by Arnold Snyder
Vanschtubenbergh’s amygdala douche worked perfectly, as Bridget made no mention of any memory she had of having been in the werewolf holding facility before. All seven of the wolves were passed out on the cage floor, not yet having transformed back to their human selves. Bridget seemed genuinely shocked to find actual werewolves where I said they would be. And she knew they were real. No masks or costumes or Hollywood makeup.
The puppies were also sleeping, all curled up on top of the wolves’ plush fur, on their necks, their bellies, their hindquarters.
I had explained to Bridget on the way over that I would be administering a brainwashing drug to each of them, so they wouldn’t remember their night of being werewolves.
Each of the seven in the chocolate experiment were psychiatric patients of Doctor Vanschtubenbergh. He chose them precisely because they all had addiction problems—with alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling. Most had criminal records. I’d seen videos of all of them, secretly shot by Vanschtubenbergh in his office. Every one of them struck me as socially inept—paranoid or boastful or suspicious or angry. I asked Vanschtubenbergh how he decided which patients to use for his werewolf experiments. He said, “I pick the ones who have no family, no friends, and whose testimony would be unlikely to hold up in court.” In fact, his criteria could be boiled down to the fact that all of them were afraid of the police as a result of numerous past brushes with the law that didn’t end well.
Since Bridget had no memory of having seen the wolves the previous evening, I decided not to tell her about their chocolate addiction. None of the seven knew they were werewolves. Vanschtubenbergh had initially turned them into werewolves by injecting them with werewolf blood, telling them it was a sedative or a vitamin mix to boost their energy or whatever. But it had the same effect as if they’d been bitten by a werewolf.
The next time there was a full moon, he would arrange to be with them, in his office where he had his perpetually blooming wolfbane. I usually came in after they were wolves and helped him dole out the chocolate, recording dosages and noting effects.
They would be wolves for 16 – 18 hours, during which time Vanschtubenbergh would attempt to remain with them throughout. On more than one occasion, when he attempted to cut off their chocolate, there were escapes. He didn’t believe in shackling them, so he had to follow them with his dart gun. When they would finally pass out from exhaustion, he would brainwash them before they reawakened as humans.
As Bridget now stared in wonder at the werewolves whose existence she had been doubting, I opened the cage door and went in, going from body to body, removing the puppies, which I passed out to Bridget, and administering the amygdala douche to each wolf intravenously. The douche would alter their body chemistry enough that they would rapidly start transforming from wolf to were, even before the brainwashing effect hit them. By the time I’d jabbed in the last dose, the first wolf was already losing his fangs. Within a minute, my second subject—the only female in the group—began her transformation back to human. It went like that down the line and by the time the last wolf completed transforming to human, I could see the first one was about to be brainwashed.
“Put the puppies in the boxes over there,” I said to Bridget, pointing to some open-top cardboard cartons I’d set up as makeshift puppy cages.
I went to the coatrack where a blue policeman’s shirt was hanging. I put it on. Then the trousers and hat. And the badge.
The moment of the simultaneous sternutation/singul-tation/eructation/expulsion of flatus is something to see, like an explosion of the body. And with seven of them going off in rapid succession, like a string of firecrackers, it’s unforgettable. Within a minute of the fireworks show, all of them were sitting up and starting to look around, dazed and confused.
Bridget, who had been standing across the room from me, walked over to me and said, “I’m impressed. But what’s happening? They look lost. And why the cop uniform?”
“I have to give them a little speech,” I said. “To help them wake up to reality.”
I went back into the cage to deliver my spiel.
“Gentlemen,” I began, “and lady … I am Lieutenant Feldman from the Strait City Police Department. I trust you are all becoming sober. You likely have amnesia at the present time, as that is one of the side effects of the drug you ingested at a party last night. The drug, MQSQT, often called “apathy” on the street, has already been classified by the FDA as a schedule one narcotic with a high risk of abuse and no redeeming medical use or value. Possession or use of any quantity is a felony. From discussions we had with other party attendees last night, we believe you were tricked into taking the drug. So, for your sake we are considering you to be the victims of this crime and we are hoping to soon capture the criminals responsible for your plight. If we believed you had voluntarily ingested the MQSQT, we could easily charge you with possession and use of a controlled substance as well as other offenses—disturbing the peace, creating a public nuisance, indecent exposure, public masturbation, defecating on city streets, throwing your feces at police officers, biting police dogs, urinating in a house of worship, strangling ducks, crossing the street against a don’t walk signal, and resisting arrest—but we won’t. Waking up after a night of drunken brawling and debauchery, with your clothes all ripped up and smelling the way you do, is enough punishment. Hopefully, in the future, you will not be tempted to try any more of these dangerous designer drugs.”
One of the men stood up. “How did I get in here? What is this place?”
“This is merely a minimum security holding facility,” I said. “You took a drug last night—”
An angry voice from a seated male: “I don’t take drugs! Ever!”
“Well, sir, then apparently, someone spiked your drink. This is why we decided not to prosecute. We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt.”
The lone female got to her feet, holding one arm over her bare chest. “Why was I put into a holding cell with a bunch of men? This is absolutely not acceptable!”
“I was home watching Monday Night Football last night,” another guy complained.
