When the Wolfbane Blooms — Chapter Twelve

by Arnold Snyder

 

Mcgillicuddy was perfectly obedient on the way to my car, save for one minor scare when it appeared he might attempt to mount a Chihuahua bitch in heat. The pedestrian traffic was down to normal, the Corpus Christi procession obviously long gone. But when we passed a woman who was walking a leashed pair of Chihuahuas, from the tension Mcgillicuddy displayed as we got closer to her, I felt sure one of the little mutts was in heat. They couldn’t have weighed more than five pounds each and if he made any attempt to mount the pooch he might have killed her. Bridget and I tried to control him on our leashes, but even with two of us, it was a struggle we were losing. She saved the day by getting down on her haunches in front of him, unbuttoning the top buttons on her cassock and discreetly allowing him to lick some of the smeared chocolate from her chest. That calmed him right down.

I found it difficult to watch this scene, though I was unable to turn away. I consoled myself that it wasn’t a chocolate annoyance I wanted to lick off her, but some Vermont Grade A fancy, and not from her chest. Well, maybe a little from her chest.

Vanschtubenbergh had asked me to bring Bridget and Mcgillicuddy to his lab for a “surprise.” I had no idea what to expect. I was guessing he may have discovered a way to brainwash some other type of animal. I’d seen him reading books about ducks recently. And there was no way I could return Mcgillicuddy on a leash to the rectory where he lives with three other priests and a housekeeper.

I was not prepared for what we found when we walked into the Doc’s converted warehouse. There was Vanschtuben-bergh in his dress white lab coat, a white carnation in his lapel, standing on a makeshift stage at the far end of his makeshift lab. There were news reporters with microphones and camera crews and such a large crowd of people standing around that I decided it would not be a good idea to get any closer to Vanschtubenbergh, not with Mcgillicuddy still on the leash with a SERVICE DOG harness strapped around him. My survival instinct told me to get away from this place immediately, as no good could come from being here with a werewolf. But my curiosity got the best of my judgment. What the hell was the Doc doing? A fucking news conference?

Vanschtubenbergh tapped the microphone a little too loudly.

“Yes, yes, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of Strait City. I am the Reverend Doctor Dolphus Vanschtubenbergh. I want to thank you all for responding to my press release. I am officially announcing that the First Church of the Sacred Wolf—an arcane and secret religion that has been meeting clandestinely for more than fourteen hundred years—has decided to come out of hiding. We believe the world is now able to accept us into the family of world religions. We are but a small sect, some would say a cult, but as the world has at last reached a level of religious tolerance, here we are.

“Those of us who follow the precepts of Wolfism, are werewolves. We are proud to be werewolves. For too long, we have been discriminated against. People have told many lies about us. In some parts of the world, people refuse to believe we even exist.

“To avoid persecution, we have remained hidden, but today, we’re coming out. We want everyone to know that we will no longer be secretive, but inclusive of all—no matter what your current religious beliefs—we want you to join our congregation, to become werewolves with us, to experience your animal nature firsthand.

“If you’ve dreamed of being a fierce predator, fearless and powerful, magnetically attractive, decisive, and in full control, you’ll love being a werewolf. Granted, you will be totally instinct- and hormone-driven, but imagine the feeling of acting passionately in the moment with no rational thought interfering with what you do.”

Devon jumped up onto the stage beside Vanschtuben-bergh. He wore a similar white lab coat—one of the Doc’s as it was much too large for him—with the sleeves rolled up and a carnation in the lapel also.

“My esteemed colleague,” Vanschtubenbergh continued, motioning to Devon with a sweep of his arm, “Professor Devon Baskervilles, will now say a few words.”

Devon took the microphone from the stand. “The first time you feel your fangs with your tongue,” he said, “your exceptionally long, salivating tongue, you will know what the great mystics have always known.

“I urge you to call us to set up an appointment for a true werewolf experience. The twenty-five-dollar introductory rate for a two-hour-long transformation into a wolf, a real wolf, then back again to your human form, is available for a limited time only. You will be guided throughout by our trained Deacons.

“And I see one of our Deacons has just entered the room. Deacon Mcgillicuddy has come as a werewolf just to show you how pleasant it can be.” He pointed his finger at Father Mcgillicuddy and many people in the room turned to see who he was pointing at. I turned to see that Mcgillicuddy was standing on his hind legs growling menacingly.

I yanked him down by the leash and some punk kid yelled, “That’s not a werewolf! It’s a service dog!”

