by Arnold Snyder
I met Bridget for breakfast at a waffle house the next morning. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with red canvas sneakers. She also had oversize sunglasses on that made flirting difficult. We talked about her brother, Devon, and his werewolf experiences. He apparently had verified what Vanschtubenbergh had told her, that Devon had bitten her one night when she was sleeping.
“Are you pissed at him?” I asked her.
“Actually, I’d asked him to do it, but he never told me he did it. I can’t really be angry with him.”
“But why haven’t you ever transformed?”
“I suspect I’ve never been anywhere that wolfbane was blooming during a full moon. That’s all I can figure. I haven’t spent much time out in the country. I’m a city girl.”
After eating, I decided to lay my cards on the table over coffee.
“Vanschtubenbergh is a con artist,” I said. “He’s wanted in sixteen states under twenty-some different names. I know that. It’s how I met him. We were both trying to pull off a similar scam, selling hate potions, stepping on each other’s toes, and decided to work together instead of competing.”
“What’s a hate potion?”
“Just like a love potion, except it makes someone hate you.”
“How did it work?”
“It didn’t. It was sugar water. But we sold a hell of a lot of it and people thought it worked. You wouldn’t believe how many people in this world want to be hated. The reason the scam worked was because they were already hated and they started giving our concoction credit for it. But this werewolf project is real. Vanschtubenbergh’s perfected the art of making wolfbane bloom, so we can transform werewolves with every full moon. He’s discovered that by injecting blood from a werewolf, he can turn anyone into a werewolf. We no longer have to wait for random victims to be bitten. And his brainwashing compound works like a charm. I’ll tell you one thing—if you don’t want to transform into a wolf, stay far away from his lab during any full moon. I’m just warning you because I’m hoping you’re going to work with us.”
“But why do you want me? I don’t know anything about chemistry or plants or werewolves.”
“But you’re a con artist and you’re a pretty girl. That’s a powerful combination. Look, Bridget, the main problem we have is finding some practical use for werewolves. It doesn’t even have to be practical. It just has to have value. We have access to the largest werewolf workforce in history. But what can we do with them? They can understand our language, but they can’t speak. And they’re not good at following directions or taking orders.”
“Can they really sing?”
“They can howl.”
“Can they harmonize?”
“I doubt it. I mean, I never really tried to get them to harmonize. The singing thing … I don’t think that’s going to happen. We need to find something with greater market demand.”
“They’re strong, right?”
“Yes, but I’m not sure they’re trainable. They have no hands so they can’t pick anything up, except with their teeth. Their strength is kind of useless. When have dogs ever been utilized for their strength? Pulling sleds in the arctic? That’s about it. And I don’t think werewolves would pull a sled. They’d probably turn around and eat whoever or whatever was in the sled. I wouldn’t advise anyone to take a whip to them and yell ‘mush.’ We’ve got access to this incredible commodity, but how do we profit from it?”
“How about we don’t monetize werewolves; we monetize the werewolf experience?”
“We sell people on the idea of getting back to their animal nature.”
I considered this for a moment. An interesting idea. “Do you think people will pay for that?” I said.
“I think they’ll pay a lot. Nobody wants to see werewolves. People want to be werewolves. We could sell it like a religious experience. We could set up a temple and have ceremonies.”
“A werewolf religion … hmm … I like that.”
“The thing is, Dustin, it really may be a religious experience, in which case we wouldn’t be conning people at all. Of course, I’ll have to try it first. The way Devon describes it, there’s a mystical, magical feeling about transforming, not so much physical as metaphysical. Devon tells me I’ll like it.”
“But could we make money?”
“Scads. We’ll put the mainstream religions to shame. We won’t be telling people to wait till they die for their pie in the sky. We’ll be delivering real time, here and now.”
“Devon called me this morning,” I said. “He wants us to try the bane tonight. Vanschtubenbergh said he can’t do it until next week when he’s done with his parakeet project. I don’t want to wait that long. Let’s call your brother back and make a plan.”
Go to: Chapter Seven