Frostbite- Chapter 39

Silver light came and passed behind her eyes and then Chey was down on the floor, naked and grunting, her fingers raw, the nails broken as she scratched and scrabbled and gnawed with her teeth at the wooden floorboards. Her cheek burned as she pushed her face harder and harder against the floor, and her hair got in her eyes. She whined and whimpered as her fingers dug and dug but got nowhere against the old dry wood.

Then she sat up fast enough to give herself a head rush. What— what had she been doing? It was dark in the fire tower, but she didn’t want to get up to open the shutters, not when she didn’t know what she would find. She’d had a shock the last time she’d woken up in that position and found the place torn to pieces by her wolf.

Her hands were stiff and sore. Carefully she unbent her fingers, smoothed out her palms. Then she reached down and touched the floor. There had been scratches there before, but now there were distinct gouges. Four narrow trenches, some of them deep enough to fit her fin¬gertip inside.

In the dark she pulled on her clothes, then stood up and hesitantly opened one of the shutters. Outside afternoon sunlight stretched in long rays through a haze of pollen. The golden spores filled the air between the trees like mist. She could hear people down there, maybe more people than just Bobby and Lester. She heard the repeated dull sound of a hammer at work. In a second, she thought, she would go down and join the other human beings. Yes. That would be nice. First, though, she had to make sure her wolf hadn’t destroyed her one place of refuge.

Slowly Chey turned around. It wasn’t as bad as she’d expected. The gouges were there, yes, but only in a few places. Her wolf hadn’t dug its way through the floor. She’d been worried it might have found a way out—though she remembered almost nothing of the last eighteen hours, she knew the wolf had desperately, almost pitifully, wanted to escape the tower. The floorboards were too thick for that, it seemed.

Chey smoothed out her wild hair and rubbed dried drool off the corner of her mouth. Maybe she could have a bath in Powell’s big galvanized tin tub. Maybe she could convince Bobby and Lester to heat up enough water so that the bath would actually be warm. She reached down and pulled the ring of the trapdoor, ready, she thought, to rejoin polite company.

The trapdoor lifted half a centimeter, then stopped fast. Even with her better- than- human strength she couldn’t lift it any further. The explanation was obvious, even if she didn’t want to believe it. Bobby had locked her inside the tower.

She couldn’t stay up there another minute or she knew she would lose her shit. She had to get out.

Chey beat and pounded on the trapdoor, then ran to the open shutter and yelled down for someone to come let her out—anyone. She heard someone clambering up the metal stairs below and then the sound of a padlock being released. When the door opened she saw an unfamiliar face rise up toward her in greeting.

“You’ll be the screecher, then,” the face said. It belonged to a middle- aged man with a square jaw and a nearly shaved head. He was wide through the shoulders and his hands were enormous. She watched them grip the edge of the trapdoor as he pulled himself up. “Frank Pickersgill, pleased to meetcha.”

He held out one of those big hands and she put her own into the meaty grip. He did not squeeze her hand in greeting as much as he just enclosed it, the way Chey might have held the hand of a baby.

“You’re a friend of Bobby’s,” she said. “I mean Mr. Fenech. Is he around?”

“Out at the lake, coordinating. Supervising, you know,” Pickersgill said, shaking his head a little back and forth as if he thought Bobby’s talents were better employed elsewhere. “He’ll be glad to hear you’re back on your feet.”

“He locked me in,” Chey said, then looked away from Pickersgill’s eyes very quickly. Maybe too quickly, she thought.

“Ah, well, that was just a safety precaution,” the big man told her. He climbed all the way up inside the tower and Chey saw he was well over two meters tall. The floorboards, which had held up against the worst her wolf could do to them, creaked a little when he sat down with his legs dangling through the trap.

Chey nodded. She supposed she understood that. Though so far her wolf hadn’t been able to open the trapdoor, she could sympathize with Bobby if he worried that sometime it might just figure out the trick. “I have to go down now,” she said, because the fire tower’s walls were just too close.

She scrambled down the stairs and heard Pickersgill descending behind her. His bulk made the metal skeleton of the tower shake and groan. At the bottom she wondered what she should do. She felt like just running—running as far as her legs would take her. She just didn’t know which direction. She turned around, swiveling to look every which way, drinking in the open air. Then she noticed the pipes.

While her wolf had been clawing up the tower floor someone, probably Pickersgill, had been busy hammering lengths of PVC pipe into the ground. There were around a dozen of them, spread in a circle around the base of the tower, each a few meters apart from the next. They were driven in at a sharp angle to the ground and they pointed outward, making her think of the cannon on a pirate ship. A strange smell issued from the pipe nearest to her. She stepped closer and leaned down to sniff as if she were smelling a rose. The scent was a lot more pungent and musky than that, however. In fact, she thought she recog¬nized it. She touched the edge of the pipe, started to reach inside. What was that smell? It was the smell of—of—

“Not for you, sister,” a man said, grabbing her arm and pulling it away from the pipe. “Not unless you’re ready to die.”

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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