"Beyond the scent of beer and marijuana in the fabrics of their clothes, I also picked up traces of dust and wooden flakes that were stuck to their shirts." He said quietly. "The same wooden flakes and dust that I sensed at the Warehouse itself. It was on their shirts because they must have been moving boxes there."
"You're assuming they work at the warehouse?" Kriegar asked.
"Makes sense, doesn't it? Robbie's uncle employs family to help out. And they found out rather quickly about our specific visit the other day. I'm willing to bet that they not only work there, but they work at night. A place where they can drink and smoke whenever they feel like it and not be persecuted by the watchful eye of the people in this town. Who wants to make me a bet that they're there right at this very moment?" John Boy smiled, and we smiled right along with him.
"Excellent..." The twins grinned in unison.
"Kriegar...you heard what Father said, right?"
Kriegar nodded, "Leave a mess, leave a message. I got it loud and clear."
"Wesley...?" John Boy turned his head slightly in my direction, and the others turned to stare as well. "If you jump onto the back of this truck tonight, you are making a commitment. One that can't be broken. Are you prepared to get your hands dirty?"
There was a voice inside of me, a distant cry that was struggling to make itself known so that I could give John boy the right answer. So I could make the right decision. But that voice was so weak. It was beneath me. What did that 'other' person, that false reflection of my true self, know about 'power'? What did it know about strength, and unity, and purpose? Hell, did it even understand what the concept of CHOICE was? I've been doing what I was 'supposed' to do, what I was 'told' to do, for so long...that having John boy ask me my opinion was a breath of fresh air. And I wanted this. I wanted to go all in, and become one with my new family I needed to know that I had no further restrictions holding me back any more. And this night, this mission...was the key.
"I understand." I said.
There was a slight hesitation on all of their parts, but they let go of their doubt, and with a sweet gesture, welcomed me to my position. John Boy held out his hands, palms up. "Good. Then let us join our energies as one...and prepare for the 'hunt'."
We all circled up, John Boy, Shank, Razor, Kriegar, and me...and we closed our eyes. The transfer of auras began immediately, and I spread my feet apart a bit more as the rush of energy flowed through me. I felt as though we were spinning, nearly losing my balance as the sensation of it swept over my senses and traded a mental connection with my brethren. It was easy to see the change in our positions. To 'feel' how the pack should operate as a small five man task force as opposed to a ten person pack of soldiers. I could feel the synchronized thoughts as they passed through me, the calling erasing my every need or desire for individual thoughts of my own. It was a pack mentality that turned suggestions into orders, doubts into disobedience, and all questions were molded together into the simple answer of...there isn't a need to know.
By the time our short union had finished, John Boy had taken the lead position in our little outing for the evening. It was silently agreed upon that he was merely there to oversee the project, and nothing more. I suppose Sebastian was right...the 'grunt' work was left to us. "Alright then, let's move out." John Boy smiled, and Kriegar climbed into the front of the truck with him to drive, while the twins and I climbed in back. I was ready. I can't believe that I'm even thinking about it right now..but I'm actually ready to do this.
The truck started up, and John Boy rolled down the window to keep his senses in tune with what was going on outside. Kriegar, much to my surprise, turned the music off all the way, and we rode out into the night in silence.
I felt the wind blow over my hair, cooling me, almost whispering in my ear. I looked up at the twins, who smiled back at me with fluorescent eyes that lit up their faces. I grinned back, a part of me wondering where the fear was. Where was the tension? Where was the resistance? Was it gone? Or just too far away for me to hear it any more? It was a moment of true clarity, where I knew exactly what I was doing, exactly why I was being taken along...and I just didn't care. Not a tear, not a twitch, not even a conflicting thought about taking the lives of the people who confronted us earlier that day. Hell, I was looking forward to getting my hands dirty. And the more that curious need for mayhem built up inside of me, the bigger Shank and Razor's smiles became.
There was a time, not long ago, when I would have prayed for God to save my righteous mind. But now? I just wanted to be out of his divine sight long enough to do what needed to be done.
