by Arnold Snyder
To my surprise, both Vanschtubenbergh and Devon were in the office, stuffing papers into cardboard boxes.
“Lock that door behind you,” Vanschtubenbergh said.
Bridget bolted it using both the top and bottom bolt-locks.
“Why on earth did you let those birds out?” I confronted Vanschtubenbergh.
“It was necessary to create a distraction,” he said, “and I believe they are performing quite admirably.”
“A distraction?” I said.
“It’s the only chance your priest friend has to escape. Hopefully, he’ll take advantage of it. It was also the only chance we had to get in here unnoticed. And we made it, didn’t we?”
Once more, the Doc was right. In the commotion, we’d all managed to get away. “What do we do now, Doc?” I said.
“I, for one, have a flight out of the country in about three hours,” he said. “A one-way ticket to Mexico City. Devon is also booked on that flight. I have connections there that can help us obtain new identities and passports. From there, we’ll be heading to Tanzania. If you and Bridget have any sense, you’ll be on that flight to Mexico with us.”
“Why Tanzania?” I said. “What the hell can we do in Tanzania?”
“Continue our research. It’s the only thing that matters to me. As I push deeper into the autumn of my years, my focus continues to sharpen on the important things in life. And the most important work I can do is to expand the knowledge base of mankind. We continue to break new ground in science, biology, medicine, psychology.”
“But we know nobody in Tanzania,” I protested.
“I have academic connections at the state university of Zanzibar, connections that will be very excited to see me because we are working on similar problems.”
“But what language do they speak?”
“There are two official languages. Swahili and English. At the university, we’ll primarily hear English. And you’d better get packing if you intend to make that flight with us.”
“But I’m afraid we’re fucking up, Doc. We’ve created seven new werewolves, but they’re all addicted to chocolate and they spend all their wolf time in agonizing pain. And Father Mcgillicuddy is … God knows what’s going to happen to him. And we still haven’t come up with a single practical use for werewolves. They’re just useless, horrible creatures.”
“Don’t be discouraged, Dustin. I’m working on a supplement to accompany the chocolate—a nutrient that can be infused into the chocolate that will retain cocoa’s sedative qualities, while eliminating the digestive distress that results in abdominal cramps in werewolves. I have one more test to run and if this goes smoothly, we’re in business. Unfortunately, circumstances now require this test to be run in Tanzania. But if it’s successful, we’ll have werewolves that can be trained like dogs and they’ll even learn table manners.”
“But our seven chocolate addicts are not in Tanzania,” I said. “They’re here in Strait City.”
“And I’ll remember them fondly with every full moon,” he said coldly.
He had finished stuffing the box with papers and computer flash drives and was now strapping it tightly with nylon-fiber-reinforced tape.
“What’s in the box?” I said.
“Everything. It’s too heavy to carry on the plane. I’m mailing it to my connection at the university. I really want you to come, Dustin. But we have no time to lose. I still have to stop at the warehouse to get the cash out of my safe. I’ll be carrying that on my person. I don’t know how I’ll have time to mail this damn package. I need your help, Dustin. And Bridget too. Don’t abandon me now.”
“What about Mcgillicuddy?” I said.
“Oh, he’ll be just fine. I’m sure he’s already off in some alley, hiding until the bane wears off.”
“The last time I saw him,” I said, looking at my watch, “about eight minutes ago, he was eating a newscaster. From what Dustin said, I suspect he’s now a nightwolf. We can’t just leave him like that.”
“Look, Dustin, we can’t worry our heads about every little tragedy we leave in our wake. Life’s too short for that. If he’s a nightwolf, that’s too bad. But it’s no longer our problem. Now, either you book a seat on that flight to Mexico City with us, or you stay here and face the music. This is a no-brainer, isn’t it?”
Someone was rattling the door handle. I was glad Bridget had double-bolted it. I looked at her. She was still wearing that too-long cassock. Someone started pounding on the door. Hard. Insistent.
“I need to get my clothes,” Bridget said. “My purse. My makeup. My passport.”
“I’ll take you to get those things,” I said. “My car’s out back. We can stop at the post office on the way, and mail these packages for Doc and Devon. Then I’ll pick up a few things and we’ll all meet at the airport.” I pulled out my phone. “I’m booking our tickets right now. Are you ready to go, Bridget?”
