For a species that’s managed to go so untalked about for so long, they’re racking up a lot of names. I wonder again what became of Junior. We haven’t seen or heard word of him since Pine Ridge.
“None of that is news to us.” Clyde backs away. “Let’s go, people.”
I’m not sure we should give up so fast, but I don’t hesitate. Even Yoshi doesn’t buck against Clyde’s tone. Solidarity matters. We retreat. Me and Yoshi to one side of Clyde, Quincie to the other, we march four abreast, up the hill past the tortoise enclosure, toward the prickly pear cacti.
“Wait!” King Leander has chased us beyond the fenced-in tiger. “Wait, Clyde.”
When he’s acknowledged by name, Clyde turns and so the rest of us do, too.
“There is no such thing as a weresnake,” Leander announces. “Or, for that matter, a werereptile. The cold-blooded abomination that kidnapped the governor and declared war on humanity is a hell-spawn demon. An old one, from the first generation of horrors that rose from Lucifer’s flames.”
A demon? As in a
demon? Seth is a scaly evil horned thing with a tail. . . . Not that I’m an expert, but I admit that does fit my personal definition of demon. I’m a devout Christian girl, a weekly churchgoer. I don’t want a damn thing to do with demons.
“What kind of demon?” Quincie asks like she knows what she’s talking about.
“The worst kind for people like us,” Leander says. “A shape-changer himself.”
IN THE BACKSEAT, Quincie gives Clyde’s hand a quick squeeze. “His loss,” she whispers, even though the rest of us can hear her fine.
Up front, Yoshi lowers the volume on a Luminous Placenta song. “You done with him?”
“The Lion king?” Clyde buckles his seat belt. “We got what we needed, or a piece of it anyway. The yetis’ loudmouthed pet is demonic. Kayla, what can we do with that?”
His voice is full of bravado, and he says “demonic” like it’s business as usual.
“Me?” I ask as we leave the zoo parking lot. “What do you —?”
“You know about politics,” Clyde points out. “You grew up in a political family.”
“My dad is the mayor of Pine Ridge. We’re not the Clintons!”
The boys and I end up at an outdoor gallery, in the shadow of an honest-to-God castle that’s easily walkable from the hideout house. (Clyde says it used to be a military academy.) The street art on display looks to me like high-end graffiti: surreal, colorful images on exposed foundation, erosion barriers . . . I’m honestly not sure what all. It’s kind of overwhelming.
In Austin this is culture. In Pine Ridge it would be considered a white-hot mess.
We’re in hoodies and loose-fit yoga pants. The idea is to go unrecognized in outfits that wouldn’t restrict shifts, but we look like soccer moms. It’d be smarter to go straight back to the house, but all of us need space to breathe, especially Clyde.
We dropped off Quincie at the Moraleses’. She bought a stuffed toy wolf at the zoo shop for Kieren’s little sister. Quincie and Miz Morales are trading off taking care of Kieren and Joshua.
Either way, I feel bad for Clyde. Being adopted comes with its share of lingering questions. I’m sure Clyde didn’t like the few answers he got today.
I clear my throat as the boys, seated on a concrete barrier, tear into the takeout fried chicken. They’d better not finish it all by the time I’m done talking.
“Since the FHPU first appeared in Pine Ridge, we’ve been running. Hiding.” I stand like I’m giving a campaign speech. “Because that’s what werepeople do. We hide from
Sometimes right in front of their noses, but we still deny who and what we are. Now there’s a new — or at least new to us — humanoid species out for our pelts, so we’re running and hiding from them, too.”
I’ve pricked the boys’ egos, but I have their attention. “The FHPU has been able to abduct and kill shifters