By the time I was done explaining why Kraznick having an escape helicopter on the roof might work to our advantage, Jack and Sissy could both see my point. Chilly Bronson didn’t care much, worrying as he was over Jewel’s lumped-up skull, and Jewel was proving herself capable of being a junior pain in the derriere. The problem was that she felt she was fit to contribute directly to the attack, which she clearly was not. She’d done her bit and more, scrambling up the building wall to plant the listening device; it was time for her to kick back, let the big boys and one big girl finish the job.
The little blonde pouted a whole lot like an older version of my eight year old daughter, Willow, but she couldn’t spellcast like my kid could and she was downright dainty for a werewolf. She could sulk, though, and that worried me more than a bit until I came up with a bright idea. “I need you and Chilly to watch my back anyway,” I told her. “I’m going to be focused on just what I can see through my rifle’s night sight. I can use a couple of good guy werewolves covering me so some nasty vam we’ve overlooked doesn’t succeed in sneaking up when I’m not watching, okay?” They both brightened at that, Jewel because she now had a real job to do and Chilly because he no longer had to worry about his girl trying to punch too far above her weight. The stocky youngster was right to worry, too; tonight, any opponent we encountered would be well above the petite were girl’s weight and skill level, both.
From this distance, we had no way of knowing exactly when UPPCO would wrap up and head for the barn, so Sissy and Jack headed down through the woods right after sunset. I shouldn’t need to worry until the UPPCO truck pulled out, but I was restless anyway, getting up to go pee behind a tree a dozen times before–“Tree,” Chilly called softly, “hope you’re going Number One. UPPCO’s heading down the driveway.”
A bit of urine dribbled down my leg while I was zipping up. I ignored it; if things didn’t work out this time, we were going to have a whole lot more than stale piss to worry about. I got settled back in my prone position behind the .25-06 and took a look. The utility truck disappeared into the trees. Seconds later, three were critters exited the building, splitting up, fanning out to attempt to pick up our trail. “There’s our first break,” I murmured, knowing the kids could pick up the words well enough. Jewel had presumably shifted, the better to use her wolf senses; I didn’t take my eye away from the night scope to check. “Two wolves and one…what is that, a Great Dane? They look like they’re going for the northwest quadrant, away from the building corner you guys were at.”
I didn’t see either Jack or Sissy step out from the tree line, but the blue and red Wizard strikes flashed straight for the structure some eighty feet away, combining for the last little bit, lancing Purple Fire straight toward the nearest first floor window. Those windows were most likely bullet resistant, but they didn’t have a chance against Jack.
The near window wasn’t the impressive part. The impressive part was when, maybe half a second later, the purple strike blew on out through a far side window long before the sound reached us…and the boom was enough, even half a mile distant, to make me wish I’d put on my earmuffs.
The Wizard was reaching deep into the Well tonight.
Time to shift my focus to the rooftop. If our plan did flush the weasel, I’d only have one shot to nail the bastard before he could cover the three or four yards to the nearest high-profile air conditioner. Once behind that thing, he’d not be exposed again until the mini-chopper took flight…and I had exactly zero confidence when it came to bringing down a bird on the wing.
Chilly kept me informed, color commentary on the action unfolding below. “Jack’s throwing little strikes, just like you guys planned. Uh-oh.”
“Uh-oh? Don’t tell me uh-oh.”
“Yeah, um, two of the trackers, I guess Paps Meeker and one other, but it’s nobody I know, they’re coming back around, streaking low for the woods. Trying to flank Jack, I think–hey, all right!”
“All right what?”
“I’m pretty sure Sissy opened up on ’em with her AK. They’re both down, and…yep. Man, these field glasses of Jack’s are cool. She just finished both of ’em off with head shots. Eat silver, you suckers!”
“That’s my warrior woman. She’s a wizard herself with that AK.”
Just then, Jack opened up on the building’s second floor windows. He couldn’t get a straight shot through that, the angle being wrong, but if anything, the rattle-boom sounds were even more impressive.
“Whoa!” Chilly Bronson, reporting. “Nice boomey-boom on the second floor, but the first floor’s on fire, I think. Smoke rolling outa three different windows, anyway. Uh-oh.”
“Kid, I said don’t tell me uh-oh.”
“Sorry. But it’s a real uh-oh. They’re firing back at the woods. Kraznick’s people, I mean.”
