Dead and Loving It (Page 19)

“Thanks for waiting,” the strange woman who could jump like a grasshopper said. “I was running a little behind this morning and was worried I’d miss you.”

“Miss me?” Bev gasped. Holy crow, it was like Touched by an Angel! “You mean you’re here to—to save me?”

The woman—a tall, lean brunette with striking dark eyes and the palest, softest-looking skin—blinked in surprise. Bev had never seen such skin before; maybe the grasshopper/angel was also an Irish milkmaid.

Then she laughed. It wasn’t, Bev thought a little sullenly, a very nice laugh.

“Save you? Save you?” Again, the laugh. The woman actually leaned on the ledge so she wouldn’t fall down. “Honey, you’re such a dope you actually showed up for work the day you planned to kill yourself.”

“How did you—?”

“I mean, of all days to call in sick to your dreary, hated job, don’t you think today’s the day? And you know damn well the fall won’t kill you. What is it, like two stories? If you really wanted to ice yourself, why not use the shotgun you keep in your closet? Or one of those Japanese sushi knifes you saved up six months for, really do the job right?”


“No, you have this stupid idea in your head that swarms of people will gather on the street below, and some good-looking Chicago P.D. monkey will coax you down and fall in love with you. Among other things, you watch too much television.”

Bev stared. She was mad, and getting madder, but the grasshopper/angel/demon had said nothing that wasn’t true. Hearing it out loud made her feel like a real pigeon turd. It was more than attention, right? Wasn’t it?

“Save you! You don’t want to be saved! You want a date for next week! Ha!”

“That’s it,” Bev snapped. “I’m jumping.”

“Oh, stop it, you are not.” The brunette pulled her away from the edge with a casual strength that nearly sent Bev sprawling onto the blacktop.

“I am, too!” She managed to wrench her arm free, nearly dislocated her own shoulder in the process. The stranger was fiendishly strong. “I—I’m clinically depressed, and I can’t take it anymore.”

“You’re mad about not getting the promotion, not having a date, and your mom forgetting your birthday.”

“Who are you?”

“My name’s Antonia. And the reason I’m here is to tell you the fall won’t kill you. In fact, it’ll break your neck and you’ll be a quad in a monkey hospital for the rest of your life. It’ll wreck your mom—her insurance company won’t cover you because you’ve been out of the house too long, and your insurance sucks. She’ll spend the rest of her life in debt and visiting you, and you think you’ll be able to get a date from a Shriner’s bed? Bottom line, you think your life is in the shitter now? Go ahead and jump. You’ll see the shit fly.”

“But how do you know?” Not, “that isn’t true” or “you’re on drugs.” Antonia had the creepy ring of truth in everything she said. Even weirder, Bev had never met someone as obnoxious as she was beautiful. She was like the swimsuit ad model from the ninth gate of hell. “How did you know to come here?”

“I just did.”

“And why do you keep saying ‘monkey’?”

“Because,” Antonia sniffed, “you’re descended from apes.”

“Well, you are, too!”

“No, I’m descended from canis lupus. A much more impressive mammal to have in your family tree, in case you didn’t know. Which none of you seem to.”

“But you’re not here to save me?” Bev was having a little trouble following the conversation. She tried to give herself some credit; it had been a surreal five minutes.

“Shit, no! What do I care if another monkey offs herself? There’s too many of you anyway. Go ahead and jump, ruin your mother’s life, I don’t give a shit.”

“Then why were you running across rooftops to stop me?”

“None of your damned business,” she snapped.

“There has to be a reason.”

“Look, are you going to jump or not?”

“That depends. Are you going to tell me why you came?”

The brunette rubbed her temples. “Okay, okay. Anything to shorten this conversation. I see the future, all right?”

“Like a psychic?” Bev gasped.

“Nothing that lame. I see what’s going to happen. And, file this away, I’m never wrong. But the thing is, when people don’t do what I tell them, when they ignore my advice and sort of plunge ahead on their own, I get the worst migraines.”

“So you’re here… to stop yourself from getting a headache.”

“Hey,” Antonia said defensively. “They’re really bad headaches.”

