Things were getting complicated. Only last night yet another attack in a nearby home had caused a stirrup and increased watch on coyotes, or wolves, or whatever it was working its way into people's houses. I was on the second story of our local bookstore, sipping a chai latte, the paper on the table and a book in my hands. Out of the corner of my eye, two pairs of shoes revealed themselves. I took a few moments to study them, one pair standard tennis shoes that were black with lightning bolts, the other, a pair of black books. Leanne and Jackie, I guessed.
An outburst of a simultaneous "Hey girl!" confirmed my thoughts. Jackie gripped a brand new Doctor Who comic to her chest and showed it to me excitedly. "There's gonna be a new episode on Saturday! Are you excited?" I nodded, having more pressing matters to attend to this evening. I invited them to sit down with me.
They both took their seats. Leanne glanced at the novel in my hand and shivered. Vampires. She had a real dislike for these books now. She reached over and grabbed the newspaper and the headline made her swallow and her eyes widen. Jackie shifted to look over her shoulder, "oh that again? It shouldn't be that hard to lock your doors!"
"No, listen." Leanne was serious as she began reading, whether we were listening or not. "'On Wednesday December 13, 2006 a series of murders were committed. Police say they believed it was homicide, until traces of fur and paw prints were discovered at all crime scenes. Police also report that the wolves must have entered the homes on the carelessness of the occupants. There was no evidence of illegal entry or any reports of break ins. Police Chief Brody had this to say, "We are currently investigating each death, and the coroner has determined that each inhabitant in the homes at the times of the murders was ripped to pieces. We advise the citizens of the LaGrange and Western Springs areas to keep their door locked at all times and not to let anyone in unless they are known friends or family." Most of these attacks were throughout the LaGrange and Western Springs areas. Everyone is advised to stay in after curfew and be cautious when out in daylight hours.'"
She set the paper down, inspecting my reaction. I didn't have one. It was part of the reason I was here to begin with. Jackie looked more thoughtful than worried. Leanne looked as if she had just read our death sentences by hanging or the firing squad. "That's too close to home," she said.
"Wolves aren't that smart. They're about as smart as any dog. Can't people see that simply locking their doors should be enough? Or at least closing it," Jackie retorted. "It's the reason I'm here, actually. I don't think these "wolves" are normal," I said, immediately regretting it.
Both of them practically pounced on me, "What do you mean, 'that's why you're here'?" Leanne asked, air quoting what I had said. "Look, you know those forums I'm on? The one called Full Moon Forums? It's a forum for people who talk about supernatural stuff, it helps to inspire me and I get to meet a lot of cool people."
They gave each other looks, "and?" Jackie asked. "And," I continued, "I may have mentioned the attacks. And I may have gotten a response from someone who said she might know something about them. And she and a friend of hers are in the area and I decided to invite them for a drink here to talk about the situation. It's a public place and now, you're here. It's perfectly safe."
"You don't know that," Leanne was red in the face, more so than I'd ever seen her before. She was in a ranting mood, "What if it was a guy acting like a girl and everyone in here suddenly disappeared or you two went outside, or it was secretly a gang and they lure you outside for just a moment and then, when you least expect it, they kidnap you!" I raised an eyebrow at her; even Jackie looked confused by her logic.
"Regardless, I also invited Esmeralda and Alex to come along," I replied confidently. There was a snort from Jackie, "What are they? Your bodyguards?" I laughed, "No, they're just doing me a favor and watching my back."
"Where are they?" Leanne asked, looking around as if she didn't trust my judgment, or my word for that matter. I scoffed, "Over by the music last I checked." She slinked off, muttering, "Reminds me, I have to get something." When Jackie and I looked, she had headed into the Christian Rock section. Jackie sighed and pushed her chair in, no doubt to go help Leanne with her soul search.
