Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #1600012
Classic Halloween story
Word count: 5,912
"Even those who are pure of heart and say their prayers by night
may become a wolf when the sun has set and the moon is full and bright."
(Revised from a poem by Curt Siodmak, screenwriter of the 1941 film: The Wolfman)
Gwen Connelly felt exposed, as if the whole world had their eyes on her. Although the rise where they parked appeared deserted, she couldn't stop thinking about what could happen. What if the police came by on patrol? Being arrested for indecent exposure wouldn't exactly thrill her dad or her bible-thumping, mom.
Reaching up, she turned off the dome light that glared on the instant Larry opened the door to put the blanket back in the trunk. That's a little better, she thought. Perched on the front seat of the classic '61 Chrysler, New Yorker, she refastened and adjusted her bra. Cold air invaded the heated interior as she retrieved her sweater from the carpeted floor mat. She slid her arms into the soft cashmere and hurriedly buttoned up, her fingers flying as if she expected someone to arrive at any moment.
Finally, after wriggling into her panties, she twisted around to make sure her rented poodle skirt wasn't caught in them. Earlier that evening during dinner at Lee Ho Fook's, she almost choked on her beef chow mein when a girl exited the restaurant's ladies room with the back of her skirt stuck in her undies. Talk about embarrassing!
Before slipping into her saddle oxfords, she leaned forward to turn on the radio and pressed the first, station pre-set button. Opera music blared from the single speaker on the dash. Larry's Dad must listen to that stuff, she figured. When she selected the second button, Johnny Cash growled, "...Because you're mine, I walk the line..." She shook her head, Un-uh. Careful not to break one of her cotton-candy-pink fingernails, she tried the third button and rolled her green eyes at a boring talk show. The big band station she heard next sounded like something her grandparents would like; Ugh. She wanted classic oldies: music kids listened to when poodle skirts and cars with tail fins were all the rage.
When she poked the fifth button, a WSOO newscast replaced Glen Miller: "In a case remarkably similar to one from thirty years ago, Sault Ste. Marie Police remain baffled, admitting they still have no suspects one month after the disappearance of 20-year-old Jenny Wilson. County Sheriff, Bob Frohlander, says the ..."
~ ~ ~
A full moon hung in the sky on that clear, cool September night, as Gwen's roommate laced up her Nikes and left the dorm at Lake Superior State to go for a run. The former prom queen, the girl voted most likely to succeed by her classmates at Sault High, never came back.
The police were assisted by hundreds of concerned citizens who searched for two weeks along roads and back into much of the densely forested areas of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The river was dragged and Canadian divers joined in with those from this side of the border, spending countless hours underwater. They found no trace of Jenny Wilson and no clues as to how or why she vanished.
Sure, she and Jenny were roommates, but something else about all of this bothered Gwen. Thirty years earlier, her grandmother, whom she never got to meet, disappeared under almost identical circumstances. In 1980, a week before Halloween, Edna Connelly went out for an evening stroll and never returned.
The entire Sault Ste. Marie community joined together attempting to find the personable housewife and mother. They posted pictures of Edna in Grocery stores, restaurants, barber shops, and beauty salons in Marquette, Escanaba, Menominee, Houghton, and Iron Mountain. But, after a long, fruitless search, the police and the Connelly family were forced to accept the likelihood that Edna had probably been abducted and murdered. Some theorized she may have been dumped into the St. Mary's River and swept away before divers could locate her body.
Each year, around the anniversary of her disappearance, The Mining Journal, based in Marquette, would publish a story about Edna. So did The Daily News of Iron Mountain and The Reporter of Iron County. Along with Sasquatch sightings and reports of U.F.O's, once or twice a year the police still received calls from people who swore they saw Edna, or someone fitting her description, running nude, deep in the Upper Peninsula's forests near Porcupine Mountain. Resultant searches, when authorities felt sufficiently moved to conduct them, always ended the same way. Edna Connelly remained missing.
~ ~ ~
Not wanting to be bummed out, especially not while basking in love's afterglow, Gwen Connelly punched the radio's last button. Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs were doing one of her favorites. "Hey there Little Red Riding Hood..." By the song's end she felt better, singing along, "You're everything that a big bad wolf could want..." when a howl from somewhere deep in the woods rang out in unison with the comical one on the radio.
