She looked over the rifle Stephan had set on the table, then raised an eyebrow. “So, when you said elephant gun…”
“I meant my grandfather literally hunted elephants with it. And rhino, water buffalo, etcetera.” He shrugged. “Classic mighty whitey.” He poked the box of ammo. “No silver slugs though.”
Magda nodded. “Can you shoot it with a busted arm?”
“It’s more my shoulder going to be an issue, but yes.” He nodded. “I can get off a couple shots, at least, though I might need some stitches replaced afterward.” Stephan looked up at her. “Did you get what you need?”
“I did.” Magda looked away before looking back at him. No matter how this ended, her life here was over. She’d already hidden away the things she couldn’t bear to lose. “You know if you come with me, then even if this works…”
“I know.” He smiled. “You’re my partner, Mags. I’ve got your back.” He looked down at the gun. “And you have saved my life twice recently, so I kind of owe you.”
“There are two of them. Lisa will be stronger and faster.” She took a deep breath. “She’ll also be focused on me. Any idea what the other one looks like?”
“Name was foreign. Sima, I think Lisa said. When I asked who Sima was, Lisa said she was her roommate.” Stephan frowned. “That’s all I have.”
“She’ll be holding Ash. So…”
“He’s just a kid, Stephan.” She shook her head. “A pup.”
“I know.” He took a deep breath. “Just hoping I’m still a decent shot with this thing.”
“Alright. Let’s go set our trap.”
“What’s the plan?” Sima raised an eyebrow at Lisa.
“Kill her.” Lisa looked down at her claws. “Then you can ‘persuade’ him to unfreeze our accounts.”
Sima shook her head. “You have to know this is a trap.”
“Of course it’s a trap.” Lisa smirked. “But she won’t call in backup. She has more to lose than I do.” She put a hand on her hip. “Or do you really think grandma can take the big bad wolf?”
“You thought bracing her in her den would be simple, and —” Sima was cut off by Lisa grabbing her and slamming her into the wall.
“Is there a problem, witch?” Lisa’s eyes were golden.
“Just pointing out they may have another trick.” Sima bowed her head subserviently.
Lisa snarled, then dropped her before stalking away. Sima watched her go, then looked down when Ash nuzzled her hand. She petted him, ruffling his hair with her fingers. “It will be interesting to observe the outcome, won’t it boy?” He whined up at her. “Perhaps when this is done, we shall find ourselves with a new alpha.” He tilted his head and whined inquisitively. “And you’ll be a good boy for a new alpha, won’t you?” Ash barked. She smiled. He really was a sweet pet.
“They’re already at my house.” She handed him the binoculars.
“Which means they’ll be heading to mine, if they don’t have someone watching it already.” Stephan nodded. “You set?”
“Provided you know what the hell you’re doing.” She frowned. “Come to think of it, how did you know what the hell you were doing?”
“I looked it up on the Internet.”
“They have that on the Internet?” She raised an eyebrow.
“They have everything on the Internet.” He shrugged. “It’s not just porn, you know.”
“Nerd.” She shook her head. “You were careful?”
“I looked it up on your computer, so it’ll trace back to you.” He sighed. “All they’ll have on me will be circumstantial.”
“Thanks, partner.” Magda smiled. “Let’s bait the bitch.”
He took out his cell phone and dialed the number. “Lisa, sweetheart, I’ve got someone who wants to talk to you.” Stephan handed her the phone.
“I have to admit, I’m kind of impressed.” Lisa walked through the warehouse to where the old bitch was waiting. “I didn’t think you’d actually show. Figured there’d be SWAT or something.”
“You’re young.” Magda shook her head. “Barely forty. You have no idea what you are doing. You have no control.”
“Bitch, I am in total control.” Lisa scented the wind. “And you brought my toy with you. After I kill you, I’m going to have some fun with him.”
“That assumes you can kill me.” Magda smiled.
Lisa snarled and shifted partially, her claws and fangs growing. She leaped at the older wolf. Something seared against her arm, and then she was sliding across the ground. She stared down at her wrist and saw blisters already rising on the burned skin. “The fuck?”
Magda lifted a hand. She wore some kind of silvery piece of jewelry on it. “There were a lot more witches four hundred years ago, little girl.”
That wouldn’t work a second time, but it had done the trick. The alpha wolf was clearly pissed as she started walking in a slow circle. Magda shifted her mind rather than her body, calling up meditations learned centuries ago. The alpha was strong, but raw and untrained. Lisa leaped at her again, telegraphing her movements well in advance. Magda dodged again, sending the wolf flying, this time raking her own claws along the alpha’s side.
By the time Lisa stood again, the wounds were visibly healing. “You should have joined up, bitch.” Lisa bared her teeth. “We could have been good together.”
“You’re not my type.” Magda smirked at her.
Lisa’s form shifted all the way to full were. Magda couldn’t help but feel just a little concerned at the nearly nine feet of teeth, claw, and muscle standing before her. Lisa howled and charged.
Magda turned and ran. She shifted, not to were but to wolf, ducking and racing through the warehouse. This was her territory, not Lisa’s. The alpha was tearing it apart behind her. Come on, Stephan, hurry up.
Sima smirked at the sounds of combat. Idly, she petted Ash. “We shall have to see who emerges, won’t we, Ash?” He whimpered. “Our Alpha.” She smiled. “The strongest will lead.” She started to stand to see if she could get a look through the window.
Something slammed into her chest, and she heard a crack of thunder. She fell backward, tumbling down the embankment behind her. Her hand touched her chest, and came away drenched in blood. She put it back, and started to focus her will.
The shot rang through the warehouse even over the noise Lisa was making. Magda increased her speed, doubling back and past the raging alpha. She leapt through the window, shattering through the glass, and shifted back into a human as she landed.