They were both in the music section when I heard slow, hesitant footsteps come up behind me. I turned around to see two teens not much older than my friends and I, a girl and a guy who looked at me imploringly. The girl's hair was red and accented her green eyes. Her companion was slightly taller, but clearly younger than her, with short, black hair and deep brown eyes. The picture that the girl had sent me was slightly off. She had different hair. But her face resembled the picture well.
"So, you're Troll Lover?" She nodded, "On the forum, yes." I decided to press into the matter at hand, "You told me online that you might know the cause behind these attacks." I pressed the paper into her hands. She read over the article, no. Barely glanced at it, and nodded, the same pale, fearful look Leanne had gotten after she read the article crossed the girl's face and I had a sense of déjà vu.
"Public places aren't a good place to talk about this. The walls have eyes and ears." I understood, but I wasn't going anywhere with these two without at least one of my buddies tagging along.
I waved at Leanne and Jackie, who were caught up in an animated conversation and both froze on sight of the two mysterious people standing next to me. Leanne was the first to speak, "You're not thinking of going OUTSIDE with them are you?"
"Not by myself miss smarty pants," I stuck my tongue out at her childishly. "Well," she paused, at a loss for words. I interrupted before she could think of a retort, "I invited Ezzie and Alex for a reason Anne, don't get your shorts in a twist or whatever the phrase is." At that moment, Esmeralda and Alex came into the group, head banging to some heavy metal song. Seeing Leanne's tense stance, she inquired, "What's going on?"
I stepped in before either Jackie or Leanne could say a word and convict me, "I was going to take a walk with these two," I pointed at the red head and the boy, "but I wanted to wait and ask if any of you would like to join us. The topic of discussion requires more privacy than this bookstore can provide us. And regardless of how the conversation goes, you are welcome to join."
"Oh, so you two are the ones we're meeting today," Alex said, extending his hand. "My name is Alex." The boy seemed a little tense, but the girl nodded, she smiled shyly and said, "I'm Kate, and Mr. Silent over there is Tom." I turned to the others, my eyes pleading them not to bail on me. Esmeralda smiled, probably hoping she'd get to bust a few Tai Quan Do moves, "I'm Esmeralda, but you can call me Ezzie." Jackie nudged Leanne with her elbow and when she failed to respond, answered, "I'm Jackie. The stubborn one is Leanne." We required a quieter conversation and so, headed for the door before Jackie realized she had to pay for her comic. Quickly, she ran to the registers, which were open since few people came in this late in the evening to buy anything.
Leanne consented to walking with us until we hit the West Field next to our high school, then she had somewhere to be.
We walked through the downtown area, passing by the parking garage where Alex had parked his minivan. We made it to Moss Grove, the street that passed through our school. Yes through. Walking between the familiar Vaughn and school buildings, I began talking to Tom and Kate about the situation. All of us, our absent friends and family as well, were worried about the attacks. Jackie walked with Anne behind us, and Alex and Ezzie brought up the rear. Both had turned off their music in order to tune into the conversation, Leanne's indifference showing through her bored face and tense posture.
"So, I've been following the news, and I heard something about the situation you told me online Kate. The incident in New Orleans," I explained. To my friends, who had no idea what I was talking about, I explained Kate and Tom's part of the story. Then I reiterated what was on the news.
I heard a snort behind me. The whole group stopped and stared at Anne. "What?" She asked. "You know half the crap they put on television these days is censored. The papers don't give much else." She turned to Tom and Kate and said, "What she means is she found all she needed to know because Jackie here and I risked our butts by looking into the police reports our dads brought home."
"What I know about, in terms of the situation that did not happen here, but in New Orleans, the one I am talking about, is what I just told you. I don't care what the media says." Her attitude was starting to grate on my nerves. Never before had I seen her in this foul of a mood.
I glared at Anne, she shrugged and muttered darkly, "That''ssolveamysteryescapade." I shook my head and we continued walking. That's when Kate said something that reminded Jackie of a conversation she'd heard in the hallway. "Yeah, my mom's psychotic. She turned Tom into a …. Well, she turned Tom in the hopes that he'd become a full blood and that I'd mate with him."
