to stop her from bashing your guys with those waves. You have to kill her. Soon! Like, right now she’s the only one who knows how to do that, but she’ll probably start teaching everybody else, and then you won’t be able to get rid of mermaids anymore at all . . .”

Secretary Moreland was clearly trying to keep his expression steady, but it wasn’t working. Tiny spasms of excitement bent his features and shimmered in his eyes. “So you’re claiming you know the mermaid who committed the assault on the Special Ops boat?” He paused for a moment, assessing. “Several of our men were killed. This isn’t something we take at all lightly. You wouldn’t want to be anything less than perfectly candid on the subject.”

“Of course I know her. We had to kick her out of the tribe because all she did was cause problems, but then she wouldn’t stop hanging around . . .” Anais’s tail was swishing faster now, its pink iridescence flashing candied reflections on the glass.

Moreland looked disappointed. “So she wouldn’t consider you a friend? Try to find you?”

“No way! She knows I see right through her. Though she did keep trying to get me to pay attention to her.”

Moreland nodded. The sparks in his eyes seemed agitated. “I see. But you’ll tell me all about her, won’t you? I’d suggest you start now.”

Anais leaned back from the glass with a motion that suggested someone settling into an armchair, although there was nothing but water around her, and smiled slyly. Her fins lightly stroked across the tank’s blue cement floor. “That depends.”

Does it? On what?”

“On you letting me out of here!” Anais shook her head, golden rays of hair swinging with the movement. “I mean, I know my parents must have left me a ton of money. And the house! And there’s a pool, and I could get our servants to come back, and—”

“Tadpole, tadpole . . .” Moreland shook his head, and his smile was much softer, much more slippery, than before. “You haven’t thought this through.”

“I totally have! I—”

“You aren’t human, little tail. Not remotely.”


“So the law doesn’t apply to you. Not one teeny bit. And that’s including due process and inheritance law. Legally you don’t exist. There’s no provision in the law for leaving a house to a precious little monster . . .”

This clearly hadn’t occurred to Anais before. Her eyes widened in dismay and her mouth opened onto a round darkness that seemed to threaten the unleashing of terrible music. Moreland grinned stonily and raised his eyebrows at her. She paused and glanced around her tank, then shut her mouth again.

“Exactly,” he hissed. Anais scowled. “But you don’t like this troublemaker mermaid, do you? She absolutely deserves to die, doesn’t she?”

Anais was still sulking. “Of course she deserves it!”

“So maybe helping us track her down would be worth your time anyway. I promise you we’ll tear her guts right out. Maybe we’ll even take our time doing it. Remember, legal protections don’t apply to her either, and we’re very, very annoyed with her.”

Anais cocked her head, brazenly intrigued. “You should be. She’s a bitch, and she’s really nuts. And just, like, weird.

“Tell me her name.” Moreland’s voice was suddenly rough.

“Luce.” Anais spat it out.

A shadow passed through his pale eyes. “Luce. I believe I’ve heard her mentioned before. And what about her . . . human name? Do you know that much?”

“Will you at least show me pictures? Once you kill her?”

“Oh, certainly. Probably even video. We’ll watch it together. It will be my great pleasure. Virtue should always be rewarded.” Aqua light from the tank gleamed on Moreland’s wet teeth as he spoke.

“Lucette . . .” Anais visibly struggled to remember. “She said it . . . No, Catarina said it once when they were fighting. Lucette Kip . . . No. Lucette Korchak?”

“A very good beginning, Anais.” Moreland smiled. “You know, at first I wasn’t sure your information was reliable. But I’m beginning to think we can come to an understanding after all.”

“What about Sedna? Will you at least make sure you kill her, too? And Dana, and Violet.”

“Sedna was the leader of the group you identified? In southern Alaska?”

“Yeah. She—”

“Ah, but that’s why I didn’t think we could trust you, my dear. We couldn’t find any trace of mermaids anywhere near the location you described to us. Unless you can do better, I’m afraid I won’t be able to show you video of Sedna’s dismemberment.”

“I told you the truth.” Anais’s pout tightened moodily, and her head tipped sideways. “I bet Luce got there first. I bet she warned them.”

Moreland nodded, a bit curtly. “Very possibly. I need you to understand something, Anais. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen anytime soon. But if you help us enough, I might eventually see my way to . . . encouraging special consideration of your case. Maybe a judge could be persuaded that you deserve your inheritance after all, in view of your services to your country.”

Anais mulled this, her blue fins rippling irritably. Then her face changed completely. All at once she beamed with gentle innocence. “Of course I’ll help. It isn’t safe for anyone to have Luce swimming around out there! She’ll just kill so many of your men if no one stops her!”

“Quite so.” Moreland’s tongue slid across his bluish teeth, and his eyes widened with a fake sincerity that almost equaled Anais’s, except that his smile kept twisting into a leer. Every tiny disturbance of the water sent greenish light crawling across his stiff white hair. “We’re very grateful for your patriotism. Now, did . . . Lucette ever mention the name Dorian to you? Dorian Hurst?”

“Who?” Anais asked. Her confusion looked genuine enough.

Moreland was disappointed again, but Anais suddenly leaned forward in excitement. “Wait, wait, wait! A guy? You’re saying that Luce was seeing a human guy? That is so sick!” She squealed with laughter. “And she thought she was supposed to be queen! Oh, I can’t wait to tell . . .” Anais’s laughter faltered abruptly, and she looked down.

Moreland observed her for a long moment. His gray eyes were covetous, cold. “Oh, but there’s no one left to tell, is there, tadpole? The abominations who would have liked to hear your gossip about Lucette and her human boyfriend are all dead.” He gazed at her with something that might have almost passed for compassion. “We destroyed every last one of them in front of you. And even as we speak the teams are out there, hunting down other groups of your kind.”

“I didn’t want to be a mermaid!” Anais snarled. “I never wanted to! They’re not my kind! I loved being human. Everything was so perfect . . .”

Moreland considered this. “You didn’t want to be a mermaid. Were you somehow changed against your will?”

“Of course I was!” Anais was staring down, plainly on the verge of tears. Maybe they were even real.

The secretary of defense didn’t look convinced. “Then who changed you?”

“Luce did it.” It came out in a sullen whimper. “She forced me, but I . . .”

“That’s very sad.” Moreland stared at Anais for a few more moments. Now that she wasn’t looking at him, he examined her stunning form with a mixture of hungry fascination and naked loathing. “Well, then, it’s a very fortunate thing that you’re living with humans again, isn’t it? You can talk to us. Now, what you said before, about this Luce . . .”



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