Tuesday Teaser 5/23/17 Victoria’s Cat Part 20
I’ve spent hours looking for images for the cover of Victoria’s Cat. Boy howdy, finding a handsome blond man with longish wavy hair is IMPOSSIBLE. I’ll keep trying, and my goal is to have the cover ready by Monday. We’ll see what I come up with. 😉
This week’s snip is a good one, I think. Let me know what you think.
Something hurt. In the dark behind her closed eyelids, Victoria let that thought seep into her consciousness. After a space of time that might have been minutes or hours, she connected the pain to herself, specifically to her side. What had happened? Where was she? What was that droning rumbling noise?
Pain. She’d been shot … Colby! She jolted into consciousness. She was lying on her back in a dim room that rattled. A vehicle, she realized, like the bus. Above her was rough canvas, dull gold in color, stretched over supports. She was on the floor with her head propped up on someone’s knee. Renee leaned over her. It must be her knee Victoria was propped against. There were two men sitting on a bench attached to the sides of the vehicle. Anna McGrath sat on the bench attached to the opposite side of the bus, arms folded over her chest, shoulders hunched. The men wore uniforms.
Full memory rushed over her. Marty. She tried to sit up, but her heart was heavy. Like an anchor, it held her to the floor. The burning ache in her side was nothing compared to the agony in her chest.
“Marty,” she croaked.
“Sh,” said Renee, smoothing her hair. “Poor Vic. I’m so sorry, sweetheart.” She hummed a familiar Lakota lullaby, still stroking Victoria’s hair.
Almost forgetting her heartache for a moment, Victoria stared at Renee. Aunt Renee wasn’t the type to croon lullabies and call people sweetheart. And now she was singing softly.
“Go to sleep, beautiful girl,” Renee murmured in Lakota. “The wind sighs in the grass, the night is good. Your man lives. The night is good, beautiful girl.”
Victoria had grown up speaking Lakota as much as English, so she understood the words. She just wasn’t sure she believed those words. Renee wasn’t fluent in Lakota. Was she messing up the words of the old song? No, after more than twenty-five years of marriage to Hawk, she knew enough to get by. Your man lives. Could it be true? Victoria’s hand shot out to grab Renee’s wrist. “He lives?”
“Sh, go to sleep, beautiful girl, men watch, men hear, beautiful girl.”
Victoria eased her grip and turned her head to look at the soldiers on the bench. One was the medic who had treated her. And drugged her. She put that to the back of her mind and looked at them with an expression she hoped looked sad and helpless.
“I’m thirsty,” she said in as pitiful a voice as she could manage. “And I hurt.”
The medic opened the bag beside him. “I have some pain reliever. Jack, give her your canteen.”
Victoria carefully sat up with Renee’s help. The floor of the vehicle was filthy and the only reason she wasn’t dirty was that a wool blanket had been laid down for her. She shifted to the bench beside Anna and accepted the pills and canteen. She hadn’t been lying about being thirsty and in pain. Renee settled beside her. Victoria wanted to ask her why she thought Marty was alive. Could it be true? She waited a minute until the road smoothed a little and drank the pills down quickly. She handed the canteen back to the other soldier with a murmured thank you before turning to lay her head on Renee’s shoulder.
“Where is he?” she asked in Lakota. “What about Ray? Colby?”
The answer might have been too complex for Renee’s basic Lakota. The faint shadow of the old scar on the side of her face pulled when she frowned. She took up the soothing lullaby again. “Your man remains where he fell, beautiful girl,” she chanted. “As we rode away, I saw him roll over. The wind moves through the grass, it is good.”
She nodded to the back of the truck where Victoria now saw that there was a small opening. Through it, she saw grassland obscured by a haze of dust, and the outline of another vehicle traveling behind them. Marty had rolled over after he was shot. That didn’t guarantee that he was alive now, but it gave her hope. “Ray?”
“Nothing, the night is good.”
The song faltered for a moment, before Renee picked it up again. “Carried away, your male relative, by the travois of his enemy, beautiful girl. The night is good, beautiful girl.”
What did that mean? Colby had been carried away by the enemy on a travois? A travois was three lodge poles lashed together in a roughly triangular shape with canvas stretched between them. They were attached to a horse and dragged behind. That’s what the clan used to carry their goods when they moved from one camping place to another. Would this vehicle translate as a travois? So Colby must be in the vehicle behind them. Or another vehicle if there were more. Was he alive? And what about Ray?
