Walker Kinney gazed about the wreck that the wolfman had made of the room in his apoplectic spasms. “He certainly did a number on the place,” he casually remarked to no-one, stepping over a pile of books and clothes on his way into the room. “I expected him to collapse with more dignity than that.”
Calmly, ignoring the whirlwind that just occurred not minutes before, Walker began picking up books and returning them to the nightstand, all the while speaking as though the wolf could still hear him. “I knew you’d be back eventually. I must say you’ve gotten persistent. You’ve eluded me several times in the last few weeks, you and your friends both. This time, though, I believe you’ve made your last mistake.”
Walker continued his tidying, smugly ignoring the spot on the bed where the Child of Wolf had fallen, finishing with the books and then returning the clothes to their rightful locations. “I suspect you’ll be unconscious for weeks, if not longer,” he commented off-handedly, though of course Watcher could offer no reply. “That will be more than ample time to deal with things. It really is a pity that you’ll be in no position to watch. I really am pleased with how things are coming together. You’ve gathered three others together in the same place, which I must say will make things convenient.”
A tight rictus of pleasure crossed Walker’s face as he talked, his lips peeling back to expose the even, white teeth behind them in an almost feral smile. If he’d thought the wolf could feel it, he’d have delivered a swift kick or two, but of course nothing would get through to him in his current state, not for weeks or more. The picture had worked exactly as he thought it would.
He knelt and gingerly lifted the wooden frame from where it had fallen as it slipped from the wolf’s numbed grasp. One corner was dented, the soft pine scarred from the impact against the hardwood floor, and the glass protecting the image had cracked, three large spider-web lines running outward from the corner. A large shard fell loose from its mounting when he turned the frame, the others quickly following and making a small concerto of crashes against the floor, but he ignored them all as he carefully extracted the picture itself from its mooring.
“Lisa….” The name came to his lips unbidden. His ears felt hot, his cheeks cool. Numbness spread from his spine out to his fingers, the fragile slip of paper escaping their delicate hold, fluttering to the floor to land among the splinters of wood and glass. He had known the wolf would remember her, and what effect those memories would have, but he could never quite prepare himself for the same, a montage of memories forcing themselves into his mind: the wet, syrupy cough, the harbinger of her illness; Watcher, the holy wolf of the forest, coming to them with promises of a cure, ignoring his objections and concerns; the bitter, metallic stench of the smoke that filled the house and Lisa’s lungs as the wolf muttered gibberish over her, pouring foul-smelling concoctions into her open mouth; the empty patter the wolfman spun as Lisa’s condition worsened, blithely assuring him that the natural remedies would yet succeed where his own knowledge had failed; the shameful, furtive glances that told him everything he needed to know when he asked where Lisa had gone; the bitter tears that burned his eyes as he kissed his beloved’s cool, waxy lips for the last time before lowering her into the earth.
Surreptitiously, as though afraid the wolfman might catch him in a moment of weakness, Walker wiped at his eyes with the back of one hand. “Five years, and still it hurts,” he said, coughing to clear his throat as best as he could. “I believed in you, you know.” His voice echoed slightly in the silent room, the wolf eerily quiet. “I trusted you with her life, and you threw it away and then tried to run.” Gingerly, he took the edges of Lisa’s picture in his fingertips, dusting the fragments of glass from its back. The corners of his lips pulled back into a tight, painful smile. “You cost me my love. I think it only fair that you pay me back with yours.”
It hadn’t been easy, finding people who would listen to him. His stories must’ve sounded like the ravings of a lunatic, even to the most open-minded of people. Slowly but surely, though, he found others who believed in him as he once had believed in the Child of Wolf. Evidence was hard to gather, but in time he found enough to make his case to a few like-minded individuals, that the Children of Nature were ultimately a threat, and that steps weren’t taken to keep their numbers from getting out of hand, they might find themselves overrun. It wasn’t genocide, they told themselves; it was pest control.
His coat he retrieved from the back of the closet, overlooked by the wolf in his frenetic search. The picture of Lisa he slid into its inside pocket as he casually shrugged into it, his fingers lingering briefly over its resting place against his chest as he smoothed out the front of the jacket. Walking back to the nightstand beside the bed, he scooped up the unkempt key ring with a smirk; the wolf would have no need of them for a few weeks, at least, and the transport in front of the shack, however decrepit, would be more efficient than walking. After another quick perusal of the room to check for anything out of place, Walker turned, leaving the bedroom at a quick scissor-clip pace towards the front door. His wait for the wolf to come back from his latest fool’s errand had left him drained, and briefly he considered returning to the bedroom to catch a few hours of well-deserved shut-eye, but he had better places to be than this backwoods hovel and better things to do than sit and wait for Watcher to come back to his senses. He paused at the front door, checking his appearance in the mirror. His dirty-blond hair was a rumpled tangle and the bags beneath his eyes were dark, the skin glistening slightly. He grimaced at him reflection but kept walking; the problems were nothing that a hot shower and a solid night of uninterrupted rest wouldn’t fix.
Both of those, though, would have to wait; he had business to which to attend. He dropped into the seat behind the steering wheel of the ancient jeep and fumbled with the keys to extract the one for the vehicle. A single turn in the ignition brought the engine to rumbling, sputtering life, and he dropped it into gear, the stiff frame bouncing painfully as he made his way down the uneven gravel driveway towards the paved road, and civilization.
Before he had lost sight of the house, one hand reached within his coat and extracted a slim, silver mobile phone. It chirped happily as he flipped open its cover, then hastily thumbed a number from memory. Ignoring the grind and rustle of the tires over the dried grasses and leaves, he lifted the cell phone to his ear. “Parson? Itâ€™s Kinney.” He managed to sound cheerful, even optimistic, despite his fatigue and the emotional strain from earlier. “Yes, sorry to be so late; he took longer than I expected to return…. No, sadly, I wasn’t able to take care of things while I was there, but I do believe the worst of the problems should be out of our hair for a while. If you’d like to take care of the rest of the outstanding issues, though, feel free. Meet me at my office in an hour and I’d be glad to give you directions. See you then.”
A quick flick of his wrist snapped the cover closed on the mobile, which he slid back into his pocket. Walker smiled, letting his hands rest comfortably on the steering wheel of the jeep as he headed back to the city. I’ll resolve this little matter, Watcher, he thought as he drove, and then when the rest of your kind are gone I’ll stand over you and watch you suffer and beg for release, just like she did.