Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(17) by Ilona Andrews
Did that just happen?
“Yeah, bitch!” the first man roared. “Yeah! Come at me!”
Curran spun around, his face terrible. He sprang at the man, grabbed him, and hurled him across the lawn.
His buddy in urban fatigue pants and a black T-shirt got the hell out from behind the truck, brandishing his crossbow. I moved at him, but my sword was securely hidden in the leather sheath on my back and Curran was bigger and scarier, so Camo Pants ignored me. “Hey! Hey, you let him—”
I kicked him in the gut. It was a low front kick that took him right above the groin. People overextended on these kicks, but the trick was not to kick. The trick was to lift your knee high and stomp. Camo Pants’ arms went toward his legs, and he went backward and slammed against the truck.
On the lawn, the loudmouth rolled into a crouch, his crossbow still in his hands. Curran started toward him. The loudmouth fired. Curran leaned out of the way just enough to let the bolt whistle past him and kept coming.
I yanked Camo Pants’ weapon out of his hand and threw it aside. He swung at me. I caught his wrist and twisted it, right and up. He went down on his knees and I kneed him in the face. He took a moment to come to terms with it, and I locked his elbow with my left hand and twisted, just in case he developed any interesting ideas.
The loudmouth swung his crossbow like a hammer. Curran caught it, jerked it out of the man’s hands, and broke it in half. The pieces of the crossbow went flying. Curran grabbed the man, pinning his arms to his body, and lifted him off his feet. The skin on Curran’s face crawled.
“No,” I called out.
Curran’s human features melted. Bones shifted as his jaws extended, growing thicker, stronger, his skull expanded, and gray fur sheathed his new face. The merc in his grip stared at the new monstrous face. The rest of Curran remained completely human. I never met a shapeshifter who could do a partial transformation the way he did. His control over his body was absolute.
The merc opened his mouth, wide eyes staring into the violent gold in Curran’s irises. “Mwa maah maaah . . .”
Curran unhinged his jaws. If he took that man’s head into his mouth and bit down, the merc’s skull would burst like an egg dropped on concrete.
“No,” I repeated.
“He’s gonna kill him,” Camo Pants wheezed. His eyes were watering. Being kneed in the face will do that.
Curran’s fangs emerged from his jaws, becoming longer and longer . . . I never realized how creepy it was to see teeth growing in real time. Here’s one for my nightmares.
“Curran, you can’t bite his face off.”
“Yes, I can,” Curran said in a monster voice.
“He stole George’s car. And he shot me.”
“He missed, because I’m fast and I moved out of the way. If I bite his head off, he won’t shoot me again.”
“He’s gonna kill him!” Camo Pants tried to pull out of my grip and I twisted his arm a little higher.
“If I need your help, I’ll ask you for it,” I told him. “Curran, please don’t bite his head off.”
“Because it’s illegal. Technically you assaulted him first when you threw him across the lawn.”
“I didn’t throw him very far.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I could’ve thrown him straight up and let him land on the pavement.”
“That would also be illegal.”
“You keep bringing this ‘illegal’ thing up as if it means something to me.”
I couldn’t tell if he was just scaring them or if he really intended to kill them.
“As a favor to me, please hold off.”
“Fine.” Curran loosened his grip slightly. “Want to add anything to this discussion?”
The big merc sucked in a hoarse breath. His face shook with the strain of making words come out. “. . . Fuck you!”
Oh, you dimwit.
“Leroy!” Camo Pants barked.
“And fuck your bitch, too!” Leroy declared.
Curran looked at me. “How about now? Can I twist his head off now?”
“Still illegal,” I told him.
Curran squeezed Leroy’s shoulder. Bones groaned. Leroy clamped his mouth shut.
“Don’t!” Camo Pants yelled.
Since Curran was playing with Leroy, this knucklehead had to be Mac. “Don’t worry about him. Worry about me. What did you do to Eduardo?”
“I don’t know any Eduardo!” Mac wheezed.
I twisted his arm a fraction more. He cried out.
“I know your name is Mac. I know that’s your redneck cousin Leroy. I know you’re in Eduardo’s territory, muscling in on his gig, and I know that you stole the FJ Cruiser from his fiancée. Look at me. Look at my eyes.”
Mac looked up at me. His face went white.
My voice was barely above a whisper, but I sank a lot of rage into it. “Eduardo is my friend. His fiancée is my friend. She is his sister.” I pointed at Curran. “Tell me everything you know or I’ll break your arm right here.” I tapped his shoulder. “Then I’ll keep breaking it here and here and here. No amount of medmagic and steel pins will fix it. It’ll never work right again and it will always hurt.”
Mac stared at me, his eyes glassy. Words came tumbling out. “We don’t know what happened to Eduardo. This was his gig, but the lady called this morning and said Eduardo didn’t show up yesterday. We took the one-armed chick’s car. We were going to do her man’s job anyway, and it’s a nice car, so we were just going to borrow it.”
“Lie better,” Curran said, his voice cold. “She came looking for Eduardo last night. You didn’t know you would be doing this job until you got a call today.”
Mac’s voice broke. “What the hell do you want from me, man? Yes, fine, we took the damn car! We took it! Do you know how much a double-engine car costs? It was just sitting right there. We figured if that dickhead didn’t come home, he was probably dead anyway. What the hell would his woman do with that car? She’s got one arm anyway. We needed a car, so we took it.”
And they would do it again. I could hear it in his voice. I’d met his type before. Some people had a moral code. It might not have matched the current laws, but it was still a code. Mac and Leroy’s code consisted of one sentence: do whatever helps Mac and Leroy. It didn’t matter who got hurt. It didn’t matter that a person they stole from would have to do without or could’ve been injured or killed. If George’s half-eaten corpse were discovered this morning because she was murdered while walking home, they wouldn’t feel bad about it. They would simply keep going.
If they killed Eduardo, it would have to be a shot to the head with a silver round from far away. There was no way they could’ve beaten him in a close and personal fight, and they knew it. And if they somehow managed it, they would’ve taken his car and his equipment and they would be wearing it, because they were too stupid to hide it.
I glanced at Curran. He shook his head slightly. Leroy didn’t smell like Eduardo’s blood.
“Do you know what the Guild does with mercs who steal equipment from other mercs?” I asked.
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