I felt dread as I sat and waited for Grace to come into the kitchen. It was time to spill the beans about my intimacy with Cole and I wasn't sure how she'd take it.
She took off her shoes and walked in and smiled when she saw me sitting at the table and she said, "Good morning. I didn't expect to see you up so early on a Sunday."
She noticed that I'd made coffee for her as well as myself and her smile faltered a little.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, "You're sitting there looking at me like it's one of those 'we need to talk' moments. You generally don't get phased by much but you look really uncomfortable right now. Is everything alright? Are the boys OK?"
"The boys are fine. They're asleep."
She sat down at the table and took a sip from her coffee and asked, "So, what is it?"
"I just wanted to talk to you about Cole and Elias and me and what our relationship has evolved into."
She sighed and asked, "Are they sleeping together right now?"
"Yes. They're in the master bedroom. I'm sorry. I don't want to upset you. I know you said you didn't want to even know about it if it ever happened but I couldn't let it go on any longer without letting you know. Cole was starting to get upset about having to be split off from us and sent to his bedroom alone. He asked if he could sleep with us this morning and he said it was time he wanted you to know. I didn't want you walking in today and checking on Cole only to find his bed empty. It didn't seem like the right way for you to find out. Back when I'd asked you for permission to have the sex talk with Cole we talked about his needs and how he would become unhappy over time if we denied him..."
She interrupted me and said, "I know where this is going and you really don't need to go into any detail of any kind if it makes you uncomfortable. I've noticed how happy Cole's been. It seems he gets happier and more settled with each passing day. It's obvious why he's so happy. He loves you, both of you. I wasn't going to say anything about this unless you brought it up, but I know some of what's been going on between you three."
She nodded again and said, "I've known for quite a while. You haven't been as careful as you might have wanted to be. At least, the boys haven't been. The night you showed me how Cole was able to talk to me on the computer with his pointer mask they left the Notepad application open and I saw some things on there the next morning that I probably shouldn't have."
"You did? What things?"
"When I came home from work I didn't go straight to bed like I usually do or I wouldn't have seen it at all. That was the day the contractors were coming in to start wiring the panic room so I had to stay up and wait for them. You were already gone to work. Since I had to stay up I came back down here to the kitchen to make myself some strong coffee. While I was waiting for them to show up I went to use the bathroom in the main hall and I passed the hobby room. The door was open and the computer was still on with the messages that Cole and Elias had exchanged still there on the screen. It was so neat to see Cole talking as a wolf the night before I couldn't resist going in and reading what they'd said to each other. I was really shocked by what I saw there."
I thought back to that night and the exchange we'd had just before the boys convinced me that Cole as the wolf could easily handle me and I suddenly felt my face begin to flush with extreme embarrassment. Not only did she know we'd been intimate, but her first exposure to it was through the fact that I was having sex with wolves. I couldn't believe we'd been so careless. She'd known all this time. I felt overcome with shame.
She watched me for a moment and then her face suddenly spread into a wide grin and then she started to laugh and said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't laugh. It's just that the look on your face is priceless. You're the strongest man I've ever known. I would have thought nothing could really fluster you but I've never seen anyone look quite so embarrassed. Really, you don't have to be."
"No. I was shocked by what I read on that screen, like I said. I was angry. I felt like you'd betrayed me by getting intimate with Cole almost immediately after we'd talked about it rather than waiting. I was confused and a bit sickened at the idea that you would want to have sex with animals. I spent a good part of the morning that day thinking about how I would approach you when you got home. The plan sort of evolved from screaming like a banshee and scratching your eyes out, to slapping your face and kicking your ass, to sitting you down and scolding you, and finally to not saying anything for a while and just thinking about it before I acted."
As Grace spoke I started to feel even more uncomfortable. The whole point of waiting here for her was to break it to her gently so she'd find out in a way that was easier to handle and she could let me know how she felt immediately or even vent at me for a bit if she needed to, but in the end it turned out she'd already found out a month ago, and it was in the absolute worst way possible. I thought I'd be able to break it to her gently and be really vague about when it had all began and when exactly we started to get intimate with Cole. I thought it would be easiest if I let her believe it was a new development and it had taken us a month to get there, but she already knew the truth. Much more of it than I cared for her to know. I was going to let her know we'd been intimate with Cole but I had no plans to broach the subject of us doing it together while they were wolves. I squirmed a bit in my chair as I tried to think of what I should say.
"I'm really sorry, Grace. I sure as hell didn't mean for you to find out in that way, or to that particular level of detail."
She was still smiling as she said, "Let me finish. I know you're uncomfortable right now but just let me talk for a bit and I think you'll feel better."
I gave her a weak smile and stayed quiet as I waited for her to continue.
"After the initial shock and anger wore off a bit I went back into the hobby room to read the exchange more carefully. I could tell you were in the room with them and even though you weren't typing your bit of the conversation into the computer it was pretty easy to read between the lines. Cole was the one that first indicated he wanted to mess around with you and said in fairly graphic detail what he wanted you to do to him. You must have turned him down because Elias then said something about Cole not being a boy, he was a big wolf and he could handle you easily. Cole then persisted and begged and said he'd never ask for anything again. I imagine he gave you his puppy dog eyes, which are pretty hard to resist when he's a boy, never mind when he's actually a giant puppy dog of sorts. The next words he typed were 'I promise' which in hindsight tells me you must have caved in but said that he should let you know if it was making him uncomfortable which is what I would imagine you saying.
"After I'd realized it wasn't even you who'd suggested it and that you'd initially even turned him down I calmed down some more and was able to think a bit more clearly. After thinking about it a while I'd decided that ultimately what really mattered to me was that Cole was happy and that you weren't taking advantage of him in any way. I wanted to be sure that any relationship that developed between you was based on respect and real love and that the intimacy you shared was just the natural extension of that. I wanted to know that Cole was the one pushing for it and not the other way around. I decided to watch for any sign that Cole was uncomfortable or being manipulated in any way. I know him and I would be able to easily see if anything was bothering him at all.
"I closed the notepad application and shut down the PC so nobody else could see it and I let the contractors in when they arrived, and then I came right back into the kitchen to have more coffee and sit and think about things some more while I waited for Cole to wake up. I'll admit that my mind wandered to thoughts of what must have gone on in that bedroom and I started to get a bit upset again. As a mother it was hard to accept that my boy would really want to do that sort of thing and I began to think maybe he'd done it just to make you happy. If that was the case then he really wouldn't have liked it and it would show. I thought I'd see it on Cole's face when he came in. I almost expected him to seem distant and unhappy when I finally saw him but that wasn't the case at all. He actually seemed even happier than he'd been the day before and he couldn't stop talking about how much fun he'd had the night before and how great it was to be able to change with Elias and you right there with him. It seemed like he was just fine but I waited to see how he would react to Elias. You'd all been together and if any of what went on made Cole feel bad it should be obvious in how he reacted to Elias.
