In A Badger Way Excerpt
When Shen found the little rip in the wallpaper behind his head and began to pull at it—he thought maybe something was behind it and he wanted to see!—the pretty receptionist who had become a lot less nice the longer Shen sat in her waiting room came over and slapped his hand away.
“Can you not sit still for three minutes?”
“It’s been like ten hours.”
“Less than an hour. Just sit. And stop playing with everything. You’re worse than the grizzlies!”
Still bored, Shen took out his phone again and went to his favorite news sites, then checked his texts. A full-human woman he had been trying to set up a date with had finally gotten back to him but—to his horror—she was suggesting dinner with her parents. Shen couldn’t tell if she was trying to get him to run away screaming or was seriously asking him to dinner with her parents. For their first date.
Unsure, he forwarded the text to his two sisters. Kiki responded first with one emoji after another. All of them suggesting she was laughing hysterically at him.
Zhen texted back a simple message: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE.
Shen was trying to figure out how to nicely decline the date since he didn’t like the idea of being one of those guys who simply didn’t respond. He had two sisters who had been forced to deal with assholes like that for years, and he wasn’t about to become one himself.
But before he could gently explain that he had to move back to China for the foreseeable future, the three sisters returned to the waiting
The sisters stood silently as Stevie’s doctor arranged additional appointments and handed her a prescription slip. “You can get this filled downstairs. You’ll need to use our pharmacy, of course.”
Stevie nodded, but that was it.
Once done, and without a word, they headed to the elevator and went down to the pharmacy on the first floor. Another twenty minutes there to get the medication and then they were on the road heading back to Queens.
The sisters said nothing the entire way home, each looking out a window.
Shen stopped at the McDonald’s near the Queens house and picked up a few burgers and several large orders of fries. Each sister declined to order with a shake of her head and continued silence.
He parked the SUV in front of the house and everyone got out. Shen dropped off his food on the coffee table in the living room. He walked to the first-floor bathroom, washed his hands, then went to the refrigerator in the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water. On his way through the dining room, he grabbed one of his duffle bags filled with bamboo stalks and returned to the living room.
Putting the food out and turning on the television, Shen only took one bite of his Quarter Pounder before Stevie suddenly walked into the living room, turned, and proceeded to scream back toward the dining room.
Shen tried to understand her, but then Charlie and Max joined in and the three sisters stood right in the archway, just screeching.
Screeching so intensely, the veins on Stevie’s neck bulged, appearing ready to explode. Her face was beet red and she was talking with her hands. Well . . . screeching with her hands. All three gestured wildly but Shen had no idea what anyone was saying because they were not only screeching but screeching fast. Like speed-screeching.
After about three minutes of this, Stevie suddenly leaned her head back, and the roar that exploded from her throat shook the windows and . . . maybe . . . the entire house? Shen wasn’t positive but the roar was powerful.
Charlie and Max stopped their own screeching. Stevie lowered her head, and, slicing her hands through the air, announced, “That. Is. It!” There was a long silence, and the MacKilligans stared at each other until Stevie added, “You both know what I’ll do. And you both know I’ll do it. We’re not having this discussion again.”
“I need to bake,” Charlie announced, heading to the kitchen.
Max just walked away, the back door slamming shut a minute later.
Stevie, her jaw tight, stood in the archway for another two or three minutes until she finally sighed and swung her giant backpack off her shoulder. Digging around for a bit, she eventually pulled out the paper bag she’d gotten from the pharmacy. She took out the bottle of pills and read the label.
“I need to take this with food.”
Shen picked up one of the Quarter Pounders and held it out to her, but Stevie’s nose crinkled in distaste. “No thanks.”
She turned, started toward the kitchen. Stopped when she heard pots banging. Spun around and headed toward the front door, but the local stray cat came charging in from one of the open windows, followed by a shifted Max, who didn’t seem to care it was the middle of the day.
“Leave that cat alone, Max!”
A few seconds later, they heard Charlie bark, “Max!” and then the back door opened and closed, probably meaning the cat and the badger had been tossed out of the house.
With a long sigh, Stevie faced Shen and he motioned to the pile of burgers he had on the coffee table, again offering what he had.
Stevie came over and picked one up. “Thank you,” she said with a sigh and moved back to the other side of the room, heading toward one of the wing-backed chairs across from Shen. She was turning to sit down when big hands slapped against the window, causing Stevie to scream and drop the burger as one of the MacKilligans’ grizzly neighbors put his face close to the glass and yelled, “Is your sister baking? I thought I heard baking noises!”
Shen shook his head, annoyed with his fellow bear. He would think the locals would have stopped doing that sort of thing by now. The MacKilligan sisters were not the kind of women a bear, cat, wolf, or man would want to startle. They made the horror of grizzlyboar rage seem like a toddler’s temper tantrum. Not only because Stevie shifted into . . . whatever the hell it was she shifted into, but also because her sisters didn’t really bother with shifting when they were startled or confronted. Charlie had a way with firearms that he hadn’t seen even from trained military professionals, while Max did love her edge weapons. She could slice and dice like an old-school butcher, but she moved like a dancer or gymnast. And she really enjoyed it. She enjoyed hurting those who hurt or attempted to hurt those she loved.
That made her more than a predator. It made her a killing machine. A shark in a honey badger body.
Shen picked up the SUV keys, his wallet, and sunglasses, and walked over to a panting Stevie, who was trying desperately not to panic. He slung her backpack over his shoulder and took hold of her arm.
“Come on,” he said, pulling her along behind him.
“Where are we going?”
“To get you some food and a break from . . . everything.” He glanced back at her. “I think after the day you’ve had, we can both agree that you deserve it.”