"Emma, the meeting with the pack didn't quite go as I'd anticipated." Mild understatement from Riley, I thought, not saying a word. I mean, really? Riley had shown up in Michigan without the local pack's knowledge, much less permission, how could it be anything other than a train wreck? The fact that I'd just seen him on the local news ducking behind the spectators at the red-hot scene of a rather massive structure fire had yet to be discussed.
"The werewolf cruising the streets snapping pictures wasn't from their pack, it turned out. He was actually a rogue were that just happened to catch my scent and wanted to use my presence for his own good." I wondered how beat up the rogue werewolf had been when he'd arrived. One of the neighbors on my street had smacked the shit out of him with her broom before he was driven away. A blood-scented werewolf in another pack's territory -- somehow I didn't see that ending well for him.
Riley slapped off more snow and soot while stomping his shoes on the rug in front of the main door. I could smell roasted bits from the fire on him along with a wet aroma of animal fur. Another stray thought I deliberately kept to myself; I had to admit that I really did have a sense of self-preservation. And I really doubted that he needed, much less wanted, to be told that he currently smelt pretty much like wet, burnt dog.
"I went over to where the Alpha keeps his city office, and that was where I discovered that the werewolf we saw out front of the house had gotten there before me. He was being held at claw point by three of the Alpha's point men and screaming to everyone there all about finding me before it was too late. One werewolf asked who he was talking about and the rogue was spouting that there was another werewolf somewhere in Detroit that they needed to find. He really wasn't specific about who I was or where exactly from what I overheard when I walked into the room. But I was more than a little shocked to see my old friend, Gordon, lounging on the couch. He quickly vouched for me and said that he'd called for me to come out for a quick visit. He said that's why he was there, to make sure the proper formalities were observed, and to pay for the inconvenience of my sudden visit." The look on Riley's face was stunned. I was pretty happy to hear that Gordon had put himself forward for Riley, but there was quite obviously a lot more to the story. I waited, slightly impatient, but kept quiet and watched as Riley begin to pace in the small living room with semi-feral strides.
"Emma, I hadn't realized that Gordon was even in the area. I saw this as an opportunity presented that was both amazing and nearly supernatural. Here was the very man who knew about the tunnels -- in the pack leader's office. I figured it was going to take some time to separate him from the others." Riley spun on his heel and a few spatters of melted snow sprayed out from his jacket. I guess it finally was warming up inside. I was so transfixed by Riley's story I hadn't even noticed the room finally getting to a more comfortable temperature.
Nodding, I listened carefully, because he had yet to explain the fire in the building where I'd last seen him. I resisted biting my tongue again because it was still sore from the last time I'd done that and I didn't see any need to add blood to the situation. He wasn't exactly fully-human; I knew this without asking. The movie I'd been watching was running behind Riley and I was more than a bit amused to see there was a huge fire roaring behind the lead character. I must have missed something going boom again.
Riley stopped in front of me, and with a fierce look on his face he announced, "Gordon will be here in about half an hour."
"Excuse me? Aren't you skipping just a bit of your story?" I was busy wrapping my mind around the fact that another werewolf was soon to be showing up with valuable information for me regarding the mine and the possible problems down there. But I was also torn between wanting to hear what happened with the rogue werewolf, and who precisely started the fire I'd seen on the television. Somehow it wouldn't surprise me to hear that Riley had something to do with the fire. He was bouncing around the room and had yet to settle down on the couch.
Distractedly Riley ran his palm through his hair, "What are you talking about?"
I stood up so he wasn't towering over me, not that it made that big a difference; he was at least a foot taller than me.
"The fire? The one in the building that I saw you running from? Hmm? Right around Wayne State University -- apparently not such an abandoned building, seeing that you were jogging away from the burning structure? Something to do with werewolves and you along those lines?" I wasn't snotty but pretty close to it. I hadn't mentioned his wet, smoky dog smell so I thought I was doing pretty damn well for me.
"Oh, that?" He waved a hand dismissively while continuing his pacing. He was agitated, but not about the fire, it appeared. Layers of tension wafted off him and I could feel my own pulse quicken at the burst of electricity in the room.
"Emma, they had to dispose of the body fast. Hard to do in a snowstorm, you know." Like I had those sort of life experiences? I wondered what he thought it was I did when he wasn't around to monitor my every move.
