Adam sat on the bus stop bench, a few doors down from the detective’s house. He’d retrieved his clothes after the older man, Ted, had set his cat form outside the door. His cell phone showed a couple text messages. He’d texted back that he was still watching, even though it was a lie.
The young man who’d held him had been Sima’s pet, the one she talked about fondly and claimed had been stolen from her. The sound of her name had been trauma enough to send him hiding under the bed. If Sima had her way, that’s all he’d be.
At dinner, Wren had smiled. She’d laughed and joked, and she’d been his Wren again for a couple precious hours. Trauma affected different people in different ways. He couldn’t just abandon her, not when she’d refused to leave him to the mercy of the hag. She had kept her word, and gotten them both out and…
He looked down at his hands, then stood. He’d taken two steps back toward the house when the phone rang. His hands shook, but he managed to keep his voice calm when he answered. “Wren?”
“Mi corazon…” Wren’s voice suddenly trailed off. “No, that’s Spanish. What’s it in French again?”
“Mon coeur.” He smiled.
“Ugh, for a romance language that just doesn’t work. What about German?”
“No, that’s worse.”
“It’s fy nghalon in Welsh.”
“I bet you a blow job you can’t say that three times without choking.”
“Fy nghalon. Fy nghalon. Fy nghalon.” He smiled.
“Be honest.” Wren laughed. “You shape-shifted your tongue for that.”
“Mitt hjärta. Mogo wangu. Mijn hart. Cor meum.”
“How the hell are you even doing that?”
“I have google translate on my phone.” He smiled. “It’s toku ngakau in Maori.”
“Anyway…” He could almost see her rolling her eyes. “I was calling to see if you’d seen anything yet.”
“I was just about to call you. Had to sneak back to my phone.” A thousand options ran through his head. “They got back. Sounds like them running across you and Rosa was a complete accident.” He hesitated. “They apparently made some silver bullets just in case it happens again. Wren, I’m not sure this is a good use of our time.” He crossed his fingers.
She sighed. “Maybe you’re right. Alright, check in with your team and see if they learned anything else.” She was quiet again for a couple seconds. “Hey, there is a little cafe called ‘Spice of Life’ there on the boardwalk. Why don’t you meet me there and we can peek in at some of the galleries?”
“I’d love to.” He smiled.
“It’s a date.” She hung up.
For a long moment, he just stared at the phone in his hand. Then he looked back up at the house. Technically, nothing he’d said had actually been untruthful. That should get it past Sima, and from the sound of things the people in the house didn’t need much longer to… He realized his hands were shaking, and he stuffed the phone back into his pocket before turning and walking away.
Wren greeted Adam with a kiss. “What did your team find?” She sat down at the cafe table.
“Since both men went back to Michaels’ house, Stasya found little. She picked the lock and took a look around Williams’ house after I let her know he was with Michaels.” He shrugged. “According to her, the guy is pretty boring. According to Patrick, he gets that from his uncle the priest.”
“I see.” She waited until the server had taken their orders, then shrugged. “Well, that makes the next part easy enough.”
“Next part?” Adam raised an eyebrow.
She set a small case on the table. “Sima says a dose of that should keep them out for a good two hours. You’ll need to make sure they either get the doses simultaneously or are alone, so one passing out doesn’t tip the other off. Try not to give them more than a double dose though, we need them alive.”
He looked down at the case. “You want us to abduct a couple cops?”
“Adam, you took out an alpha werewolf. These guys should be a cakewalk for you.” She laughed. “Have your team grab one, then…” She leaned in. “It’s derived from a jellyfish venom. You pulled off scorpion venom. Think you could do this?”
“I think a jellyfish is poisonous rather than venomous and…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Wren, why do you need these guys?”
“I need to know how that one resisted my magic.” She chuckled. “And Sima wants the other one for a pet.”
“You’d let Sima do that to someone.” He narrowed his eyes.
“I…” She blinked. “What do you mean?”
“When she says pet, Wren…” He leaned forward. “What she means is breaking a guy down psychologically until there is nothing left of him. Until he’s just a shattered toy for her to amuse herself with. This guy is a cop. He’s one of the good guys. And you’d let her —”
Her eyes narrowed. “It’s not like that, Adam.”
“You’re my pet, and you’re not broken.” She shook her head, then put her hand atop his. He was stronger than he’d ever been before. He’d taken out an alpha werewolf.
“I’m not your pet, Wren.” He leaned back in the chair, and met her eyes before gesturing at the case. “I’m your weapon.”
“Adam.” She frowned. “It’s not like that. You’re amazing. Nobody can do what you can do.” She smiled reassuringly. “Look, I’ve got good news.”
“Can’t wait to hear it.” He shrugged.
“Sima and I talked to Giroux. Soon as we are done here, we’ll start making arrangements to go get Coraline.” She grinned at him. “We’ll set her up in her own place in Paris and see what she can do.”
“You want…” He took a deep breath. “To bring my little sister into the Cabal?”
“Of course.” Wren smiled at him. “Imagine if she could do half of what you can do. And you can help train her.” She went quiet as the server put their food down, then leaned toward him again. “You can take her to all those museums.”
“I would…” He slowly nodded. “Love to take her to those museums.”
“See.” She leaned forward and kissed him. There was the slightest pause before he returned the kiss. “It’ll be great.”
“She wants us to abduct a couple cops because psycho werewolf lady thinks one of them is pretty?” Patrick stared at him.