The car winded around old dirt roads and ended up back on the highway for a short while. I couldn't remember any of the place that they had taken me since I had been with them, but my sense of smell drew me a map of our claimed 'territory' without fail. From our position, I could clearly figure out how to get back to the house, or to the police station where that officer had been murdered, or back to the diner that Kriegar and Kristen had burned to the ground. I could sense it all, and my knowledge seemed to go even deeper than my conscious awareness of it. And I liked that.
"You seem 'frisky'..." Razor smirked. Shank said nothing, he merely stared at me with his eyes fixed on mine.
"I am." I replied.
There was another long silence between us, and then Razor said, "Hey..." I gave him my attention. "You know...you only get one shot at this tonight, right?"
"Yeah. To prove. To become a part of what we are."
"I suppose." I answered, but Razor was having too much fun, searching for a button to press that would either trigger my fear or ignite my anger.
"You know what happens to you if you fuck it up....don't ya?" I looked back at his evil grin, and he gazed at me, waiting for my mood to change. I didn't say anything at first, instead engaging myself heavily in a fearless game of 'who will blink first' with Razor. But he wouldn't be ignored "You know, it only takes two of us to solve a problem like this. Sometimes it only takes one. Father knows that."
"And your point is...?" I asked.
"The point is...that my brother and I could have pulled this job on our own. In fact, you probably could have done it yourself with a bit more experience." He said. Again, I looked away, refusing to let him get to me. So he kept pushing. "Do you wanna know why Kriegar's here tonight, Wesley?"
Shank finally spoke up with a soft giggle, "You're bad, brother."
"What? I think it's only fair that he should know the truth. It might make things a bit more 'interesting' tonight." He said. I didn't want to pay him any mind...but that last comment intrigued me. "It's really simple, actually. You see...if Shank and I end up doing all the hard work tonight...and you somehow fail to step up to the plate...it's John Boy's job to give your new 'buddy' up there the signal." Razor's eyes flickered with a demonic sparkle, nearly causing me to shiver from the mere sight of it. He paused for a minute to let it sink in, his body rocking slightly from the motion of the truck. "He's here to kill you, Wesley. That's what he does. One wrong step...and it's Kriegar's job to painfully rip you limb from limb, while we finish up inside. And trust me...tearing sweet little bodies like yours to shreds is something that he is VERY good at!"
It crossed my mind that this was just another one of Razor's little mind games, and I blew him off. "Whatever. I'm not buying it."
"No? Did you notice that he stopped drinking once we left the house?"
"He's driving." I said.
And Shank, a boy of few words as it was, said, "Do you really think that ever would have stopped him before?"
"Whatever, you guys. I'm not spooked. I'll be ready." I told them, and they both stared at me with an eerie grin. "Seriously! You can stop trying to scare me."
Razor leaned back a bit with a smile. "Alright, if you say so. But knowing Kriegar, no matter how 'attached' he may have become to you in the last few nights...he won't think twice about following John Boy's order. He already knows that." He said. "I'll just bet ya he wishes you luck before we go in. One last hug, if you're lucky. He'd hate to be the one to dismember you personally...but I'm sure he'll get over it."
Shank spoke up, "I know Dexter's gonna want those big pretty eyes of yours." He smirked. "But the head? Soft blond locks and all...I want it all to myself. I'll put it up in my bedroom window...and let the sun reflect off of all that golden glory, sweetheart."
"Fuck off..." I said quietly, hoping to get at least a little bit of a giggle out of them. Just to ease the tension and let me know that they weren't one hundred percent serious about any of this. But they didn't give me any such comfort. They just kept watching me in silence, with smiles on their lips, and dark glow in their eyes. Maybe I wasn't as 'ready' for this as I hoped I would be.
The back of the truck remained soundless for the next few minutes, and when I craned my neck up slightly to look into the cab of the truck, Kriegar's eyes met mine in the rearview mirror. There was no emotion in them, just a silent response...to let me know that he saw me peeking. Would he really...tear me apart if I didn't do what I was told to do? Would he really dismember me? It was a silly question to ask, considering that 'murder' was exactly what we were on our way to do. It makes sense that Cyrus would send his number one 'enforcer' along to make sure that I played nice with the others. With Kriegar, I wouldn't be able to run. With John Boy, I wouldn't be able to hide. And the twins? They could easily hunt me down and cut me to pieces without any mercy whatsoever if it was made a part of the plan. I was literally taking my 'last' ride out there with them. I was either going to come back a killer....or not come back at all.
