Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #4)

by Maggie Stiefvater

Chapter One

· cole ·

f live: Today on the wire we have young Cole St. Clair, lead singer of NARKOTIKA, giving his first interview in — well, a long time. Two years ago he went facedown during a concert, and right after that, he went missing. Totally off the radar. Cops were dredging rivers. Fangirls wept and built shrines. Six months later, news came out that he was in rehab. And then he was just gone. But it looks like soon we’ ll be hearing some new music from America’s favorite rock prodigy. He’s just signed a deal with Baby North.

“Are you a dog person or a puppy person, Larry?” I asked, craning my head to look out the deeply tinted window. View out the left: blinding-white cars. View out the right: fossil-fuelblack cars. Mostly Mercedes with a chance of Audis. Sun glittered and dazzled off their hoods. Palm trees sprouted from the landscape at irregular intervals. I was here. Finally here.

I had an East Coaster’s love of the West Coast. It was simple and pure and unadulterated by anything as obscene as the truth.

My driver looked at me in the rearview mirror. His eyelids were halfhearted tents pitched over his red eyes. He was a dismal inhabitant of a suit unhappy to house him. “Leon.”

My cell phone was an insubstantial sun against my ear.

“Leon is not a possible answer to that question.”

“That’s my name,” he said.

“Of course it is,” I said warmly. I hadn’t thought he looked like a Larry, now that I thought about it. Not with that watch.

Not with that mouth. Leon was not from L.A., I decided. Leon was probably from Wisconsin. Or Illinois. “Dogs. Puppies.”

His mouth deflated as he considered it. “I suppose puppies.”

Everyone always said puppies. “Why puppies?”

Larry — no, Leon! — stumbled over his words, as if he hadn’t considered the idea before. “They’re more interesting to watch, I guess. Always moving.”

I couldn’t blame him. I would’ve said puppies myself.

“Why do you think they get slow, Leon?” I asked. My phone was very hot against my ear. “Dogs, I mean?”

Leon didn’t hesitate with this answer. “Life wears them down.”

f live: Cole? Are you still there?

cole st. clair: I sort of took a mental vacation during your intro. I was just asking my driver if he preferred dogs or puppies.

f live: It was a long intro. Does he have a preference?

cole st. clair: Do you?

f live: Puppies, I guess.

cole st. clair: Ha! Double ha. Larry — Leon — sides with you. Why did you choose puppies?

f live: I suppose they’re cuter.

I held the phone away from my mouth. “Martin from F

Natural Live chose puppies, too. Cuter.”

This knowledge didn’t seem to cheer Leon very much.

cole st. clair: Leon finds them more entertaining. More energetic.

f live: That’s exhausting, though, isn’t it? I guess if it’s someone else’s puppy. Then you can watch it and the mess is someone else’s problem. Do you have a dog?

I was a dog. Back in Minnesota, I both tenanted and belonged to a pack of temperature-sensitive werewolves. Some days, that fact seemed more important than others. It was one of those secrets that meant more to other people.

cole st. clair: No. No, no, no.

f live: Four nos. This is an exclusive for our show, guys.

Cole St. Clair definitely doesn’t have a dog. But he might have an album soon. Let’s put this in perspective. Remember when this was big, guys?

On his end of the line, the opening chords of one of our last singles, “Wait/Don’t Wait,” sang out, pure and acidic. It had been played so often that it had lost every bit of its original emotional resonance for me; it was a song about me, written by someone else. It was a great song by someone else, though.