"When Elias got up and joined us later on Cole ran to him and gave him a big hug and then he stuck to him like glue for the rest of the day. I knew right away there was nothing really wrong going on and that it was something Cole not only wanted, but was thrilled about. The more I watched the two of them interact that day the more I realized there was nothing for me to be upset about. Cole mentioned you frequently and it was always something like 'I wish Jake was here' or 'when will Jake be home?' or 'what should we make Jake for supper' or 'do you think Jake will like this?' Those aren't the things a boy says when he's unhappy or afraid or victimized, and just the way he said things and the way he lit up when he thought of you made it pretty obvious he was already deeply in love with you and he just couldn't wait to be with you again.
"It was clear that you and Elias were becoming the most important people in his life. It hurt a little bit that I wasn't his whole world anymore and I felt a bit jealous about it, but even that wore off for the most part later on that same day when he came and lay down next to me on my bed while I was reading and he had a nap like he often liked to do for years before. I realized then that my relationship with Cole wouldn't necessarily change in any way just because he was becoming intimately involved with the two of you. I would still be his mom and he would still love me and there was no reason for that to change. I resolved to just keep a close eye on his behavior and stay quiet about what I knew for the time being.
"The reason I'm so calm about all this right now is because I've had a month since then to watch you all and to think of you as being together to that degree of intimacy and I've had plenty of time to not only get used to the idea, but to come to appreciate the beauty of it. Everything I've seen since then in your interactions with the boys showed me how much you love them. You really are a wonderful guy. Even the way you treat me, with respect and honesty and kindness and affection, like a friend and an equal, even more than that, like a member of your family, has made me realize things really couldn't be any better than they are. You and Elias have both embraced me as an equal member of this family and I feel like I'm cared about and I matter and I belong here. Elias has become like a little brother that I'd always wished I'd had but never did until now. I love him. I love you that way too. Not only have I not lost Cole to you in any way, I've gained two new men in my life who I think are just about the best guys I could ever hope for my son to fall in love with.
"In the end I'm perfectly thrilled with how things have worked out. How could I not be? Back before you came into our lives, when I thought I was going to have to watch Cole wither away and die at a young age in front of my eyes, I felt I was living the most unhappy life anyone could ever possibly have to endure. I could have never imagined myself being anywhere near as happy as I am right now. It's like the complete polar opposite of what I expected from life when I found out Cole had ALS. I could not have possibly imagined a better life for him than this. Cole loves you so much he's practically busting with happiness every day and I love you for that. It was just me and Cole before, but now we have a whole family and I couldn't feel more thrilled about it. You're like the best big brother I could have ever wished for."
She stood from her chair and came over and kissed me on the cheek and I stood up and we hugged for a while as the feeling of relief washed over me. I shouldn't be surprised by her reaction I suppose. She always seems open-minded and reasonable but I wasn't expecting her to be quite so positive about it all.
We sat back down and grinned at each other for a bit.
"I feel the same way about you, Grace. You're my family now and you matter a lot. I love you like a sister and I care about your happiness. I always will."
"I know you do. I see it every day in how you treat me. Just the fact that you sat here at the table and waited for me to get home to face me directly and make sure I was OK with things rather than me finding Cole not in his bed says it all. That's the sort of respect I was talking about earlier. It seems to come naturally to you. You're always looking out for people's feelings and being careful and going out of your way to make everyone comfortable and putting their needs above your own. You treat all of us that way. It doesn't go unnoticed and I appreciate it immensely."
I smiled at her and nodded.
She smiled back and said, "And I'm happy to know that you think of me like a sister and not your mother in law. That would be a bit too weird."
I chuckled and said, "I guess it would. So, speaking of weird, about the sex with wolves thing, I know it must seem really strange to you that I would want to do that but I just want to explain.."
She put her hand up and said, "Don't worry about that. It's not something we need to discuss in any detail. Frankly, I realized after a few weeks had gone by that I hadn't even really thought about it much since that day. It occurred to me that it's simply because they're not just wolves, they're Cole and Elias, but in a different shape. I still found it a bit strange at first that you'd want to do something like that but the odd thing is that the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was still thinking about it."
"I mean the more I thought about it, the more I realized I liked thinking about it in a way. They're so beautiful. I began to fantasize about what it would be like if someone like you were that shape and wanted to have a go at me. You'd be even more massive than Elias! I don't want to get into any details about my fantasies but let's just say I'm not against the idea anymore and I can definitely see the appeal in it. The bottom line is that you can feel confident in the fact that there's no aspect of anything that's going on in this house or with this family that bothers me in any way. I love the lives we have together now and I wouldn't change a thing."
"Good. I'm glad to hear it. I feel exactly the same way. I'm glad it's all out in the open now."
She smiled and nodded.
"On the subject of change, though, there is one other thing we need to talk about," I said
"The boys will have to do all of their changing right here in the house from now on. Something happened with them last night while they were out in the woods that will mean that they won't be able to go out there ever again. You don't need to worry about it, they're fine, but it was a bit of a traumatic experience for both of them and you need to know about it. It was sort of the reason why Cole really didn't want to be alone in his bed this morning and I agreed to let him sleep with me and Elias even though it meant you would finally find out about us. He needed a bit of extra reassurance that everything is just fine."
She started to look concerned and asked, "What is it? What happened? Were they hurt somehow? Are they really OK?"
I nodded, "They're absolutely fine, both mentally and physically, but yes, they were hurt. The change back to their human form wiped out the damage and they're both strong emotionally and came through it like champs. You'll see when they get up later."
"What damage got wiped out? What happened exactly?"
"It seems the news stories back when Cole bit Elias didn't go unnoticed by certain people who had the knowledge to easily guess what had really happened there. I always thought they'd be perfectly safe because anyone hunting for the wolf responsible for the attack and the animal carcasses from before would be looking for it during the day. I was wrong. This guy knew what they were so he must have known that hunting for them during the day was futile since they wouldn't even be wolves then, and he would have to do it at night. He caught up to them this morning. He shot Elias. He was going to shoot him again but Cole came to his rescue."
She looked alarmed and said, "Oh my God! Elias was shot?! Was Cole shot?"
I nodded, "He was grazed on the inside of his front leg while he struggled to stop the hunter from going after Elias to finish him off, but he shrugged it off later. He really is fine. They both are. Cole disabled the hunter on his own. Well, the wolf took over and did what was needed to protect them both, but afterward Cole had the presence of mind to run back here and wake me up so I could come and help."
"He ran here? As a wolf?"
"Yes. I don't know if anyone saw. I doubt it to be honest. It was around 5:30 in the morning. Not many people up at that time on a Sunday. I followed him back there on my bike to where Elias was. He'd been shot in the chest on his right side just behind his front leg and he'd lost a lot of blood. He almost didn't make it. I had to do CPR to keep him alive until the change came along and fixed everything like it had never happened. It was a really close call."
"That must have been terrifying for you!"
"It was. For a moment I was sure I'd lost him forever. I was devastated. I don't ever want to have to go through anything like that again. It goes without saying that the boys won't be spending any more time in the woods from now on. Not those woods anyhow."
She nodded, "What about the hunter? You said he knew what they are. He knew he was trying to kill a human being? What happened to him? Is he still out there?"
"He's dead. He didn't survive his injuries. We needed to get out of there in a hurry so we just left his body there."