“Where are the enemy shooters?” I was torn, wanting to add some serious sniper fire to the equation, but Jack and Sissy would have to take care of themselves; I couldn’t risk missing my shot at Kraznick.
“Um…third floor. Muzzle flashes from there, anyway. Two of the windows.”
I swore quietly. “Any–”
“Hey! Sissy got one–she got ’em both, I think!”
“Calm down. Chill, no less.”
“Okay okay okay. Um, there was some shooting from the woods, and the one window quit shooting back, and then the other. I really do think she got ’em both, Tree.”
“Mundane guards, most likely?” My prone position was getting uncomfortable; I shifted a bit to ease away from a rock that had decided to dig into my right quad muscle. A soft night breeze kissed the side of my face that wasn’t kissing the Monte Carlo stock on the Winchester. Funny how a guy notices these little things at a time like this.
“I’m pretty sure.” The young werewolf sounded confident; this was familiar territory. “Teddy boy never was one for wasting were talent, or especially not vam, behind a simple firearm. He always said it wasn’t elegant.”
“Elegant, huh? Jewel, you hear or smell anything sneaking up behind us?”
The were girl’s negative whine came back: All clear on the backside front. She really was an essential part of our squad, for sure.
And then it happened. The plan came together. Jack had been taking his time, moving up steadily but slowly, making it clear to everyone in the building that the place was going to be destroyed, burned to the ground from the bottom up, never mind the steel framing. Hopefully, the cook and other low level employees had returned to the basement in the break room. They should be able to survive down there…but if they didn’t, oh well. Collateral damage, as the politicians like to say when bombing civilians. We’d all felt Hill’s third floor strikes would make or break the deal…and his very first strike through a window on that floor popped the lid on Pandora’s Box. The roof access door flew open. Kraznick himself came flying up the steps and into the crosshairs. I almost shot him then, which of course had been the plan, but–ah. The first Kraznick hadn’t limped. My hesitation could have cost us everything, but my sudden gut clench had been right; the double made the crossing to deep cover behind the air conditioner just as Teddy #2 stepped calmly into the open.
The double had been nervous and fast. The real billionaire strode with confidence, albeit with his trademark limp–and in vamleopard form, the barbed, venomous tail lashing angrily.
His great, furry cat head was staring off toward the Wizard-infested woods when the 100 grain bullet tore through the upper left side of the skull, silvertip hollowpoint mushrooming through gray matter, turning the brain to mush. One shot, one kill. Not even the greatest vamshifter in the world was getting up from that much silver poisoning.
“Damn, I’m good!” I whispered under my breath.
Pride goeth before a fall. I took a couple of seconds to study the corpse through the scope, holding off on cycling the rifle’s bolt, and that hesitation nearly cost me more than one life. “Tree!” The scream came from Jewel, our little girl sentry wolf. She should have still been in wolf form, but she wasn’t. I rolled over, quickest way to get a look at what was going on, but my right eye was still a bit night blind from the muzzle flash of my own rifle, so the quarter moon showed a deep-shadowed, monocular, left-eye view only. Chilly was in motion, charging the Great Dane we’d seen exiting the building a good half mile away. At least, that was my first impression of the animal, that and its red-rimmed eyes, glowing in the dark. Vam! How had it gotten up here that fast?
“Chilly! No!” My bellow didn’t stop Bronson; his naked girl was about to be vam-bait, and he wasn’t having it. He also wouldn’t get there in time, nor could I get my rifle into action quickly enough, dammit. My only chance was the sword, lying beside me, always out of its scabbard whenever there was the slightest possibility it might be needed, three feet of silver laced steel blade backed by a serious crossguard and enough grip to use two-handed. My right hand found the hilt, cocked, and launched the weapon end over end as I twisted as hard as I could, throwing from my back.
Which is the crappiest way to throw anything I’ve discovered to date. The sword rotated through the air, nothing like a spear, but the moonlight must have reflected just enough light off the silver and steel to make the attacker slow its charge. The cartwheeling missile sailed by in front of the Dane’s nose, missing by less than an inch.
