Monday, July 21, 2014
Dante Takes a Stand
Dante managed to squeeze in a couple of hours’ sleep before the first frantic reports flooded in. There were calls from Deuce and Hoover on his personal phone, and dozens of others on the public “hot line” in the bar. The trouble with being Talbot’s Peak’s unofficial alpha wolf was that people tended to treat him like their personal 911 unit.
This time, that panic might be justified.
He only needed to listen to a handful of calls to get the gist of the peril. Still aching from the wounds he’d sustained in the Philippines, he nevertheless rolled out his motorcycle and roared it down the road toward what sounded like a major disaster.
“Ewan,” he muttered under his breath, “what the hell did you do?”
One look at the hybrid mammoth monster lumbering up Route 15 and Dante shifted blame to where it belonged, onto Dr. Morloxian’s shoulders. He got his bike fairly close to the beast before it tried to stomp him, but that was near enough to see the mutant werewolf perched on its skull and controlling its progress. A second rider saw him and tried to jump. The werewolf caught her in one brawny arm and crushed her struggling body against him.
Dante’s mouth thinned. Hostage. The seriousness of the situation rose another notch.
He swung his bike around and sped back up the road, scanning for the best place to mount a counterattack. The most defensible spot—if a defense could even be devised against something like that mutant pachyderm—was the bridge spanning the unfortunately-named Schitt Creek. “They were an early settler family! It’s a legitimate name!” the town historians had sworn when Mayor Gil questioned them. Like the Mayor, Dante had his doubts on that score. However, he didn’t doubt that if the mammoth made it past the bridge, all of Talbot’s Peak would be up Schitt Creek in more ways than one.
Movement overhead caught his eye. Two winged beings swooped down from on high and landed before him. One was one of the golden eagle twins—Rafe, by his scent. The other caused Dante’s brows to climb. He’d heard of Pegasus shifters, but had never seen one until now.
The winged horse shifted into a slender, lovely young woman with a waist-length mane of red hair. She introduced herself as Syprelli. “I’ve been following the monster since it broke out of the earth down by the interstate,” she said. “It’s definitely headed for the town. The creature directing it has a hostage. A young woman. I tried to get close enough to help her, but … ” She waved her arms. “It’s difficult. My other form has no hands, and this form has no wings.”
“Same for me,” Rafe, now in his human form, added. “Not to mention that trunk is a bugger. I made a dive at the werewolf on its back and Dumbo nearly nailed me. If you’re going to bring it down, it’ll have to be from a distance.”
“I have access to weapons that could stop it,” Dante said, “but I’d rather not use them until we get the girl off its back. Provided we can.” His mouth tightened. “She’s the mate of a friend of mine.”
Syprelli nodded. “I saw them. Two wolves. They’re following the monster in a car.”
“Then Ewan has a plan.” If he didn’t, he would when he got there. Coyotes were more seat-of-the-pants types. As long as it worked, Dante would back it.
The sound of a motor on the road from the Peak side made all three of them turn. A dusty camo-painted pickup truck trundled down the road and rolled to a halt before them. Dante recognized the driver as Abram Turkle. His passenger Dante only knew by his bad reputation: the human hunter, Cochrane.
“Heard you had some trouble brewing,” Turkle said. “We’re here to help.”
Dante glanced at Cochrane and let the “we” slide by. Any port in a storm. “Do you know what we’re up against? Did you bring sufficient weapons?”
Turkle snorted at the obvious. “We’ve got two elephant guns and a grenade launcher,” Cochrane said. “We just need to figure out how to get close enough.”
“If that doesn’t do the trick, I can run home for the cannon,” Turkle said. “The aim ain't accurate, though. We only fire it on the Fourth of July.”
“There’s a hostage on the mammoth’s back.”
Cochrane looked at him. "And there's a mammoth headed for your town. Let's stay focused on the big picture here."
Dante bit back a growl. He truly detested the hunter, but the man seemed honestly willing to help. “We think the mammoth may be a genetically-mutated human. One of yours, in fact. Does the name Atcheson mean anything to you?”
Cochrane’s expression darkened to downright murderous. “It means I get the first shot. Ass-kissing psycho, that’s what he is. I should have punched his clock a long time back. I hope you aren’t planning on taking him alive. From what we heard on the police scanner, that doesn’t sound like an option.”
“First we rescue the hostage. I’ve got a man working on that.” He hoped. Dante turned back and peered down the highway. The beast had not yet become visible from the bridge, but its hate-filled bellows could be heard for miles. “Come on, Ewan,” he murmured. “Whatever you’re going to do, do it fast.”