"You mean Cole killed him?" she asked, sounding really alarmed, "Are you sure he's OK? He can't go through something like that and not be changed!"
"He's OK, Grace, trust me. Cole is strong. Elias explained it to him. It wasn't Cole that did it really, it was the wolf. Remember the story Elias told us about the time he'd lost control when the cougar came out of nowhere? It was like that. The wolf took control and made sure the man wouldn't be a threat to them anymore and Cole was simply along for the ride. Cole understands that he didn't really kill anyone. There was nothing he could have done to stop it. He also understands that it was completely necessary. Neither one of them would be with us if the wolf hadn't acted. We'd have lost them both to that murderer. That man knew he was hunting people. I feel absolutely no remorse for him."
"Oh, God. I can't believe this. Do you think there are other hunters out there?"
"Yes, there are most likely others. The man said so himself before he died. He also sort of mentioned another group. He said some strange things like the boys were somehow a threat to us and that we couldn't let 'them' get hold of another one. He said it like there was someone else out there trying to track them down, but not to kill them."
"Do you think they'll find us here? What should we do?"
"I don't see how they could possibly find us. Their only hope was to track them in the woods while they were wolves. If the boys never go back there then there's nothing to lead the hunters here. There's no way to associate Cole and Elias with what's been happening down there in the river valley. I think we're safe, but we obviously have to be careful from now on. It might be in our best interests to consider moving to a new location just in case. When that man's body is found it will be the first actual death of a human being caused by whatever monstrous predator has been causing trouble down there in the woods. The area will be under close scrutiny and there'll be a lot of heat for a while, but nothing to connect it back to us. Even if we decide to move, there's no extreme urgency. Until or unless we do move, the wolves will be stuck indoors I guess."
"Would you be OK with that, selling your house and moving?"
"It's our house, and it's just a house. For the most part it's just been a place to store all of my crap up until you all came along. Now it's my family's home, but it's all of you that make it a home. It doesn't really matter where we live so long as we're together. Any place we settle into will be home. I'd have no problem selling this house. I'll contact a realtor tomorrow to at least get an idea of what it might be worth on today's market. In fact, I think I'm going to start trying to arrange things so that we're a bit more liquid financially and can be completely mobile at a moments notice if we have to. There's gonna be a lot of heat, like I said, and it might be time to get a bit paranoid and ready to vanish at a moment's notice."
"What do you mean?"
"I have a lot of investments spread around that I've been building for my retirement. We're not exactly rich but there's more than enough to keep us going for a long while if necessary. It would take time to convert them all to ready cash though. I think it might be best if I start that process now and convert some into bitcoin that would be extremely hard to ever track and could act as an emergency fund for us that would always be ready if we needed it."
She nodded and said, "That sounds like a good precaution. I wish I was in a position to chip in, but the money from the sale of my house is not quite going to cover the money I owe for Cole's medical bills."
"Don't worry about it, Grace. We have no money concerns. We're fine. I can help with the rest of Cole's bills. It's no problem at all. We'll sit down as a family soon and talk about our plans going forward. We'll all need to be in agreement if we want to sell this house and find a new place to live. We're safe for the time being so there's no need to panic and rush around. We should take our time and plan things out carefully."
"It sounds like you still have things well under control. It's reassuring to know the boys have you looking out for them, that all of us do. I was never really comfortable with them running off by themselves as wolves at night but I never imagined anything that bad happening to them."
"I know, me too. I've occasionally given thought to the idea of having Elias intentionally change me to be like them so I could be with them all the time."
"What?! You wouldn't really do that would you?" She asked, seeming somewhat alarmed at the idea.
"I think I would, eventually, but not right now. Why does the idea scare you?"
"It's just the thought of you doing that to yourself on purpose. All the pain those boys have to endure almost every day, twice a day. It kills me just to think about them going through that. I could never handle that myself. It scares me to think of you doing it too because I'd sort of be alone after that. It would feel that way anyhow. Like I'd be the one who'd have to handle things like you do now. I don't think I could do that."
I nodded and said, "That's part of the reason I wouldn't do it any time soon. I don't want to burden you with that much responsibility. I'd only be a wolf for a small part of the time though, so it's something to consider. Besides, Elias said some interesting things that really got me thinking. He talked about how a lot of the trouble we've had, and even might have in future, has to do with the fact that we've got two big wolves on our hands a lot of the time and we're trying to squeeze them into a life where they really don't belong. He suggested that it would make more sense for us to move to a remote location that's better suited to the wolves and get away from prying eyes and adapt to that location as humans, which would be much easier. I think he's making a lot of sense. If we simplified our life enough we could all be wolves, even you, and be free of the complications of living amongst the 'normals' and trying to fit in. There would be a lot less complications for the wolves if we were somewhere sufficiently remote. We could even have a lot of our meals 'on the hoof' if we wanted to."
She thought about it for a few moments and said, "I suppose it does make sense. It would be a lot easier if they could come and go as they pleased and we didn't have to worry about other people finding out or anyone being able to track them down. If we were in a remote location nothing the boys do would ever draw anyone's attention. I suppose in that case it would be alright if you changed along with them so they'd always have you to watch over them. I don't think even then I'd want to join you though."
"Really? Why not?"
"I just don't think I could do it. I'm a real weakling when it comes to physical pain and the idea of my body being ravaged almost every day and all of the intense pain when it's wrecked and reshaped is way more than I could handle just once, never mind twice a day for eternity. The idea of running around in the woods at night doesn't really appeal to me that much anyways and I think I'd make a crappy wolf."
I chuckled and said, "I'm sure you'd make a fine wolf if you gave yourself time to get used to it."
"I sincerely doubt it, but it's not just the pain or the fact I wouldn't really enjoy being a wolf. I love you and Elias like my own family now, but I need something more. I've had a lot of romantic fantasies about you, Jake, but I've finally let them go. It does me no good to fantasize about something that can never be. In a sense it wasn't really exactly you I was dreaming about, but someone just like you who would love me the way you love Elias and Cole. I need that sort of romance in my life and at some point I'm going to go out looking for it. I need to feel that sort of intimacy with someone and I've been working so hard to provide for Cole on my own for so long that I haven't had a chance to do it. Now that he has you and Elias and our lives have become so happy and settled I can turn my attention back to myself for a bit and try to fill some of my own needs. I don't see how I could ever do that successfully if I were going to be a wolf a lot of the time. It would be harder for me to develop more of a social life if we were to move to a remote location, too."
I nodded, "I can certainly understand that. You have needs and you will have to fill them eventually or become really unhappy. It's the same argument that applied to Cole. You need to look after yourself and seek out your own fulfillment and now that you don't have to devote all of your energy and thought to taking care of Cole you'll have the time to take better care of yourself."
She smiled and said, "Exactly right. It's one of the reasons I've started looking for a day job. You and Cole and Elias have each other and in a sense your lives are complete. I want to find someone who makes me feel complete too, and I can't really do that easily if I'm working at night and sleeping during the day any more than if I were a wolf at night and a human during the day, or living way out in the middle of a forest hundreds of miles from anyone else. I need to be able to go out and meet people and have a normal life."
