Kitty Goes to War Page 17

For a long time, none of them spoke. I kept my gaze on Vanderman—the dangerous one—but could see the others in the corners of my vision. They watched Vanderman as well—looking for cues, waiting to see what he would do before they reacted. Maybe I should have talked to them separately.

“What is there to talk about?” Vanderman said finally. And off to the side, Tyler relaxed. He wanted Vanderman to talk.

“Yarrow. Crane. Estevan,” I said. “What happened?”

Vanderman grimaced. “They wouldn’t listen to me. They put us all in danger.”

“You lost control,” I said.

“I’m the alpha, they had to listen—”

“The alpha is supposed to keep his pack safe,” I said.

“I’m trying,” he said, voice low, snarling.

And I believed him. He really did think he was leading, being the alpha, by smacking down the lesser wolves who dared to challenge him. He was doing what his wolf told him to, and his wolf was angry and afraid.

“I know.”

“I didn’t want to hurt them,” he said.

“You’re going to keep hurting people until you can learn to control your wolf. Before you can take care of anyone else, you have to get yourself under control. So let’s talk about you for a minute. What do you want? What do you want to do next?”

“I want to go back. Finish the job.”

“Back—to Afghanistan?” The answer baffled me. Why would anyone want to go back there? But Vanderman nodded, and I saw the determination in him. It was the first time he hadn’t looked murderous. He was focused on his job. “Then you have to get this thing under control. You know that, don’t you?”

“Who are you to tell me that? What do you know about it, you bitch, you fucking bitch—” He threw himself against the glass. I would have flinched if I hadn’t seen it coming, in his bared teeth and bloodshot eyes. He really did seem more animal than human. He must have known he couldn’t hurt me, but he kept driving at me, trying to scare me.

And okay, I was scared. For him as much as of him. But I was the one in control here, which made me the alpha, which was a little gratifying. He hadn’t figured that out yet. He thought beating people up made him the alpha.

I turned away, showing him that he wasn’t worth my time, and studied Tyler and Walters.

“What about you guys?” I said to the other two. “What do you want?”

Vanderman moved in between them and me. “We’re a pack. We have to stick together.”

“That doesn’t mean anything here,” I said. “You’re human beings with free will. I want to hear them talk.”

Walters looked back and forth between Vanderman and me, shivering almost, trying to decide whom he was more terrified of. I wanted to yell at him to straighten up, to grow a spine, to stop cowering. But he was scared. Screaming at him wouldn’t change that.

“I want to go home,” Tyler said, frowning, sad. “I want to be normal.”

“Sergeant, what the fuck are you doing?” Vanderman said around gritted teeth.

“Van, we can’t keep going like this,” Tyler said. “They’re going to keep us locked up here forever if we don’t figure something out.”

“Shut up!”

“This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Gordon wouldn’t even recognize us with how messed up we are.”

“Shut the fuck up!”

“Van—”

Vanderman sprang, bowling into Tyler, driving him across the room and shoving him against the far wall. Tyler clawed at him, digging his hands into the skin of the man’s back looking for purchase. Twisting his body, he wrenched out of the sergeant’s grip. They fought, grappling at each other, locking arms around shoulders and trying to get the other to show belly. I was glad to be on this side of the glass.

I hoped Shumacher was taking notes, because from a behavior standpoint, this was fascinating. When Tyler answered my question, he essentially transferred authority to me—he decided he was going to listen to and obey me rather than Vanderman. And boy, did that piss Vanderman off. But it felt like progress. Sort of.

“Stop it!” I said. Of course they didn’t listen. So maybe I didn’t have all that much authority. “Vanderman, Tyler! Back off! Back down!” This was how the other men had died. Any minute now, they’d shift and start tearing each other to bits.

A keening, high-pitched electric siren blared through the room, rattling the concrete walls, vibrating up through my feet. I doubled over, hands to my ears to block the noise. Not that it worked, because the noise streaked along the inside of my skull and made my nerve endings shrivel up.

In a couple of seconds, it was over. Though it had seemed to drag on and linger in the way my teeth suddenly felt like Jell-O, it had probably only been a short blast. And it had been effective. When I looked in the cell, Tyler and Vanderman had separated, and were slowly unfolding themselves from protective crouches, hands over their ears, much as I was.

Huh. Dog whistle. Werewolf siren. Whatever.

The room’s door opened behind me and Shumacher entered.

“That totally sucked ass,” I said. My voice was kind of shaky. I tried to glare aggressively, not sure if I pulled it off.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think there was a choice.”

“What was that?” I demanded, trying to regain my composure—steadying my breathing and putting my heart back into my chest.

“It’s the fastest way to get their attention,” she said, nodding into the cage where the wolves had, in fact, calmed down. At least they weren’t fighting anymore. Vanderman started pacing again, a half dozen steps back and forth along the glass. Walters retreated to a corner where he sat, hunched in on himself, and Tyler settled into a crouch and glared out at us.

We were right back where we started.

“Kitty?” Shumacher said softly, indicating that I should come back outside with her.

In silence, we went back to the conference room from my first visit. Colonel Stafford had arrived in the meantime, and I was betting he’d witnessed the whole exchange between me and the others via video monitor. So much for convincing them I could be successful.

“That’s what we’re dealing with,” Stafford said. “Any bright ideas?”

Frowning, I sat next to Shumacher. What could I say? “Vanderman’s setting the tone. A really negative tone. You might try separating them, dealing with them one-on-one to get away from the pack mentality.”

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