Exclusive excerpt from Carrie Vaughn's KITTY GOES TO WAR


To help promote Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Goes to War, the folks at Tor Books provided this extract for your reading pleasure! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

Kitty Norville, Alpha werewolf and host of The Midnight Hour, a radio call-in show, is contacted by a friend at the NIH's Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. Three Army soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are being held at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. They're killer werewolves—and post traumatic stress has left them unable to control their shape-shifting and unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them, hoping to help by bringing them into her pack.

Meanwhile, Kitty gets sued for libel by CEO Harold Franklin after featuring Speedy Mart--his nationwide chain of 24-hour convenience stores with a reputation for attracting supernatural unpleasantness--on her show.

Very bad weather is on the horizon.
---------------------

Really, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I took the document--an honest-to-God summons--to Ozzie, the station manager. I thought he'd blow a gasket, but he seemed to have the same reaction I did--confusion, colored with a tiny bit of awe. The suit was being brought against me on behalf of Harold Franklin, the president of Speedy Mart, for derogatory and damaging comments made on my program about both him and his beloved and respectable business.

"What the hell did you do?" Ozzie asked, reading the letter for the fourth or fifth time, like I had.

"Um, I did the last show on Speedy Mart and whether or not it's at the center of a supernatural conspiracy," I said.

He stared at me a moment. "So this doesn't really come as a surprise."

"I know," I said. "But it was so fast!"

"You must have really offended him for him to move this quick. I'm almost impressed," Ozzie said.

"Or maybe he really does have something to hide," I said, pointing. "Maybe there really is some kind of cover up and he's diverting attention."

"Kitty--"

"Okay, I know. But we just hand this off to the lawyers and they should be able to wiggle us out of it. Right?"

"I think you should go pull the recording of that show for the lawyers. And what do you mean us?"

I escaped before having to come up with an answer for him.

The thing was, Franklin had a point. If my show somehow made people afraid of going to Speedy Mart, or damaged the company's reputation to a point where the business was negatively affected, the guy had a right to sue me. I just didn't think I was a big enough fish for him to notice. I had a decent-sized market share, but not that decent. This seemed like an overreaction. A cease and desist order and maybe a request for an on-air apology seemed more appropriate. Maybe Franklin and his lawyers were just trying to scare me, and they'd ask for the apology in exchange for withdrawing the lawsuit. I wouldn't be able to argue with that kind of deal.

While I was pulling the digital file of Friday's broadcast and burning it to a CD for the station's lawyer people, I called my own live-in lawyer for advice.

After our hellos, I launched right in. "Guess what? I'm being sued for libel."

"Well," Ben said. "That's a new one even for you. Who's suing?"

"The president of Speedy Mart."

"Already? That was fast, you only did that show a couple of days ago."

"I know. I'm almost impressed."

"I suppose it was only a matter of time."

"That's kind of what I was thinking," I said. "But I thought libel was when you lied about someone in print."

"Print or broadcast media," he answered. "It's libel because you have a built-in audience."
"So how do I get out of it?"

"You either prove that what you said wasn't damaging, or that it isn't libel because it's true. You were pretty good about saying that you were only speculating. I wonder what argument they're going to make."

"You think they have a case?" I asked.

"I don't know. This isn't my area of expertise. Civil suit's a long way from criminal defense. Do you think they have a case?"

I shrugged. "My instinct is that something really is going on. But I don't have any way to prove it. I think my mistake was bringing up the president by name. Because even if something is going on, he may not have anything to do with it."

"I assume KNOB has lawyers who can handle this?" Ben said.

"The legal side of it. I'm not sure they can do anything about proving there's any supernatural involvement," I said.

He paused; I could almost hear him thinking over the phone. "I think I have an idea," he said finally. "You coming home soon?"

"It may be an hour or so. What's the plan?"

"We'll talk about it tonight."

"At least no one's trying to kill me this time."

"Yet," he said. "Give it time."

There was just no arguing with him. As a lawyer, he was trained to expect the worst.

* * *

When I got home, Ben met me at the door and turned me right back around.

"You feel like going out to dinner, don't you?" he said.

"Um, sure?" Ben had that predatorial, on-the-prowl gleam in his eye. Not the predatorial gleam that came from being a werewolf, but the one he'd had long before he became a werewolf. This came from being a lawyer.

He had a plan, and I couldn't wait to see what it was. We were in the car, headed for the freeway when I asked, "Where are we going?"

