Less than eighteen hours after he'd first awakened, Michael Gallatin was on his feet. He relieved himself in a bedpan. His urine was still blushed with blood, but there was no pain. His thigh throbbed, though his legs were sturdy. He paced the room, testing himself, and found he walked with a limp. Without painkillers and tranquilizers in his system, his nerves felt raw, but his mind was clear. It had turned toward Norway, and what he had to do to get himself ready.
He lay on the pinewood floor and slowly stretched his muscles. Deep pain gnawed at him as he worked. Back on the floor, legs up, crunch head toward knees. Stomach to the floor, lift chin and legs at the same time. Slow push-ups that made his shoulder and back muscles scream. Sit on the floor, knees bent, and ever so slowly lower the back almost to the floor, linger past the point of agony, and come up again. a light sheen of sweat glowed on Michael's skin. Blood pumped through his veins and gorged his muscles, and his heart reached a hard rhythm. Six days, he thought as he breathed raggedly. I'll be ready.
a woman with gray-streaked brown hair brought his dinner: strained vegetables and a hash of finely chopped beef. "Baby food," Michael told her, but he ate every bit. Dr. Stronberg returned to check him again. His fever was down, and the wheezing in his lungs had decreased. He had, however, popped three stitches. Stronberg warned him to stay in bed and rest, and that was the end of the visit.
a night later, another helping of ghastly beef hash in his stomach, Michael stood in the darkness and eased his window open. He slipped out, into the silent forest, and stood beneath an elm tree as he changed from man to wolf. The rest of his stitches popped open, but the thigh wound didn't bleed. It was another scar to add to his collection. He loped on all fours through the woods, breathing the fragrant, clean air. a squirrel caught his attention, and he was on it before it could reach its tree. His mouth watered as he consumed the meat and fluids, then he spat out the bones and hair and continued on his jaunt. at a farmhouse perhaps two miles from the cottage, a dog barked and howled at Michael's scent. Michael sprayed a fence post, just to let the dog know its place.
He sat atop a grassy knoll and stared at the stars. On such a beautiful night as this, the question had to be asked: what is the lycanthrope, in the eye of Godi
He thought he might know the answer to that now, after the sight of the mass grave at Falkenhausen, after the death of Mouse and the memory of an Iron Cross being plucked from his broken fingers. after his time in this land of torment and hatred, he thought he knew; and if not, the answer would do for now.
The lycanthrope was God's avenger.
There was so much work to be done. Michael knew Chesna had courage-and plenty of it-but her chances of getting on and off Skarpa Island without him were slim. He had to be sharp and strong to face what was ahead for them.
But he was weaker than he'd thought. The change had sapped his strength, and he lay with his head on his paws under the clear starlight. He slept, and dreamed of a wolf who dreamed he was a man who dreamed he was a wolf who dreamed.
The sun was coming up when he awakened. The land was green and lovely, but it hid a black heart. He got up off his belly and started back the way he'd come, following his own scent. He neared the house and was about to change to human form again when he heard, above the song of the dawn birds, the faint noise of radio static. He tracked it, and about fifty yards from the house found a shack covered with camouflage netting. an antenna was mounted on the roof. Michael crouched in the brush and listened as the radio static ended. There were three musical tones, followed one after the other. Then Chesna's voice, speaking German: "I read you. Go ahead."
a man's voice, transmitted from a great distance, answered. "The concert is set. Beethoven, as planned. Your tickets must be purchased as soon as possible. Out." Then the crackle of dead air.
"That's it," Chesna said, to someone in the shack. a moment later Bauman emerged and climbed a stepladder to the roof, where he removed the antenna. Chesna came out, dark circles beneath her eyes indicating a troubled sleep, and began to stride through the forest toward the house. Michael silently kept pace with her, keeping to the green shadows. He sniffed her fragrance, and he remembered their first kiss in the lobby of the Reichkronen. He was feeling stronger now; all of him was feeling stronger. a few more days of rest, and a few more nights of hunting the meat and blood he needed, and-
He took another step, and that was when the quail hidden in the brush shrieked and leaped out from beneath his paw.