"Yeah, she never expected I'd be a wereling though. She's hoped that Kate would be attracted to me and become the wolf she's always wanted her daughter to become. Kate doesn't much like her pureblood lineage." "No I don't. I just wish we knew more about her plans."
I looked around; apparently this conversation had lost everyone. "What's the matter?" Everyone behind me looked at me like it was obvious. "When did this conversation turn into a talk about werewolves?" I sighed. I guess that had never fully been explained. I had been so used to the forum conversations that I forgot it wasn't common knowledge among everyone. "The theory is, that these wolves who are entering people's homes start off human, then they transform once they have access to the house. Thereby leaving cops to believe that people were simply stupid and leaving their doors open."
Jackie cleared her throat. We stopped for a second time and she said, "I heard these two guys in the hallway one day. They were talking about wolves, so I assumed it was some joke. But they said something to the effect of, "'Yeah, Marcie's being more of a bitch than usual. We're expected to search all the homes on the list for the person with access to it. Oh, and she also want's that pureblood daughter of hers back if we happen to cross her. If the wereling boy is with her, we're supposed to capture him alive. As a test subject I'm assuming.'"
Tom swallowed hard and said, "Sounds like they're planning something in the area." He put an arm around Kate when he noticed she was shivering but she shrugged it off and continued walking. We caught up to her when Anne said with relief, "We're almost to the end of West Field." We all looked around and noticed that we had walked half way along the fence that surrounded the soccer field and the track. But as we neared the corner, two boys approached us almost lazily. "Why are you guys hanging around with losers like them?" The boy asked us, pointing to Tom and Kate and making a face of disgust. He swiped his hand through his short, blond hair and stared at me. His eyes were a deep green.
"Because we feel like it," Anne piped up, becoming unwisely confrontational. "And besides, they aren't the losers, you are." I kept a firm hand on her shoulder to make sure she wouldn't try anything stupid. "Chill, we don't need to start a fight with them." I warned. "I was just telling these losers to piss off," she continued, giving them both death glares.
"Oh whatever," the blond stated, brushing off the insult, "We need to have a word with them, mind if they walk with us for a while?" By his tone, I could tell he wanted more than to simply 'take a walk' with them. "In your dreams," Anne answered before I could respond with something more polite.
"I suggest you, all of you, leave. We have our orders," the other growled, a malicious grin spreading across his face. He rolled his eyes, blowing his black bangs out of his blue eyes. "Yeah? And what if we don't want to?" Anne retorted, her face getting red as she began her rant. "Are you gonna make us? 'Cause if you are, I'm…" Ezzie put a hand over her mouth and her words were reduced to mmph and ppft noises. Ezzie looked them in the eyes and asked, "You're kidding, I hope, if you actually believe that we're gonna leave you two alone with them to do whatever the hell you want."
"Nothing bad, just talk," the black haired boy snarled. What was there even to snarl about? He could've said it more nicely. I could tell he was the angrier one, the blond appeared semi-calm, but he looked frustrated, both at his partner, and at us. Sick of tasting Esmeralda's skin, Leanne bit her hand. Finally able to breathe air she mumbled quickly, "'tbearoundhereanyway."
Apparently she didn't mumble quietly enough. The blond haired boy seemed to finally snap. He heard the insult and lunged at her. He didn't get very far because a black and orange sneaker connected with his shin and he fell flat on his face. Anne glared at Alex who had come up behind her. "I could've handled him myself." She whispered grudgingly.
"Stupid fool," The black haired boy hissed, scowling down at his friend, "you should know better than to charge them like that." The blond boy looked up at his friend and returned with a smirk, "You're right." He turned to Anne and said, "My apologies." His smirk turned into a twisted smile as he began to change along with his friend.