The truck turned off its headlights and slowed down to a crawl as we approached the old road where the liquor warehouse was located. Kriegar stopped the truck and turned off the engine, far enough away to not be seen or heard by anyone inside. John Boy was the first to get out...inhaling deeply as if to get an entirely new image of the area around us. I watched as he slowly stepped forward, scanning the entire property, and then I watched him squat down on his haunches to touch the damp ground with his fingertips. "Two sets of tire tracks." He said. "From the weight, I'd say both cars were carrying three passenger each. We're looking at six, possibly seven, victims in total. Two of them smokers." He moved forward a bit on his hands and feet, "Three of them were already intoxicated when they drove up. The wheel wasn't steady. It swayed a bit. And there are crumbs of food in the dirt. They're having themselves a little party in there. My oh my...'Uncle Chester' would not approve of this behavior at all" He smiled.
The twins chimed in. "One more sin to add to the pot."
"One of many I assume."
"It's time their karma paid them a little visit."
"Just to set things right."
John Boy nodded, and sent the twins to move out slowly ahead of us, but reached out an arm and pulled me to the side before I passed him. "There is no turning back after this, Wes. If you think that you can't do this...tell me now. And we'll settle it." He held me still, and when I looked over his shoulder, I saw Kriegar move out secretly from the driver's seat. His eyes fixed their stare on me for a moment, and then he attempted to look away without being noticed. "I need an answer, Wes. Are you going to join us or not?" I hesitated for a moment, hoping that my growing nervousness wasn't instantly 'broadcasted' to John Boy's already god-like senses..and when I looked back over at Kriegar, his eyes darted away from me again. John Boy was waiting for me to doom myself before we even got started. He was waiting to give the order. And I had no other choice.
"I...I'll do it. I'm ok, really." I said, straightening up as best as I could.
John Boy smiled and said, "Good. Then let me fill you in on what to expect." He kept a hand on my shoulder, slowly guiding me forward. I was a little apprehensive about Kriegar walking a few steps behind us. I tried to crane my neck back to keep an eye on him, but he made sure to stay out of my sight, walking comfortably in my blind spot as John Boy kept trying to keep my attention elsewhere. "Once the activity begins, and you are all in position, the calling is going to present itself to you in its purest form. It will energize you, feed you, ignite and intensify all of those animalistic little urges that you, as a human, tried so hard to suppress. You'll feel a tingle at first, but soon, the transformation will be harder to hold back than it will be to give in to it. Don't let your emotions spin out of control. Enjoy your interactions with your prey. Reduce your victims to the inferior creatures that they are, and force them to mentally submit before even striking a single blow. Intimidation is key You have to convince them that they are weaker than you are in every possible way...and then...you physically follow through with strong evidence to show them why."
I tried to look back over my shoulder again to see if Kriegar was still there. I couldn't even hear his footsteps any more...but I caught sight of his shadow stretched out beside me. John Boy turned his head, as though he could see me looking, and a tiny smile crossed his thin lips. "I'm listening." I told him, and he nodded. "Is it going to hurt?"
"Yes." He replied softly. "But you won't notice the pain. Not if you follow your calling. You'll walk it off like an everyday charlie horse." We were getting close to the warehouse now. I could see it in the dark, and hear the faint sounds of a radio playing in the background. "When you change tonight, you're going to have to be a little bit quicker about it than last time. Chances are, they're not gonna just stand there and watch you do it. A wolf is vulnerable to a lot of damage during transformation, so the quicker you get from one form to another, the better off you'll be."
"How long does it take?" I asked, feeling myself getting increasingly nervous with every step.
"Depends on the wolf, actually. But you can speed it up with practice. Some new breed wolves can do it in under a minute. But a practiced wolf? It's almost instantaneous. They can transform from human to wolf while running at top speed without even breaking stride."
