did work, but it didn’t stop him. Didn’t even slow him down. He grabbed the old woman by the hair and wrenched. Her neck snapped. He threw her across the cell. She hit the wall and collapsed like a rag doll.
The biker chick started to scream. Really scream. A high-pitched wail that caught the werewolf’s attention like the squeal of a rabbit. He turned on her.
I tried another binding spell. When it failed again, I grabbed Jaime and shoved her toward the broken cell door, waving for Keiran to follow.
As we tumbled out into the hall, Jaime glanced back. Her eyes widened and she stopped. I pushed her along the hall, and she didn’t struggle, just wrenched her gaze from the screaming woman and the werewolf and didn’t look back again.
I didn’t look back at all. Didn’t dare, because if I did, I might go back and try to save her. If I tried, I’d lose the opportunity to get us out of there. So I didn’t.
The biker chick didn’t scream for long.
The door into the main part of the station flew open. I stopped short, arms flying out to keep the others back.
Medina shot inside, followed by Holland. Both were staring over their shoulders. Medina shut the door quietly, then leaned her forehead against it.
Holland’s gaze stayed fixed on the door. His hands fluttered in front of his chest. It took a second to realize what he was doing. Crossing himself.
“It’s okay, Rory,” Medina murmured, face still against the door. “We’re safe now.”
Holland kept crossing himself and closed his eyes. I motioned for Jaime and Keiran to be still, then crept forward, and slid the gun from Holland’s holster. I had it halfway out before he noticed. He grabbed for it, but I yanked it free. Medina’s head snapped up. She went for her own weapon, but her holster was empty. Her lips parted in a curse.
When Holland opened his mouth, I motioned for silence, using the gun for emphasis. I waved for Medina to open the door. She shook her head.
I stepped forward and whispered, “Open the goddamned door or I’ll—”
Jaime shouldered past, grabbed the handle and pulled. The door didn’t budge.
“It’s a time lock,” Medina said. “It’ll open in a few minutes. But you … you …”
“You don’t want to go out there,” Holland whispered. Medina nodded. “We’ll be safe in here. Just—”
A sickening crunch from inside the cell. Then a grunt. Medina went still, then snatched the gun from my hands and headed for the holding cell.
I could have warned her. But I figured she already knew something was going on. And she was a cop. Serve and protect the taxpayers. I was a taxpayer.
In front of the cell, she stopped dead.
“Oh my God. Oh my God.”
A grunt. A snort. I ran for Medina. Didn’t mean to. Jaime and Keiran even tried to grab me. I ran anyway.
The werewolf was on all fours, back humped, fur still sparse, a nightmare version of a wolf.
The biker chick was dead. And … no longer in one piece.
The wolf was over her, bloody froth and other bits dripping from his jaws. He growled, fur on end, his drug-hazed eyes fixed on Medina.
“Shoot him,” I whispered.
“The—the bullets. They aren’t …” She swallowed. “They aren’t silver.”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” I reached for the gun.
She yanked it away from me and stumbled back. “No, you’ll only antagonize—”
The wolf ran for the cell door and I slammed it shut. It was broken and wouldn’t lock, but the beast lacked hands, meaning sliding it open would be imposs—The wolf hit the door. The whole wall shuddered. He took a bar in his jaws and yanked.
“The gun,” I said, wheeling. “Give me—”
Medina started to run toward the time-locked door. I caught her by the leg. She went down. The gun flew. She twisted, trying to throw me off as the wolf—
Two staccato shots. I looked back in time to see the wolf collapse. Jaime stood there, gun clutched in her hands.
“I see Jeremy’s lessons are paying off,” I said as I got to my feet.
“When you’re the Alpha’s girlfriend, you need to know how to stop those guys.”
She was spelling it out for Medina’s benefit, putting a little extra emphasis on “Alpha” and sliding her gaze the cop’s way. Sure enough, Medina paled.
“Seems she does know something about our side of the universe. Fancy that.” I walked over to her, still huddled on the floor. “By that look on her face, though, she doesn’t know nearly as much as she should. Like exactly who she was taking into custody. And who’s probably on his way right now, tracking down his girlfriend, very pissed off about the situation and about to be even more pissed off when he sees that.” I pointed toward the dead wolf in the cage.
“That’s the problem they were having in lockup when we arrived, wasn’t it? You weren’t just stupid enough to imprison a”—I glanced at Holland, still standing by the door, in shock. I had no idea how much of this was penetrating, but I shouldn’t take chances—“a guy like that, but you drugged him, too. Intentionally released his inner animal.”
“No.” She scrambled up. “I just arrested him. That’s my assignment.”
“From the liberation movement?”
“Yes. I bring in people like us.”
