Mercy has escaped her captors, and is doing her best to flee. She knows very little about her enemies, and has stolen a few clothes and an e-reader with internet connectivity. Her panicked flight has brought her to Prague. With some trepidation she enters a small internet cafe . . .
In Prague, apparently, they do not use euros. They use something called koruna. Also in Prague—or at least in the little wifi restaurant in Prague—people are kind.
There were ten people in the restaurant, including the staff: five Czech women, three Czech men, and two Russian tourists, both women. We spoke roughly a dozen languages between us, though I might have missed one or two, but no one spoke English.
One of the Russians spoke a little German. She didn’t have quite as much as I did, though to be fair, my German tends to be Zee German—what is not centered around cars and things mechanical is closer to the language spoken in Iceland (which hasn’t changed in the last thousand years) than anything spoken in modern Berlin. So maybe her German was fine, and mine was the problem.
I think she understood that I had gotten separated from my tour—which is the story I made up on the spot. My bus, I explained, had gone on to Milan with my luggage and things. I was going to use my e‑reader to get on the Internet and call home. Home would then relay information for me.
It was actually useful that none of them could speak to me because it reduced the lies I had to tell them. And also made it harder for them to offer me a place to stay—which is what I think one of the Czech men was offering. No one appeared worried, so I don’t think he was offering me what it looked like he was trying to.
They (collectively, it felt like) took my twenty-euro note and, after consulting a cell phone for the current exchange rate, carefully counted out 550 koruna in various bills and coins. The waitress brought me out a soft drink and a thick sandwich, waving away my attempts to pay her.
I pulled out my e‑reader (stolen) and turned it on. There had been no charging cable, or I’d have taken it, and the power bar on the screen told me I’d have to be fast—which was interesting with an e‑reader that probably had less than half the computing power of Adam’s watch. Setting up a generic e‑mail account at one of the big anonymous servers—CoyoteGirl was taken as were several variants—took up too much time. I needed something that would cue the pack without attracting attention. I didn’t have to just worry about the vampire, I was pretty sure that various government agencies were doing their best to keep track of our correspondences.
I wrote a short e‑mail that said:
Prague is lovely this time of year. You should visit.
I sent it to everyone in the pack (and a few out of it, like Zee’s son Tad and Tony) whose e‑mail addresses I remembered. Then I turned the e‑reader off to conserve its battery. I ate the sandwich and drank the soda.
Just before I turned it off, the e‑reader had told me it had 20 percent power and I should plug it in or it might shut itself off. I knew I should leave the café, wait a few hours, and come back. That’s what I’d planned to do.
But the lure of contacting home was too strong.
I told myself I needed to know about the Prague werewolves. If I could round up some support from them, it could be useful. If not, then I could hop a bus for somewhere else and try again. Waiting until later might not be practical, I reasoned. I’d run across the scent of three different werewolves on the way here. In a city the size of Prague, with only one pack, that either meant that the pack was centered in Old Town or that they were hunting me.
Even if they didn’t know about me, the kidnapped by the Lord of Night but subsequently escaped mate of the Columbia Basin Pack Alpha, coyotes don’t smell like dogs—not quite. Eventually, if I kept running around on four feet, they’d get interested and track me down. I had gotten lucky last night, and I didn’t like to rely on luck. I needed to know if the Prague werewolves were tied to the Lord of Night right this minute.
I turned on the e‑reader and checked my e‑mail.
I had one response from Benjamin.Shaw@IT.PNNL.gov, it said:
OMF**KING G*D*MN Flyingf**kingMonkeys. WHERE? Are you safe? How did you get away? DID you get a f**king way?
The asterisks were his, apparently his work had had a discussion about swear words in professional e‑mails with him. Being Ben, he’d actually increased the swearwords, but added asterisks. It made me laugh even as my eyes watered with relief. Of course Ben would be checking his e‑mail—computers were his job.
Prague. As ever. As usual. Yes. What can you tell me about our coworkers in Prague? Considering dropping in for consult.
Ben was from Great Britain originally, so he might actually have more insight into the werewolves here than I did.
Hairyb*ttbunnies, girl. Good for you. Prague boss is dangerous bast*rd. Has a real h**don for the boss at your first job. No one but the two of them knows why that I ever heard—and there has been a lot of discussion about it. So someone is suppressing information. It wasn’t helped when we came out of the closet— something our colleague in Prague was very unhappy about. Can you avoid?
Okay, so there was bad blood between the Alpha here and . . . the boss at my first job. If I called the werewolves coworkers, then my first job would be the werewolf pack I grew up in. So Bran. Well, that could explain why I thought there was an issue with the Alpha here. I might have overheard a conversation sometime. It wouldn’t have been important to me at the time, but I’d filed some alert concerning the Prague Alpha.
Is he working with the Italians?
E‑mailing back and forth wasn’t as good as texting. The anonymous e‑mail server took its own sweet time downloading.
No. But the next closest company, in Brno, is. They were a part of Gévaudan and are now running scared of Prague. Am on phone with Sam’s brother right now. Sam’s brother says that Prague CEO, Libor, might get a kick out of helping you as a One‑Up‑Manship move on Sam’s father—and because he hates Italians more than anyone. He owns bakery in Old Town. Don’t know address. My boss is headed to Italy. Does he know you are visiting Prague?
Ben was on the phone to Charles, the Marrok’s son who was, among a lot of other things, an information guru. If he said Libor was a good bet, I’d take it.
He knows I’m on my own, and he can find me via GPS if he needs to find me.
He’d know that GPS was our mate bond because that was one thing it was pretty consistently good at. The e‑reader gave me another warning.
Out of battery on borrowed e‑reader, sorry.
I sent the e‑mail, then the e‑reader died. I wasn’t sure if it had had time to upload my last message or not. I turned the device off and slipped it back into my backpack. As I got ready to go, one of the men—I think he was the restaurant manager—brought a bag of food to the table and gave it to me.
He was an older man with kind eyes, a rumbly voice, and he smelled of cigars and coffee. He said something solemnly as if he were making a vow, reaching out and gently brushing my bruised cheek. Behind him, the older woman who had brought out my free lunch wiped away a tear.
I had no idea what he said, but my nose could smell the memory of his sorrow and his sincerity now. I felt like a fraud for a moment, deluding these people into believing I needed help. And then I remembered that I’d been violently kidnapped, hauled to Italy and was now wandering Prague with one stolen set of clothes, 550 koruna, which translated to a little more than twenty dollars, and a defunct e‑reader. Maybe I did need their help.
I stood on my tiptoes and kissed his cheek. The whole place burst into applause.
People are pretty cool.
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