Kitty Goes to War Page 18

“Or I could just court-martial them all on murder charges,” Stafford said.

That probably seemed logical to him. But it hardly seemed fair, at least not for Tyler and Walters.

“They’ll plead insanity because of the lycanthropy,” Shumacher said, as though they’d had this conversation before.

“They’d still be locked up. That may be as good as they’re going to get.”

In Vanderman’s case, it was maybe even the right thing to do. I remembered the look in his eyes, his single-mindedness. He was a fighter and he couldn’t shut it off.

“But the others?” I said. “Is there any evidence that they directly participated in the murders? Tyler and Walters may not have had anything to do with it. The pack dynamics mean they’re submissive to Vanderman, deferring to him.”

“Evidence says it was all Vanderman. I’m willing to consider that the others were coerced. But as much as I’d love to put Tyler and Walters back in the field, if you can’t help them, they’ll have to stay where they are.”

“There has to be a way,” I said, but of course it wasn’t that easy. “They’ve never seen functional werewolves living in society. They’re like those wild children living on their own in the woods—”

“Raised by wolves?” Shumacher said wryly.

Except wolves were more civilized than they were. “If we could show them, give them an example to follow…” They needed to be taught. I wondered if it was as simple as that. If they could be taught, if they would just listen

Shumacher leaned forward. “Could you arrange that? If we moved them to Denver? Exposed them to your pack, acclimated them.”

I wanted a moment to consider the implications. I didn’t particularly want to bring my people into this any more than I already had. They weren’t therapists or guinea pigs. But then neither was I.

“Kitty?” Shumacher prompted.

“Tyler and Walters, maybe,” I said finally. “Tyler is listening to me, and Walters is submissive. He’ll follow my lead if we get him away from Vanderman.” Vanderman was the killer. He was the one we had to worry about. If we got the others away from him, maybe we could influence them.

“Colonel?” Shumacher asked.

He thought a moment, tapping fingers on the table-top. The easy thing to do would be for him to throw away the key. But maybe he would take a chance.

“All right,” he said. “Let’s try it.”

Shumacher sighed, relieved. “Then it’s settled. I’ll find facilities for them and we can get started as soon as we can.”

“And Vanderman?” I said.

“I think Vanderman’s finished,” Stafford said.

So they were giving up on him. And I couldn’t honestly say I was sorry to hear it.

Chapter 7

I CALLED BEN to let him know I was on the way home, and an hour or so later stumbled through the door around suppertime. I felt mostly numb—zombieish, even. Like someone else was guiding my body via remote control. What exactly had I agreed to again?

Ben was in the kitchen, making something that smelled like food. My nerves started to melt, which was both a good and a bad thing. I wasn’t sure I was ready for self-reflection quite yet.

“You look terrible,” he said. Not the best greeting ever, but it was nice that he noticed.

“I had a rough afternoon.” I wandered over, wanting to investigate the scents my nose was taking in. Fresh meat. He was doing something with steak and red wine. I wanted to tear into it.

“How’s the werewolf Dirty Dozen? Quarter dozen, I suppose.” he said, meeting me halfway and gathering me into his arms. I leaned against him, pressing my face to his shoulder, wrapping myself in his embrace—the good, solid, protective weight of his arms across my back. I turned my nose to his hairline and took in his scent, mildly sweaty, musky, the hint of fur, of his wolf under the skin.

I was definitely home. I took his face in my hands and kissed him to seal the deal. Ben enthusiastically reciprocated, which helped banish lingering tension. I was eager to continue the trend. My hands crawled down his sides, tugging at the hem of his shirt until they found access, then slipped up his back, pressing against his warm skin. He made a sound and pulled me closer, so that I had to hitch a leg around his. His heart was pounding against my chest. We fit together snugly.

Then he said, murmuring into my cheek, “Um. I have to go check the steaks.”

“Not really.”

“’Fraid so. Unless you want them overdone.”

We both liked our steaks rare. Reluctantly, I let him go. Flushed and smiling, I stayed in the kitchen, leaning against the wall and watching him work.

“What’s going to happen to them?” he asked.

“They’re giving up on Vanderman. Court-martial and locked up for life, probably.”

“Rough.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know what else to do. He isn’t stable. He’d barely talk to me. And he is guilty of murder.”

“It’s not like you to give up on anyone.”

“I’m going to try to help Tyler and Walters. They’ll be transferred to a VA hospital up here and I’m going to help… socialize them, I guess.”

“You think it’ll work?”

“I know Cormac would say it’s too late. But I guess I want to prove someone can come back from that.” My same old line: I wanted to believe our human sides were stronger. Or at least just as strong.

Ben turned a wry smile. “It’s not your job, you know. You don’t have to try to save everyone.”

I frowned and looked away. I couldn’t save everyone; I’d had that demonstrated to me all too clearly. But if you didn’t try, you might end up not saving anyone. I had to try.

“Who else is going to do it?” I said. “Besides, I don’t think of it as a job so much as a… a vocation.”

“Sometimes you can’t fix everything. You can argue your best case in front of the most sympathetic judge and jury in the world—and sometimes you still won’t win.”

“I’m not sure this is about winning,” I said. “It’s about proving that we’re human. That we deserve a chance.”

“The life you save may be your own?” he said.

I gave him a grim smile.

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