Kitty Goes to War Page 35

The truth was, I wasn’t sure. The safest thing would be to keep them locked up, but that wasn’t the goal, ultimately. “If they’re going to move on, either to go back to civilian life or to active duty, they’ll have to do this eventually. My pack can keep an eye on them. We ought to be able to keep them safe.” As well as surrounding civilization

“I suppose they deserve to have that opportunity.” She was reluctant. I wondered what she wasn’t telling me.

“I’d like to ask them. See if they feel up to it.”

“Yes, of course,” she said. I got the feeling Shumacher wasn’t used to giving her lab rats a choice. “But Kitty—do you really think they’ll ever be able to lead normal lives? Don’t you think they’d be safer—better off—staying under supervision?”

“What? For the rest of their lives?” I almost laughed. But Shumacher just looked at me, matter-of-factly, as though the suggestion wasn’t outlandish.

Then I realized that maybe she wanted to keep them locked up for the rest of their lives. Not for their own good, but for hers.

“Do you even see them as people? As patients? Or just as an experiment?” I said.

“That’s not fair—I’m trying to do good work here.”

“You can’t keep them locked up forever. They’re not guilty of murder.”

She spoke with passion—desperation, almost. “We’ve never had a chance to study the long-term effects of lycanthropy like this. I’ve never had subjects I could study this closely. It’s too good an opportunity—”

“At the cost of their sanity?” I said calmly. “They’re people, Doctor.”

She looked away.

She’d seemed so different than her predecessor at the NIH, but maybe there wasn’t any difference at all. The only results she wanted were raw data.

“Doctor, you have Vanderman. I’m not going to argue with you about letting him loose. But you have to let the others go. Please.”

She leaned forward, resting on her elbows. “I’ve been to see Vanderman. He hasn’t spoken in days. He paces, sleeps. If we try to confront him, he shape-shifts. He throws himself against the walls of his cell. I don’t know how to bring him back. My only option is to keep him sedated. That’s not a good baseline, even for a werewolf.”

Tyler and Walters I could help. Vanderman… I didn’t even want to see him. “I’ve heard stories of werewolves going so far that they don’t come back. I wondered sometimes if it was just stories. The way shifting feels, the way it gnaws at you—it’s easy to believe it could take over.”

“Nobody knows how to deal with him,” she said, shaking her head.

“This is where the bounty hunters usually come in,” I said.

“That’s terrible.”

“Yes.”

She sighed, seeming resigned. “I don’t suppose it’s that much worse than any other violent, mentally ill patient who has to remain confined.”

I said, “Most violent mental illnesses aren’t contagious.” By her frown I could tell that I wasn’t helping. “Can I go ahead and talk to Tyler and Walters? We can help them, I’m sure of it.”

She took me down the corridor to their room, opening doors with her pass key. I straightened, readjusting my mood to leave the grimness of the conversation outside. I didn’t want them to see me frustrated or upset.

The men actually seemed to perk up when they saw me. Walters was sitting on his bed and looked up, interested. Tyler had been at the table, reading a dogeared paperback. He set the book aside and stood, almost at attention, when I came through the door.

“Kitty. How are you?”

“I’m fine,” I said, smiling. “And you?”

He shrugged, Walters glowered, and I had to smile. Those were perfectly reasonable, human reactions to being locked up in a cell. Another step toward normality achieved. Shumacher left us, but I knew she was watching on her closed-circuit camera. My skin prickled at the scrutiny.

The normal thing to do would have been to pull up a chair to talk. But I remained standing to keep myself taller. And I wanted to let these guys out on the full moon?

“So,” I said. “Did you guys get a chance to listen to the show Friday?”

Tyler donned a crooked grin. “Shumacher let us have a radio. You do that every week?”

“Yeah. It’s kind of fun.”

He shook his head and seemed amused. “It’s kind of crazy.”

“I didn’t know there were so many of us out there,” Walters said, from the bed. “So many people called in saying they’re werewolves. Are there really that many?”

“They call in from all over,” I said. “I don’t really know how many of us there are. But they’re out there. Most of them lead pretty quiet, normal lives. They keep themselves secret and no one knows they’re there.” And you can do the same, was the conclusion I left unspoken. Walters nodded thoughtfully, which heartened me. Maybe he really had been inspired. “Full moon’s in a couple of days. You two feel up to maybe spending it outside?”

They looked at me, eyes wide, like kids who just found out they might get to go to Disneyland.

“Really?” Tyler said, hesitating, obviously not believing it.

“It’s a step,” I said. “You want to get out of here, you want to go home, you’re going to have to deal with the full moon. You can come spend it with my pack. See how real werewolves handle it.”

“I’d go for that,” Tyler said, glancing briefly at the camera in the upper corner of the room, where Shumacher was watching, before looking back at me. I wouldn’t blame him for thinking this was some kind of psychological experiment. Subject them to stress and disappointment, and so on.

“It’s not a done deal yet,” I said. “You need to be honest about whether you think you can handle it. Because if you screw this up, you may not get another chance. And if you hurt any of my people, I’ll finish you off myself.”

“You could try,” Walters grumbled.

I looked at him. “Yeah. And what would you say if I told you I’ve done it before?”

“What, stopped a werewolf?” he snickered.

“Killed,” I said. “Killed a werewolf.”

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