“Like us? What are you?”
“Acies,” she said. A vision-enhanced half-demon, very mild powers. “They give me sedatives, then someone comes to bail the prisoners out and takes them to the lab. Sometimes I find the subjects on my own. Sometimes I’m tipped off. That’s what happened with you. I got a call. My contact didn’t tell me who you were—he just described you and where to find you. The sedatives have always worked.” She glanced into the cell and swallowed. “It must be the latest batch. Everything was fine—”
“Yes, just fine. All you were doing was kidnapping our kind on false charges then selling us as guinea pigs in horrific experiments.”
She bristled. “Those experiments will save us. They’re benign—”
“Benign?” I clenched my fists so hard I heard the faint pops of my knuckles cracking. “Tell that to the subjects they dumped into a watery pit. Before they were dead! Those benign—” I lifted my hands for emphasis and sparks flew everywhere.
Jaime caught my elbow. “How about we skip the blame game. Jeremy will find me eventually, and this is something he shouldn’t walk into blindly.”
She was right. Most werewolves can’t follow a scent when you’ve traveled by car, but Jeremy wasn’t your average were-wolf. He had an extra boost of kitsune blood, which helped him find his family when they were in danger. Jaime was family. He’d be on his way.
“Am I drugged?” I asked Medina.
She shook her head. “I only had enough left for one more. You seemed compliant enough.” She gestured at Jaime. “She was the one who was fighting.”
“When you came in here, what were you running from?” She pointed to the cell.
“There’s nothing else?”
She shook her head.
So the werewolf had been on the loose, and she and her partner ducked in here to escape it, only to trap themselves with it. Which I’d say was fitting, except that they weren’t the ones who’d died for her stupidity.
“So as soon as that lock opens, we’re free to go?” Keiran asked.
Holland lurched from his stupor. “N-no. There’s paperwork. We have to do the paperwork. People can’t just walk out of …”
He looked around, then caught sight of the blood sprayed across the hall floor. He stumbled toward the cell, Medina grabbing for his arm to stop him. Too late. Holland saw what was in there, doubled over and threw up.
He was still retching, Medina at his side, when the time lock on the door clicked. Keiran grabbed the handle. I jammed my foot in the way, stopping it.
Keiran glowered at me. “I’m leaving, okay? I don’t care what the council says about this mess and my ‘duty’ to help clean it up—”
“I was just going to say to be careful.”
I pulled my foot away and she slipped through. I was about to follow, but Jaime caught my sleeve.
“Not so fast,” she murmured. She slid one stiletto into the door opening, then put her ear to the gap.
Medina marched over. She’d pulled her partner away from the carnage in the cage and left him sitting, slumped against a wall, head on his knees. She grabbed the door. When Jaime made a move to stop her, she snapped, “You stay here, until I make sure the witch is okay.”
As Medina went through the door, Jaime gave me a questioning look.
“Hell, no,” I murmured. “I’ve had enough of playing hero. We didn’t send them out as bait. Their choice. Might as well take advantage.”
We could hear Keiran’s pumps receding along the hall, then the softer thumps of Medina’s loafers. A murmur of voices as Medina caught up. The click of a door. We waited for another ten seconds.
“No screaming yet,” Jaime said.
“Always a good sign.”
We slid out.
We crept down the hall. There were two doors at the end. The left one headed to the interrogation room; the right to the main office.
I cracked open the door on the right and listened. A week ago, I’d have been ashamed of myself for being so cautious, called myself a frightened little witch mouse. A week without powers has taught me that the only reason not to take that extra second was ego.
When we heard nothing, I eased open the door and went through first.
Everything was silent and still. I turned to give Jaime the all clear. Then I stopped.
Silent and still. In a police station that’s just been ravaged by a werewolf.
“What’s up?” Jaime whispered.
I lifted a finger to my lips and pivoted, straining to hear. Jaime tapped my shoulder and I jumped.
“Let’s just go,” she whispered.
She was right. If losing my powers had made me careful, it had also nudged me to the edge of paranoia. A werewolf had just rampaged through an isolated police station where I’d only seen four officers, including Medina and Holland. The other two must be long gone. Or dead. Judging by the blood on the were-wolf, I suspected option two. That would explain the silence.
We passed a quad of cubicles. Something crunched underfoot and I looked down to see a broken pencil. Pens were scattered off to my left. Papers blanketed the floor around the desks. Crimson blood dotted the pages. Only drops, though. Someone wounded and getting the hell out, scattering office supplies in his wake.
I took another step and heard the slam of a car door. I pictured a survivor sitting in the parking lot, gun drawn, waiting for someone—or something—to come out those front doors.
I turned back to Jaime.
“We should look for a side exit,” I whispered.