Forced herself to go back again.
She’d made her choice. She’d known, when she jumped out of the tower, that she was letting the wolf out as well as herself. She’d known what it was capable of, better than anyone.
Bobby, Balfour, the Pickersgills—they wanted her dead. They had accepted what she’d become and they were acting accordingly. She had to do the same.
She had to start thinking like a ﬁghter. Like someone who was going to survive this, no matter what. If she was going to live long enough to get back to Powell, to explain herself to him, there were things she was going to have to do. Things she was going to have to learn to live with.
She managed to climb up on the far bank, a gentler slope. She rolled in the dead leaves and mud there and just breathed for a while, and thought of nothing. Then she went back to the body.
His coat was stained with blood in a couple of places. She pulled it off of his arms anyway and struggled into it. He’d been a giant of a man and she was an average- sized woman. The coat sagged across her, dangled from her arms and across her knees. It was still warm. She shuddered, but she didn’t take it off. It was better than being naked in that trackless
She riﬂed his pack. It felt like sacrilege. Evil, pure evil.
It was the smart thing to do.
Her conscience stayed mostly quiet as she searched through his things. She found a packet of ketchup chips, which she ate with one hand while searching with the other. She found a mickey bottle of bourbon, which she put aside for maybe later. Though surely drinking a dead man’s liquor was enough to bring down heavenly wrath on her, if anything was. She found a box of silver shotgun shells and she took one cartridge out and held it in her hand. She unraveled the red paper wrapper and picked one of the spherical pellets out. It was perfectly smooth, but it felt like a piece of broken glass rubbed against her ﬁngers. Blood welled in the whorls of her ﬁngertips and she threw the pellet back into the pack.
She reached up and touched her shoulder, then craned her head around and tried to look. There were distinct scratches there, ugly red marks that looked infected. They could only have been made by silver— so Frank Pickersgill had shot at her ﬁrst, before she had attacked him. He had drawn ﬁrst blood.
That helped, a little.
There was a map in the pack. A good one, with contour lines and lumber roads drawn in ﬁne gray ink. She found the ﬁre tower. Powell’s cabin wasn’t shown, but she found the tiny lake where Bobby had landed his helicopter. She had no idea where she was—she was near a little stream, but there were hundreds of those on the map. She could be anywhere. Giving up, she looked for Port Radium, wherever that was, and then she found it.
Frank Pickersgill had said she should stay away from Port Radium. That had to be where Bobby had gone. And Bobby would be following Powell. It was where she had to go, if she was going to ﬁnish this. If she was going to survive.
Port Radium was on the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake, a body of water so big it ﬁlled the left- hand side of the map. There was something about its location that seemed odd to her. She studied it and turned the map around and wondered why it should seem familiar. She hardly knew this part of the world at all. Then she remembered. It was the same place she’d seen on maps before, the only town anywhere near Powell’s cabin. She’d always seen it before referred to as Echo Bay. Maybe they’d changed the name—“Port Radium” hardly sounded like a place anyone would want to visit.
At the bottom of the pack she found a satellite cell phone. Just like the one she’d used to summon Bobby and screw up everything. Bobby. What a fool she’d been, to—
No, she wasn’t going to think that way. She’d been used. Taken advantage of.
Now Bobby had ordered the Western Prairie guys to shoot her on sight. He wanted to kill her. Just like Powell. All the important men in her life wanted her dead.
Well—except for one.
Not really knowing why, she placed a call. She had trouble remembering the number, but after a couple of false starts she got it. She pressed the phone against her ear and listened to clicks and static for a couple of seconds, and then the phone began to ring. Then it clicked and answered.
“Hello,” the phone told her. “You’ve reached the Bolton’s Valley Horse Ranch. We’re most likely out riding fences right now, but if you press one, you can—”
She pressed one and shoved the phone back to her ear. She could barely hear the beep on the other end. Then she spoke, as quickly as she could.
“Uncle Bannerman, this is Cheyenne. I wanted to let you know what’s happening to me. I’ve been...changed.” She closed her eyes. Let herself feel human for a moment. Was that what she was doing? Saying good- bye to the only human being she still loved? Or saying goodbye to the little girl she’d been, the little girl who was still human? “There’s no cure. There’s nothing anyone can do. But you should know that Bobby—Fenech—sent me up here expecting me to be killed. You were right; he wasn’t trustworthy. I guess ...I guess that’s all I wanted to say. I’m going to a place called Port Radium. I’m probably going to get killed there, but if I don’t, I think I’ll be alright. I thought you’d want to know that.”
She didn’t know what else to say. What else she could say. She ended the call and shoved the phone in a pocket of Frank Pickersgill’s jacket. Then she sat down and for a while just tried not to fall apart.
She took Frank’s boots. He had three pairs of dry socks in his pack, and if she wore them all at once the boots almost ﬁt her. For once, at least, her feet were warm.
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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