Kitty Goes to War Page 8

“This was Captain Cameron Gordon,” Stafford said. “Top five percent of his class at West Point, went on to Special Forces—Green Berets.”

“And he did it all while infected with lycanthropy. He was a werewolf,” Shumacher said.

“How did he manage that?” I said, in awe of the man. Sometimes I barely managed to keep my life functioning, my werewolf and human identities working together, without running screaming into the woods. Captain Gordon must have been superhuman.

Stafford answered. “Near as we can figure, a lot of careful planning. He always had favors to call in so he could get time off on nights of the full moon. People covered for him, he never got caught. He was careful. And he was too good for the army to let him go the time or two he did screw up.”

I could also speculate that Gordon had been infected with lycanthropy young, as part of a well-adjusted, functional pack where he learned a high level of control. He’d known exactly how to handle his werewolf side.

Shumacher picked up the story. “When Flemming was exploring… possibilities… regarding lycanthropy and the military, he recruited Captain Gordon. I don’t know how Flemming knew about him, but he did. I believe the two worked together until Flemming was forced to go public. By that time, Gordon had deployed to Iraq. You know that Flemming destroyed many of his records. I’ve been trying to reconstruct what work the two of them did, but I haven’t had much luck. Then Colonel Stafford called me.”

I said, “So Flemming really did it. He really did put werewolf soldiers in the field—”

“That’s just it,” Shumacher said. “Flemming didn’t have anything to do with this. He never authorized any implementation of his plans. He never did anything but interview Captain Gordon—but that put the idea in Gordon’s head. Captain Gordon did everything else on his own. He independently created his own squad of werewolves, without authorization.”

Stafford pulled out another photo, this one showing seven men, including Gordon, all fully decked out in badass army gear—helmets, backpacks, rifles, boxes of ammunition—posing as a group for the camera. They were all fit and strong, holding rifles in assured grips; a couple of them smiled confidently. If I hadn’t known they were all werewolves, I might have missed some telltale signs, or attributed those signs to their military background. But studying the picture, I could tell: Gordon was the only one standing, putting him in the position of dominance—he stood like an alpha. The others crouched, knelt, or leaned around him. A few of them didn’t look at the camera at all. They instinctively didn’t stare, which is an expression of challenge among wolves. I could almost smell them.

“Gordon wasn’t stupid,” Stafford said. “He took his time and picked likely candidates from the Special Forces. He maneuvered to get his people transferred to the same base, if not the same unit. He infected them himself, and trained them himself, all on the sly. He was in Afghanistan by this time. I think he saw a need in the mission, and he set out to fill it.”

I looked at the colonel. “When did you find out about this? How much did you know when it was happening?”

“Not enough. Gordon acted on the principle that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. And he was right, to a point. His squad had an amazing record in Afghanistan. It was one of the most successful units we’ve fielded out there. They handled the terrain like it was nothing, they could travel for weeks without support, get to places nothing else could, track down damn near anything. They didn’t need body armor or NVGs—”

“NVGs?”

“Night-vision goggles,” Stafford said. “We had them hunting Taliban leaders in the KunarProvince, in the high country. Their success rate was… was worth everything, we thought.”

“And then what?” I said, a chill twitching my spine. They kept using the past tense.

“There was a mortar attack,” Shumacher said. “Captain Gordon was one of several people caught in the explosion.

“It turns out a big enough explosion can kill a werewolf just fine,” Stafford said, deadpan.

“I know,” I said, my own bitter experience tainting my voice.

“The folklore doesn’t say anything about werewolves being killed by explosions,” Shumacher said.

“That’s because most of the folklore was in circulation before explosions of that scale existed,” I said.

“After Gordon’s death, everything fell apart,” Stafford said. “The remaining members of Gordon’s unit became unruly, I guess you’d call it. Rebellious. Insubordinate. We tried to appoint another commander—they refused to follow orders. Then Vanderman killed Yarrow.” He pointed out the two faces on the unit photo. The two biggest guys there, of course. Vanderman was a burly no-neck white guy. Yarrow was equally burly, with lips turned in a half grin, half snarl.

Stafford continued. “We wouldn’t have known who killed Yarrow, except Sergeant Crane reported the murder. He went to the base commander and asked for help. In the morning, he was dead, too. Ripped to pieces, same as Yarrow. That’s when we drugged the rest of the unit, took them into custody, and brought them home until we could figure out what to do with them.”

“That must have been some picnic,” I said. I didn’t want to imagine what that must have looked like and resisted an urge to look over my shoulder, as if the army werewolves were nearby, waiting to pounce. I didn’t want to get anywhere near them, not if they were as dangerous as I thought they were.

Shumacher gave me a grim frown. “That’s when Colonel Stafford called me. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a werewolf psychologist. I’m guessing that what happened in Afghanistan was some atypical pack behavior—”

“Gordon was the alpha,” I said. “He held the pack together. As long as he was there to lead them, the others had a center, a reason to stay in control. His word was law, and without him—no law.” I tapped the photo, pointing to Vanderman and Yarrow. “These two look like the strongest left in the bunch. I bet they fought it out to see who would lead them next. Vanderman won. After that, I’m thinking Crane deferred to his human side. He stayed rational, saw what was happening, and reported it to get help. Vanderman killed him for insubordination.”

“That was my feeling,” Shumacher said. “I’m glad to have the validation.”

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