Then another guy took up the protest. “It’s just a big guide dog! This is bullshit!”

This seemed to enrage Father Mcgillicuddy. He stood once more on his hind legs, scanning the crowd for the hecklers. I tried yanking down on his leash again, and Bridget joined me in trying to pull him down with her leash. She was still clad in nothing but Mcgillicuddy’s long black cassock. But even with both of us giving it everything we had, we were no match for his strength. Then he took each leash in turn into his mouth, biting down and cutting each one cleanly with his razor-sharp teeth.

He was now completely out of our control. He’d chomped through those leather straps so effortlessly, I realized we’d never really had him under control.

Then he tore that service harness off with his teeth and let out a blood-curdling howl that echoed in the high-ceilinged room and completely stopped the buzzing crowd noise. All eyes were now on Deacon Mcgillicuddy, the werewolf.

“Deacon Mcgillicuddy,” Vanschtubenbergh said into the microphone very calmly, having taken the mic from Devon. “I have a delicious chocolate bar for you.” He held up what appeared to be a candy bar and started waving it in the air above his head. “Can you smell that chocolate?” he said.

Mcgillicuddy let out a howl that was more of a roar as he started toward the stage. The crowd stampeded out of his way, parting like the Red Sea to make way for him, with sporadic undertone vocalizations of, “What the fuck?” and “That ain’t no dog,” and “Holy shit.”

Halfway to the stage, Mcgillicuddy squealed and had some kind of back spasm that knocked him off his hind legs. He recovered quickly, but continued toward the stage on all fours, walking with jerky twitches.

“What’s wrong with him?” Bridget asked me.

I looked at my watch. “He’s transforming,” I said. “His two-hour wolf trip is ending.”

Devon jumped down from the stage and ran to Mcgillicuddy, wrapping both arms around the struggling fat beast, attempting to guide him toward the short stairway the led to the stage. Mcgillicuddy wasn’t fighting Devon, but his lack of motor control was not making Devon’s job easy.

“You have to go help him,” Bridget said.

I didn’t want to hear that, but I knew she was right and I knew I had to act fast. I ran to Mcgillicuddy and got ahold of him in a similar fashion as Devon on the opposite side, having no idea of what we were planning to do. The transformation from wolf to were takes not much more than a minute or two. Mcgillicuddy still looked like a wolf, but those body spasms indicated he was already well on his way to a full transformation.

Suddenly, Mcgillicuddy became dead weight. He went limp, save for his sporadic twitching. His 250-pounds crashed to the floor. The crowd let out a collective Ohhhh! Cameras stared flashing all around us.

Then I heard Vanschtubenbergh’s voice booming through the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, Deacon Mcgillicuddy has agreed to demonstrate for you the transformation from wolf to man!”

I looked up to see that the Doc had come down from the stage and was standing right beside me. Devon and I quit trying to move Mcgillicuddy. It was too late. The fur on his back was starting to be pulled back into his flesh. Amidst the oohs and ahs of the crowd, witnessing this miraculous transmogrification, Mcgillicuddy’s head was returning to human proportions, his ears shrinking, his snout shortening.

Within a minute, the corpulent Father Mcgillicuddy was lying prone on the cement floor, his pale skin looking so naked and vulnerable compared to the viciously ferocious image he’d projected just moments before in his lupine state.

“And there you have it,” Vanschtubenbergh said softly. “Wolf becomes man. Another chapter in one of the great mysteries of life itself. And what are you doing with your life? Are you wasting it like so many people on meaningless fads and trends? Shouldn’t you be looking for a higher purpose in life? Shouldn’t you be calling Deacon Baskervilles to set up an appointment for your first wolf trip?”

Mcgillicuddy was beginning to stir. I felt for him, though there was nothing I could do. He was waking up naked, in a room full of people staring wide-eyed at him. He picked up his head slightly then quickly buried his face again, possibly confused at first, then—I suppose as he was remembering how he’d gotten to this point—he slowly curled into a fetal position, still face down on the floor.

I knew Father Mcgillicuddy well enough to know what must have been going through his mind. Here he was, a Catholic priest, well-known in the community, and he was curled up stark naked in the center of a news conference, a public spectacle, after having just transformed from being a werewolf. He didn’t want to show his face.

Wearing nothing but Mcgillicuddy’s overlong cassock herself, Bridget walked over to me from where she had been watching from the back of the room. “Where are his clothes?” she said.