Then she pressed the button on the detonator.
Lisa heard the sound of glass breaking and turned toward it. So that bitch thought she could…
Something chimed. Several somethings. She caught a glimpse of a red light blinking, and the world around her exploded.
Ash put his hands over his ears at the loud noises. It took him a few moments to realize someone was saying his name. He looked up to see a familiar black man coming toward him. “Ash. Hey, Ash.” The man smiled. “Come on, we need to get you out of here.”
He shrank back. Mustn’t leave mistress. It was against the rules. He growled as the man came closer, and the man gave him a confused look. “Ash?” He frowned. He took a step closer. Ash retreated, and his back came up against the car. He shook then dropped to the ground and slid himself beneath it, whimpering.
“Ash, come on, we…” The man managed to get to his knees with a pained expression on his face. “Ash, we’ve got to move. We don’t have a lot of time.” He held out a hand. “You remember me, right? Stephan? Detective Evans?”
His whole body started to tremble. Where was mistress? Where was the Alpha? He belonged to the Alpha. He whined again.
The thing crawling out of the remains of the building was burned beyond recognition. Magda couldn’t help but feel a small measure of pity for what could have been. She walked toward it, and took a deep breath. “Find peace.”
Then she tore Lisa’s heart out.
She crept back up, and couldn’t quite hide a smile. It wasn’t like she hadn’t warned Lisa it was a trap. A sound caught her attention, and she turned. A black man with a cane was trying to coax Ash out from under the car. Ash was cowering and whimpering. “Ash, hey.” The man was crouched somewhat awkwardly. “Hey, come on now.” He moved a little closer to the car.
The widening of Ash’s eyes must have alerted him to her approach. He spun, and she caught the cane he thrust at her. She yanked it out of his hand and tossed it aside. “You must be Stephan.” She reached out and grabbed him by the throat, hauling him to his feet. “Are you the one that shot me?”
“That…” The man winced. “Was supposed to keep you down a bit longer.”
Sima smiled. “Let’s go see who won, shall we? See whom we shall call Alpha.” She snapped her fingers. “Ash, come.”
Magda narrowed her eyes when she saw Stephan sitting next to Ash. A dark-skinned woman stood a few feet away, covering Stephan with his own hand gun. She sighed. “I told you to run.”
“That was the plan…” Stephan glanced at the man next to him. “But that plan kind of depended on him actually being able to come with.”
The werewolf shook her head. “I’ve trained him far better than that.” She gave Magda a respectful nod. “It seems there is a new Alpha. Congratulations.”
“And who are you?” Magda took a step closer.
“I am Sima.” The woman smiled. “Your plan was good. I admit, I did not see explosives coming. It’s rare I underestimate anyone.” She bowed. “I would like to offer my services.”
“Your…” She glanced at Ash. He was wearing no clothing save for a collar around his neck, and was clearly cowering. “Services.” Slowly she shook her head. “I do not require your services.”
“Then I suppose I must be on my way.” Sima shrugged.
“You’re not —” Magda took another step toward her.
Sima tilted the gun she was pointing at Stephan. “You could certainly kill me.” Sima nodded. “But not before I kill him.” She shrugged. “Come along, Ash.”
Ash gave her a confused look. He looked at Magda, and made a whining sound. Stephan grabbed Ash’s hand as the young man started to obey Sima’s command. “Magda won.” Stephan shook his head at Sima. “You said it yourself. She’s the Alpha. She leads the pack.” Ash glanced at Stephan, and then slowly resumed his position beside the man. Sima’s eyes narrowed.
“Get moving, bitch.” Magda growled. “Let’s see how fast you can run.”
“Likely not as fast as you…” Sima shrugged. “So I’m going to need a head start.” She lowered the gun slightly and fired.
Stephan cried out in pain as the bullet hit his already wounded leg. “You…” Magda started toward her.
“You can save him, or chase me.” Sima shrugged. “Your choice.” She turned, shifting into a sleek black wolf as she did, and vanished into the night.
She growled as she knelt next to Stephan. “You just had to get yourself taken hostage again.”
“I shot her in the chest with a damn elephant gun.” Stephan grimaced as she put pressure on the wound. “Thought I had more than two minutes.”
Magda reached up and grabbed his belt, then used it to bind the makeshift bandage in place. “You’re going to be fine.”
“I know.” He nodded. “I can hear the sirens.” He looked up at her. “Magda, you’ve got to take Ash and go.”
“What?” Her eyes widened.
“Look at him, Mags.” Stephan winced. “He’s gone. He saw all this. They’ll never let him out of the psych ward if…” He grimaced. “You stole explosives from evidence. They’ll…” He sighed. “And that bitch is still out there. Sic her.” He smiled. “I’ll make something up, tell them I came here to stop you and that you and Ash were in the building when it…” He met her eyes. “Dammit, Magda, get moving.”
“I’ll contact you.” She leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
“Carefully. You’re dead, remember?” He smiled up at her. “I’ll be fine. Go.”
She reached out and took Ash’s hand. “Ash, come.”
He barked once and followed after her.
His Alpha led him away into the woods. When he stepped on a sharp rock and yelped, she turned and picked him up, carrying him to where she’d left a jeep. She set him inside the passenger seat, then grabbed a blanket from the back and covered him with it. “Ash, do you know who I am?”
She was his Alpha. He nodded and barked at her. She sighed, and touched his cheek. “It’s alright, Ash. I’m going to help you.” She buckled him in, then looked over her shoulder at where smoke was still rising, then walked around the vehicle to get into the driver’s seat. “You’re safe now, Ash.”
Safe. His Alpha would keep him safe. He nodded, and smiled at her.