Bobby’s helicopter stood motionless in the air, maybe half a kilometer away, maybe seventy meters up. The bubble cockpit was turned her way—was he watching her, was he watching Pickersgill march her across a ﬁeld of broken stones? Was he wondering why she wasn’t dead yet? Maybe he wasn’t even inside. Maybe it was just Lester up there.
“Okay, head over to that utility pole,” Pickersgill said from behind her. He wasn’t taking a lot of chances—she had to keep her hands straight up in the air or he would jab her in the back with one of his pistols.
The ﬁeld had been a parking lot once, she thought. It was relatively ﬂat and it was interrupted here and there only by ten- meter- tall light poles, each crowned with a pair of long- broken Klieg lights. The poles were as thick as her arm and made of some metal that hadn’t corroded over the years.
“Listen,” Chey asked, “could I get a coat or a blanket or something? I’m freezing like this.”
He tossed her a pair of moth- eaten, grease- stained coveralls and she struggled into them. They were meant for a larger person than herself, but she was glad just not to be naked anymore. “I appreciate it,” she said. “Can we talk for a second? I’d like to—”
He didn’t let her ﬁnish. “Turn around and grab the pole behind you with both hands,” Pickersgill said.
She did as she was told. The metal was freezing cold and plenty sturdy, though she could feel that the pole was hollow. Nothing more complex than a pipe sticking out of the ground with a few wires running through. Pickersgill moved around behind her and clicked one end of a pair of handcuffs to her left wrist. She could feel him fumbling around behind her with the second cuff—he had to do it one- handed, since he kept a pistol in the crook of her neck the whole time.
“It ain’t silver, but tensile steel’s got to be worth something,” he told her. He clicked the second cuff shut and came back around to face her. He had one pistol in his hand, the other in its holster.
“You’re not going to kill me?” Chey asked.
“Not yet, no. We still need to catch your alpha. He’s smarter than your average canid, obviously. That’s the only reason it’s taken us so long to catch him. He’s still prone to the weaknesses of his kind, however. What we call, in the business, taxic behaviors. Instincts. For instance, he won’t abandon his mate.”
“I’m not his mate,” Chey said. “He wants to kill me.”
Pickersgill shrugged. “One lure is as good as another in this case. When he hears you, he’ll come.”
Chey frowned. “Are you sure?”
“When we had you up in that ﬁre tower, howling like a bitch on heat, his exotic half couldn’t keep away. Every night he came closer, and once we even got a couple of shots off at him. If he had kept that up we would have had him. He must have ﬁgured as much. After that his human half just up and ran off and came here, far enough away that he wouldn’t be tempted by your vocalizations.” He scratched at his mustache. “Took us a while to track him. He’s real good at moving quiet up here. But now we got the two of you in one place, this should be dead easy.”
“You think if he hears me howling here he’ll come to investigate,” she said.
“You got it. As soon as the moon comes up you’ll start in to howling and he’ll show himself. Then we’ll ﬁnish this contract and we can all go home. Except for the two of you, of course.”
“And your brother,” Chey said. Taunting Pickersgill was probably a mistake, but she couldn’t stop herself.
“Yes. We haven’t heard from Frank in a bit. I suppose you had something to do with that?”
Chey sighed. Guilt squished around in her stomach as if she’d eaten tainted food. “I killed him, I guess. My wolf did. I’m a predator now, it seems.”
Pickersgill scratched his mustache again. She wondered if he had ﬂeas. “Well, yes, I suppose you are,” he said, ﬁnally. “Which means I’m a better predator. I’m smarter than you and I’ve got better weapons. So I guess I win.”
She didn’t have anything to say to that.
Pickersgill took a phone out of his pocket with his left hand and dialed a number. The pistol in his right hand drooped until it wasn’t pointing directly at her, but he didn’t holster it. He was pretty smart, she had to give him that. He’d thought this through better than she had.
Well, Chey had never been very good at making plans. She’d pretty much followed her gut her whole life. And now it was going to get her killed.
Her wolf wouldn’t accept that. It wouldn’t accept death so easily.
There had to be something she could do. She stared out at the broken plain of the parking lot, at heaps of stones and broken chunks of asphalt. The helicopter was moving away, headed toward the far side of the town. Soon it was gone behind rust- stained walls and mounds of dark soil, lost in a purpling sky that was about to turn into darkness.
Her mind turned over and over, trying to decide what to do next. If Pickersgill would just step closer she could kick him. Maybe get her legs around his neck and snap his spine. She could spit in his eyes and when he went to wipe them clean she could kick the gun right out of his hand. Then she could bring her knee up into his chin hard enough to knock him out.
What she would do then, still handcuffed to the light pole, she had no idea. But it was worth a try.
“Hey,” she said.
Pickersgill looked up.
“Your brother told me something right before he died.”
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Yeah. If you come over here I’ll whisper it in your ear.”
He grinned at her. “Nice try.” He actually took a step back.
Okay, she thought to herself. Time for plan B.
She tried ﬂexing her arms, tensing against the chain that held her hands cuffed together. She could feel how solid the metal was. She was stronger than any normal human being, but she didn’t think she could break that chain. In fact, she was sure of it. She pulled anyway. The muscles in her arms tensed and burned and the steel held. She grunted and gritted her teeth and pulled harder. The cuffs dug into her wrists and scraped at her skin like dull knives. Sweat broke out on her forehead.
The chain held.
“I didn’t think so,” Pickersgill said. He gave himself a good long scratch and let his pistol arm hang loose at his side. “Just relax, okay? It’s a long time until moonrise. You don’t want to dislocate your shoulders.”
She stared right into his eyes and pulled and yanked with every muscle ﬁber in her body. She felt the blood pounding in her head, felt the bones of her arms ﬂex and start to fracture. She pulled harder. The chain didn’t give.
Instead the light pole behind her did. As she heaved forward the chain put pressure on the hollow pole and it crimped, slamming forward across her shoulders. The pole ﬂicked forward and the twin light ﬁxtures at its top slapped against the ground, shattering what little glass was left in them. Chey was thrown sideways by the toppling pole, her wrists screaming with abrasions. Feeling like an idiot, she looked over at Pickersgill.
He didn’t look back. The collapsing light pole had connected with the space between his shoulder and his neck. Maybe it had broken his spine, or maybe it had just given him a concussion. Either way, he lay sprawled across the broken stones, his eyes wide open but seeing nothing.
Chey kicked and kicked at the pole until it broke off at the crimp and clattered to the ground. She pulled down on the cuffs until they came loose from the pole. She struggled and bent and twisted until her hands were in front of her. Then she ran over to check Pickersgill’s neck. She couldn’t ﬁnd a pulse.
Behind her she heard someone clapping, very slowly. She looked up and was not surprised to ﬁnd Powell standing not ten meters away.
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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