Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville #3) - Page 61

1 snorted a laugh. “No joke. Where to next?”

“The grandfather. Lawrence Wilson. See what he has to say about Miriam, since he was the only one who cared to look for her.”

“After the rest of the family, I'm afraid to see what he's like.”

“Tell me about it.”

The sun had dipped to the far west, and a cold wind bit from the desert. We were nearing the turn to the highway. We'd have to pick one direction or another. I had a thought.

“You want to wait to see him until tomorrow?”

“If small-town gossip works here the way it works everywhere else, he's probably gotten word that someone's wanting to talk to him. It'll give him a chance to go to ground.”

“Yeah, okay. But it's almost sunset. Call me chicken, but I don't really want to be out after dark. Not around here.”

He thought, lips pursed, watching the desert landscape slide by. “Then back to the hotel it is.”

I turned east, back to Farmington.

Chapter 15

No, Mom. I'm in New Mexico now.”

I'd returned to the motel room to find a message from Mom on my phone. As usual, the timing was not the best.

“What are you doing in New Mexico?”

Trying to track a dead killer without any evidence or witnesses? “I'm looking for some information. We'll only be here for a couple of days.”

“We?”

Crap. I wasn't going to be able to talk my way out of this. “Yeah. I'm with a friend.”

“Oh. Anyone I know?” She spoke brightly. Trying to draw me out.

I thought of the white lies and half-truths I could tell her. Then I remembered the phone call to Ariel last night. Be straight. Tell the truth. “By reputation. It's Ben O'Farrell. I'm helping him with a case.” This was going to worry her. This was going to make her pry further. No information was better than too little information. I shouldn't have told her anything.

“Well, be careful, okay?” She just let it go. Like she actually trusted me to take care of myself.

“I will.”

The rest of the conversation went pretty much as usual. Except for the part where

Ben was sitting there smirking at me.

“I hope you're not planning on taking me home to meet the family.”

I smiled sweetly at him. “Do you want to meet the family?”

He didn't answer. Just shook his head, with an expression like he was close to laughter. “That just sounds so damn normal.”

Yeah, it did. And we weren't. Muddied everything up.

The honeymoon was over. That night, Ben and I lay in bed, holding each other, but it was as two people shored up together against the fears of the dark. He twitched in his sleep, like he was fighting something in his dreams. I whispered to him, stroked his hair, trying to calm him. We were near the new moon, on the downhill slide toward the full moon, when the pressure built, when the Wolf started rattling the bars of the cage. I'd forgotten how hard it was to resist when it was all new. I'd had over four years of practice keeping it under control. This was new to him. He was looking to me for guidance, which was perfectly reasonable. But 1 felt out of my depth most of the time.

Take this place for example. This magic. A family that decided it was okay to hire a bounty hunter to kill their son and pretend like their daughter didn't exist. A family so steeped in magic that all its members were terrified of each other. 1 didn't understand it.

* * *

We thought out loud during the drive back to Shiprock the next day.

“What's the series of events?” I said. “John comes back from Phoenix and he's different. A werewolf. We know how that can mess with someone. Then their oldest daughter, Joan, dies. Then Miriam disappears. They hire Cormac to hunt John.”

“It sounds like John coming back from Phoenix as a werewolf was the trigger. Everything else happened after that,” he said.

“What was it Tony said? A witch has to make a sacrifice to become a skinwalker. So Miriam cursed Joan, killed her, became a skinwalker.”

“But why? Why did she want to do that? And why at that moment?”

“She wanted John to have a pack,” I said softly. She didn't want her brother to be alone. It actually made sense, from a twisted point of view. I knew how hard it was to be alone.

“Why didn't she just let him bite

her?” Ben said.

I thought about it a moment. Some people wanted to become lycanthropes. They sought it out, got themselves bitten. Why wouldn't Miriam have been one of those?

“Control,” I said. “She wanted to be able to control it. She probably saw how it affected John. He wasn't able to control it. She wanted the power without that weakness.”

He winced thoughtfully, his face lined with thought. “Thus begins their reign of terror. God, it almost makes sense. But we still can't prove she was dangerous. We need proof that she killed her sister. No one's willing to pursue the connection. Maybe they're afraid she'd take revenge on them. Curse them, kill them—”

“But she's dead. She can't do anything now.”

“I'm not sure that changes anything in some people's minds.”

Spirits lingered. Evil spirits continued to spread evil. If they—Louise, her family, Tony, others—believed that, I couldn't argue.

Miriam's immediate family may not have lived on a beautiful estate, but at least they had a house, a bit of land, an aura of normality.

Lawrence, on the other hand, lived in an honest-to-God shack, with weathered planks tied together for walls and a corrugated tin roof that seemed to just sit on top, without anything holding it down. It looked like he'd been living this way for years, because the place was actually several shacks attached to each other, as if he'd been adding rooms over the years whenever the mood struck him. The desert scrub around his place was covered with junked equipment, including several cars, or objects that had once been cars. The place was isolated, out on a dirt road, behind a hill, invisible from the town.

The question remained, did he live like this because he had to, or by choice?

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Ben said, staring at the desolate house.

“Let's get it over with.” I left the car, and Ben slowly followed.

I was afraid to knock on the front door. It looked like a deep sigh would knock it in. I tried it, rapping gently. The walls around it shuddered, but nothing broke.