Warren Murphy: Wolf's Bane

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A wild child of the bayous, Leon Grosvenor is a two-legged freak show of shaggy hair and talons with an insatiable hunger for raw flesh. His unique abilities as a bona fide loup-garou have earned him gainful employment as a contract killer for Cajun mafia boss Armand "Big Crawdaddy" Fortier. Remo's not buying this werewolf business, but when he gets a glimpse of good ol' Leon§s wet work, well, he's still not a believer, but he is certain that Leon needs to be put out of everybody's misery. And damn soon. The swamps stink, Mardi Gras is giving him a headache and all this talk about silver bullets is getting tedious. But as Leon and his pack circle ever closer to the Destroyer, the question remains: Who is the hunter... and who is dog meat?

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Destroyer 132: Wolf's Bane

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Chapter 1

What's in a name?

Shakespeare had posed the question, and now four hundred years later, Samuel Francisco had the answer. If you gotta ask, he told himself, you obviously haven't got a freakin' clue.

Take his name, for example. "Samuel Francisco" sounded as if his parents couldn't quite decide if he would be a Jewish prophet or a waiter in a Tex-Mex restaurant. He couldn't even trim the "Samuel" back to "Sam," because it came out sounding like a certain northern California city full of fruitcakes. It was perfect, salesmen on the lot going limpwristed when they thought he couldn't see them, mincing little girlie steps as if they were trying out for fairy of the month instead of selling used cars to a bunch of idiots who couldn't tell a differential from a dipstick if their lives depended on it.

Nope, he caught himself. The proper term was not "used"; it was "previously owned."

That was another crock of shit, but one that he could understand from years of leeching off the public, one way or another. Dress up a dog turd with a little glitter and some parsley on the side, there would be some damn fool out there who absolutely knew for sure that he had found the bargain of the century.

The worst thing about Francisco's name, though, was the fact it wasn't even really his. Some pencil pusher back in Washington had picked it for him, maybe snoozing through a slow day, fat and happy with his civil-service paycheck, maybe paging through the telephone directory and playing mix-and-match until something caught his eye. Samuel Francisco had been two years in the federal program when he flipped on the television one night, started channel surfing and wound up in the middle of Alien Nation on TBN. Jimmy Cahn played a cop with an attitude, teamed up with a big-headed freak from Uranus or somewhere. Five minutes into the program, it hit him.

Sam Francisco didn't get his handle from the California fruitcake capital, after all. Some stupid bastard back in D.C. had been watching television, maybe getting high while he was at it, and decided he should name his next dumb pigeon for a bubbleheaded alien. Someday Francisco hoped that he could meet the genius responsible and break his goddamn funny bone.

Not that his real name had been so terrific, mind you, but at least it had belonged to him, no crazy strings attached. He had been Aloysius Leroy Cartier for thirty-seven years, the name his sainted mama gave him, and he used to have some trouble over that name, too, before he learned to fight and everybody had begun to call him Bubba. He was getting on just fine, or thought he was, until the day some Feds showed up and hauled his Cajun ass to jail.

The rest was history. They had an airtight case, and Bubba Cartier was looking at a double deuce, all things considered, if he didn't make a deal. His training from the cradle up was that you should never talk to cops except to pay them off or tell them to go screw themselves, but Bubba had been taught another lesson, too, and that was looking out for number one. He could have gone away behind the federal charges, maybe have some oddball felonies appended by the state so they could ship him to Angola for a while. But his high and mighty bosses had been treating him like shit a month or two before the bust went down, and Bubba didn't feel like doing time to get them off the hook. He started thinking of the shit that happened even in the better jails these days-the race wars, contract killings, AIDS-and he decided, to hell with it.

After he agreed to testify, shit started happening like it was preordained or something, maybe laid out in those horoscopes from TV Guide his wife was always reading to him at the breakfast table, like he gave a damn. Bubba was short on faith in higher powers, even after being raised a Catholic-sort of-in the bayou country of Louisiana, but he figured maybe Uncle Sam could take care of his own. He should have known better.

The marshals on the federal witness program had their rules to follow, little bureaucratic games to play. Bubba understood that kind of shit, but still it pissed him off when perfect strangers started playing with his life. The name, for instance. Some geek's little joke at Bubba Cartier's expense. And then there was the job they got him, covering a used-car dealership. He knew damn well that somebody had checked his file and seen the time he did for running chop shops, thinking, Hey! This asshole likes to work with cars, let's fix him up. Like that, the little things that wound up being Sam Francisco's life.

He didn't even want to think about the home away from home they had selected for him, all the way to hell and gone in Michigan. He could imagine Means or Sheppard, one of those guys, staring at a big wall-mounted map of the United States and wondering where they could send him so the bloodhounds wouldn't track him down. That ruled out Dixie and the border states, for starters. He could almost hear them talking: "Here we got ourselves a Southern boy, we better stick his ass up north somewhere. Nobody gonna look for him in Michigan, you think?" So be it.

Even so, he could have been worse off. They could have sent him to Seattle, where it rained nine months a year, or up to Maine, where inbred fishermen ran lobster traps and answered ay-uh every time you asked them something. When Bubba thought about it that way, he believed that things were not the very worst that they could have been. But Cadillac was bad enough.

They had to name it for a car, of course, it being Michigan. Not that he particularly gave a damn. The main thing was that he was living farther north than certain parts of Canada, where it started snowing in November, sometimes in October, and you froze your ass off through the end of March, more likely into April. Living in the bayou country all those years had thinned his blood, and it got damn cold up there, almost two hundred miles above Chicago. There were days the town closed up because the snow plows couldn't run, much less school buses, garbage trucks and squad cars.

There were also days when Bubba wished that he had gone ahead and done his time.

Too late to think about it now, and yet he couldn't help it. He was well and truly stuck, dependent on the marshals in the Witsec program-short for Witness Security-who had made his life over from scratch. No matter how he really felt, he couldn't piss them off too much, because he knew one thing as sure as hell.

The bloodhounds never really lost your scent. And if they found him, after all this time...

Rita was always bitching at him, over one thing or another. She was paranoid about the coloreds, and while Bubba couldn't fault her logic, he was all the time reminding her that colored money spent the same as any other kind, and they were big on buying cars. She blamed him for the fact that she could never see her friends again-small loss, as far as Bubba was concerned-and for the drop in income they had suffered when he left the outfit, started working eight to six and paying taxes. Rita blamed him when the kids got into trouble at their school. And sometimes, when the PMS kicked in, she even blamed him for the weather.

And so what if she was right. They wouldn't be in Cadillac if he had been a little smarter, quicker on the uptake, watching for the Feds. Once he was busted, Bubba could have kept his mouth shut, let the jail doors slam behind him, trusting that the outfit would have taken care of Rita and the kids. The truth was, though, that he had been shit scared of doing twenty years, had half convinced himself he couldn't do it, and they psyched him out. The deal was done, he had delivered on his end, and Sam Francisco of the Cadillac Franciscos was the end result.

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