Murder of Crows Page 49

“Because I’m a police officer, and I asked. Or I can request that the train be held while I make inquiries at the ticket station and confirm that you are, in fact, entitled to use this car.”

“You can’t do that!”

“If he can’t, I can,” Simon growled.

Monty didn’t have to look at the Wolf to know Simon no longer passed for human. He could see the fear in the man’s eyes.

The man pulled out a ticket, waved it in front of Monty, and put it away before anyone could take a good look at it.

Monty didn’t insist on seeing the ticket again, and he didn’t ask the man to provide a name and home address. He didn’t think either of those things would be important today.

He put away his ID and sat down, allowing the man to put his luggage on the rack and take a seat.

Simon didn’t like the human who had invaded the private car. Didn’t like the look of him, the feel of him, the smell of him. He couldn’t put a paw on why letting this human live offended him so much, but if such a man got near any member of Lakeside’s human pack, and especially Meg, he wouldn’t hesitate to rip into him and tear out the liver before the heart took its last beat.

<Caw! Message for the Lakeside Wolfgard.>

He looked out the window, but he didn’t see the Crow. <I’m the Wolfgard.>

<Train will stop soon. Wolves will meet you and your humans, drive you the rest of the way.>

<Is the track broken?> he asked.

<Not if the train stops and goes home. Air is riding Tornado and will be watching.>

Wouldn’t just be this train or this station. The terra indigene would have closed off all escape from the Midwest until the enemy had been hunted down and destroyed. And in their own way, the Others were protecting the humans who might otherwise be caught up in the killing.

The conductor came into the car a few minutes later. “Last stop, gentlemen. Please prepare to depart.”

“Last stop?” the businessman said, leaning into the aisle. “What do you mean last stop? I have a ticket for—” He stopped, as if reluctant to have a policeman and a Wolf overhear his destination.

“Uncertain weather conditions have made it inadvisable to continue,” the conductor said. “You or your company will be credited for the part of the ticket not used.”

“So this is the railway’s decision?” The man sounded angry. “What happens if the train continues on to its original destination?”

“The vultures will feast for days,” Simon said.

The conductor moved with control as he retreated from the car. The businessman stank of fear.

Moving carefully to avoid exciting a predator was a sensible response from the conductor. The fear of being turned into carrion was an understandable, and pleasing, reaction from the businessman.

The train pulled into the station. Simon looked at Monty and shook his head. When Monty resumed his seat, he said, <Crows?>

<Here.>

<There is a human who will leave the car I’m in.>

<There are many humans leaving.>

<But there will be only one from this car. Watch him.>

<We cannot follow him far. We will ask other terra indigene for help.>

<Good. And tell your leaders about him. Let all the Crows know this human should not be trusted.>

<We will tell them.>

Satisfied with that, Simon pulled his carryall off the rack as soon as the businessman left the car.

“Unless I totally misread the map, we still have a ways to go,” Monty said. “Hours of travel, in fact.”

“Yes,” Simon replied. “But this is as far as the train will go. Come on. We’re being met.”

As soon as they stepped off the train, they heard the cawing. The Crows weren’t making any effort to hide their interest in the businessman, which was drawing the attention of other humans. Flustered, the man hurried into the station, where the Crows couldn’t follow. But at the doorway, dust and debris suddenly swirled and resettled.

Simon, Monty, and Lorenzo joined the passengers flowing into the station, but Simon immediately led the two men out the other set of doors to the parking lot. The minivan wasn’t any different from other vehicles, but the two males standing beside it looked too dangerous to be human, despite a clear effort to hold that shape.

He nodded to the Wolves.

<We don’t need to know your humans,> they said.

He thought Montgomery and Lorenzo would have liked knowing the names of their new companions, but the Wolves didn’t want to be that sociable, so he said nothing.

“Looks like the businessman evaded the Crows,” Lorenzo said, stalling a moment before getting into the minivan.

