This is the second short snippett from Night Broken we're posting. Sometime in early February we'll pull both snippets down and post the entire first chapter. Happy reading!
“Gary Laughingdog said that I should try to be interesting if I wanted to see you,” I told Coyote as soon as I was reasonably close to the SUV.
Coyote laughed. “That one has been trying to avoid me for most of his life.” His white t-shirt set off his long black braid, tied with a pink scrunchie.
“Maybe if you didn't get him sent to prison when you visited, he'd be more interested in seeing you,” I suggested, trying not to stare at the scrunchie. It had a white lamb dangling from a chain, and I was pretty sure he'd worn it just for me. I didn't reach up to touch the lamb on the necklace around my neck.
“Gary needs his life shaken up,” Coyote told me, then he belched with more sound and fury than a thirteen-year-old boy with a roomful of girls to impress.
“If you get me or mine sent to prison, I'll hunt you down,” I told him seriously.
He grinned at me and half slid, half scrambled down the back of the SUV to end up standing on his own feet. He left the bottle on the vehicle's roof. He began moving off down the driveway at a brisk walk. When I didn't immediately follow, he turned around and began walking backward and waving his hands for me to join him.
His braid swung around when he did, the little lamb flapping with his movements. I was not going to say anything about the stupid lamb if only because I was certain he wanted me to say something about the stupid lamb.
“Come. Come,” he said. “Come take a walk with me.”
If I hadn't needed a favor from him, I might have stayed behind. But I did — and I wasn't opposed to some exercise to get rid of the miasma of fear and despair my nightmare had left me with. Our feet crunched on the dry dirt and gravel.
“I don't understand why you are so determined to hang around with werewolves. They are all about rules. And you”—he slanted a laughing glance at me'“ like me, are all about breaking them.”
There was something about walking down a deserted road in the dark that made for thoughtful silences. Especially when the deserted road was too long, too unfamiliar, and even at this hour of the night, too deserted. Coyote probably had something to do with that.
Finally, I said, “I don't know about that. The werewolf's rules are all designed to keep people safe.”
“Safe.” He tested the word. “Safe.” His nose wrinkled. “Who wants to be safe? I haven't noticed you running to safety.”
I bit my tongue. I liked being safe. Being in Adam's arms was safe. Talking to Coyote was anything but—and where was I? I supposed he had a point.
“Safe is good,” I told him. “Not all the time, no. Sometimes, though, it is better than water in the desert.”
He made a rude noise. I thought more about rules and werewolves. I glanced over my shoulder, but I couldn't see Honey's house— or any other house for that matter. Coyote was definitely doing something. I hoped that Adam went right back to sleep and hadn't heard me open the back door. He'd be worried.
“Rules keep the people I love safe,” I said, thinking about Adam. “It is important to me that they are safe.”
He nodded like I had said something smart. Then he said, “And when rules don't keep them safe, we break the rules.”
I could agree with that— and almost did. If it weren't for that little bit of smugness on his face, I would have. I wonder what rules he was contemplating breaking.
“Admit it,” he said, when I didn't say anything more. “Admit it. Keeping all the rules is boring. Tell me you don't want to short- sheet Christy's bed— or put ipecac syrup in some of that too- delicious food she is always cooking.”
“I'm not childish,” I told him. “And I'm not petty.”
“No,” he agreed sadly. “More's the pity.”
“And how do you know how good her food is?”
He just smiled and kept walking.
I took a deep breath. Time to ask him about the walking stick. I'd given it to him as a gift, and he'd taken it as a favor. I wasn't sure how he'd react when I asked for it back.
“There he is,” Coyote said, sounding delighted, and he broke into a sprint, the stupid lamb bouncing with his stride.
I ran as fast as I could, but Coyote stayed ahead of me. I couldn't see who it was, but I wasn't surprised when, after a minute or two, the path turned, and there was Gary Laughingdog sitting in the middle of the road with his back to us. I stopped beside him, but Coyote had walked around, so Gary couldn't avoid looking at him.
“I hate you,” Gary said with feeling. He threw a small rock and nailed a T-post on the side of the road. He picked up another, tossed it into the air, and caught it on the way back down.
Coyote threw his head back and laughed. “I wondered how much longer you'd stay locked up in the gray box. You didn't used to let them hold you for so long.”
“Knowing I was safe from you there,” Gary said, throwing the rock in his hand with barely controlled violence, “I planned on staying there as long as I could. My conscience drove me out before then.”
“Conscience,” mused Coyote. They looked alike, he and Gary Laughingdog. “I wonder where you got that?”
“Quit tormenting him,” I said sternly.
Gary twisted half-around to look at me. “Go tell the sun not to rise.” He stood up and dusted off the back of his jeans. “Looks like you got too interesting, Mercy. But did you have to let him include me?”