“And you’re descended from canis—from wolves?”

“Duh, yes! Do we have to have this talk all over again?”

“So you’re, like—” It was stupid, but Bev made herself say it anyway. “A werewolf?”

“You’ve heard this before, right? ”Duh, yes.“ ”

“But—but you just sort of blurted it out! You can’t go around just telling monk—people that you’re a werewolf.”

“Why not?”

“Well—you just can’t is why not.”

She shrugged. “Who are you going to tell? Who’d even believe you?”

Bev pictured herself explaining that she didn’t jump because a woman claiming to be a werewolf told her the future (after jumping over a roof) and saw Antonia had a point.

“Nobody’d believe me, either,” she added, almost as if (ludicrous thought!) she was trying to make Bev feel better.

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t Change.”

“You mean you don’t—” Bev groped in the air, trying to find the words. “You don’t get furry and howl at the moon and steal babies?”

“Babies! Monkey babies? Ugh! Do you have any idea how awful you guys taste? I’d rather eat shit than an omnivore.”

Bev, stuck in a job she hated, was nevertheless finding her background in social work quite handy about now. There was a pattern to Antonia’s outbursts. In fact, the snarkier and louder she got, the more painful the subject under discussion was.

She tried again. “So what you’re saying is, you never turn into a wolf. Never. But you’re a werewolf.”

Antonia’s lips nearly disappeared, she was pressing them together so tightly. “Yss,” she mumbled. “Tht’s trr.”

“But then… how do you know you’re—”

“Because my mom’s a werewolf, okay? And her dam, and her dam, and her dam, going back about eighty generations, okay? I’m a right line descendant of the She Wolf Rayet, and my dad being a monkey doesn’t change that. I am so a werewolf, I am, I am, I am!” She smacked her fist on the ledge for emphasis, and Bev was astounded to see a chunk of concrete fly off in the distance.

“Well, okay,” she said, trying to soothe the younger woman. “Nobody said you weren’t, all right?”

“You did,” she sniffled.

“No, I just questioned the logic of running around blurting it out to monkeys. Dammit! Now you’ve got me using that odious word.”

“Sorry,” she said, but she seemed to be cheering up. “It’s a sore spot, I admit. There are lots of hybrids in the pack—my alpha sired one, for Rayet’s sake. They can all Change. Everybody can Change but me. And monkeys.”

“So did they—did your friends kick—ask you to leave? Because you don’t, uh, do the Change?”

“You mean, did my pack boot my ass because I’m a freak?” She smiled a little. “No. I came west because I—I saw something.”

“Was it me?” Bev asked eagerly.

“No, it wasn’t you, greedy monkey. The whole world doesn’t revolve around you. Giving you the 4-1-1 was sort of a side trip. I’m really on my way to Minneapolis.”

“What’s in Minneapolis?”

“That’s enough sharing with strangers for one day,” she said, kindly enough. “Because we both know you aren’t going to jump, why don’t you come down?”

“I’ll come down after you tell me why we’re going to Minneapolis.”


“Sure! I’ll be your cool sidekick. We’ll have adventures and—”

“Stop. Go ahead and jump.”

“Awwwww, come on, Antonia,” she whined. “It’s just the thing I need.”

“It’s the last thing I need. And I don’t bargain with monkeys on Chicago rooftops, okay?”

“Okay, okay, calm down. Just tell me why you’re going and then I’ll climb down. Otherwise, if you leave, you don’t know if I’ll jump or not.”

“You won’t—”

“Just think, you could be minding your own business—”

“It’s what I should have done this morning, by Rayet!”

“—when bam! Giant killer migraine. All because you didn’t hang around and finish a conversation.” Bev slowly shook her head. “Tsk, tsk.”

Antonia scowled down at her. Bev pushed her reddish blond bangs out of her eyes so she could see if the woman was going to dart off over the rooftops to avoid communicating.

“Okay,” she said at last. “I’ll tell you why I’m going and then you climb down and go back to your life and stop with the goofing around on rooftops.”

“Deal,” she said promptly. “So why are you going to Minnesota?”

“Well… the pack lets me hang around because I’m full of useful little tidbits, you know?”