I’ve reposted this, as I’ve made it a bit longer than the first one I published. The sickness seems to have its advantages as I can’t sleep. Yes, I’m as sick as a dog. Which makes it three people on Kim Harrison’s blog actually. I think it’s something there…
Bitten Part 10
What has come before…
When she reached Francis’s cottage later that day, the woman wasn’t there – her house abnormally locked up and a note on the door for Vaughn, telling her to put the groceries in her horse’s empty stall. She did so with a heavy heart, the grounds unnaturally silent in Francis’s absence. Her goats, that was penned up in the only other stall, didn’t come to Vaughn as usual, but stared at her – their demon like eyes seemingly accusing her of their mistress’s plight. She tried to coach them over, but gave up eventually and went to the chicken coop. They at least were oblivious to the world around them and seemed happy enough when she threw in an extra handful of seed.
She watched them for a while then miserably went back to the house. By chance, she tried the back door and found it open, Francis so unused to locking up that she forgot to check it. Vaughn hesitated there, then – thinking that the woman was her lover and that it was her damned right, she went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee. The silence that hung around the yard had spread into the cottage and, feeling awkward, Vaughn walked around – restless and still upset by what she had seen the afternoon. She couldn’t imagine that people could be so unthinking, nor could she believe that they got away with it.
She had come to this small town to get away from the rushed life she was falling into, to get her bearings and settle down for a bit. She had never thought that she would think of staying here for the rest of her life but had started to entertain the idea in the past few weeks. Now, she wasn’t so sure…
Sighing, she rubbed her neck and wandered over to the living room. Although she tried to tell herself that she was allowed to be there, she still felt like an intruder into Francis’s space and, unable to sit down, walked around the room, restless. She found herself stopping in front of the book case, studying the titles she had never had the time to read. There were a lot of books, and text books it seemed, on Greek mythology and literature. There were a few novels, both old and new, with genre’s varying from true life stories to fantasy. There was even a cook book, though Vaughn knew from experience that Francis wasn’t very focused on her personal culinary skills.
Then, tucked away in the lowest corner of the shelf, Vaughn found a couple of moleskin notebooks. She picked them up, first thinking that they might be Francis’s, but – after guiltily skimming through them, she realized that they must come from her grand father, the books old and dusty, the handwriting almost illegible. Feeling less guilty, she tried to decipher a few pages but the writer had obviously been in a hurry, writing it down in a scrawl he could probably decipher but nobody else. She found one entry that stood out from the rest.
Wolves wolves wolves, the man had written. Wolves in the forest and wolves in my mind. Punishment for death, what have I done. They speak to me, whisper to me but never accusing me. They are here, out of sight but not out of reach. Help me, I must understand… Help them.
Shivering, Vaughn quickly put the notebook down and took a step away from the bookshelf. Frightened suddenly, realizing that it could still be hours before Francis came back, she left the cottage and went back to her truck, her head filled with the image of her lover howling with the wolves.
She went home, but the small garden flat that she rented couldn’t comfort her, so – in a rare moment of indecision, she decided to wander over to the local pub. Although she was no stranger there, she didn’t frequent it often. The people who hanged out there were people like she, who had nothing better to do. It tended to make for a strange mix of topic conversations and activities. She knew that her work colleague John and his mate Benjamin hanged out there quite often and sure enough, when she walked into the pub, she saw them huddled at the bar, the beers in their hands clearly not their firsts. She wanted to avoid them, but the pub was surprisingly full and, loosing the wish to sit down and have a meal, she slid into a vacated stool close to them. It dawned on her that they were in such a deep conversation that they didn’t even notice her.
Feeling more secure, she ordered herself a drink and tried to force herself to relax. A few familiar faces came over to say hi, and she made polite conversation but her heart wasn’t in it. She finished her drink and was getting ready to leave when the two boys close to hers’ conversation caught her attention.
“…and her wolf,” John was saying. “God Benjamin, that think could’ve fucking killed you.”
The afternoon’s trouble maker chuckled as he took a deep swig of his beer and shook his head. “I knew he wouldn’t,” he said confidently. “She’s got him well trained, I’ll give her that. And, if he had hurt me – it had been one problem less. The ranger would’ve shot him and that would’ve been the end of it.”
John sighed as he sipped his own beer. “Still,” he said. “She’s as unpredictable as that wolf. I hated delivering to her, she acted so fucking normal on that mountain. I swear she like, planned something crazy or something.”
It was always interesting how alcohol impaired peoples’ vocabulary.
Simmering on the inside, Vaughn knew that she should just leave, but she remained, repulse bound to carry on listening.
“What I can’t understand,” Benjamin continued the conversation, “is why people don’t just call social services or something to come and pick her up. I mean, jeez, that woman’s not… sane.”
John shifted, though he looked uncomfortable when he shrugged. “Same reason you don’t call social services,” he said. “She’s too fucking normal and smart to be caught out by them. They’ll go up there and see only what they want to see. And, there are people in the town who protect her.”
Benjamin snorted. “People like your boss?” he queried, earning himself a nod.
“Yes,” John continued. “People like my boss. And, honestly, you saw how protective that wolf is of her and you know the rumors. I don’t think anybody would dare touch her when she’s there.”
Benjamin took a deep swallow of his beer and pushed the empty pint glass to the end of the bar. “Then somebody should so something about her when she’s here,” he said. “But – that reminds me. I’ve got something I want to tell you.”
John raised an eyebrow while Vaughn, having heard enough, put her money down for her drink and got up, wishing that she had stayed home so that she could’ve spared herself the conversation that she overheard. She resolved not to listen any further, but Benjamin’s next words stopped her in her tracks.
“I know where the wolves’ den is,” he said. “I stumbled across it by accident when I was working up there with my dad. There’s pups up there, a whole group of filthy, stinking muts who’ll just grow up and become as much a problem as the rest of them are.”
Vaughn’s heart went cold when she saw John’s tense, but feverishly exited smile. “What do you suggest we do?” he queried to which the other boy smiled.
“What our father’s told us to do when we find them…” He said with a smile.
To Be Continued…