Michael roamed the dark.
His hunting was better than the night before. He came into a clearing and faced a trio of deer-a stag and a pair of does. They bolted immediately, but one of the does was lame and could not shake the wolf that was rapidly gaining on her. Michael saw she was in pain; the lame leg had been broken, and grown back at a crooked angle. With a burst of speed he hurtled after her and brought her down. The struggle was over in a matter of seconds, and thus was nature served.
He ate her heart, a delicious meal. There was no savagery in this; it was the way of life and death. The stag and the remaining doe stood on a hilltop for a moment, watching the wolf feast, and then they vanished into the night. Michael ate his fill. It was a shame to waste the rest of the meat, so he dragged her beneath a dense stand of pines and sprayed a territorial circle around her, in case the farmer's dog wandered this way. Tomorrow night she'd still be worthy.
The blood and juices energized him. He felt alive again, his muscles vibrant. But he had gore all over his muzzle and belly, and something had to be done about that before he returned to the open window. He loped through the forest, sniffing the air, and in a while he caught the scent of water. Soon he could hear the stream, rushing over rocks. He wallowed in the chilly water, rolling in it to get all the blood off. He licked his paws clean, making sure no blood remained on the nails. Then he lapped to quench his thirst, and started back to the house.
He changed in the woods and stood up on two white legs. He walked silently to the house, his feet cushioned on May grass, and slid through the window into his bedroom.
He smelled her at once. Cinnamon and leather. and there she was, edged in dark blue, sitting in a chair in the corner.
He could hear her heart pounding as he stood before her. Perhaps it was as loud as his own.
"How long have you been herei" he asked.
"an hour." She was making a valiant effort to keep her voice steady. "Maybe a little longer." This time her voice betrayed her.
"You waited all that time for mei I'm flattered."
"I... thought I'd look in on you." She cleared her throat, as if only incidentally getting around to the next question. "Michael, where have you beeni"
"Just out. Walking. I didn't want to use the front door. I thought I might wake everybody in the hou-"
"It's past three in the morning," Chesna interrupted. "Why are you nakedi"
"I never wear clothes past midnight. It's against my religion."
She stood up. "Don't try to be amusing! There's nothing at all amusing about this! My God! are you out of your mind, or am Ii When I saw you gone... and the window open, I didn't know what to think!"
Michael eased the window shut. "What did you thinki"
"That... you're a... I don't know, it's just too insane!"
He turned to face her. "That I'm a whati" he asked quietly.
Chesna started to say the word. It jammed in her throat. "How... did you find the camp that nighti" she managed to say. "In the dark. In a forest that was totally unfamiliar. after you'd spent twelve days on starvation rations. Howi Tell me, Michael. Howi"
"I did tell you."
"No, you didn't. You pretended to tell me, and I let it go. Maybe because there was no possible rational explanation for it. and now I come into your room, I find your window open and your bed empty. You slide back in, naked, and try to laugh it off."
Michael shrugged. "What better to do, when you're caught with your pants downi"
"You haven't answered me. Where have you beeni"
He spoke calmly and carefully, measuring his words. "I needed some exercise. Dr. Stronberg seems to think that I'm not ready for anything more strenuous than a match of chess-which, by the way, I beat him at today, two out of three. anyhow, I went out last night and walked, and I did the same tonight. I chose not to wear clothes because it's a fine warm night and I wanted the feel of the air on my skin. Is that such a terrible thingi"
Chesna didn't reply for a moment. Then: "You went out walking, even after I told you about the wolfi"
"With all the game in the forest around here, a wolf won't attack a human."
"all what game, Michaeli" she asked.
He thought fast. "Oh, didn't I tell youi I saw two deer from my window this afternoon."
"No, you didn't tell me." She stood very still, close enough to the door so she could reach it in a hurry. "The wolf I saw... had green eyes. Just like yours. and black hair. Dr. Stronberg has lived here for almost thirty-five years, and he'd never heard of a wolf in these woods. Fritz was born in a village less than fifty kilometers north of here, and he's never known of any wolves in the area either. Isn't that very strangei"
"Wolves migrate. Or so I've heard." He smiled in the darkness, but his face was tense. "a wolf with green eyes, huhi Chesna, what are you getting ati"
The moment of truth, Chesna thought. What was she getting ati That this man before her-this British secret agent who had been born a Russian-was a bizarre hybrid of human and beasti That he was a living example of the creature she'd read about in a book on folklorei a man who could transform his body into the shape of a wolf and run on all foursi Maybe Michael Gallatin was eccentric, and perhaps he had a keen sense of smell and an even keener sense of direction, but... a werewolfi
"Tell me what you're thinking," Michael said as he walked closer to her. a floorboard creaked softly under his weight. Her aroma lured him. She took a step backward. He stopped. "You're not afraid of me, are youi"
"Should I bei" a quaver in her voice.
