Frostbite- Chapter 30

Almost—almost done. The ten- kilometer run ended in the obstacle course. Hand over hand, swinging on an overgrown jungle gym. Crawling under wire. Chey came through the tires puffing, but she had enough strength left to grab the top of the wall. She got one leg over and jumped down the other side just like she’d been trained. Sergeant Horrocks, her drill instructor, started screaming at her as soon as she was through the mud. “If you can’t get those legs up higher you’re going to do the whole fucking thing over again,” he said. He was a tough little man with curly white hair and during her six weeks of training she had never heard him say one word in a conversational tone. With the sergeant it was either screaming or contemptuous silence.

She ran up to a table and tied a blindfold around her face. She had fifty- five seconds left. With sweaty hands she picked up the pieces of her weapon off the table. Receiver, barrel, clip. She slapped the handgun together, stripped it down, put it together again. Then she pulled off the blindfold and stood at attention until Sergeant Horrocks screamed at her to stop.

Her heart was racing. Her body burned with pain. She was done.

“Pretty shabby, but it’s a passing score,” the sergeant announced. “Alright, you’re done.”

And that was it. She walked over to where Bobby and Uncle Bannerman were sitting in camp chairs and dropped to the grass in front of them. She didn’t have the strength to say anything and they didn’t offer any congratulations. They were deep in conversation and barely seemed to notice she was there. The same conversation they’d been having, over and over, since the two of them had met.

“This is your brilliant plan. To send one woman against a monster.”

“One determined survivor, intent on healing her broken psyche. A highly trained survivor now, thanks to you.”

“She’s not even twenty- five years old and now you’re both going to throw away her life. Do you know that she’s afraid of dogs?” Bannerman asked. “How is she supposed to get close enough to a lycanthrope to shoot it when she’s terrified of dogs?”

“It’s not in its wolf form all the time. Sometimes it’s just as human as you or me. At least it looks that way.”

Bannerman harrumphed. “It will still be stronger and faster than her. It will still be a killer. She’s not even a soldier, with or without basic training.”

“If I could send soldiers I would. I’d love to send in an infantry regiment,” Bobby said. “I’d love to send in an air strike. But this is one clever animal. He’d see that coming and just move on before we arrived.”

“You’d also have to get official sanction to do that,” Bannerman added. “And that’s something you’ll never have.”

“Yeah, there is that. Look. I’ve made this as easy as I can. We wait until high summer when she won’t freeze to death up there. She goes in looking like a lost eco- tourist, in case anyone asks. We think the werewolf might have human accomplices watching out for him. She’ll have the perfect cover story. All she has to do is get close enough for one shot and then she’s done.”

“Except that she’ll have to exfiltrate from some bad country. Is she going to shoot the accomplices as well?”

Bobby waved a hand in front of his face as if he were batting at flies. “I’ll have a helicopter ready to evacuate her at short notice. This is a survivable mission. You think I want to lose her like that? She’s my girlfriend.”

“She’s a sacrifice. I don’t know what you’re getting out of this, but I know you’re willing to let her be killed.”

Chey’s heart skipped a beat when she heard that. But she wasn’t going to stop now. She sat up and looked at them.

“Whyare youso gung- ho about this lycanthrope?” Bannerman asked.

“Like I said, it’s a public safety issue. I don’t want any more Canadi¬ans to get eaten.” But he couldn’t even keep a straight face when he said it. Bobby had never really told her what his interest in this was. She realized she’d never really asked.

“Tell me the truth, son.” Bannerman’s face had turned to stone. His eyes were like sharpened pieces of flint.

Chey knew that look. Even Bobby couldn’t stand up to it and keep bullshitting.

“Alright,” he said. “You want to know? It’s about oil.”

“I beg your pardon?” her uncle asked.

Bobby shrugged. “Not terribly original. I know that. But important all the same. I’ve got satellite intelligence saying there’s an untapped oil reserve right on the Arctic Circle. Maybe six hundred million barrels, they say. And it’s not tied up in oil sands or shale that cost more to get it out than it’s worth. This is the real thing, liquid crude. There’s only one problem. There’s a werewolf on top of it. If we start sending up guys to drill for this jackpot then some of them are going to get eaten. The big boys in Ottawa prefer their oil blood- free. So they’ll never okay drilling. Then there’s the terrorism angle, because in my business these days there’s always got to be a terrorism angle, right? You know all about that. If we can start producing all of our own oil, if we can be less dependent on the Middle East, Canada becomes more secure.”

“Please,” Bannerman snorted.

Bobby’s mouth was a firm line. “We’re dealing with intangibles here, sure. But in a reality- based way, once this asshole’s dead, every single person in my country gets a little bit safer.”

“And no one in the world except my niece can make that happen,” Bannerman said. He was about to scoff his last scoff, to send Bobby away. He was about to give up on everything she’d worked so hard for. All the things she needed if she was ever going to have a real life. She sat up and looked at him, even as he was opening his mouth to tell Bobby to leave and never come back. She pleaded with him with her eyes. Not the way she might plead with some other man, not with begging eyes, but instead with the eyes of an adult. The eyes of someone capable of making her own decisions.

Bannerman drew in a long and difficult breath. Then he met her gaze. “Cheyenne,” he said. “Is this what you really want? You really want to throw your life away just for a chance to kill this lycanthrope?”

She didn’t let herself blink. “Yes,” she said.

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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