Kitty's Big Trouble Page 61

Smiling, I shook my head. “No. Don’t you see it? This is perfect. If you’d been part of a Family that whole time, if you knew everything about him, you’d already be tangled in a web—you’d be one of his servants, or you’d be one of the Families that are terrified of him, like Boss’s Family. The way you’ve lived, the way you are—you’re outside it all. Who better to oppose Roman than someone without any cultural baggage about him?” Anastasia had planted a huge weight on my shoulders. To carry it successfully, I couldn’t do it on my own. With allies like Rick, how could I fail? “How about it?” I asked. “Would you like to be a general in my opposing army?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” he said, and we shook on it.

* * *

WHEN I got back from the trip, I found a nine-by-twelve padded envelope in my stack of mail. The return address was a department at the University of Notre Dame. Curious, I tore it open and spilled the contents onto my desk: a one-page letter and a small plastic vial, sealed, that looked like it contained two hairs, dark brown, almost rust color. I held the vial up to the light and stared at the hair for a long, weightless moment.

I had to read the letter a couple of times before it started making any sense. It was from a grad student working at the library archives at the university, which turned out to have a good collection of Sherman correspondence, his family’s papers and memorabilia—including a lock of his hair. This grad student listened to the episode from last month about historical figures, heard my offhand remark about Sherman, wanted to help, and asked that I please not tell anyone that she’d smuggled out the strands of his hair sample. But she could verify that this was Sherman’s hair, and maybe it would be enough for DNA testing.

Maybe it would. I called Dr. Shumacher at the Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology and asked her if she could run the test for the lycanthropy marker. When she agreed, I overnighted the sample to her. Next, all I had to do was not think about it for the few weeks it took to get back results.

Then Shumacher called. “I’ve got the test results back on your sample.”

“And?” I was hopping a little.

“It’s positive for lycanthropy.”

Closing my eyes, I let the information tumble around in my head. Positive. I felt like an old grandfather wolf reached across the decades to give me a cuff on the shoulder. A playful knock with a big wolfish paw, as if to say, ye of little faith. My ears were ringing from it. Here was a legacy.

“Kitty, who does this sample belong to?” Shumacher asked.

I hadn’t told her the source of the hair. And I couldn’t tell her. The secret had stayed buried this long, I had to leave it buried. It wasn’t out of a sense of right and wrong—intellectually, I ought to tell. Professionally, I ought to be taking credit for making the connection. But I couldn’t, and it was because of a sudden sense of loyalty to this long-dead member of a wider pack. I felt some small solidarity with this figure who must have faced incredible struggles, but who never backed away and always told it like he saw it. Sherman did not suffer fools.

General William T. Sherman’s life was incredibly well documented. He even wrote a celebrated memoir. But he couldn’t talk about being a werewolf. A framework didn’t exist for him to talk about it. Who would he tell? Who would believe him? Of course he never mentioned it. But all my new questions—How had he become a werewolf? Did he have a pack? How did he cope with being a werewolf on the battlefield, surrounded by blood and aggression?—would never get answers.

He never talked about being a werewolf. If he’d wanted to reveal the information, he’d have found a way, left clues, given a sign that someone in the know—another werewolf, maybe—could interpret. But he hadn’t.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Shumacher. I can’t tell you. I promised I’d keep that information confidential.” Who had I promised? Sherman, I decided.

“Does this tell you what you needed to know?” she said.

“Yes. It does. Thank you.”

* * *

ROMAN SAID werewolves were slaves. Maybe some werewolves thought so, too. But they were wrong. San Francisco’s Master vampire had told me that it had been a long time since a werewolf stepped forward to lead. To speak for our kind, to take a stand. But other werewolves had stepped forward and stood up for themselves, once upon a time.

I wondered who those werewolves were, what they had done. What I would have to do. I tried not to be daunted by the task.

War is hell.

Sherman was the one who originally said that. He would lecture students at military academies, assuring them that their dreams of glorious battle were phantoms, destined to die in blood and horror. He’d done what he did—the burning of Atlanta, the March to the Sea—because he saw those tactics as a way to end the Civil War as decisively as possible, so such a war would never have to be fought again. Like a badass alpha wolf would.

He’d been one of those werewolf leaders, I was sure of it. I printed off a copy of his photo, the surly one, and pinned it to the wall next to my desk in my office. I could almost feel him looking at me, looking out for me, saying, “You can do it.”

Because you have to.

* * *

THE NEXT Friday, I sat in front of my microphone at the start of The Midnight Hour, just staring at it. In a minute, I’d have to say something. Speak into it, so it could carry my voice to however many hundreds of thousands of listeners. I imagined them crowding into the studio, demanding.

I couldn’t talk about Sherman. In the month since the Chinatown adventure, I hadn’t said anything on the air about what had happened. I’d had no interest in raising questions about the existence of God and/or gods and what that meant for religion. I was not keen on igniting that firestorm, so I dodged it. I couldn’t say anything about Li Hua, the merchant’s daughter who became a slave of Kublai Khan and then a Western vampire. As much fun as I thought it would be, I didn’t invite Rick on to tell stories of Coronado, the Santa Fe Trail, and being the only vampire in North America for a hundred years.

The weight of what I wasn’t talking about pressed on me, and I didn’t know what to say. I knew too much to be able to talk. What did I do? Where did I go from here?

Matt counted down on his fingers, the on-air sign lit, my intro music—CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”—played through my headset. And away we go …

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