The long, drawn-out cry reminded her of a civil defense warning siren. Nearing midnight, the temperature had crept into the upper thirties, but that didn't cause the icy shiver that skittered down Gwen's spine. Anyone living in upper Michigan had heard the call of a wolf, late at night. It wasn't that unusual. But this one made her skin crawl. The mournful wail seemed unnatural, almost human.
Gwen called out to the strapping, but surprisingly sensitive and gentle young man with whom she had shared love's pleasures. "Larry, hurry up, would you?" She shouted as she tugged at the white laces on her right shoe. "It's getting cold in here and that wolf is creeping me out!"
Turning around, Gwen expected to see Larry through the rear window, but found her view blocked by the wide, raised trunk. They were all alone, which in the heat of passion a few moments ago seemed perfect, but now.... What is taking Larry so long? She held her breath for a moment and puffed out her cheeks before exhaling - a nervous habit of hers since childhood.
Bathed in the ghostly, gray light of the full moon, the rise on which the Chrysler sat provided a spectacular view of Sault Ste. Marie and the shimmering waters of the St. Mary's River. Again, the wolf howled, closer than before.
~ ~ ~
Earlier that evening: Short, plump, and nearly bald except for a few combed-over wisps of red hair, Chippewa County Judge, Bertram Cornstubble, stood in front of Chester Goode and his five-piece band, Gunsmoke. In his too-tight, orange sport coat, Cornstubble resembled a Halloween centerpiece between the fat pumpkins that sat on bales of hay adorning both sides of the civic center stage.
After tapping the microphone a couple of times, he said, "I can tell most of you have been having fun this evening. I don't mean to spoil the mood, but someone told me they think our Halloween festival should have been cancelled this year, what with the disappearance of Jenny Wilson."
The crowd became quiet.
Nodding to show that he understood, the judge said, "I know Jenny. I know her parents. Heck, I know her grandparents, too. Folks, what I'm trying to say is that we can't give up hope just because she's gone missing and the big search didn't turn up anything. Jenny may have high-tailed it to New York or Hollywood. Who knows? I love our fair city, but let's face it. If you're a young actress with stars in your eyes, chances of getting discovered in Sault Ste. Marie aren't all that great. And anyone who saw Jenny in this year's local, theater group production of 'South Pacific,' knows how talented she is."
A murmur of agreement rippled through the civic center. Evidently, there were plenty who felt the judge could be right.
Gwen Connelly wasn't one of them. "Jenny wouldn't have gone anywhere in the middle of a semester without telling her parents," she whispered to her date. "She loved this town. She loved Lake State."
"Now," Judge Cornstubble rubbed his puffy hands together, "we've got some prizes to hand out!" The mention of prizes brightened spirits and coaxed a few excited cheers from the crowd.
Scanning the audience, consisting of nearly three-hundred-fifty costumed constituents, many concealed behind masks, he continued. "While you've been dancing to Chester's band, I've been doing my job. You probably noticed me shuffling around among you, checking everyone's costumes out. Tonight, I've seen witches, wizards, goblins, vampires, gorgeous Egyptian Queens and pretty winged fairies. Some of you look very nice and," the judge chuckled, "some of you look sort of naughty."
That drew laughter, cat-calls, and a smattering of applause. "I must say you ladies have really outdone yourselves. Let's all show each other how much we appreciate everybody's efforts."
Everyone clapped; even Gwen. In spite of the uncertainty concerning Jenny Wilson, and maybe partially because of it, the entire crowd seemed bound and determined to have a good time.
Waving his hands in the air to get everyone's attention, Judge Cornstubble waited until the crowd settled down to make the big announcement. "And the winner this year, for best female costume is..." Without needing to be prompted, the Gunsmoke drummer provided the dramatic, obligatory drum-roll until the judge shouted, "Cleopatra! Better known to all of us as Stella Graber!"
The band blasted out an appropriate, Tah-Dah! The portly judge pointed to the delighted winner and motioned for her to come forward. "Stella, come on up and get your five-hundred-dollar gift certificate to Sears!"
Her Victoria's Secret-created cleavage far more eye-catching than her Cleopatra costume, Stella jiggled up the three steps to the stage. Greeted by a houseful of wolf-whistles, she further endeared herself to the male members of the audience by shimmying and shaking to the Egyptian theme music improvised by Chester's band.