“Yes, well, unfortunately, sir,” I said, “last night was Tuesday, and today is Wednesday, so you seem to be confused about where you were last night.”
“I demand to have my attorney present for this!” the topless woman spoke up again.
“You have no need of an attorney, mam. You’re not under arrest. You’re free to go. You’re all free to go. Now, I’d like you all to stand up—”
“Where are my shoes?”
“Please calm down,” I said. “I have all of your shoes and a few other personal belongings safely stored in my office, and if you’d all just cooperate, we can get through this ordeal and you’ll all be on your way home. Luckily, your night of frolic has not been leaked to the media. So far, the video has not been posted online.”
“What video?” more than one irritated voice chimed in.
“I’m covered in mud!” came a gruff voice from the back.
“Ladies, please, gentlemen, please, everyone just calm down,” I said. “The video will not be released to anyone. If it were to be released, I’m afraid the public would demand that every one of you be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and I fear what the verdict would be should this footage be shown to a jury in your trial. But because we believe you all to be victims, some pervert’s idea of a practical joke, we fully intend to keep this matter out of the media, out of the public eye, and out of the courts. Please try to understand that we’re doing you all a favor.
“Now, I’ve already scanned all of your IDs, so we know who you are and where to find you. As soon as we distribute your personal belongings to you, I suggest you leave the premises and refrain from talking to anyone about what happened.”
I turned to Bridget and said quietly, “Take one of those lab coats to Isabel. She’s the girl with no shirt.”
“My money better still be in my wallet!” one guy yelled. “I want my stuff right now so I can get the hell out of this place.”
Bridget went to the coat rack and got a white lab coat.
“If any of your belongings are missing,” I said, “then it would likely be the work of the scam artists who drugged you. That may even have been their reason for drugging you. Theft. The universal crime. I want each of you to take my card and call me if you have any missing items to report, or any memories about what happened. We are trying to capture the perpetrators of this misdeed, even as we attempt to keep it off the front pages. So, if you’ll all follow me to my office …”
I had six wallets and four cell phones lined up on my office desk along with a black leather clutch purse. Seven pairs of shoes were on the floor against the far wall. I sat down and waited for the werewolf brigade to file in, the last two being Isabel and Bridget.
“You may start by getting your shoes on,” I said. As they were retrieving their shoes, I opened the first wallet. “Michael Hedgemoney,” I said.
A tall redheaded guy in his early thirties came to the desk with one shoe on and one still in his hand. I gave him his wallet.
“Where are my socks?” he said, looking into the wallet. I had left all money in the wallets.
“Would you like to file a missing socks report?” I said.
“How about my car? Where’s my car?”
“Michael, your car is wherever you last parked it,” I said. In fact, I knew his old junker was right where he’d left it in front of his house when Doctor Vanschtubenbergh picked him up. Vanschtubenbergh picked up all seven of the chocolate addicts, but it was less than twenty-four hours previous, so none of them would remember anything about it.
I’d read Hedgemoney’s case history. He was 24 and single, never married. High school dropout, kicked out of his parents’ house on his eighteenth birthday. Set up a series of meth labs in abandoned warehouses. Became a police informant after his third arrest for manufacturing illicit substances. Had been referred to Vanschtubenbergh by a district court judge. The Doc had him labeled as antisocial and paranoid. Hedgemoney often believed his mind was under the control of Satan, who, he believed, lived in the walls of buildings.
They were all like that, these misfits we’d turned into chocolate-addicted werewolves. Broken people with cursed pasts, unfortunate presents, and no future.
One at a time, I handed over their wallets and told them again to contact me if they could remember anything that happened. I gave lab coats to those whose shirts were either gone or torn beyond repair.
When at last Bridget and I were alone in the office, I pulled a flask of bourbon from my desk drawer, took a slug, and passed her the bottle. She took a sip and didn’t pass it back. She sipped again.
“So, you’re some kind of sociopath,” she said, “as is Doctor Van, but somehow you’ve put together a lucrative business getting patients that are paid for by the feds.”
“I don’t agree with your characterization of us as sociopaths,” I said. “Otherwise, that’s a pretty accurate assessment.”
“You’re secretly turning mental cases into werewolves. And you’re lying to them. They have no idea what you’re doing.”
“What we’re doing is important research.”
“What you’re doing,” she said, “is absolute lunacy.”
“Are you with us?”
Con artists have a way of recognizing other con artists. It’s the way they look right at you, and you can see wheels turning behind their eyes. “Meaning we’ll cut you in,” I said. “We need help. We’ve been looking for a capable assistant for some time now, but we’ve got to be careful whom we hire. I think you fit the bill.”
“And what is your criteria for fitting the bill?”
“When I met you, you were selling vacations to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.”
“A lot of what you said about Dracula was total bullshit.”
“I guess. So what? I was selling real vacation packages. Round trip flight to Romania. An excursion to Bran Castle in Transylvania. You know Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned there once. Are you saying you want me to work with you because you want discount tickets to Romania?”
“No, no, no, I want you to work with us because you’re smart. You’re unconventional. You like adventure. You’re a practiced liar. And you said you liked to be suspended from the ceiling. Plus, you showed up even after I told you what we were going to be doing today.”
“Yes, but I didn’t believe a word you said.”
“Then why did you come?”
“Didn’t you say something about oysters?”
Go to: Chapter Five