Simon wasn’t sure if he heard concern or relief in the doctor’s voice. Humans understood so little. “It doesn’t matter now if he evades the Crows,” he told Lorenzo. “Until he stops breathing, he can’t hide from Air.”

CHAPTER 30

They drove for several hours before they turned onto an access road that wasn’t used by humans. A short time later, the minivan pulled up within sight of the compound, at a spot where Joe Wolfgard waited for them.

The Wolves who had been their drivers and escorts got out and joined their leader.

“Stay here,” Simon told Montgomery and Lorenzo. Then he got out of the minivan and approached Joe.

“This isn’t your territory,” Joe said. “We appreciate the help you gave us to locate the enemy, but this isn’t your fight.”

“Not my territory, not my fight,” Simon agreed. “But a common enemy.”

“Yes,” Joe said. He hesitated, as if trying to decide what should be said. “I was one of the leaders who made a promise to your Meg.”

“I made a promise too.”

Joe nodded. “When the enemy is dead, you can come in and hunt for the promise. Will that satisfy your Meg?”

That will depend on the outcome, Simon thought. But he said, “That will satisfy her.”

Needing to know what was happening, Monty stepped down from the minivan. The Wolves had left the van’s parking lights on. That probably wasn’t for the Others’ benefit, since they all seemed to have excellent night vision. He thought it was considerate of them to provide light for their human guests. Then he saw them and wished they hadn’t been considerate.

Three of the Wolves had stripped off jackets and shirts and then shifted their torsos into a furred and muscled shape that accommodated heads that were fully Wolf. They looked at Monty and growled. Then they ran toward the compound.

“Gods above and below,” Lorenzo breathed as he stepped down beside Monty.

“I’m not sure the gods are going to listen to us today,” Monty said as Simon tipped his head back and howled.

Earth, riding Twister, smashed through a part of the compound’s wall, and the Wolves followed, slaughtering everyone in their path. Water followed on Fog, blinding the humans who guarded the gates of the enemy’s lair, leaving them vulnerable to the Crows, Hawks, and Owls. Air shook the buildings and rattled all the windows, finding the tiniest openings. The Sanguinati, in smoke form, followed Air. They surrounded the security guards armed with guns, drinking enough blood to render them unconscious. Shifting into human form, they opened the doors for the Wolves.

And then things got messy.

The ground shook. The wind roared.

Jean sat up in bed. Her cell wasn’t near any of the main corridors of the building, but she could still hear the Walking Names shouting and pleading and screaming.

She reached out and pushed the light switch on the wall. Once her eyes adjusted, she studied the dresser.

Most of the drawers held clothing or items for personal hygiene. But one drawer had a lock, and the Walking Names kept the key. It was just another way to tease and torment the girls.

She stood, then waited a moment to let her damaged foot accept her weight. A few shuffled steps took her from bed to dresser. She ignored the screams outside her cell and pulled the drawer open. Then she picked up the folding razor.

Pretty flowers on one side of the silver handle. A lie.

The plain designation, cs747, on the other side. Truth.

The ground shaking, the wind roaring, the screams, and the drawer that should have been locked but wasn’t. She knew what they meant.

“It’s the end,” she whispered.

Holding the razor, Jean went back to her bed and sat down to wait.

The Controller swallowed another dose of gone over wolf, slapped a fresh magazine into his pistol, then ran through a corridor filled with nightmares that would make the dark gods rejoice.

A Wolf turned toward him. He fired into its mouth and kept running, barely able to restrain his own howl of triumph as his enemy fell.

Had to get to the special room. Had more weapons there. Had victory there. It had taken three cuts on that bitch cs747 to get enough useful images to ensure his escape. He hadn’t told his staff about the attack; the chaos and slaughter were necessary for his own survival. Staff, like prophets, could be replaced. But the knowledge and skill he could offer the Humans First and Last movement were irreplaceable.

