His back to the wall, the black haired, barrel-chested Indian held the long knife in front of him.
A huge black wolf crouched five feet from him. The wolf's eyes watched the knife as it made small circles in the air.
Without taking his eyes off the wolf, the man yelled, "Tammy, you better come get your damned pet before I stick him."
A small girl with long brown hair and blue eyes walked into the room. Placing her hands on her hips, she gave the man a look of disgust. "How am I supposed to pack if I have to run in here every few minutes and separate you two? Joe, quit acting like a child and leave Chuka alone."
"Damn it, Tammy. He started it," the man said, then hung his head, embarrassed by the look she gave him.
In his mind the wolf heard, "Chuka, if you don't behave yourself I am going to slap your nose again." The wolf backed across the room and lay down with his head on his paws. His nose still hurt from the blow the girl delivered the last time she separated the two of them.
"Joe, you stay on your side of the room and you stay on your side, Chuka," Tammy told them in a stern voice and walked from the room. They both heard her giggle in the other room as she talked to another man.
Joe looked across the room at the wolf and thought, I still think you are the ugliest bastard I've seen.
The wolf's hackles rose on his neck and he let out a low growl when he heard the man's thoughts.
Tammy stuck her head through the door and looked at both of them. "One more time and you both will be punished."
Chuka looked across the room at Joe and wondered why the man's thoughts irritated him. He knew he wasn't pretty, mostly because of his size. He was half again the size of a large wolf with a head so big he could put a big man's leg in his mouth. Still, the human didn't have to keep telling him he was ugly.
Leaving his home in the pine forests of Canada, Chuka had joined the man and the girl. In a vision, his dead father had told him to go with the girl and protect her. Grudgingly, he had left his mother, brothers, and sisters. Chuka had little love for humans and could barely stand being around them in the town they were at now. He hadn't realized there were so many humans in the world.
When he walked with the girl, people gave them a wide path. He sensed fear in almost all of them at the sight of him. The human Joe, however, didn't fear him at all. The girl would slap Chuka's nose when he did something she didn't like. How could one so small be so brave? One bite from him would kill her; yet she knew he wasn't going to harm her. His ears perked up at the sound of engines starting outside the house.
Joe walked across the room and threw open the door, letting in a rush of cold air. He watched a group of women go from truck to truck, making sure that each large tank was securely tied down on the trailers. Women mechanics worked on the engines of the trucks that pulled the trailers.
A man with huge arms and long blond hair walked up to Joe and they entered the room, closing the door. The blond haired man reached down and patted Chuka on the head. Chuka growled and bared his teeth.
"Now don't be like that, boy; do I have to get Tammy in here to straighten you out?" the man said with a laugh.
"Leave him alone, Zap, or you will have Tammy in here on me again," Joe said.
"Haven't the two of you made up yet?" Zap asked.
"I don't understand it, Zap. He is nothing like his father. Hell, I could tease Stalker all day and it never bothered him. This flea-bitten wolf takes offence to everything I say."
"You have a very short memory, Joe," Tammy said, sticking her head through the door. "When you and Stalker first met it was all I could do to keep you from killing each other. Now it's you and Stalker's son. Tell me, Zap, why do adults act like such babies at times?" Tammy asked in a serious voice.
"Whoa, wait a minute, don't get me mixed up in this, Tammy," Zap said, backing toward the door.
Tammy threw her head back. "Men! You all stick together." She returned to the other room.
"Is everything ready for us to pull out tomorrow morning?" Joe asked as he sat down in a chair.
"Yeah, this weather worries me though. I'd hate to get stuck on one of the mountains we have to go over. This late in the year we will hit a lot of snow in some of the mountain passes."
"If we have to we can unload a few of the tanks and pull the trucks across, Zap. The longer we wait the worse it will get. I have a hunch Charlie will need those tanks before summer; if we can get them there. Todd has people out looking for them all over the place. Soon as we are spotted it will be a fight all the way. What do you think of this all-woman Armored Unit, Zap?"
"They are good, Joe. Damned good. In a fight they will be worth a battalion of men. They already know what fighting is all about. Colonel Dotson told me about the fire fights she had coming out here. You know I sort of like the lady. Dave has fallen head over heels for Captain Pearson. That little package of dynamite has him wrapped around her finger. Lieutenant Thacker is all over Phil but he acts like he isn't interested. I know better; watch him when she is around. I didn't think I would ever see Phil tongue-tied. Our Phillip acts like a shy little boy."
"I noticed the same thing yesterday. I mentioned it to him and he got red-faced. Told me to mind my own business. I want one of you three to stay with the radio all night. First thing in the morning we need an update on where Todd's people are. If we can I would like to stay in the mountains until we get to Oklahoma. From there it will be a straight shot to Arkansas.