Kitty Goes to War Page 10

Becky, dressed in a tank top and yoga pants despite the cold, paced nearby, her arms crossed, looking out into the woods as if searching. A few years older than me, she was willowy, with auburn hair. I’d known her for years, for as long as I’d been a werewolf. She’d been one for even longer, part of the pack that took me in at the start, and now she paced, an unhappy predator. Stafford watched Becky warily. Shumacher looked like she wanted to take notes.

Then there was Cormac in his tough-guy gear: jeans, T-shirt, biker boots, leather jacket, and opaque shades. He stood apart, in the other direction. He didn’t pace; he just watched. I kept glancing over, expecting a shotgun loaded with silver filings to magically appear in his hands, because the guns were part of the tough-guy gear. But he wasn’t carrying any weapons. Ben and I both checked.

Now that I’d brought this plan together, I supposed I had to go through with it.

“Explain this to me again,” Ben said.

I shrugged. “I’m guessing these guys have never met a female werewolf. Maybe meeting one will stop them in their tracks.” I was doing a lot of guessing here.

Ben looked at me sideways. “Isn’t that kind of sexist?”

“Yeah, it is,” I said, answering his smile. “And werewolves running on instinct are some of the most sexist bastards I know.”

“What makes you think they won’t rip our throats out?” Becky said, still pacing.

“That’s what the backup is for.”

We were going to set a trap. Stafford’s guys were supposed to have some heavy-duty gear to capture the rogue wolves. Shumacher had a pair of tranquilizer guns, those big rifles like you see in the National Geographic specials.

“I wasn’t sure tranquilizers would work on werewolves,” I said to her.

“You have to use enough tranquilizer to take down an elephant, but it works,” Shumacher said.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to know that.

“Are you ready to kill these guys?” Cormac said. “If you can’t talk sense into them, if you can’t rehabilitate them, are you willing to shoot them?”

That was Cormac, always the realist. Everyone looked at him for a long, silent moment.

“I’m hoping it won’t come to that,” Shumacher said finally.

Colonel Stafford looked at her, then at Cormac. “My men have been issued silver bullets.”

“Just make sure they don’t shoot at any of us,” I muttered. I wandered to where Cormac was standing, speaking low so the others wouldn’t hear. Stafford had been giving him wary looks since I introduced them, and when Cormac asked to look over the gear they were using—nets threaded with silver wire, cages, Tasers—Stafford had argued. I’d explained that Cormac was the real werewolf-hunting expert here. But that only made Stafford look at him even more oddly.

Stafford’s men set the traps—cages placed in ravines, since the ground around here was too rocky to dig proper tiger traps; nets to snare them if they avoided the cages. We limited the number of people who’d tromped around the immediate area of the traps, since the werewolves would be able to smell them. But Stafford and Shumacher would be there, with the tranquilizer guns.

It was the best we could do in a matter of hours.

“You don’t think it’s possible to catch werewolves,” I said to Cormac.

“Oh, sure it’s possible,” he said. “You’ve been caught before. But these aren’t just werewolves, are they?”

“I can’t not do anything. I have to try something.”

“For what it’s worth, I think you’re right. If these guys are really looking to set up a pack, I don’t think they’ll try to kill you and your friend there. But they may try to rape you.” That wasn’t comforting. “Just be careful. Keep your head on straight; you’ll be fine,” he said.

“Thanks.”

It was getting close to time. Becky and I were both barefoot. The chill didn’t bother us—our wolf sides loved it. Good weather for running. We’d head out on foot, crossing back and forth along the werewolves’ projected path, marking as we went. Becky would shift; I’d stay human. Whichever form our wayward soldiers were in, one of us should be able to “talk” to them. If we couldn’t talk to them, we were going to run—just run, in a panic, encouraging them to follow us. And we’d lead them to the traps. The two of us had been over the immediate area, had memorized the way it smelled. All we had to do was remember. Stafford and Shumacher would be there to spring the traps. I also had a radio with me. Theoretically, I could call for help.

“Ms. Norville? It’s time.” Colonel Stafford lowered a radio—his men had cleared the area.

Ben came to me, held my hands, and kissed me. “Any sign of trouble, I’m coming after you.”

“With guns or claws?” I didn’t want Ben turning wolf and going after these guys. The whole point of this exercise was to keep my wolves and the rogues from attacking each other.

“The Glock’s loaded and in the car,” he said, grinning.

Cormac may have had his concealed-weapons permit revoked, but Ben sure hadn’t.

“I’ll be fine. Everything’ll work out,” I said, too cheerfully. Ben looked skeptical; he recognized my nervous tone. I grabbed my backpack, which held the radio, a couple of bottles of water, and my own gun, loaded with silver. I hadn’t wanted to bring it, but Ben insisted.

I headed out; Becky moved in beside me, and we paced together until the others were out of sight.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Yeah. I’m actually kind of curious about these guys,” she said. She was worried—I couldn’t blame her for that. But she walked with confidence, her chin up, looking out with clear eyes. That was why I’d picked her—she wouldn’t cower. She’d been one of the first wolves to desert the old pack to follow me.

“They’re not bad guys,” I said. “I think they’re just lost.”

“I guess we’ll find out.”

I stopped myself from nagging Becky too much about her anxiety. I was having to work to clamp down on my own. Being in the woods like this—just the two of us, none of the other pack around, aware of the danger we were potentially heading toward—brought back memories of being hunted by very bad people. I kept looking over my shoulder, wondering what else was out here. Places like this were perfect for ambushes. But I was a hunter, too.

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