Kitty Goes to War Page 28

“Well?” Ben said.

“There’s some kind of amulet or charm. Looks like a silver double-headed ax.”

“Can you draw it?” Cormac asked.

“Yeah,” I said, looking around for some paper. The nearest thing at hand was the dust on the outside of Ben’s car, so I used that. Cormac studied it, rubbing his chin, then looked up. I followed his gaze to the big Speedy Mart sign on its post out front: the words of the store spelled out in a leaning, speedy font, on a red backdrop shaped like an oval with bites taken out of the top and bottom—like a double-headed ax.

“Huh,” Ben said.

“So what’s it mean?” I asked.

Cormac was shaking his head. “That’s what I want to figure out.”

AFTER OUR little episode playing Mission Impossible, I was sure I’d get another visit from Franklin. At the very least he’d serve me with a restraining order. I wouldn’t even be able to blame him for it. But nothing happened that day, or the next. Nobody got struck by lightning. The lawsuit was proceeding apace; KNOB’s lawyer was working on an argument to get the case thrown out on the basis that no one actually took my show seriously. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that.

Cormac said he was going to work on figuring out what Franklin was doing with the amulets and symbols. I called the next day for an update, and his phone rolled to voice mail. He hadn’t bothered putting on a personal message; it was just an automated voice reading back his number. I had to wait for more information, but it was hard not to sit by the phone hoping for someone—Cormac, lawyers, Franklin, anyone—to call and tell me my fate.

Fortunately, I had distractions. I was determined to get Tyler and Walters to New Moon.

First, I called the members of the pack who frequented the bar, both to warn them and to recruit help. Shaun would be at New Moon. A few others who I considered heavy hitters in the pack would be there. I’d asked Becky to be there, which might have been flirting with disaster. But I wanted to see what would happen, if Walters would remember her and what he’d done to her. I promised her she could walk out the door the second she wanted to. She said she definitely would—after she looked Walters in the eye as a human being and saw how he reacted.

If worst came to worst and Walters flipped out, we’d lock the doors and keep the army guys there until Shumacher and her tranquilizer guns came to the rescue.

Shumacher really wanted to come along. She wanted to be right there with her clipboard, taking notes, observing. We talked about it on the phone.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” I argued, trying to sound nice about it. “I think you make them nervous. They might be a little more comfortable in a more relaxed situation.”

She hesitated, no doubt forming her argument. I could almost hear the unspoken “but” floating on the signal. “They’re my responsibility,” she said finally. “Colonel Stafford expects them to be supervised by someone with authority.”

The safe haven of the government bureaucracy. How could I argue against that?

“If something goes wrong you can court-martial me,” I said, realizing that I probably shouldn’t. I imagined myself fighting two court cases simultaneously. Ben would have conniptions.

“You’re a civilian, you can’t be court-martialed,” Shumacher said.

“Well, thank goodness for that. Doctor, these are people, not a science experiment. Can’t we try and let them be people? Just for a couple of hours?”

“How about a compromise: I’ll go with them, but I’ll wait outside. You get a more normal situation, and I’ll be there if anything goes wrong.”

She was so convinced that something was going to go wrong. “Deal,” I said.

“And I want to record the session,” she said quickly.

“Doctor—”

“Videotaping therapy sessions is a widely accepted practice,” she argued. And what did I know? I let her come to the restaurant early and set up a pair of remote cameras over the bar.

Ben and I went together to spring the guys from the VA hospital.

Chapter 11

THE GUYS didn’t much like being in the enclosed space of the car. We opened all the windows to let in air. I half expected one of them to stick his head out, nose into the wind, blissful expression on his face. I’d have understood the impulse. Even if they were tense and watchful, being out of the stuffy hospital had to feel good. But they just slumped in their seats and looked surly.

“This is Denver?” Tyler asked at one point. We followed I-25 to downtown, which presented a vista of skyscrapers, the sports arenas, Elitch’s amusement park, and the Broncos stadium.

“Yup,” I said. “Ever been here?”

“No,” he said. “Never have.”

“What about you, Walters?” He shook his head.

Just a mile or so later, we pulled off the freeway at Colfax and entered the grid of side streets. A few minutes after that, we were at New Moon. Tyler saw the funky neon sign and smirked.

“That some kind of joke?” he said.

“Not really,” I said. “It’s kind of a philosophy.”

Ben pulled around back and parked.

Inside, late afternoon, the place was pretty empty, which was also part of the plan. The soldiers looked around carefully—at the tables, brick walls, into the ductwork along the high ceiling, across the bar, studying every inch. I wondered how long it had been since they’d been in a restaurant.

Behind the counter, Shaun noticed us, straightened, and frowned. He was strong, but more than that he was decisive—he could take a stand. I counted on him to back up me and Ben in the pack. If he ever decided he wanted to take over, we’d be in trouble. So we got him firmly on our side by hiring him to manage New Moon. We were a team.

Others of the pack were here as well. Two of them, Dan and Jared, tough but sensible, sat at a table in the corner munching on what looked like buffalo wings. Becky was sitting at the bar, talking to Shaun. They all glanced at Ben and me. I nodded at them, and they quickly looked away—showing deference, acknowledging that I was the boss. But they stared hard at Tyler and Walters, who in their camouflage pants and gray T-shirts stood out. Tyler, closest to me, stiffened. Walters had parted his lips, showing teeth.

The whole scene was like something out of a spaghetti Western. Everyone was still, silent, sizing each other up. Waiting for someone else to flinch first. I could almost hear the Morricone soundtrack.

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