I paced the outfield while David stood near first base, his back to me, watching the parking lot. I was still twitchy. Felt like I’d had too much caffeine. David’s comment about Hamilton’s soul bothered me. If he did have a soul (assuming souls existed, like I said, I’m not very religious), and it had stuck around through his death and re-animating, and I killed him anyway, what did that make me, in David’s eyes?
I growled. Checked around to make sure no one was there to hear it. New old habit.
I’d killed before. It came easy to me. No remorse. No weeping in the shower. No worries about my own soul, or lack of. Perk of being a werewolf.
Can’t let David know how much it did not bother me. If I killed Hamilton, I would need to pretend a bit.
I needed to stop pacing. I tried standing still. Heart was beating so fast.
Shit. Shit. Can’t do it. I started moving again.
Something was wrong with me. That cattle prod, whatever it was. Fucking Stahlberg–
I looked back at David.
My hand went to my gun.
Hamilton was here. Shambling toward him.
David was facing Hamilton, one hand out, the other on his gun.
The zombie was coming from the main campus. Had he been hiding among the math and science buildings, watching us?
I broke into a run. Took five steps, and then the muscles in my legs went tight. I dropped to the grass. My legs hurt. They felt wrong, like they were twisted–
Oh my God.
My legs were in mid-change. My ankles were caught between becoming hocks and staying ankles.
For the first time ever, the change had come on unbidden, unwanted.
I reached down to unlace my boots, saw the claws protruding from the ends of my fingers. They weren’t actual claws, just the sharp skeletal ends of my fingers. I stared at my hands, at the drops of blood caused by the claws shooting out. My teeth, at least, weren’t out. Yet.
I tried to stand up. Legs would not allow it. I tumbled to my side. I raised my head. “David!”
But he had problems of his own. Hamilton, apparently, had lost whatever control he’d had. He was advancing on my boyfriend, his arms outstretched, hands grabbing, jaw working.
“Back up!” David commanded. “Josh! Back up!” He chanced a look back, saw me. “Elizabeth!”
“Shoot him goddammit!”
Instead, David shoved Hamilton in the chest, knocking him to the ground, and then whirled around, broke for me. He slid to my side. “Elizabeth? Are you okay?”
“No, help me up. I’m changing.”
“Watch the claws.”
“Why are you cha–”
“Not by choice. Help me up.” Over his shoulder, Hamilton was clumsily getting to his feet. “Hurry.”
I slung an arm around David’s neck. I leaned against him. David started walking. I wasn’t expecting that. He wrapped an arm around me, half-carried, half-helped me along.
“Wait, Hamilton’s up, where are we–”
“Out of here,” David panted.
“No, we need to get him–”
“We need to get you out of here.”
He shot me a look–are you kidding me?–and continued pulling me to the cruiser. Hamilton was up and kinda mobile, stumbling like a drunk after an excellent Saturday night, the bruising on his face more pronounced. Or maybe he was just paler. He smelled worse. Like roadkill.
My throat hitched. My stomach did a slow, lazy somersault. I worked on not puking while David leaned me against the cruiser’s trunk. He opened the passenger door.
“No,” I said. My mouth hurt. Teeth were trying to come out. “Back.”
He opened the back door. I flopped inside. He slammed the door. Now, at least, there was a barrier between me and David. If I had lost the ability to control the change, might I also lose control of my urge to kill?
I sat up. My mouth was drooling blood. Gums were stinging. The true length and size of my teeth were hidden up in my gums, and when I changed, they dropped down. But usually that was the first thing to happen. This time, the legs had happened first.
Also, it had never hurt this bad before. Well, not counting the first time. What a horror show that had been. Usually, though, by this time, the endorphins kicked in and made it quite pleasant.
I leaned my sweaty forehead against the plastic partition and closed my eyes. No endorphins. This sucked.
Come on, I silently begged. Start the car already.
Was he even in the car?
I opened my eyes. No. Front seat was empty. Where was he?
I flopped back, tried to see where we’d left Hamilton. Then the door opened. I’d been leaning against it, and I tumbled out onto the macadam. I saw black Converse sneakers. Looked up a bit higher. Stahlberg.
