Frostbite- Chapter 28

Three days later she woke up and rolled out of a motel room bed in Ottawa. Bobby lay asleep under half of a sheet, one arm slumped off the side of the bed, his knuckles buried in shag carpeting.

Chey showered as quietly as she could and then got dressed. Bobby didn’t stir. She went to the drapes across the window of their room and pulled them open a little. Across the street she saw a convenience store, a chemist’s, the parking lot for the local Canadian Tire. Everything had the same muted, grayish colors that blended together. Bilingual signs crowded the sidewalks. She was back in Ontario, alright.

It had been so many years. Her mother still lived in Kitchener. A couple hundred kilometers away, but in the same province at least. She hadn’t spoken to her mother in six months and she wondered if she ought to call her—but it was still too early.

Chey and Bobby had flown in the night before and taken the little room because they were too tired to find anything better. Then Bobby had wanted to fool around, and she’d been too tired to put him off.

No, that wasn’t quite true. As much as she wanted to pretend that she wasn’t attracted to Bobby, she couldn’t convince herself. He was a little daft looking and a little obnoxious, sure. But he got her. When she’d told him about sleep- driving to Chesterton he’d just nodded and held her hand. When she told him about how ashamed she’d been when Uncle Bannerman saw her tattoo he had showed her his own tattoo, a sloppy black Molson logo on his bicep that a high school friend had done with a hot sewing needle. And when she told him she was still afraid of dogs he hadn’t laughed.

Then there was the fact that he knew more about lycanthropes than she did. He could teach her things. That was his ultimate turn- on.

“Couldn’t sleep?” he asked, his head still buried in a pillow. He brought up his dangling hand and ran it through the spikes of his hair. They were crusty with old mousse and he scratched at the scalp underneath.

“I’m too excited,” she confessed.

He turned his head enough to smile at her. “You’re doing a good thing,” he said. He pushed his butt up in the air, getting his knees up un¬derneath him, then sprang out of bed and whooped as he jumped into the shower. “Today’s going to be a good day.”

A car came for them promptly at nine, a white sedan with a government seal on the driver’s side door. They drove along the St. Lawrence River to spy headquarters, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building. The building was a three- sided monolith with big mirrored windows surrounded by a miniature park. It looked pretty impressive from the highway.

Maybe Bobby had seen it one too many times. “You know, America’s got the Pentagon. That’s got five sides. Even the CIA building in Virginia has four.”

Inside they passed through a metal detector and were fitted for security cards. Chey had worn her best outfit, a black velvet skirt and a purple blazer. When they clipped the visitor pass on her she felt like Gillian Anderson in The X- Files. It was all she could do not to giggle.

A woman with permed hair and thick glasses led them down a long corridor and then they went inside a conference room where a lot of men and women in suits waited to shake Chey’s hand. They seemed really happy to meet her. She forgot all of their names as soon as she heard them. Once everybody was seated another man came in and put a tape recorder on the wood- grain table. He explained that everything she said was going to be recorded for later use and she agreed that was okay with her.

The newcomer, who had not been introduced to her, started asking her questions then. Most of them were pretty basic. He wanted to know the date and the time of the attack. He apologized before he asked her a series of simple questions about how, exactly, her father had died. She didn’t mind answering.

“It went right for his throat, for—” she couldn’t remember the word. “For the artery here,” she said, and drew a finger across her neck.

“That’s the jugular vein,” one of the other men offered. Chey smiled her thanks.

The next bunch of questions surprised her: questions about her life since the attack. A woman dressed like a doctor asked her if she’d ever grown any hair in unnatural places. She did laugh, then. They asked her if she had ever experienced an occurrence of unusual strength or fast reflexes.

“Well, I exercise a lot,” she told them, looking around to see their reaction. A couple of them frowned. “I don’t sleep very well, you see. So I need something to do with all that extra time.”

The man with the recorder suggested that they move on. It turned out he only had one more question. “At any time since the attack have you been contacted by the lycanthrope? In any way? I want you to take time and think about this. There’s the possibility of what we call subtle communication.”

“Subtle?” she asked.

The man with the recorder shrugged. “For instance, telepathy. Or maybe a telehypnotic suggestion. Have you ever done something, especially when you were tired or in a trancelike state, that you can’t explain?”

She looked over at Bobby, excited. “Yes,” she said, her hands grabbing at the table edge. “Yes.” And she told them everything about her sleep- driving.

Some of the men glanced at each other and her heart sank, because she thought she knew what they were thinking. That doesn’t sound like telepathy. That sounds like crazy.

They had a lot more questions after that, but she couldn’t help but think she’d blown her big chance. Whenever she glanced at Bobby, though, he nodded confidently. Encouragingly. It helped her get through the endless session.

When she was done the men all stood up. She didn’t understand what they were doing. Then she stood up and they all started shaking her hand. “The CSIS is extremely grateful for your help,” one of them said. Another repeated the same message in French. She started shaking their hands.

“Wait,” she chirped. She couldn’t believe that was all they wanted. “Wait, I’d like to ask you something. If I may.”

They had already started filing out of the conference room. Now they stopped and looked at her patiently.

“If you catch him.” She swallowed painfully. “If you catch it. The lycanthrope, I mean. Is there any way you could let me talk to it? I don’t mean privately. You can have anyone there you think should be there, or just listen in if you want. I want to ask it a question, you see. I want to know if it hated my father or if it was just hungry.”

The men and women looked at each other, not at her. The same look as before. Now they definitely thought she was crazy.

“Look, I know it’s weird. But it would help me so much,” she pleaded.

Finally the man with the recorder cleared his throat and put a hand on her upper arm. “Ms. Clark, I’m so sorry if we gave you the wrong idea. This was just a backgrounder session. For informational purposes only.”

She shook her head. She didn’t understand.

“Mr. Fenech will explain, I’m sure,” he said, and then they all left.

An hour later the car took her and Bobby back to the motel. Chey sat down in a chair and smoothed out the wrinkles in her skirt. Bobby tore all the sheets off the bed and threw them at the TV set.

“Goddamned grits!” he shouted. “I shit on all the Green Party bilingual wine- sipping owl- hugging dolphinfuckers who run this country! I knew this would happen.”

Chey exhaled deeply before she spoke. “What happened? You said the government wanted my help.”

“Yeah, and I was right.” He threw the plastic ice bucket at the tempered glass windows. It bounced off without leaving a mark. “They wanted you to help them not make a decision. What you said in there should have gotten me the paperwork I needed to go up to the Arctic and give this animal a sterling silver enema. Instead they took what you gave them as a sign that they needed to do more fact finding. Maybe form a new committee on Lycanthrope Relations. Lycanthropes! I hate that fucking word. It’s Greek or something, right? It’s one of those science words. It’s the name of a medical condition. This isn’t some kind of cancer that only baby seals can get. It’s a godforsaken monster. Why can’t anybody ever say the word werewolf with a straight face?”

“So they’re not going to do anything?” Chey asked.

“They never do,” he told her. Then he tried to pull the curtains off the curtain rod. They wouldn’t come loose.

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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