Not much help, but enough. Just enough. The rifle would still be too slow, but the .380 left my right hand pants pocket with a mind of its own. A wedding gift, that little Taurus Curve, firing silvertip hollowpoints, factory ammo. Sometimes the factories really do know what they’re doing. The first three rounds were aimed at center body mass, not immediate kill shots against a vam this big, but enough to get its attention, make it turn toward me, away from the defenseless girl who was frozen in petrified terror.
“Come on, asshole,” I snarled, the sound emanating from my throat a fair match for its own production. It was fast, but I’d practiced putting a thousand rounds or more through this little gun; before the beast could cover the additional fifteen feet between Jewel’s position and mine, it had eaten four more good bites of silver, at least two of them reaching the brain. One had even gone in through the monster’s left eyeball, and no, I wasn’t about to tell these kids I hadn’t been aiming exactly there. Not even with the laser sight, I hadn’t. I’m good, but staring two hundred pounds of virus packing beast in the face can encourage even me to jerk the trigger once in a while.
“Doesn’t look precisely like a Great Dane after all,” I observed with pretended calm, reloading the .380 before returning it to my pocket.
“Isn’t,” Jewel said in a shaky little girl voice. “Used to be a werewolf, just like any other. Before Kraznick got to him with the virus, he was.”
“You knew him.”
“Not proud of it. He was my brother. My step brother.”
Chilly had returned to human form. I noticed he was shaking like a leaf. Not from fear, unless it was fear of losing his girl. More likely, it had to do with ramping up all that adrenaline and having no outlet for it.
The little battery powered CB radio crackled. No fancy clicks in the ear, just Sissy letting us know. “You okay up there, Tree?”
“Yeah,” I replied, relieved to note my voice was steady. “Nailed Kraznick. His double was on the roof, too. Don’t know where he’s at now. Meeker’s baby boy got turned vam, came at us from behind.”
“Thankfully, no. We’re shook up, but Bubba’s the only casualty. Think there’s any more of ’em up this way?”
“Doubtful. Can you get your big, beautiful black butt down here? We’ve got the initiative and then some, but we could use some extra help mopping up.”
“On my way,” I said, “as soon as we can gather up our gear.”
The late and mostly unlamented Theodore J. Kraznick, billionaire vamleopard bloody freaking shapeshifter, had apparently had his personal army whittled down something serious by the time he’d met his end on the rooftop. With two werewolves lying dead near the timber and a pair of human guards bleeding out on the third floor, all courtesy of Sissy’s whiz-bang expertise with her long barreled, bipod equipped, beloved AK-47, it was all over but the shouting.
Rather, the whining and groveling. None of the remaining eight Heartbite Headquarters survivors were raising their voices. Not after we’d mentioned the misfortune encountered by the thoroughly twisted Bubba, a vambeast that had ended up looking like a cross between a Great Dane and a razorback hog, they weren’t. Eight of them still alive, counting the cook, and all of them hoping to stay that way.
Chester Brocklin, formerly earning a cool quarter million a year to act as Teddy boy’s double, had been the first to raise the white flag. Literally. Okay, so it had been electric blue, really, the fancy handkerchief matching his tie and setting off his ten thousand dollar suit and fancy shoes, but close enough. “Don’t shoot!” He’d yelled loud enough, cowering behind the air conditioning on the roof.
Turned out he didn’t know how to fly the ultralight. Boo-hoo, Brocklin.
Jack lounged in an easy chair situated in the plush office’s near corner, not far from the massive desk itself. I leaned against the front of the desk, not at all interested in planting my butt cheeks where Kraznick had recently planted his. Chilly didn’t lean or lounge at all, which with his lack of height was probably a good idea. Instead, the solid youngster stood with his legs spread, cradling Jack’s M1A1 carbine in his arms, his eyes scanning the pathetic group in front of us. “I kind of wish somebody would make a move,” he admitted. “I really want to shoot this thing.”
From the expressions on those who’d last seen the boy as a captive being interrogated by the boss, they believed him. Nobody dared to so much as sneeze.
Of course, Sissy’s presence in the far corner, watching the doorway and keeping her finger on the trigger of her AK-47, might have had something to do with that. Jewel stood beside her, holding our other carbine but managing to look about as threatening as a Barbie doll.
“Purple Fire Wizard,” I said, jerking a thumb in Jack’s direction. “Flinch the wrong way and he’ll toast you with a flick of a finger. Now, y’all did a fine job, putting out the fires on the lower floors. You’ve earned the soot on your faces. Except for our clean faced roof dweller here, of course.” Brocklin looked awfully spiffy compared to the others.