She smiled down at me. Brandished what looked like a police baton. There were two metal prongs set into the end of it. Blue electricity arced across them. “Sorry,” she said. “Side effect of the shock. Affects your neuromuscular junctions. It brings about the change, albeit in fits and starts. It wears off. You can get the same effect from ingesting too much caffeine, so I’d watch your Red Bull intake.”
“Ah . . . fuck.” I spat bloody saliva. Nearly hit the toe of her shoe. Missed. Damn it.
She walked away. I managed to get to my hands and knees. I smelled Moss. David. The amazing undead man. I crawled around the front of the car.
Moss stood in the infield, a few yards from Hamilton. “Hey there, Josh, how are you? Come over here.”
Hamilton stayed right where he was, by first base. He was swaying a bit.
David stood beside Moss. “Leave him alone,” he said.
“Mercer, shut up. Josh. It’s okay. I’m going to help you.”
I put a hand on the car’s push bumper. Began to get to my feet. No idea what I’d do after that, but I didn’t want to be on the ground anymore.
Stahlberg had been waiting behind me. She shoved me in the middle of my back. I went back to the ground.
David heard the gravel crunching under my body. He spun around. “Elizabeth!”
“You stay right there, Mercer,” Moss said. “Stahlberg, zap her if he moves. And zap her if she moves.”
I got to my hands and knees again. Crawled forward two inches before Stahlberg hit me in the upper thighs with the prod. My body went tight. My teeth ground together. I slammed to the gravel again. Ears were buzzing, but I could still hear David yell my name, yell something else before Moss yelled at him to shut up. I got to my hands and knees again. My arms shook. They gave out. I went to knees and elbows.
My forehead rocked against the small stones. Fuck this. I would just stay down, let them take Hamilton away, do whatever they wanted to him, screw this mess, Stahlberg knew more about me than I did, fuck this.
I raised my head. Fuck that.
Stahlberg was in front of me, watching Hamilton. He’d started moving forward, his arms out for balance. Moss had a hand behind his back, holding what looked like a Taser.
“Careful,” Stahlberg called out.
“Josh, are you hungry? I can get you food, man. Just keep coming,” Moss said.
I took a deep breath. My legs trembled. I held my breath and then sprang forward, knocked my right shoulder into the back of Stahlberg’s knees. She went down. I clambered on top of her, got a grip on the baton, wrenched it from her grasp, tossed it away. Then I crawled over her. She grabbed my ankle. I kicked free. I struggled to my knees, pulled my Glock, eyes on Hamilton. He looked sad. Lost. Out of control.
I could relate.
Stahlberg tackled me, wrapped her arms around me, pinning my arms down. I dropped the gun. Moss had turned to us, then moved his head, checked Hamilton’s position, then returned to us. He spotted the baton and darted for it.
I didn’t have the strength to break Stahlberg’s grasp. Moss picked up the baton. Electricity danced across its head. “You fuckin werewolves,” he hissed. He holstered the maybe-Taser.
Then a gun cracked. I felt Stahlberg jump. My ears rang. Moss whirled around. David stood in an isosceles stance, the gun pointed at Hamilton. Where he’d been, anyway, because now he was sprawled on his back.
“Mercer,” Moss said. He dropped the baton. “The fuck, man.”
David holstered his gun. “Let her go,” he said.
Moss nodded. “Do it, Stahlberg.”
She let me go. She stood up, kicked me in the small of my back as she stalked to Moss. She muttered something to him. He nodded again. They walked to the infield, while David walked to me.
“Thanks, Mercer!” Moss yelled. “Head shot, real fuckin nice!”
David grunted. “That sounds like sarcasm.”
I spat more bloody saliva. “Sorry . . . you had to do that.”
“When I pulled my gun he smiled at me.”
Moss and Stahlberg were bent over Hamilton’s body. Stahlberg had on latex gloves. It looked like she was digging around inside his head. She pulled out a grayish-pink wad and dropped it into a small plastic container. I grimaced.
“Let’s get out of here,” David murmured.
I nodded again.