"Oh, my lord," Gwen protested. "No wonder she won, Larry. Will you look at those ta-tas?"
"I am," Larry chuckled.
"Well, you don't have to stare so hard." Disappointed, she glanced down to consider her modest, 1950's-styled sweater and shrugged. "Man, I shoulda known I didn't stand a chance."
~ ~ ~
Instead of peeling out as he left the civic center, Larry Taylor accelerated conservatively, easing his way onto state highway 75. After considerable pleading, his Dad had agreed to let him borrow the classic, '61 Chrysler for tonight's date. A real eye-catcher, the glossy, piano-black New Yorker featured long tail fins, slanted headlights, a "donut" tire rack on the trunk lid, and a powerful, perfectly maintained, 413-cubic-inch Golden Lion V-8.
The Monster Mash played on the radio as Larry attempted to sooth Gwen's feelings about not winning the prize for best costume. "Gwen, you look spectacular tonight. That's a killer costume."
"You like it?" she asked, brushing her hand across the velvety felt skirt with the poodle applique.
"Yeah, and your hair really looks great, too. You look like you stepped out of a time machine. No way that cheesy, Cleopatra costume Stella had on beat yours. You shoulda won first prize."
Gwen smiled and patted her blonde, poofed-up hairdo. "You're sweet, Larry, but with Judge Cornstubble, bobby sox don't win you as many points as boobies."
"I have to tell you," Larry admitted, "it made me really happy when you agreed to go to the costume party with me."
Rummaging in her purse for her cell phone, which signaled an incoming text, Gwen looked up, appearing surprised. "You didn't think I'd say no, did you?"
"I didn't know what you'd say. I mean, I thought you were still serious about that Lovari guy." Larry glanced over as Gwen thumbed her texted reply.
When she finished, she stuffed her phone back into her purse. "Sorry," she apologized. "One of my friends."
"Boy or girl?"
"Girl. She wanted to know how you and I were getting along."
"Yeah? What'd you tell her?"
"I said I'd let her know tomorrow."
Larry nodded and asked again about Gwen's relationship with Franco Lovari. "Are you and Franco still an item?"
Gwen shook her head. "Jenny told me he hit on her, so I told him to hit the road. Franco's a tall, dark, and handsome jerk. A big furry one. Geez, there's so much hair on him, you'd think he was some kind of animal."
"He'd make a great bouncer at a club," Larry joked. "What is he, about six-foot-six and two-fifty or so? Did she ever end up going out with him?"
"No. She said she couldn't stand the thought of him trying to lay his hairy paws on her. Between you and me, she called him The Wolfman."
"Whoa. That's a little harsh."
"I know," Gwen agreed. "But even if Jenny liked Franco, she wouldn't have dated him while we were still involved."
"I didn't see him at the party tonight, did you?" Larry asked.
"No, he hasn't called me since we broke up, and I haven't even seen him since Jenny disappeared. The police questioned him, but I don't know if they considered him a suspect."
"How do you know they questioned him?"
"Some detective asked me if I knew where he was. He said they needed to talk to him again."
The talk of Jenny and Frank dampened the mood briefly, but Gwen had no intention of moping around tonight. She touched Larry gently on the forearm and changed the subject. "Do you really need to keep both hands on the wheel?"
"Gotta be super careful with my Dad's car," Larry explained, "but I suppose I could try to drive with one for a while." Taking the not-so-subtle hint, He reached over, squeezed her hand and groped for the right thing to say. "Gwen?"
"I really think, uh..." The words weren't coming easy. "I really like you a lot, you know."
Gwen released Larry's hand, unfastened her seat belt, and scooted closer. "You know how I feel about you, Larry," she said.
"You ought to," she replied. "I've only been dropping hints, like forever."
"You have?" Larry's eyebrows rose. He hadn't had a clue.
"Uh-huh. Ever since high school. You've always been such a little lamb."
"You know, so polite and reserved. you really shouldn't be so shy, Larry." She placed a hand on his upper thigh and squeezed. "I've really been looking forward to tonight."
