Victor perked up a little when he said it and I could see surprise formin’ in his mind though his face didn’t change at all. My Dad was little more than a lower middle class factory hand, according to society, but he had a moral code yeh could bend iron around and an innate sense a’ good and evil that wavered for nothin’, not even the life a’ his son. Aris had taught me to see good and evil, true good and evil, but before that Dad had taught me to be good at any cost. His prejudices against halvers and vamps and weres didn’t come into it, not really. There were a lot a’ reasons why I was glad he and Mom hadn’t made me choose between them and the darkworld, mostly cause I loved them and didn’t want to lose them, but also cause I couldn’t have a better ally than Dad.
“Eastwick,” he said again. “I’ve been sellin’ silver to him for years. He’s been buyin’ more recently.”
“Akeinan,” Victor hissed. I recognized the elfish insult. “He’s hunting werewolves.”
“Huntin’ weres?” Dad frowned. “What for?”
“Were souls are easier to steal, especially in the moments after a were’s killed, and the wolf part tries to disentangle itself from the immortal human soul,” Victor said. “Damn. We didn’t notice—how did we not notice?”
“How can yeh be sure that’s what he’s doing?” Dad asked. “Surely the government would notice.”
Victor looked at me, and I said, “He’s huntin’ the wanderers.”
The first time a were doesn’t come home he’s reported by friends or family, assumin’ he has any left. The silver slingers will keep an eye out for him, but they ain’t lookin’ for him specifically. They’re lookin’ to make sure he doesn’t start attackin’ other people. After about a month, if there’s no reports of attacks or rise in the number a’ weres, which they keep a pretty close eye on, he’s written off. No missing persons file, no one lookin’ for him—he’s just gone. He might as well be dead. Eastwick could hunt and kill every wolf south a’ the river and no one would notice.
“We can’t let this go on,” I said. “If he’s orderin’ a lot a’ silver he must be huntin’ a lot, and not by himself, either. He must be hirin’ hunters. If we knew who he was hirin’—”
“We could what?” Victor asked. “Appeal to their humanity? Have them arrested?”
“Maybe I can do somethin’,” Dad said.
“Charles,” Mom said softly.
“Eastwick’s dangerous,” I said. “Don’t think I don’t realize how dangerous this is just cause I’m doing it anyway.”
“Don’t think I don’t realize just cause I offered to help,” Dad retorted. “My overseer had a brother who was a were, years ago. He was killed for bein’ a were and for nothin’ else, and I know James is still hurt about it. He’ll help me and be glad to do it, and he’s got no family left either, so I won’t feel bad about askin’. Is it true,” he continued, adressin’ Victor, “that moonstone mixed with silver stops the effect?”
“There yeh go, then. It’ll still be a bullet, I can’t do anything about that, but at least it won’t be silver. James and I can mix the moonstone in without anyone else knowin’ what we’re doing, but there’ll be at least twenty other people who coulda done it, so it ain’t as dangerous as it sounds,” he added to Mom.
“Won’t he complain to the company?” Pak asked.
“He’ll have to explain how he knows it’s been diluted,” Dad replied. “The company’ll insist he produce proof, cause diluting silver’s a serious accusation to a factory like ours. Chances are he’ll keep it quiet so no one suspects he’s huntin’ illegally.”
“Would a suspicion like that really matter to someone like him?” Victor asked doubtfully. Dad looked at him, and read in that look twenty years a’ bitterness and pain.
“It ain’t like that all over,” he said quietly. “There’s more people out there like James than you know—people who lost loved ones to illegal huntin’, people who’re still lookin’ for their were even after years, people who still look after them and love them cause it’s still their brother or sister or son or daughter. If it came out that Eastwick was huntin’ the lost weres there’d be a hell of a row, cause all those people would be thinkin’, maybe he killed someone I loved. He’ll try to keep it quiet.”
“He’ll try to find out who’s sabotaging him and stop them,” I said seriously. “He’ll be lookin’ for you.”
“Then yeh’d better get him quick, before he figures it out,” Dad replied. “I said I’d help you if I could and I ain’t going back on that now. Lilly?”
Mom put her arms around Aid a little tighter and nodded.
“We’re in it together, then,” I grinned. “Yeh see anything even a little suspicious, call me.”
“And if he comes here, if he attacks your home,” Paka added, “come straight down to the river, straight through the warehouses. We’ll be watching.”
“Let it not come to that,” Mom said.
“It won’t,” Aid replied confidently. “Tam is se hela kiram. But you should come down anyway. Suora can make the fire burn all different colors, and the stags are very friendly.”
Someday soon, I thought, I’m going to have to have a talk with Aid about when to keep his mouth firmly closed.
“He’s what?” Dad asked.
“You didn’t tell them?” Paka asked.
“Would you?” I replied. “No, don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question, and yes, I learned that word from Aris. We ain’t elves, Paka, or mermaids—maybe it means somethin’ to Terian, and to Marya, and to you, but not to me—not to us. I’m just human.”
“There’s no just about you,” Pak started to say, but I cut her off.
“We ain’t talkin’ about it.” I looked round the room, and met everyone’s eyes but Aid’s. “Not now. Maybe not ever. It ain’t important,” I added to my parents. “I do what’s gotta be done. That’s all.”