In celebration of the release of Carrie Vaughn’s final Kitty Norville book KITTY’S MIX-TAPE, Tachyon presents glimpses from the book that “is a delightful read.” (Booklist)
Kitty Learns the Ropes
I hit play on the laptop DVD software and sat back to watch.
This was a recording of a boxing match in Las Vegas last year. The Heavyweight World Championships, the caption read. I was glad it did, because I knew nothing about boxing, nothing about who these guys were. Two beefy, sweaty men—one white, with a dark buzz cut and heavy brow, the other black, bald, snarling—were pounding on each other in rage. I winced as their blows sent sweat and spit flying. As sports went, this was more unappealing than most, in my opinion.
Then the white boxer, Ian Jacobson, the defending champion, laid one into his opponent, Jerome Macy. The punch came in like a pile driver, snapped Macy’s head around, and sent the big man spinning. He crashed into the mat headfirst. The crack of bone carried over the roars and cheers of the crowd. I resisted an urge to look away, sure I was witnessing the boxer’s death.
The arena fell silent, watching Macy lie still. Jacobson had retreated to an empty corner of the ring, looking agitated, while the referee counted down over Macy. Ringside officials leaned in, uncertain whether to rush in to help or wait for the count to end. Macy lay with his head twisted, his body crumpled, clearly badly injured. Blood leaked out his nose.
Then, he moved. First a hand, then an arm. He levered himself up, shaking his head, shaking it again, stretching his neck back into alignment. Slowly, he regained his feet.
He turned, looking for his opponent with fire blazing in his eyes. Jacobson stared back, eyes wide, fearful. Obviously, he hadn’t wanted Macy to be seriously hurt. But this—rising from the dead almost—must have seemed worse.
The roar of the crowd at the apparent resurrection was visceral thunder.
They returned to the fight, and Macy knocked out Jacobson a minute later, winning the title.
A hand reached over me and hit the pause button on the laptop.
“That wasn’t normal,” said Jenna Larson, the woman who had brought me the recording of the match. She was a rarity, a female sports reporter with national standing, known for hunting down the big stories, breaking the big news, from drug scandals to criminal records. “Tell me that wasn’t human. Jerome Macy isn’t human.”
Which was why Larson was here, showing me this video. She wanted to know if I could tell Macy was a werewolf or some other supernatural/superhuman creature with rapid healing, or the kind of invulnerability that would let him not only stand back up after a blow like that, but go on to beat up his opponent. I couldn’t tell, not by just watching the clip. But it wouldn’t be hard for me to find out, if I could get close enough to smell him. I’d know if he was a werewolf by his scent, because I was one.
She’d brought her laptop to my office. I sat at my desk, staring at the frozen image of Macy, shoulders slouched, looming over his fallen opponent. Larson stood over me—a position of dominance, my Wolf side noted testily—waiting for my reaction.
I pushed my chair away from the desk so I was out from under her, looking at her eye to eye without craning my neck. “I can’t say one way or the other without meeting him.”
“I can arrange that,” she said. “His next bout is here in Denver this weekend. You come meet him, and if there is something going on, we share the scoop on the story.”
This was making me nervous. “Jenna. Here’s the thing: Even if he is a werewolf, he probably doesn’t want to advertise the fact. He’s kept it hidden for a reason.”
“If he is a werewolf, do you think it’s fair that he’s competing against normal human beings in feats of strength and endurance?”
I shrugged, because she was right on some level. However talented a boxer he was, did Macy have an unfair advantage?
It also begged the question, in this modern age when werewolves, vampires, witches, and other things that went bump in the night were emerging from shadows and announcing themselves—like hosting talk radio shows that delved into this secret world—how many other people had hidden identities? How many actors, politicians, and athletes weren’t entirely human?
Larson was in her thirties, her shoulder-length brown hair shining and perfectly arranged around her face, her makeup calculated to look stunning and natural, like she wasn’t wearing any. She wore a pantsuit with high heels and never missed a step. She was a woman in a man’s profession, driven to make a name for herself. I had to respect that. The territorial side of me couldn’t help but see an alpha female on the prowl.
She was brusque, busy, and clearly didn’t have time to hang around because she shut down the laptop and started packing it into her sleek black shoulder bag.
“I know you’re interested in this,” she said. “If you don’t help me, I’ll get someone else. One way or another, with or without your help, I’m going to break this story. How about it?”
There wasn’t even a question. She called me pretty well: I wouldn’t let a story like this get away from me.
“I’m in,” I said.