"I agree. It makes sense and I can see you've already given it a lot of thought. There's one other aspect of all this that you really need to think about, though. You mentioned earlier how bad it was before we came into your lives when you were going to have to watch Cole wither away and die right before your eyes. It will be the same for him now if you don't change. He'll stay the way he is forever but he'll have to watch you get old and eventually die."
"But that's natural! What you're talking about is just the natural aging process. Everyone has to watch their parents get older and eventually die. It's just the way life works."
"Yes, it's the way life normally works, but you have a chance to change that in Cole's case. He doesn't necessarily have to watch you grow old. You could live forever too and he would have all of the people he cares about right there with him for as long as he lives. I'm not saying you should do it. That's ultimately your decision to make. I just wanted to be sure you'd thought it through. Cole himself realized for the first time this morning that I was going to grow old and he immediately wanted me to change so I wouldn't have to. He said he wanted you to change too."
"I can understand him feeling that way but I really don't think it's the same thing as me watching him die from ALS. I'll age slowly and naturally and he'll adjust to it as it goes along. It's a natural process. He'll always have Elias, and they'll both always have you if you change yourself, and I agree that you should do it eventually. It's not for me, though. I just don't think being a part-time wolf would be the best thing for me. It seems more like a guy thing. I have no interest in being big and powerful and running around at night hunting and taking down animals and ripping into raw flesh. I like a nice comfy bed and a good book to read. I like a nice meal at a good restaurant. I like a warm bubble bath and nice surroundings. I want a man who wants a girl who likes all those sorts of things. The rugged life is not really for me."
"OK, I can understand that. I guess we'll have to take that into consideration when we talk about the future as a family. It's sort of the opposite direction from where I was thinking we needed to go."
She smiled and said, "We don't all necessarily have the same needs so we won't find a single solution that's perfect for all of us. There's another thing that's natural, though, and that's a child leaving the nest. There's no reason why you three can't go off to a remote location while I stay in the city. I won't have to always tag along. It's natural for a child to eventually leave his mother and start a life of his own. It wouldn't mean we won't be a family anymore. We'd still see each other when we can and we'd stay in touch all the time by telephone and email and social media. I think I'll want a life of my own eventually, and financially I'll be back on my feet soon and ready to give it a go. I love the way things are now and I'm in no rush to change that but I think eventually I'll need more. I'll need what you have with Elias and with Cole and the best way for me to find that might be to be off on my own."
"OK, I guess I hadn't really thought of your needs as much as I should have lately. Things have been so great that it never occurred to me that you'd want something more than this but it certainly makes perfect sense that you would. I'm really glad we had this talk. I think we need to sit down with the boys and have it again really soon. We need to start thinking about the future more and how we should adjust things to meet all of our needs. There's certainly no rush to change things but it's best to start planning right away."
She smiled and nodded, "That sounds good. I was planning on going over to my house today to finish getting things ready for the new owners to take possession. I've got some cleaning to do and a few last things to bring back here. I'm feeling a bit beat now so I might put it off until tomorrow. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep with all of this going through my head but I'd like to try. Would it be alright if I took a quick look in on the boys before I go to bed? I think it will help a lot if I can see them sleeping safe and sound."
I nodded and said, "Of course. Go ahead. You don't need to ask my permission. I had a fair bit of sleep last night so I'm good for a while. I think I might get on the computer and start taking care of some things financially. It's Sunday but there's still a lot of things I can put in motion for tomorrow. Have a good sleep and try not to worry about anything. We're just fine and we're gonna stay that way, no matter what changes we need to make going forward."
She smiled and stood up and came and bent to give me a quick hug, then she turned and went up the stairs to go check on the boys.
The next day I called in to work to let them know I'd be missing the day.
The boys had changed in the house last night of course and they were still so beat from the events with the hunter in the woods that they were both fairly quiet as wolves and simply lay around on the floor at our feet. I was bushed too and I'd begun to nod off while we were watching TV as a family. Eventually, Grace had gotten tired of the three of us intermittently snoring and interrupting her shows so she'd prodded us all awake, given the two wolves a hug and a kiss, wished us good night and shooed all three of us off to bed.
Cole was thrilled that she had accepted the change so well and that she was fine with us sharing a bed from now on. Elias was a bit embarrassed when I'd explained to him how she'd found out, and that she knew we'd messed around as man and wolves, but he seemed relieved that even that aspect of it no longer had to be kept secret. I'm pretty sure his estimation of her went even higher than it already had been.
Grace had the day off today, so after breakfast she told us that she was going over to her house to finish getting it ready to turn over to the new owners. I asked her if she wanted me and the boys to come along and help but she turned me down. She said she could handle it on her own and it was the last time she'd be seeing her old home and she wanted to spend it alone and reflect about things while she worked. I asked her to give me a call on her cell phone when she was ready to come back. She had a few more things that needed to be brought back here and I'd come with the truck to carry them back. She'd said she might be a bit late because she didn't want to make any more trips back there and she was going to stay until it was done and that there was a large pot of left-over chili from Saturday in the fridge and we could just heat that up for our supper.
Elias and Cole were doing their studying while I spent the day on the phone and on the computer doing financial transactions and converting some of my investments that could be easily liquidated into bitcoin. I used the TOR network to move the bitcoin private keys to various online wallets using untraceable IPs and anonymous accounts so that we could access the money from anywhere in future so long as we had an Internet connection, and it would be nearly impossible to trace it back to us. It was likely we'd never need it but it would be there for us in case we ever had to disappear and never be found.
In the end I felt it would be best to sell the house and liquidate completely and find a quieter place to live. Even if we wanted to stay in the country near civilization we would do a lot better on a remote farm or acreage, maybe closer to the mountains. Preferably some place heavily wooded and well away from anyone else where the boys could just come and go as wolves without worrying about prying eyes. There was no way anyone would find them so long as we stayed under the radar from now on. All we really needed was an Internet connection and I'd be able to continue doing some contract work and coding to keep a steady income, though we wouldn't need much.
I'd been so involved in what I was doing that I hadn't really noticed how much time had passed and Elias came into the room and asked, "Do you want me to get supper going? Cole's really hungry and it's getting pretty late. Are you gonna be much longer? We should really get something to eat before the change."
I looked at the time and was shocked to see how late it had gotten already. The boys would be changing in less than thirty minutes.
"Sorry, Elias. I was so deep into this I didn't notice how late it was getting. Be a sweetheart and put the pot of chili on the stove to warm up. I'll be just another five or ten minutes and then I'll come join you."
He smiled and nodded and went off to get supper ready.
It was almost ten more minutes before I was done and I got up and headed to the kitchen and Cole was already sitting at the table and Elias was bringing a basket of dinner buns for us to eat with the chili.
As I entered the room Cole asked, "Should we call Mom? She's really late."
"Sure, we can call her if you like. She said she might be late because she wanted to finish up completely," I said.
Just as I was going to get my cell phone off the counter it started to ring with Grace's ringtone. I grinned at Cole and he smiled as I went to pick it up.
Even as I was bringing the phone up to my ear to say hello I already heard Grace's voice saying, "What is it exactly you want with my son? Why are you here?"
