Monday, January 20, 2014
Saving People, Hunting Things
Even though he couldn’t see squat with the bag over his head, Ewan had a pretty good idea where this monkey bunch was taking him. The increasing sound of traffic and the neon lights that flashed in through the windshield confirmed it: they were headed for the commercial strip out by the exit. With a dab of good luck they’d be holed up in the Rocky Top Motel. Dante had a wolf named Hoover, he of the miraculous nose, stationed at the front desk there. If Ewan could get word to him, Hoover could tell Dante what these yutzes were up to. That’d put a crimp in their plans.
If his luck ran sour, they’d drive their van up the exit and onto the interstate and off to parts unknown. Then he’d be well and truly up the fabled Scat Creek, with no outboard.
Tonight Chaos favored him. The van slowed, made a careful turn and rattled its way through what Ewan guessed was a parking lot before it came to a stop. Game time. If this was their lair, he could work on getting some answers. If it was just a gas stop, he’d have to make a break for it. Either way, he intended to toy with these apes before he hightailed it for home. The wolf in him might want to attack, but the coyote in him overruled it. No coyote worth the name ever turned down a chance to punk a human.
The male pinning his right arm abruptly ripped the canvas bag off his head. Ewan gulped what passed for fresh air on a busy strip of highway. His eyes adjusted and showed him the back end of a long, two-story motel. Enough willing ladies had smuggled him into their rooms for him to recognize the Rocky Top.
“You listen good, monster,” the man snarled. “You’re gonna walk up those steps and into that room and not give us any trouble. You so much as say boo and I got a silver knife with your name on it.”
“You got me a gift? Damn sweet of you. Hope you spelled my name right. Can I have it wrapped to go?”
The goon stared blankly at him. The woman on his other arm tittered. Ewan swung his head thataway for a look at his possible ally.
About what he’d expected, given the company she kept. Battered sneakers, baggy jeans and a T-shirt with a whale on it, all hanging off a body that’d make a skeleton look pudgy. She had a soft face behind round, owlish glasses. Her hair was chopped short, its color hard to tell under parking lot lights but probably in the brown family. If she had any tits under that shirt, he couldn’t find them. She did have a nice, tight caboose though, so it wasn’t a total loss.
The others piled out of the van and circled him like hyenas. They linked arms and caged him in their middle. In this manner they walked him down the narrow inside hallway, while his new lady friend scooted ahead to open the door. Anybody wandering past would take them for a pack of frat boys staggering home from a bar crawl. In a group they lurched into the room.
And what a room it was, exactly what Ewan expected. His new buddies had added their own special touches to the room’s décor, with maps, newspaper clippings, website printouts and grainy black-and-white video stills Scotch-taped over every square inch, including the paintings bolted to the walls and the mirror on the closet door. The subject matter all related to the alien, the paranormal, the weird. All it needed was an I Want to Believe poster tacked up over the bed.
Three laptops were crowded onto a circular vinyl table, one with a Bigfoot screensaver, another with a sticker of a big-eyed, big-headed alien giving the Vulcan salute. And, of course, the empty pizza boxes. Ewan would have been sorely disappointed if he hadn’t seen at least one.
His surly buddy from the van shoved him onto the bed, where two of his partners swooped in to bind Ewan’s wrists to the headboard. “Kinky,” Ewan said. “Who wants me first?”
“Stuff it, Rover.” Ewan recognized that voice as the van driver’s. He was a big, Aryan blond in a pullover sweater who obviously considered himself this mob’s alpha dog. Ewan named him Freddie. “Save your breath for talking. You’re going to tell us every last detail about your ‘Doctor’s’ operation.” He pulled out a wicked-looking silver dagger. “I guarantee it.”
“Uh huh. You’re gonna spill my guts and I’m gonna empty my bowels on your only bed.” He watched that realization sink in and the consternated looks flash around the room, to finally settle on Freddie. Freddie got red in the face. “You really didn’t think this whole hostage deal through, did you?”
“Don’t mess with us,” Mr. Surly said. Ewan dubbed him Agent Mulder. “We’re professionals.”
“Of course you are.” Ewan jabbed his chin at the active screensaver. “You do know Bigfoot hangs out in Colorado, right? You’re looking in the wrong state.”
“We’ll get back to Bigfoot later,” Agent Mulder said. “Right now you’re our freak of the week. You’re going to talk, or else.”
“Then you’ll be washing sheets till Judgment Day. Tell you what: you let Velma here work her feminine wiles on me and we’ll see how much I spill. That work for you, darlin’?” He winked at the woman.
Her eyes—a warm summer brown, he saw now—flashed with unexpected fire. “My name’s Maureen.”
“Ewan. I’d shake your hand, but … ” He tugged his wrists against the ropes and offered up a shrug.
The woman bit her lip. Poor gal, she probably thought these sorry apes were the best she could do. That wasn’t true, and under different circumstances he wouldn’t mind telling, and showing, her so. If she put on a few pounds and padded those bones, wore a tighter set of jeans, grew her hair out a couple of inches—and washed it more often—she could hop off the Velma shelf and into Daphne territory. He’d bet his tail she’d never been touched by any of these clueless mooks.
She had a brain behind those eyes; he could see it working. He’d always liked Velma better than Daphne anyway. Velma’d always had more smarts than the rest of the gang put together. Coyotes set high store on smarts. In the coyote worldview, anyone without a brain might as well have a target on their back.
Ewan smiled easily and sorted through the targets in the room. Besides Agent Mulder and Freddie, there was a redheaded kid in a “Free Weed” T-shirt, a stocky, dark-skinned guy in glasses who had yet to say a word, and a wide load in a ponytail who reminded Ewan of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. They all gave off that earnest vibe of folks who know they’re right, the kind one little jab can jostle into fanaticism, with a side of violence attached.
Except for Velma. She wasn’t wearing perfume, and her natural scent was earth-toned and homey. He wouldn’t mind a good howl at the moon with her, if he could get her and himself away from the Spooky Brigade.
“So, which of you is Nick Fury?” he asked. “See? We watch TV just like you guys.”
“Go get Mr. C,” Freddie ordered. The guy in the glasses left, still without a word. “Don’t dick with us,” Freddie said to Ewan. “We know all your weaknesses. We’re all armed with silver. It’s new moon. You won’t be changing any time soon.”
Velma opened her mouth, then shut it again. She looked at Ewan doubtfully. He could figure what was going through her mind. Werewolf lore and shifter reality didn’t always match up. Shifters didn’t need a full moon to go canine. She knew this; she’d seen Twilight. Yet she wasn’t in any hurry to share with her brothers in slayage. Interesting.
“Okay, you got me,” Ewan said. “What do you want to know?”
Agent Mulder snatched a photo off the table and thrust it at Ewan’s face. “What’s this?”
He crossed his eyes at the picture in front of his nose, and his gut tumbled. Scat in a hat.
The pic was standard cryptozoologist quality, blurry and off-center and clearly taken from a long, safe distance away. It showed three giant creatures that could not be mistaken for bears or wolves or Tiger Yakuza, even with the bad focus helping. Nothing about the beasts said “normal” in any way, shape or form.
Somehow these hoots had snapped a pic of Damien Hancock’s mutant werewolves.
Chaos bite my balls, he thought. Why did luck always fall into the hands of little cubs and the monumentally stupid?