Home > Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)(8)

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)(8)
Ryan Graudin

The Führer was known for his speeches. His voice turned words into living, breathing things that snaked under skins, lit fires inside even the dullest minds. Many years ago—before the Great Victory, before the war stretched its long shadow across the world—he’d spoken everywhere. Pubs. Theaters. Stages. Letting his bright red words wash over a whole nation.

He didn’t appear in public anymore. He didn’t have to, when his words could be transmitted through wires and speakers from the comfort of his own Chancellery. After forty-nine assassination attempts, the Führer hardly ever stepped past the threshold of his hermitage.

There were two exceptions to this rule. The beginning of the Axis Tour. And the end.

“Ten. That, my fellow countrymen, is the number of years we’ve dwelt in a land of peace. A world of purity. The Aryan race has risen to its God-granted station. We have tamed the wilds of the East and Africa, scoured the filth of lesser races from the crevices of our own continent.”

Words from a monster’s mouth. Aged, but still evil red, intoxicating the masses like some potent wine. They made Yael hot and twitchy and ready.

It was time. Now or never.

Yael pulled her P38 handgun out of her jacket, flicked up the safety, and stepped out of the closet.

Adele stood in front of the television, watching the old man behind the glass—his silvering mustache quivered as he spit out words, words, and more words. “The Axis Tour is how we remember our Great Victory. We see the drive and resilience of our race in our prized young racers. We watch them travel through the lands we’ve conquered and purified. We are the audience to our own progress.”

Progress. Yael steadied her gun hand. She swallowed back the anger. Deep, deep in her bones. Where it had to stay.

Adele still hadn’t turned. Hitler’s words were too loud, too enveloping for her to notice the danger. Yael crept—closer, closer.

A loose floorboard betrayed her, letting out a noise when Yael stepped on it. Victor Adele Wolfe snapped around to face her.

Though she still wore Mina’s face and form, Yael felt as if she were staring into a mirror. It was all so familiar. The platinum hair barely long enough to pull back, tied into a twig of a ponytail. The eyebrows so pale they were nearly invisible, afterthoughts over her dagger-blue eyes. A bone structure that belonged to a Viking queen.

They looked at each other for a long, still second. The gun between them.

“Sit on the couch.” Yael’s pistol flashed against the lamplight as she waved it toward the dark red upholstery. She tucked her free hand into her pocket, where the tranquilizer pills nestled beside the doll and the thumbtack. “Now!”

Adele’s eyes weren’t shirking or scared. Just… wary. They never left Yael as she stepped around the coffee table, plowing through mountains of discarded clothes. When she got to the couch, she stood. Her stance was the same as her brother’s. Wide, ready for a fight.

“I don’t want to hurt you.” Even though these words were true, Yael regretted them as soon as they left her mouth. They made her sound weak, less-than, out of control.

Everything she could not be. Refused to be.

“Sit,” Yael barked again.

The girl’s movements were lightning quick. She grabbed a half-empty mug of coffee, threw it at Yael’s face, and lunged.

The liquid was cold, harmless. But the mug was not. It clipped past Yael’s jaw, shattered against the far wall. Fifty-nine kilograms of fingernail and kick barreled into her chest. Sent her world flying.

The pistol tumbled to the floor. Adele dove for it with hungry hands. Yael’s limbs lashed out. They seemed to move apart from her, guided by hours and hours of Vlad’s combat training. Painful, sweaty, bloody years all culminating in this single chop to Adele’s half-bent wrist.

The other girl’s cry turned into something savage as Adele’s elbow met Yael’s rib cage. Hurt sang under her skin—fresh and winter-bright. Yael didn’t scream. She gathered the pain close, harnessed its energy, and hit back.

Adele’s body stretched long across the Turkish rug, fingers straining for the butt of the P38. Yael lunged for her hand, digging Mina’s nails deep into Adele’s wrist, until she felt the wet of blood seeping to the quick. She snatched the pistol from the other girl’s reach, pointing it straight at Victor Wolfe’s forehead in a swift, trained motion.

All went still. Silent except for their geyser-hiss breaths and the Führer’s spinning-silk lies from the television: “Our racers are pure. Our racers are strong. They are the next generation, bearers of light into the still-dark continents of this world.”

Adele didn’t beg. Her eyes were ice and slit. She stared past the gun, straight at Yael. “Who are you?”

Not What do you want? or What are you doing here?

Who are you? Who? Who? Who?

Why, of all questions, this one?

Yael did not answer. She held the pistol tight and brought it down in a quick, blunt move to Victor Wolfe’s skull.

CHAPTER 5

NOW

MARCH 9, 1956

GERMANIA, THIRD REICH

Germania’s night sky was not deep. Not the way it was in the mountains. Where you could stare up through the snow-stung air and feel like you were falling. Tumbling into endless voids of black and stars.

There was no black to this night as Yael stood at Adele Wolfe’s window—just a mix of orange and gray and almost-sleet. Storm lights. Adele’s reflection hovered in the glass in front of her. Staring at Yael with the same ferocity as the real Victor Wolfe.

Who are you?

Once, just once, Henryka had been thoughtful enough to ask Yael what she really looked like. Before Dr. Geyer’s needles. Before the burn and the bleach and the skinshifts. Before the many scores of other girls’ faces. (I’ll bet you had the most beautiful dark hair, she’d said. You seem like a girl who would have had curls. Long, gorgeous curls.) Yael opened her mouth to answer and realized, with a start, that she did not remember.

She did not remember.

She did not remember.

What kind of person forgets her own face?

(It’s okay, Henryka had told her. It’s what’s on the inside that matters.)

But what was inside? An invasive cocktail of chemicals. Something she did not completely trust. (Could anything good come out of those needles?) Chain reactions in Yael’s body that she’d tried to research, grasp, understand. But nothing in Henryka’s volumes on biology and organic chemistry could explain her skinshifting.

Whatever lurked within Yael was new. Revolutionary.

The sky lit bright, clouds webbed with lightning. The flash erased Adele’s face. Erased her. All Yael could see was the storm—roiling black over the flats of Germania—and the silhouette of the Volkshalle, a grand building Hitler commissioned after the Axis’s Great Victory. (Its dome, at 290 meters high, was the only thing wandering eyes saw if they looked to Germania’s skyline.) She wondered if the weather would last through tomorrow. If the beginning of the Axis Tour would be full of dripping reporters and sopping pomp and circumstance.

Drops of sleet slapped against the glass. As if to answer.

Yael pulled the curtain tight across the window and turned back to the bed. She’d cleaned up nicely. Kasper had been quick to retrieve Victor Wolfe’s unconscious form, tucking her into a laundry bag and taking her back to the truck, back to Henryka’s beer hall basement, where Adele would be held until the end of the Axis Tour.

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