After lunch Vogel walked home. It took him almost an hour and half but since he was shot twelve years ago in Berlin, he always walked, unless it was bad weather or too far to go in a couple of hours. He intended to keep going no matter what was thrown at him-age, bullets, knives, witches, or coyotes.
At eleven that evening he was reading Thomas Mann’s Joseph and his Brothers. He had already fallen asleep once and he was nodding off in his chair, when the buzzer on the ground floor sounded. He walked over and buzzed the person in. After a few minutes there was a faint knock at his door. He opened it to Branwen.
She was wearing black leather pants, gloves, boots and an American motorcycle jacket. Her cheeks were flushed and her black eyes twinkled.
“You found her?”
“Get this, she is checked in at the Hilton across the street from the Tour d’Eiffel. My birds spotted her at ten tonight crossing the street. She has a powerful spell up but they were able to track her to the hotel after they discovered her emerging from the Bois du Bolougne in coyote skin.”
“Did they see the pup?”
“No, we haven’t been able to find him. I think she sensed us searching for her and changed into her human form to escape us.”
“She is not a coyote.”
“No, she is a shape shifter but she’s human. Sort of human.”
“What should we do?”
“Get a good night’s sleep and be at her hotel at eight tomorrow morning. Somehow get in her room and open a window. I will take care of everything else.”
“How do I know which room to go to?”
“She’s checked in as Mrs. Rose Red. Cute isn’t it?”
She kissed him on each cheek and he smelled her scent, which seemed to be a combination of chocolate and musk.
As he was closing the door, she turned and said, “I almost forgot. When you get the window open, blow this.” She handed him a silver whistle. It was about two inches long and a quarter of inch around. He took and blew into it softly. He heard nothing but she covered her ears and said crossly, “are you crazy? You will have every crow in Paris sitting on your ledge if you blow that thing.”
She smiled and then walked toward the elevator, pulling her red helmet onto her head.
Vogel slept fitfully and rose early. He took the first metro across town and was sitting in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel at seven forty. He did not know how he was going to find the woman in the huge hotel. He had walked up and down the lobby sniffing deeply, trying to pick up her scent, but he discerned nothing but the usual hotel odors, some of which were quite unpleasant.
He went to the flower shop next to the Hermes Boutique in the lobby and ordered a dozen roses for Madame Rose Red. The shop girl looked at him as if he was mad but he assured her that was the woman’s name. He paid in cash and then returned to the lobby.
At eight fifteen, a young man wearing green pants with a yellow strip on the legs and a tan jacket emerged from the flower shop carrying a vase with a dozen red roses and walked to the elevator. Vogel jumped up as best he could with his leg and followed the man onto the elevator. He pushed four and Vogel said in English, “same as me.” The boy smiled.
Vogel followed the boy down the long hall, walking slowly, exaggerating his handicap. The boy stopped at room 426 and Vogel continued past him and turned at the end of the hall into another bank of rooms. He waited until he heard the boy leave and then returned to Room 426 and knocked.
The witch pulled the door open, her face contorted with rage at being disturbed again. Vogel knew immediately that she suspected a trap and he noted that she was dressed to go out.
“Who are you?” She leaned toward him and sniffed. With her so close, Vogel detected a hint of pollen, mesquite, baby powder, and desert flowers on her cheek. Against his will, he felt himself becoming tremendously attracted to the woman and he wondered if this was part of her magic.
She had disguised herself as a forty something French woman, with short black hair, tanned skin and hazel eyes. She was dressed in a gray skirt and a white silk blouse. A tailored matching gray jacket hung on the chair in front of the dresser and a Birkin bag rested on the chair.
She stepped back and examined him closely, so closely that Vogel felt an urge to turn away from her gaze.
“I see a man, a human man, but I detect both the scent of a wolf and a bird, a rook, I think. You must have ancient blood. You don’t know who or what you are do you? Oh, I can see a little training around the edges and I suspect that you are good at finding things and maybe solving problems but you have a violent side that takes over sometimes and when it does there is blood everywhere. I understand that side. I don’t hide from it but you do. I can see it.”
Vogel said nothing because he did not want to give away anything to the woman. Her power came from her knowledge and the more information she had the greater control she could exercise over him.
“Are you a shape shifter or a shaman?”
He did not answer.
“What’s your name?” She crossed over to the dresser and pulled on her jacket. When he did not answer, she shrugged and said, “You are not unattractive but I have business to attend to and I cannot waste time on you.”
“I am here for Coyote.”
She paused and then sat down, “I thought I smelled him in Madrid. He got close, real close.”
She laughed and pulled a pack of Marlboro Lights from her purse. “He thought he bested me but he was wrong. He is such a funny character, everything that he attempts backfires on him.”
“I want the pup.”
“You can have him if you bring Coyote to me.”
“Now. Do you want to see him now?”