“I’m ready to get out of this hot, itchy cassock. Are priests masochists?”
The pounding on the door was becoming furious.
Vanschtubenbergh looked at his watch. “The flight leaves from Metro in two hours and forty minutes,” he said.
Looking at my phone, “Yes, I can see that on our tickets. We’ll see you there. We won’t be late.” I wasn’t actually looking at our tickets, as I had not purchased any. “Let’s go, Bridget. We’ve got to hustle so we don’t miss our flight.” Devon finished strapping his box and I took both parcels from the work counter, one under each arm. They were heavy.
“I’ll get the door,” she said, opening the door for me.
“When you mail those packages,” Vanschtubenbergh said, “you’re going to have to fill out customs declarations. Just list the contents as research materials. No monetary value.”
“Right,” I said as the door closed behind me. We walked with a quick step to my car, and got in hurriedly. I started the engine and away we rolled, just like that, escaping with everything.
“Where do you want to go?” I said as we traveled. “I mean after we pick up your clothes and stuff.”
“I say west, where the crazy people are. How about Hollywood. I think Hollywood could develop a taste for Wolfism. We could charge a lot.”
“We’ll have your brother’s extraction recipe. I’m sure that would be among his papers. But we won’t have access to the wolfbane.”
“He buys the wolfbane on amazon,” she said.
“Oh. Then, we’re covered. I sure would like to see what’s inside these boxes. If you don’t mind, I’d like to bring them up to your place. While you’re getting your stuff, I can look through what we have.”
“And maybe we can fuck,” I said softly.
“You’re really not my type, Dustin. I don’t mean that in a mean way.”
“Yeah, I understand. You’re not my type either. I never get involved with beautiful women who are smart and fun to be with. But I do know this. The next time you have your period, we are taking bane together. Wolf to bitch, I am going to fuck you for two hours straight.”
“You know, that’s the nicest thing any guy has ever said to me.” She motioned to an upcoming driveway. “Just pull in there,” she said.
I parked the car and we went into her apartment. It was sparse and standard, almost like a motel room. Probably rented furniture. She went into the bedroom and I sat down at her kitchen table with my pocket knife.
Within a minute, I could hear the shower running.
I slit open the box addressed to Vanschtubenbergh. My knife was razor sharp and sliced through the security tape like nothing. I pulled out a pile of papers and started looking through them. It was everything he knew about werewolves and so much more.
After ten minutes, Bridget came out of her bedroom, now wearing a conservative white blouse and a tight black skirt. She looked at the papers over my shoulder. “It’s just a bunch of charts,” she said.
“It’s more than charts,” I informed her. “It’s all of his research data.”
“What’s it say?”
“This top file is his recipe for amygdala douche, his brainwashing formula. It works great.” I pulled out the next file. “This one’s his truth serum. That’s not so good. He slipped it to me once and I told him a blatant lie. But I couldn’t tell him I’d lied, so he probably thinks it works.”
“Why couldn’t you tell him?”
“He asked me if I’d ever try to steal his research. I’d told him that no matter what happened I’d never rip him off. I had too much respect for him. I knew it was a lie when I said it, but I couldn’t very well say, ‘Just joking.’ The only effect of his alleged truth serum was that it made my eyes itchy, real itchy for about a minute or two. I was going to mention the weird side effect to him, but it went away and I decided to ignore it. Better to have him think it worked and believe I was faithful to him.”
I pulled out the next file. “This is his recipe for making wolfbane bloom,” I said. “This is really valuable.” I pulled out the next file. “These are the names and addresses of every certified werewolf in North America and most of Europe.”
The next file was labeled “Bloom in a Bottle.”
“This is another one of Doc’s failures,” I said. “Or, he thought so. He was attempting to create a wolfbane elixir that would allow a man to become a wolf at will, and return to human form at will. He ended up with a concoction that had the opposite effect. His first test subject became a wolf every night whether he wanted to or not. And in the daytime, having returned to human form, he was lethargic and had lost all desire to function in his normal life. The Doc called him a nightwolf. It was supposed to last twenty-four hours, but the effect turned out to be permanent. The guy ended up living in alleys, where he would sleep through the day and hunt at night, a truly wild animal. Irredeemable. Because Doc wouldn’t give up on his dream, at one time there were three nightwolves living in Strait City. Now, only one is left, two having been shot, believed by animal control to have been rabid dogs of some sort. Now, I fear Father Mcgillicuddy may be a nightwolf.”
