Kitty Goes to War Page 14

“I don’t know. Tyler—he actually listened to me. He was almost lucid. But the other two…” I shook my head. I wouldn’t know until I saw them as people. I wanted to hear their side of it.

Shumacher and Stafford oversaw the next part of the proceedings. This involved Stafford’s soldiers bringing out their nets and ropes, laced with strands of silver, to “secure” the wolves. That was the term they used. This basically involved bundling them up until they couldn’t move. I didn’t want to watch.

Instead, Ben and I joined Cormac, who remained on the fringes of the proceedings.

“I thought you weren’t supposed to have any guns,” I said, nodding at the rifle in his hands.

“It’s technically not a gun,” Cormac said.

“Why do I even argue with you?” I said.

“Somebody has to, I suppose,” Cormac said, calm as ever. I couldn’t tell if he was joking.

Ben held out his hand. “Why don’t you give that to me, just in case your parole officer happens to wander by.” Cormac handed him the gun without arguing.

“Were you really going to shoot me?” I said.

“What makes you think that?”

“You looked like you were going to shoot me.”

His frown was long suffering. “I didn’t shoot you. Why are we even talking about this?”

I didn’t know, so I turned away, still in a huff, still on edge. Ben was watching us, looking amused.

“We need to find Becky,” I said to him.

“Don’t you think you should clean up first?” He looked me over.

I was still drenched in blood. The wounds had clotted and itched now rather than hurt; they were already healing. But yeah, I should probably change clothes.

“Kitty, are you all right?” Shumacher marched toward us, away from where Stafford and his men were checking over the knots securing the wolves.

“Do they have enough room to shift back?” I said, looking past her to the captured wolves. “Now that they’re asleep they’re going to start shifting back.”

“We’ll have them out of the nets before then,” Shumacher assured me. “What about you?”

Yeah, the covered-in-blood thing, right. “I’m fine,” I muttered.

She seemed doubtful, wincing in sympathy but also curious. She wasn’t looking at me, but was studying the wounds, the rows of claw marks streaking my arm. If she watched long enough she’d see the skin close over as the wounds healed. I self-consciously tucked my arm in and held it protectively.

Shumacher said, “Kitty, what happened here? What’s your assessment of them?”

I didn’t want to say. I was worried. I’d dealt with some pretty messed-up werewolves before, but never ones this strong and this far gone. I wasn’t sure they’d be much more likely to talk once they were human. I wasn’t sure they wanted to be human. If they didn’t want to be human, but they couldn’t control their wolf sides, where did they belong?

Finally I said, “I want to talk to them as people. See how much they really want help.”

“Would you do that? Would you come to talk to them?”

I couldn’t say no.

A rhythmic thumping sounded in the distance. Ben and I heard it first and looked up and around.

“Is that a helicopter?” Ben said.

“Colonel Stafford called it in to carry the squad back to FortCarson.”

They really had this worked out, didn’t they?

“Kitty, thank you,” Shumacher said, before the craft’s pounding engine made talking too difficult. “This has been a huge help. I’ll call you.” She went to join Stafford to help with the prisoner transport. I kept thinking of them as prisoners.

Ben, Cormac, and I started the hike back to our car. I was glum and scratching at the blood on my arm. I’d have to stop off somewhere to get cleaned up. I thought I had a change of clothes in the car. That would help.

“These are the kinds of werewolves I went after,” Cormac said. “They can’t control themselves. They’re monsters. You can’t argue with that.”

I couldn’t. “You’d advocate just putting silver bullets in them and being done with it. That seems like a crappy homecoming after everything they’ve been through.”

We walked a dozen more yards, picking our way through the woods.

“I bet you Flemming knew,” Cormac said finally. “I bet you could look through his notes and find out that he expected this to happen. That you could use werewolves as soldiers and maybe they’d be great, invincible, bloodthirsty, whatever. But you’d ruin them for anything else. They’d never be human again. I’m guessing Flemming knew that and that getting rid of those soldiers was part of his plan.”

And again, I couldn’t argue. Not just because I’d met Flemming and knew that his plans never took individual fates into account. But because the whole government bureaucracy was like that and Flemming had been, if nothing else, a government bureaucrat. “Well, Flemming sucks.”

Back at the car, we didn’t talk much. I found a roll of paper towels and a bottle of water to wash off the worst of the mess. I made sure I had the backpack with Becky’s clothes, then we went in search of Becky.

As I’d hoped, she was at our usual den, tucked into a hillside in the mountains west of Denver. She was still a wolf, curled up and asleep. She must have just gotten here. She didn’t seem to be hurt. I made Ben and Cormac wait back in the car.

Approaching her from upwind, I moved slowly. She’d catch my scent, maybe even hear me, and I hoped she wouldn’t be startled. She’d stay asleep and slip back to her human form. Then we could all go home.

When I was still a dozen feet away, she started awake, bracing on four legs like she was ready to run.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay. It’s just me. I’m just going to hang out and keep watch, okay?” I said, staying low, staying calm. Becky eased, tension leaving her spine, the fur on her back flattening. She crept forward until she was next to me and nuzzled my shoulder, and I breathed into the fur of her neck. She smelled scared and tired. I couldn’t blame her. “It’s okay, we’re all okay,” I murmured.

She circled once then curled up again, nose to tail, and went to sleep. I sat with her, my hand resting on her back, and waited.

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