Kitty Goes to Washington Page 40

The moon, a little over three-quarters, was rising. That marked east. I pointed to the left. “There.” It was just off from the entrance of the caravan.

Stockton exhaled a deep breath. “Right. Here we go, then.”

The reporter led us. He had the bottle of pills in his jacket pocket. Two at a time, he grabbed pills from the bottle, put them in the crusher, turned the knob until it crunched, then emptied the powder out on the ground. Jeffrey followed behind him, sprinkling salt. I tore the bread into pieces and dropped them. Just call me Gretel.

Stockton was whispering. I had to listen closely to understand the words.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” Prayer. A bit of verbal magic to bind the spell.

We walked around the caravan, clockwise, far enough away from the wire boundary to avoid drawing attention. Even the guards had gone in to Smith's service. I crumbled bread, afraid to say anything. Jeffrey pursed his lips in a serious expression, watching Stockton and the ground ahead of us. Stockton developed a rhythm, pill-crunch-sprinkle, his lips moving constantly.

Completing the circle seemed to take forever. We moved methodically, and therefore slowly. We didn't even know if this was going to work.

Finally, we returned to the north side of the caravan. We passed the entrance, which was blocked off with chains secured with padlocks, making the place look more like a prison than a religious camp. Stockton reached the spot where the trail of bread crumbs began. I closed the circle.

“… and deliver us from evil. Amen.” He sighed and licked his lips.

Nothing happened.

“What's next?” I said, trying to keep the anxiety out of my voice.

“I don't know,” Stockton said. “That was supposed to be it. I can't be sure I even did it right. I mean, who knows what other shit is in those pills.”

That was it, then. We did what we could. Maybe we could go back to town, do some more research, and try again later.

“No, no. Something's happening. The light's gone all funny.”

Jeffrey didn't elaborate. From my perspective, nothing had changed. Who knew what he could see?

Then, inside the caravan encampment, two figures approached the entrance. They were large, male, and stalked with long, smooth strides, predators in hunting mode—Smith's werewolf bodyguards.

“Guys?” I said, backing away. “We might want to get out of here.”

The two bodyguards put their hands on the chains of the gate and hopped over, leaving the chains rattling. They continued on, right toward us.

Drawing together instinctively, we moved away quickly, stepping back, unwilling to turn away from the werewolves.

They crossed the line of the circle we'd made, then stopped.

For a moment, outside the circle marked by the bread crumbs, they stood frozen. Then one of them stumbled, as if he'd lost his balance. The other one put his hand to his head and squinted. They looked around, expressions confused, like they'd just come out of hibernation. They glanced at us, then at each other.

“Oh, my God,” one of them murmured.

“Spell broken,” Jeffrey said.

I moved toward them slowly—let them get a good look at me, get my scent, prove that I wasn't a danger. “Hi. Are you guys okay?”

“I don't know,” said the one who'd spoken. “I—we were stuck. What happened? I'm not sure what happened.”

They both looked back at the gate, their faces long and sad, nostalgic almost. The chain they'd jumped over a minute before was still swinging.

“Do you want to go back?” I said.

The other one, shorter, quieter, said, “It's not real, is it?”

“No,” I said.

“Shit,” he muttered, bowing his head.

Now all we had to do was get everyone else to leave the caravan and cross that line.

I wondered what would happen if Smith crossed that line.

A crowd had gathered, Smith's congregation leaving the tent and filling the space behind the gate. Dozens of them stared out with earnest, devout gazes.

At the head of the crowd stood Smith himself. Surrounded by his people, he seemed small, slight. I still had Stockton's charm in my pocket. I put it on. He appeared otherworldly, his gaze blank and inhuman. He frowned, burning. Lines seemed to form around him, tendrils that joined him to all the people around him, like tethers, leashes. Two broken lines stretched in front of him, wavering, unanchored.

One of the men, the one who'd spoken first, stepped toward Smith. I ran forward, slipping in front of him, blocking his way.

“No, don't go back. Please.”

Smith called out from behind the gate. “You are keeping them from peace. I can give you peace.”

“Kitty, don't listen to him!” Jeffrey called.

But his words hadn't affected me. I didn't have to listen to him. The charm protected me.

Jeffrey stood a few yards up the hill from me, his hands clenched, looking worried for the first time all evening. Stockton was nearby, his camera up and filming. At least we'd have a record of this, however it turned out.

I had to draw him out—without seeming like I was drawing him out. He was probably already suspicious. Of course he was.

I approached the gate. “Kitty!” Jeffrey's voice was tight with fear. I waved a hand, trying to tell him it was okay. I had a plan. I hoped.

At the line, I stopped walking and tried to look pathetic and indecisive.

One of his followers started unlocking the chain. Smith never touched the metal. Steel contained iron, which was poison to his kind.

Once the people around him had pulled the chains away, Smith moved forward. I couldn't look away; his gaze trapped mine. I tried to make it a challenge. Wolves stared when they wanted to make a challenge.

“You're curious, aren't you?” he said.

I nodded. I had to keep him moving forward.

“But you hesitate. You're afraid.”

He came closer. God, I wanted to run away. Wolf wanted to run away.

He was in front of me, holding out his hand, like he wanted me to take it, so he could draw me into his world. His goblin market.

Slowly, I took a step back—a hesitating step, to encourage him to follow. I was right on the edge, he could draw me to him if only he took another step toward me, over the line.

But he stopped. When he smiled, he showed teeth.

He said, “I see your spell. I'll not cross the line.”

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