“Give it up,” I squeezed out. “I hit the heart.”
Erra snorted. “I know. Do you have any idea how many bodies I had to go through to get him?”
The light shrank. Earth piled around us. A few moments and we’d be buried.
The wound gnawed at my side. My saber was caught, and sinking silver needles into the undead would be like poking him with toothpicks—slightly painful but ultimately futile.
Solomon dug his feet in. His fingers scratched my neck.
There wasn’t enough air. “Would you just let him die already?”
“He doesn’t have much left, don’t worry. You do talk a lot. Like a little squirrel in a tree, chirp-chirp-chirp.”
I barely saw the light above us. If the earth built up any more, Solomon would collapse on me when he died for the second time. I would suffocate, buried alive. “Your animal impressions are stunning.”
Solomon jerked right. His hand grasped my arm, he ducked his head, and pain clenched my forearm.
She made her undead bite me. “What the hell?”
Solomon grinned. “Little squirrel! You taste like family.”
A shaggy shape hit Solomon, snarling and snapping teeth. Solomon jerked and extra weight pressed on me as the dog tore into Solomon’s back. I cried out. Solomon swiped with his arm, knocking the poodle aside. His weight shifted, and I grabbed my throwing knife.
“Don’t touch my dog.”
Solomon laughed. “How curious. Hugh’s been keeping secrets. No wonder. That’s the trouble with hired help: without ambition, they are useless, with ambition—”
I stabbed my throwing knife into Solomon’s throat. “Severed carotid. Enjoy.”
Blood gushed from Solomon’s mouth, drenching my face. “See you soon,” he gurgled.
Solomon’s eyes went blank. He shuddered once and crashed on top of me.
Erra had bailed.
I strained and pushed Solomon’s corpse to the side, into the dirt.
A moment later a smelly tongue licked my face, covering my skin with the fine perfume of day-old roadkill.
I hugged the furry neck. “Okay, okay. Let me up now.”
The poodle leaped away, excited. I got to my feet. The cut in my side screeched in protest. An earthen wall rose up to my waist. I clutched on to it, so I wouldn’t tip over.
Solomon lay facedown. I kicked him. It didn’t make me feel that much better. I kicked him again, just in case, and realized I was looking at a spear sticking out of his back.
The ward went down. People rushed from the Temple, heading toward me.
Where the hell had the spear come from?
A man reached me. “Are you hurt?”
“Who threw the spear?”
He shrank back. “I’m a medic. I can help you.”
I tried to speak slowly in my nonthreatening voice. “Where did the spear come from?”
He blinked. “I don’t know, I didn’t see.”
I grabbed the spear and strained. Sonovabitch, really in there. I put my foot on the body, crushing a few black needles, and pulled hard. The spear came free. It used to belong to one of the golems. Someone had picked it up and hurled it. Someone with great strength.
Someone had reported my crawling around the pole with Joshua’s body on it. Someone had watched me from the ruins. And now someone had skewered Solomon and vanished. I was really getting tired of all the secrecy.
Little squirrel. You taste like family. See you later.
She recognized the blood, but she didn’t know who I was. If I were her, I’d track me down. I’d get into my house, learn anything I could about me, and look for anything I could use as leverage. I knew this would eventually happen and it finally did. All my friends had just acquired a huge bull’s-eye on their backs.
Julie. I had Julie’s pictures in the house.
I had to get home.
I had to warn the Pack.
I spun around and saw Marigold lying on her side in red snow.
Oh, God. I stumbled toward her and broke into a run.
“Wait!” the medmage chased me.
Marigold lay unmoving, her head jerked high. The twisted wreck of a golem’s spear jutted from her neck. She must’ve been hit when Erra was throwing shit around.
I dropped into the snow and grabbed her head. Her eyes stayed dark. Her long eyelashes didn’t move.
“Can you fix her?”
“She is dead,” the medmage said.
She killed my Marigold. The bitch killed my Marigold. I’d used this mule for a year. I’d brought her carrots, brushed her out, and relied on her to carry me into a brawl or storm. Now she was dead, killed as an afterthought.
I staggered to my feet. I had to get to the phone.
People jumped out of my way. I marched up the steps and grabbed the first warm body. “Phone?”
“Inside, to the right.”
I ran inside, made a right into a small room, and grabbed the phone. Work. Work, damn you, work, work.
Dial tone. Yes!
I dialed the Keep. A man picked up. I barked, “Curran. Now.”
“Who is this?”
“Kate Daniels. I’m the agent of—”
The phone clicked and Curran’s voice filled the phone. “Leave a message.”
“The Steel Mary’s name is Erra. If any of your people fight her, she will make you go mad. It’s her specialty. She served Roland, which means she came here to kill the Pack. Be careful. Don’t fight her directly if you can—”
The call cut out. I’d reached the message limit.
I dialed the Order. Maxine came on the line.
“I need a pickup at the Temple.”
“I’m sorry, dear, but everyone is out.”
“She’s out helping Mauro.”
I hung up and punched in Jim’s number. He picked up on the second ring.
“I need help.”
“You just now figured this out?”
I tried to speak calmly. “I’m at the Temple. I just ran into the Steel Mary and I need to get home before she makes it there.”
“I’ll have a car there in twenty minutes.”
I went outside. Three rabbis approached me. The older woman, Weiss, and a man who had to be in his seventies. With long pure white hair and an equally white beard, he looked positively ancient and he walked with a limp, leaning on an ornate staff.
“You’ve brought this to the Temple.” He indicated the golem graveyard with the sweep of his hand. “You are no longer welcome here. Leave.”
Oh, that’s just peachy. I pointed to Solomon. “Burn the body. Don’t touch the blood. If you experience any symptoms of illness, immediately contact Biohazard.” I pointed at the medic. “You! Patch me up.”