Kitty Goes to War Page 61

Tyler and Ben hauled Franklin up and brought him to the Humvee, covering him with blankets. He made a noise, so he was still with us.

“I guess we should take him to a hospital,” I said. I didn’t know how we were going to explain this at the emergency room. I couldn’t prove anything that happened. And after everything, I might still be sued for libel.

“Are we done here?” Ben said to Cormac. “Spell broken, no more crazy weather?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s over.”

“We’re not done with this conversation,” I said to him, pointing. “You still have explaining to do.”

He shrugged, as if it didn’t matter to him one way or the other.

The Humvee was pretty smashed up, the whole driver’s side crunched in, but it was still drivable if you ignored the disturbing clacking noises in the engine. But that was what this vehicle was designed for, getting beat up and still going, right? I wasn’t looking forward to telling Colonel Stafford about it, though.

Franklin’s Hummer started up, but the noises it made sounded pretty sickly as well. We pulled it over to the curb and left it.

Cormac helped with that much. He also patted down Franklin and cleaned out all the charms and amulets from his pockets. He must have found a dozen of them. The look he gave me said he wasn’t going to explain what he found. But I couldn’t argue—Franklin was powerless now.

“I’ll catch up with you later, then,” Cormac said, waving himself off. He went to his Jeep and drove away, just like that.

“I don’t even know what to worry about anymore with him,” Ben said, watching him leave.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” I said, hooking my arm around his. “This is a new one for me, too.”

He sighed. “Never a dull moment.”

WE TOOK Harold Franklin to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s. The place looked understaffed—the waiting room was crowded, and the official-looking people in scrubs all wore exhausted, vacant stares. But there were a couple of orderlies with a gurney to help pull Franklin out of the Humvee. I gave them his name and the phone number for his office, and told them we’d found him in the snow, passed out and close to freezing. They didn’t ask us to stick around, and I didn’t offer.

Then, finally, we went home. I remembered to call my mother. I wasn’t sure she believed me when I told her that everything was fine, but what could she do about it? “Mom, trust me, you don’t want to know,” I finally told her. That, she couldn’t argue with.

I’d coped well enough with the cold of the last two nights and day. I’d been uncomfortable without being in outright pain. But as soon as we got inside, I changed out of my damp clothes into sweats and a big wool sweater. We still had power, and I really appreciated access to a hot shower and central heating.

The next morning, the sun shone on a brilliantly crystalline world. A thick layer of snow covered everything—cars, buildings, trees, streets. Even power lines had fluffy, glittering strips of snow balanced on them. Cleanup began. Plows caught up with the backlog, power lines were repaired, tree branches cleared away, and the world came back to life. The talking heads on the news shows kept saying that this should have been so much worse, that the weather radars had been tracking a vast storm system that had suddenly coalesced over the city, but that it had somehow dissipated overnight, as abruptly as it had appeared. Not that anyone was complaining. Weather reporters gleefully described a rare case of thundersnow over downtown Denver and seemed very impressed. If only they knew.

Cormac came over for coffee.

Tyler was still asleep on the sofa. Last night, he’d seemed inordinately happy at the sight of a sofa in a real living room. He said this was the first time he’d had a chance to sleep in a normal house—not outside, not in barracks, not in Shumacher’s werewolf-proof cells—since before he left for Afghanistan. I’d wanted to hug him. Instead, I smiled and wished him sweet dreams.

Ben, Cormac, and I sat at the dining room table nursing mugs of coffee. Maybe we could finally have a real conversation. The pack of three, I called us sometimes. These two knew me and my weird life better than anyone else. They’d been there for some of the more pivotal moments of it. They’d both pulled my ass out of the fire more than once.

We waited for the explanation. Cormac drew a breath, held his mug in both hands, and got started.

“Before she was hanged, Amelia worked a spell that moved her consciousness into the stones of the prison. And she wasn’t alone; there’s all kinds of freaky shit going on there. Hauntings, demons—I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But to escape, she needed a living body. Once she discovered she couldn’t just replace the person already living there, she had to find someone who could put up with her.” He spread his hands as if to say, ta-da.

“So you were the crazy one,” I said.

He shrugged.

“It had to be the right kind of crazy, I’m betting,” Ben said, shaking his head in disbelief. But he was smiling. As though now that we had an explanation for why Cormac had been acting funny, we didn’t have to worry anymore. Except that where Cormac was concerned, we’d always worry, for one reason or another.

“How does it work?” I said. “I mean, she’s there right now, right? Can you talk to her? Does she talk to you? Is she, like, listening right now?” Were there four of us around the table? I might never look at Cormac the same way again. At the same time, I was a little bit in awe. Oh, the questions I would ask a nineteenth-century wizard.

“Yeah,” Cormac said. “She hears what I hear. Sees what I see.”

“So she’s using you,” I said, ready to be defensive and huffy on Cormac’s behalf. Not that he wasn’t perfectly capable of defending himself, even from a disembodied Victorian wizard woman. And did that even make sense?

“It’s not that simple,” he said, sighing, looking away, frustrated.

“You wouldn’t have figured out what Franklin was doing without both of you working together,” Ben said. “Right?”

Cormac pursed his lips and nodded. “I like to look at it as a partnership. That’s how she sees it.”

I stared. “This is very weird. Even for me.”

“Amelia likes you,” he said, leaning back in the chair. “She likes that you speak your mind.”

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