"How will I know what to do?"
"Let your instincts dictate your actions, Wesley. And don't fight them this time. Let go, and stop trying to fight for control. It won't be tamed. Trust me...the wolf in you already knows what to do. All you have to do is let it happen without resisting your dominant nature. Understood?"
I could hear John Boy lowering his voice, and when I looked forward, I could see that were standing right outside of the warehouse door. "I....uhh.." I don't know what I started to say, but John Boy tilted his head, waiting for me to say it. Shank and Razor gave me a wicked grin from both sides of the front door, and Kriegar waited with a cold stare, making sure that I wasn't having any...'second thoughts'. But John Boy eased the tension by saying, "Don't be intimidated, Wes. Don't let the people inside make you think for one second that you're not just as powerful as the rest of us. You are. There is nothing that they can do to harm you."
"What if they fight back?" I asked, a tremble in my voice.
"Fight back?" John Boy said, and the others all giggled at the idea. "Wesley...listen to me, ok? You're strong enough to punch a hole right through the side of this building. You have a set of claws that can not only rip through flesh like warm pudding, but it can slice clear through to the bone, and cut right down to the sweet marrow inside. Your roar, at close range, can deafen a grown man for the rest of his natural life. And your teeth? You get one of their empty heads in those powerful jaws of yours, and those teeth can crack right through the human skull as easily as it would a chewable vitamin." He chuckled. "Fighting back...isn't an option for them. It would be more entertaining than effective. So relax. You'll do fine."
At this point, John Boy lightly pushed me in the direction of the warehouse to join the twins. I guess he would be waiting back at the truck as Cyrus instructed. Like he said, Cyrus sends out his soldiers, not his generals. Kriegar walked closer to me, and before I even had the chance to back away...he gave me a hug around the shoulders. It was almost...affectionate in its presentation, and he told me, "Hey...you go in there, and you kick ass tonight. You got it?" Was this it? Was this my final warning? Kill or be killed? "Good luck, Wes. You get through tonight, we'll go back and share that shower. You get me?"
"Kriegar?" I asked, picking up an unfamiliar scent from his hug.
"What is it, kid?"
"....If I don't...do this...what happens then?" I don't know why I bothered to whisper it. It's not like the others couldn't hear every soft-spoken word. It's still a strange adjustment, not being able to wear a false mask of emotion around the people I'm with.
Kriegar didn't say a word at first, and instead, ruffled my hair a bit. "We'll worry about that later. For right now, let's go and get this over with. I wanna get back to drinking. This sobriety shit is giving me a headache."
It wasn't an answer. Far from it. But it was all that I was going to get out of him. He put a hand on my shoulder and turned me around to face Shank and Razor...and they both gave me a wink at the same time as they began walking around to the back of the warehouse. The whole time, the twins were whistling 'Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf' in perfect harmony...and I had no choice but to follow, with Kriegar walking closely behind me.
I don't know what I found more unsettling...the twins whistling such a hauntingly cheerful melody in the shadows of the warehouse...or the deep dark silence surrounding it. The four of us walked around to the back of the building, and I saw Shank stop at one of the windows. The rest of us kept walking, Kriegar gently pushing me to keep me walking forward. Then we stopped at the back door as Razor walked, by himself, to a window on the other side.
We were there, ready, strategically placed, and Kriegar rubbed his hands on the back of my shoulders, kissing me on the side of the neck. "Go ahead, Wes. Open the door." He kneaded my tense muscles, digging his thumbs in deep as he tried to inspire me further. I hesitated. And I know that Kriegar could smell the fear building in the pit of my stomach as I wrestled with the idea of committing the final act that would detach me from my humanity forever. But he kissed me again, and with a whisper, continued to urge me. "Open it. Go on. It'll be over before you know it. Do it."