“I left them in the car,” I said.

“He’s naked, Justin. We can’t leave him like that.”

Just then, Vanschtubenbergh mercifully threw one of his extra-large lab coats over Mcgillicuddy’s curled-up body.

I got down on my haunches and picked up a corner of the lab coat, careful not to expose his face. “Jim,” I said. “everything’s okay now. You can stand up. You’re not a wolf anymore.”

“I can’t,” he said.

“C’mon, I’ll help you up.” I tried taking hold of one of his arms, but he jerked it away from me.

“I can’t let anyone see me,” he said. “I’ll lose my parish. I’ll be excommunicated. I’m staying just like this till everyone’s gone.”

I stood up. “I don’t know what to do with him,” I said to Bridget. “How do we get everyone out of here?”

Vanschtubenbergh grabbed me by the shoulder. “Didn’t I tell you to leave the priest out of this?’ he said.

I knew a lecture was coming and I didn’t want to hear it.

Devon came over to me. “Give him this,” he said, showing me a small square of paper on his fingertip.

“Bane?” I said.

“Turn him back into a wolf,” he said. “At least we’ll be able to get him up and get him out of here. He won’t be recognized as a local priest. That’s what he’s most worried about.”

I thought this over for a few seconds. It sounded like a plan, but Mcgillicuddy was so hard to control when he was a wolf.

“Do it,” Bridget said. “It’s the only way to get him out of here and protect his identity.”

“But we don’t have our leashes anymore,” I said. But I also knew she and Devon were right. It would ruin his life if his identity were revealed.

I got down on my haunches again and once more picked up a corner of the lab coat. “Jim,” I said. “I’ve got some bane here. You’ve got to take it if you want to get out of here without being recognized. The reporters aren’t leaving and neither are the camera crews. If you become a wolf once more, no one will recognize you and we can get you out of here. Now turn your head towards me and stick out your tongue. I’m holding the coat so no one will see you but me.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Vanschtubenbergh’s voice boomed through the microphone, “Deacon Mcgillicuddy has agreed to transform once more into a wolf just so that you can see what a majestic creature he is.”

Mcgillicuddy turned toward me slightly. “Would you tell him to stop saying my name,” he said.

“Don’t worry about that, Jim. It’s a common name. There are hundreds of Mcgillicuddys in the phone book. Now stick out your tongue.”

He did as requested and I transferred the bane from my fingertip to the tip of his tongue with a light touch.

I stood up and turned toward Devon. “What happens when you take bane so soon after coming down from it?” I asked him.

“Frankly, I don’t know. I’ve never tried it and I don’t know anyone who has. Nobody would really want to. From my research, there’s a ninety-four percent chance that he will become a wolf but a very docile wolf. But I wouldn’t swear to it. There’s a six percent chance that he’ll become extremely aggressive and impossible to control. If that happens, it could be very bad. Did Vanschtubenbergh ever tell you about his nightwolf experiment?”

“Tell me about it? I helped him do it. It was horrible what we did to those men.”

“Well, there’s a six percent chance Mcgillicuddy may become a nightwolf.”

“Are you sure we should be doing this?” I said.

He shrugged. “This is a unique situation,” he said. “It may be the only thing that will save him. I’m betting on docile. Ninety-four percent. It’s worth the risk. We have to make a plan for extricating him from this place. We have no leashes, so we better pray he’s cooperative.”

An attractive blonde reporter from a local TV station jumped in front of Vanschtubenbergh with a microphone. Her cameraman almost stepped on Mcgillicuddy, who was still just a fat ball under a white linen lab coat on the floor.

“This is Connie Howe with WXYV-TV in Strait City, and we are coming to you live from downtown where Doctor Van the Magic Man is demonstrating some of the most astonishing illusions I have ever seen.”

“What’s she talking about?” I asked Devon.

“Haven’t you seen the press release?” he said. He pulled a folded sheet of paper from his large lab coat pocket and handed it to me. I read it.

 

Today at 5 pm, Doctor Van the Magic Man will be demonstrating amazing illu-sions he’s created for his upcoming show in Las Vegas. These miracles will be performed in public and include seemingly impossible feats never attempted by any magicians in the past. His transformations of people into animals and animals into people are among the most mind-boggling deceptions ever created. His trained parakeet army is unlike any magical dove act you’ve ever seen.

 

Then the flyer had the address of his lab, where we were, and a phone number for the agency representing him, Lupine Talents Unltd., which was my cell number!

