Kitty Goes to War Page 47

“That just means I ought to do a better job of watching it, right?” His smile was grim.

“It’s not your fault when I keep not listening to you.”

He raised my hand and kissed it, lingering to let his warm breath brush over my skin. The feel of it tingled and flushed all the way up my arm. I squeezed his hand back.

“We do okay,” he said.

The back door opened, and Tyler climbed in. “We’re in. Sort of.”

The guard had returned to standing at attention and seemed relieved to get us off his hands. Whom had he handed us off to?

A beige army Humvee approached down the straightaway, did a turn, and slid to a stop in front of us. Colonel Stafford, wearing a heavy coat over his uniform, climbed out of the passenger side and marched toward us.

I hurried to get out of the car. I wasn’t going to face him sitting down. At least my T-shirt was dry now. Ben and Tyler did likewise, and we moved to intercept him, facing him like a pack: me in front, the two men at my shoulders. Looking very out of place, we were still wearing what we’d gone out in the night before: shirts, sweats, and sneakers. No coats and winter gear. None of us seemed to mind. I was betting it looked pretty impressive, because Colonel Stafford stopped a couple of yards away, well out of reach, when he probably wanted to yell in my face.

“This is your fault!” he said.

“I won’t argue with that,” I said.

He seemed surprised, as if he’d been bracing for a dress down that he wasn’t going to get to give.

“I’ll have you all up on charges. Aiding and abetting, negligence—”

“Sir, this was an accident,” Tyler said.

Again, Stafford was taken aback, and seemed to need a moment to remember himself. “You’re out of line, Sergeant.”

“Yes, sir,” Tyler said, sounding tired.

“What’s going on?” I asked, pointing to the roadblock with its armed guards.

“You think Walters is going to come back here—so do I. When he does, we’ll stop him.”

I stared. “You think he’s going to just come marching through the front gate? That he’s going to drive up in a taxi?”

He glared at me, mouth pursed like he was chewing lemons.

I ranted on. “This guy’s a trained soldier and a werewolf; he can sneak in here from anywhere and he may not even be human when he does it.”

“We’ll have plenty of time to track him,” Stafford argued. “He started out a hundred miles north of here, without any resources—”

“Sir,” Tyler said. “As far as Walters is concerned, he’s on a mission. This is the kind of thing we trained for. A hundred miles in a day—we did it, over worse terrain than this.” He kept his expression cold. Official.

Whatever Stafford thought, I knew we were right: Walters was already here. He would have gone top speed the whole time. Which meant he’d be exhausted, panicked, even more dangerous.

“We can find him,” I said. “We can track him. We think he’s going to the hospital to find Vanderman. That’s where you need to have your people set up.”

Stafford shook his head. “I’ve got men stationed at every entrance to this base and on patrol at the borders. He’s not here yet, and we’ll find him when he gets here.”

This was a man whose job was being right. Or at least acting like he was right. I wasn’t going to change his mind just by asking him to. And you know, maybe he even was right. Maybe Walters wasn’t here yet. Maybe he’d gotten stuck in some pileup outside of Castle Rock.

I still wanted a backup plan.

“Then you won’t mind if we head over to the hospital and check on Vanderman,” I said. “We won’t get in your way, I promise.”

He blinked. He probably wasn’t used to people talking back at him. “Fine. But with an escort. You step out of line I won’t hesitate to shoot,” he said by way of encouragement. He pointed at Tyler. “And you—you’re still active duty and under orders. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

Stafford returned to his Humvee, we returned to Ben’s sedan and followed the colonel’s vehicle up the straightaway. After some shouted orders and a rush of activity at the roundabout, a space was cleared, just wide enough for the car to pull through. Ben did so, very slowly, both hands on the wheel. A different Humvee with a couple of men in fatigues sitting in it followed us. I was betting they had silver bullets in their rifles.

“All this for one guy?” I said in awe.

“I’m guessing they’re a little freaked out,” Ben said.

Tyler shook his head. “Stafford never understood us. He thought this was just like any other training—that we can turn it on and off, that we can control it, when it’s really the other way around, isn’t it?”

All the men in Gordon’s unit ever wanted to do was their job. Serve their country the army way, and all that. Now look where they’d ended up.

Then we were through and making our way along the road to the hospital. The escort Humvee swerved past us and led the way. Other than that, we didn’t see any other cars or people. No sign of life, whether because of the blizzard or the lockdown.

“Sir,” Tyler said to Ben, which was kind of odd. “You said you had a weapon?”

“Yeah, in the glove box.”

“May I?” Tyler asked.

He would make better use of it than either of us, assuming Walters showed up in a murderous rage and wouldn’t listen to us. Which was what everyone was apparently assuming would happen. I handed the weapon, a matte-black semiautomatic pistol, to him grip first, along with the box of ammo.

“Be careful,” I said. “Silver bullets.”

The box felt warm, as if the silver was burning me through the plastic case. Tyler took the gun, ejected the magazine, and started inserting bullets into it—after wrapping his hand in a corner of his T-shirt. Even encumbered by the shirt, he loaded the gun with expert skill and speed. After he’d finished, he returned the box of remaining bullets to me, tucked the gun into the back of his waistband, and let his T-shirt fall over it. He gave a nod as if saying, now I’m ready.

“Can you really shoot your teammate if you have to?” I asked.

Tyler wouldn’t look at me. “We take care of our own. Last thing any of us want is to hurt anyone. What did you say at the start of all this—that if we couldn’t shape up then you’d pull the trigger on us?”

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