Frostbite- Chapter 7

Chey smiled at the householder.“Hi. I’m Chey,” she said. “Cheyenne Clark. You must be Monty,” she went on, holding out her hand. He took it and shook it once, a ritual he barely had the grace to complete. His grip was firm but not crushing—the handshake of a man who had absolutely nothing to prove.

“And you must be Dzo’s latest find.” He looked her up and down and his eyes stopped on her hips. If he lived out here in these woods year- round (and he did, she knew, she was certain of it), she wondered how long it had been since he’d last seen a woman. “My friends call me by my Christian name, Montgomery,” he told her, turning away, toward the house. He walked away from her as he spoke. His body language told her she could follow if she wanted but he didn’t care one way or another. His body language was lying, and badly. She could feel his attention on her, even with his eyes turned away. “I don’t know you. You can call me Mr. Powell. What’s taking you so long?” he said, finally turning to look at her again. On her bad ankle she couldn’t keep up with him.

He looked at her again and this time he noticed her blood- stained sock and her swollen leg. Damnation,” he said, so softly she barely heard him. As softly as the noise the pine needles made when they hit the ground.

He came over to stand very close to her, close enough she could smell him. He didn’t stink like a mountain man, but he wasn’t wearing any deodorant or cologne or even aftershave. Mostly he smelled of wood smoke.

He bent down and started unlacing her boot. That hurt, a lot, but he didn’t stop even when she whimpered and leaned back against the hood of the truck. With one quick yank he pulled off her boot, and then her sock.

She didn’t want to look. She did not want to see what she’d been dreading—the angry wound, the purple suppurating flesh around it. The black- and- yellow mottling where her ankle had swollen up until the skin was ready to crack open.

“This isn’t so bad,” he said.

Was he humoring her? She didn’t think he was the type. She risked a glance downward.

Her ankle was smeared with dried blood, but not as much of it as she’d expected. There was a scar running along the outer side of her ankle, thick with raised tissue, but...but it looked old. It looked like it had healed over months ago. There was no swelling, nor any sign of infection at all.

Impossible—why had it hurt so much? And how had it healed so quickly? It couldn’t be that—

“Wait here,” Monty growled. Without any more words he hurried off around the side of the house. She heard Dzo’s voice, heard the weird little man laugh, but his mirth was cut off short.The two of them started muttering back and forth, but she couldn’t hear them properly. She was pretty sure of what they were saying.

Gingerly, being very cautious, she put her injured foot back into its boot, not bothering with the sock. Then she leaned on it, just a little. It hurt to put her weight on it. It hurt a lot. But not nearly as much as she’d expected.

She could walk again. Which meant she had some options.

She limped to the front door of the house and stepped inside. She needed more information.

The little house comprised a single room and an attic, with a ladder leading up into the latter instead of stairs. It smelled of very old smoke and relatively new mildew. The sunlight coming in through the yellowed curtains gave the place a butterscotch color that was homey without being quaint. The furnishings inside, which were few in number, were mostly hewn out of raw wood. The seats of the chairs and the top of the table had been sanded down and finished, but in other places old bark still decorated the legs of a stool or the underside of a shelf. There was no television set, no radio, no sign of electricity. Well, where would it come from? There were no power plants this far north, nor any grid. It made her wonder where Dzo got fuel for his truck.

There was in fact a wood- burning stove, but it wasn’t lit. A box of waterproof matches sat on top of a wood scuttle next to the stove, but there was no firewood there and she didn’t see anything she could use to start a fire, so she left the stove alone. She didn’t have time to get a proper fire going, anyway. Any second now the two men were going to reach a decision and come looking for her.

She searched the rest of the little house for food—she was starving, and perfectly willing to steal anything remotely edible—but turned up little of interest. Powell did all his cooking on the stove, it seemed, though there were few pots or pans in evidence. Certain he had to have food somewhere, she climbed up the ladder and investigated the cramped second story. No food there either, but the upper level showed some signs of personality, at least. Powell slept on a mattress laid on the floorboards of the attic. The sheets were neatly tucked in underneath with hospital corners. A kerosene lantern stood near the pillow and was flanked by piles of books—old dog- eared paperbacks from decades past, everything from Zane Grey to spy thrillers to nurse stories. A neat stack of textbooks and technical manuals lay near the foot of the bed, mostly science stuff. Chemistry, a guide to edible plants, Elements of Surveying and Civil Engineering. None of the books was less than seven years old. The newest item was a well- thumbed Old Farmer’s Almanac from 2001. At the far end of the attic she found a couple worn volumes of cross¬word puzzles. The puzzles had been completed in pencil, then carefully erased—stringy black bits of used eraser fell from the pages as she turned them—and then filled in once more. At the back of the pile she found a Rubik’s Cube that had been partially solved, then abandoned, judging by the thick layer of dust on its uppermost face.

She climbed back down the ladder, having learned as much as she supposed she could, and poked around, still looking for food. The fried bark Dzo had given her was doing wonders for her appetite. As if it had forgotten all about the existence of food for ten days, and just now recalled it, her stomach growled and grumbled at her. She found little to satisfy her, however. Powell’s cupboards were bare other than a couple of dusty cans of corn and peas that she didn’t think would still be good even if she found a way to open them. The faded labels spoke of another era.

His liquor cabinet promised a little something more. She saw some half- full bottles of Scotch and considered how much she’d love to just sit and have a drink—but then she heard the two men coming around the side of the house. She couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, so she crouched down under a window where she could hear bet¬ter and even see them a little without being discovered herself.

“I saw her ankle,” Powell said. “She got herself scratched. She’s in the club, or she will be very soon.”

Dzo shrugged. “Sure, that’s why I brought her here.”

“I imagine that made sense to you at the time,” Powell said. He stopped just outside of the window, but he didn’t look in. “I can’t let her turn, though. She’ll hurt somebody. Maybe she’ll even spread this thing. I can’t let her do that.” He hefted something in his hands. It was an ax, the kind used to chop down trees, with a dull and rusty blade the same color as Dzo’s truck. “You want to do the honors?”

“No way,” Dzo said, his furs shaking in negation. She couldn’t see his face behind his white mask.

“Then I will. The moon’ll be up in a few minutes. If we take her head off right now I think it’ll still be alright.”
By the time he got to the door Chey was gone.

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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