Her voice sounded slightly distant and had a strange echo like her phone wasn't right up to her lips but around a corner or something. I was about to ask what she was talking about when I heard an unfamiliar man's voice say, "We just want to make sure that he's OK. We know he was involved in the animal attack a month ago in the river valley. We're wondering why you didn't report it. We're concerned about your child's welfare."
My heart skipped a beat. Whoever it is somehow knew about Cole being attacked by Elias in the woods! Grace must have surreptitiously dialed my cell to warn me and so I could listen in.
"Is she ready to come home?" Cole asked and I quickly held my finger up to my lips to shush him as I switched the phone to speaker and muted it so any sound we made wouldn't go to her phone.
I put the phone down on the table so we could all listen and Elias asked, "What's going on?"
"I don't know. Someone is talking to Grace about Cole. She might be in trouble. I think she dialed me so we could listen. They mustn't know her phone is on."
"Who exactly are you with?" we heard Grace ask, "You don't look like you're from Child Protective Services. Why do those men have guns drawn?"
"They're only tranquilizer guns ma'am. They're loaded with enough sedative to bring down an exceedingly power animal. I'm sure you know why we need them. I assure you that we have no intention of doing any permanent damage to him. He's too important to us."
My heart sank and I saw Elias's eyes go wide as he came to the same conclusion. They know everything. But who the fuck are they? Why do they want Cole?
The man's voice said, "Gunderson, check her out."
We heard the sound of a scuffle and Grace shouted, "Let go of me! What are you doing? What is that?"
Cole shouted, "Mom! They're hurting her!"
I tried to calm him down and said, "She's safe until they get what they want from her, Cole. They won't hurt her. We'll help her, don't worry. We just need to hear what's going on."
The man said, "Hold still for just a moment. We just need to find out if we even need your son. You might do if he's changed you too."
"Ow! What the hell are you doing?" Grace shouted.
There was a long pause then we heard an electronic beep and another voice said, "It's negative. Her GDF11 levels are normal for someone her age. She's not one of them."
"Well, that's unfortunate. I guess you've been careful," the first man said, "Just tell us where your son is. This place is emptied out so obviously you're not living here anymore. If he's not here, then where is he? Where have you been staying? It's almost time for him to change so he must be with someone you trust or you wouldn't be here now, you'd be with him."
"I don't understand what you're saying," Grace said, "What do you mean 'time for him to change'?"
The man sighed heavily and said, "Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. Everything we needed to know was in that news report. It was all in the tracks. A supernaturally huge wolf and a small boy went in to those woods. There were signs of a struggle and lots of blood. The same huge wolf and a smaller wolf came out. From my experience, there's only one possible conclusion to reach from that. Your boy was changed by one of them. I'm sick of your games and I don't have the patience to deal with you politely anymore. Tell us where he is or..."
The man was interrupted when another man's voice said, "Sir, we just got a call. We've got a contact number from her place of work. It traces back to a house not very far from here. It must be where she's been living. The kid must be there."
"Good! Take the SUV. Bring Morgan and Jones. Sedate the boy and bring him back here. Go in hard and fast. It's almost time for the change. The one who changed him might be living there too and he'd be a hell of a lot bigger. There were prints of a large man at the scene and if he became one of them you'll be dealing with a monster. He'd be nearly unstoppable. Put him down permanently if you need to. We just need one of them, but we need it alive. They can make more of them once they have one to work with again."
My heart began to hammer in my chest. They found us and they're on the way! It would take them less than two minutes to get here if they floored it.
How the hell did this happen? What the fuck are they trying to do with werewolves? How did they find us?
They were coming for Cole. I had to keep him safe.
"Turn out all the lights! We need to go to the panic room!" I shouted to Elias, and he nodded and ran off.
I grabbed the phone off the table and said, "Come on, Cole."
We ran up the stairs and Elias followed close behind and we went into the panic room and I slammed the emergency button next to the door and the lights turned on while the large deadbolts locked the heavy door to the metal frame. The monitors on the wall activated and we watched the view from the video camera at the front of the house.
Grace's voice came from the phone again, "What makes you think there's something special about my son? What the hell led you here?"
I was amazed at Grace's strength. She should be freaking out at this point but she was keeping calm and trying to get more information to us.
"A small piece of your boy's torn flesh was left behind in the attack. The analysts think it was part of his calf muscle. Ordinarily it wouldn't help us much other than giving a blood type. We extracted DNA from the sample and used it to search every known database just in case. It takes a hell of a lot of time and it was a long shot and had no real chance of finding anything. Generally only criminals have their DNA on file, not little kids. Imagine my surprise when a match was finally found this morning in a medical database at a local hospital. It seems your boy has ALS and his DNA was sequenced as part of his diagnosis to look for the genetic markers and for further research into the disease. It was a total fluke. Had he not been sick with a genetic disorder there would be no way for us to find you. Of course the hospital records have your name and address. Needless to say my team was on a plane and headed here a short time later."
I sighed. That's how they found us. If I'd only done a better job of cleaning up after Elias attacked Cole we wouldn't be in this mess.
On the security monitor we saw a large black SUV pull up onto the driveway and park right against the garage door. Three men in black tactical gear emerged from it in a rush and they all had odd looking long pistols in their hands that must be tranquilizer guns. Each also had a side arm that looked like a service pistol in a holster on their hip.
We saw the lead man motion the other two to move around the house. They split up and one man went around one side of the house and the other man went to the other while the first man approached the front door. They were trying to cover any and all exits.
Elias said, "I don't like this. We're boxed in here. They can just send more people. We have to move!"
I immediately realized he was right. It was stupid to come in here. These guys weren't going to go away and it's not like we could call the police for help. They looked like some sort of government operatives and if that was the case they'd either send the police packing, or enlist their help in getting us out. There was no way we could get out of this if we stayed locked in this room. I desperately tried to think of what to do.
"Mom needs help!" Cole shouted, "We have to help her!"
"You're both right," I said, "We have to get out of here. We have to get to Grace. We can get to the truck if we move fast."
Elias shook his head, "They parked right on the driveway against the door. The garage is blocked. We can't get the truck out without trying to bust through and there's not enough room to get a running start."
"Maybe we can take theirs then. It's still running," I said.
"We'd have to get past them somehow," Elias said.
I thought hard. There wasn't much time. I looked around the room briefly for any ideas and my gaze settled on the Taser sitting on the small table in the corner. I quickly grabbed it and said, "We need to move fast. We can only stop one of them. We can't wait for them to make their move. Once the two guys get to the back and they have both doors covered they'll probably storm the house. They don't know we know they're coming so we have the element of surprise. Let's go!"
I punched the code in the panel on the wall and locks in the door released and I pushed out into the hall. Elias kept Cole in front of him and took up the rear.
We quickly moved through the dark house down the stairs into the living room and as we passed through towards the front door I saw another Taser sitting on a charger near the entrance to the kitchen. We had put one here and one down in the basement as well in the early days so I wouldn't have to go far to get one in case Elias started to change on me. I looked at Elias and then nodded towards the Taser and he nodded back and went to pick it up.
