Kitty Goes to War Page 57

“Uh… nothing?” I winced. “Was something supposed to happen?”

“I don’t know,” he said, sighing with frustration. “Becky got the one in Littleton, Shaun hit downtown. I’m still waiting for the others. I’m thinking we ought to know by now if it’s working.”

And if it didn’t work, what then? “Where’s Franklin? He’s got to be masterminding this from somewhere.”

“I’m tracking him down right now. I’ll be in touch.” He hung up.

Ben was navigating Tyler to the TechCenter location. The world outside was getting darker as night fell. Buildings were shadows in a fog, and the glow from streetlights shone strangely, diffused by the snow. We might have been barreling across an alien world.

“Any progress?” Ben said.

“I can’t tell. He seems distracted. But he says two other locations are done.”

“That’s good, right?” he said.

I couldn’t say.

Our visit to the Speedy Mart at the TechCenter went better than our first stop had. Mostly because the store was closed and locked up, with no one to hassle us. Once again, Ben held me up while I marked on the painted concrete above the door. The overhang sheltered us a little. Once again, I imagined that the wind diminished when we were done.

Then we were off again. After sunset, it was hard to tell if the weather was changing. The sky could be clearing and we’d never know.

“Back in Afghanistan,” Tyler said, thoughtful, distracted, “patrols would head out sometimes and get ambushed. They’d lose one or two guys, but we wouldn’t find any sign of attack—no explosions, no gunfire. Not even footprints. The captain and I went out once to try to find out what was happening. I smelled it—and it wasn’t human. But we didn’t know what it was. It shouldn’t have surprised us—we aren’t really human, right? But it’s hard knowing how to fight something when you don’t know what it is. The guys got real superstitious about it, saying it was some kind of magical curse. Some of them started carrying around charms—four-leaf clovers, St. Christopher medals, things like that. Who knew if it did any good? Kind of like this. But if it makes you feel better, is it really so bad?”

We drove for another mile, tires crunching on ice, before I figured out how to ask, “Did you ever find out what happened?”

He shook his head. “Not really. Not officially. But some of the locals told stories—they said there was a demon that lived in the desert. The ghul. It could change its shape, turn into a deer, or a wounded dog, or whatever it needed to lure people into the canyons. Then it would attack. Maybe it was a person, some kind of lycanthrope. But we could have tracked it down then. This thing—we never saw a sign. Just the bodies it left.” He looked over his shoulder at me. “You ever hear of anything like that?”

I shook my head, and once again felt daunted about how much I didn’t know.

We arrived at the South Broadway location, the one we’d trailed Franklin to, which seemed appropriate. Like we’d come full circle. The clerks had bailed here as well, which left the parking lot empty. We put the thunder mark over the door, same as the others. I thought I was getting better at it—faster, anyway. Had to stay positive, right?

Back in the Humvee, Tyler was holding my phone out to me. “It’s your friend.”

I grabbed it and said, “Hello? Cormac? Where are you?”

“Just a sec—there’s four more down,” Cormac said. He told me the locations—Trey and Dan had teamed up to hit two stores up north—and I crossed them off on the map with the Sharpie. They made bold, satisfying X’s across the region. This was like marking territory. I was so proud of my pack.

“That’s great,” I said. “We’re halfway there.”

“Not quite. Franklin’s leaving town.”

“In this weather? How?”

“That Hummer he rented. This follows his pattern—he sets the storms in motion and leaves before he gets caught up in it.”

“So… we’re stopping his spell, right? What else do we need to do?”

“I want to get him,” Cormac said.

Yeah. So did I. “What do you need?”

“Meet me outside the BrownPalace.” And he hung up. No plan of attack, no clue about what we were actually going to do when we confronted Franklin. We’d get to that point soon enough.

“We’re heading downtown,” I told Ben and Tyler.

“The interstate’s closed,” Ben said. “We’ll have to take surface streets.”

“That just keeps the adventure going,” I said with false cheer. My nerves were vibrating—what if we went through all this and it didn’t work?

My phone rang again. Shaun this time. “Hey,” I said. “How’s it going?”

“I was going to ask you that,” he said. “Is this actually working? It’s stopped snowing here.”

“It has?” I looked outside, peering at the odd streetlight to catch a hint of movement. I couldn’t see snow falling. Maybe it really had stopped.

The line clicked. “I have another call coming in,” Shaun said. “Lance, it looks like. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Awesome.” I closed the phone and looked at Ben. “I think this is working.”

“It ain’t over yet,” he said.

We drove on, Tyler leaning forward to navigate the snowdrifted street, with stalled and abandoned cars left as obstacles every block or so.

“How are you doing?” I asked him.

“Good,” he said. “As long as I have something else to think about, I’m good.”

I patted his shoulder, and he flashed a smile.

The phone rang again—another Speedy Mart marked, I assumed. Excited, I answered and waited for Cormac’s voice.

“Change of plans—he’s heading east on Colfax. We’ve got to stop him.”

Not exactly what I was expecting. “Stop him how?”

“I don’t know. But we can’t let him leave town.”

“You’re following him, I take it?”

“Yeah. You think you can cut him off?”

Well. We could certainly try. “Sure. Why not? See you in a minute.”

This was going to get ugly. I slipped the phone into my pocket.

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