Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 49

I wanted to shake Ben. Tell him to snap out of it and get his confidence back. He had to save Cormac, and he wasn't going to do it talking like that.

Ben said, “He shouldn't have shot her there at the end. That was a mistake.”

“I know.”

And that was what we kept talking around. That Cormac had gone too far to save this time. Nothing we said or did would ever erase that moment.

We walked a few more paces, and I changed the subject. “Why wouldn't the judge set bail?”

He scowled. “Espinoza doesn't want to take a chance on him getting away. Heller's right, those militia wing-nuts do have a history of jumping bail. It's a case of them looking at the facts they want to and not the ones that matter. There might be some past history there that's coloring her judgment.”

That brought up a whole other set of questions. We'd reached the car by then. “So what is all that about Cormac and the Mountain Patriot Brigade?”

Ben kept on, almost like he hadn't heard, climbing into the car and not looking at me. I'd started the engine before he finally said, “I'm not going to answer that.”

“Why not? You know those guys are practically neo-Nazis?”

“I won't argue with that.”

I couldn't fit that and Cormac in my mind at the same time. “And?”

“And I don't think the group even exists anymore. It's some guy in a basement running a Web site.”

“How do you know this? How are you two even involved?” My voice was becoming shrill.

“I don't owe you an explanation.”

That just pissed me off. “Oh, really?”

He glared at me, and I bristled. That was just what we needed. A fight. Posturing. A pissing contest. I didn't want to rile up his wolf any more than it already was.

I put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking lot.

The movement of the car, driving down the highway back to the cabin, settled us down. Ben didn't want to tell me, and that was his right, I supposed. But I had other ways of finding information. We had a lot of other problems to deal with right now.

A few more miles of ranch land sped

past us when he said, “I want to get a hotel room in Walsenburg, to be closer to the courthouse.”

We packed that night, and in the morning found a place to make camp for the duration.

The next day saw Ben working on building his case. Mostly, this involved talking to people, legwork, phone calls. He went to Alice, Joe, Tony, and Sheriff Marks. They were Cormac's defense. I offered to come along, but Ben said no. Cormac's lawyer needed to handle this, he said. My being there would muddy the issue. Remind them of their biases. Maybe he was right. Cormac told me not to let Ben out of my sight. But I let him go.

Besides, I had a research project of my own.

The public library, a couple of blocks down from the courthouse, had several computer terminals. I went to one and started searching. After a half an hour, I took my notes to the reference desk.

“Do you have copies of the Denver Post from these dates?”

The nice lady at the desk set me up at a microfiche machine, and away 1 went. It took about three hours of hunting to find the whole story.

Starting about fifteen years ago, a group of Front Range ranchers began protesting new restrictions and higher fees for grazing their cattle on public lands. Millions of acres across the West were owned by the government, and ranchers had been given access to those lands. To a lot of people, federally owned was the same as public, and anything that barred their access to those lands impinged on their rights as citizens. Some of them did the sane thing: they lobbied Congress, lodged complaints, took the issue to court. Others, though, turned to militias. They stockpiled arms and began to prepare for the violent overthrow of the government they saw as inevitable.

A man named David O'Farrell showed up in a series of articles. This was Ben's father, who at the time owned a ranch near Loveland. He was arrested several times on illegal weapons charges and went straight to the top of the fist of people suspected of being the head of the Mountain Patriot Brigade, one of a network of paramilitary groups that gathered and trained in the backcountry, with the ultimate goal of defending by force their right to use public lands. Through the early nineties they had almost constant confrontations with local law enforcement—except in a few cases where

local law enforcement happened to be members.

Eight years ago, after lengthy FBI surveillance and a carefully prosecuted case, Ben's father had been convicted on various felony weapons violations and conspiracy charges. He was still in prison.

The name Cormac Bennett didn't show up in conjunction with the Mountain Patriot Brigade in any of the articles and references I found. He'd never been arrested or suspected of any wrongdoing as part of the group. Espinoza's information about him came from FBI and police reports about the group. Young Cormac didn't rate the attention that the group's leaders did. He hadn't been considered a threat. But the association was there, especially since he was David O'Farrell's nephew.

I found another newspaper article, from a couple of years earlier than all the Mountain Patriot Brigade business, that featured Cormac. It reported on the strange death of Douglas Bennett. The coroner reported that the forty-eight-year-old had been mauled by an animal, possibly a bear or a very large dog. The police, on the other hand, claimed that he'd been murdered by a deranged assailant. Douglas's sixteen-year-old son, Cormac, had witnessed the attack, and shot dead the assailant. The police had the all-too-human body, with Cormac's rifle bullet in its head and Douglas's flesh between its teeth. The shooting was deemed a case of self-defense. No charges were filed against Cormac, who went to live with his aunt's family, the O'Farrell clan. His mother had died in a car accident when he was five.

It was deja vu, this disagreement between the witnesses and the coroner's report. And Cormac had been in this situation before. Cormac had killed his first werewolf when he was sixteen years old. 1 didn't even know what to think about that. Once, I asked Cormac how he'd become a werewolf and vampire hunter, where he'd learned the tricks of it. He said it ran in the family. Which might explain why Douglas was in a position to get mauled to death in the first place, and why Cormac was there to witness it: Douglas had been training him.

I wondered what his mother would have thought of that, if she'd been alive to see it.