Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson #9)(16)

by Patricia Briggs

“How many people do you have injured?” I asked Tony quietly as the other police officers worked off stress and fear by exchanging rude and inappropriate comments.

Tony shrugged. “We got the civilians off on our side. Pasco got them off on theirs. Some idiot tried to protect his car and got thrown into the river. Sheriff’s patrol on the river says he hit wrong and broke his neck. We lost one of our guys who was distracting the troll from a car while Pasco officers cleared the passengers out.”

“Ate him,” said Willis grimly, though he kept his voice down so he was talking just to Tony and me. “I’ve known that man for ten years. Lousy cop. He was lazy and good at making sure that someone else took the call. He stepped up today, though. No kids, no wife.” He shuddered. “No body.”

“Willis?” said a muffled voice. I turned my head to see Willis put his hand to his ear and hold the earpiece tighter.


“You see that gray van? West side of the bridge, Kennewick-bound lane, stopped just over the arc toward you? The one with the caved-in side?”

“I see it.”

“There’s someone in that van. The left side’s smashed, but the right side door slid open a minute ago. Looks like one of the werewolves, one of the first two, might have opened the door. The one who has been turning into a wolf.” That would be Zack, I thought.

There was a pause. “I can see him again. There’s still someone else in the van, a woman. They aren’t coming out. Shit,” he said. “Oh damn. There’s a car seat. They’re trying to get a baby out of the car seat. But they’re having trouble. There’s something wrong with the woman, and the wolf isn’t equipped to deal with a car seat.”

Willis stiffened. “We’ll get someone over there.”

In my mind’s eye, I thought about what would happen to a police officer—a dozen police officers who tried running in front of the troll to get to the car. The troll had eaten one of them already. Adam and the wolves would do their best, but humans were too slow.

I wasn’t slow.

I’d promised Adam I wouldn’t be stupid. But there was a car seat and a baby. I considered what might be the problem that Zack hadn’t been able to get them out of the van. Baby seats attached to the car with seat belts. Babies produced a lot of sticky substances that could make buckles tough to open, and the belts were strong. Werewolf jaws do fine with rending and ripping, but they might have trouble with seat belts attached to fragile babies.

I felt my pockets to make sure, but the only thing I had in my pocket was the essential oil bottle Zack had stuffed there. My concealed-carry gun was in its holster in the small of my back, but that wouldn’t be much use if I had to cut a seat belt.

“Hey, Tony,” I said casually. “Do you have a knife I can borrow?”

Tony was talking to one of the officers about something else. He didn’t even ask me what I needed it for. Just handed me a sleek black pocketknife. I took it and slipped it into my pocket, where pocketknives go, right?

I had watched the troll. He had moved fast, but not as fast as the werewolves could because he had tried to drop on them and failed. If the werewolves could outrun him, so could I.

I was pretty sure I could outrun him.

Willis briefed everyone on the new problem because they were human and couldn’t overhear the bluetooth earphone. As he talked to his people, I considered my actions carefully because I’d made a promise to Adam.

I could outrun that troll if I had to—better than that baby trapped in the van could outrun it. Better than any of the officers who already had casualties.