"No," he said. "I won't hurt you." He walked toward her again, and this time she didn't retreat.
He reached her. She could see his green eyes, even in the gloom. They were hungry eyes, and they awakened a hunger within her. "Why did you come to my room tonighti" Michael asked, his face close to hers.
"I... said I... wanted to look in on-"
"No," he interrupted gently. "That's not the real reason, is iti"
She hesitated, her heart hammering, and as Michael slipped his arms around her she shook her head.
Their lips met, and melded. Chesna thought she must truly be losing her mind, because she imagined she tasted a hint of blood on his tongue. But the coppery tang was gone in an instant, and she grasped his back and pressed her body against his with mounting fever. His erection was already large, and its pulse throbbed in her fingers as she caressed him. Michael slowly unbuttoned her nightgown, their kisses deep and urgent, and then he stroked his tongue between her breasts and gently, teasingly, licked up from her breasts to her throat. She felt goose bumps erupt over her skin, a sensation that made her gasp with pleasure. Man or beast, he was what she needed.
The nightgown drifted down around her ankles. She stepped out of its folds, and Michael picked her up in his arms and carried her to the bed.
On that white plateau their bodies entwined. Heat met heat, and pressed deep. Her damp softness gripped him, her fingers clenched to his shoulders and his hips moving in slow circles that rose and fell with graceful strength. Michael lay on his back, Chesna astride him, and together they made the bedsprings speak. He arched his spine, lifting her as she held him deep inside, and at the height of his arch their bodies shuddered in unison, a sweet hot pulsing that brought a cry from Chesna and a soft gasp from Michael.
They lay together, Chesna's head cradled against Michael's shoulder, and talked in hushed voices. For a short time, at least, the war was somewhere far away. Maybe she would go to america, Chesna said. She had never seen California, and perhaps that was the place to begin anew. Did he have anyone special waiting for him in Englandi she asked, and he said no one. But that was his home, he told her, and that's where he would return when their mission was done.
Chesna traced his eyebrows with her finger, and laughed quietly.
"What's so funnyi" he asked.
"Oh... nothing. It's just... well, you would never believe what I was thinking when I saw you coming through the window."
"I'd like to know."
"It's crazy, really. I think my imagination's been running wild, ever since that wolf scared the daylights out of me." She turned her attention to the hair on his chest. "But... I thought-don't laugh now-that you might be a..." She forced the word out. "... werewolf."
"I am," he said, and looked into her eyes.
"Oh, you arei" She smiled. "Well, I always suspected you were more of a beast than a baron."
He made a growling sound, deep in his throat, and his mouth found hers.
This time their lovemaking was more tender, but no less passionate. Michael's tongue lavished her breasts, and played with joyful abandon across the fields of her body. Chesna clung to him, arms and legs, as he eased into her. She urged him deeper, and like a gentleman he met her request. They lay facing each other, merged iron to silk, and they moved in slow thrusts and circles like dancers to music. Their bodies trembled and strained, glowing with the moisture of effort. Chesna moaned as Michael balanced above her and teased her soft folds until she was near the point of release, then he plunged into her and she thought she might sob with the sheer ecstasy of it. She shivered, whispering his name, and his rhythm took her to the edge of delight and then over it, as if she'd leaped from a cliff and was falling through a sky that shimmered with iridescent colors. Michael's sure strokes did not falter, until he felt the hot clenching followed by an eruption that seemed to stretch his spine and muscles almost to the point of pain. He remained part of Chesna, nestled between her thighs, as they kissed and whispered and the world turned lazily around their bed.
The following morning Dr. Stronberg pronounced Michael well on the way to recovery. His fever was gone, and the bruises on his body had almost faded. Lazaris, also, was stronger and able to walk around the house on stiff legs. Dr. Stronberg turned his attention, however, to Chesna, who appeared not to have gotten much sleep the night before. She assured the doctor that she was feeling fine, and would make sure she got at least eight hours of sleep tonight.
after nightfall a brown car left the house. Dr. Stronberg and Chesna were in the front and Michael and Lazaris, both wearing their baggy gray-green jumpsuits, sat in the back. Stronberg drove northeast on a narrow country road. The trip took about twenty minutes, then Stronberg stopped at the boundary of a wide field and switched his headlights on and off twice. a lantern signaled back, at the field's opposite side. Stronberg drove toward it and pulled the car beneath the shelter of some trees.