“One thing I need to know,” I continued, “is how many vams are left in the Heartbite Clan?”
The cook gave a soft snort. A dumpy woman in her fifties, but apparently not afraid to speak her mind. “Ain’t a vam one left, Mister Jackson. Shifters, yeah, five of them out of our eight. Only Mister Brocklin and me and Enoch are mundanes. But no vams. You done kilt ’em all.”
“And how,” I asked quietly, using the old pop psychology cliché, “does that make you feel?” It occurred to me that I should maybe be worried about her knowing who I was, but come on. My name and picture must have been required memory work for everybody in the building. Deal with it.
“Feel?” Her eyebrows rose, startled. “I just lost the best boss and best job I ever had in my entire life. I feel like you’re the razor horned Devil himself!” Her eyes weren’t spitting fire or anything, though; she was just telling it the way it was.
But I didn’t feel like taking any guff from this woman. “All right,” I nodded, “here’s the deal. We don’t intend to do any of you any further harm. That is, not unless you make a move against us. Then all bets are off, and the mercy I’m about to offer is null and void. I don’t know what Theodore Kraznick told his people, and quite frankly I don’t care. I’m simply going to tell all of you what’s really been going down. First off, Heartbite has been throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us in Montana for eight years. Eight. Freaking. Years. As it happened, the last assault he sent our way did some real damage, and it pissed. Me. Off. Whatever kind of hogwash Kraznick put out there to explain his losses, who knows? Or cares? But he’s dead now.” I walked around behind the desk, picking up the severed leopard head for all to see. The bullet had done its job, but it had also left the skull mostly intact. There were gasps among the seated captives; until this moment, some of them must have refused to truly believe their immortal leader had actually been mortalized.
Either that, or they were in shock that a mere mundane like me could dare pick up a vam’s head like that. What they didn’t know, of course, was that the virus had fled the vicinity of the silver poisoning instantly. By the time I took my sword to the critter’s neck, what made a vampire a vampire would have been concentrated in the tail end of the carcass.
You could tell they thought I was either immune or insane. They quit whining.
“Now…” I let the word hang in the air for several seconds, “how would y’all like to go on with your lives as if nothing had happened?”
That confused them.
The plan was simple enough, in part because we’d done it before. Chester Brocklin had doubled for Theodore Kraznick for years; he would now simply become the head of Kraznick Enterprises for real. The rest of the decimated Clan was happy enough with that idea; none of them relished the prospect of having to explain to anyone that they were basically wiped out by two men, one woman, and a couple of kids.
There were lots of details in our contract–a contract with the Devil, apparently, the Devil being me. I dictated, Sissy moved from the back of the room to take over typing out a Word document, and every living Heartbite Clan survivor signed the document.
Okay, so the signing-in-blood thing was mostly theater, but it worked. You could see these folks were taking things seriously when Jewel went around pricking their fingers with a blood sugar tester so they could sign. Jewel was obviously fighting back a case of the giggles, but the signers never noticed. Their sense of humor had been temporarily disabled.
When the signing was done, I waved the papers gently in the air, drying the blood. “We’ll make copies on the way out,” I explained, “but this original document is going with us. Nothing esoteric, but we will be checking everybody’s DNA. Plenty of blood in these signatures for that. If any of you lied, if anybody shows vam despite not having red-rimmed eyes like we know vams nearly always do, we’ll be back. And we’ll kill you all, root, trunk, and branch. Unless anybody knows something right now, in which case you’ve got a ten second amnesty.” We waited, silent, as the grandfather clock in the left hand office corner counted down. “Nobody? All right, then. The building is yours; we’re outa here.”
Jack looked tired, like it was an effort to get up out of that comfy chair, but he made it. We didn’t turn our backs on the way out; we weren’t that cocky. Three flights of stairs down to the main floor, and Hill barely made it to the stairwell before collapsing. I never saw it coming. “Tree!” Sissy’s voice, low and urgent; I turned to see her holding up an entirely unconscious Wizard.
“What?!” And then I saw it, a dark stain on his fatigue shirt, lower left, just above the belt line. The Wizard had been gut shot.
