“Monster?” he asked. “A monster muppet, maybe. No, better yet, a vampire Smurfette. She’s tiny. One good punch should take her down.”
“Vampire Smurfette? Didn’t you do any research? Rod, I watched a documentary about superheroes in World War 2. You know what they used Night Wolf for? You know what it was? He was a killer.”
“It’s war. Everyone’s a killer.”
“No, this is different. They’d drive him into a berzerk rage, and he’d kill everyone. They didn’t even try to send their own people in until he’d calmed down because he’d strike down anybody who came close. When they did come in, they wouldn’t find a live person near him. He’d ripped their throats out.”
“She’s not him.”
“She’s exactly like him, and so is the new Night Wolf. What are they all but animals with human shape? And you’ve led her here. Think of your niece for God’s sake. Do you want her to die?”
“You’re not being fair at all. I—”
I don’t know what he said after that. I wasn’t listening. I wanted to go down there and tell her that she was completely wrong, and it wasn’t like that at all. Except she wasn’t wrong, and I knew it.
Not all wrong.
Grandpa McAllister told us about it when he realized what Travis and I were—that we’d inherited everything. I think Grandpa was genuinely happy for us, but not on the day he told us how far the Change could go. Normally he’d be smiling, even teasing us a little, but that day he brought us upstairs to his home office, and he barely smiled. He brought out pictures, but not the ones we knew.
These showed dead bodies, all the people Grandpa killed in a German camp one night. Did you know that near the end the Germans were enlisting anyone who could stand? The pictures showed old men, young men, and boys my age, all of them glassy eyed and staring. Some of them had their throats ripped out. Others had their necks twisted into a position that a living person couldn’t manage for long.
As we flipped through the pictures on the stack, Grandpa said, “The reports say they goaded me into it. That’s not true. I did it to myself. Our troops needed to keep on moving, and they’d stopped us. We could fight through the normal way, and lose hundreds of people in the woods, or I could stop thinking about them as people, and see them only as prey.”
I don’t know exactly what I thought as he talked. I remember feeling horrified to realize that the Change could take him so completely that my fun, and gentle grandfather could kill so many. I knew I never wanted to do it.
When I stopped remembering, nothing had changed. Laser Guy (or now that I knew his name, should I call him Rod?), and his sister Donna were still whispering an argument in kitchen.
Donna said, “If you keep this up, you’re going to kill yourself like Dad did. Don’t take us with you.”
I couldn’t see either of them, but I imagined him smirking as he said, “Don’t be silly, the worst that’ll happen is I go to jail.”
And then they were off again. I half-listened to them, half lay on the roof hearing people talk, animals scurry or hunt, and wondering how long I should wait for Cassie.
It wasn’t long before I recognized the sound of the Commando Cycle. Cassie parked it the next block over, and walked through the yard, using her own grappling gun to meet me on the roof. I crawled off the dormer, and joined her on the other side of the roof’s peak, letting it hide us.
Cassie looked down the roof toward the ground. “This is so great. Last year around this time, I was still on bed rest after my treatments. So what’s the plan?”
“I don’t have a plan yet. All I know is that he’s over there.” I pointed in the direction of the house. “He’s staying with his sister. I don’t think she’s working with him. She actually sounds kind of angry about everything.”
“Then I say let’s be direct. I’ll knock on the door, and tell him he’s got to come along to the police station, and you cover the back door in case he tries to run.”
“I don’t know. There’s a little girl upstairs. If he starts shooting, she might get hurt.”
“Well, we don’t want that. Got any ideas?”