Appreciating an advantage his Dad's antique automobile provided, Larry draped his right arm around Gwen's shoulders. In his little Corolla, she'd have had to climb out of her bucket seat and onto the console to snuggle up. On top of that, the persistent ding-ding-ding of the warning bell would have begun the moment she unbuckled. "Well," he said, "I hope you're having a good time. That Chinese restaurant we went to before the party sure was great, wasn't it?"
"You didn't have to take me to such an expensive place."
"Your Daddy's rich, Gwen. You're used to nice things, and you know what they say about first impressions. They last forever."
"Yeah, okay," her eyes became big and round. "So, what can I do to make a good impression on you, tonight?"
"Hmmm." A sly smile formed on his face. "That's a loaded question."
"How come?" Gwen asked.
"What if I were to say let's take Lover's Lane and go parking?" Larry glanced in Gwen's direction and then back at the road.
"Well, Mr. Taylor!" Gwen exclaimed. "Aren't you a wolf in sheep's clothing all of a sudden?" She batted her fake eyelashes and responded to his suggestion. "I don't know, Larry, is that what you'd like to do?"
"Sure," he nodded. "But I'm a guy, so that's a given. The question is, would you like that?"
Gwen leaned even closer and whispered, "Yes." She punctuated her breathy response with a light, seductive kiss on his ear.
"Really?" Larry sounded as if he had hit the lotto--and couldn't believe his good fortune.
"Here we are in your daddy's classic car. Me in my poodle skirt and you in your white sport coat, with a pink carnation--Ooooh, oooh, wait . . . " Gwen reached forward and turned up the radio. "I love this song!"
"....I see the bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way..."As they sang together to the music of Credence Clearwater Revival, Larry kept a sharp eye on the road, making sure not to miss the Lover's Lane exit. "...Don't go around tonight. Well, it's bound to take your life. There's a bad moon on the rise."
Larry Taylor hummed softly, the goofiest of satisfied smiles on his face. The condom that resided in his wallet for the past six months had finally been evicted and put to good use. Filled with a load of Larry, the prophylactic swung slightly as it dangled between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. Tucked under his right arm, he carried the heavy blanket under which he and Gwen Connelly had just made each other very happy. He ambled over to the big, green, oil-barrel trash can at the edge of the clearing and dropped the vanguard of safe sex into it. After folding the blanket, standard cold-weather equipment for every vehicle in this part of the country, he lifted the trunk of his daddy's Chrysler and stuffed it into a big, cardboard box. There it would probably stay until the flowers of spring appeared, unless, perhaps, he and Gwen were to. . . That would be nice, he thought; very nice.
Drained of his male, hormonal pressures, Larry felt more relaxed than he could ever remember. One urge remained, demanding immediate attention. He unzipped his fly to take a leak. Whizzing a pressurized stream worthy of a fire department hose, he gazed up at the full moon and sucked in a deep breath. His nostrils flared as they filled with the smells of distant fireplaces, the forest, and fall.
From the Chrysler, he heard his dad's favorite channel, the one with opera music; then the deep, gravel-throated tones of Johnny Cash. Gwen had turned on the radio. A brief snippet of a talk show and a few seconds of Glenn Miller's orchestra preceded part of a newscast about Jenny Wilson's disappearance. As his jet-stream of urine became a dribble, he looked down to make sure his dress shoes weren't being spattered. Evidently Gwen hadn't wanted to hear any more tonight about her missing roommate. The music of Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs quickly replaced the newscast.
Shaking the dew off his lily, he heard Gwen singing, "You're everything that a big bad wolf could want..." and then a long howl; but the howl didn't originate from the radio or Gwen. It came from somewhere deep in the forest. If that was a wolf, Larry thought, there's something wrong with it. The cry carried an element of emotion that drew his attention and made him stare into the woods, wondering what that animal looked like. He remembered hearing that the state had announced this week as Michigan Wolf Awareness Week. Well, Larry thought, I'm aware, all right.
Standing behind the Chrysler with the trunk still open, Larry heard Gwen call out, "Larry, hurry up, would you?" she sounded worried. "It's getting cold in here and that wolf is creeping me out!" Although he had left the door open, he kept the engine running and the heater on, so she would be kept warm while she dressed. Again he heard her call out, "Larry?"