He fired again and again, hitting his own people, hitting the Others. What did it matter? He was glorious, invincible. He was the answer humans had been waiting for!

He rushed into the room that held the key to his freedom. As he stumbled over a smoldering body, he saw the automatic rifle nearby, saw the spent casings littering the floor. The weapon he’d counted on was useless!

Movement at the corner of his eye. He turned, firing his pistol at the blaze that suddenly surrounded his torso. Smoke covered his face and acquired fangs that sank into his neck. Released by Fire, the Controller stumbled forward before being knocked back when something with a Panther’s head swiped at his belly, ripping it open. As he fell, a Wolf grabbed his wrist, biting through bone and charred flesh while the Panther bit through his other arm.

Then the vampire, Wolf, and Panther screamed in rage and ran out of the room, juiced with a double dose of gone over wolf, while the Controller lay on the floor, burned, bleeding, broken. Dying.

Understanding.

That bitch cs747. Somehow she’d managed to tell him only part of what she’d seen. Instead of showing him how to escape the attack, she’d identified images that would lead him into a trap.

That … bitch … lied to him.

Monty couldn’t see much from where he stood with Lorenzo and Simon Wolfgard. But he heard more than enough.

Gunfire, quickly silenced.

Screams, prolonged and terrible.

And all of it over too fast to give a human any hope.

Then the Wolves howled, and the fog vanished as if it had never been.

“Time for us to go in,” Simon said as he started walking toward the compound.

Sirens in the distance, coming closer. Horses and riders moving toward the smashed gates of the compound.

“Should I wait at the gate and talk to the police?” Monty asked.

“The Elementals are going to deal with the police,” Simon replied. “The Midwest terra indigene want all three of us over here.” He pointed at one of the buildings.

Monty figured Dominic Lorenzo had seen some bad things as an emergency room doctor. As a police officer, he had seen some too. But neither of them had ever seen anything like what the terra indigene could—and would—do to humans they hated.

Walls splashed with blood. Floors slick with gore. But as he stood there, too stunned to move, he watched a Wolfman tear off the sleeves of a white medical coat and the shirt underneath, rip the arm off at the shoulder, and take a bite while another Wolf …

“He’s eating that man’s liver,” Lorenzo said in a voice that had the calm of someone too shocked to feel.

One of the Wolves shifted back to a mostly human head and stood up. As he gave his bloody paws a couple of licks, Monty realized it was Joe Wolfgard.

Joe said, “It’s good meat.” Then he looked at Simon. “Do you hear them?”

“I hear them.”

Monty suddenly noticed that Simon’s ears were Wolf-shaped and furry. That change struck him as almost comical compared to everything around them. “What do you hear?” he asked.

“The girls.”

<Let these humans have some of the girls,> Simon said.

<Why?> Joe protested. <We’re taking these weapons away from humans. Why give some of them back?>

<Humans would call it a show of good faith. We can’t let these girls loose in the wild, so we’re going to need help. Give these humans a reason to help. I’ll make sure the girls aren’t used as weapons against us—even if I have to kill them.>

<Much will change in Thaisia because of this. We will want some help in return.>

<Yes,> Simon said. <Lakeside will help.> There would be plenty of time to explain to Lieutenant Montgomery and Dr. Lorenzo that he had included police and doctors in that promise. It was the only way to give the two men a reward for standing witness to the destruction of the enemy called the Controller.

Monty watched Joe’s paws shift into something resembling hands. The Wolf held up two digits. “You can each take two girls.”

“Six girls?” Monty said. “There are only six girls in the compound?” Left alive? he added silently.

“You can take six,” Joe repeated.

“What about the other girls?” Lorenzo asked. “They’ll need …”

“Six or none,” Joe snarled. “That is five more than we promised the Lakeside Wolfgard.”

“We’ll take six,” Simon said. He turned and walked away, his ears pricked toward a sound the humans couldn’t hear.

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