“Kids!” I snapped the command, but in a fierce whisper. We definitely did not want the people we’d left behind to know we’d been hurt. “Watch behind us!” I got the old man up over my shoulders in a fireman’s carry and Sissy took point, packing my rifle as well as her own, barreling down the stairwell lickety split, the rest of us close behind. My adrenaline was flying; I didn’t even feel Hill’s weight.
One thing about it; we knew the angles now. The shortest shot to the woods, heading northwest, then shifting almost immediately to a game trail that wound around a bit but took us due west by as quick a route as any. “Don’t die on me, old man,” I muttered. He didn’t answer.
Sissy shifted to her black bear form, better able to sniff out danger that way, moving fast but pausing to let the rest of us catch up, start-stop, start-stop. She was listening keenly during those stops, and testing the breeze, too. My human sniffer could barely tell, but I was pretty sure it was quartering toward us, so nothing ugly should get the downwind advantage. The ugliest thing of all, of course, was the distance, a good two miles of hoofing it double-time with nearly two hundred pounds of Wizard-plus-battle-rattle on my back. I fought down the urge to ask Sissy, “Are we there yet?” It takes some serious oxygen to put out that kind of energy; I was sucking wind so hard my throat was getting raw. The kids had hopefully shifted to wolf form, but I couldn’t turn my head to check on them.
For now, I had to trust my crew and be the mule.
I nearly passed out when we finally reached the truck. In truth, I was seeing stars, about to go down, my legs and lungs burning like the fires of Hell, my arms entirely numb, but somehow I got Jack’s unconscious form into the back and gasped out a few necessary orders. “Sissy–in back–do what you can for Jack.” I was in no shape to play combat medic at the moment, but I could drive. Half dead, I could always drive, and the vehicle appeared to have been untouched during our absence. “Chilly–shotgun. Jewel, in back–help Sissy.”
The truck scraped a wee bit of bark from an indignant pine tree as we pulled out, but nobody said anything. I’d check it over with a Maglite, once we had some distance between us and Heartbite territory. Damn near smacked into a startled four point buck just before we hit the highway, but we were moving. Thank the good Lord for sizeable favors.
The girls in the back seat would report when they were ready. In the meantime, I told Chilly, “Okay, kid, you awake enough? Can you keep your eyes peeled?”
“Of course.” He sounded indignant. We didn’t have time for indignant.
“There isn’t any of course, Chill. We’ve all had one helluva night. Adrenaline can keep a guy awake just so long, okay?”
“So if you can keep watch out front, let me know if you spot anything that doesn’t look right. You know, a speed trap or another big freaking buck or whatever. Just anything I might not have seen in time, ’cause I’m telling you right now, I’m running on the ragged edge. I need your help.”
“Hey,” the youngster chuckled, “I bet I’m awake for at least another hour. You did scrape that tree on my side, you know.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that.”
The sun was up, we were out of Michigan and into Wisconsin, the tree scraping had been mostly noise with very little damage to the truck, and Sissy was driving. Jack Hill was in and out of consciousness, though he’d been awake enough for a while to tell us he thought the bullet had missed perforating his stomach.
It better have missed. If his gut contents were contaminating his abdominal cavity, he could well be dead before we could get him back to Montana and under Doc Menning’s care. He’d stuffed the holes–front and back, exit and entry, so it had thankfully been a military round, not a double nasty hollowpoint hunting round like we used–with gauze from his medpack. Added enough tape to keep the hole plugs from coming loose. And kept on throwing Purple Fire strikes with enough regularity to fool everybody including Sissy, who’d been thirty yards to his left, taking out the enemy shooters.
Hill figured we were unconscionably lucky that one round was all he’d caught, and I knew he was right. But it still sucked.
We couldn’t risk long driving shifts after the day and night we’d just had, so Sis and I rotated every two hours. It made for some mighty broken up sleep, but by midafternoon, we were able to start pulling four hour shifts. Yay team. Especially the kids; they had to be starving, but they hadn’t complained once, just digging into a couple more MRE’s. Sissy and I sipped water, but neither of us had an appetite.
What the hey, at two hundred pounds, give or take, I could afford to miss a meal once in a while. Sissy wasn’t exactly on the verge of starvation, either.
But we were on the verge of panic. It was night again, we’d stopped just once to fill up the oversized fuel tank and visit the truck stop restrooms, and we were in North Dakota. I pulled over and took a leak–which nobody else needed–while Sissy climbed in behind the wheel. “I’m breaking radio silence,” I told her, and hauled out a one time use cell phone.
