Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(19) by Ilona Andrews
On the street the spider-scorpion dashed at Curran. The meat chunk of its head that powered the left mandible looked mangled. Curran must’ve punched it when it reared.
I ran at it.
The spider thrust with its front leg. Curran batted it aside. The second leg stabbed, too fast. The narrow blade of the front segment sliced into Curran’s shoulder. He grabbed the leg with his left hand and smashed his right palm against the joint. The front segment broke off.
I lunged between the insect’s back legs, jumped, and landed on the spider-scorpion’s back. The creature flailed. I stabbed Sarrat as deep as it would go and clung to it.
Curran ripped the chunk of the spider-scorpion’s leg out of his body and buried it in the insect’s side, right under the broken limb.
I dragged myself up along the abdomen, trying to get to the head and the two black balls of the eyes.
Curran grabbed the broken leg and kept stabbing, hitting the same spot. Ichor flew. The insect screeched like nails on chalkboard and flailed back and forth.
I wouldn’t get to the eyes. It would throw me off.
I yanked Sarrat out, grabbed onto the edge of the wound I’d made, and sliced into the creature’s thorax, trying to saw its abdomen from its chest.
Curran kept stabbing.
Pierce, pull out, pierce, pull out, pierce . . .
Curran bit into the spider’s leg and ripped it out.
Pierce, pull out, pierce . . .
Moments flew by.
My breath was coming out in ragged gasps. Die, damn you. Die already. Die!
The spider-scorpion shuddered.
Curran leaped onto its head. Claws flashed and the spider-scorpion went blind. I kept carving. Curran began punching the back of the spider-scorpion’s head.
The thorax broke off from the abdomen. The gut swayed and fell, splattering the translucent innards over the pavement in a wet splat. The chitin sheathing the spider-scorpion’s head caved in and broke. The front part of the creature careened and fell, taking us with it. I blinked and then I was sitting on the ground face to face with Curran, the wet ichor under us sliding out from the spider-scorpion’s crushed carapace.
My whole body ached as if I had run a long race. I was out of breath. Rapidly cooling sweat slicked my hairline. I felt light-headed. I might have pulled out too much blood.
Curran was breathing deep. The wound on his shoulder gaped with red. The edges had begun to pull together, but long brown bristles stuck out of it—the stiff “hairs” that had lined the giant insect’s leg.
“Do we have a flamethrower?” Curran asked.
“We should get a flamethrower.”
We looked at each other. The stench was almost unbearable now. I was covered head to toe with spider-scorpion slime and my own blood. Curran leaned over and spat to the side. That’s right. He’d bitten the damn thing.
“. . . water of the speed and the spirit . . .” a male voice intoned to the right.
Across the street Mac and Leroy were trying to chant the FJ Cruiser’s water engine into life.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
The two mercs saw us. My stare and Mac’s connected. I forced myself to stand up.
“Oh, no, no, no.” Mac jerked his arms up. “Don’t get up. We’re leaving.”
Next to me Curran bared his teeth.
Leroy grabbed a bag out of the car. “This is my shit!”
They took off down the street at a run.
I turned to Curran and pointed at them. I had no words left. He shook his head.
I reached out with my magic, searching for small droplets of my blood. It answered my call. I pushed. The blood flowed out of the spider-scorpion corpse, pooling on the pavement into a small puddle. It turned solid and shattered into powder, all of its magic gone. The wind swiped it off the pavement as if it had never been there.
The front door of the house opened slowly and an African American woman in her forties stepped out. She was wearing a business suit. Behind her two teenage boys craned their necks, trying to see.
The woman walked over to us, carefully picking her way between puddles of slime, and held out a check. The edge of the check danced, trembling. I wiped my hand on my jeans the best I could and took it.
She turned around to her boys. “Get the animals into the crates and take what you need. Tony, call your father and tell him we’ll be at Red Roof Inn. He can meet us there.”
“If there is anything else . . .” I started.
“There won’t be anything else,” she said. “We are moving.”
• • •
MRS. OSWALD WASN’T a cooperative witness. She was mostly concerned with getting her two children, two cats, and a husky into her car and escaping the scene as fast as she could. The only reason we got anything at all was that Curran and I agreed to stand guard over her while she packed and started her SUV. She had no idea who was after her cats. She hadn’t fought with any neighbors. She had no conflicts at work, at least nothing that would warrant an attack on her cats. Her husband was out of town on a business trip.
On Sunday, February 27, Mrs. Oswald came home and found a very large tick in her backyard. The tick told her in a creepy voice that it was after her cats. She called the Guild. An hour later Eduardo arrived and killed the tick. Some people from the city—likely the Biohazard division of PAD—came and got the remains that night. The wolf griffin appeared on Monday morning. It was the size of a springer spaniel at first, and it ignored her and her two sons completely. It kept trying to claw its way into the house, but the bars held and the small beast didn’t seem like a terrible threat, so she’d called Eduardo again and gone to work. When she came home, the griffin was gone. Considering that the magic wave ended on Monday around nine in the morning, that wasn’t surprising. She thought Eduardo came out while she was at work and took care of it or that the wolf griffin flew away.
This morning when Mrs. Oswald was about to leave for work after a magic wave came, a much larger griffin swooped down on her and tried to maul her. She’d run back inside and called the Guild.
Watching it turn into a giant bug was too much for her.
“Can I use your phone to call Biohazard?!” I yelled over the roar of the enchanted water engine.
“Do what you need to do! I have my kids to take care of!”
Mrs. Oswald stepped on the gas and peeled out of the driveway like a bat out of hell. I went inside and checked the phone. Dial tone. Well, something had gone right for once. I dialed the Biohazard number from memory.
“Biohazard,” a gruff male voice said into the phone.
“My name’s Kate Daniels. I have a giant dead spider-scorpion thing on Chamblee Dunwoody Road. I need you to come and get it.”
“Sure,” the voice said. “Let me get right on that. You’re eighth in line. It will be twenty-four hours.”
“It’s an RM in a residential neighborhood.”
The phone went silent. “How bad?”
“It went from mammal to insect after death. The insect is ten feet long, not counting the legs.”
“Sit tight. We’ll be there in half an hour.”
Experience said it would be more like a couple of hours, but I would take what I could get. I dialed Cutting Edge. Derek answered, his voice raspy. “Cutting Edge.”
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