Kitty Goes to War Page 62

Not sure what to say to that, I looked away. I didn’t want to ask any more questions just yet. I wasn’t sure I was ready to know more. I wanted to talk to Amelia Parker—but I didn’t want to hear her speaking with Cormac’s voice. Then I realized, I probably already had talked to her. The lecturing voice, when we were on the phone and he told me about Franklin, the spell, the thunder mark—that had been Amelia.

I could deal with it later.

“What now?” Ben asked.

“Stay out of trouble, like you keep saying,” Cormac said. “Nothing’s changed. Not really.”

“Have you considered a career in paranormal investigation?” Ben said. “You seem to have developed a talent for it.”

He just smiled.

I kept staring. In wonder, awe, confusion. It wasn’t a werewolf stare, the challenging stare, or the “trying to figure out what someone was going to do next” stare. It was like, if I didn’t turn away, I might figure it out. But all I saw was Cormac. I could have dismissed everything he’d just explained as impossible, unprovable. Except that it explained everything that had happened so well.

“Kitty?” Ben prompted. It had been so long since I’d said anything.

“I have so many questions,” I sighed. “For you. For her.”

“I think that’s my cue.” Cormac pushed the mug away and stood, retrieving his leather jacket from the back of the chair. “Thanks for the coffee.”

Oh, grrrr. He was still Cormac. Still dodging me.

Ben just smirked. He was more patient than I was—he’d been putting up with Cormac his whole life. And he knew that Cormac would come back. He always did. He didn’t have any other family, and we were a pack.

“Is he going to be okay?” I asked after he’d left, not for the first time, a little more desperately than the last.

“Kitty. Are any of us going to be okay?” Ben said, spreading his arms to encompass him, me, the door Cormac had left through, Tyler lying on the sofa, the window, and the city outside.

I knew what he meant. For the moment, we really were okay. But what about tomorrow? What about the day after that? Would we be okay then? I kept asking the question because the answer was never permanent. And that would be true even if we weren’t werewolves, ex-cons, traumatized war veterans, and possessed wizards.

I reached for him, and he took my hand and kissed the inside of my wrist. We were going to be okay.

Chapter 23

THE SNOW melted faster than you’d expect, as it always does in Colorado. Temperatures the following week reached sixty. Rivers of melting snow flooded the streets. I went out without my coat, and the blazing sun felt like a treasure.

A couple of days after the blizzard, we went back to FortCarson to return the Humvee and retrieve Ben’s car, and for Colonel Stafford’s debriefing. I was worried about the damage, but the soldier at the motor pool seemed bemused by the condition of the vehicle rather than upset. “What the hell could do this to a Humvee?” he said.

“Evil corporate Hummer,” I answered.

“Huh,” he replied, and that was that.

Originally, Stafford wanted to hold the meeting at the hospital. I had visions of him trying to get Tyler back into the cell. That probably would have broken Tyler. Broken him more, at least, past all repair. I suggested to Stafford that he find a more unassuming office or conference room in a different building. One with windows. I’ll never know why he didn’t argue. He could have, but maybe he suspected what I did about Tyler.

The three of us entered the conference room, me in the middle, the men flanking. I could feel the tension that bound us, that made us a pack at least for now. We didn’t know what we were about to face, but we’d be ready, standing up for each other, protecting each other. Ready to fight if we needed to, or run if that was what the situation called for.

Stafford, official in his army uniform, was standing across the table. Dr. Shumacher was there as well, clipboard in front of her, gaze downcast. Her back was stiff; she smelled sweaty.

Tyler took a step forward and saluted the colonel, who returned the gesture. They both looked tired. At Stafford’s invitation, we sat at the table, lined up across from him and the doctor. It looked like some kind of tribunal.

The final toll: Vanderman and Walters were dead. Two other military personnel were dead. Walters killed one, both Walters and Vanderman the other. The post had remained under lockdown for the rest of the day while Stafford’s people cleaned up the mess. Tyler was not only cleared of any wrongdoing in Vanderman’s death, but Stafford was recommending him for a citation.

Stafford seemed to be trying to record the incident as clinically and objectively as he could, avoiding pointing any fingers—lest any be turned back at him, presumably. Ben and I were asked to give our own version of events. Ben was the lawyer—his retelling was also awfully clinical. When my turn came, Ben gave me warning looks whenever my adverbs got too sensationalist. But somebody had to get some appropriate emotion into the situation.

I thought it was over. Stafford had closed the manila folder that contained his notes and printouts and pushed it aside. Shumacher had set down her clipboard.

Then Stafford looked at me and said, “Ms. Norville, in your expert opinion, what is your assessment of the potential for the use of lycanthropes as soldiers in the military?”

I tried to argue. “I’m not an expert—”

“You’ve testified before the Senate on the subject. You’re all I have.”

That was a scary thought.

I had actually thought about this. The record spoke for itself. “I think people who are already werewolves—experienced, well-adjusted werewolves—could make excellent soldiers, with the right training and a good support structure. Captain Gordon proved that. But I don’t think that means the military ought to recruit lycanthropes, and they especially shouldn’t go around creating them. You had six men, highly trained and experienced, who are all gone now because of a situation that never should have happened. You didn’t understand all the implications of what it means to be a werewolf, to be part of a pack. Gordon didn’t understand and he should have. Almost by definition, we’re monstrous, out of control. We’re where the berserker stories came from. You can’t just put that in a box and think you have control.” I spoke quietly, steadily. The alternative would have been screaming. Losing control and giving them a demonstration.

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