cover image cover image

In Red, with Pearls


I’m real good at waiting. I reckon it’s all the time I spent herding cows when I was a boy. Kyle says it’s the werewolf in me, that predators have to be patient. But Kyle knows squat about herding cows. I’d say he knows squat about predators, too, but he’s a lawyer.

I stretched out my legs and put the heels of my boots on the desk of Angelina the Receptionist and Dictator of All Things Proper at Brooks, Gordon, and Howe, Attorneys at Law. Angelina would have thrown a fit if she’d seen my feet propped up where anyone could just walk in and see me.

“Image, hijo,” she’d said to me when I started working for the firm. I kinda liked it when she called me hijo. Though I was a lot older than any son of hers could possibly be—she didn’t know that.

She’d given me a disapproving look. “It is all about image. Your appearance must be just so to get the clients to spend their money, Warren. They like expensive offices, lawyers in suits, and private detectives in fedoras and ties—it tells them that we are successful, that we have the skills to help them.”

I’d told her I’d wear a fedora when the cows came home wearing muumuus and feather boas. I consented, however, to wearing ties to work and to playing nicely during office hours, and she was mostly happy with that.

Office hours had been officially over for a good while, the tie was in my back pocket, and Angelina was gone for the day. I’d have been gone for the day, too, but one of Kyle’s clients had come bursting in all upset and he’d taken her into his office and was talking her down.

Kyle was usually the last one out of the office. This time it was a sobbing client who suddenly decided that the jerk who’d slept with her best friend was actually the love of her life and she didn’t really want to divorce him, just teach him a lesson. Tomorrow it would be a mound of paperwork that would only take him a few minutes to straighten up and a few minutes would stretch into a few hours. He tended toward workaholism.

I didn’t mind. Kyle was worth waiting a bit for. And, like I said, I’m pretty good at waiting anyhow.

A noise out in the hall had me pulling my feet off the desk just before the outer door opened and a young woman in a sleek red dress with a big string of pearls around her throat entered the office in a wave of Chanel No. 5; she was stunning.

“Hey,” she said with a big smile and a dark breathy voice. “Are you Kyle Brooks?” Her ears had pearls in them, too. Her hands were bare, though I could see that she’d recently been wearing a wedding ring. Dating a divorce attorney makes me notice things like that.

“No, ma’am,” I told her. “After hours here. Best you try him tomorrow.”

She leaned over Angelina’s desk and the low-cut dress did what sleek little dresses are built to do in such circumstances. If I ran that way, I might have counted it a treat for the eyes. “I have to find Kyle Brooks.”

She was close enough that the feel of her breath brushed my face. Mostly mint toothpaste. Mostly.

“Well, now,” I said, standing up slowly and sauntering around the desk as if I found her all sorts of interesting. Which I all-of-a-sudden surely did. “Just what do you want with Kyle, darlin’?”

Her smile died and she looked worried. “I have to find him. I have to. Can you help me?”

Kyle’s office was down the hall and in the back. I could hear the woman he was with talking at him as she had been for the past half hour.

“Think I can,” I said, and led her the opposite direction, to the big conference room at the other end of the offices. “Stay right here for a couple of minutes,” I told her. “He’ll be right in.”

She’d followed me docilely and stopped where I told her to. I shut the door on her and hightailed it back to Kyle’s office.

I opened the door without knocking and ignored Kyle’s frown. “Would you do me a favor?” I asked, tossing him my cell phone. “Call Elizaveta—her number is under w.” Under witch; he’d figure it out, he was a smart man. “Tell her we have an incident, a her kinda incident, we’d like some help with. ’Scuse me, ma’am.” I tipped my nonexistent hat to his indignant client before turning back to Kyle. “Might be the kind of thing we should clear the offices for.”

“Your kind of thing?” Kyle asked obliquely. Something supernatural, he meant.

“That’s right.” I ducked out of his office and ran back to the conference room.

“One minute seventeen,” the beautiful woman was saying when I rejoined her.

She stopped counting when the door opened, her body tense. When she saw me, she frowned. “I need Kyle,” she said.

“I know you do,” I told her. “He’ll be right here.” Hopefully not until after he got his client out safely and called Elizaveta Arkadyevna, my wolf pack’s contractual witch.

I heard the front door of the office close and thought that I should have done something to make Kyle leave, too. But I hadn’t known how long our guest would have stayed put—probably exactly “a couple of minutes” from the sounds of it. Not enough time to get Kyle to do anything except call Elizaveta—which he’d done because I heard Elizaveta’s cranky voice; my cell phone distorted it just enough that with the door between us, I couldn’t tell what she was saying.

I wasn’t the only one who heard it. The zombie turned its head to the door.