“They found Sarah.” Magda sat down heavily next to the hospital bed.
“Not among the living, from the look on your face.” Stephan gave a small shake of his head. “You should have gone after her instead of carrying me back to —”
“Yours was the life I could save.” Her voice was quiet.
“I know. I’m not being fair, I…” He banged his head back on the pillow. “She shot you with my gun, and Sarah died. I should have trusted you and just let you go do your thing.”
“You did trust me to do my thing, Stephan. I should have been honest with you sooner.” She swallowed. “I knew I’d be putting you in danger by taking you with me.”
Silence fell. Stephan took a deep breath. “Talk to me, Mags.”
“I’m not sure how much you will believe.” She looked away.
“I know what I saw.” He shrugged. “And they’ve got me on some really good drugs at the moment, so…”
“Ash was alive and at that location. I went to his house, took a couple of this things so I’d have his scent. He was in that vehicle with Sarah and the…” Magda growled. “Bitches.”
“They didn’t find him?” Stephan raised an eyebrow.
“No. I lost the trail at the campground. They stole another car. He was with them then.”
“Any chance he’s…” Stephan frowned. “Not sure what I’m asking here…”
“He’s not a werewolf.” She put a hand on his arm. “Neither are you. The stories get that part wrong. It’s not a contagious thing.”
“That…” Stephan slowly nodded. “Is one hell of a relief to know.” He frowned. “Then why hold onto him this long?”
“Good question. I don’t like any of the possible answers.” She leaned back. “Vincent bought your story. Thinks we were going to get the ranger and just happened upon the car.”
“And got attacked by someone’s pet bear?” Stephan shook his head. “That’s a terrible story. I was in shock when I came up with that story.”
“The teeth marks in your arm kind of backed it up.” Magda shrugged.
The silence returned. Stephan exhaled. “You’re a werewolf.”
“Magda.” He looked up at her. “You’re a werewolf.”
“Yes.” She nodded. “Figured that out when I turned sixteen.” She considered for a moment, and then met his eyes. “In 1644.”
“Yeah.” Stephan took a deep breath. “I’m gonna need more drugs.”
Sima watched Lisa rage. Ash was cowering behind her, trying to make himself as small as possible. She couldn’t blame him. She didn’t particularly want the alpha’s wrath to fall on her either. Learning they were in the territory of another wolf was interesting information. Whoever it was had killed Carol. Granted, Carol was young and no fighter, but killing a wolf was still not an easy task. And if this other wolf was an alpha…
Lisa was strong but unstable. She had no patience, no control, and Sima was growing tired of living apart from society. People had uses other than prey.
It took the better part of an hour for Lisa to stop venting her rage on the cabin they’d holed up in. It was no longer even remotely livable, even if the former occupants hadn’t been spread all over the place. Sima would have made use of the elderly couple as cover. Perhaps seeking out this other wolf was an idea with potential.
“Alright.” Lisa shook her head. “Alright. Without Carol, we can’t get at our accounts. But we’ve been there before.” She nodded as she started to turn toward Sima. “We need mon —” Her eyes fell on Ash. “That will do.”
“Lisa?” Sima raised an eyebrow.
“Your little pet. Isn’t his old man some kind of hot shot money guy?” Lisa smiled. “Let’s find out how much the guy will pay to make sure his kid stays in one piece.” She narrowed her eyes. “Then I’m going to teach some bitch wolf not to fuck with my pack.”
His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. He was a cop, not a pet. He was a person, not a dog. Her name was Sima, not mistress. It was mercy. His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. He was a cop, not a pet. He was a person, not a dog. Part of his mind repeated the mantra over and over. Her name is Sima, not mistress. Blood in his mouth. Mercy.
The alpha was going to ask his father for a ransom. His father would pay. He gnawed at the edge of the blue bone. Sima had taken his picture next to that morning’s paper. Proof he was alive. His father would pay to get him back. Mistre… Sima, her name was Sima. His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. He was a cop, not a pet. He was a person, not a dog. It had been mercy.
Sima rubbed his head, and he made a small whining sound. “Who is my good boy?” She ruffled his hair, and he barked. His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. Sima pushed him back onto the bed, and her mouth came down hungry upon his. He was a cop, not a pet. His back arched as she slid atop him. He was a person. Not a…
Not a dog.