“I have a gift for you both,” said Coyote grandly. “Come along, children.” He started off down the road.
“We might as well,” said Gary in the voice of experience. “If we don't, something horrible will come out of the night and chase us. We'll end up dead, or doing exactly what he wanted anyway. Cooperation saves all of us a lot of trouble.”
Coyote snickered. “What?” Gary said, sounding aggravated.
Coyote turned around and walked backward. He held up a hand. “You.” He held up another hand as far from the first as he could. “Cooperation.”
Gary sneered at him. Coyote sneered back, and I saw that Coyote's eyes and Gary's were the same shape. Then the moment was over, and Coyote turned around and faced the way he was going.
Gary started to follow, but I stepped in front of him and stopped, shaking my head. I waited until Coyote was far enough ahead of us, so we could talk in relative privacy before starting down the road. Relative, because I was certain Coyote could still hear us; he wasn't that far ahead.
“Why aren't you asleep?” I asked Gary.
“Because I'm a fugitive from the law, and there was a lawyer sleeping in the same room with me,” he said with feeling.
“Kyle wouldn't have turned you in.” Gary shook his head. “Eventually, he'll realize who I am, and, if he doesn't want to lose his license to practice, he'll have to turn me in.” We walked a little while, and he said, “I don't really want to get any of you in trouble for harboring an escaped prisoner. I've done what I needed to do, told you what I knew, and it is time to make myself scarce. It isn't the first time I've been on the run from the law.”
He looked down at his feet, then gave me a rueful smile. “Though most of the time I've deserved it more. I can head over to one of the Montana reservations, and they'll let me stay until the state of Washington decides it isn't so concerned with some idiot held on a nonviolent crime. If I'd walked while on parole, they might not even look for me. Once the fire dies down, I'll get a fake ID and show up somewhere else as someone else. About time to do that anyway.”
“All that was true earlier when you said you'd spend the night,” I said.
He looked at me, then away. “One of your wolves saw me looking at Honey and told me about her husband. That's who she's got following her around, right? She's not going to be able to see anyone else until she lets him go.”
I'd had the thought that it was Honey's fault that Peter's shade was still hanging around, too. “Probably not, no,” I agreed. “He died not very long ago.”
“She's interested in me,” he said. He flashed me that grin again, but I saw behind it to how alone he was. “I'm not just being vain, though I own that as well. But it hurts her that she's interested, and I think she's been hurt enough. It was time for me to leave.”
Coyote began whistling a song that sounded suspiciously like “London Bridge Is Falling Down.”
“Screw you and the horse you rode in on,” Gary yelled, and Coyote laughed. To me Gary said, “So I'll leave. I'll become someone else and maybe stop by in a few years.” He didn't mean that last sentence, I could tell, and he knew it— so the lie was for himself and not me.
“Fingerprints?” I said. “DNA? Facial- recognition software? Hard to lose yourself in this day and age.” That had been the main reason that the werewolves had finally come out to the public.
He raised an eyebrow. “You mean you don't know how to fix those?” Then he shrugged, gestured with his chin toward Coyote. “He taught me a trick or two. He can teach you, too. Gary Laughingdog is no more. I'll pick a different name and be someone else.”
“Sounds lonely,” I said. He shrugged again. I saw a beer can that looked like one I'd passed earlier. I kicked it gently and sent it rolling to the side of the road. “If you'd gotten me up, I could have taken you to the bus station and bought you a ticket.”
“Hitchhiking is safer.” He looked at Coyote. “Usually. If Honey didn't live out in the middle of freaking nowhere. I had to go looking for a less rural area that might have someone who'd pick up a hitchhiker—”
Coyote briefly interrupted his whistling to say, “Or a car to hot- wire.”
Gary clenched his jaw. “Or a car to hot-wire,” he agreed. The clenched jaw told me it bothered him to steal a car— and that he'd have done it if necessary. Oddly, both of them made me like him a little more. I've done some hard things in the name of necessity.
“If I had started earlier or not had to walk so far, maybe I could have just gotten a ride instead of walking the same half mile over and over again until I finally realized that the reason the road looked the same wasn't just because around here a lot of roads look the same. I probably hiked two hours before I noticed. I have a little experience with odd happenings; mostly it means that matters are out of my control. Again. So I sat down and waited for Coyote to show up.”
Sympathy didn't seem the right response, so I just kept walking.
Eventually, the stiffness left his shoulders, and he seemed to mellow a bit. He asked me, “Did you get a chance to ask him about the fae artifact you need from him?”
“No,” I said.
“Shh,” said Coyote, trotting back to us. “Time to be quiet now. This way. Come with me.” He stepped off the road into the darkness.