“Yep.” Adam nodded.
“Kid…” Patrick exhaled. “Adam, buddy, friend, little brother, guy who turns into giant fish to save my ass…” He shook his head. “I hate to break this to you, but your girlfriend is nuts.”
“Baby Bear, I am woman, so believe me when I say this…” Stasya put her hands on his shoulders. “No matter how good the sex might be, you cannot fuck the crazy out of them.”
“She’s right.” Patrick nodded. “I’ve tried.”
“Breaking up with her really isn’t…”
“Adam.” Stasya took a deep breath. “Cabal has a couple other witches. You are the only shapeshifter.”
“We’re your team, Adam. We’ve got your back here.” Patrick smiled.
“I really uh…” He looked away. “You know that talisman she carries?”
“I think so, yeah.” Patrick nodded.
“Long as she has that…” He looked down at his hands. “I’m her little bitch.”
“Explain.” Stasya folded her arms.
At first the words were difficult, then they just started pouring out as he told them about the hag and the ritual. About how they could take over his mind, make him into nothing more than a puppet. How the teleportation thing didn’t actually require his consent or even his cooperation. Stasya’s face grew darker as he spoke until she finally had to turn away. Patrick never took his eyes off Adam. When he finished, he sighed. “Worst part is there is this stupid little bit of me that keeps thinking I can still save her, that I’ll find the right thing to say and it’ll go back to the way it was and now…” He swallowed. “Now she’s going to go get my sister.”
“It gets destroyed, you die. You touch it, you black out. It needs to remain in pretty constant contact with a witch, or it decays and you die.” Patrick nodded. “I understand all that right?”
“Yeah.” Adam exhaled.
“Patrick, you think your power is enough to keep decay from happening?” Stasya turned to face him.
“If it isn’t…” Patrick shrugged. “I don’t know. We’ll think of something. Problem is going to be to figure out a way to get it away from her without her noticing. She ain’t exactly weak.”
“I am willing to hit her over the head with blunt object.” Stasya shrugged. “No, scratch willing. Eager.”
Adam stared at them. “What do you…”
“I told you, Adam.” Patrick met his eyes. “We’re your team.”
Stasya nodded. “We got your back, Baby Bear.”
It took him a few minutes before he could make his voice work again. They gave him the time. “Then, uh…” He took a ragged breath. “Couple other things you should know.” He rubbed the back of his neck, then started telling them about what had happened in the house.
“Seriously, what is so hard about a snatch and grab?” Wren raised an eyebrow at Adam. She grabbed his towel as he walked by on his way to the dresser, yanking it off him. When he tried tugging it back, she concentrated. It ripped out of his hand and stuck itself onto the ceiling. He glared at her, and she leered at him. Sima had suggested telling him to be naked when it was just them in the room, and she had to admit it was a tempting idea. And it wasn’t like being naked really bothered him that much these days. “You’ve had four days now.”
“They are bachelor cops, Wren.” Adam shook his head. “Though we think we might have a workable plan for getting into the donut store, we are still stymied by trying to figure out which donuts to dose.” He shrugged. “Might have to neglect subtle and go for dart guns or —”
The door burst open and Sima entered. The woman was grinning. “They are here.”
Wren blinked. “Who is here?”
“I had a hunch, and it paid off.” She waved a DVD case. “Matthias and Rosa went back. So I went down to the morgue.” She stuck the DVD into the player, then started skipping through. Then she slowed the play speed. Wren watched as the pretty cop led none other than Matthias himself into the morgue. The cop opened one of the drawers, then pulled back a sheet on what she recognized as the bartender’s corpse. The camera didn’t record audio, but it was clear Matthias was identifying the body. She watched as they filled out some paperwork, then left the morgue again.
Then she frowned, and turned to Adam. “How’d you miss this?”
“Morgue has security.” Adam shook his head. “Wasn’t a good way in.”
“Matthias claimed her body, started the paperwork to arrange a burial.” Sima waved a hand. “He’s a loyal wolf, so he’s not going to leave town until that much at least, is settled.”
She turned to Adam. “Find him. Track him to where the kids are. Then kill him and collect them.” She smiled. “Guess this won’t be a waste of our time after all.”
“I’ll get on it.” Adam grabbed his pants and started getting dressed.
“Won’t be necessary.” Sima shook her head.
Sima took a second DVD out of the case, then exchanged the DVDs. This time the video showed entrance to the morgue. Matthias and the pretty cop walked into the entryway where a black man with a cane was waiting. The three of them spoke briefly before all three left together. “Adam…” Sima turned toward him. “Care to explain how your team missed that?”
Adam started shaking his head. “Matthias is a wanted fugitive. Why the hell would we think he’d make contact with cops? We’ve been looking for an opportunity to snatch them, and that wasn’t going to happen in the morgue.”
“The part that really interests me…” Sima paused the video where the black man’s face was clearly visible. “Is him.”
“Why him?” Wren raised an eyebrow.
“His name is Stephan Evans, formerly a detective himself. I’m the reason he walks with that cane.” Sima narrowed her eyes. “He and his werewolf bitch stole my Ash.”
“Forget the cops for now.” Wren nodded. “Locate the kids, kill Matthias, and bring us that man there.”
“And my Ash.” Sima turned to face Adam. “I want him back unharmed.”
“I understand.” Adam nodded.