The old man had the same blue eyes as his son. They filled with tears as he looked down at the picture Lisa set on his desk. He took two deep breaths before looking up at her. “How much?”
Direct and to the point. Lisa smiled. “A million transferred to an account.” She set a slip of paper onto his desk. “And one hundred thousand cash. I catch a whiff of cop, all you will ever get of your son is pieces.”
“I will have the million to you in an hour.” He nodded. “The cash will take me a couple of days.” He took another deep breath. “May I speak to my son?”
“Soon as that cash is in my hand, you can take him to Disneyland.” Lisa turned, and left his office.
She helped Stephan out of the car. He winced a little as he stepped up onto the porch. Then he got to the couch, he fell into it more than sat down. “Thanks.”
“If I say beer —”
“I’ll remind you that you aren’t to mix alcohol and painkillers.” Magda gave him a look.
He smiled. “You know, it is technically accurate to call you a bitch.” He took a deep breath, then shook his head. “So where are we on tracking down those other two?”
“Someone trashed a cabin, killed the owners.” Magda hesitated. “They can track me by scent as well.”
“Figured that.” He frowned. “So you thinking of leading them into a trap, or —”
“Stephan.” She sat down across from him. “They can track me by scent. I killed one of their pack. You were with me when I did it.”
Stephan sighed, then nodded. “So that’s why you insisted I come back to your place. You think they might come after me.”
“You were there when their packmate died. They’d have caught your scent too.” Magda nodded. “You live too close to the edge of town. Hiding is a necessity for my kind.” She shrugged. “Shapeshifting isn’t much defense against rocket launchers. So you’re staying where there are more people around.”
“You going to cook?”
“Then I’m not going to argue.” Stephan nodded. “I am going to insist you let me help.”
He held up his hand. “I know when I’m outmatched, and I also know I’m on medical leave. But my head works fine. I can handle phones and I’m a hell of a lot better with a computer than you are, and…” He took a deep breath. “And they were my packmates too, Mags.”
“We took their den away.” She stood. “They’ll need a new hiding place. Either another abandoned spot, or something new. The latter would require money and ID. Find me places to start, and I’ll see if I can pick up a trail.”
“On it.” He started to stand, then shook his head. “Or will, when you hand me the laptop.”
Magda smiled and brought it to him.
“Heh.” Lisa chuckled. “The old man really did it.” She whistled. “A cool million, dropped right into an account.”
His father had paid. Ash tried not to let anything show on his face. His father had paid. “Any word on the cash?” Sima raised an eyebrow.
“Tomorrow. We can schedule the exchange for after two PM.” Lisa’s grin was toothy. “Let’s buy an RV.”
“Not a bad idea.” Sima ruffled his hair. “Could head south before winter.”
“I’ll be back in a few hours.” Lisa stood up and headed for the door. “I’m going to go see if I can find anything on this other wolf.” She left.
Sima’s hand brushed through his hair again. “Come, Ash.” She headed for the stairs.
He followed, on his hands and knees. His father had paid. His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. He was a cop, not a pet. He was a person, not a dog. Her name was Sima, not mistress. It was mercy. Just pretend a little longer. He climbed up onto the bed where Sima indicated.
She caught his wrist and flipped him onto his back before straddling him. Then she simply held him there, staring down at him. Her expression was curious. “Are you going to be a good boy, Ash?” He whimpered and nodded. She rose, and looked down at him. “We’re going to play a new game now, Ash.” She sat on the side of the bed. “Come here.”
A small whimper came from him as he crawled to her. She laid him face down across her lap. “A good pet knows how to stay.” She ran a hand down his back. “A good pet knows all that matters is making his mistress happy.” She caressed him gently. “Do you want to make me happy, Ash?”
He nodded, whining softly. “Then be a good boy for me.” She shifted her position just slightly. “And stay.”
