“Well,” Charity said, “it’s broken.”
“You think?” I asked. The light touch of her fingers on my nose was less than pleasant, but I didn’t twitch or make any sounds of discomfort while she examined me. It’s a guy thing.
“At least it isn’t out of place,” Michael said, knocking snow off of his boots. “Getting it set back is the sort of thing you don’t mind forgetting.”
“Find anything?” I asked him.
The big man nodded his head, and set a sheathed broadsword in a corner against the wall. Michael was only a couple of inches shorter than me, and a lot more muscular. He had dark hair and short beard, both of them peppered with silver, and wore blue jeans, work boots, and a blue-and-white flannel shirt. “That corpse is still there. It’s mostly a burnt mess, but it didn’t dissolve.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Faeries aren’t wholly beings of the spirit world. They leave corpses behind.”
Michael grunted. “Other than that, there were footprints, but that’s about it. No sign that these goat-things were still around.” He glanced into the dining room, where the Carpenter children were gathered at the table, talking excitedly and munching the pizza their father had been out picking up when the attack occurred. “The neighbors think the light show must have come from a blown transformer.”
“That’s as good an excuse as any,” I said.
“I thank God no one was hurt,” he said. For him, it wasn’t just an expression. He meant it literally. It comes of being a devout Catholic, and maybe from toting around a holy sword with one of the nails from the Crucifixion wrought into the blade. He shook himself and gave me a short smile. “And you, of course, Harry.”
“Thank Daniel, Molly and Charity,” I said. “I just kept our visitors busy. Your family’s who got the little ones to safety. And Charity did all the actual smiting.”
Michael’s eyebrows went up, and he turned his gaze on his wife. “Did she now?”
Charity’s cheeks turned pink. She briskly swept up the various tissues and cloths I’d bloodied, and carried them out of the room, to be burned in the lit fireplace in the living room. In my business, you don’t ever want samples of your blood, your hair, or your fingernail clippings lying around for someone else to find. I gave Michael the rundown of the fight while she was gone.
“My nail gun?” he asked, grinning, as Charity came back into the kitchen. “How did you know it was a faerie?”
“I didn’t,” she said. “I just grabbed what was at hand.”
“We got lucky,” I said.
Michael arched an eyebrow at me.
I scowled at him. “Not every good thing that happens is divine intervention, Michael.”
“True,” Michael said, “but I prefer to give Him the credit unless I have a good reason to believe otherwise. It seems more polite than the other way around.”
Charity came to stand at her husband’s side. Though they were both smiling and speaking lightly about the attack, I noticed that they were holding hands very tightly, and Charity’s eyes kept drifting over toward the children, as if to reassure herself that they were still there and safe.
I suddenly felt like an intruder.
“Well,” I said, rising. “Looks like I’ve got a new project.”
Michael nodded. “Do you know the motive for the attack?”
“That’s the project,” I said. I pulled my duster on, wincing as the motion made me move my stiffening neck. “I think they were after me. The attack on the kids was a diversion, to give the one in the tree a shot at my back.”
“Are you sure about that?” Charity asked quietly.
“No,” I admitted. “It’s possible that they’re holding a grudge about that business at Arctis Tor.”
Charity’s eyes narrowed and went steely. Arctis Tor was the heart of the Winter Court, the fortress and sanctum sanctorum of Queen Mab herself. Some nasty customers from Winter had stolen Molly, and Charity and I, with a little help, had stormed the tower and taken Molly back by main force. The whole mess had been noisy as hell, and we’d pissed off an entire nation of wicked fae in the process of making it.
“Keep your eyes open, just in case,” I told her. “And let Molly know that I’d like her to stay here for the time being.”
Michael quirked an eyebrow at me. “You think she needs our protection?”
“No,” I said. “I think you might need hers.”
Michael blinked. Charity frowned quietly, but did not dispute me.
I nodded to both of them and left. Molly wasn’t rebelling against everything I told her to do purely upon reflex, these days, but fait accompli remained the best way of avoiding arguments with her.
I shut the door to the Carpenter household behind me, cutting off the scent of hot pizza and the sound of loudly animated children’s voices, raucous after the excitement.
The late November night was silent. And very cold.
I fought off an urge to shiver and hurried to my car, a beat-up old Volkswagen Beetle which had originally been powder blue, but was now a mix of red, blue, green, white, yellow, and now primer grey, on the new hood my mechanic had scrounged up. Some anonymous joker who had seen too many Disney movies had spray painted the number 53 inside a circle on the hood, but the car’s name was the Blue Beetle and it was going to stay that way.
I sat looking at the warm golden light coming from the house for a moment.
Then I coaxed the Beetle to life and headed for home.