Kitty Goes to War Page 56

Kneeling, Ben held my legs while I sat on his shoulder, and he stood. Werewolf strength meant he didn’t even wobble, but I had to grab his other shoulder to keep my balance.

“You okay?” he said.

“Yup.” I started drawing.

“Hey, what are you doing?” the kid said, rushing around the counter. He didn’t get closer than about ten feet. He just stopped, hand outstretched, watching with an expression that resembled hopelessness.

“Breaking a spell. I hope,” I said.

“Huh? But—you can’t—I mean—”

“The blizzard? Not normal. We’re here to save the city.”

The guy started laughing, hysterical. “This sucks! I mean, who are you? What the hell—” He sat down and put his head in his hands.

I was almost finished drawing the thunder mark, just adding the circles.

“Hey, are you okay?” Ben asked him.

“No. I was supposed to be off my shift six hours ago, but I can’t get home, and no one else can get here. The manager said I should just stay open as long as I was here. I’ve been here for fourteen hours!”

What could I say? That really did suck.

“Okay, I’m done,” I said to Ben, and he let me slide to the floor. We regarded my artwork, comparing it to the image on my phone. It looked like it was supposed to—the distinct wheel-like symbol, as big as my face. And if I wasn’t mistaken, the wind seemed to have died down a little. It may have been my imagination.

“It just seems way too easy,” Ben said.

I stared at him. “We just drove eighty miles through a blizzard in a Humvee—you call that easy?”

Ben made an offhand shrug, and he had a point—that was actually one of the easier things we’d done today.

“Who are you people?” the clerk shrieked. “What am I supposed to do about that?”

“Please don’t paint it or wash it off or anything. At least for a couple of days,” I said.

“But—”

“Seriously.”

He clenched his hands and drew himself up with new resolve. “I’m calling my manager.” He marched to a phone behind the counter.

We both ran to beat him to it. Ben lunged over the counter to grab the base and pull out the cord. I went right for the receiver in his hand and snatched it away. The clerk yelled and scrambled away from me to press himself against the wall, panting for breath. We must have looked pretty aggressive—a couple of wolves on the run. And he’d acted a lot like prey. Smiling, I glared at him and resisted licking my lips.

“How about we give you a ride home?” I said. “We’ve got a Humvee with chains.”

He only took about five seconds to say yes. Ten more minutes ticked off the clock while we waited for him to get his things, shut off the lights, switch on the alarm, and lock up. We waited in the Humvee.

“What’s up with that?” Ben asked, looking at me. “Giving him a ride?”

“It’s the only thing I could think of,” I said.

“Oh, I’m not complaining, it’s not a bad idea. It’s not a great idea. Especially if the kid finds out we’re all werewolves.”

“What’s going on?” Tyler asked.

The kid hauled open the front passenger door, which creaked on its hinges, and climbed it. He needed a couple of tries to make it up to the seat. When he had to lean way over to close the door again, I was afraid he was going to fall out, but he managed the stunt.

“Whoa, I’ve never ridden in one of these before. This is, like, a real one. Not a Hummer. Right?” He looked around. We were all glaring at him. He leaned away from the large and intimidating presence of Tyler and looked like he was maybe reconsidering the ride.

“Uh, hi.” The clerk said. “I live just a couple miles away. A block or so off Keystone. Um, thanks for the ride, I guess.”

Tyler shifted into gear and the Humvee crunched forward on a new layer of snow.

“You think it’s getting better?” Ben said, craning his neck to look up out the window.

It would be easy to fool ourselves into thinking so. The snow was still falling in giant flakes. But it was falling straight down in lazy drifting patterns now, instead of driving horizontally.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Um, turn left here.” The clerk pointed to an intersection, and Tyler drove through. The streetlights might have been red, but we couldn’t tell because they were covered with a layer of white.

Away from the store, the wind started blowing again, kicking up eddies and whirlwinds of snow around us. It could have been my imagination.

We stayed quiet; we didn’t want to talk in front of the kid. I didn’t even want to call Cormac until he was out of here. Ben was right. What had I been thinking? But it meant he wouldn’t mess with the thunder mark.

“This thing doesn’t have a heater, does it?” the kid said.

“It’s pretty stripped down,” Tyler answered. I swore the kid flinched at the sound of his voice. Tyler sounded like a movie badass, which was pretty cool unless you thought he was maybe going to kill you.

Tyler followed the kid’s directions until he turned onto a side street in an unassuming neighborhood of tract housing. It hadn’t been plowed, and the Humvee barged into a three-foot drift. Snow flew everywhere.

“Here’s fine. It’s just a couple of houses up.” He probably lived with his parents.

“You sure?” Tyler asked.

“Yeah, yeah.” The door was already open, and the kid fell out and into a drift. He probably would have run away, but he sunk to his knees with every step and had to shuffle. We waited until he reached the front door of his house—two up, like he said. We could barely see him through the whiteout.

“There,” I said when the door closed behind him. “Good deed accomplished.”

“I thought it was a bribe,” Ben said.

“Hey. Win win all around.” I grinned.

Tyler backed out of the drift he’d driven into. I got out my phone and called Cormac.

“Hey,” I said. “One down. We’re headed to our second stop. How are we doing?”

I heard a noise in the background, like he was rearranging the phone, or like I’d caught him in the middle of something. “You did it? You got the symbol up? What happened?”

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