We quietly snuck up to the front door and I put the handle of the Taser I was carrying in my back pocket and put one hand on the door handle and one on the latch for the dead bolt. I looked back at Elias and he brought his Taser up and aimed it straight at the door.
I showed Elias three fingers to indicate the count and then in an exaggerated motion I nodded once, then twice, then on the third nod I quickly flicked the latch on the deadbolt while twisting the door handle and yanked the door wide open while getting out of the way.
Elias immediately fired the Taser and we heard the electronic sizzle of the massive burst of electricity being discharged into the man. The darts had hit him on the bicep of his right arm and easily penetrated his sleeve to lodge in his skin even as he was bringing his gun up to fire. I heard the pneumatic 'thwack' of the man's tranquilizer gun going off from his hand clenching and pulling the trigger as he convulsed from the electricity coursing through his body. I looked back and saw a large dart embedded in the wall just behind Elias near his head. It had just missed him.
The man fell over, convulsing on the ground as the Taser dumped the last of its debilitating charge into him. He would only be incapacitated for a few minutes and the men around back would get suspicious before long, so we wasted no time.
Elias dropped the Taser with the wires still connected to the darts embedded in the man's arm. It was useless until it could be reloaded. I grabbed the man's service pistol from its holster and stuffed it into my waistband and handed Elias the Taser I'd been holding.
We jumped over the still twitching man and raced over to the truck. The boys got in the back as I went around to the drivers side.
I put it in reverse and quietly backed out of the driveway. I didn't want to alert the men on the other side of the house of our escape any sooner than necessary. They would be waiting on the word to go and when it didn't come they'd figure out something was wrong.
I put the vehicle in gear and accelerated smoothly up to speed so as not to squeal the tires as I raced off towards Grace's house. It took just a couple of minutes to get there and as I pulled up I saw a large, black cube van backed into the driveway beside her house. There was no one in the cab. The others must be inside with Grace.
I turned to the boys and said, "We can't waste any time. The man we took down back home will be coming around soon. All three of them will probably start heading back here on foot. It won't take them ten minutes to get here. If they have radios or phones they'll be alerting the ones inside. I have to go in there. I don't know how many there are. Most likely just the one who's been talking to Grace and one more that did the test on her. Elias, I need the Taser. I'm gonna try to reason with the one who's been talking to Grace, but it will be easier if I can knock the other guy out first so I'll only have the one to deal with. I don't want to have to shoot anyone with the pistol if I don't need to."
Elias said, "I'm coming with you. You can't do it alone. I'm gonna be changing soon so if I get hurt it'll just get fixed. Let me take the guy out with the Taser and you deal with the other one."
I thought about it and nodded, "OK. Cole, stay here. We're gonna get your mom out of there. Don't worry."
He looked more than a little bit worried already and he shook his head and said, "No, I'm coming too. I can help. I stopped the hunter didn't I?"
I shook my head, "I want you to stay here. We'll be back with your mom in no time."
He looked unhappy but he nodded his acquiescence.
Elias and I got out of the truck and moved around to the back of the house. The light was on at the rear kitchen window. I carefully stuck my head up to look inside and I could see Grace sitting at the table and saying something to the man, who was standing on the other side of the table with his hands on the back of a chair and leaning onto it. He had a sidearm like the others and there was another of the long tranquilizer pistols sitting on the table in front of him. Further at the back corner of the room stood another man who was leaning against the wall and watching them. He also had a tranquilizer gun in his hand and a sidearm in a holster.
I looked around but could see no one else.
I turned to Elias and whispered, "If the back door is open we can go in quietly. There's a big entryway but it looks dark. If I remember right there's no door between there and the kitchen, just an open passageway. There's a man at the back corner of the kitchen. He's the first one you'll see through the opening from the entryway. When I give the signal, hit him with the Taser and I'll go for the other one. They're not expecting anything so we should catch them completely by surprise."
I held my breath and turned the door knob on the back door of the house and pulled and to my relief the door came open.
I nodded to Elias and he quietly slipped in and I followed right behind him. Light spilled into the entryway from the opening to the kitchen and we moved forward towards it.
Elias carefully peeked around to find the man I was talking about and he turned back to me and nodded. He was ready.
I pulled the pistol from my waistband and slid the safety to the off position with my thumb and moved right up next to Elias.
Just then we heard the sound of a cell ringing that was cut off as it was answered. Then one of the men said, "Sir, it's Morgan. The ones at the other house managed to escape with our SUV. They incapacitated Jones with a Taser but he's coming around. They're on their way back here on foot."
"Shit!" the first man said, "How the hell did they know we were coming?"
I didn't want them to have enough time to think about whether we might make a move to help Grace or their guard would immediately go up and we'd lose our best chance. I looked at Elias and nodded firmly at him.
He paused to take a breath, then burst into the room, immediately firing the Taser, and I rushed in after him.
The man in the back corner of the kitchen was crumpling to the floor and the one standing at the table who'd been interrogating Grace was already pulling his pistol from its holster as I aimed mine at his head and yelled, "Stop!"
The man looked at me coldly but froze with his pistol half way out of the holster.
"Come on, Grace. We're getting out of here," I said.
A look of intense relief washed over Grace's face as she moved to get up but the man put his other hand up to stop her and said, "Wait!"
Grace paused while the man looked me up and down and said, "I don't think you're going to shoot me. You don't look like a killer. There's no need for violence. I promise you, we're not here to hurt anyone."
I paused only briefly as I thought about what he said. I wasn't sure if I could really kill a man. I'd spent time at a shooting range years ago but it was just another hobby I'd tried out for a while to help alleviate my boredom. I wasn't certain I could use a gun on another human being. He hadn't hurt anyone yet and they were armed primarily with tranquilizer guns. Their intent was clearly to capture and not to kill. He'd moved to pull his pistol but that was likely only instinct and reflex from years of training.
He saw my hesitation and smiled as he smoothly pulled his pistol the rest of the way out and before I could react he had it aimed across the table at Grace's head.
My heart sank as he said, "See? A real killer wouldn't have hesitated. It's too late now. If you pull that trigger she's dead, I promise you. Even if you kill me I'll convulse and pull the trigger and she'll be gone. Just lower your weapon so nobody gets hurt."
I thought about the man back at the house that Elias had hit with the Taser. That was exactly what had happened there and the dart from the man's gun had missed Elias by inches. It was too risky to try, but there was no doubt in my mind that we were doomed if I lowered my pistol. There was nothing I could do but keep the gun aimed at his head and try to think of some way out of this.
The man just smiled calmly at me as he kept his gun trained on Grace. If he'd aimed it at me I would have likely taken my chances. He somehow knew his best bet was to put Grace at risk. I realized as he stood quietly and smiled at me that he knew he had the upper hand. I wasn't about to risk her life but I knew if I backed down I would lose the boys forever. That wasn't an option. The other men were on their way here already and the one in the corner would come around in just a few minutes. There wasn't much time. I had to think of something, fast.
Just then I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and heard a thud to the side of me and then another thump from behind me.
"Elias!" Grace shouted.