Ash winced as her hand came down on his ass. It stung sharply. Part of him wanted to crawl away, to try to escape the pain. She’d told him to stay. Her hand came down again. It hurt, but he could only imagine how much worse she’d hurt him if he didn’t obey. This time when her hand came down, she petted the injured area, gently rubbing the sting away. Her hand went briefly between his legs, fondling him. “Good boy, Ash.” She hit him again. “Now, be a good boy…” She hit him again, then rubbed the sting away before fondling him briefly again. “And cum for your mistress.”
His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. He was a cop, not a pet. He was a person, not a dog. Her name was Sima, not mistress. It was mercy. His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg. He was a cop, not a pet. He was a person, not a dog. Her name was Sima, not mistress. It was mercy.
“Hey Stephan, it’s Lisa.” She smiled when he picked up. It had caught her by surprise, finding his scent when she’d found Carol’s body. He’d been with the wolf that had killed her cousin, when it had killed her cousin. Which meant he knew who it was. “Just got back into town, and was wondering if you’d like to go get coffee.”
“I’d love to, but I can’t. I just got out of the hospital.” His voice sounded apologetic. And disappointed. It should. She’d put a lot of effort into making sure he enjoyed himself the last couple times they’d had ‘coffee’. Though she had to admit she’d rather enjoyed herself as well. He had clever hands. “Not going much of anywhere for a while.”
“Oh, you poor baby…’ She made her own voice sound concerned. “Do I need to bring you some chicken soup?”
He laughed. “No, just a workplace injury.”
“Well, give me a chance to settle in a bit, and I’ll see about bringing you dinner.”
Magda raised an eyebrow when Stephan hung up the phone. “Your new girl?”
“She’s back in town.” He nodded. Then he shrugged awkwardly. “I, uh…”
“You can invite her over.” Magda chuckled. “Just if you’re gonna…” She shook her head. “Wait until I’m not here. Enhanced senses have a downside.”
“I can…” He suddenly blinked. “So when Jenna and I…”
“Oh dear god, you two and the broom closet quickies.” Magda winced. “I was so glad when she transferred back to the morgue.”
“I…” He frowned, then shrugged. “Am not sorry at all, actually.” He smiled. “You’re four hundred years old. You have to have gotten laid at least once.”
“If you start talking about your sex life, I’m going to retaliate by telling you about the decade I spent working in a brothel.”
He spat out the mouthful of coffee he’d just taken, and started coughing. “Oh dear god.” He coughed again. “I think you just broke my mind.” He caught the towel she tossed at him, and started wiping up the mess. “So, uh…” He looked up at her. “Did you met, I don’t know…” He shook his head. “Look, if I annoy you with the questions or you don’t want to talk about anything, just…” Stephan shrugged. “But you lived things I just read about.”
“It’s been…” She sat down at the table. “The better part of fifty years since there was anyone I could talk to about it with.” She rubbed her arm. Then she took a deep breath before looking across the table at him. “I had four children. My eldest son died at sea, when his ship was caught in a storm. My daughter married and came to the US before it was the US. They died in Charleston, during the American Revolution. Their children and grandchildren lived on, though they’ve long since become strangers to me. My second son and his son both died in the Civil war. My youngest and I haven’t spoken since…” She swallowed. “He was in Vietnam, and some of what he did there…” She sighed. “He was the only one that inherited the wolf, and I fear sometimes what he has become since, but I cannot bring myself to track him down, to…” She exhaled.
Stephan reached across the table with his undamaged arm, and put his hand atop hers. “Tell me about your oldest son.”
“My Elias. He sailed for the East India Company.”
Sima carried the sweat pants to her room in the cabin. Ash was curled up on the foot of the sleeping bag. A chain attached his collar to the wall. She could see the hope in his eyes, and see him trying to hide it. “Here.” She set the folded pants down in front of him. When he gave her a slightly confused look, she smiled. “Put them on.”
His eyes widened and he moved quickly, as though he was afraid she’d change her mind. As he drew them up over his hips, she picked up the cuffs. “Give me your wrists.” He held his hands out obediently, and she secured his hands in front of him. “Ash.” She caught the chain attached to his collar, and used it to pull him closer to her. “It’s very important that you remember the rules today, Ash. You don’t want to make the alpha angry.” He nodded.
She released the chain, then patted the bed next to her as she sat. He curled up next to her, his head in her lap. She petted his hair gently. “Be a good boy, Ash.” She smiled as he made gave her a small bark.
