Mercy Thompson's life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn't exactly normal herself.
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January 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
I didn't realize he was a werewolf at first. My nose isn't at its best when surrounded by axle grease and burnt oil ' and it's not like there are a lot of stray werewolves running around. So when someone made a polite noise near my feet to get my attention I thought he was a customer.
I was burrowed under the engine compartment of a Jetta, settling a rebuilt transmission into its new home. One of the drawbacks in running a one-woman garage was that I had to stop and start every time the phone rang or a customer stopped by. It made me grumpy ' which isn't a good way to deal with customers. My faithful office boy and tool rustler had gone off to college, and I hadn't replaced him yet ' it's hard to find someone who will do all the jobs I don't want to.
"Be with you in a sec," I said, trying not to sound snappish. I do my best not to scare off my customers if I can help it.
Transmission jacks be damned, the only way to get a transmission into an old Jetta is with muscle. Sometimes being a female is useful in my line of work ' my hands are smaller so I can get them places a man can't. However, even weightlifting and karate can't make me as strong as a strong man. Usually leverage can compensate, but sometimes there's no substitute for muscle, and I had just barely enough to get the job done.
Grunting with effort, I held the transmission where it belonged with my knees and one hand. With the other I slipped the first bolt in and tightened it. I wasn't finished, but the transmission would stay where it was while I dealt with my customer.
I took a deep breath and smiled once brightly for practice before I rolled out from under the car. I snagged a rag to wipe the oil off my hands, and said, "Can I help you " before I got a good enough look at the boy to see he wasn't a customer ' though he certainly looked as though someone ought to help him.
The knees of his jeans were ripped out and stained with old blood and dirt. Over a dirty tee, he wore a too-small flannel shirt ' inadequate clothing for November in eastern Washington.
He looked gaunt, as though he'd been a while without food. My nose told me, even over the smell of gasoline, oil, and antifreeze permeating the garage, that it had been an equally long time since he'd seen a shower. And, under the dirt, sweat, and old fear, was the distinctive scent of werewolf.
"I was wondering if you had some work I could do " he asked hesitantly. "Not a real job, ma'am. Just a few hours' work."
I could smell his anxiety before it was drowned out by a rush of adrenaline when I didn't immediately refuse. His words sped up until they crashed into one another. "A job would be okay, too, but I don't have a social security card, so it would have to be cash under the table."
Most of the people who come around looking for cash work are illegals trying to tide themselves over between harvest and planting season. This boy was white-bread American ' except the part about being a werewolf ' with chestnut hair and brown eyes. He was tall enough to be eighteen, I supposed, but my instincts, which are pretty good, pinned his age closer to fifteen. His shoulders were wide but bony, and his hands were a little large, as if he still had some growing to do before he grew into the man he would be.
"I'm strong," he said. "I don't know a lot about fixing cars, but I used to help my uncle keep his Bug running."