I saw the man's eyes flick to the side so I quickly looked over and saw Elias flopping on the floor. His body was rapidly expanding as it changed shape and his clothes began to tear apart as he moaned and groaned in pain. Luckily he'd been wearing loose sweats and a light t-shirt so they ripped fairly easily as his body became too big for them. Grace was watching the change in horror. This was something she'd never wanted to see.
My eyes snapped quickly back to lock on the man just as he looked back at me.
He smiled and said, "Well, well. Looks like I'll witness the change for myself. I guess he's the one that changed the smaller one, yes? You'd better hope that thing doesn't come at me or I'll have no choice but to shoot. It's in your best interests to let me deal with it neatly so no one gets seriously hurt. I can put him under."
His left hand started moving down toward the table to the tranquilizer gun that was lying there.
"Hold still!" I warned him.
He froze momentarily but said, "Just let me dart the boy so he can't interfere, that way no one has to die and we can go back to our little standoff. It won't hurt him a bit."
I realized I had no choice. When Elias got most of the way through the change he would attack and all hell would break loose. The man would likely shoot Grace before I could put him down and then he'd turn his gun on Elias. It was best to just let him sedate Elias and take him out of the equation. It was too risky otherwise. I wasn't in a hurry to kill a man anyhow.
I nodded and said, "OK. But move slow."
He kept smiling calmly and said, "Don't worry, I will. I don't want to die any more than you or Grace here. I have no interest in killing this specimen if I can avoid it, either. We've been looking for one for quite some time. I want him alive just as much as you do, just for a different reason I suppose. If we all stay calm we all get to live."
He kept his eyes locked on mine and his pistol trained on Grace while he slowly lowered his left hand to the dart gun on the table. He fumbled a bit when he found it to turn it so he could pick it up without looking and he aimed it over towards Elias.
"Just stay calm," the man said again, "He won't be harmed. The tranquilizer works on his nervous system so it will sedate him immediately and keep him that way even after the change since it will still be circulating in him. He'll have the easiest change he's ever experienced since he was first bitten I promise you. He'll sleep right through it."
I was beginning to sweat a bit from the intensity of the situation as I kept my gun trained on the man and he kept his pistol squarely aimed at Grace while he moved his left hand to aim the tranquilizer gun at Elias, who was now at the giant hairless rat stage. Soon his fur would start to come in and the wolf would gain control of the body and be in a rage.
"I'm going to pull the trigger now and tranq him. Just stay calm."
I nodded again while a bead of sweat rolled down the side of my face.
He glanced briefly down to check his aim and I heard the 'thwack' of the gun going off and heard the wet snap as the dart hit Elias in the side and stuck.
The man said, "There you go. He's sleeping like a baby. We're back to where we were."
I heard more rustling and thumping and glanced down at Elias, but he was completely still. Even before I could figure out what was making the sound I heard a grunt, then a low and vicious sounding snarl. Suddenly there was movement from the entryway and an almost completely changed Cole came into the room. That was the second thump I'd heard earlier! Cole's fear for his mom must have driven him to come into the house and he'd been hiding in the back entryway to listen in or see if he could help!
"Cole, no!" I shouted, but it wasn't Cole yet. It was only the wolf and he was in a blind rage and moving to protect his family from the threat.
The man got a shocked look on his face from the unexpected appearance of another wolf and he suddenly lost the composure he'd been holding so well. I heard the 'click' of the tranquilizer gun as he desperately brought it up and shot it at Cole-wolf. He'd already unloaded the gun on Elias and he realized his mistake immediately and in a panic he forgot about me and Grace and he dropped the weapon while he quickly brought his other gun around to aim it at Cole even as the wolf lunged at him.
I was about to shoot the man in his bullet proof vest to bring him down but Cole suddenly crossed my line of fire as he went for the man's throat and I had to quickly pull my gun back. The wolf latched on to the man's neck and his momentum carried them both downward as they twisted around and I heard a gunshot and saw a spray of blood erupt from Cole's shoulder.
"Cole!" I yelled as I ran over to them.
Cole-wolf rolled off the man and tried to get up, but he collapsed back down. The man gurgled once and I looked over and saw his throat had been ripped wide open and he was bleeding out quickly. His eyes went dull and he went limp as he died.
I ran to Cole and even before I could check to see just how bad he was hurt I was amazed to see the ragged gash from the bullet that had torn across his shoulder begin to heal over before my eyes. The bullet had carved a long furrow but then passed on through without hitting any major arteries. His change was just finishing up and it was healing him rapidly as it went. To my relief he quickly rolled to his feet and stood up and as he did so I could see his focus and stance change. Cole was back inside him and had assumed control. He turned to check that the man was no longer a threat.
"He's gone, Cole," I said, "You're a hero a second time."
The young wolf wagged his tail at me as I crouched to scratch at his neck.
There was another loud thump and I look over just in time to see Grace's head hit the table.
As I rushed around the table to see what was wrong with her I saw blood pooling out across the table from underneath her slumped over body.
I gently lifted her back into the chair and saw that she had an entry wound on her chest just above her right breast. The bullet must have passed through Cole and into her!
She was still breathing. It hadn't hit her heart. There was a lot of blood but she was still alive. I ran to grab the phone off the wall to call 911. There was no dial tone. I cursed as I realized she'd had it disconnected a while ago. I'd left my cell phone in the panic room, but Grace's was still here somewhere. I had to find it!
Cole went over and sniffed at her. I briefly wondered why he wasn't howling this time like he did with Elias yesterday.
"Help me find her phone, Cole. It's right around here somewhere! She had it on so we could listen! We need paramedics! We need to get her to a hospital!"
Cole sniffed around and found a cleaning bucket on the floor against the wall that had a roll of paper towels and some spray bottles of cleaners in it. He snuffled around it and barked. I ran over to it and dumped it out onto the floor. There it was! She must have dialed me and then dropped it into the bucket right next to her so they wouldn't see.
I picked it up and ended the call that was still connected to my phone at home. As I was about to dial the emergency number I noticed Cole calmly go back to his mom and sniff at her again and his tail began to wag. Then I saw Grace's arm move. She was coming around!
"Grace, can you hear me?" I asked.
Her arm moved again, then her head jerked. Her whole body then convulsed and I realized immediately what was happening. The bullet that entered her was covered in Cole's blood right while he was still in the dangerous phase of the change and injected it into her body. She was infected with the curse! Grace was changing! That's why Cole was so calm! The wolf knew already what she was. He could smell it on her. He knew she would be fine once the change kicked in and he'd said before how he wanted her to change and now it was happening.
I got behind and pulled her chair back with her on it, then gently lifted her off and moved her onto the floor so she wouldn't injure herself during the convulsions.
"I'm sorry about this, Grace, but it's safer if I do this..." I said as I began to remove her clothes.
I took off her shoes and socks and quickly lifted her blouse off over her head. She had a bra on so I lifted one shoulder to reach underneath to undo it and I pulled it off. She began to jerk and twist a bit more. I had to move faster. I undid the button on her jeans and pulled down the fly and worked her pants off her as quickly as I could. The boys had loose fitting sweats or shorts on before when they'd changed but Grace had snug jeans on. I hated to think what might happen if her body tried to expand inside them and they didn't give way.
