"So somebody driving a plow is taking pictures of the storm, Esmeralda, that's not a crime," Riley said with a humorous tone, drawing out my name, slightly mocking while obviously dismissing my instinctive fears.
Then he hissed a breath of his own, fogging up the window pane as the snow plow pulled in front of my rental house. There was a brief glint of reflection and before I knew it Riley had swung me away from the window and nearly launched me to the kitchen with his push. The house was still icy cold and I felt like I'd been tossed through a snow drift by how quickly I'd flown.
"What the hell?" I turned quickly back to see him glowering at the person snapping pictures of the front of the house. He looked larger than he had a few minutes ago and I wondered if he was going to flip to the furry side of his nature. His voice was raspy and nearly a growl as he said, "Hush, let me see what's happening."
He quickly paced to the front door and opened it up just as the plow stopped dead in the middle of the street. From my spot behind Riley, I saw a large man jump over the snow drift he'd just created. He was dressed for winter, but the camera in his hand appeared wrong. The man who'd been screaming at the plow driver had stormed over to him, and was soon confronting the monstrously large man right at the end of my own snow-filled walkway. Riley stood on the porch and watched the heated exchange start with a shout.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" My neighbor looked like he was nearly ready to pop a vein, he was screaming so loudly. The driver disregarded the man completely and instead was staring at Riley, who was filling the doorway, effectively blocking my view. I still could hear the shouting inside the house. The snow plow was coughing and spurting noisily in the street adding to the level of stress.
"The blizzard is just beginning and there is no fucking way you need to run that crappy ass plow yet!" The man ranted while getting closer, "Hey! What's wrong with you? Are you even hearing me?"
I figured the whole neighborhood did, seeing the number of flickering drapes up and down the street. I'd returned to the edge of the front window to watch. There were some flickering lights here and there from inside the homes, but the power was still out, so I figured them for lanterns, candles and flashlights. The three lanterns I'd lit were slightly backlighting me so I edged to the other side of the windowpane. The large driver was still locked onto Riley.
A sneaky suspicion began to thread through my thoughts and my fears were confirmed when the creature spoke loudly, "You aren't supposed to be here. You have no rights."
Oh happy days, like the blizzard wasn't bad enough, it sure seemed to me that one of the werewolves of the local pack had come looking for Riley. Failing to beg admittance to other werewolves' territories could have decidedly fatal results. I knew about that from stories overheard and pieces of information I'd picked up over the years. The man driving the plow must have noticed Riley's arrival somehow. Either werewolves monitor their local airports, or maybe it was a scent thing. I put it on the back burner of my thoughts to ask Uncle Harry next time we got a chance to chit-chat.
The neighbor misinterpreted the driver's statement as directed to him. I watched him puff up and grow even more flushed with anger. I swore the vein in his temple was going to pop open and he was going to stroke out in front of everyone. Then he did something I'd half expected, and pulled out a handgun from his pocket.
"I can be here. I live here. I certainly have rights, including the right to cap your damn ass. Hell, I pay taxes here. And YOU just fucked up my walkway. I'm tired of you city employees doing jack shit most days then suddenly fucking up my work." His voice was booming and he was spitting when screaming. His gun wasn't shaky in the least, which pretty much solidified my thoughts that he'd shot a gun or two in his day.
Still the other creature hadn't turned to look at the man holding a gun on him. They were less than a foot or two apart when the gun was pulled, but the driver must have caught a glimpse of the gun or smelt the weapon because as quickly as I could snap my fingers, he reached out and tore the gun from the neighbor's hand. He stripped it with such force that the man screamed and fell to his knees, holding a fist torn up and now bleeding out even through his glove. He screamed without words in sheer pain. I don't know what was hit, but from the spray of blood pumping out of the damaged hand, I was pretty sure the neighbor wasn't going to be pulling a gun on anyone any time soon. That was if he got his ass to the hospital in time to save his hand. The snow beneath him was pooling with the rapid infusion of warm blood.
Another scream filled the air, adding to the growing tension. This wasn't another man but a woman flying down the icy walkway in a housecoat and slippers. She, too, felt the need to bring a weapon but hers wasn't a gun but a kitchen broom. She began slamming it over the head of the man who'd been driving the snow plow, and actually knocked the gun free from his surprised grip. She was three hundred pounds if an ounce and furious. Shrill screams and rapid swipes of the broom began to take a toll on the driver. Then she flipped the broom around and started to really hammer on him with the thick pole. She put her weight behind one swing and it lifted the man off his feet.
