Vision in Silver Page 96

He fought hard, biting and clawing, until he broke through the human wall, providing an escape for his pack.

<Simon!> Nathan howled.

A Wolf alone had no chance against a mob.

More shots and screams and . . .

“Officer down! Officer down!”

Simon hesitated. Nathan was a Wolf, one of his own. Nathan needed him. But as the Courtyard’s leader, his pack included Crows and Grizzlies and vampires . . . and even a few humans.

Sorry, Nathan. Sorry, Meg.

Turning away from the doors, Simon leaped back into the fight.

*   *   *

A car pulled into the Courtyard’s customer parking lot. Two young men, college age, got out and walked toward Main Street. As they passed Howling Good Reads, they looked in the windows and paused when they spotted an old man standing near the counter. Not knowing, or caring, who he was, they laughed and gave him the finger. When he smiled, revealing the fangs of the Sanguinati, they shuddered and hurried to cross Main Street before the traffic light changed.

Another car pulled into the lot. A man and a woman, a little older than the other two humans, walked up the street and went into the Stag and Hare.

Two more cars pulled in, as if the Courtyard’s lot was suddenly public parking. Humans walking or driving past wouldn’t have thought there was anything unusual when a van pulled into the lot. Three men exited from the van’s back door and casually walked a few steps to the glass street door that led to the efficiency apartments above the seamstress/tailor’s shop.

*   *   *

Tess didn’t hear anyone in the hallway, but she felt the presence of someone outside the efficiency apartment being used by Lieutenant Montgomery and Lizzy.

Her coils of hair turned the pure black of death as she stepped out of the apartment, but she kept her eyes lowered, just in case the presence wasn’t an intruder. A direct look from her—eyes meeting eyes—would kill her prey, but even looking at her when she was in her true form would damage flesh.

Looking at the floor, Tess saw smoke that gradually became an old-fashioned black velvet gown. “Nyx,” she warned.

“My eyes are closed.”

No reason to doubt Nyx, but Tess still focused her eyes on the wall next to the Sanguinati’s shoulder, allowing her to see without actually looking at the other female.

“While it’s possible to harm us in our smoke form, it’s very hard to kill us,” Nyx said. “An earth native like you might succeed in killing one of us, but you wouldn’t survive the fight.”

Harvester. Plague Rider. For years she had kept her secret from the rest of the Lakeside Courtyard. Now it seemed there were many who knew what she was. What bewildered her was that they didn’t seem to care that one of Namid’s most ferocious predators lived among them. Normally her kind lived on the fringes, avoided and feared. Acceptance, true acceptance, was a rare and valued gift.

“What do you want, Nyx?”

“A van pulled into the customer parking lot. The enemy will be here at any moment.”

“Then you should leave.”

“No, I should stay. A bullet can hurt you, even kill you, if the enemy is able to fire a gun before you can harvest enough life to incapacitate him.”

True. And if the enemy knew anything about her kind and fired without looking at her, she would be at risk. “What are you suggesting?”

Nyx smiled. “That sometimes it’s more practical, and more fun, to hunt in pairs.”

*   *   *

Grab the human weapon to block a blow while his teeth tore into flesh. Dodge the blows that could break bone and leave him helpless.

Simon couldn’t keep track of his pack. Humans and Others didn’t know how to fight as a unit to bring down the enemy, and their defense of the weaker among them was more like adult bison bunching together to protect the calves. That worked well enough for big animals with hooves and horns, but it wasn’t going to work for the pack. Despite the number of humans they had already wounded or killed, more enemies were closing around them. They had lost the chance to run, and when there was no longer enough room to fight . . .

<I hear sirens!> Nathan shouted.

Help. Maybe. But would it come in time to save any of them?

*   *   *

The Crowgard watched from the trees and rooftops, memorizing the faces of the humans who had left their vehicles in the lot. The Sanguinati watched from the shadows, waiting for the right moment to snatch the van’s driver.

Moving casually and acting as if they belonged, the three men picked the lock on the glass door and went up the stairs.

Stealth and speed. One picked the lock on Merri Lee’s apartment and slipped inside. The other two went to Montgomery’s apartment. But when they went inside, they had one startled moment to look at Tess’s face, to look into her eyes. In that moment, in that one look, she harvested enough of their life force to cause legs and arms to fail and hearts to flutter. The two men collapsed, twitching on the floor, too weak to reach for their weapons.

Tess collected two guns and a short, flexible, leather-covered club. She looked toward the doorway and the column of smoke hovering on the other side.

<Safe?> Nyx asked.

<Not yet.> With effort, Tess hid her true nature behind the human mask. When her coiled hair relaxed a bit and green streaks broke up the death color, she looked at Nyx. <Now it’s safe enough.>

“Blair can take them?”

Tess nodded. She bent and patted their pockets again. “No identification.”

Nyx smiled. “No identification, no obligation to any human.” She sniffed delicately. “At least yours didn’t make a mess. Mine peed on the rug. We’ll have to figure out how to clean it—and how to explain the urine smell.”

“Blame Skippy,” Blair said, joining them. “We’ll say he got into the apartment somehow and peed on the rug while he was sniffing around for cookies. I doubt a human nose can distinguish between Wolf and human urine, so the human pack won’t know the difference.”

“The pack will know we expected trouble,” Nyx said.

“Thieves broke in, found nothing, and went away,” Tess said. She wagged the short club. “Don’t know what this is. A weapon of some kind.”

Blair took it, slapped it against his palm, and winced. “Meat tenderizer?”

One of the men made a sound.

Prev Next