Authors: Carrie Vaughn
Tags: #Vampires, #Werewolves, #Paranormal, #General, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Suspense, #Fiction, #Norville; Kitty (Fictitious Character), #Contemporary
For my family
I had help from all the usual suspects, and more. Thanks to Daniel Abraham for reading an early draft. To Mandy Douglas for reading an early draft and offering very good advice. To Tor/Forge publicist Cassandra Ammerman for arranging my first book tour and working in the extra time for research in San Francisco, which helped immensely. Thanks as usual to Stacy Hague-Hill, David Hartwell, Ashley and Carolyn Grayson, and friends and family for the sanity checks.
“Spirit in the Sky”
“Lawyers, Guns, and Money”
“Wicked Little Critta”
P.K. 14, “The Other Side”
“The Maple Leaf Rag”
“Down by the Water”
“You Can Listen, You Can Talk”
“Will It Go Round in Circles”
said into my phone. “This isn’t exactly standard—”
“It’s impossible,” said the poor, long-suffering office receptionist at the Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. He was too polite to just hang up on me. “It’s absolutely impossible.”
“Maybe you can give me the name and number of someone who might be able to authorize this kind of request? Is there any representative of the Sherman family on record?”
His responses were starting to sound desperate. “That information is confidential. In fact, I don’t think you’ll be able to get any further on this without some kind of a warrant or a court order.”
I was afraid of that. I’d been hoping there’d be a friendly way to accomplish this. That I could find a sympathetic historian who would back up my request or explain the situation to one of the descendants and get permission that way. Surely they would want to know the truth as much as I did. Also, I didn’t think I’d be able to convince a judge to issue said court order. The request was based on little more than rabid curiosity.
I soldiered on, as it were. “There has to be some kind of standard procedure for an exhumation. Can you tell me what that is?”
“Ms.… Norville, is it?”
“Yes, Kitty Norville,” I said, thinking
. I could wear him down with patience.
“Ms. Norville—can I ask why you want to have General Sherman’s body exhumed?”
General William T. Sherman, hero of the Civil War on the Union side, war criminal on the Confederate side, considered one of the greatest soldiers and strategists in American history, and all-around icon. And yeah, I wanted to dig him up. It was a little hard to explain, and I hesitated, trying to figure out what to say. Last week I’d received a package from the Library of Congress containing a copy of an interview transcript from the 1930s. It had been made as part of the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal program that employed journalists and other writers to record local histories around the country. Many valuable stories were collected and preserved as part of the program. The one I’d been sent was an interview with a Civil War veteran—one of the last to survive, no doubt. He’d been sixteen when he joined the Confederate army in the middle of the war and was close to ninety when he’d been interviewed, and he claimed that he’d witnessed General Sherman transform into a wolf during the Battle of Vicksburg. A librarian who was also a listener and fan of my radio show discovered it and sent it to me. I had always had my suspicions about Sherman—he looked so rough and tumble in his photos, with his unbuttoned collar, his unkempt beard, and a “screw you” expression. If any Civil War general had been a werewolf, it would be Sherman. But was my hunch and a single interview proof? No. Which was why I wanted to exhume the body, to test any remaining tissue for the presence of lycanthropy.
Maybe it was best to lay it out there. “I think General Sherman may have been a werewolf and I want to run tests on his remains to find out.”
Of course, a long pause followed. I kept waiting for the click of a phone hanging up, which would have been fine; I’d have just called one of the other numbers on my list. I hadn’t expected this to be easy.
“Seriously?” he said finally. The same way he might have said, You’re eating
“Yeah. Seriously. So how about it? Don’t you want to help me rewrite American history?”
“I’m sorry, could I get your name one more time?” he said. “Could you spell it for me? And tell me where you’re calling from?”
I felt a restraining order coming on. So in the end, I was the one who hung up.
Oh well. You can’t win them all.