Words began to break through between the shrieks, "How -- dare -- you -- fucking -- touch -- my -- man!"
Some other neighbors came out from their homes with guns and knives -- I half expected to see pitchforks and torches.
"Yeah, get out of here," one voice shouted. A few others grumbled and added to the sound. One lady fell to the ground next to the bleeding man. She'd thought to bring a household medical kit and was bandaging the hand while yelling for blankets.
Riley stood calmly in the doorway on the porch watching the developing drama with a slight smile on his face. The werewolf was now surrounded by various neighbors who were cheering on the furious woman. She finally slammed the broom handle hard enough against the man's head that it snapped. Without wasting a second she snatched up the broken handle and continued to whack the werewolf with both pieces. She wasn't slowing down, but seemed to be getting faster as her man sobbed out.
Another person came running up to the gathering with an arm full of blankets and a cell phone.
"I've called nine-one-one! They'll send an ambulance as soon as they can!" I glanced down the street and saw that the snow was rapidly filling up the scraped road and sincerely doubted it would be arriving anytime in the near future.
"Fuck the ambulance, did you report this asshole?" Another face in the crowd asked.
"Yeah, they didn't think anyone sent out the plows yet. I think he's a screwball. Riding up, ruining good roads and taking pictures of us." So Riley and I hadn't been the only one to notice the camera action. With the power outage it appeared a lot of people had been staring out the window watching the snowfall.
That reminded one of the mob, and the kid picked up the camera that had fallen as the werewolf tried to cover his head from the stick. The camera was quickly tossed to another kid who ran away laughing.
The werewolf finally had enough of being smacked around by the demented woman and roared. There was no other word for it.
He rose up from his half-crouch and grabbed the broom pieces from the woman's grip. He tossed them away and threw himself up into the cab of his truck, and nearly ran over a few more kids who'd come out to see the beating. The neighbors began throwing snowballs and rocks at the truck while screaming obscenities. Detroit at its finest. They congratulated each other on running the man off, while a few assisted the first neighbor to his feet and towards his house to wait for the ambulance. The woman nodded and thanked various folks by name while picking up her broom pieces. She spit on the icy ground, and suddenly seemed to be aware of the fact it was probably no more than ten or fifteen degrees outside and she was in a thin cotton housecoat and slippers.
Riley simply backed inside the house and closed the door.
"Well, that was entertaining," he said while tugging on his lower lip.
"And that werewolf was here to say hello and welcome to the city right?" I all but growled. I didn't want to move, but that little incident didn't bode well for my long term rental arrangement.
"Sure, we'll go with that." He grinned finally and sat down on the couch.
"Disturbed your nap and maimed a neighbor -- great way to make friends." I said, still next to the window. I glanced out and saw even the pool of blood had been covered with snow in the short time since the man had been injured.
"He won't be able to come back for a bit. He doesn't have any proof and the neighbors will be watching out for him. We have a day or two before I need to worry about it." Riley seemed to have worked it all out in the few seconds he'd had to digest the event.
"Okay, that sounds great. So that means I need to get down to the mine in the next twenty-four hours before you have to play apologizing werewolf?" I asked with just a little bit of bite to my words. I hated to be rushed but was feeling pressured by the incident.
Shrugging he said, "Or you could just skip the trip this winter and go down next year."
"No, not if there's a chance." Looking at him, I stopped talking and went back to the journal entries that had me convinced there was something beneath the snow and earth down in the salt mines. I wasn't going to waste any more words trying to explain. Besides I wasn't sure I could explain precisely what had me so convinced that in the huge labyrinth of salt, one of my kind resided there before he died. The biggest fear I had was that he'd been trapped there and that was why he'd died. But the descriptions of his living area seemed to make it more likely that he'd intentionally been hiding there, and hadn't been trapped by the salt, but something else. Or someone else. I didn't have enough information, but I didn't have any more time to dither. I needed to decide when, where and how deep.
"Give me two hours and then I will go." I decisively stated. It would be darker and the snow would keep everyone inside. I'd take the time to figure out what I needed to pack and how much I'd be telling Riley. One way or another it was going to happen. I just wasn't completely sure of everything, but needed to take that leap of faith and pray it wouldn't be my final leap at that.