Chesna whirled toward the sound. Her hand was already gripping the Luger and drawing it from her holster. She saw him; he watched her eyes widen with the shock as she took aim and squeezed the trigger.
The gun spoke, and a chunk of bark flew from the tree next to Michael's head. She fired a second time, but the black wolf was no longer there. Michael had turned and plunged into the dense foliage, the bullet whining over his back. "Fritz! Fritz!" Chesna shouted for Bauman as Michael winnowed through the underbrush and ran. "a wolf!" he heard her say as Bauman came running up. "It was right there, looking at me! God, I've never seen one so close!"
"a wolfi" Bauman's voice was incredulous. "There are no wolves around here!"
Michael circled through the woods back in the direction of the house. His heart was pounding; the two bullets had missed him by fractions of inches. He lay in the brush and changed as quickly as he could, his bones aching as they rejointed and his fangs sliding into his jaws with wet clicking sounds. The gunshots would have already roused everyone in the house. He stood up, newly fleshed, slipped in through his window, and closed it behind him. He heard other voices outside, calling to ask what had happened. Then he got into bed, pulled the sheet up to his throat, and was lying there when Chesna entered minutes later.
"I thought you'd be awake," she said. She was still a little nervous, and he could smell the gunsmoke on her skin. "You heard the shotsi"
"Yes. What's going oni" He sat up, pretending alarm.
"I almost got chewed up by a wolf. Out there, damned close to the house. The thing was staring at me, and it had..." Her voice trailed off.
"It had whati" Michael prompted.
"It had black hair and green eyes," she said, in a quiet voice.
"I thought all wolves were gray."
"No." She stared into his face, as if truly seeing him for the first time. "They're not."
"I heard two shots. Did you hit himi"
"I don't know. Maybe. Of course, it could've been a bitch."
"Well, thank God it didn't get you." He smelled breakfast cooking: sausages and pancakes. Her intense stare was making him jittery. "If it was as hungry as I am, you're very lucky it didn't take a bite out of you."
"I guess I am." What am I thinkingi Chesna asked herself. That this man has black hair and green eyes, and so did the wolfi and what of thati I must be losing my mind, to even think such a thing! "Fritz... says there are no wolves in this area."
"ask him if he'd like to go for a walk in the woods tonight, and find out." He smiled tightly. "I know I wouldn't."
Chesna realized she was standing with her back against the wall. What had been wheeling through her mind was utterly ridiculous, she knew, but still... no, no! That was crazy! Such things were the stuff of medieval fireside tales, when the winter wind blew cold and howled in the night. This was the modern world! "I'd like to know your name," she said at last. "Lazaris calls you Gallatinov."
"I was born Mikhail Gallatinov. I changed my name to Michael Gallatin when I became a British citizen."
"Michael," Chesna repeated, trying out the sound of it. "I just received a radio message. The invasion is still set for June fifth, barring bad weather in the Channel. Our mission stands: we're to find Iron Fist and destroy it."
"I'll be ready."
His color looked better this morning, as if he'd gotten some exercise. Or perhaps a vigorous dreami she wondered. "I believe you will be," she said. "Lazaris is doing better, too. We had a long talk yesterday. He knows a lot about airplanes. If we have engine trouble on the way, he might be useful."
"I'd like to see him. Can I have some clothesi"
"I'll ask Dr. Stronberg if you're up to getting out of bed."
Michael grunted. "Tell him I want some of those pancakes, too."
She sniffed the air, and found their scent. "You must have a very good sense of smell."
"Yes, I do."
Chesna was silent. again, those thoughts-insane thoughts-crept through her mind. She brushed them aside. "The cook's making oatmeal for you and Lazaris. You're not ready for heavy food yet."
