Dead Heat Page 16

“But she made it,” Max said. “Why didn’t they just call the ambulance? Why Change her?”

“She saved you,” agreed Anna. “But it took us too long to get here. By the time Charles found her, she was dying from blood loss.”

He swallowed.

“Mom is dying?” asked Mackie.

Darn it, thought Anna. Forgot the little ones were listening in.

“I thought she was turning into a werewolf like ánáli Hastiin,” Mackie said. “Dying is like Mrs. Glover. Dying is gone forever.” Her voice rose and wobbled.

Her little brother picked up on it and started to cry. “Mrs. Glover was nice. I loved Mrs. Glover. She gave me candy.”

Max looked overwhelmed.

Anna gathered herself together and said, “I don’t know who Mrs. Glover is, but your mother is strong. Brother Wolf told me so, and he never lies.”

“Who is Brother Wolf?” asked Max.

She hadn’t meant to bring Brother Wolf out in the open. His presence confused people who had been werewolves for centuries.

“He’s the big wolf,” said Mackie. “The one who made ánáli Hastiin listen.”

Anna tilted her head at the little girl who smelled like witch—witchborn and observant, too.

“That was Charles, Anna’s husband,” said Max.

“You are both right,” she said. “That was Charles and Brother Wolf.”

“You call your husband Brother Wolf when he is in his wolf shape?”

Anna decided that a technical discussion would lower the emotional distress and possibly give the kids some useful information. Charles wouldn’t mind; Brother Wolf wasn’t a secret.

“No,” she said. “I call Charles Charles. And I call Brother Wolf Brother Wolf. It has nothing to do with the shape they wear, or that they share the same body.”

“I’m lost in an episode of Doctor Who,” said Max without even a hint of humor. “Explain that to me.”

“Werewolves,” Anna told him, “have two natures. The human part and the wolf part. But the wolf isn’t like a real wolf—it’s a lot more angry than that.” How did you tell a kid his mom was going to be a monster? Maybe she should have thought this through better.

“Like the Incredible Hulk,” Mackie said thoughtfully. “Nice Mommy and Werewolf Mommy. We’re not supposed to bother ánáli Hastiin when he’s grumpy.”

Anna looked at her for a moment. “Exactly. Most werewolves learn to control the wolf, the Hulk part, in a year or two.”

“Does Great-Grandfather have a Brother Wolf?” asked Michael.

“I don’t know,” Anna told him. “Most werewolves don’t actually think of themselves as two people, not like my husband does. But he was born a werewolf and it made him strange in a lot of ways. To him, his wolf is a separate being who lives with him inside his body.”

“I thought werewolves weren’t genetic,” said Max. “Kage isn’t a werewolf and neither is Joseph, even though Joseph’s father is.”

Anna nodded. “You are right. Except in Charles’s case. His mother was Flathead, one of the Salish tribes, a wisewoman with magic of her own. Werewolf women can’t have babies, but she did anyway.” As I will. “She died when Charles was born.”

“I could be a werewolf puppy,” said Michael thoughtfully. “Then no one could steal my toys.”

“That happened a long time ago,” said Mackie impatiently. “Don’t be a baby. Mrs. Glover made Joshua give you back your robot and say ‘I’m sorry.’”

Michael’s bottom lip stuck out. “I liked Mrs. Glover.” Tears gathered.

“Mrs. Glover was my teacher,” Mackie said. “She liked me better than she liked you.”

“Shut up, you freaks,” snapped Max. “Shut up.”

“‘Shut up’ is a bad word,” said Michael, incipient tears interrupted by the chance to point out his older brother’s fault.

“Just shut up anyway.”

Anna touched his arm. “Who is Mrs. Glover?”

“My teacher,” wailed Mackie. “She died and never came back.”

“She did too like me,” said Michael, crying in earnest.

“And now Mommy is dying,” Mackie said. “Everyone is dying.”

“Stop it,” said Max tightly. “Just stop.”

“Your teacher where?” Anna asked. Mackie might be old enough to go to elementary school—but Michael wasn’t.

“Preschool/day care,” said Max. “They both go. Different classes. Mackie is five, but she was born after the September deadline, so she’ll go into kindergarten next year.”

“So your mom leaves work, picks up the kids, and then goes home, right?” Anna said.

“That’s right,” Max said. “I get home an hour or so after they do. Hey, Mackie, was Mom okay when she picked you guys up at the day care?”

Mackie had been bickering with Michael, but Max’s question made her fall silent.


“Mackie was in the time-out chair,” said Michael. “Her teacher was mad at her, but Mommy wasn’t.”

“Yes, she was,” said Mackie in a small voice. “She didn’t sound like it when she talked to Miss Baird, but when Mommy was talking to me in the car she got mad. She didn’t talk to me at all, and then she sent us to watch TV.”

“That’s unusual?” Anna asked.

Max nodded. “Mom doesn’t do the silent treatment, not ever. My grandmother—her mom—abused it. Mom swore she’d never do that to us. She yells.”

“Once she threw dishes at Daddy,” Michael said. “But she hit the floor instead of him. Then he laughed and cleaned up the glass. I didn’t touch the glass.”

“She wasn’t trying to hit him, just make a point,” said Max. “But yeah, Mom is loud. She doesn’t do the silent treatment, and she doesn’t like the kids to watch TV by themselves.”

“Half hour a day,” said Mackie. “Michael gets a show and I get a show, unless we’re at Granddad’s. There’s the park.”

“And Mom or Kage or I watch those shows with them,” Max said. “She’d never just send them in on their own.” He glanced at Anna and gave her a half smile. “Especially not after Grandma let them watch Supernatural; Michael had nightmares. She says she can’t control what they watch at their granddad’s house, but she can make sure they’re not watching grown-up shows at home.”

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