A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire



            “I’m listening,” I said.

            “You’re going to learn something soon that makes you unhappy. I don’t know what it is because it didn’t matter to what I saw. You’re going to go looking for someone you’ve lost, and you’re going to want to take everyone you can with you. But you can’t do that. In my dream, when it went the way you wanted it to go, you had May and Quentin with you, and sometimes Spike, and no one else. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

            “I think so.” I was going to go on another quest, and Tybalt wasn’t allowed to go with me. Oh, that was going to go over well.

            “You’re going to go to the place where the bad lady is sleeping, and you can’t wake her up. Promise me you won’t wake her up.”

            Evening. There was no one else Karen would refer to as “the bad lady.” She’d been too close to Evening once, and like the rest of us, she’d learned not to use her name. It wasn’t safe. “All right,” I said.

            “Promise me.”

            “I promise.”

            “I believe you. I’m sorry, Aunt Birdie. You can’t take Uncle Tybalt with you, or people will die. I don’t want anyone to die. Be careful.”

            The line went dead.

            I was still staring at the receiver in my hand when someone knocked on the front door. Slowly, I turned to face it.

            “May,” I did my best to keep my voice as level as possible. “Did you order pizza and forget to tell me?”

            “No,” she called back from the kitchen. “Why?”

            “Someone’s at the door.” Someone at the door almost never means anything good outside of Girl Scout season. The people who live with me, whether intermittently or full-time, don’t bother to knock; they just charge in whenever they feel like it. The people I answer to in the hierarchy of Faerie don’t usually come to the house.

            Any chance of a quiet evening at home that had survived Karen’s call slipped away as I reluctantly approached the door. I didn’t have my knives on me, but I had the baseball bat in the umbrella stand if I needed a weapon, and I had May, who had come into the kitchen doorway and was standing there with a rolling pin in her hand. If someone had come looking for a beat-down, they were about to have a lucky day.

            “I’ll get it,” I said, and reached for the doorknob.

            We don’t usually bother to lock the door when we’re at home. Anyone who could get through the wards we have on the place wouldn’t even be slowed down by something as simple as a deadbolt. With a simple twist of my wrist, the door was open, and I was braced for trouble.

            Trouble, in the form of one of the tallest men in San Francisco, looked down at me and blinked before raising one thick eyebrow. “Tobes?” he rumbled. “There a reason you look like you’re getting ready for an MMA cage match?”

            I relaxed, realizing as I did how much adrenaline had just been dumped into my system by the one-two punch of a ringing phone and a knock on the door. I may be under too much stress. “Hi, Danny,” I said. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

            Danny McReady is a San Francisco cab driver and the owner of the world’s only Barghest rescue. There’s a good reason for that, since Barghests are hostile and venomous, with tails like scorpions built on a canine scale, and most people don’t consider them good pets. Danny’s not most people. He’s a Bridge Troll, with skin that’s literally as hard as granite. It’s also the color of granite when he’s not wearing an illusion designed to let him pass for human. I did a favor for his sister a long time ago, and he’s basically pledged himself to help me whenever I need it as a consequence.