"New Moon."

New Moon was a downtown bar-and-grill type restaurant, and we went there more than anyplace else because it felt like home. It practically was home--Ben and I owned it. I'd made it a refuge, neutral territory for the lycnathropes in town. A place where we could go and not worry about territory or posturing. New Moon's manager was Shaun, Ben and my lieutenant in Denver's werewolf pack. Any given evening, a few of us from the pack hung out there.

When we entered the restaurant, I got an inkling of Ben's plan--Cormac was sitting at our usual table in back, against the wall.

Cormac had been out of prison for five months and I still wasn't sure how I felt about him. Every time we got together, I was happy to see him. And worried, anxious, relieved, guilty, confused, and a few other emotions to boot. I could sense Ben tensing up beside me, a similar stew of conflicting emotions roiling in him. Cormac had saved our lives and ended up in prison for it. He'd had to put his life on hold; we hadn't. Cormac and I had had a thing, once upon a time. Then he'd brought Ben, his cousin and victim of a recent werewolf attack, to me. I'd taken care of him, Cormac went to jail, and Ben and I got married.

The three of us understood each other when no one else did. No one else had the history to be able to understand us. We were like the three musketeers, but kinda twisted.

Cormac stood to meet us as we approached. He had an athletic leanness to him, and an easy, calm way of moving that could be nerve wracking. Physically, he hadn't changed so much--same rugged features, short brown hair, a trimmed moustache. But he'd aged. His face was a little more lined than it had been, a little more tired. Like even though he'd spent two plus years behind the same set of walls, he'd seen too much.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," I said back. And there ended our usual, laconic greeting.

Ben looked Cormac over, and he wasn't very subtle about it. He craned his neck, checked his sides, looked as far behind him as he could without actually walking around him. Looking for telltale shapes.

Cormac glanced ceilingward and said, "I'm not wearing a gun."

"Sorry," Ben said, defensive. "You can't blame me for worrying."

"I'm not stupid," Cormac said.

"So you don't have a gun anywhere? You're sure?"

"Like he could forget he was wearing a gun," I said to Ben. "You can smell him, can't you? He's not wearing a gun." That was another thing about Cormac that had changed, along with the tired expression; I was used to Cormac smelling like firearms. Gun powder and oil. Now, he smelled like soap, clean human, and the leather of his jacket. As antsy as his old collection of weaponry made me, he smelled like something was missing.

"I'm sorry. It's just that I haven't seen you without a gun since high school," Ben said. "I'm still getting used to it."

"I'm still getting used to it." He slumped back into his chair and took a sip of his coffee.

Cormac was a convicted felon on parole. Legally, he couldn't carry a gun. Technically, he could carry a gun--he just couldn't get caught with it by his parole officer or the cops, or they'd lock him up again. So, he didn't carry a gun. Once upon a time, Cormac might have taken the risk. The pre-prison Cormac would have been confident in his ability not to get caught. But something had gotten to him.

Ben and I slid into chairs across from him. I had a weird sense of familiarity, Ben and I sitting side by side, looking at Cormac across the table from us. This was how we'd sat when we visited him in prison. Then, we'd had a Plexiglas wall between us.

"I've got a job for you," Ben said. "How do you feel about a little PI work? PI work that doesn't involve carrying a gun."

Cormac looked away, frowning. "You don't have to give me a job because you think I need the work. I'm doing just fine without any charity." His parole officer had gotten him a part-time warehouse job--it may have been the first above-board job he'd ever had. He even had his own apartment. He was determined to be independent.

"Cormac, I'm not asking you to do this because I feel sorry for you. I'm asking you to do this because you're the most qualified person I know for the job."

That got his attention. He straightened a little. Ben looked at me to do the explaining.

"For the last couple of years I've been hearing weird stories about the Speedy Mart chain," I said. "Supernatural goings-on, all over the country, and all of them at a Speedy Mart. Usually at midnight. Vampire clerks, Satanic rituals, intersecting ley lines. Think of every crazy supernatural angle you can, and there's probably an anecdote about it happening at a Speedy Mart."

Cormac looked thoughtful. "That vampire, the one you had me go after while you were doing the show--what was that, three years ago? Four?"

"Estelle," I said. I hadn't forgotten Estelle.

"She was hiding out in a Speedy Mart," he said.

"Yeah, exactly," I said.

"That's stretching it even for you," Ben said. "It's coincidence."

