Kitty Goes to War Page 15

After a time, maybe half an hour or so, the flesh and muscle under my hand began to shift. I drew away, and almost couldn’t watch as her body seemed to melt, her bones losing shape, molding into something else. Bit by bit, fur vanished and skin emerged. This happened to me every month; I’d watched it happen to others often enough, but I still had a disconnect: I still had trouble imagining this happening to me. I didn’t like to picture it.

At last, Becky was back, a human shape, naked and tucked into a fetal position. I looked her over—any wounds she had were already healed. She seemed to be sleeping peacefully enough.

I let her sleep for another half hour before gently squeezing her shoulder. “Hey, Becky.”

She moaned a little, then sat up all at once, fully alert, looking around as if she expected an attack.

“It’s okay, we’re alone out here, everything’s fine,” I said, trying to sound calm.

The memory must have come back to her, because she groaned in annoyance and ran hands through her hair. After looking around a moment, squinting sleepily into the trees above, she rubbed her arms and legs, and hugged herself. Feeling the shape of her own body, bringing herself to the here and now.

“Are you okay?”

“Don’t ever ask me to do something like that again,” she said, glaring. “Those guys were—” She shuddered, then just shook her head. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Carl wasn’t even that bad.”

“Carl didn’t do tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan on top of being a pissed-off werewolf,” I said. Carl was the old alpha male of our pack. He’d had something of a temper.

“So what’s going to happen to them?”

“I don’t know. I’m afraid Colonel Stafford may just lock them up and throw away the key.”

“You don’t think maybe that would be for the best?”

It might end up being the best of a bunch of really bad solutions. But it didn’t seem fair. This wasn’t what they’d signed up for when Gordon recruited them for his little independent project. I kept forgetting that life wasn’t fair. I kept trying to make it fair. I said, “I guess I’d like them to at least have a chance.” A chance to decide, a chance to get their lives back, if they wanted them.

That alpha. Vanderman. I wanted to look him in the eyes as a human—see if there was anything human left in there.

“Do you have my clothes?” Becky said after a moment.

I handed her my backpack, and she sighed gratefully.

We didn’t say much on the drive back. Ben drove, Cormac sat in the passenger seat, and from the backseat Becky kept giving him furtive glances. When we reached her apartment in Littleton, she fled the car quickly, barely saying good-bye.

We drove on, and I leaned forward. “Do all the girls run from you like that?”

Cormac just glared.

“Is she okay?” Ben said, giving both me and Cormac long-suffering glances.

“I think so,” I said. “She’s a little shaken up.”

“And what about you?”

I had to think about it a minute, which said something right there. I put on a good face. “It takes a little more than a couple of insane werewolves to scare me these days.”

“So they’re insane,” Ben said.

“Not really,” I said, at the same time Cormac said, “Yeah.” We glanced at each other.

“But we’re done now, right? You did what they asked, our territory’s not being invaded anymore, and we don’t have to deal with those guys, right?” Ben said.

That would be too easy. I looked out the window and grimaced.

“You’re not agreeing with me,” Ben said.

“I want to talk to them.”

“Talking fixes everything,” Cormac grumbled.

“Kitty,” Ben said, “this isn’t somebody calling in to your show because they have a hangnail. This, it’s too… too—”

“Too big?” I said. “Think I can’t handle it?”

“That’s not what I said,” he muttered. We looked at each other in the rearview mirror. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

I didn’t want me to get hurt, either. “I have to try.”

“I know.” His thin smile said, look, see, I’m trying to be supportive. Even though I was afraid that he was right, and that I’d be better off walking away and not worrying about the fates of the three men. But then I’d always wonder.

Chapter 6

THE NEXT morning I called Dr. Shumacher to set up an appointment to talk to her patients. That afternoon, I returned to the hospital at FortCarson.

Shumacher, clipboard in hand, led me to the elevator, and we descended to a basement level, all concrete and fluorescent lights. Flemming’s basement office and laboratory at the NIH in Washington, D.C. had looked a little like this, tucked away and secretive, promising dark secrets I’d rather not discover. The hospital smell, antiseptic and haunted, was pervasive and inspired anxiety. Intellectually, I could rationalize that hospitals were good places where people got better. But on a gut level, hospitals meant people were hurt. I braced for horrors.

Several doors along the hallway were open, showing infirmaries, hospital beds, storage closets, laboratories. It was a little comforting; this was all normal, nothing to be frightened of here. Then we came to the closed door at the end of the hall. Shumacher put her hand on the knob and gave me a grim look. Maybe a look of warning. Or a look of despair—she was at the end of her options.

She opened the door, and I followed her inside.

The room was large, all off-white walls and tile, sterile government issue. The lights in the ceiling were dimmed. A few chairs were placed facing a Plexiglas wall that divided the room. The back of the space, maybe fifteen by twenty feet, was a specialized prison. I recognized the Flemming-designed werewolf holding cell: silver shavings embedded in the paint on the walls, giving them a dull patina. A silver-lined door was cut into the Plexiglas, along with a silver-lined slot to shove food through. Theoretically, a werewolf was strong enough to break down the walls, given time and patience. But most werewolves would stay as far away from the silver boundary as possible.

The three men in the cell had, in fact, positioned themselves away from the walls. They’d been given clothes, fortunately. I was afraid they hadn’t been, that their keepers had entirely given up on thinking of them as human. More encouragingly, the men were bothering to wear the clothes. On the other hand, they had beards started, and their military crew cuts had turned shaggy.

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