Kitty Goes to War Page 6

I said, “Each of these stories don’t mean anything by themselves. It’s when you put them all together things start looking weird. I need to know if there’s anything to it.”

The bounty hunter—former bounty hunter—gave a nod, lips pursed. “All right. I’m interested. I’ll see if I can find anything.”

“Stop by my office tomorrow; I can give you what I’ve been able to dig up so far,” I said.

Business concluded, Ben looked around, craned over his shoulder. “Hey, isn’t the service around here usually better than this?”

It was; if Shaun was here, he usually stopped by our table himself first thing. Ah, there he was, hiding out behind the bar. He was a hip twenty-something, short dark hair, brown skin, laid back and sensible in a T-shirt and jeans. When he saw all three of us looking over, he finally came over.

“Took you long enough,” Ben said.

Shaun wilted, hurt and puppylike. “I wasn’t going to interrupt whatever powwow you have going on here. You look like you’re planning the takeover of a small country.”

“It’s not that serious. Do we look that serious?” Ben said.

“It’s the body language, hon,” I said. “We look like we’re hunting.”

“Uh, yeah,” Shaun said. “But if you’re all done with that maybe I can get you something to drink.” He looked hopeful.

We gave him our order, and Ben tried to be nice to make up for making Shaun nervous.

“Huh. Werewolves,” Cormac said, shaking his head.

CORMAC STOPPED by the KNOB offices at noon the next day. I met him at the lobby and brought him upstairs.

“Déjà vu a little, isn’t it?” he said.

I glared at him, unamused. The first time Cormac and I had met, he’d been stalking me at the studio in the middle of my show, intending to shoot me. Very uncool.

“No comment,” I said.

My office was more like a closet, just enough room for the desk and a couple of chairs, but it was mine. Inside, Cormac took the seat I offered while I sorted through the papers on my desk: the map, the notes, the news articles printed off the Internet that verified some of the stories. I really didn’t have very much when I put it all together.

“It’s not very impressive,” I said by way of apology. “Ben’s right, there’s probably nothing there. Maybe we can settle the lawsuit out of court.”

“Don’t jump to any conclusions,” he said, leaning forward to start reading.

I’d never seen him so studious. He usually—at least before he went to prison—cultivated this air of indifference. Not quite apathy as much as a sense of apartness, like he wasn’t interested because he lived on a different plane of existence. It would have been almost Zen-like, if it hadn’t been so creepy. Now, he really seemed interested. Fascinated, even. Hand on his chin, he chewed his lip.

He even smelled different. Slightly, bookishly different. Paper and ink. But this was Cormac, and I didn’t have anything to worry about. Right?

The office had become so still that when he spoke, I flinched.

“I need to do some checking, but I have some ideas,” he said, looking up at me, calm and steady. He was all Cormac again.

“Really? Like what?”

“Not sure,” he murmured. “Maybe ritualistic magic. Maybe something else.”

I was never going to find out just how much Cormac knew about the supernatural. When we’d first met, he knew more about werewolves than I did, even though I was one. He’d hunted them for half his life, after all.

“How long do you need?”

“I’ll let you know,” he said, standing, rolling the pages up and tucking them in the pocket of his jacket. Preoccupied, he walked out without a word or second glance. I stared at the open doorway for a minute or so, wondering if he really was okay.

Chapter 3

I COULDN’T DO much else about the lawsuit business, at least not for a while. The wheels of justice were turning, and it was in the lawyers’ hands. There’d be response, counterresponse, deal making, and all I had to do was stand aside and look innocent. What were the odds?

Or maybe Cormac would come up with something interesting, in which case there might be fireworks. I didn’t know which outcome to wish for more.

During my office hours the next day, I tried to stay focused and avoided calling Cormac, even though I wanted to, to see if he’d learned anything yet. It had only been a day. This would take time. My phone still sat on my desk, taunting me, luring me.

When it actually did ring, I jumped out of my chair to pounce on it. The voice on the other end wasn’t Cormac’s.

“Kitty, this is Elizabeth Shumacher, from the CSPB.”

That was Dr. Elizabeth Shumacher, who headed up the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology, the research clearinghouse for all things supernatural that was part of the National Institutes of Health. I’d had a long and not always wonderful association with the center, but I liked Dr. Shumacher. The center had become much more rational and useful—rather than clandestine and paranoid—with her at the helm.

I sat back down and calmed myself. “Hi, Doctor. What’s up?”

“I’m afraid… well, there’s no good way to put this. We have something of a problem, Kitty. We need your help.”

I recognized the tone of voice; she sounded like someone calling into the show. “Who’s we? Is it something with the lab?”

“We—” She sighed. “I guess you could say it’s the U.S. government.”

Okay, that sounded heavy. My impulse was to vehemently deny that I could possibly be of any help whatsoever. Then hang up and refuse to pick up the phone when her number showed up on caller ID. Then maybe flee the country so she could never find me again. That might have been an overreaction. “What is it? What’s going on?”

“It would be much easier to explain this in person. Would you be willing to meet with me? The sooner the better. Today, if possible.”

“I’m not sure I could get out there on such short notice,” I said.

“I’m not in D.C. right now, Kitty. I’m at FortCarson in Colorado Springs.”

About eighty miles away, in my backyard practically.

“What are you doing there?” I said.

“I’d rather explain it all in person.” Clearly spoken in a tone of bureaucratic stubbornness.

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