Sima secured his wrists to a metal railing, and walked forward a few feet. Lisa was pacing near the door. Ash caught his breath as his father entered, carrying a briefcase. Two men followed his father in. His father set the briefcase on the table. “It is all there.” He glanced at Ash, and gave him a trembling smile. “Count it if you like.”
“Oh, I will.” Lisa nodded as she opened the briefcase.
His father glanced over his shoulder at the two men. The taller of the two nodded, and then his father was walking toward him. “Bernie.”
“Dad.” He felt tears in his eyes. “Dad.” He let out a small sob as his father grabbed him and pulled him into a hug. “Dad.”
“Oh, my Bernie.” His father held him tightly. “You’re alive.”
“Looks like its all here.” Lisa tossed the stack of bills she’d been examining into back into the briefcase.
“Please, where is the key?” His father glanced at Sima. “I need to take my son home.”
Lisa closed the briefcase. “I told you to come alone. No cops.”
“They are not cops. Private security. Precaution only.” His father shook his head. “Please, where is the key?”
The briefcase was set on the ground. Lisa’s smile showed teeth. “I told you to come alone, old man.”
“You have your money. We can all go our separate ways now.” His father was still holding him. Ash clung to his shirt, wishing his hands were free so he could hug his father back.
With a snarl, Lisa flung the table at the taller man before leaping upon the other. Her claws tore open the man’s throat before he could get his gun out of its holster. Then she turned back to the other, who was trying to get up. Lisa’s heel came down on the man’s throat, and then she twisted her leg. There was a horrifying snapping sound.
“Ash…” Sima’s voice was calm. “What are the rules?” She turned back toward him, a smile on her face.
“No, please, no…” Ash started shaking his head frantically. “Dad, run.” He shoved his dad back from him. “Please, run, run.”
Lennert Achterberg drew a gun from his coat and aimed it at Sima’s face. “Give me the key. Now. I am taking my son home.”
Her smile never wavered. “I’m afraid that’s against the rules.” She spun as she came toward his father, catching his gun hand before he could adjust his aim. His father’s wrist snapped as she twisted it with a smooth motion, and then she spun them both and shoved him. His father fell and slid across the floor, coming to a stop a couple dozen feet away.
Ash started screaming. “No, no, please, Mistress don’t. Please, please, oh god no, please, please no.”
“Ash, you know the rules.” Sima caught hold of his hair.
He fell to his knees. “I’ll be a good boy. I swear. Please. Please don’t. I’ll be good, I promise, I’ll be good. Please don’t hurt my dad. Please.” He could hear his father saying his name. “Please, mistress.”
“I told you to remember the rules, Ash.” Sima yanked his head back to force him to look at where Lisa was walking toward his father. The Alpha was in full lupine form, claws extended. Terror shown on his father’s face. “You’re breaking the rules.” Lisa’s claws tore a huge gash across his father’s torso.
“Daddy!” Ash tried to pull away from Sima, yanking at the chains that secured him to the railing. “Daddy!”
“Talking is against the rules, Ash.” Sima’s voice was patient. She nodded to Lisa. “This is your fault.”
A smile came to Lisa’s face as she tore out his father’s throat. Then edges of his vision blurred as the world seemed to go gray around him. Ash collapsed to his knees, staring at his father’s corpse. His name was, it was… The voice in his head wailed, and then went silent.
He knelt, staring at his father’s corpse, as Lisa walked over and helped herself to the guns before picking up the briefcase. Sima unlocked Ash’s restraints, then fastened the leash back to his collar. “Come along, Ash.” She tugged lightly at leash. “Ash?”
A small whimper escaped him. Then he turned, and on his hands and knees followed his mistress out of the warehouse.
Stephan must have read her expression the moment she walked in. “What happened?”
“Lennert Achterberg is dead.” She sat down heavily on the couch.
“What?” Stephan shook his head. “How?”
“Bear attack.” Magda’s fists clenched. It took an act of will to keep them fists instead of claws. “They found his body in his office parking lot. He…” She swallowed. “Transferred a million to an offshore account, and moved enough other money around to be able to withdraw a hundred thousand cash this morning. They found a photo of Ash in his desk, taken with him posed near a paper dated a week ago.”