* * *
that evening I sat on the sofa, library books lying open on the coffee table next to me and my laptop screen showing a half dozen Web sites open. I was supposed to be researching Sherman. Instead, I was reading through the transcript for what must have been the twentieth time.
Tom Hanson had enlisted in the Confederate army at the age of sixteen. At several points during the interview he mentioned how young he’d been. How innocent, and how foolish. The interviewer kept having to prompt him to return to the focus of the story, his encounter with General Sherman under the light of the full moon.
One night while his squad was on patrol outside of Vicksburg, Hanson had gotten separated from the others and lost his way in the swampy forest some distance from where the Confederates were camped. Trying to find his way back, he’d stumbled across a pair of Union soldiers—an enlisted man arguing with an officer. The enlisted soldier kept calling the other man “General,” and Hanson swore the officer was General William Sherman himself. He couldn’t explain the argument because it hadn’t made any sense to him—the enlisted man was telling the general that he’d overstepped his bounds, and that he wanted to challenge him. Hanson had heard that Sherman was crazy—he could understand anyone on the Union side wanting him out of command. But that wasn’t up to an enlisted man, and they certainly wouldn’t have been discussing it in the middle of a swamp.
Hanson didn’t understand it, but he described what happened next. “The general, he took his clothes off. I couldn’t move or he’d’ve heard me, so I didn’t dare. I just sat there and watched. So there he was, naked in the moonlight. And then he changed. Like his body just melted, and I heard his bones snapping. I can’t say that I ever saw a wolf before, but that’s what he turned into—big, shaggy, with yellow eyes. That other soldier, well—he just ran. Didn’t do him any good. That big ol’ wolf chased him down.”
The door to the condo opened and closed—my husband, Ben, lawyer and fellow werewolf—arriving home. He set his briefcase near the desk of his home office, a corner of the living room, and regarded me where I sat on the sofa, papers on my lap, my head bent in concentration.
“Still on that transcript?” he said, his smile amused.
I sighed. Ben had seen me reading it every night this week, searching for some insight. “It’s fascinating, isn’t it? What if it isn’t just a story? What if he’s right?” I pulled one of the books over, referring to a timeline of Sherman’s life. “Did you know that early on in the war Sherman had a nervous breakdown? He was relieved of duty, and the newspapers and everyone said he was crazy, that he couldn’t take the pressure. But he recovered and when he came back he was this badass general. He and Grant started kicking ass and eventually Sherman marched the Union army through Georgia and won the war. What if that’s when it happened? Somehow he got attacked and infected around the Battle of Bull Run, it knocked him for a loop, he took time off to deal with it, and when he came back he was a super soldier. A werewolf general.”
“I suppose it’s possible,” he said. “But if you’re right, he kept it really well hidden.”
“Lots of people keep it really well hidden,” I said. “I’m betting it was easier to keep it hidden then than it is now.”
He sat on the sofa beside me, which was too tempting an invitation. I leaned toward him, pulling his arm over my shoulder and snuggling against him. As I hoped, he hugged me close and bent his head to my hair, breathing in my scent as I took in his. Our wolf sides, claiming each other.
I said, “I just keep thinking—who else is out there? What secret histories slipped through the cracks because people kept it hidden or no one believed it? I’m not talking about Vlad Tepes being Dracula. What if Sherman really was a werewolf? Who else might have been werewolves? Maybe there was a reason Rasputin was so hard to kill, and Jack the Ripper was so bloodthirsty—”
He stopped me with a kiss, which was okay with me. I touched his cheeks and smiled.
“What would it change?” he said. “If Sherman really was a werewolf, would it really change anything?”
“We’d know the truth.”
He looked skeptical. It was a fair question. Did this mean any more than slapping labels on people? In Sherman’s case, it meant a reinterpretation of his history—his nervous breakdown looked a whole lot different if he was a werewolf. But even that was speculation. He might have been infected with lycanthropy years before.