Kitty Saves the World Page 22

“Something happened,” I said simply. It couldn’t be anything else.

She said, “There’s been a fire at New Moon.”

Chapter 8

IT HAD to have been more than a fire, the way one of the brick walls was blown out. There must have been an explosion. Debris fanned out, and the remaining structure looked like it had had a bite taken out of it. Inside was gutted, blackened, covered in ash. Smashed glass and shards of wood and metal had settled like a postapocalyptic snow. Furniture was in shambles. The air smelled smoky and sour, the reek of soot settling in the back of my throat. If I started coughing, I’d never stop. The New Moon sign, simple letters with a painted crescent moon, had disappeared—fallen, destroyed. The place didn’t have a name anymore. It all seemed so stark in the sunlight.

We’d had a fire before, a couple of years ago. Tina and her Paradox PI crew had been there for that one. We’d been able to clean it up and reopen fairly quickly after. This—I didn’t think we’d be getting over this. This wasn’t a bar anymore, it was the set for a horror movie I wasn’t interested in seeing.

Something had destroyed my second home, my pack’s heart.

Fire trucks still surrounded the block, and the street was soaking wet from the work of the hoses and fire retardant. A handful of firefighters continued working, tromping through the ruins, looking for hot spots, or just making sure it was all well and truly destroyed. Yellow caution tape surrounded the site some thirty feet out from the building. Bystanders stood beyond, gawking, taking pictures. I wanted to chase them out of my territory. I wanted to howl to the skies.

Ben, Cormac, and I stood together, staring. We’d gotten through the cordon set up by the fire trucks when Ben explained that we were the owners. After parking as near as we could, we walked, my mind a blank because how could I know what to expect? No matter what, the reality would look worse than anything my imagination could cook up.

After a minute of staring, I turned around, took a deep breath, and gave a shuddering sigh. I could get through this. I had to get through this. Without a word, Ben wrapped his arms around me, pulled me close, and I clung to him. We stood like that for a long time.

Ben found the firefighter in charge. He introduced himself—Captain Allan—and offered condolences.

“No one was hurt,” he said. “We think it happened in the early morning hours, around 4 a.m., after everyone had gone home. No one was inside when it happened, fortunately.”

“Good, thank goodness,” I murmured. Because if anyone, if Shaun, if any of the pack had been in there … Werewolves were tough, but they didn’t survive being at ground zero of explosions.

I thought back, plowed through my scrambling thoughts. By 4 a.m. we’d left Albuquerque, and enough time had passed for a certain demon to zap herself from Albuquerque to Denver. Or for someone like Roman to pass along a message, to enact some kind of revenge.

“We’re still looking into the cause, but that fire burned very hot. That indicates some kind of accelerant. This may be arson. You know of anyone who might want to hurt you by burning your place, Ms. Norville?”

I laughed. I just laughed, hand over my mouth, tears streaming. The captain didn’t seem at all surprised—he was probably used to people cracking.

Ben stayed calm, put his arm around my shoulders, anchored me. Explained, in a calm and lawyerlike manner, “She hosts a talk radio show that attracts fringe types. There’s a pretty long list of people who might do something like this.”

From the start of the show, I’d kept a folder of threats I’d received, for just this kind of situation. But I was pretty sure the attack didn’t come from someone in that folder. What would the captain do if I mentioned demons from hell?

Allan was still talking, and Ben seemed to be listening attentively. Stuff about paperwork and insurance claims and what would happen next and making sure they had contact info. Logistics-type stuff. I’d gone back to numb. This was just a building, just a thing. An important thing, but the problem of what to do with it would still be here tomorrow.

Shaun and the rest of the pack still weren’t answering their phones. That was a bigger problem right now. Usually, New Moon smelled like pack, a wild scent of wind, pines, granite, a mix of wolf and people, distinct and familiar. All I smelled now was the fire.

The pack hadn’t been here when the place went up, and that was good. But where were they?

The fire captain was about to turn back to his work, but I stopped him. “Captain Allan, is it okay if I take a walk around?”

“It’s not safe to go inside, but if you stay away from the walls, then go ahead.” He smiled kindly, if tiredly. My request must have been normal. It boggled me to think how much he must have had to deal with people in my situation.

Before I started my trek around the ruins, Detective Hardin called to say she was taking Tina straight to our place. That was good—Tina had slept for most of the trip and was still out of it.

“How bad is it?” Hardin asked.

I didn’t know how to put it into words. I had the phone to my ear, staring at the ruins, and felt like I was watching a movie happening to someone else.

“It’s gone,” I said. “It’s all gone.” My voice was flat.

“I’m sorry, Kitty,” she said—kind, sympathetic. Maybe the nicest I’d ever heard her.

“Thanks,” I murmured, and we hung up.

The air smelled awful, of burned plastic and ashes. I’d never scrub the smell out of my nose.

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