"Don't be afraid. Don't ever be afraid." I felt Kriegar's hands begin to grow and change slightly as they slipped back off of my shoulders. The lengthening of his fingers were so surreal as they slid off of my shirt. I could smell the scent of that mysterious lubricating fluid that assisted me in my first change, as the familiar 'snaps' and 'pops' echoed softly off of the door in front of me. His breathing changed, and a gentle growl came from him as I listened to the sickening sounds of his body being torn and refitted for a whole new monstrous form. I was too frightened to turn around. Too scared of what I might see if I did. But my whole body began to tremble as I could almost 'feel' Kriegar's body growing in size behind me. More massive, more heavy...with his heated breath bearing down on the back of my neck from a newly elevated angle. The moisture of his hot exhalation left dripplets of water on the surface of my skin, and strands of my blond hair were lightly blown forward with every heave of his massive chest. Focusing my attention on the door in front of me, I saw the outline of Kriegar's shadow swell and expand right before my very eyes, with two long pointed ears sprouting up at the top. I could hear drips of saliva hit the ground and create small puddles at his feet as his fur grew in thickness. I heard his shirt rip, his strong chest, broad shoulders, and hulking muscles, stretching it beyond capacity. And an extremely deep grumble from the bottom of the beast's throat rattled me from behind. And still...I didn't DARE to turn around. I didn't DARE lay my eyes upon it, for fear that my heart wouldn't be able to take the sight of it.
I felt a brutal shove from behind, the size of the hand, three times the size of the one that was just on my shoulder, and a wolf's growl that was still urging me to do what I was brought here to do. Then, a frightening clawed hand...with long nails that looked like a handful of daggers...and covered in ratty, unkempt, dark brown fur...took a hold of my wrist, and physically 'placed' it on the door handle. What choice did I have? Holding back now would only add me to the heap of bodies soon to be found by police once this tragedy was over. So I allowed my mind to relax, my thoughts to fall from grace...and I let the calling sweep me up again. Guiding me to open the door.
I could hear the music in the background, and could smell the scent of marijuana in the air mixed in with alcohol breath and cigarettes. The door had hardly made a sound when I opened it, and I walked inside, with Kriegar...the creature...stood behind me in the darkness. He took one step forward for every three that I took, and when I approached the dim border of light that was coming from the lone hanging fixture over their poker playing table, Kriegar took a slight detour. Instead walking around a different way, so as to keep himself shrouded in the blackness of shadow.
I held my breath, and as the guys in the room laughed and played cards, I secretly looked out of the corner of my eye to see if I could catch a glimpse of the animal he had become. I couldn't see much, as it was too dark to make out many details. But the sheer 'size' of him alone was terrifying. I saw the giant black shape move skillfully through the shadows, standing almost upright, but using his knuckles on occasion to help him balance out his stride. I begin to almost hyperventilate as I was forced to bear witness to this demonic vision of death. This goliath of a person that I had just been talking to only moments before. It was then that the beast turned back to look at me, its glowing eyes flaring up as it watched me from a distance. As spooky as the glowing red orbs were, they still contained a bit of Kriegar's natural appearance in their stare. It was almost 'familiar', but not quite.
Kriegar continued to silently creep forward, and as some of the dim light passed over his fur, I saw that it looked much like his regular head hair, just covering his whole frame this time. His snout had become elongated, his gleaming white teeth showing from underneath a silent snarl. There were still drips of blood behind him from the change, and small clumps of hair that were blown softly across the floor by an invisible wind inside the old musty place. It took me a moment to realize that I wasn't even moving any more. But as I felt a bit of that 'tingle' that John Boy told me about in the back of my mind...I continued to step forward again.
Parts of my personality seemed to be suddenly shutting down. Simply 'flipping' off like a light switch, leaving only darkness behind. I could feel myself slipping, and fought to stay awake, just for a moment longer. Because it got worse every time, and I continued to lose more and more of my soul to the power of it with every soothing surrender. Mmmm...it was beginning to feel soooooo good.
I could feel myself warming up to the idea of tearing chunks of flesh out of the men at the table in front of me. I could feel my footsteps taking a more 'predatory' approach. And more than that...I could feel the power of the others rushing through my veins, giving me all the strength and guidance that I could ever need. It was then that I got close enough to their dim lit area to be seen, and one of the four guys on the other side of the table put down his beer.
