Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(16) by Ilona Andrews
He smiled at me.
Sometimes he . . . “scared” would be the wrong word . . . alarmed me. The Guild had no idea what was about to hit it.
We turned onto Chamblee Dunwoody Road.
I braced myself with my hand against the dashboard as our Jeep hit a bump in the road. The vehicle jumped, Curran made a sudden right, and the Jeep screeched to a halt. My seat belt jerked me back.
“There it is.”
A large two-story house of brown brick rose at the end of a driveway. The house had been built pre-Shift, before magic and technology started their crazy waltz. Modern builders kept their windows small. Less chance of something with teeth, glowing eyes, and an appetite for human meat surprising you in the bedroom after a hard day of work. The windows of this house were large enough for Curran in his beast form to go through. Mrs. Oswald compensated for the windows’ size by installing two-inch steel bars over them. Most of the grates were intact, but the bars on a large window above the garage were bent to the sides, as if something had smashed against them with great force.
A beige woman’s shoe with a high heel lay on the ground midway up the driveway. A little farther on, a matching beige purse lay on the lawn. Mrs. Oswald must’ve come out, seen something that alarmed her, and run back inside, dropping her purse and her shoe. Whatever she saw scared her so much, she just left her things sitting there.
I rolled my window down. Curran did the same.
“I don’t smell any blood,” he said.
No blood was odd. If this was the house, Leroy and Mac should’ve gotten here by now. They’d left almost an hour before us. The street was empty. Where the hell were those idiots?
“Eduardo’s scent is here too, but old and faint. I do smell something odd. Smells like a wolf.”
He nodded. “With a touch of bittersweet scent to it.”
From what the mercs had said, the creature threatening Ms. Oswald’s cats had wings. A wolf with wings? Russian mythology included a wolf with wings, and a prominent volhv, a Russian pagan priest, had one as a pet. I really hoped the Russians weren’t involved. Dealing with volhves meant dealing with witches, and claiming Atlanta had not endeared me to them in the least.
We sat quietly.
Minutes dragged by.
A high-pitched shriek rang from the sky above. It started on a high note, a forlorn mourning cry, and built on itself, growing harsher and sharper until it shredded the air like a high-velocity crossbow bolt. A dark shape swooped from the sky and rammed the bars. The steel grate shuddered from the impact. For a moment I thought it would fall out of the brickwork, but the bars held.
The creature fell to the ground, landing on all fours. Gray fur covered its lean body, sheathing its flanks and long lupine tail. Its legs terminated in furry, owl-like feet armed with sickle-shaped talons the size of my fingers. Two massive wings spread from its shoulders. The beast turned toward us. An eaglelike head crowned its powerful neck, complete with a dark beak the size of a hatchet.
“Kate?” Curran asked.
“It’s a wolf griffin,” I murmured. “Lion griffins come from Crete and Greece. This guy is from North Africa. They are mentioned in Berber folklore. Something about a giant bird and a wolf mating.”
“Anything I need to know?” Curran asked me. “Does it spit fire?”
I’d run across a wolf griffin only once. “Not that I know of. The one I encountered before didn’t, but I can’t guarantee this one doesn’t.”
The wolf griffin ducked its head and fixed us with an unblinking predatory stare. It was at least forty inches at the shoulder.
“Do we take care of it or do we wait?” I wondered.
“We could kill it.” Curran focused on the griffin. “That way when those two scumbags show up, we don’t have to deal with them and the griffin at the same time. Besides, we need to get into the house to talk to the owner, and that’s not happening until this thing is dead.”
We both looked at the griffin.
“This is the second cat-hunting creature Mrs. Oswald reported,” I thought out loud. “Someone or something is deliberately targeting her cats. If we kill it, there is a good chance that Mrs. Oswald’s mysterious nemesis would just send something else.”
“It’s not our job,” Curran said.
“I know, but what if something worse shows up the next time?”
The griffin spread its wings, took a running start, and flew up. We watched it rise with every beat of its wings, until it became a dot among the clouds. We didn’t even know if Mac and Leroy would do this job. Maybe they’d decided not to show up.
The griffin swooped down and rammed the bars again. They bent. He hung on for a long moment, his claws scraping at the glass, and dropped down to the driveway.
“The next time he hits, he’ll get through,” I said. If he managed to get inside, whoever was hiding inside the house would get ripped to pieces. This was no longer about cats.
“We net it,” Curran said. “I can wound its wings and we’ll wrap it in the net.”
“Once we’re done with Mac and Leroy, we can let it run home,” I finished. Tracking it through the air would be hard, but tracking it on the ground would be a piece of cake. “Right to its owner.”
“Sounds good to me.” Curran narrowed his eyes, measuring the distance between us and the griffin. “Mind playing bait again, baby?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Curran and I opened our doors at the same time. I slipped out, held my arms out to make myself bigger, and moved forward. The wolf griffin focused on me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Curran gliding soundlessly across the pavement.
I took another step. That’s it. Easy does it.
The griffin spread its wings. Its hackles rose, the fur standing straight up like spikes on a hedgehog.
The griffin bent its neck, turning its wings downward, so the entire width of its gray-and-black dappled feathers faced me. It looked huge. That’s right, pretty boy. Show me all you’ve got. I’m a threat and I’m coming for you.
Curran was almost in pouncing range. He could leap from where he was, but the griffin looked agile enough to dodge and then it would be gone. Three more feet and we’d be there.
The roar of an enchanted water engine rolled down the street, coming toward us. Argh. That was the last thing we needed, some idiot neighbor to spook it.
I took another step. The griffin clicked its beak at me, the two honey-colored irises glowing faintly. It was a shame to hurt it, but it couldn’t be helped. Curran gathered himself, about to leap.
Easy . . .
A blue FJ Cruiser hurtled toward us, spitting thunder, and screeched to a stop. The doors of the cab popped open. A large man in black pants and a tiger-stripe camo T-shirt jumped out, combat-rolled, struck a pose hefting a crossbow, and fired two bolts at the griffin.
Curran leaned out of the way, preternaturally fast. The left bolt whistled past his side and planted itself in the garage door. The right bolt bit into the griffin’s throat. The beast shrieked in outrage. A second man fired a crossbow over the hood of the truck. The bolt punched into the griffin’s chest. The great wings beat once, in a desperate attempt to launch the body off the ground, and went limp. The griffin sank to the pavement. Honey eyes shone at me for the last time and dimmed.
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