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February 26, 2024

Strange Bedfellows 35

By Lydia Manx

I looked at the bullets that Marcus was griping over and saw that they weren't silver.

"No, but there are enough of them that if you can shoot, you can slow the werewolf down until we chop their heads off." Renee replied dryly while pulling the breakfront aside and revealing a hidden panel behind the furniture. She then pulled out swords. They looked like they had been there since the Civil War. With Harry's harrumph of surprise I must have been right.

"Civil War Confederate Swords? These are rare. Yours looks great, Natasha." Harry spoke in awe while turning his blade right and left looking at the weapon respectfully. I glanced at the one she handed me and saw a few chips on the blade and knew they had been well-used swords. Whatever blood had been shed on the metal had long been scrubbed off but there still was the scent of death on them.

"Misspent youth?" I quipped and watched Renee blush. Laughing, I took up my sword with a grin and slight flourish and asked, "Okay then, should we stay here and fight or try for the byways and back roads?"

With a gleam of excitement in his eyes Harry said, "Let's stay here and see if we can work out a truce."

This wasn't going to be painless, but I nodded and said, "Okay, then."

Harry nodded and asked Renee, "Other than the front door, how many other exits?"

She looked thoughtful and said, "Five windows and basement door in the kitchen. From the basement the only other exit is boarded up on the inside."

"Natasha, can you check it with Marcus?" I looked over at the werewolf and saw he was putting bullets in his pocket. I hefted the Civil War sword Renee had given me and smiled. At least I'd get to hack heads of werewolves off if it came to that. Harry seemed to think that he and Carlos would be able to negotiate some sort of treaty while we waited for reinforcements. Given the way they'd talked about the two packs of werewolves contesting Renee's property I wasn't so sure.

Together we went outside to see where the other exit was. Desiree followed Marcus when he snapped his fingers. I swore she had a tail and tucked it between her legs as we went. Harry told Carlos to keep an eye on the front door with Renee and said he'd go check the other side of the basement door and make sure that it was still secured.

The evening air was humid and heavy. I didn't bother talking to Marcus and Desiree wasn't even on the same planet. The graveyard was full of old decaying bodies and time-worn headstones. There had to be some sort of service that trimmed the grass and bushes because it wasn't overrun with kudzu. I didn't see any signs of recent activity. No fresh graves or even bouquets of fresh flowers. The dates on the stones nearest the house were in the late 1880s. I didn't have time to venture further into the grounds but wondered at how old the entire cemetery actually was.

There were many other creatures out hunting we quickly discovered as a rabbit bolted in front of Desiree. She snarled and started when a large owl silently swooped down from a nearby tree and snatched up the bunny. Marcus chuckled softly then said to Desiree, "Not for you."

I wished that I had a newspaper so I could've given it to Marcus to finish his werewolf training with a smack to her nose. After all he was treating Desiree like a misbehaving cur rather than a fellow werewolf. My face wasn't as impassive as I'd thought because he snapped at me, "Natasha, werewolves are nothing like vampires nor stray pets."

Ouch -- I left it alone and wandered around a corner of the house towards the back. I could see a dark shape near ankle level that I gathered was the outside entrance to the basement. Part of the boards had been pulled from the door and cobwebs laced across the gap. I could see stairs below broken and at the bottom there was another door. The doorway appeared to be lit so I figured the door in the basement was opened.

From the swearing on the other side of the door I gathered that Harry was finding signs of entry into the basement. I wondered how many years it had been since Renee had visited her home.

"Delightful," Marcus snarled, "Guess the old homestead has had a few visitors since Renee popped into polish her silver."

His sarcasm was typical and I didn't bother to acknowledge; instead I called down to Harry, "Guess we better negotiate our asses off."

He laughed and said, "Why don't you all head back. Quickly -- something has changed."

A feeling of hatred washed over me. I spun to see that Desiree had dropped to her knees and was nearly hissing. Her face was a mixture of anger and fear -- none of it was directed at me for a change.

Marcus growled, "Damn it, they are nearly here."

I didn't bother asking who 'they' were because I could smell the growingly familiar scent of werewolves and the hatred was pouring off both packs approaching us at a full run. We wouldn't have had time to get very far down the road before being trapped had we left in the rental. Carlos had understated the anger both sets of werewolves had for each other.

Picking up my pace I didn't dawdle over the headstones or local wild life but aimed for Harry. Renee and Carlos stood at the front door and Harry was directly behind them by the time we had rounded the corner. The unexpected speed that the werewolves had approached us was suddenly made clear as two sets of werewolves bounded into the driveway. They were all fully furred and extremely upset. The largest of them in each pack weighed over two hundred pounds. When they stood on their back hind legs and they were nearly seven feet tall. I remembered that Kentucky had been chasing rumors of a hillbilly monster for decades and wondered how funny the werewolves found those stories.