I was startled when it was B.J. who answered on the third ring. “Rodeo Iron!”
“The one and only. Enjoying your trip?”
“Uncle, how the Hell come you’re at the ranch house and not in Billings? You’re supposed to be supervising the setup for the bull sale.”
“Hey,” the big man replied, avoiding my question, which was not like him, “Swanson’s got that well under control. He’s a good hand, eh?”
“Give me that phone right now or I’m giving you a third eye!”
What the–“Jude?! B.J.–”
“No need to–”
“I’m not counting to three!”
“All right! All right! Don’t get your panties in a twist, okay?” My uncle’s voice–there was something really wrong with it. With everything–
My wife’s voice sounded in my ear, a bit breathless but strong. Under control. “Tree?”
“I’m here, honey. What the hell is going on there?”
“Where to start? Um, B.J. came blowing in here two days ago. We couldn’t get a straight answer out of him about Billings. He’s…he’s losing it, honey. Or lost it already. Gone wicky-wacky. Been hanging out here in the ranch house mostly, not even at his own place. Throwing his weight round, trying to boss Larry Menning.”
“What?!” I exploded.
“No joke, babe. Something–I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but whatever it is, it’s really wrong. I just had to pull a gun on him to get him to give me the phone.”
“And you don’t do that unless you intend to shoot.”
“Our daughters okay?”
“Sure. I’ve kept them with Carolyn and Wayne, with instructions to not let him into your place if he showed up there. Which he hasn’t done, but…I’m scared, husband. I’m scared spitless.”
I could hear the phone changing hands. “Tree, this is Larry.”
“Yeah, Doc. Speak to me.” My mind was racing, but I had to speak to the doctor.
“It’s like Judi said. B.J. is not B.J. He hasn’t done anything horrible, but he’s one spark away from going completely out of control. I think he wants to talk to you, but he’s not telling any of us what’s on his mind. Treemin, if he blows, he’ll be the most dangerous thing we’ve had to contend with in…well, weeks, anyway.”
“Got it,” I said, though of course I didn’t. Not one little bit. “Okay, I’ll need to talk to Jude, but first, think you could get away to attend the bull sale in Billings? Jack would love to see you. And bring your little black bag?”
There was a moment’s silence at the other end. Dr. Larry Menning thought as fast as any man I’d ever known; he was processing the code. I’d just told him Jack was a combat casualty, and one in bad shape at that.
“Don’t see why not,” he said, overly casual. “Always did want to see one of those bucking bull sales.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Sort of gets a guy in the gut, watching those rides. I knew one bull rider who could handle any critter except a Brahma that’d duck low and to the left, right out of the chutes. He could get a little holier than thou, though, through and through.” Code. Clumsy enough wording, but Doc now knew what to expect, a bullet wound with both entry and exit holes, down low on the left side, no lead left inside.
Seconds later, Judi was back on the phone. “Honey,” I asked, “where is B.J. right now? Do you know?”
“No, I don’t know. He tore out of here after I drew on him. His Hudson could be well on its way to Missoula right now, or wherever. Although I’m sure he’ll be back.”
“Okay, here’s the deal.” I took a deep breath and let it out. “Get the sergeant. Have him drive down to talk to Seed and Beets. Doc is going to come hang with us in Billings during the bull sale. I want all three men acting as bodyguards for you and the girls until Sissy and I can get back there. Also, rekey the Kwik Set locks so B.J. at least has to break in if he’s going to get into Larry’s house again; we can’t take a chance on all his expensive medical equipment getting trashed.”
“Okay. Honey, when are you going to be home?” I could hear the yearning in her voice. Me too, but one thing at a time.
“The bull sale is day after tomorrow. We’ll be home that night, probably late.”
“All righty. As the guy in the Motel 6 commercial says, we’ll keep the light on for ya.”
We hung up. After checking for unwanted traffic, I pressed the self destruct button and tossed the phone out of the window.
Sissy spoke quietly. “I got the part about Doc Menning meeting us in Billings. That’s good.” She sighed, “But what’s this about you uncle going ’round the bend?”
“Wish I knew, sweetheart.” I stared forward, watching the white lines whip by in the headlights. “I really wish I knew.”