Kitty Goes to War Page 26

“Is she always so optimistic?” Shumacher said to Ben.

“Yes. I usually just stand out of her way and let her go. It’s easier than arguing,” Ben said.

Shumacher studied her clipboard a moment. It held what looked like a stack of charts, computer printouts of some kind. I couldn’t tell what information she derived from them.

“They did well today, didn’t they?” she said finally.

“I think so,” I said. “They’re listening to me. I think they’ll listen to me if we go outside.”

“Maybe I can allow a short trip. An hour or two.”

“That’s all I’m asking for,” I said. “Baby steps.”

“I’ll need to get authorization from Colonel Stafford,” she said.

Which was touch and go at best, but I couldn’t complain.

We said our farewells, left the building, and emerged into an increasingly overcast winter afternoon. The air smelled wet.

“That went well,” Ben said as we crossed the parking lot, and he didn’t even sound sarcastic.

“Really?” I said hopefully.

“Yeah. Those guys deserve a break. I hope we can help them.”

I wrapped my arm around his middle and hugged him. “So what’s up with Cormac?” I said.

“Oh, you’ll like this.” Ben wore a shit-eating grin. It was his courtroom attorney “I will bury you” expression.

“What? What does he want?”

He just kept grinning, stringing me along.

“Come on. Just tell me.”

We reached our car before he said anything.

“We’re going on a stakeout.”

Chapter 10

“JESUS, THIS is just like old times,” Ben muttered.

He leaned back in the driver’s seat and tapped the top of the steering wheel.

“Old times” meant the days when Cormac loaded his Jeep with rifles and silver bullets and called Ben for backup when things got rough. I remembered Ben saying something about how he mostly drove the car on those treks. Kind of like he was doing now.

That thought didn’t soothe my nerves. I sat on the passenger side, watching through the windshield, ready for anything. We were parked in downtown Denver, waiting for Cormac’s phone call. He was on foot, staking out the Brown Palace Hotel, where Franklin was staying. The BrownPalace was the posh, fancy local hotel, and had been for the last hundred years or so. It was the stylish place to stay, and that he had a room there told us that Franklin cared about appearances.

Cormac wouldn’t tell us anything more of what he’d learned about Franklin. Just that my crazy caller, Charles, might have been on to something. But we needed evidence that it wasn’t all a big coincidence. Hence the stakeout.

“Has Cormac ever done this before?” I asked.

“Sure, he’s tailed lots of guys before.”

“No, I mean has he ever been so… vague? Tossing off Latin phrases, buying into conspiracy theories. Ever since he got out of prison he’s just seemed a little out of it.”

“You don’t think just getting out of prison might have something to do with that?”

“I suppose. But sometimes, he doesn’t even smell right.”

After a few silent moments, Ben said, “Yeah, I noticed that.”

“What’s happening to him?”

“I don’t know. As long as he keeps his nose clean and stays away from his guns, I’m not sure it matters.”

My phone rang—Cormac’s tone. I jumped and rushed to answer. “Yeah?”

“He’s on the move. I’m at the corner of Seventeenth and Glenarm.”

I relayed the info to Ben, who started the car and pulled into the street. We turned to the next block and found Cormac, who opened the back passenger side door before the car slowed completely to a stop, and Ben had pulled away from the curb before the door was finished closing. Real getaway pros, they were.

“He’s heading south on Broadway,” Cormac said.

“Got it. What are we looking for?”

“Black Hummer, you can’t miss it,” Cormac said.

“That’s excessive,” Ben said with a huff. “Help me keep an eye out, Kitty. And don’t be so obvious.”

I had started craning forward and twisting in my seat to look at the lanes of traffic on either side of us.

“I’m not very good at this cloak-and-dagger thing, you know.”

“You’re fine,” Cormac said from the backseat, sounding amused.

I glanced back. He’d put on his sunglasses, and I couldn’t tell where he was looking—out the windshield, I assumed, searching for Franklin’s black car. He seemed relaxed, and smelled like clean, cotton T-shirt and skin. He’d donned his familiar leather jacket, like a piece of armor.

“What exactly are we doing?” I said.

“We’re going to see where he goes and what he does when he gets there,” Cormac said.

“What if he’s just going to the liquor store for a six-pack?”

“Guys like Franklin have people to do that for them. No, he’s up to something.” He was wearing his sardonic smile. The one that suggested he was outside the world and just watching it go by.

“I’m so not cut out for this,” I grumbled. “I shouldn’t even be here.”

“This is to save your ass, remember,” Ben said.

“Not my ass so much as my bacon,” I said.

“What does that even mean?” Cormac scooted up so he was looking between the front seats.

“Bacon,” Ben said. “As in bringing home the.”

“Ah.” Cormac still looked like he was secretly laughing at me.

“I’m glad you’re so amused,” I said, turning to sit straight, looking for the Hummer, which surely had gotten away from us by now. A Hummer shouldn’t be able to hide.

“Just happy to be alive,” Cormac said.

I was about to twist around to look at him again and ask him what he was talking about when Ben said, “Is that our guy?”

“That’s him,” Cormac said.

Ben had nodded to the urban tank, three cars ahead of us and to the right, looking like a black hole in the middle of traffic. Ben cruised along like nothing was different, but we all got quiet.

Broadway was one of the main drags through Denver. The Hummer—not exactly subtle—could continue for a long time without turning. We followed, never closer than three or four cars, often as much as two blocks away from it. Those moments, my heart would start pounding faster, I’d start tapping the armrest, sure that Franklin was getting away from us. Ben and Cormac never even twitched. I wondered how many times they’d done this sort of thing.

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