Whatever it was howled again and sounded closer. It caused the hair on the back of Larry's neck to rise. Goose flesh prickled on his arms. The sudden chill he felt had nothing to do with the late-night temperature or the fact that he had left his jacket in the car. Whatever had made that sound was coming their way. Moving through the brush, the steady cadence of thuds indicated two, rather than four legs. How could that be? Adding to Larry's confusion, the thing in the woods sounded far bigger than the average wolf.
"Gwen!" Larry yelled. "Open the glove box!"
"What?" she hollered back. She had heard him, but couldn't see how something in the glove box might help their situation.
"Open the glove box. There's a pistol in there. I think that thing is coming this way!" Frantically, Larry shoved the boxes in the trunk aside. He lifted the thin carpeting that covered the spare tire, searching for the tire iron, or something that might be used for defense if it turned out that his Dad's gun wasn't loaded.
Gwen punched the round, chrome button beneath the keyhole. "It's locked!" she shouted.
"Locked? Use the car keys!"
Gwen jerked the keys out of the ignition. The first key she tried didn't fit. Maybe it was upside down, she thought and flipped it over. It still didn't fit! Why? she wondered. It was the same one Larry had used to start the car. "It doesn't fit!" she screamed.
"Not the silver key, use the other one that looks like it! Hurry!" From the woods, the sound of breaking twigs continued, picking up speed. Horrified, Larry detected a second set of thudding feet.
Six keys dangled on the ring. The starter key had been silver. As Gwen attempted to locate the one that would open the glove box she saw two others were similarly shaped, but brass-colored. One of those had to be the one. She jammed the first one into the key hole. It wouldn't turn. Desperate, she pulled it out, and flipped it over in case it needed to be inserted upside down. In the process, she dropped the entire set to the floorboard. "Shit!" Snatching them up again, she realized she had broken a nail and couldn't identify which of the two brass-colored keys she had tried. Tears of frustration and fear clouded her vision as her trembling fingers chose a key and jammed it into the slot. Again, it didn't work.
"Gwen? Hurry! Whatever that thing is, it's really big!" Too late, Larry realized how stupid he had been to remain outside. The tire iron was nowhere to be found, and now he wouldn't have time to reach the still-opened driver's side door, slide in, and shut it. From not far away, the creature roared; not like a bear or a lion, not like anything either Larry or Gwen had ever heard. The answer to the question, what does this monster look like, was about to be revealed.
From the car, Gwen cried out, "I'm trying, Larry!"
Larry didn't reply. His eyes and attention were focused on the imposing figure that stepped out of the dark forest and stood, panting in the moon-lit clearing. What he beheld made no sense based on what he had heard. It was Franco Lovari, and he was carrying a rifle.
"Did you see it?" Franco asked. Wearing a thick brown overcoat and a furry hunter's cap with floppy covers over his ears, he could have passed for a bear. The big guy bent over, expelling steamy vapor clouds as he huffed and puffed, trying to catch his breath.
"See what?" Larry asked. His legs threatening to give out beneath him, he sagged against the rear quarter panel of the Chrysler for support. Like a powerful drug, the sight of another human being, rather than what he had imagined, spread a wave of sweet relief throughout his entire body.
"That thing," Franco replied, pointing back into the forest. "The wolf, or maybe it isn't a wolf, I don't know. I've been coming up here tracking it every night, ever since Jenny disappeared. I think maybe it got her."
In the car, completely unaware of Franco's presence, Gwen called out, "Larry, I got it!" She had never fired a gun before in her life, but when she saw the tall, broad figure standing at the edge of the clearing she shrieked in fear and began to fire, wildly. Franco fell forward and lay motionless on the ground. With her eyes closed, like a child unable to awaken from a bad dream, Gwen continued to squeeze the trigger long after the clip had been emptied. She didn't stop until Larry grabbed her by the shoulders and forcefully shook her.
"Gwen, Gwen! Stop! We're safe, now!" Larry assured her; and they were. But how could he tell her she had shot Franco Lovari?
Holding her breath, Gwen looked up. Dark streaks of mascara stained her puffed-out cheeks. Exhaling noisily, she dropped the gun to the carpeted floorboard. Dissolving into tears of relief, she buried her head in Larry's chest. For several minutes they clung to each other on the vinyl bench seat of that big, black car, rocking back and forth, holding each other as tightly as a boy and girl ever could.
Finally, Larry mustered the courage to tell her what she had done. "Gwen, I know you didn't know it, but that thing you shot wasn't an animal —"
"Hey!" The interruption came from the edge of the clearing.