I doubted that the nearby werewolves stayed around and posed for the press for the weekly news much less stop and stare down the local yokels out in their hunter blinds sipping from flasks while telling tall tales about the one that got away. My mind danced around what those hunters would do if they ever shot much less caught a werewolf. I envisioned them dragging home the huge beast telling their wives and girlfriends to just put it in the pot and let it simmer a few days. Or make jerky and blankets from the werewolf corpse. That thought made me bit happier looking out at all the new fur faces.

Still holding the sword, Harry stepped around Carlos and said, "I doubt that your negotiations are going to be heard."

Carlos shook his head and said, "None of them are pack leaders."

That wasn't good to hear because it meant they had no ability either to make the needed concessions, or desire to even talk. I hadn't noticed that werewolves much liked negotiations in any form, and I doubted in their werewolf shape that they were thinking much of compromise or any sort of sensible agreement. Both packs were here to either take us by force or drag us away in death. Neither option appealed to Harry or me. We both had lifted our swords slightly for ease of use. Renee smiled and caught my eye. She too was ready to negotiate with metal if needed.

"My, my, what have we here?" A human voice came from the darkness. The five werewolves on the left seemed to hesitate as a man walked between the four werewolves that had approached us from the right. The man wasn't tall but had a certain presence. I could smell his scent over the rest -- he was a werewolf but not as high in the pack as Carlos or Marcus.

There was something in his manner that really bothered the other pack but his own crew gave him space as well. He wasn't a favorite, but then Marcus didn't precisely make other werewolves happy. I doubted Desiree would ever want to see him again if she was allowed to leave. Carlos and Marcus had destroyed her pack, leaving her forcibly aligned with Marcus -- even though she had been under Carlos in the grand scheme of things I doubt that she had warm and fuzzy feelings for Carlos' top dog -- as it were.

"Randy Zova, I hadn't thought you still walked," Carlos said calmly, as if we weren't facing ten hostile werewolves. Then I noticed that the other pack had retreated a bit more giving Randy the ground.

He looked at the other group of angry weres and commanded, "Leave now and I'll let you keep your ears and tails."

A slight whimper from Desiree as she snuck behind Marcus let me know that old Randy wasn't kidding. I hadn't heard that werewolves took trophies from their victims but it made a certain sense. After all it was best to demoralize your opponents and prove your conquests and what said it better than body parts? Most werewolves had distinctive markings in their fur -- tails and ears were fairly easy to remove.

The other pack growled lightly but didn't turn and bolt from the yard but instead walked backwards with a liquid grace. I understood perfectly their not wanting to give their backs to any of us. All it would take would be a few seconds and they would've been torn limb from limb including the ears and tails. Soon their eyes were all I could see as the nearby brush absorbed them.

The odds had dramatically shifted but none of us dropped our guard.

"Carlos, of the West Coast Territory, and your little pet, Marcus, nice to see you both again," Randy made it sound like a curse rather than a compliment for the alpha werewolf, "And since I didn't get an invitation to the coming mockery of a wedding, which of these two blood suckers is the bride-to-be?"

He arched a thin eyebrow towards me then rolled a nasty eye over towards Renee. I looked at the eyebrow and a giggle escaped my lips. I couldn't help it.

Old Randy the werewolf had plucked his eyebrows! I couldn't resist taking a quick jab, "Wow, you don't much care for a unibrow or are you metrosexual?" It was my turn to mock.

Harry tried to keep his lips from twitching as my comment sunk in. Marcus didn't bother holding back. He laughed wickedly then said, "Boy, Randy, glad to see you are just as charming as ever. You just know how to impress the ladies I see. Do you have no sense of self-preservation? Or does your innate need to be a total dick just outweigh any rational survival instincts?"

Carlos held his lips firmly closed and let his lieutenant taunt the were. Randy flushed red and snarled. I felt the mood shift as the werewolf pack with Randy began to rock from paw to paw. Their restlessness was a strum of a chord that vibrated through all the werewolves -- ours included.

"Enough!" Harry said softly with a push of vampiric force to his command. Everyone stilled. A bell jar of nothingness seeped through both sets of vampires and werewolves alike. With some of Harry's blood still in my veins I wasn't as enthralled as every other creature in vocal range.

"We seem to have a bit of a miscommunication." Harry sounded perfectly reasonable and not stressed in the least by the still frozen werewolves. Desiree wasn't able to stop whimpering softly. All the testosterone and the nearness of strange werewolves wasn't able to keep her in human shape. She growled and fell to the ground painfully shifting and howling. Yeah, that wasn't going to be noticed by the locals. I could hear some real animals barking and howling back in sympathy for the painful note.

Marcus snarled and snapped at her, "Damn it, Desiree. You shouldn't have been able to shift." I wondered if she'd be able to turn back to her human self anytime soon. A crazy, neurotic werewolf in fur form wasn't the best of traveling companions.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-04-26
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