Frostbite- Chapter 29

“How about a Cuban cigar, Captain?” Bobby asked, waving one at Uncle Bannerman. Chey’s heart sank. She jumped up onto a wooden fence and sat down on the top rail. She didn’t have high hopes for this introduction to start with—she had known all along that the two men weren’t going to click—but it seemed almost like Bobby wanted this to fail. “You can’t get these down here in the States, right? There’s nothing like them.” He rubbed the cigar under his own nose and breathed out joyfully.

“Thank you, no. I don’t smoke.” Her uncle was dressed in his ranch clothes. Flannel shirt, jeans, perfectly clean work boots. He didn’t wear his uniform anymore—he was retired now, retired with honor and a nice pension after he cleaned up some bad prison riot or something with no casualties. He had transitioned to private life pretty smoothly and had bought a ranch where he raised Appaloosas. He had a bag of carrots with him and he was methodically feeding them, one after another, to his favorite animal, Vulcan, who kept flicking his tail back and forth.

It was 2006, the year the Canadian government went to the Conservatives, and it seemed like maybe, finally, they had a chance. If they were discreet about it. They needed Uncle Bannerman’s help, though, so the two of them had flown down to Colorado to ask him in person. It was January and there were patches of snow on the ground and Chey wished they could just go inside and get warm.

Bobby bit off the end of his cigar and spit it into the grass. Banner-man followed the projectile with his eyes and stared at where it hit the ground, probably memorizing the location where it fell so he could pick it up later. Bobby put the cigar in his mouth unlit and started sucking on it.

“Do you need a match?” Bannerman asked.

“Fuck no. You think I want lung cancer? I just like the taste.”

Bannerman looked away. “You can get mouth cancer just as easily.” He shook his head, clearly ready to give up. “Cheyenne told me that you wanted to ask me for a favor. I suppose I should let you ask, at least.”

“Yeah. I need your help with killing a werewolf.”

Bannerman didn’t react to that at all. He fed the last carrot to his horse and then wadded up the bag and put it in his pocket.

“It’s a matter of public safety,” Bobby tried to explain. “Canadian citizens are at risk and you can help me put an end to that. Surely you can appreciate that. This asshole ate your own brother.”

This time Bannerman winced visibly. Then he collected himself and reached up and patted Vulcan on his forelock. The horse snorted and kicked at the icy ground.

Bobby tried a new tack. “This is kind of my life’s work. Can you understand that? You’re at the end of a pretty distinguished career. I’m at the start of mine.”

“I served my country to the best of my abilities, that’s all.” Banner-man ran his hands down the horse’s mane a few times and then clucked at him with his tongue. The horse knew exactly what that meant and he ran off toward the far side of his enclosure, his hooves kicking up bright sprays of snow. “Tell me now, please, what exactly it is you want me to do for you.”

“One phone call. That’s all,” Bobby said. “You were a pretty important guy over at the Colorado National Guard. I want you to call somebody high up over at the Guard base at Buckley. Somebody who can authorize registering a civilian for a crash course in basic training without asking a lot of questions.”

“You want me to enroll one of your intelligence operatives in our boot camp. Well, that’s very interesting, and it suggests to me that you’re not telling me the whole story. The last time I checked the Canadian Forces have a perfectly good training camp at Saint- Jean in Quebec. But for some reason you can’t put your agent into that camp.”

“Yeah, about that.” Bobby raised his hands in confession. “It’s a freelance job I’m running. Very much on the hush- hush side. I have somebody who’s perfect for what I want to do but they’ve never shot a gun before. See, we don’t just let anybody get firearms training up north. We’re funny that way.”

Uncle Bannerman nodded. “I happen to know someone who can make that happen. Dare I ask who your operative happens to be? Or is that classified?”

Bobby scratched his head for a while. “Now, that’s kind of the funny part. You see, I’ve been trying to run this show for years now. I’ve been begging my people for one good guy, one smart guy who could carry this out. I’ve been tied up in red tape for so long, though, that I had to go low budget on this one. I had to ask for volunteers. People whose lives have been damaged by this particular animal. People who would be willing to put themselves at some mild risk to get within silver bullet range of a werewolf.”

His eyes slid sideways. Bannerman followed his glance. Soon they were both looking right at Chey.

Then Bannerman started laughing. It was a sound Chey had never heard before, and she nearly fell off the fence.

When he had finished laughing he rubbed at his eyes and then looked right at Bobby. “You, Mr. Fenech, are insane. Get off my property now.”

“Wait—wait—just listen for a second,” Bobby pleaded.

“And you, Cheyenne, have apparently never listened to anything I’ve tried to teach you. I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you. I’ll buy you a plane ticket so you can go home and see your mother. Or you can stay here if you like. I can always use some help around here—I’m getting old and the horses need plenty of attention.”

“Fucking hold on, just give me a chance,” Bobby said.

“No.” Bannerman folded his arms across his chest. “I believe I asked you to leave. I’m not too withered to make you go,” he said.

“Chey, try to talk to this guy, will you?” Bobby asked. He ran his hands across the sides of his head, careful not to mess up his spikes. “It looks like I’m not getting through to him.”

Chey jumped down from the fence and started walking away from the two of them. “Give up, Bobby,” she said. “He’s not the kind of guy you can talk around to your side. It’s one of the reasons I respect him so much.” Her face burned with shame and she just wanted to leave.

“Chey,” Bobby wheedled, but she kept walking.

“There’s a firing range just up the road. For fifty bucks they’ll give me a basic firearms safety course,” she said. “I checked. I kind of figured I knew his answer already.”

“Cheyenne,” her uncle said. There was ice in his voice. She stopped where she was, but she didn’t turn around. She thought he was going to forbid her from going up to the Arctic. She should have known better. He didn’t have a right to forbid her anything and he was not the kind of man to meddle where he didn’t have a right. “Is this really your idea?” he asked. “This jumped- up spy didn’t talk you into this?”

“I don’t sleep, Uncle. I haven’t slept a full night since I was twelve years old,” she said. She figured that all the times she passed out drunk didn’t count. “Every time I see a Chihuahua I lose my shit. The wolf ate my father, but that wasn’t all—he fucked up my life, too. I need to make this right.”

“If you go up there you’re just going to get yourself killed. You can’t fight a lycanthrope. They’re stronger than we are.”

“I know something stronger,” Bobby suggested. “A silver bullet. I have a guy in Medicine Hat, a silversmith, who’s making them for me right now. Of course, if she can’t fire a gun then a silver anti- tank round isn’t going to do her much good.”

“You’re a vile little squirt of a man, Mr. Fenech,” Bannerman said. Then he took his cell phone out of his pocket and started dialing.

Check out the previous chapters of Frostbite right here.

Excerpted from Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington. Copyright © 2009 by David Wellington. Published in the Unites States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Published in the UK as Cursed by Piatkus Books, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group.

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