Turning to see who had shouted, Larry and Gwen both stared in disbelief at Franco Lovari as he rose to his feet, looking as healthy as a horse and just about as big.
Miraculously unscathed, arms held high in the air, Lovari shouted, "I surrender! What the hell were you shooting at me for?"
Gwen's mouth fell open. Her face a portrait of confusion, she stared at Franco and then back at Larry, seeking an explanation.
"That's what I was trying to tell you, Gwen. You weren't shooting at an animal. It was Franco. I thought you'd killed him, for sure!"
Gwen shook her head in disbelief. "Franco?"
Larry smiled and patted Gwen on the shoulder. "Sit back and relax," he suggested. "I'm gonna go apologize to him and make sure he's okay. I'll be back in a jiffy." He yanked the keys out of the glove box keyhole, reinserted the silver one in the ignition slot on the dash, and restarted his Dad's car. "There you go," he said. "I'll even shut the door this time, so you don't get cold." He slid out of the Chrysler, closed the door, and turned around in time to see something that would haunt his dreams for the rest of his life.
Taller than a grizzly, the creature bounded out of the forest from between two trees and rose to stand. Balancing on its hind legs as naturally as any man, it towered above the six-and–a-half-foot-tall Franco, who scrambled for his rifle which still lay on the ground. In the cold night air, the beast’s hot breath plumed in front of its snout like puffs of steam from a locomotive. Its muzzle wrinkled as it snarled ominously, the mouth opening far enough to reveal fangs that must have been seven or eight inches long. Silvery strands of drool dripped from the gaping jaws, some of it falling on and flowing through the fur and the teats upon the animal’s chest.
It’s a she-wolf, Larry observed, surprised momentarily. Awe-stricken by the immensity of the beast, he realized that it didn't matter what sex this walking myth might be when it ripped you to shreds.
Franco had his hands on the rifle, prepared to shoot, when the creature swatted the weapon away. Moving with breathtaking speed and agility, it used its front legs and forepaws in the same way we use our arms and hands; but, of course, we don't have four-inch-long claws. When the rifle tumbled and skidded on the ground in his direction, the thought that he might actually be able to kill the monster supplanted Larry's initial inclination to jump back into the Chrysler.
Events that occur while lives hang in the balance are frequently described as evolving in slow motion. Seconds can drag by like minutes. But the very opposite occurred in this instance. Franco screamed in agony as Larry rushed forward to pick up the rifle. In less time than it took to grab the weapon and rise up to aim, the beast, Franco, and his scream were gone; swallowed up by the darkness of the forest.
Still holding the rifle, Larry turned and dashed back to the Chrysler. Gwen had locked the door. "Unlock it, Gwen!" Pounding on the door, he shouted, "Hurry! That thing could come back any second!"
After fumbling clumsily with the manual door lock, Gwen apologized as Larry swung in, tossed the rifle onto the back seat, and slammed the door. "I'm sorry, Larry! I'm sorry. I didn't know if you'd make it back. I called 9-1-1," she held up her phone, "and they laughed. They just laughed and said, 'Trick or treat!'" She began to cry hysterically. "What are we going to do?" she wailed.
Larry didn't need to think about his answer. He put the Chrysler in reverse and backed up, spinning the steering wheel to point the car in the right direction. "We're getting out of here. Hold on!" Before Larry could slam his foot down on the gas pedal, something crashed into and became partially imbedded in the Chrysler's windshield. The bloody, mangled face of Franco Lovari, minus the rest of his body, stared, wide-eyed, through the cracks. Close to losing her mind, Gwen screamed louder and longer than Larry would have believed humanly possible. Seconds later, she passed out as a severed leg, followed by an arm, smacked into the sagging glass, dislodging the head. Franco's head rolled onto the hood, balanced upright for a moment, and then toppled off, onto the ground. Broken glass, blood, and body parts blocking his view, Larry remembered that Franco's rifle lay on the back seat. Reaching back, he grabbed it and swung it over the top of Gwen's head.
The ammo in the rifle's firing chamber glinted in a way Larry hadn't expected. Then he realized; the bullets were made of silver. Franco hadn't been out hunting for deer, or bear, or anything that might be considered your average game. Somehow, he must have suspected that a werewolf roamed the forests on the outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie.
