Home > Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)(7)

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)(7)
Ryan Graudin

Not quietly. Not bloodlessly.

Besides, if this strange boy went missing (last seen in the company of Adele Wolfe), the authorities would get suspicious. Something this mission could not afford.

“Scheisse, that hurt!” Adele hissed, blowing on her burned fingers.

“So I’ve gathered.” The boy moved to the freezer and pulled out a handful of ice. “Germania’s done wonders for your vocabulary.”

Adele’s swears drifted off. She accepted the ice warily, as if she expected the boy to lunge at any moment. “We both know you didn’t come all the way here to criticize my manners.”

The boy said nothing. His shoulders had gone strangely tense, as if he was expecting her to lunge.

“Let’s have it, then,” Adele sighed.

“You can’t race tomorrow,” the boy told her.

Adele’s glare could have cut steel. She crossed her arms and set her jaw to one side. Her hurt fist crushed tight over the ice cubes. “Why not?”

“I can think of about a thousand reasons: motorcycle sabotage, dehydration, road rash, flooded river crossings… Luka Löwe.”

The girl’s jaw tightened along with her fist. Melting ice seeped through the cracks in her knuckles like tears.

“And for what?” The boy’s voice sounded as hot as the kettle. Hissing syllables. Boiling consonants. “Another Iron Cross? More profiles on the Reichssender? More money?”

“I sent most of my winnings back to Frankfurt. You know that.”

“We don’t need your money, Ad. We need you. Please. It’s time to come home.”

Home. This wasn’t just any boy, Yael realized. This was Adele’s brother. Her twin brother. Of course. His hair was the same silk-fine, bitter-blond as that of the girl who clutched the ice. There were other similarities: their stance, their fists curled to the same tempered tempo.

Adele shook her head. Her arms crossed tight.

“We’re almost eighteen, Felix. The worst that can happen to you is that you’ll be conscripted as a mechanic for one of the Lebensraum settlements. But I’ll be married off or put into the Lebensborn.” Adele’s fist grew even tighter when she talked about the breeding programs. An ice cube she held slipped out, spinning across tiles and floorboards. It came to rest by the closet door. “This race is my last chance to escape that fate. To prove that I can serve the Reich as well as any man.”

“I thought that’s what you were doing last year,” Felix said.

Adele Wolfe’s lip twitched. “One win isn’t enough. I can’t be as good as the men. I have to be better than them. No racer has ever earned two Iron Crosses before.”

Not, Yael knew, for lack of trying. The Double Cross was elusive, which made both participating empires salivate for it.

Over the years the Axis Tour—officially a celebration of the Axis’s continued alliance—had devolved into what Reiniger called a pissing contest. The Third Reich and the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’s partnership was tenuous, crumbling a bit more with each passing year. They were a long, long way from all-out war, but these tensions played out every tour through the riders and their victories.

Win one race in the name of the Reich and you received cash, fame, your choice of a Lebensraum assignment. Win a second and you’d have the Führer himself in your debt. The proverbial world was yours.

“Luka Löwe and Tsuda Katsuo will be fighting for that same privilege,” Adele’s brother reminded her. “It’s their last year of racing, too. They’re going to be out for blood, and it’s your throat they’ll go for first.”

Adele said nothing. Her lips were pressed so tight they were white.

“How can you do this to Papa and Mama? After what happened to Martin…”

Martin. The other brother. The one who snapped his neck on the Nürburgring racetrack on the twins’ twelfth birthday. They were supposed to go home from the race and eat cake. They went to the morgue instead.

All these memories played across Adele’s face: ugly shadow puppets. The white of her lips spread to her cheeks. Anger past red. “It’s not the same.”

Felix’s hands knotted, anxious behind his back. “You’re right,” he told her. “What you’re doing is far more dangerous.”

Cramps were starting to vine up Yael’s thighs. She shifted as silently as she could and thought of Kasper in the laundry truck, watching the window. Waiting.

“The other riders fight dirty, but so do I.” Adele said this with her arms still crossed. “I know what I signed up for. Besides, the Führer himself gave me a special blessing to race. He even sent me a telegram that said he’d be cheering for me.”

Felix’s head turned oh-so-slightly, so that Yael could see the boy’s profile. His features looked apprehensive and pressed, like his sister’s. Exactly like his sister’s. But for his slightly stronger jawline, her three freckles, and a few centimeters in height, the siblings were almost identical.

“I always sat back; I always kept your secret, always let you compete under my name,” Felix reminded her. “You know I wouldn’t be asking you to drop out unless I meant it. Trust me on this, Ad. Please.”

Adele Wolfe was silent for such a long moment that Yael started to fear she might say yes. (Then what? Burst out of the closet and say boo? Kidnap them both?)

But Adele did speak. Her words were slow, determined. “I’m racing under my own name this time.”

Felix’s fists gripped tighter, cracking his knuckles with his thumb. Five pops for the right hand, five for the left. The sounds made Adele scowl. “Go back to Frankfurt, Felix.”

“Not without you.”

Stubbornness, it seemed, ran deep in the Wolfe family. Yael would fit right in.

Adele shook her head. “I’m racing tomorrow and you can’t stop me.”

If the twins had been rams, they’d be clashing heads, tangling horns. Instead they just stood, engaged in an invisible battle of wills. It was silent, all in their eyes and history.

A winner emerged. Victor Adele Wolfe cleared her throat and spoke. “It’s almost curfew. You should go.”

Felix’s hand fished into his jacket pocket, came back with a pocket watch. It was a cheap, dented thing, making a tinny sound as he snapped it open. The time was right: almost curfew. He broke his wide-leg fighter stance and retreated to the door. Adele followed him—both moving out of Yael’s slim vision. The only thing left for her to watch was the ice cube, melting into nothing.

The door clicked open and shut. If there was any good-bye between the twins, it was wordless. The flat fell silent and the ice chip disappeared altogether.

Finally, Adele’s footsteps creaked across the room. The whine of a television sprang to life. Familiar sounds of the Reichssender floated through the flat.

“We now join our beloved and honored Führer on the eve of the Axis Tour for a very special Chancellery Chat,” a generic male voice droned.

It felt as if ants were marching up and down Yael’s arms. Henryka loved her television; it stayed on for hours straight, lighting up her office into the evening hours with news propaganda from all the Axis territories and stilted shows about perfect Aryan families. But even Henryka couldn’t stomach a full Chancellery Chat.

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