Coyote Dreams

CHAPTER ONE

Tuesday, July 5, 8:58 a.m.

Someone had driven a tire iron into my skull. I could tell, because centered in my left temple was a vast throbbing pain that could only come from desperate injury. It felt like there were a thousand vicious gnomes leaping up and down on the iron, trying to increase the size of the hole in my head. I had the idea that once it was split open far enough, they would run down the length of metal and dive into the soft, gooey gray matter of my brain and have themselves a little gnomish pool party.

Neither of my eyes would open. I fumbled a hand up to poke at them and encountered sufficient goo that I took a moment to consider the possibility that the gnomes were already in my head, had overfilled it and were now flowing out my sinuses and tear ducts. It wasn’t a pretty thought. Then again, nothing could be a pretty thought when some-one’d smashed a tire iron into my head.

I rolled my fingers across my eyelashes, trying to work some of the ook out of them. My heart was beating like a rabbit on speed, except when it paused with an alarming little arrhythmia that made me start hyperventilating. I hoped I was dying, because anything else seemed anticlimactic with all that going on. Besides, I had some experience with dying. It was kind of old hat, and so far it hadn’t stuck.

Unlike my eyes. I physically pried one open with my fingers. The red numbers on my alarm clock jumped into it and stabbed it with white-hot pokers. I whimpered and let it close again, wondering why the hell I was in my bed, if I was dying. Usually I found myself dying in more exotic locations, like diners or city parks.

A whisper of memory drifted through my brain in search of something to attach itself to. The department’s Fourth of July picnic had been the day before. I’d attended, feeling saucy and cute in a pair of jeans shorts and a tank top. I’m five foot eleven and a half. Cute and I are not generally on speaking terms, so the feeling had been a novel one and I’d been enjoying it. The outfit had shown off a rare tan and the fact that I’d lost twelve pounds in the past few months, and I’d gotten several compliments. Those were as rare as me rubbing elbows with cute, so it’d been a good day.

Which did nothing to explain how it had ended with a tire iron separating the bones of my cranium. I walked my fingers over the left side of my head, cautiously. My fingers encountered hair too short to be tangled, but no tools of a mechanic’s trade. I pressed my hand against my temple, admiring how nice and cool it felt against the splitting headache, and the memory found something to attach itself to.

Morrison. My boss. Smiling fatuously down at a petite redhead in Daisy Mae shorts that hugged her va-va-va-voom curves. Right about then somebody’d offered me a beer, and it’d sounded like an awfully good idea. I tried to close my eyes in a pained squint, but I’d never gotten them open, so I only wrinkled them and felt crusty goo crinkle around my lashes.

The only other thing I remember clearly was a bunch of guys from the shop swooping down on me as they—each— bore a fifth of Johnnie Walker. With my last name being Walker, they figured me and Johnnie must be cousins and that gave me a leg up on