She had basic hipster type briefs made of nylon or something stretchy like that on and I turned to Cole and said, "You might want to look away for this part."
He nodded and turned around and sat facing the wall while I pulled her panties off and threw them aside. I covered her most private area by draping her blouse across her hips. The floor was cold and hard, but I was afraid to try to pick her up and move her to the carpeted living room as her convulsions began to increase in speed and force and I heard the crunch of her ribcage starting to change shape.
I grabbed her jeans and bundled them a bit and carefully lifted her head and put the pile underneath and rested her head onto it. I took her hand and stroked her arm as I spoke to her to let her know she wasn't alone and it would be over soon. The change progressed rapidly and I had to put her hand down as it began to morph into a large paw. She would soon be at the dangerous phase.
"Cole, I think we should get out until she's done. The wolf she's about to become doesn't know our scent yet. We're not safe until the change is over and she's in control.
He nodded and I got up and went to Elias. I pulled the dart from his side and threw it away and then grabbed his front paws. I dragged him along the smooth floor through the entryway to the back door. Cole had left it open when he came in so I heaved and dragged the massive wolf over the threshold and out into the back yard. Cole bounded out after us and I quickly closed the door.
I suddenly heard a loud growl come from inside the house followed by snarling, thumping and bumping and the sound of chairs being upset. We'd got out just in time. She was having a bit of a rough go but it would be over soon.
The sounds subsided after a short time and I heard an uncertain bark. I opened the door and loudly said, "Grace? Are you OK?"
I heard another single bark, so I tentatively went back into the house. I looked into the kitchen and there she was. She was almost as big as Elias, but not quite. She was beautiful. She was almost completely white with only a small amount of light grey mixed in along her back and tail.
Cole rushed in past me and ran up to her and her tail immediately began to wag when she saw him alive and well. The two wolves sniffed at each other briefly and then Cole rubbed the side of his muzzle against Grace's face.
I smiled and said, "Well, I guess you're gonna find out how good of a wolf you'll make after all. I'm sorry, Grace. I know this isn't what you wanted. I'm just thankful you're alive and, if it's any consolation, I think Cole is really happy that you've changed."
She barked and whined, but her tail was still wagging. I think she was happy that we were all OK, too, and that was all that mattered to her at the moment.
We heard groaning coming from the back corner and I saw the man Elias had Tasered starting to come around. I ran over to where he was and picked up the tranquilizer gun he'd dropped when he hit the floor. I aimed it at his thigh and pulled the trigger. He stopped moving almost immediately after the dart embedded itself into him. I hoped the dosage wasn't high enough to kill him but at the very least he'd be out for a hell of a long while.
I dropped the dart gun and then removed the man's sidearm from its holster and stuffed it into my waistband so I'd have a second one that was fully loaded.
I turned back to the two wolves and said, "We need to get going. The other men will be here in minutes. There's a big van parked alongside the house. I think they planned on transporting Cole in it. It should be big enough for three wolves."
I crouched and felt around the pockets of the man who'd been interrogating Grace. Sure enough he had a set of keys in his right front pants pocket.
"These must be for the van. Let's go."
The wolves went out the back door and I followed.
I went around to the van and tried the keys on the double-door at the back and found one that fit. I opened the doors and Grace and Cole jumped in. I went back and grabbed Elias's front paws and dragged him around to the back of the van. He weighed a lot but I managed to lift his front end up onto the floor of the van, then I got behind and grabbed his rear end and heaved while pushing him forward and I got him all the way in. I closed the doors and went around to the front.
I got in and started the van and pulled out onto the street and turned away from the direction the men would be coming from. I wanted to go back home while there was still nobody there and grab a few things. This would be the only safe chance to do it and it wouldn't last long. More people would likely converge on the house before long once they were able to get organized.
I took a different route back and stopped a block over from home in a dark alley and got out of the van and went around to the back and opened the door. Elias was still lying on his side and out like a light, but Cole and Grace seemed completely calm. I could see his sides heaving as he breathed deeply and regularly and I saw that the other wolves weren't fussing over him so I was sure he was fine.
"I need to go into the house to get a couple of things really quick. I'll just be a few minutes. I'm gonna leave the door open in case there's any trouble so you can get out. I'll be back in a bit."
I ran along the dark alley and then slipped between two houses to look across into the cul-de-sac where my house was. It was still dark. There was nobody out front. I looked around and saw no movement anywhere so I sprinted across the street and around the side of the house to the back where it was darker. There was no one there and no sign that the door had been forced.
I quickly punched in the code on the deadbolt's keypad and the went in. I didn't want to spend any more time than I needed to but I just wanted to get some things that would help us out. I ran up and got a duffel bag from my closet and went and grabbed clothes for Elias from the dresser and stuffed them in. I then went to Cole's room and got clothes for him, then did the same for Grace. We could buy them more clothes but it would be best if we could just hit the road and travel for a while before we stopped to do any shopping anywhere, so they needed clothes for tomorrow morning.
I then hit the hobby room and grabbed the small USB connected drive I'd been using to back up my PC. I took the pointer mask that Elias had been using. Grace was fairly close to his size as a wolf so she'd be able to use it. I then went to the back door again and grabbed the backpack Elias and Cole had been using for their change. It had another mask for Elias in it and the one for Cole. It also had the tablet they'd been using. We'd have to rip out the SIM card and destroy it or it could be easily traced, but at least the wolves would still be able to talk to me using the screen.
I ran down to the basement to get the last Taser and I disconnected the charger from the wall and brought it along. It might come in handy.
I couldn't think of anything else that we needed immediately and it would be best to get moving, so I ran back up and out the back door. We could buy anything else we might need once we'd put some distance between us and home.
I made my way back down the alley and the van was still undisturbed where I'd left it. I opened the back door and saw the two wolves still sitting next to Elias and guarding over him. I tossed the backpack and duffel bag in and went around to the cab and we were off.
The next mission would be to dump this van somewhere. It likely had some sort of LoJack system that would allow them to track its location. The best thing would probably be to find some place for the wolves to hide out in the woods until I could come back to them with a replacement vehicle.
Tomorrow I would convert some of the bitcoin back into cash and look into buying a used van or perhaps a big RV or something from a private seller.
We were on the run now. I didn't know who those men were but they didn't look like random mercenaries. They had the feel of some sort of covert government agents. If that were the case they might have nearly unlimited resources for tracking us down. I'd have to quickly get up to speed on how to change our identities and disappear.
It was incredibly lucky that I was able to set up the bitcoin accounts before this happened. In a sense I had the hunter from yesterday to thank for our ability to more easily run from these people. If I hadn't suddenly become so paranoid after the hunter incident we'd be on the run with no resources whatsoever, but with the amount of bitcoin I'd managed to procure we should be fine.
In a blink my life had suddenly become almost as uncomplicated as Elias's had been before I'd met him. All we had now was the clothes on our backs and we'd be forced to keep moving and always be wary and on guard. I guess I would finally find out what it was like to live without all that crap tying me down and just having to concern myself with where I would sleep and where my next meal would come from.
It was a mess and we were in a real jam, but at least we were all still alive and still together.
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