“But why do you say the Doc thought the concoction was a failure? Didn’t you agree it was a failure?”
“He failed at what he was attempting to create,” I said. “I’ll grant him that. But I was personally intrigued with the thought of being a nightwolf. I had to stop myself on a number of occasions from dosing myself. It would be an escape from the human rat race. To be a wolf every night, to feel the power and freedom of being an animal, living only by your instincts. To have no fear, no morality, no guilt stopping you from following your desires. Even now just talking about it, I feel the temptation to take it and be done with these civilized rules we humans insist on following.”
“So, why don’t you do it?”
“I’m chicken, I guess. It’s permanent. Once you do it, it’s done. You can’t turn back. You can’t change your mind.”
“What are those?” she said, pointing to a clear plastic envelope that contained a couple dozen flash drives.
“The Doc video-recorded a lot of his counseling sessions with his patients,” I said. “He experimented on them with drug concoctions and mind-control techniques. He’s shown me a few of them and they’re amazing. He can make people do anything. He experimented on quite a few werewolves too. That’s how he discovered the sedative effects of chocolate on them.”
Bridget picked my knife up off the table and slit open the taped-up box from her brother. She peeked inside. “Ohmygod,” she said. “These are his precious notebooks.”
“Do you have any champagne?” I said. “We should celebrate.”
“Will wine do?” she said. “There’s an open bottle of pinot grigio in the fridge.”
I went to the refrigerator. There was a bottle on the top shelf right next to a quart jug of pure Vermont Grade A Golden maple syrup. I was amazed, as her fridge was otherwise empty. I brought the bottle and the jug to the kitchen table, then poured us each a glass of wine.
“Why’d you get the syrup out?” she asked.
“I have a proposition for you,” I said. “If you’re willing to lick syrup off of me, I’ll lick syrup off of you.”
She gave me a disgusted you-have-to-be-kidding look, then said, “Where do I have to lick it from?”
“Wherever you pour it,” I said. “Licker’s choice.”
“And where do you want to lick it from?” she said.
“I’ll let you choose that area as well. Lickee’s choice.” Actually, I knew exactly where I wanted her to lick the syrup from, and I definitely knew where I intended to lick it from, but I wanted her to feel she had some control.
“What makes you think I’d want to do this?” she asked.
“Because you’re a freak like me. And we’re going to be together for a long time. We’re going to live a life of adventure as wolves together and lovers forever. You’ll be much more than a wife to me. You’ll be my bitch.”
“I took a shower,” she said. “I’m clean. Very clean. And I’m not licking you anywhere until you’re as clean as me. There are towels in the bathroom cabinet. I’ll warm up the syrup while you’re showering.”
I held up my wine glass for a toast. “To wolfbane,” I said.
She clinked my glass with hers, then said. “Wash yourself really thoroughly. Everywhere. I think we’re going to get very sticky.”
I chugged my wine down then went into her bathroom and found the soap and the shampoo. I got a bath towel and laid it over the sink counter, where it would be easy to reach when I finished showering. She said everywhere. I was determined not to disappoint her.
I turned on the shower, adjusted the water to a comfortable steamy hot temp, then lathered my hair with shampoo, and worked my way down, soaping up with her body wash. I could hardly believe my life had taken such a turn for the better. I’d found the woman of my dreams and we’d just pulled off one of crimes of the century. We now possessed the only copies of some of the leading scientific research on werewolves that had ever been produced. We alone now possessed the formulas for both creating and controlling monsters of legend that have terrified and fascinated mankind for centuries.
After thoroughly washing every square inch of my bod, every nook and cranny and crevice, I rinsed thoroughly then turned off the shower. As I toweled myself dry, I was envisioning my future with Bridget. I could suspend her from the ceiling so that she’d be hanging from ropes, facedown and naked. I could drizzle the syrup over her at my leisure, smearing it onto her and into her, slowly, gently, mixing it thoroughly with her natural juices.