Camouflage netting had been draped over a framework of timbers. The man with the lantern was joined by two other men, all in the simple clothing of farmers, who lifted an edge of the netting and motioned their visitors in.
"This is it," Chesna said, and Michael saw the airplane in the lanterns' yellow glow.
Lazaris laughed. "Saint Peter's ghost!" he said, speaking a mixture of crude German and Russian. "That's not a plane, it's a deathtrap!"
Michael was inclined to agree. The tri-engined transport aircraft, painted dark gray, was large enough to hold seven or eight passengers, but its airworthiness was suspect. The machine was covered with bullet-hole patches, its wing-engine cowlings looked as if they'd been attacked with sledgehammers, and one of its wheel struts was badly warped.
"It's a Junkers Ju-fifty-two," Lazaris said. "That model was built in 1934." He looked under the aircraft and ran his fingers along a rusted seam. He muttered with disgust as he found a hole as big as his fist. "The damned thing's falling apart!" he said to Chesna. "Did you get this from the garbage pilei"
"Of course," she answered. "If it was perfect, the Luftwaffe would still be using it."
"It will fly, won't iti" Michael asked.
"It will. The engines are a little rough, but they'll get us to Norway."
"The real question," Lazaris said, "is will it fly with people in iti" He found another rust-edged hole. "The cockpit floor looks as if it's about to fall through!" He went to the port wing engine, reached up, and put his hand past the propeller into the machinery. His fingers emerged slimed with dirty oil and grease. "Oh, this is wonderful! You could grow wheat on the dirt in this engine! Goldilocks, are you trying to commit suicidei"
"No," she said tersely. "and I've asked you to stop calling me that."
"Well, I thought you must like fairy tales. Especially now, since I've seen this wreck you call an aircraft." Lazaris took a lantern from one of the men, walked around to the fuselage door, and ducked low to enter the plane.
"This is the best I could do," Chesna told Michael. "It might not be in the best condition"-they heard Lazaris laugh harshly as he shone the lantern around in the cockpit-"but it'll get us where we need to go. Regardless of what your friend thinks."
They had to travel more than seven hundred miles, Michael thought. Part of that journey would be over the bitterly cold North Sea. If the airplane developed engine trouble over the water... "Does it at least have a life rafti" he asked.
"It does. I patched the holes in it myself."
Lazaris emerged, swearing, from the Junkers. "It's all rust and loose bolts!" he fumed. "If you sneeze too hard in there, you'll blow the cockpit glass out! I doubt if the damned thing can do over a hundred knots, even with a tall wind!"
"No one's twisting your arm to go with us." Chesna took the lantern from him and returned it to its owner. "But we're leaving on the twelfth. The night after tomorrow. Our clothing and supplies should be ready by then. We'll have three fuel and security stops between here and Uskedahl. With luck we should reach our landing strip on the morning of the sixteenth."
"With luck"-Lazaris placed one finger against a nostril and blew his nose-"this damned plane won't lose its wings south of Denmark." He turned to regard the Junkers again, his hands on his hips. "I'd say this poor creature must've tangled with a Russian fighter pilot. Yes, that's what I'd say." He looked at Michael, then at Chesna. "I'll go with you. anything to get German dirt off my feet."
Back at Dr. Stronberg's house, Chesna and Michael lay together in bed as the wind rose outside and swirled through the trees. There was no need for talking; their bodies communicated with an eloquence that was at first fierce, then gentle.
Chesna slept in Michael's arms. He listened to the roving wind, his mind on Skarpa and Iron Fist. He didn't know what they would find on that island, but the memory of the grisly photographs in Blok's satchel was leeched to his brain. The weapon that made such hideous wounds had to be found and destroyed, not just for the sake of the allied invasion, but for the sake of those who had already passed through the Nazis' trials of torture. With such a weapon in the hands of Hitler, the entire world might yet be branded with a swastika.
Sleep called him and took him away. In his nightmares soldiers goosestepped through the shadow of Big Ben, Hitler wore a coat of black wolf fur, and Wiktor's voice whispered, Don't fail me.