I said, "Each of these stories doesn't mean anything by itself. It's when you put them all together things start looking weird. I need to know if there's anything to it."

The bounty hunter--former bounty hunter--gave a nod, lips pursed. "All right. I'm interested. I'll see if I can find anything."

"Stop by my office tomorrow, I can give you what I've been able to dig up so far," I said.

Business concluded, Ben looked around, craned over his shoulder. "Hey, isn't the service around here usually better than this?"

It was; if Shaun was here, he usually stopped by our table himself first thing. Ah, there he was, hiding out behind the bar. He was a hip twenty-something, short dark hair, brown skin, laid back and sensible in a T-shirt and jeans. When he saw all three of us looking over, he finally came over.

"Took you long enough," Ben said.

Shaun wilted, hurt and puppy-like. "I wasn't going to interrupt whatever powwow you have going on here. You look like you're planning the takeover of a small country."

"It's not that serious. Do we look that serious?" Ben said.

"It's the body language, hon," I said. "We look like we're hunting."

"Uh, yeah," Shaun said. "But if you're all done with that maybe I can get you something to drink." He looked hopeful.

We gave him our order, and Ben tried to be nice to make up for making Shaun nervous.

"Huh. Werewolves," Cormac said, shaking his head.

* * *

Cormac stopped by the KNOB offices at noon the next day. I met him at the lobby and brought him upstairs.

"Déjà vu a little, isn't it?" he said.

I glared at him, unamused. The first time Cormac and I had met, he'd been stalking me at the studio in the middle of my show, intending to shoot me. Very uncool.

"No comment," I said.

My office was more like a closet, just enough room for the desk and a couple of chairs, but it was mine. Inside, Cormac took the seat I offered while I sorted through the papers on my desk. The map, the notes, the news articles printed off the internet that verified some of the stories. I really didn't have very much when I put it all together.

"It's not very impressive," I said by way of apology. "Ben's right, there's probably nothing there. Maybe we can settle the lawsuit out of court."

"Don't jump to any conclusions," he said, leaning forward to start reading.

I'd never seen him so studious. He usually--at least before he went to prison--cultivated this air of indifference. Not quite apathy so much as a sense of apartness, like he wasn't interested because lived on a different plane of existence. It would have been almost zen like, if it hadn't been so creepy. Now, he really seemed interested. Fascinated, even. Hand on his chin, he chewed his lip.

He even smelled different. Slightly, bookishly different. Paper and ink. This was Cormac, and I didn't have anything to worry about. Right?

The office had become so still that when he spoke, I flinched.

"I need to do some checking, but I have some ideas," he said, looking up at me, calm and steady. He was all Cormac again.

"Really? Like what?"

"Not sure," he said, murmuring almost. "Maybe ritualistic magic. Maybe something else."

I was never going to find out just how much Cormac knew about the supernatural. When we'd first met, he knew more about werewolves than I did, even though I was one. He'd hunted them for half his life, after all.

"How long do you need?"

"I'll let you know," he said, standing, rolling the pages up and tucking them in the pocket of his jacket. Preoccupied, he walked out without a word or second glance. I stared at the open doorway for a minute or so, wondering if he really was okay.

4 commentaires:

machinery said...

urban fantasy is a blight.
with the exception of butcher, this line of vampire-werewolf books is a horrible.
god damn fucking shit, the whole genre is going to shit.
"oldiers returning unable to control their werewolf state", what shit ...
patrick, you should be ashamed of promoting this line of books.
stick to regular fantasy, or at least non-trend shit.

Allen Edwards said...

(response to 'machinery') Possibly so, but at least they can put two grammatical sentences together, with proper punctuation, spelling and proper casing.

Also, what "genre" is it that's "going to shit"? I thought urban fantasy was becoming recognized as a genre in itself, so does that mean that urban fantasy is causing urban fantasy to go to shit? Or it this just "high fantasy" bigotry?

Patrick said...

Machinery,

You should know by now that I'm a big fan of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville books.

Give them a shot. You might be surprised...=)

Eugenie said...

I can't wait for this next book to be released! I absolutely love this series. The character development and world development are pure gold! I don't like much in this genre, but when the characters are so lovable and so wonderfully crafted, how can you not enjoy the tales of Kitty Norville?

To machinery: Try starting with the first book. There is very little trendiness in that book. I've never seen such character growth in any of the other books in this genre or in any genre except non-fiction. This is a series that breaks the mold.