Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 54

Chapter 14

We set off in the morning. We had five days until the hearing, when Cormac had to enter a plea. Ben had to find evidence on Cormac's behalf that would get the case thrown out.

The weather was on our side; it felt like a small advantage. I hadn't had to work very hard to talk Ben into letting me go with him. I didn't know how much help I'd be in hunting down the information he needed to shore up Cormac's defense, but that wasn't the argument I'd made.

I had to be there to keep Ben sane.

“Wolf Creek Pass,” he said when we passed the highway marker over the mountain. We had a couple more hours until we reached New Mexico. “Am I the only one who thinks that's funny?”

“Yes,” I said, not taking my eyes off the road ahead. Too many signs advertising local motels and gift shops had featured pictures of fuzzy, howling wolves. The Wolf Creek ski area was doing a booming business.

I let him drive the stretch that took us over the pass. Just over the mountain, cruising into the next valley and toward the junction that turned onto the highway that led to New Mexico, a zippy little sports car with skis in a rack on the back roared up behind us, gunned its engine, swerved around us, and nearly cut us off as it pulled back into the right line, obviously expressing great displeasure at our insistence at driving only five miles an hour over the speed limit.

Ben clenched the steering wheel with rigid fingers and bared his teeth in a silent growl. Something animal crawled into his eyes for a moment.

“Ben?” I spoke softly, not wanting to startle him. Not wanting to startle the wolf that adrenaline had brought to the surface for a moment.

“I'm okay,” he said. His breaths were rough, and his body was still more tense than the stress of driving mountain roads warranted. “How many days?”

“How many days?”

“Full moon,” he said.

“Sixteen,” I said. Keeping track had become second nature.

“I thought it was sooner. It feels sooner.”

I knew the feeling. The wolf wanted to break free, and it let you know. “It's better if you don't think about it.”

“How do you not think about it?” His voice cracked.

“Do you want to pull over and let me drive?”

He shook his head quickly. “Driving gives me something else to think about.”

“Just don't let the jerks get to you, okay?”

He pushed himself back in the seat, stretching his arms, making an effort to relax. After another ten miles or so he said, “I started smoking in law school. It was a crutch, a way to get through it. You feel like you're going crazy, so you step outside for a cigarette. Everything stops for a couple of minutes, and you can go back to it feeling a little bit calmer. Quitting, though—that's the bitch. 'Cause as much as you tell yourself you don't need the crutch anymore, your body isn't convinced. Took me two years to wean myself off them. That's what this feels like,” he said. “I want to turn wolf like I wanted a cigarette. That doesn't make any sense.”

“Like any of this makes sense,” I muttered. “You don't have to wait until the full moon to Change. The wolf part knows that. It's always trying to get out.”

Watching him, I could almost see the analytical part of him trying to figure it out—the lawyer part of him on the case. His eyes narrowed, his face puckered up with thought.

He said, harshly, “Where does the part about that side of it being a strength come in?”

I could have said something cutting, but our nerves were frayed as it was. He needed a serious answer. “Being decisive. Sometimes it helps seeing the world as black and white, where everyone's either a predator or prey. You don't let details muddy up your thinking.”

“That's cynical.”

“I know. That's what I hate about it.”

“You know what the trouble is? We all see this case— what they're doing to Cormac—as black and white. But we're looking at white as white and Espinoza's looking at white as black. Does that make any sense?”

“When maybe if we all saw it as gray we'd be able to come to some sort of compromise.”

“Yeah.” He tapped the steering wheel as he lost himself in thought.

It started snowing as we left the mountains.

* * *

Northern New Mexico was bleak, windswept, and touched with scattered bits of blowing snow from the storm. Stands of cottonwoods by the river were gray and leafless. All the colors seemed washed out of

the landscape, which was barren desert hemmed in by eroded cliffs and mesas.

We didn't have much to go on. The woman's name, the missing person report. We arrived in Shiprock in time to stop at the police department—Tribal law enforcement. Shiprock was on the Navajo Reservation. The town's namesake, a jagged volcanic monolith rising almost two thousand feet above the desert, was visible to the south, a kind of signpost.

Ben spoke to the sergeant on duty at the front desk, while I lurked in the back, peering at them with interest.

“I'm looking for information about Miriam Wilson.” He showed them a picture from the coroner's office. A terrible, gruesome picture because half her face was pulped, but the other half still showed recognizable features. Her cheeks were round, her large eyes closed. “A missing person report was filed on her about three months ago. I don't know if the Huerfano County sheriff's department sent you the news that she was killed in Colorado.”

“Yeah, we got word,” said the man behind the counter, a Sergeant Tsosie according to his nameplate. He had short black hair, brown skin, dark eyes, and an angled profile.

“You don't seem concerned.”

“She won't be missed.”

Ben asked, “Has her family been notified? The Coroner up there hasn't received any instructions about what to do with her body.”

“He's not likely to, either. She's not going to have anyone asking about her. Trust me.”

“Then who filed the missing person report on her in the first place? Families who don't want to find out where their kids went don't normally do that.”

“This isn't a normal family,” Tsosie said, almost smiling.

“What if I went to talk to them?”

“Good luck with that. The Wilsons are impossible to deal with.”

The officer looked nervous. He kept glancing around— over his shoulder, toward the door, like he expected someone to come reprimand him. “You want some advice? Stop asking about her. She was bad news. That whole family's bad news. You keep going on about this, you won't like what you find, I guarantee it.”