"I could've starved on gruel in Falkenhausen, if that's what you and the good doctor want."
"It's not. Dr. Stronberg just wants your system to recuperate." She walked to the door, then paused there. She stared into his green eyes and felt the hairs stir at the back of her neck. They were the eyes of the wolf, she thought. No, of course that was absolutely impossible! "I'll check on you later," she said, and went out.
a frown settled over Michael's features. The bullets had been a close call. He had been almost able to read Chesna's thoughts; of course she wouldn't come to the correct conclusion, but he'd have to watch his step around her from now on. He scratched his rough beard and then looked at his hands. There was dark German earth under his fingernails.
Michael's breakfast-watery oatmeal-was delivered in a few minutes. Stronberg entered a little later and pronounced his fever all but gone. The doctor railed, however, about the broken stitches. Michael said he was up to doing some mild calisthenics, so he ought to be allowed clothes to walk around in. Stronberg at first flatly refused, then said he'd think about it. Before an hour passed, a gray-green jumpsuit, underwear, socks, and canvas shoes were brought to Michael's room by the same woman who prepared the meals. an added encouragement was a bowl of water, a cake of shaving soap, and a straight razor, with which Michael removed his stubble.
Freshly shaved and dressed, Michael left his room and roamed through the house. He found Lazaris in a room down the corridor, the Russian slick-bald but still heavily bearded, his proud prow of a nose made even more huge because of his gleaming dome. Lazaris was still pallid and somewhat less than energetic, but there were faint spots of color in his cheeks and his dark brown eyes had a glint in them. Lazaris said he was being treated very well, but his request for a bottle of vodka and a pack of cigarettes had been refused. "Hey, Gallatinov!" he said as Michael started to leave. "I'm glad I didn't know you were such an important spy! It might have made me a little nervous!"
"are you nervous nowi"
"You mean, just because I'm in a nest of spiesi Gallatinov, I'm so scared my shit comes out yellow. If the Nazis ever found this place, we'd all dance in piano-wire neckties!"
"They won't. and we won't."
"Yes, maybe our wolf will protect us. Did you hear about thati"
"So," Lazaris said, "you want to go to Norway. Some damned island off the southwest coast. Righti Goldilocks told me all about it."
"and you need a copilot. Goldilocks says she's got a transport plane. She won't say what kind, which makes me think it's not exactly one of the latest models." He lifted a finger. "Which means, Comrade Gallatinov, that it's not going to be a fast plane, and neither is it going to have a very high ceiling; I've told Goldilocks this, and I'll tell you: if we run into fighter planes, we've had it. No transport plane can outrun a Messerschmitt."
"I know that. I'm sure she does, too. Does all this mean you'll do the job, or noti"
Lazaris blinked, as if amazed that the question should even be asked. "I belong in the sky," he said. "Of course I'll do it"
Michael had never doubted that the Russian would. He left Lazaris and went in search of Chesna. He found her alone in the rear parlor, studying maps of Germany and Norway. She showed him the route they were going to fly, and where the three fuel and supply stops were. They would travel only in darkness, she said, and the trip would take them four nights. She showed him where they were going to land in Norway. "It's a strip of flatland between two mountains, actually," she said. "Our agent with the boat is here." With the point of her pencil, she touched the dot of a coastal village named Uskedahl. "There's Skarpa." She touched the small, rugged land mass-a circular brown scab, Michael thought-that lay about thirty miles down the coast from Uskedahl and eight or nine miles offshore. "This is where we're likely to run into patrol boats." She made a circle just to the east of Skarpa. "Mines, too, I'd guess."
"Skarpa doesn't look like the place for a summer vacation, does iti"
"Hardly. There'll still be snow on the ground up there, and the nights will be cold. We'll have to take winter clothing. Summer comes late in Norway."
"I don't mind cold weather."