"Which begs the next question, Riley, what body?" I spit out getting exasperated at his non-answer.
Rolling his eyes he said, "The rogue werewolf. Once Gordon vouched for me there was nothing left for the Alpha to do." It seemed to him that was the obvious solution, and he looked at me with his head tilted like he couldn't figure out why I even had to ask.
"Okay then. So Gordon is coming here and you aren't in any trouble for dropping unannounced into the pack's territory?" I ignored his look and didn't bother to answer his comment about the casual death of a stranger, not to mention the torching of a building.
"Yep, though you may have to visit the Alpha once we're done, if you don't get yourself killed. That was being discussed when I left. They'll send a messenger over in a day and let you know." I had a million questions for Riley, but figured I had a day to pester him before what sounded to me like a command performance. And I'd check in with Uncle Harry before I went a visiting some strange werewolf in his lair or whatever it is called. Like is it a den? I shook my head free of the silly thoughts and focused on the simple fact I would now have two big werewolves in my little rental.
Restless now, I began picking up the blankets and folding them up and then setting them on the corner of the couch. The food situation wasn't going to be pretty either, but I wasn't going to risk death in a full blown blizzard to pick up cans of food or packages of meat to toss into their mouths. I'd quickly learned I didn't have a clue how much food a werewolf could inhale, earlier in the day when Riley had a snack. I guess weres hid that from normal 'humans' and even with my own talents I was considered to be quite the outsider. I was fine with that mostly, until now, when I had to rely on Riley to get my back. Uncle Harry definitely had some explaining to do once I got back to California.
I changed channels on the television and saw that the weather was getting worse. From everything on the tube, it was apparent that good old Blizzard Jimmy was blanketing the entire region, and the footage that was being shown was mostly huge mounds of white snow with nearly blue reporters standing in front of local signs, while holding microphones, telling us it was cold, while their pretty bleached white teeth chattered, punctuating their reports. I switched stations a few times and was pretty much greeted with the same set up on all the channels. I figured someone out there in the TV land put out a memo about what was to be shown. There weren't any shots of the homeless people holed up beneath bridges, turning purple-blue in their tattered clothes while slowly freezing to death. Riley looked at the TV and grunted, "You still think this trip of yours to the mines is actually a good idea? You could be trapped there for a while with who knows what."
I shrugged and didn't answer. I wasn't certain that it was my best idea, but I hadn't heard that anything supernatural or deadly was down there for sure. So far only old stories and speculation from Riley, but I still had to take it all into consideration before dropping down that far beneath the earth.
Chasing back to my previous thoughts, I asked, "So you are saying you had nothing to do with that warehouse fire? There isn't going to be some fire marshal or arson detectives knocking on the front door asking me if you can come out and play with them?"
Riley laughed and said, "I doubt it, given I didn't have anything to do with the death or the fire. That's all on the Alpha's crew and they aren't going to run into any trouble with the locals. They have their own little infrastructure and associations around Michigan. Most werewolves have connections within the communities where they reside and rarely run afoul of the humans. We don't try to attract attention." I could hear him scoffing at my unspoken thoughts. I resisted saying anything and nodded like I understood. Which I definitely did not, in any way shape or form. Werewolves could be more secretive than vampires.
"I am going to go grab a quick shower and change out of these clothes. If you can tell me where you keep the bath towels I'll get out of your hair for a bit." I did more than get him just a set of towels I also handed him a large trash bag to put his smoky wet clothing in until we had a chance to do laundry. He laughed, taking the hint and took off his jacket and shirt while I stood there and gaped. I knew werewolves were not demure and shy about their bodies, and Riley's wasn't bad by any standards.
"Take your time. I am going to go put some stew on the stove." I fled to the kitchen and tossed together a meaty stew and a large salad. Looking at the quickly diminishing supplies, I also stuck two loaves of bread on the table and a slab of butter. It would have to do since I wasn't heading out to buy anything else at the moment. Riley was singing in the shower which surprised me -- it was something from an Italian opera. It shouldn't have, but somehow it amazed me that he had a great voice. There was a brisk knock at the front door and I went to find a handsome man standing a foot back from the doorway.
"Yes?" I was momentarily puzzled because it wasn't one of the neighbors I recognized.
Riley's voice boomed out from behind me, "Hey, Gordon, get your frozen ass inside. That's Emma."
This was Gordon?