"What the fuck is this?" He said, calling attention to my presence as I stepped out of the shadows. My fear was still...'there' somehow, but it had been locked away in this strange inner cyclone where it gave me more focus than doubt.
Robbie's big brother put out his cigarette in an ashtray, and stood up to confront me. "What the hell are you doing here, kid? Huh? What do you think you're doing?" He said, standing over me with a growl.
"Hey, ain't that one of the kids we seen in the road today?" One of them said.
"Oh yeahhhh...that's him. The jumpy one with the staring problem." The other said.
Robbie's brother stared down at me, and said, "So what's the deal, junior? You come here to steal some more booze? Huh? Is that what you're doing?" I didn't say a word. It was difficult, feeling an 'intruder' in my own body. "I'm TALKING to you, bitch!" I felt him shove me, and I was forced a step or two backwards. He didn't want to do this. He really didn't want to push me. "Or maybe...your little 'friend' sent you over here to do some damage to the place? Is that what I'm looking at? A little vandal, looking for some payback?" He shoved me again, taking a sip from his beer. "Didn't expect us to be here, did you? Huh? HUH???" But I just continued to stare quietly at his eyes. My body began to tremble violently on the inside. Like the rumbling of a volcano on the verge of a full eruption. My breathing got deeper, and I almost became dizzy from the intake of oxygen. My body was reacting all on its own, and it took a lot of concentration to try to hold on to my stable shape. "You know what? This isn't even funny any more. Why don't you run back home and tell your little fag friends that the whole damn TOWN is off limits to them now! If we see any one of you walking around, whether you're all together or by yourselves...it's game time, you hear me? I'm sick of this shit." He said, and then, with one more hard push against my chest, he tried to force me out of the back door. "Go on! Get the fuck out of here!"
And that's when my feet dug into the floor, and stopped him from moving me at all. "I'm afraid I can't leave just yet." I said with a grin.
"Whatever, fruitcake." He attempted to push me again. To physically 'move' what he thought was a lightweight teenage blond boy towards the door. But once I refused to budge, he didn't have the strength to move me. "What the....fucking MOVE!" He pushed, he shoved, and as I felt his weak and feeble attempts to shift me from one position to another...I started to laugh. Literally giggling out loud. It was like being pushed by a toddler, but twice as amusing.
"Hehehe, mind if I try?" I asked, and with a single one armed push, I shoved his sorry ass back against the table they were playing cards on. The whole table slid a foot back and nearly turned over. I smiled so freely, I had never felt so strong. And even though the other three guys got up from the table to try to get me to back down, I could still hear Kriegar's stifled breathing in the room. If they thought seeing ME was a surprise...wait until they get a load of my furry friend in the back of the warehouse.
At that moment, both windows on both sides of the warehouse crashed, and Shank and Razor gleefully hopped on in...walking over to stand on either side of me. Their grins just as evil as my own as we formed a line that they didn't dare cross. "What the fuck is this? What the FUCK is going on?" Robbie's brother shouted angrily.
Razor spoke, "Your mouth wrote us a check earlier today...seems your butt can't cash it. We came to collect."
"Oh yeah? You wanna play? Fine! We can play! I didn't want to have to bust you kids up...but you asked for it!" He stomped angrily over to a pile of boxes that had a long metal pipe sitting on top of it. "You should have really stayed home tonight, boys!" He reached for the pipe, but the second he put his hand on it, he heard a deep growling coming from the dark shadow behind the boxes. A ferocious grumble that nearly shook him to the bone as it got louder. He held the pipe with shaky fingers and a limp wrist, suddenly helpless when locked in the vision of this solid black object, this faceless monster, lurking there in the dark. It began to rise, towering over him, growling angry as Robbie's brother dropped the pipe down to his feet. Kriegar's hot breath was almost enough to blow his hair back, and the man became too scared to run, too scared to stand still...and he was almost faint with terror.
"WELL..." Razor said happily, his loud voice causing the others to jump. "...The appropriate introductions have been made...so let's get started, shall we?"