She looked up at him, and found herself staring into his green eyes. Wolf's eyes, she thought. "There's not very much that gets to you, is therei"
"No. I won't let it."
"Is it that simplei You turn yourself off and on, depending on the circumstancesi"
Her face was close to his. Her aroma was a scent of heaven. Less than six inches, and their lips would meet. "I thought we were talking about Skarpa," Michael said.
"We were. Now we're talking about you." She held his gaze for a few seconds longer, and then she looked away and began to fold the maps. "Do you have a homei" she asked.
"No, I don't mean a house. I mean a home." She looked at him again, her tawny eyes dark with questions. "a place where you belong. a home of the heart."
He thought about it. "I'm not sure." His heart belonged in the forest of Russia, a long way from his stone manse in Wales. "I think there is-or used to be-but I can't go back to it. Who ever can, reallyi" She didn't answer. "What about youi"
Chesna made sure the maps were folded crease to crease, and then slid them into a brown leather map case. "I have no home," she said. "I love Germany, but it's the love for a sick friend, who will soon die." She stared out a window, at the trees and golden light. "I remember america. Those cities... they can take your breath away. and all that space, like a vast cathedral. You know, someone from California visited me before the war. He said he'd seen all my pictures. He asked me if I might like to go to Hollywood." She smiled faintly, lost in a memory. "My face, he said, would be seen all over the world. He said I ought to come home, and work in the country where I was born. Of course, that was before the world changed."
"It hasn't changed enough for them to stop making motion pictures in Hollywood."
"I've changed," she said. "I've killed human beings. Some of them deserved a bullet, others were simply in the path of them. I have... seen terrible things. and sometimes... I wish that more than anything, I could go back, and be innocent again. But once your home of the heart is burned to ashes, who can build it back for youi"
For that question he had no answer. The sunlight shone through the window into her hair, making it glint like spun gold. His fingers ached to lose themselves in it. He reached out, started to touch her hair, and then she sighed and snapped the map case shut, and Michael closed his hand and drew it back.
"I'm sorry," Chesna said. She took the map case to a hollowed-out book and slipped it into a shelf. "I didn't mean to ramble on like that."
"It's all right." He was feeling a little fatigued again. No sense pushing himself when it wasn't necessary. "I'm going back to my room."
She nodded. "You should rest while you can." She motioned to the parlor's shelves of books. "a lot of reading material in here, if you like. Dr. Stronberg has a nice collection of nonfiction and mythology."
So this was the doctor's house, Michael thought. "No, thank you. If you'll excuse mei" She said of course, and Michael left the parlor.
Chesna was about to turn away from the shelves when a book spine's faded title caught her eye. It was wedged between a tome on the Norse gods and another on the history of the Black Forest region, and its title was Vilkerkunde von Deutschland: Folktales of Germany.
She wasn't going to take that book from its shelf, open it, and look at its page of contents. She had more important things to do, like getting the winter clothing together and making sure they'd have enough food. She wasn't going to touch that book.
But she did. She took it down, opened it, and scanned the contents.
and there it was. Right there, along with chapters on bridge trolls, eight-foot-tall woodsmen, and cave-dwelling goblins.
Chesna shut the book so hard Dr. Stronberg heard the pop in his study and jumped in his chair. Utterly ridiculous! Chesna thought as she returned the volume to its slot. She strode to the doorway. But before she got there, her strides began to slow. and she stopped, about three feet from the door.
The nagging, gnawing question that would not be banished returned to her again: how had the baron-Michael-found his way to their camp through the black woodsi
Such a thing was impossible. Wasn't iti
She walked back to the bookshelves. Her hand found the volume and lingered there. If she read that chapter, she thought, would it be admitting that she might possibly believe it could be truei No, of course not! she decided. It was harmless curiosity, and only that. There were no such things as werewolves, just as there were no bridge trolls or phantom woodsmen.
What would it hurt, to read about a mythi
She took the book down.