Home > Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4)(13)

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson #4)(13)
Author: Patricia Briggs

Zee was sweating by the time the car was out of sight. He took his hand off the building and the paint returned. "I didn't do it for you," he grouched. "I just didn't want her hanging around longer than necessary."

We both stepped away from the door to look at the painting that was now mostly covered by a big, fat-lettered red "LIAR." The paint of the crossed bones was thicker than the spray paint, so even though I couldn't see most of the color, I could see the outline of it.

"The vampires dropped Stefan in my living room last night," I told him. "He was in pretty rough shape.

Peter... one of Adam's wolves, thinks whoever did it was hoping Stefan would attack me and we'd both be out of the way. Stefan wasn't in any shape to talk much, but what he did manage to convey was that Marsilia found out I killed Andre."

Zee traced his fingers over the bones and shook his head. "This might be vampire work. But, Mercy, you've been putting your little nose so many places it doesn't belong; it could almost be anyone. I'll talk to Uncle Mike - but I expect your best bet for information about it is Stefan, because it doesn't feel like fae magic. How badly is Stefan hurt?"

"If he were a werewolf, I think he'd be dead. You think this is magic?" It felt like that to me, but I was hoping I was wrong.

Zee frowned. "For an evil bloodsucker, he's not a bad sort." High praise from Zee. "And yes, there is magic here, but nothing I'm familiar with."

"Samuel thinks Stefan will be all right."

Tony turned the corner in his unmarked car, which was discreetly police modified with extra mirrors, a few extra antennae, and a bar of lights along the back window, hidden from the casual eye by extra-dark glass. He slowed when he caught sight of the damage. He pulled up next to us and opened the door.

"You decorating for Christmas early, Mercy?" Tony could blend in even better than I did. Today he looked like a Hispanic cop... like the poster child for Hispanic cops, handsome and clean-cut. When he was playing drug dealer, he did it better than the real thing. I'd first met him playing a homeless man.

There was nothing magic or supernatural about him, but the man was a chameleon.

I glanced at the building again. He was right. If you didn't pay any attention to the words, it had a sort of Christmasy look to it. The green paint tended to be short top to bottom but long front side to side. The red paint was fat and closed up. It looked sort of like garlands with red balls hanging down.

There was even "Ho, ho, ho," if you skipped around a little and deleted an "e" on the last "ho." Our green painter had a limited vocabulary and occasionally mixed up a professional working woman with a garden implement.

"Not really Christmasy thoughts," I told Tony. "But the colors are right. Actually, if the white wasn't so dingy, it would almost look festive - like that little Mexican restaurant in Pasco - the one with the really hot salsa." The fresh colors made the original paint job look tired.

"Your boyfriend still got surveillance video going?"

"Yes, but I don't know how to run it."

"I do," said Zee. "Let's go take a look."

I glanced at him. Vampires, remember? We don't want the nice human cops to see the vampires.

He gave me a bland look that clearly said, If the vampires were clumsy enough to get caught by thecameras, that was their problem. I couldn't object out loud, but if the vampires made themselves obvious, it would be Tony who was in danger.

Well, I thought as I led the way into the office, at least vampires looked like everyone else. As long as they didn't display their fangs for the camera - or throw a car around - it was unlikely they'd be spotted for what they were. And if it was obvious... Tony wasn't stupid. He knew a lot about how the fae and the werewolves worked, and I knew he suspected that there were a lot more nasties still keeping quiet about themselves.

While Zee played with the electronics, Tony looked at me.

"How are you?" He smelled of worry, with a little of the metallic scent of protective anger.

"Really tired of answering that question," I replied blandly. "How about you?"

He flashed his pearly whites at me. "Good for you. Do you think Bright Future did this?"

If our minds kept working this much in sync, I'd pity poor Tony.

"Sort of. I think this is Tim's cousin's work," I told him. "She's a member of Bright Future, but she didn't do this under their banner. Everything was directed at me - not the fae."

"You want to press charges?"

I sighed. "I'll call my insurance company. I'm afraid they might force me to press charges in order to be reimbursed. I can't afford to hire someone to repaint it unless I use my insurance, and I can't take the time off work to repaint it myself." I still had other things to pay for - the damage a fae who wanted to eat me had done to Adam's house and car, for instance. And Zee had told me he was collecting the rest of what I owed him on the business. Fae cannot lie, and we hadn't had time to work that out.

"How about Gabriel's family," Tony suggested. "There are enough of them, and they could work after school. It would be cheaper than hiring professionals and... I think they need the money."

Gabriel Sandoval was my man Friday, a high school student who came in weekends and late afternoons to do paperwork, answer phones, and do whatever else needed doing.

I had a sudden vision of the shop being overrun with little Sandovals hanging from ladders and ropes. I'd let them loose in the office for cleaning, and it was almost hard to recognize the place - for a bunch of kids they were amazingly industrious. "That's a good idea. I'll have Gabriel call his mom as soon as he gets here."

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