I showed the flyer to Bridget. “This is crazy,” I said. “I thought we were starting a religion. Apparently, the Doc thinks we’re in show biz. What’s he trying to accomplish? He doesn’t have any show coming up in Las Vegas.”

She read it over quickly, then read it again to be sure she’d read it correctly. “I don’t get it,” she said. “But it looks like Father Mcgillicuddy is starting to transform.”

I looked down to see that Mcgillicuddy was no longer curled into a ball, but was stretching his arms and legs out full and already his fingernails and toenails were becoming claws. A thick fur was starting to grow on his exposed limbs.

“There’s a back door that goes out to the alley from inside Vanschtubenbergh’s office,” Devon said. “We’ll get on either side of him and guide him to the office. Then will shut the door behind us and escape out the back. How far away is your car?”

“Not far at all. I parked in that alley back there because the front lot was full.”

Devon handed Bridget a chocolate bar. “Your job is to feed him this if he seems uncooperative or overexcited,” he said. “This should make him manageable.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Vanschtubenbergh boomed, “Behold the man as he becomes a wolf before your very eyes!” Then the Doc ripped the lab coat off of Mcgillicuddy to expose his now very furry spasming body.

Connie Howe, the TV reporter, jumped next to Mcgillicuddy and started talking into her mic, as her cameraman kept his aim on Mcgillicuddy. “These are the most spectacular special effects I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Just moments ago, Deacon Mcgillicuddy’s skin was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Now it appears the fur is literally growing on his back as we watch. Doctor Van the Magic Man is raising the bar for magicians all over the world tonight, right here in Strait City.”

Mcgillicuddy rose up onto all fours, fully a wolf.

“Get ready to grab him,” Devon said.

Mcgillicuddy sat back on his haunches and surveyed the room calmly.

“He looks docile,” Devon said.

Unfortunately, he’d spoken too soon. Mcgillicuddy stood suddenly on his hind legs and began snarling with his tongue hanging out of his mouth and a lot of drool, looking anything but docile. Devon grabbed one of his front legs and I grabbed the other.

Suddenly, Connie Howe jumped in front of us. “This is so exciting,” she said into her mic. “Deacon Mcgillicuddy truly does look like a werewolf. In fact, he looks more like a werewolf than any Hollywood werewolf I’ve ever seen. Deacon, could you say a few words for us, or just give us one of your famous werewolf howls?” She pushed the mic in front of Mcgillicuddy’s face.

Devon and I were trying to pull the crazed beast away from the clueless newscaster, with no success. His strength was greater than both of ours combined. But he didn’t disappoint Connie, as he let out a howl that rattled the windows.

Bridget, who had been waving that chocolate bar in front of his nose, took a step back and just stared at him with her mouth open, slowly dropping her hand with the candy bar. Mcgillicuddy so obviously had no interest in chocolate. He was not your typical garden-variety werewolf.

The room went into a dead silence. All eyes were on Mcgillicuddy as he broke free of Devon and me as if shrugging off annoying insects. He lurched toward the stage where a news crew was looking over papers at Vanschtubenbergh’s podium. Mcgillicuddy pushed one of the reporters backward onto the floor, a loud but short-lived scream emanating from the startled newsman until the moment when the wolf sunk his jaws into the reporter’s neck and ripped half his throat out, blood gushing from the gaping neck wound.

“A truly amazing performance,” Connie said. “The realism is unbelievable. Apparently, the CNN reporters were secretly in on this trick, as their esteemed pundit Tom Flagel now appears to be dying on stage right before our eyes. It looks like a horrific neck wound. I can’t wait to ask Tom how this was done!”

Suddenly, massive numbers of parakeets flooded into the room from the overhead air vents, hundreds of them tweeting a painful high-pitched cacophony that had some people putting their hands over their ears. The birds circled the room above as we all stood staring up at them in awe. Then, as if on cue, the birds started dive bombing the crowd, landing on people’s faces, digging their claws into cheeks and foreheads as they pecked the eyes out of their screaming victims.

“And now these amazing birds!” Connie exclaimed. “An unbelievably well-trained flock of budgies!”

I looked around. Vanschtubenbergh was nowhere to be seen. Devon had also disappeared. Mcgillicuddy was still hunched over the newsman he’d killed and appeared to be gorging himself on entrails.

I turned to Bridget. “I think we better get out of here,” I said. “Let’s duck into the office and see if we can sneak out the back way.”

Go to: Chapter Thirteen

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