“Proof of life for a ransom demand.” Stephan slowly nodded. “But if they had the money…”
“I followed the scent back to another building. Found this.” She passed the note to him. She didn’t have to tell him the dried reddish brown ink was blood. From the look on his face, he’d clearly figured that out.
“Payback, bitch.” Stephan read it aloud. “Run while you can.”
“They killed him to…”
“Not your fault, Mags.” Stephan started shaking his head. “He could have called the cops when…”
“Really?” Magda sat up and glared at him. “They stole a cop, killed three others, and maimed a fourth. Why the hell would he trust us to protect his son when we can’t even protect each other?”
Silence fell for a few endless minutes. “Is there…” Stephan took a deep breath. “Is there anyone you can call in? Others, like you?”
“I cut a lot of ties. My kind…” She sighed. “More go bad than otherwise, and the good ones…” She wrapped her arms around herself. “Tend to go out in blazes of glory, if the bad ones don’t pick them off first.”
“How do we kill a werewolf?” Stephan exhaled. “You mentioned rocket launcher? I mean, you took three to the chest and got back up so I’m really open to suggestions here. Any truth to the silver thing?”
“Not really, unless you’ve got a witch handy to enchant it.” Magda shook her head. “Enough firepower will do the trick. We heal really fast, but not forever. It’s not full regeneration, which is why I have scars. Sufficient trauma will do the trick, it just takes a lot to qualify as sufficient.” She met his eyes. “I was disemboweled once.”
“Ouch.” Stephan winced. “High caliber, shoot and keep shooting?” He nodded. “Chunky salsa rule.”
“Damn, you are old.” He rubbed his neck. “I’ve got a couple shotguns and my dad’s old elephant gun slug rifle in the safe at my place.”
“I know we talked about this already, but don’t let any strangers in. They won’t do anything where there are witnesses, but if they get in here…” She sighed. “Keep safe, partner.”
“You said they transferred money. You have the account number?”
“Emailed you the details.”
“I’ll keep an eye on it. Call you the second anything moves.”
“Could be a while.” Magda sighed. “They’ve got a lot of cash.”
She threw the blue bone. Ash pounced on it, then squeaked it before bringing it back to her. He’d made no attempt to speak since she’d let him back out of the box. For that matter, he hadn’t spoken when she put him in the box. He squeaked the bone again to get her attention, and she threw it for him. Lisa was acting strangely, and Sima dared not leave Ash alone with the alpha. Nor did she dare bring him with to seek out the other wolf, even as docile as he was now. His father’s death would have started the hunt for him anew.
Cop was an interesting but not wholly unusual career for a wolf. Authority and violence drew their kind likes moths to flame. She’d wager 90% of those remaining had worn a soldier’s uniform at some point in their lives, and many would again as time passed. It was getting harder to take on new identities. Another use for a cop. They could often supply such things.
Offering Lisa to the other wolf was an interesting option. Rogues were dangerous, and Lisa was dancing toward that line. She wasn’t bothering to hide her kills. She’d left Achterberg out like a trophy, a taunt.
Ash squeaked the toy again, then pawed at her leg. He whined happily when she ruffled his hair. “Who is a good boy?” He barked at her. “Yes you are.” She flung the toy again.
Lisa put a smile on her face before ringing the doorbell. She could smell wolf all over the place, though the wolf itself was not present. How helpful that he’d invited her right into her target’s lair. Stephan opened the door, giving her a smile of his own. “Lisa, thank you for coming.”
“Well, you can’t exactly drive at the moment.” She chuckled. “It sounds like you’ve had a rough couple weeks.” She held up the bag. “I brought dinner.”
He stepped back so she could enter, and she noted he was using a cane. His other arm was in a cast. Carol had managed to get a few hits in. Typical. Her cousin hadn’t even been able to take out a human. “Smells good.” He gestured toward a table.
“It should.” She set the bag on the table. He’d cleaned up files to hide the case notes, but she noted he’d left something running on the computer. “The guy that made it is a four star chef.” She winked at him. He really was a good-looking guy, decent company, and fun in the sack.
She was going to miss him.