Whale Song - Page 12

Diana became silent as she concentrated. “Yes,” she said at last. “I can't sense much more than that, I think she's unconscious . . . but she's alive.”

I sighed. “I was afraid of that,” I said without thinking.

Now that she was over her initial shock, again Diana proved herself quick on the uptake, so instead of being offended, she just asked, “Why?”

“Because it means we're not dealing with what I thought we were dealing with, a mindless hungry beast, otherwise she'd be digesting by now.” I knelt down into the mud, threw caution to the wind, and summoned up some light. “So what happened here? What are we dealing with?”

There were no tracks in the muddy soup, of course, and on first glace everything looked undisturbed, but a closer look showed . . .

“Some of this ground has been churned up recently,” Diana observed. “There's freshly torn up grass mixed in with the dead leaves and other underbrush in some areas. My sister and her circle wouldn't have done that.”

“Good eye,” I said with an impressed nod. “So we're probably not dealing with something incorporeal, nor something that big, relatively speaking, or there'd be more signs of damage. It would have been asleep underground when your sister and her friends woke it, but it doesn't look like it burst out of the ground anywhere, more like . . . ” Saying that is when I fully connected the dots and noticed the pattern formed by all the churned up areas of mud, and I was struck with a nasty suspicion. A few moments rooting around in that mud confirmed it. “Her 'circle' . . . of course.”

Diana's lips pursed together into serious lines. “You found something, didn't you?” she asked rhetorically. Even before I opened my mouth she added, “Just tell me the truth; I already know it's going to be bad.”

“Suit yourself,” I said with a shrug, then pulled out of the mud what I had found . . . the remains of a human hand. “Looks like I got the 'hungry' part right, at least. It didn't come out of the ground, it pulled them down to it.”

Page 12

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