Frostbite-Chapter 20

A duck slid in on the wind and flapped to a landing on the perfect mirror surface of the lake. Thick velvety ripples of black water hurried away from its body as it cruised serenely along. The breeze off the water made the quaking aspens rattle and shiver.

Chey’s weapon swung through the air and sighted on the duck as if the handgun were mounted on ball bearings. It felt like her arm didn’t move at all. She’d trained long and hard so it would feel like that.

“Remember,” Fenech said, “you have to be close.”

“I know. You told me already,” she said, slipping the gun into her back pocket.

She knew the science involved. Normal lead bullets were soft enough that when they passed down the barrel of a gun they changed shape, slightly, conforming to the rifling on the inside of the barrel. They emerged from the muzzle spinning as a result, and that spin kept them traveling in a mostly straight line. Silver bullets were harder than lead and they didn’t change their shape as easily. Because they didn’t spin they were far more likely to deviate in mid- flight from the trajectory you wanted—which made them far less accurate, especially at any kind of range. She knew all this; she knew it better than he did, but he was going to tell her again anyway. Bobby was one of those people who liked to repeat things for emphasis, because he assumed other people’s memories weren’t as good as his. “At more than twenty meters you’re unlikely to hit the side of a wood buffalo.” He smiled at his own jest.

“So you need to be close.”

“Close,” she said. “Got it.”

His smile deepened a little. Turned warm. In his own way he really could be affectionate, even caring. “How are you?” he asked. “It can’t have been easy getting this far. You look great, though. I kind of half expected to find you starving and frozen, but you look like you’ve been working out. You found out that life up north agrees with you?”

She nodded and bit her lip. How to tell him? Would he freak out? Would he shoot her on the spot?

“You know I always thought you were crazy for wanting to hike in like this.”

“It was the only way,” she said. “My cover story was that I was completely lost and near death. I had to look the part—enough to fool somebody who’s lived in these woods for decades.”

“Have you seen him yet?” Fenech asked. She hadn’t said much in her message. He had no idea what had happened to her. “Did you make contact?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, I made contact. He has a cabin about two kilometers from here in a little clearing. He lives there with another guy, a Dene Indian named Dzo.”

She’d thought the pilot of the helicopter was asleep. When she mentioned Dzo’s name, however, he let out a little grunt of humor.

“Something amuse you, Lester?” Fenech asked, a cockeyed grin on his face.

The pilot sat up a bit. His eyes were hidden under deep, pouchy lids, but they sparkled when they met Chey’s gaze. “That’s probably not his real name, is all,” the pilot said.

Fenech turned halfway around. “It’s not a common Dene name?”

The pilot shrugged. “In North Slavey language, that’s the word for the musquash. The, you know, you call it the muskrat down south. Little furry thing. It’s like if your name was Chipmunk.”

“Is that so.” Bobby stared at the pilot as if surprised he’d had the temerity to speak. Surprised, and slightly amused. “You know, Lester’s a pretty funny name where I come from.”

The pilot shrugged again and closed his eyes, done with the conver¬sation.

“Bobby,” she interjected, “let’s worry about people’s names later, okay? I made contact. I made really bad contact. There’s been a complication with the plan.”

Fenech’s face hardened and he nodded. He was ready to hear it.

She sighed deeply. “He scratched my leg with one of his claws. While he was a wolf.”

He looked down at her leg, concern growing across his face. “So you need medical attention? We’ll fly you out of here right now,” Fenech offered.

She shook her head. “No, Bobby, you don’t understand. He scratched me, and that’s all it takes. I’m one of them now.”

She could see in his face he still didn’t get it.

She swallowed painfully. There was a thickness in her throat she didn’t fully understand.

“I’m a wolf, too, now,” she said, and watched him take a step back, just like she’d known he would. His face stayed perfectly still, but his eyes widened a little.

“Oh, boy,” he said. He brought one hand up and scratched at his spiky hair, careful, even in this moment of shock, not to muss a single strand. “Oh, boy,” he said again. “Alright. So...”

“So you just need to be aware of this,” she said. “It doesn’t have to change anything. I can still do what I came for.”

“No. No, in light of this—this shocking revelation—I think we scrub the mission. I mean, we need to move forward but not—not like this. I know some guys I can bring in.”

“You’re going to call in the Mounties on this?” she shouted. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Not exactly. Not any official police,” he said carefully. “Just some guys I happen to know. I mean, that’s what I wanted to do in the first place.”

“No,” Chey insisted.

“No?” he asked, and it was an actual question. “Because it looks like maybe you’ve screwed this up. In the worst way possible.”

“No,” she repeated. “This is my operation. I fucking deserve it.”

He might have started in on her again if Lester the pilot hadn’t cleared his throat just then.

“If you two are at a good stopping place,” he said, “you might notice we’ve got guests.”

Fenech and Chey swiveled in unison to look down the side of the lake. Something was moving toward them, bouncing and lurching through the brush, weaving around the tree trunks. It was Dzo’s rusted truck crawling over broken terrain down there, its windshield catching sporadic winks of sunlight as it rumbled through the shadows.

Powell leaned out of the driver’s side window and shouted her name. The soft syllable flapped around in the treetops and echoed off the surface of the lake.

“Chey,” he yelled again. “I just want to talk to you, that’s all,” he called.

Chey muttered a curse and turned to look at her handler, but Fenech’s eyes were invisible behind his sunglasses. He was smiling, but she had no idea what that meant.

“When you said you made contact,” he told her, “I assumed that meant you’d set up a position and had him visually. I didn’t think you’d been properly introduced. Does he know about me? Did you tell him you already had a boyfriend?”

Chey tried to keep her face blank of expression. She would not let him take this away from her. Not now. Not after what she had done, not after what she had become, just to get this far. “I had no weapon at the time. I needed to get close. I did what I had to.”

Dzo slewed his vehicle around to a stop where a line of trees blocked further progress around the lake. Powell didn’t wait for a full stop, but jumped out of the truck while it was still slowing down. His legs caught the earth and grabbed it, propelling him toward her a lot faster than she’d been able to cover the same distance. He had seen her, perhaps, or maybe he’d just spotted the helicopter. He came loping around the side of the lake and then stopped twenty meters away. He looked more confused than anything else. “Chey,” he said, closing the gap. Ten meters. Eight. “Chey, you can’t leave me now. You know that. Who the hell are these people?”

“Bobby,” she said, “I’d like you to meet—”

“I don’t want to meet him. You know what I want,” Fenech said.

She nodded and drew her weapon. Powell was six meters away. She sighted on his forehead.

“Chey?” he asked.

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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