The argument as to whether he should step out and confront the monster, or shoot through what remained of the front windshield ended when the driver's side window disintegrated. A clawed paw that resembled a hand, reached in, grabbed the heavy door and yanked it off of its hinges like a flimsy piece of cardboard.
A fleeting vision of how his father would react crossed Larry's mind. "Dad, it was a werewolf!" he would explain.
Dad would stare back and reply, "I don't care if it was King Kong! You pay for the damage and from now on you drive your own car!"
With nothing between him and the beast, Larry pointed the rifle, aiming at point-blank range for the heart beating beneath the furry chest less than two feet away. Without hesitation he clenched his teeth and fired twice, Boom! Boom!
Although the werewolf stood its ground, the yellowish-brown eyes squinted, registering pain and surprise. The arms that reached out, poised to drag Larry from the car, fell to its sides. Falling to its knees, the hind legs began to shrink, making a cracking noise as they became more wolf-like. As the beast toppled forward, the clawed hands and feet once again began to resemble paws. Slowly, the creature staggered away on all fours, each step seeming to require more effort than the last. Looking back over its shoulder it moaned. The sound wouldn't have seemed out of place coming from a badly injured patient's room in a hospital when the last shot of morphine wore off and the pain became too much to bear.
Less than five feet from the edge of the clearing, the beast collapsed. Its shallow, labored respiration slowed. The flank rose and fell irregularly as the intervals between breaths lengthened. Larry flinched involuntarily as the creature shuddered, suffering one, final seizure, and then lay perfectly still, the tongue lolling from the side of its opened jaws.
Out like a light, Gwen still lay against the passenger's side door. After turning around and laying the rifle on the back seat, Larry shook his head, reached out with a trembling hand, and tenderly caressed her face; grateful that they were both still alive and that she had been spared the final, traumatic moments.
Turning back toward the dead animal, Larry witnessed a final transformation illuminated by the Chrysler's headlights. The shape of the beast changed again, as the thick, gray and black fur disappeared from it's limbs and torso. Slipping the car into drive, Larry edged closer to get a better look, prepared to hit the gas at any moment. Shaken by what he discovered, his hand flew to cover his opened mouth. The she-wolf had become a human female. Lying on her side with two bullet holes in her chest, a nude woman with gray hair, appearing to be in her sixties, lay on the ground where the wolf had fallen. She bore an uncanny resemblance to Gwen.
When people die, the legal system comes to life. Dental records, fingerprints and DNA tests all confirmed that Edna Connelly, Gwen's grandmother, was the woman found shot to death shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, October twenty-fourth. No plausible theories were offered as to why she might have vanished, or where she might have been for the past thirty years. No reasonable explanations surfaced to explain why she might suddenly have reappeared, nude, on a night when temperatures were in the low forties. One law official, who preferred to remain anonymous, opined that she may have been suffering from clinical lycanthropy, a condition where the afflicted individual believes they can shift into the form of an animal. Officially listed as an accidental homicide, the court record shows that her death took place while Larry Taylor defended himself and Gwen Connelly from a pack of wolves that attacked and killed Franco Lovari.
Larry and Gwen testified that Edna Connelly had become a werewolf and that she killed Franco Lovari. Their sworn statements were disallowed after they were subjected to psychiatric evaluations. Experts testified that their powers of observation and recollection must have been adversely affected during their ordeal. Despite the fact nobody could explain how the vintage Chrysler's door came to be ripped from its hinges, the rendered opinion of the Sault Ste. Marie justice system and the Chippewa County Sheriff's Department was, and continues to be, that werewolves exist only in the overactive imaginations of fiction writers and filmmakers. They contend that the eerie, almost human-sounding cries, heard when the moon is full, deep in the forests of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, are nothing more than the howls of the flourishing, state-protected wolf population.
Jenny Wilson has never been found, dead or alive. She remains listed as missing. The investigation into her disappearance is ongoing.
I am pleased to announce that my romantic, international thriller, The Falcon and His Desert Rose, has been published by World Castle Publishing. The novel, which could be described as a cross between Jurassic Park and The Mummy, is available in both eBook and in paperback, and may be purchased online through the World Castle Publishing website or through Amazon.com.
Here is a free preview