Something was wrong. Their bodies began to take on a grotesque middle form, bodies shaking, sweating profusely so that I could see the puddles of sweat accumulating on the autumn leaves. Denim tore and sneakers were obliterated as they took their true forms. Hunched over onto their hands and feet, their bones cracked and popped back into place as their bone structure reformed itself. Drool seemed to pool out of their mouths as their teeth grew. And by this point, we were halfway across the field length, back the way we had come. Sprinting so fast I could feel my legs burning.
Unfortunately, I wasn't in as much shape as I should've been. I heard a "nice going" from Kate as we sprinted to the school, almost everyone ahead of me. Tom was fast, but he seemed to hang back a little when he noticed. A third wolf appeared to join the hunt. Great, I thought, more company. Kate called out to Tom when she looked back and saw that he had stopped. "Keep going!" he yelled, "I'll catch up!" I heard him let out a groan and I could tell he was changing judging by the howls from the others and the sounds he was making.
As we neared the school, we ran past the bus stop. I paused for a second to take a breather, checking behind me to make sure I wasn't in immediate danger. "Don't stop!" I heard Alex call out. I caught up to them, the adrenaline rush and thoughts of being torn apart making me run faster. After passing the second entrance to the parking lot we split up. Jackie, Alex, and Esmeralda raced forward toward downtown and the parking garage. Kate and I veered off. Anne was missing.
Jackie, Alex and Esmeralda ran. They didn't know if there was a wolf following them. They didn't really care. When they reached the parking garage Alex reached the van first, slamming his finger on the 'open' button. He yanked the driver's side door open and threw himself onto the leather seat, starting the engine. Esmeralda was second in line, jumping into the front passenger's side. Alex started driving. Catching his unspoken drift, Esmeralda reached back and opened the back door. Seeing the open door, Jackie dived in gratefully.
The tires squealed and black rubber burned the pavement as Alex flipped a U-turn and sped off back toward the school. Still panting and slightly shaken, Jackie sat up and slammed the door shut. They were almost to Moss Grove Drive when Alex slammed on the brakes and swerved to miss the wolf that was flying toward them at break neck speed. Esmeralda, who hadn't seen the wolf, exclaimed, "What the hell, Alex! Are you trying to kill us!" Jackie groaned, peeling herself off the back of Esmeralda's seat. "Jesus Alex! Did you have to swerves!" She gulped in air while she said, "Chill, Ezzie. I think he was just trying not to hit someo…thing." Esmeralda raised an eyebrow then unbuckled her seat belt and walked around to the front of the car. Thankfully, Alex had swerved into the shoulder of the road by the curb so traffic didn't have to stop and they drew significantly less attention then they would have.
Jackie and Alex both followed Esmeralda to the front of the car. Jackie gasped. A naked Tom was lying on the road next to the car. He did a surprising job of covering himself, rolling over until Jackie returned with Alex's coat. "Jeez, put it on. You had to ruin a perfectly decent shirt," she said when she threw it over him. He attempted to stand, swaying a little and falling into Esmeralda. She kept him upright and walked him back to the car. Jackie opened the passenger's side door and climbed in. Esmeralda sighed and helped Alex get Tom into the back seat before settling into the seat across from him. Alex slid behind the wheel and started the car again. He reached Moss Grove and slammed on the brakes again. Another wolf, one of the boys, salivated while staring at them. It looked straight in at Tom before turning and running in the opposite direction. Back toward the school.
Meanwhile, Kate and I had snuck into the school through a luckily opened door. We made it to the basement, sprinting through the tunnel that led from the Vaughn building to the main building across the street. It ran underneath the street and the echoes from behind us told me that we were being followed. The wolf seemed to be taking its time and toying with us. Kate, panting heavily, said, "I think that's Edmund!" She gasped, clutching a stitch in her side, "Edmund Bronks is the full blood my mother set me up with before Tom." I nodded and swerved to the left, vaulting over the railing. I gasped, "Run till you get to those stairs. They'll bring you up into the building. Then just run into the gyms and exit out the back."