“No, not now and not here,” she said, as she sucked hard on the cigarette and expelled a blue cloud of smoke.
“Mind if I open a window, the smoke bothers me?”
“Overly fastidious for a wolf,” she said with a smirk. “Sure open the window.”
He opened the French windows and pulled open the curtains. Below, across the street, in a soccer field, several grown men were playing. Beyond it the Eiffel Tower stood blocking his view of the city and the river beyond; it was so close in fact that he could see people climbing the stairs and hear them laughing and talking. He also heard music and the voice of barkers selling mementos to the tourists, waiting for their turn to climb the stairs for a view of the city.
With his back turned to her he pulled the whistle from the pocket of his coat lifted it quickly to his lips and blew. There was no sound except the witch pulling on her cigarette. He placed the whistle into his pocket as he returned to his chair.
“Where shall we meet for the exchange?”
“He can pick up his pup in the desert where we met in three weeks.”
She waved her hand as if to say, take it or leave it.”
“But the pup is here in Paris now.”
“So, I have some things to do here, which involve the pup. I am not ready to relinquish him yet. I must thoroughly house train him. He is a bit wild and completely innocent.” She ran her tongue around her lips, as if checking her lipstick. “Well, you should be off because I have things to do.”
Vogel looked out the windows, wondering where Branwen was. Had she heard the call? The once clear blue sky now turned a dark purple, as burgeoning rain clouds rushed with a mighty wind from the north. Suddenly, a lightening bolt split the air and a few seconds later, they heard the thunder. The witch hurried to the window. She looked toward the North, as the room’s temperature began to plummet. The north wind tore at the woman’s hair and Vogel smelled rain. The woman turned to him and walked toward him, her face contorted with anger. “What did you do, Wolf? Who is coming in that?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Vogel, backing toward the door.
She raised her right hand as if to hit him and began to chant in Spanish. Vogel was caught now. He could not move or speak. Something over her shoulder caught his eye, a glint of steel and blue flash.
Branwen stood nude on the ledge as the rain lashed down on the building. Her hair was braided in hundreds of strands containing bits of colored glass and rocks and feathers and she had painted her face and body dark blue and green. She stepped into the room and the witch saw her reflected in Vogel’s eyes and she turned immediately to cast her spell against Branwen but Branwen had lifted her sword with two hands over her right shoulder and as soon as the witch turned she brought the sword down with an amazing strength and severed the witch’s head from her body in one stroke.
Blood gushed up and about the room. Vogel fell back against the wall, splattered with the witch’s blood.
Branwen smiled a crooked smile and walked to the bed and cleaned the blood from her blade.
The witch’s head rolled beneath the dresser and stopped with a thud and Vogel turned and saw her wild and angry eyes, which blinked twice and before the witch spoke.
“You bitch. You think you can end this with a sword. You stupid cow, I shall release all the fury of my sisters on you and on you, you pitiful stupid wolf.”
Branwen stood above the head and said, “Talk on witch, I have heard your threats before, maybe even your threats.”
As Vogel watched the two, a shimmer appeared in the room, like a heat wave lifting off the desert’s floor, and then Branwen began to change; black shiny feathers sprouted from her body and shone and glistened in the light of the lamps and where the young girl stood naked now appeared a large raven with purple black feathers, black beak and eyes.
The raven hopped under the dresser and snapped the witch’s hair up in her beak and dragged it, as it cursed her and Vogel in both Spanish and French, across the floor to the edge of the bed.
The sky cleared and all remnants of the storm disappeared. The raven, quorked, cawed, snapped and hopped onto the bed, where it dropped the head and then flew toward Vogel, who fell back against the door.
After a few turns around the room, the raven landed on the dresser and moved its head back and forth, one black eye watching Vogel, before it hopped onto the bed next to the head and fastened its beak once again onto the witch’s hair. With two strong flaps of its massive wings, the raven flew through window.
It was some time before Vogel dragged himself into the bathroom where he vomited into the toilet. He stared into the mirror afterwards and noted he was splattered with blood. He cleaned himself off as best he could and then took two wash cloths and cleaned every surface in the room that he had touched. He also wiped up the bloody tracks he had made when he had walked through blood.
Before leaving, he thought about every step he had taken before he entered the witch’s room. He was most worried about the flower girl, who could describe a senior American, who walked with the aid of a cane and who ordered flowers for the decapitated woman in Room 426.
He was finally ready to leave when he detected a faint scent on the wind, a scent he had smelled before in the desert, a feral smell like a large cat’s lair. He walked to the window and guessed it was coming from the southeast. He also picked up another similar scent emanating from the northwest and guessed the witch’s spell was broken because he could now pick out from the multitude of odors he was now receiving the distinctive odor of both the Coyote and his pup.
Before leaving the window, he noted hundred of birds wheeling about the spire on top of the Eiffel Tower and he thought he discerned Branwen carrying the witch’s head in the middle of the murder of crows.