I could almost smell it, but I stopped my carnal reverie before it went any further. I didn’t want to come before I even got out of the bathroom and I wanted to save some room for improvisation when I actually claimed her as my submissive bitch. Besides, she was unlikely to have suspension equipment in her apartment. That would come later. It was miracle enough she had Grade A golden fancy.
I finished drying off, used her hair dryer on my hair, then dressed quickly and went back out into the living room. She wasn’t there. I looked in the kitchen. Not there. I went into the bedroom. Not there either. There were no other rooms in the small apartment. I wondered if she’d gone to pick up some snacks. He kitchen was devoid of edibles.
I went to her living room window and looked out onto the street. Dusk was falling. My car was no longer where I’d parked it in front of the apartment building. I went back to the kitchen, now noticing that both boxes with Vanschtubenbergh’s and Devon’s research materials were gone.
Shit. The bitch had taken everything.
I started searching her apartment frantically, not even knowing what I was looking for, maybe some kind of a clue as to her whereabouts. Her disappearing act was not acceptable. But I found nothing. All of the drawers in her kitchen were empty, as were the drawers in her bedroom dresser. Every closet in the place was empty. I was noticing there were no pictures on the walls, no rugs or carpets on the floors.
What was this place? This was not where she lived. This was not where anyone lived. She had planned this theft and abandonment perfectly. I sat down on one of the kitchen chairs to ponder my next move. But I had no move. I sat there for an hour, cursing at myself for not seeing this coming.
I thought about Mcgillicuddy, the only real friend I had. Now what would become of him? I wondered if he’d gotten out of the facility alive, if somehow he’d managed to escape. And what would become of his life? Was he now a nightwolf, an alley dweller?
My phone buzzed. It was Vanschtubenbergh. Should I answer it?
“Hey, Doc,” I said. “I’m running late. You and Devon should go on without me. I’ll catch the next flight.”
“I believe I forgot to mention, Dustin, you failed the test.”
“The truth serum test.”
“What do you mean?”
“I asked you how you liked your women, and you said with maple syrup, Grade A golden fancy.”
“That’s the truth, Doc.”
“Yes, I know it is. But then I asked you if you would ever rip me off, and you said no.”
“But that’s one-hundred percent the truth! I would never steal from you! But right now, I’m worried that Bridget may have ripped off both of us.”
“I never explained to you how the truth serum works,” he said. “If you tell a lie, the whites of your eyes turn red. It’s a very dramatic effect. And when you said no, the whites of your eyes were like ripe cherries. Usually, when the blood vessels in your eyes get engorged like that, it causes extreme itching on the surface of the eyeballs. I’m surprised you didn’t notice it.”
Holy shit. The damn stuff does work. “Doc, I wasn’t lying. Really,” I lied.
“Maybe you should explain it to Bridget,” he said.
The next voice I heard on my cell was Bridget’s.
“Seriously, Dustin. You didn’t really expect me to rip off my own brother, did you?” she said.
“You backstabbing bitch!”
Vanschtubenbergh came back on the line. “Did you enjoy the pinot grigio I prepared for you?” he said.
“The wine?” I said.
“It did contain mostly wine,” he said. “But there was also a nice strong hit of my bloom-in-a-bottle formula.”
I was about to tell him that Bridget drank the wine also, but then I noticed her wine glass, sitting on the kitchen counter, still full.
“According to the weather service,” Vanschtubenbergh said, “it’s sundown. You should be starting to feel the effects any time now.”
And right as he said that, I felt it, that tightening in my neck that froze my jaw and all my facial muscles. I was about to become a wolf, a nightwolf, unable to ever live as a normal human being again.
I was about to scream at Vanschtubenbergh, How can you do this to me? But it was too late. I dropped the phone and fell to all fours. My transformation had begun.
Within minutes I was a wolf. I felt the strength, the power, the confidence. I ripped my clothes off with my teeth, then went to the front door and opened it, sniffing at the night air. I could smell a bitch in heat out there. I gauged her to be in a back yard a few houses down the street. A medium-size girl, and young, just the way I liked them.
I started to exit the apartment when I remembered the maple syrup. I went into the kitchen and grabbed the bottle from the table with my teeth.
Yes, perhaps my life was ruined, but I was going to have some fun tonight.
* * *
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