She nodded, there wasn't much time. I thought the wolf wouldn't come for me if Kate was its priority. I was shocked when it glared at me and, instead of following Kate like I had expected, it chased me. I ran up through an unfamiliar part of the building and was relieved to find a back exit. I ditched my sweatshirt down a flight of stairs and escaped. I found myself in the back parking lot.
Not far from me, Kate signaled me. I pointed toward the sidewalk leading to a different parking lot and she followed me.
Alex drove down Moss Grove. Esmeralda had pretty much told him she'd throw him out and drive herself if he did any more of his crap. That's why, when he slammed on his brakes for the third time, she said, "Alex. What did I just…"
At the tone in Jackie's voice, Esmeralda looked out the front windshield. Anne was lying in the middle of Moss Grove and the wolf was getting closer. It stalked toward her salivating. She pushed herself up. A grimace crossed her face as she fell right back down. The wolf drew closer, using its front paws to pin her legs to the ground. Her fingers reached for something, clutching it tightly. The wolf pounced and she rolled away, stabbing the creature as it impaled itself on the short object. She pushed the wolf off of her and took her prize from its chest. It looked like a pen that would never be used again. Instead of tossing it, Anne wiped it on her already filthy shirt and pocketed the pen. Jackie jumped out of the car, Esmeralda, Tom, and Alex following her. "Nice improvising!"
When she tried to stand up, her legs quivered and she dropped down to her knees. She was taken to the car and Jackie checked her for wounds. "Come one guys! I'm not important right now. We need to find Kate and Meg…" Everyone in the car looked to the sidewalk to find a darker furred wolf running toward the blond-now a naked boy. Esmeralda beat Alex to the driver's seat and buckled in. Without waiting for Alex to close the door, she sped past the wolf, flipped a U-turn, and gunned it straight toward the oncoming wolf. "Still got that pen?" Tom inquired hopefully. Anne just scowled at him.
Kate and I ran, catching sight of an occupied car in the parking lot. "Great," I said, "There's no way I can run anymore." "Wait! I know that car!" Kate exclaimed. I hoped it was a good sign when she ran toward it and hopped in. I followed her, I was exhausted.
Esmeralda hit the wolf dead on. Without hesitation, Tom jumped out and extended his hand to the blond who had miraculously survived without major injury. Surprisingly, the boy took his hand and shuddered.
Anne scoffed at some of the reactions of the naked boy. "Come on, it's just a boy." She grabbed some clothes from her bag and everyone turned to look at her. "What? Were you expecting this?" Alex asked. She didn't respond. Mel sighed and committed another U-turn after everyone was packed back into the car. She braked in a smooth stop in the parking lot. Everyone was out of the car. I could see them all waiting there as our car stopped. I stepped out of the blue sedan with Kate and we were approached first by Tom. He smiled at us and Kate only managed to glare over his shoulder at the blond boy.
"Don't worry. He just wants to talk to us is all. Not to mention, he was just run over by a car and stabbed with a pen. I think he's pretty worn out." Everyone watched behind us as the driver's door of the sedan creaked open. A man in his mid-thirties with floppy brown hair and blue eyes smiled nervously at everyone. Kate sighed, "Megan, Ezzie, Alex, Jackie, Anne, and…" She looked at the blond pointedly, "Joseph Boland," Anne said.
There was a collective sigh. Leanne was full of surprises today. "Who the hell is he?" she snapped, pointing at the driver. "Joseph," Kate continued, ignoring the comment, "This is Adam Blood. He's a friend of ours and," she sighed, "an enemy of the wolves, thanks to us."
Adam smiled at everyone. His gaze lingered over the blond before he said, "I must say Trolly; you've really got to warn me before you decide to show up with friends." He shook his head, "If I hadn't thought they were chasing you I might have picked you up sooner," he stated in a posh British accent.