“Go to sleep, beautiful girl,” Renee went on. “Be like the bird who appears weak to lure prey to her. Quiet as wind in the grass. It is good, beautiful girl. Keep secret things secret, the night is good, beautiful girl.”
Those words didn’t quite fit the rhythm of the song, but Victoria acknowledged the wisdom in them. Let those murderers think she was weak. Keeping Marty’s possible survival secret was the right thing to do, but it would look odd if she didn’t ask about him. She fixed the medic and his companion with a pathetic stare.
“Where is my husband? What happened to him?” she asked, letting the buried tears well. “And Colby and Ray?”
The soldiers glanced at each other. The medic said, “The president will explain it all to you. We’ll be back to camp within thirty minutes.”
Aunt Renee cleared her throat. “I saw Colby’s body loaded up into the back of another truck. Why on earth would you take his dead body and leave the others laying on the ground where you shot them?”
The soldiers looked at one another again and this time Jack answered. “I’m sorry, ma’am, you’ll need to speak with President Todd about that.”
Victoria could think of only one reason for them to bring Colby’s body. “You’re going to dissect him.” Horror swam with rage in her gut. “You’re sick.”
“The president has a scientific mind.” The medic busied himself closing his medical bag. “He likes to know how things work, and a werewolf is not something you see every day.”
Victoria stifled a bitterly sarcastic comment. Renee was right. Women who appeared weak and helpless would have the advantage of surprise if an opportunity to escape came. She let her head drop into her hands and cried noisy tears which were only half faked. Marty might be alive, but he might be dead too. Alone, without medical help, what chance did he have? Ray? No mention of him moving, so he must be dead. Patia was waiting for his return, but that would never happen. Colby’s dead wolf body had been brought along so he could be cut up. All that was enough to make anyone cry.
She was looking forward to meeting the president face-to-face. He would pay for every drop of grief and misery he had caused the Lakota Wolf Clan. Before she was done with him, he would wish he had never been born. Then she’d let her dad and other male relatives at him. Just that thought was almost enough to make her smile. Almost.
The vehicle slowed, bounced around, and came to a brief stop. Victoria could hear men’s voices from the front where the driver must be, and then they started off again at a slower pace. Victoria held on to the edge of the bench, teeth gritted against the pain in her side. It wasn’t bad, but bouncing over rough ground didn’t help it. She was glad when the vehicle finally came to a stop.
Jack opened the canvas at the back of the vehicle and jumped down. The medic held his hand out to keep them back until Jack lowered some sort of half door. Renee went first, using the heavy metal rungs welded onto the door as steps to climb to the ground. Anna went next, and finally Victoria was able to lower herself.
A quick glance around showed three trucks parked in a semi-circle in front of a row of green tents. From the first vehicle came a line of soldiers. Gina Summer stepped down from the driver’s compartment and hesitated when she saw Victoria. The man behind her gave her a nudge and she went in the direction of the largest of the tents. The driver’s compartment of the last truck opened and the lieutenant jumped down. He had cleaned the blood from his mouth, but his lip was red and swollen. Victoria smiled with pride.
The smiled faded as she watched him walk to the back of the truck. His stride was impatient, maybe irritated. He jerked the canvas up and froze. “Hastings!” he shouted.
The medic ran for the other truck. He fell back a pace, staring with shock inside the truck, before hoisting himself into the truck. The lieutenant joined him. Victoria looked at Renee.
“That’s the truck they tossed Colby into,” Renee murmured.
Victoria walked over to the truck, Renee with her. She was tall enough to be able to see into the truck. It was dim, but she could see two bodies on the floor of the truck, both human, both bloody. She didn’t see Colby. An impossible hope flared.
The lieutenant crouched beside one of the bodies. “What the hell happened here?” he growled.
The wounded man spoke feebly. “The wolf, sir.”
“He was dead.”
“He came back to life, sir.” The man’s hand, bloody and trembling. lifted like he was swearing to something in court. “Like a demon out of hell! He tried to kill us, then he jumped out.”
A smile bloomed on Victoria’s face. She must have made some noise, because the lieutenant’s head swung around. “Do your wolfmen do that?” he demanded. “Come back from the dead?”
“Of course not.” She tried to tame the smile, but it grew into a joyous laugh. “He must not have been dead. But you will be soon.”
Jaw clenched, the lieutenant stabbed a finger at one of the men who had approached. “Boland, take the ladies to meet the president.”
Victoria followed the man, still smiling. She couldn’t see how Colby had survived, but he clearly had. All she had to do was sit back and wait for him to bring help. She sobered a little. Where was Marty?