Kitty's Big Trouble Page 12

He stepped inside. “Ready to go hunting?” He had his leather jacket and sunglasses in place, ready for action. He’d taken possession of the stake we’d found back in Kansas and had that hidden somewhere, and probably a few more stakes besides.

Ben carried the semiautomatic pistol that normally lived in the glove box of the car in a shoulder holster under his blazer. It was loaded with silver bullets. Guns made me nervous, and I wasn’t sure if that was because I didn’t like guns, or I didn’t like how often we seemed to need them. I reassured myself that he probably wouldn’t have to use it.

In addition, Cormac gave us all crosses on chains to wear. Just in case.

I’d guessed that Roman had werewolf minions in town; we were going to try to flush them out. Not necessarily confront them—just see how many there were and what they were up to. Maybe follow them to Roman. If we found them first, they couldn’t jump us.

The chances of finding anything in this huge, packed city were slim. So I kept telling myself.

We planned to meet Anastasia a couple of hours after sunset at an address in Chinatown. That gave us some time to drive into the heart of the city, check out the area, watch for anything that seemed wrong. We decided to start in Fisherman’s Wharf and work our way south. After parking, Ben and I would go together; Cormac would follow separately. I didn’t like splitting up the pack. We needed to look out for each other. Safety in numbers.

As we left the parking lot, I looked all around, taking in the sights and sounds of one of the most touristy locations in the country, squinting against a wind blowing off the water, watching gulls dive and soar. We’d already discussed the plan. I still tried to argue. “I’d feel better if we stuck together.”

“Too obvious,” Cormac answered. “You two look fine as a couple. I don’t look like I belong with you.”


“He’s right,” Ben said.

I wore jeans and a light blue blouse; Ben wore khaki slacks and a button-up shirt and blazer. Give us sunglasses and a couple of cameras and we’d look like yuppie tourists. On the other hand, Cormac looked like he ought to be riding a Harley on some dusty back road.

“I’ll keep you in sight, but don’t go looking for me. Got it?” Cormac patted a couple of pockets, as if checking for something. He nodded, apparently satisfied, and walked off in the opposite direction from us.

In ten minutes, Ben and I reached the waterfront around Fisherman’s Wharf. The place was crowded, chaotic, lots of traffic, cars crammed together in makeshift parking lots, a mix of buildings from every decade for the last century, restaurants and junk shops, hotels and offices. Piers crammed with boats: sailboats, fishing boats, tour boats. And people. This late in the day, there seemed to be a ton of screaming children who were too tired and hungry to be interested in cotton candy anymore. I stuck close to Ben, our arms touching as we walked.

“No werewolf in his right mind is going to be stalking us here,” Ben said. “This place is a zoo.”

“Well, we know that now,” I said. In fact, this area might be a good place to hide if we wanted to avoid werewolves.

I had a vague sense of Cormac walking about a block behind us. I had to resist an urge to glance over my shoulder, to check my hunch. My senses were going haywire with all the sensory input. Cars, trucks, buses all made different sounds, had slightly different-smelling exhausts. Music from distant radios clashed. Streetlights, traffic lights, signal lights. Dozens of buildings, and every one had a different set of signs, and rows of windows looked down on us. And the people. Hundreds of people, who all looked and smelled different, who spoke a half dozen different languages. It felt like getting trapped in the middle of a herd of cows.

All big cities shared certain characteristics—lots of buildings, lots of cars, a myriad of scents, from gas fumes to pigeon droppings. It was what made them big cities. So I was amazed at how different San Francisco smelled from Denver. I probably would have noticed it even if I hadn’t been a werewolf, but having a werewolf’s sensitive nose made the odors obvious. In Denver, I could always catch hints of mountains and prairie around the smog and steel of the city. The wind brought tastes of the surrounding countryside. Here, I could hardly even smell the concrete and asphalt smells of the city. Mostly, I smelled the ocean, saltwater and fish, a slightly rotten smell of decay in the water, pollution from all the shipping and traffic. The smell was strange, alien; my nose constantly twitched, trying to define and recognize its various textures. I walked with my shoulders bunched up, tense.

“I can’t smell anything but fish,” I said. Anything upwind of us would be invisible under the breeze from the water.

“Yeah. It’s going to be tough spotting anything sneaking up on us from the wrong direction.” He scanned the streets ahead of us, noting the people and storefronts we passed. He wasn’t hiding his nerves any better than I was.

“I’m not even sure what we’re looking for.”

“Anything that doesn’t smell right,” he said.

“That’s everything here. Makes me want to go home.”

He squeezed my hand. “It’s kind of making me hungry. We’re going for seafood for dinner, right?”

“It would be a crime not to, I think.”

We ducked down a side street—a length of boardwalk along a pier, really—to get away from the crowd for a moment, catch our breath, and take stock. The air seemed a little fresher away from all the people, but the ocean wind still wouldn’t tell us anything about what was lurking in the city.

Across the water, toward the west, I spotted the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge silhouetted against the setting sun. There was a sight to mark off the bucket list.

Further on, I was drawn by a guttural, animal noise. I wouldn’t have noticed it, or I’d have written it off as a weird dog barking, except that it was so strange.

Ben and I turned a corner, looked over a wooden railing, and saw a blanket of brownish, rubbery sea lions splayed out on a series of anchored platforms floating on the water. They were all gurgling and bellowing, craning their necks back and wriggling whiskered snouts.

“Huh,” Ben observed. Both of us were native Coloradoans. The scene before us—the massive marine creatures lounging and stretching, shaking their whiskers and blinking up at the pier full of gawking tourists—was completely alien.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies