“Robby,” said Barry to his older brother, who was lying on the old couch on the screened in back porch of their house.
“Yes, squirt?” Robby asked, putting down the book he was reading. Normally all three kids would have been outside, but they were getting hard rain at present, so they were confined to the house for the moment.
“I got a hole in my shorts,” Barry said, turning around and demonstrated. “These are my favorite and I wanted to wear 'em to school on Tuesday.”
“Okay, take them off and we'll see if they can be fixed or not.” Robby said, sitting up.
Obediently, Barry slipped them down his legs and off and handed them to Robby, naked now except for his T shirt. Robby having a look saw that it was just the seam that had come undone. He told Barry, “It’s just come unsewn, they'll be easy to fix. Why did you come to me, you usually go to Rose?”
Barry shuddered, saying, “She's so happy about havin' babies, that she's tryin' ta sing. Me and Teddy were coloring on the kitchen table and she drove us out. Teddy headed for upstairs and that's when I found the hole.”
Robby gave a nod and said, “Okay, I'm not bad with a sewing machine, just be thankful it doesn't have anything to do with cooking.” Robby ability to burn water was taking on legendary status in the Hansen-Wilson household. He got up and headed for the sewing machine, Barry following behind him.
It wasn't going well and Steve Ross was getting frustrated. He was in his mid-thirties and it was his first teaching assignment. It had been going from bad to worse. Robby Hansen looked at him and he heard a voice in his head. *You're screwing things up, Mr. Ross. You're treating us like pre-schoolers, instead of eleven and twelve year olds. Admit that this is your first teaching job and you're unsure and frustrated. Make a joke about something, like saying the movers lost your record collection or something like that.*
Steve gave a laugh and he saw the children look at him with a little more interest. He said, *They did, along with a few others things.*
*The great Alberto strikes again. Don't worry, he's never lost anything permanently.* Robby said, with a grin.
Steve threw the piece of chalk into the air and then after catching it he went to the blackboard and rubbed out his name. He turned and looked at the kids. He said soberly, “Lets start this day over again. I'm Steve Ross and this is my first teaching assignment. I had to put myself through college, so it took awhile.”
Robby said, “Especially since you had to do it, between NFL seasons.”
Steve grinned, telling them, “Yeah, that was a problem. Unfortunately I was never more than second string as a defensive linesman.” That stirred their interest. At six six and three hundred and twenty pounds they knew he was big, but they hadn't connected the name with the football player. As he said, he had never been more than second string, so his face wasn't all that familiar.
He said, “I want to be first string as a teacher, so I've been trying too hard. On top of that, we were supposed to more into our house in the middle of August but things were delayed and we only got in last week and on top of that they lost my record collection and a few other things.”
“Don't worry, Mr. Ross,” said one of the girls, “My father sometimes loses things, but never for very long. I know he's been looking pretty hard.”
“Hey, Robby, didn't your father collect records?” asked one of the boys.
nodded, saying, “Yeah, but I've been thinking of selling them. They've
just been sitting up in the attic since he died, collecting dust. He
wouldn't want that, he'd want them to be used.” winking at Steve
Steve Ross remembered a discussion he'd had with the teacher who had taught this class last year in the six grade. “When I started teaching that class last year. I found it was the easiest class to teach that I'd ever had. Wil Wilkins and Robby Hansen were always the top brains, but Robby just seemed like the normal little jock in other respects. When Robby was injured during the Christmas holidays and wasn't there in January, the class became like every other class I'd ever had. When he came back they returned to the way they had been at the beginning of the year.”
“I looked at him more closely, then. I saw things I hadn't noticed before. I always thought Gary Wilson and David Rall were the leaders. They are leaders, but Robby Hansen is the real leader. The class revolves around him, he's the balance wheel so to speak.”
There was no special table for teachers in the school cafeteria. They were seated among the children and like the children it was first come first served. Steve looked at his wife and gave a wave and she waved back, then he headed for the table where Robby was sitting and he was the only one who had empty seats, around him.
He sat down at the end of the table where Robby was seated. Robby gave a nod, almost a bow, saying, “I apologize for my presumption, I assumed you were one of us. You aura is very similar. However I don't apologize for my advice, you needed it.”
*What do your people call yourself? Sasquatch, or Big Foot or do you have your own name for yourself?* asked Robby.
Steve looked around and he saw that the seats were remaining vacant. He said, *Either will do, as far as I know we've never had a special name for ourselves.* “Do you always sit alone?” he asked out loud.
Robby shook his head, saying, “No, Gary Wilson and Wil Wilkins and Lyle Swanson will be coming, they're on the way now.”
Within a couple of seconds the three boys mentioned slid into the empty seats. “You said you assumed I was one of you. What are you?” Steve asked.
“Werewolves,” Robby said and when Steve looked at the other boys, Robby smiled and said, “Don't worry, Lyle and Gary are werewolves and Wil is a Gypsy and the two eighth grade boys sitting beside us are also werewolves. Benson is the werewolf capital of North America and Gypsys have been our friends and companions for thousands of years, they're the only humans who always know werewolves.”
Robby looked at Wil, who had a questioning look on his face. Robby said, “Obviously Wil can't see your aura, so he's wondering why I'm talking so freely to you.” Addressing Wil, Robby said, “Mr. Ross is another type of were. Sasquatch or Big Foot, are the most common terms.” All three boys looked impressed. Then Lyle Swanson went back to looking worried, as he had since he had joined them.
*Lyle, what are you so upset about?* asked Robby.
*I think Alexandria Ferraro is using marijuana, Robby.* said Lyle unhappily.
Robby went tense, his eyes stabbing at Lyle, anger on his face. *Are you sure?* he said harshly.
*I can smell it on her. I've smelled it before.* Lyle admitted.
*Stupid idiot!* “I'll be right back!” said Robby, not trying to hide his anger.
He pushed back his chair and went over to where one of the girls from their class was sitting and talked to her for several minutes. Abruptly she got up and walked stiffly to the door. Robby spoke to the girl who had been sitting beside her, who looked like a slightly older version of the girl who had walked out. She got up as well and followed the other girl. Robby came back and sat down but there was still anger on his face.
Robby explained, “The stupid idiot has been using marijuana.” He looked at Steve Ross, “Don't get me wrong, I have no particular objection if ordinary kids smoke it, though I think they're stupid to do so, but it affects werewolves much worse than humans. It acts like alcohol does on humans, part of one cigarette and we're drunk as a skunk.”
He said, “That makes it dangerous to drive, but it also makes it dangerous when we change, because we lose our instincts for survival. Lyle, Alexandria told me that this guy is coming around in a van and selling to kids. Werewolf kids only. So, it either has to be an Elder or a Gypsy. She saw your brother there. Tell him from me that if he takes any more I'll block his ability to change for six months.”
Robby inquired, “I imagine that's where you smelled it before, isn't if?” Lyle nodded. “And he probably threatened to pound you if you told. Well tell him from me, as an Elder, that he better not. I don't have to pound him to make him very uncomfortable.” Lyle looked somewhat more relieved.
Steve had been listening closely but when Robby said he was an Elder, he choked on a piece of food. Taking some water, he drank it to clear his throat and looked more closely at Robby, who had a small smile on his face. Robby said, “What, did you think werewolves were any different from your people? Only Elders can speak mind to mind when in human form. That's why Alexandria will obey me and why Lyle's brother better obey me, not because I'm some kid butting into their affairs, but as a werewolf Elder, who can give such orders and expect to be obeyed and who can carry out the punishments he threatens.”
Robby was waiting outside with Wil and Barry was on his shoulders while Teddy went to the bathroom. Being the first day of school, it was a short day and the teachers were leaving as early as the students. Mr. Ross came out of the school with a tall lady, Robby assumed was his wife, which Barry confirmed, “Hi, Mrs. Ross,” he chirped. A good six feet four inches tall, she was the tallest woman he had ever met.
She asked, “Hello, Barry, is this your older brother, Teddy?” Barry giggled.
“No, this is, Robby, Teddy had to go to the bathroom, so we're waiting for him. Teddy's seven, Robby's real old, he'll be twelve next month.”
Robby said meaningfully, “Thanks, squirt, I'll remember that next month and remember your birthday is before mine, so you'll get it first.”
Mrs. Ross looked puzzled, so Robby explained, “We have the traditional birthday spanking, but we're werewolf kids. The spankings are much, much harder than with regular kids and his birthday is on October 4th, so he gets it first, mine isn't until the twentieth, but he'll be able to get his revenge then and Teddy's was in June so he's already had his birthday spankings.”
Steve Ross spoke for the first time, “Why did you consider your threat to block the ability to change so bad Robby, both Lyle and Gary almost looked sick at the thought.”
Robby shook his head, saying, “Your change must be much more routine than ours. Hey squirt, may I borrow your memories of your last change?”
“All right, Robby, but you know it tickles,” said Barry.
Robby closed his eyes and reached into Barry's mind, into the place where he kept the memories of his changing and pulled up the last one. He felt Barry's sigh against the back of his head as he did so. He reached out for the Ross's minds and cautiously moved Barry's memory into their brains, being careful not to get involved in it himself. There was a look of awe on their face as they went though Barry's last change with him and when it was over they shook themselves back to reality.
Mrs. Ross said, “That was an awesome experience, Robby, I'll remember it with pleasure for the rest of my life. I thank you for that.”
Robby nodded, saying, “Barry calls it glorious and it is for most of us. Very few werewolves will risk having that taken away from them, even for a little while. As an Elder and as the first werewolf Healer in generations, I can do what it normally takes two or three Elders to accomplish and all the werewolves in our community know that.”
“And those who don't obey?” Steve Ross asked.
Robby said, calmly and objectively, “There are other punishments available. To be locked into wolf form, or if necessary as a final resort, there is death.”
Looking into Robby's eyes, there was no doubt in the Ross's minds, that if he chose death, he would deal it out as calmly, objectively and as finally, as he had just spoken it.
“Teddy coming up behind you, fast,” reported Wil.
Robby spun around and caught Teddy coming in low and grasping him around the waist lifted him into the air, upside down, Barry taking hold of his feet. Robby swung around again, “This is my other brother, Teddy. Say hello, to Mr. and Mrs. Ross, Teddy.”
Cheerfully, the upside down Teddy said, “Hello.” He cocked his head to one side. “Gee, you're big.” Robby set him down and once upright again, Teddy offered his hand and shook both of the Ross's hands firmly.
Robby said, “I was serious about selling that collection of my father's. It's just going to waste where it is. Why don't you come over and meet my parents, then you can have a look at it. Say about seven-thirty. Wil can show you where we live. He only lives three doors down from you.”
Steve Ross pulled into the driveway, just as Robby tackled Teddy around the waist, He went down hard and after a few seconds, bounced up and started arguing with Robby.
“Oh oh, Teddy got careless,” said Wil.
“Careless?” said Carrie Ross with concern, “I didn't think he'd get back up!”
Wil said calmly, “Oh, that tackle was nothing, werewolf kids play rough and they don't make any allowances for age. No, Teddy turned his back on Barry.” as Barry tackled Teddy around the waist, knocking him to the ground again. Wil grinned saying, “When werewolf kids play football, every play is a prelude to a wrestling match and if you get careless enough to turn your back, you're gonna get tackled, even if the tackler is supposed to be on your side. If we hadn't arrived Robby would be getting into it as well.”
Robby came over and greeted them. Wil asked, “What was Teddy arguing about?”
Robby said with a grin, “Oh, he fooled me and I went offside. If Barry hadn't jumped on top of him I was gonna have to give him five yards. This way it ends in a tie.”
It looked like a very vigorous wrestling match but both kids were giggling so obviously they were enjoying it. Robby looked at his watch. “I'll join you in a minute.”
He went over to the younger boys. “Timeout.”
They immediately stopped their wrestling, Robby told them, “Half an hour before your bath, Barry. Teddy you supervise him and make sure he's in bed by twenty after, when you have your bath leave the bathroom door open and you be in bed by fifteen to nine.” He leaned down and whispered in Teddy's ear and then asked, “Okay?”
“Ok, Robby!” they yelled in unison and then they were back to the wrestling match.
Carrie Ross was curious, “What did you whisper in Teddy's ear?” she asked.
Robby looked at her and she could see a wicked gleam in his eye and she wondered if she should have asked. Robby told her, “I told Teddy if he wanted to play with himself, he'd have to wait until he got into bed.” She blushed and he watched for a minute, before saying, “Gee, Mrs. Ross, you go almost as red as my mother does.”
Steve chuckled and got an elbow in the ribs from his wife. Robby grinned, telling her, “I'm not very modest Mrs. Ross, Ask me questions and you might get answers you don't want. Mom does all the time,”
He pushed open the door and held it open for the adults to enter and then innocently stuck his foot out, but Wil, well aware of his penchant for practical jokes, hopped over it.
Robby introduced his mother and stepfather. Hary said dryly, “I see Robby's been embarrassing you. Take it from me, he only embarrasses people he likes. If only he liked me less.” she ended drolly. This time all the adults laughed.
Robby could see that they would be friends. He said, “Okay here's the deal, I invited Mr. Ross over to see the record collection. I'm aware that's not the only reason Mr. and Mrs. Ross came. You'll want to talk. Once Mr. Ross has seen the collection, Wil and I'll disappear into the computer room, until bedtime and then Wil and I will go to bed. You're staying the night, by the way, Wil. I talked to Mom and your mom. Okay?”
Wil just nodded, he was always glad to spend the night, there always seemed to be things going on at the Hansen-Wilson household, even if nothing was actually happening. It was just the way the atmosphere went.
Steve Ross asked, “This is an incredible collection, Robby, are you sure you want to sell it? In another few years it could help put you through college.”.
Robby said earnestly, “I don't need money for college, Mr. Ross. As an Elder, my education and that of all my siblings would be paid for if we needed it. But it's unlikely that we'll need it. Dad and Mom took out insurance policies for Teddy and I, to pay for our college education's when we were born and Barry's blood mother left him a fortune, worth in the millions.”
He snorted, saying, “And sure, I could make a lot more money selling to a certain type of collector, but these weren't collected by someone who wanted them to sit around. My father worked at home and to relax he would listen to these for an hour or two every day. He was a specialist in small arms and wrote and was a consultant on the subject until he died and ironically that's how he and my mother met.” Robby smiled, “My Mom graduated from the State Police Academy and then she went to the Field Police Training Unit at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia where my father was an instructor. My parents met there, far from their mutual birth place.”
He paused for a moment before saying, “In fact I don't want to be paid directly, anyway, Benson has one of the most highly rated schools in the country, as I'm sure you know. That's why there's no such thing as a middle school here and we stick with one teacher one class up to the ninth grade. The School Board has no intention of tinkering with success. But the computer lab is like almost any other in the country, it can always use more equipment. So whatever you want to pay for the collection will be going to that.”
Robby paused for a second, before saying seriously, “But actually I had an ulterior motive, for inviting you here. I assume that you have the same characteristics as werewolves. That your DNA changes when you change. How would you like to break the law in a big way? I found out from Alexandria that the drug dealer shows up twice a week. He appears on Wednesday and Saturday and I'm going to have a look at him, if he is a Gypsy, I intend to kidnap him and find out who supplies his drugs and stop the supplies.”
While Sasquatches followed human law most of the time, they weren't averse to breaking it in a good cause. Steve Ross wondered why he was needed. Robby answered the unasked question grinning, “Wolves can't drive and I don't want to leave any fingerprints or human DNA behind, that the police can find, if they get involved.”
“And if it's an Elder?” asked Steve.
Robby stated flatly, “Then I won't involve you, because he won't be leaving here alive.” the pupils of his eyes were enlarged with rage.
Robby was relieved that it wasn't an Elder, but he was almost as angry, Gypsys and werewolves were Friends. This one had betrayed them to sell them drugs when he knew what effect it would have on them. He pushed his way through the dozen or so teenage boys and girls and a couple younger ones. They started to protest, but when they looked down and saw who it was they went pale with fear. But they didn't leave. They knew it was senseless to leave, since he already knew who was there.
The drug dealer was sitting on the floor of the van, with the side door open. “What can I do for you, kid?” he asked.
Robby said, carefully keeping his rage under control, “Go to sleep for a while,” and pulling the tranquilizer gun out of his pocket, he shot the Gypsy twice in the chest. The man stared at the two darts sticking out of his chest, then he went to sleep a few seconds later, his head slumping down.
Robby pocketed the gun and turned to face the teenagers. They stiffened when they saw the contempt on his face. He pointed at the two younger perhaps his age. Though they weren't familiar, they obviously knew who he was. He snapped, “If I find you using marijuana, I'll block your ability to change for a month, now get out of here!!”
Willingly they ran, as fast as they could go. Robby looked back at the others. He said with disapproval, “They're still little kids, mostly all they can do is hurt themselves. But you, most of you have driver's licenses and you know that marijuana is as bad as alcohol for us. What do you want to do, hit someone while under the influence and get out and find out it's your little brother or sister?” They shuffled their feet, afraid to meet his eyes.
All except one, there tended to be a foolish one in every crowd. “What right...” and he screamed with pain and went to his knees holding his head, as Robby unleashed some of the punishment he could deal out. But only some. This one would have a headache that would last for a couple of days, but there was no damage.
Robby said harshly, “Because I am your Elder and I judge those who transgress Werewolf Law and I punish as well if necessary. For the younger kids it was a month. I sent a warning home with Lyle Swanson for his brother and the same applies to you. The blockage will be for six months and for those who have drivers licenses heed my warning. If you use drugs and I find out that you've driven a car while under the influence, I will block your change until you reach twenty-one. Now take him with you and get out of here! Move!” and he added a little mental encouragement as well, but it wasn't necessary. They fled as soon as released.
*You can be very frightening when you want to be, Robby.* said Steve Ross.
Robby spat out, his voice still showing his anger, “Good, if they're frightened enough, they'll listen to me. I could see from the open side door that he left the keys in the ignition, so if you'll put him inside we'll be on our way.”
Steve came into the light. In shape he wasn't much different. He was covered with a dense thicket of curly black fur, which covered his whole body, including his face, so you had to look closely to see it was more apelike. His brown eyes were enormous; easily double the size of a normal human, more like a deer. His vocal apparatus was much more primitive than a human's was. While he could make meaningful sounds, he couldn't really talk. His teeth were a little larger than a human's with oversize canines but they weren't excessively so. His legs were about four inches longer than they were as a human and he moved with a fluid ease that no human could match. Adding to the extra height in his legs, he looked a good six inches taller than he really was because he sported a bright crest of reddish fur, which stood straight up, almost like a Mohawk haircut. Possibly sometime in the far past an Indian had seen a Sasquatch and liked the way his crest stood up and copied it.
His manual dexterity was only a little impaired by the extra thickness of his fingers, the claws were very rudimentary. His feet were not the enormous fakes that had been displayed for many years, but were very human like, of course they were large, but only a little larger than they would be in his human form. Like humans his feet had fur or, as humans called it, hair, but unlike humans, it was very thick on the top but his soles were as free of hair as any human.
*You're really bossy in Elder mode, Robby.* Steve said, sitting the Gypsy on one of the seats. Robby changed and then jumped onto the dealer's lap, not caring where he landed and moved onto the other seat. Steve slid the door shut and got into the driver's seat, moving the seat back as far as it would go.
*Yes, I am. Just to prove it. Follow Ishmael and he'll lead us to where we're going.* Robby ordered.
When the dealer woke up, he found himself strapped down onto a hospital bed. Robby moved into the light, telling him, “I'm not very happy with you, Cyrus. Nor I think will your Elders. I think you know Ishmael,” as the man moved forward into sight, Cyrus paled. “When I'm finished with you, he's going to inform the Elders. I imagine it will be exile, don't you think, Cyrus?”
He shook his head, saying, “But then maybe not, if I phone them and I know just who to call, thanks to Ishmael and ask whether I may be allowed to judge you because you were putting werewolf youth in danger, what do you think they'll say? I just want a name Cyrus and then I'll let you drive back to the city. Your drug supplier, Cyrus, or I'll make that phone call.”
“Carlos Verone,” Cyrus croaked.
Robby nodded, saying with outward politeness, “Thank you, Cyrus. I think you will find that when you get back to the city that no one will supply you with drugs anymore. The Mob has gone against us before and they found the cost prohibitive. They very seldom challenge us anymore, unless they consider it a matter of honor. I hardly think this will be a matter of honor to them.”
Robby brought the tranquilizer gun that he had been holding in his hand up, He said, “These darts have an inhibitor so that they only last for a hour. When you wake up, you'll find yourself fully alert. Ishmael will be driving to the city tomorrow to inform your Elders.”
He fired once and a few seconds later Cyrus was unconscious again. As arranged, Steve came in and unstrapped him, as he had strapped him in at the start. Picking him up, he carried him to his van and put him inside. Starting the van, he followed Ishmael again, for about fifteen minutes,
Steve pulled onto the shoulder of the road and leaving the keys in the ignition, he walked back to Ishmael. He had stopped on the road so that he wouldn't leave any tire tracks. While Robby didn't think all these precautions were really necessary, he didn't intend to take any chances and it was a good practice.
Steve didn't change until he was in the car. He asked, “Is being around Robby always this exciting?”
Ishmael grinned, telling him, “I haven't been involved in a lot of things but from what Wil tells me, I can say yes.”
It was about ten minutes to nine, when a light knock came on the door and Barry came in carrying a package carefully. “Hello, Mr. Ross, Robby got this from Alexandria, who told him her father had found your record collection and other stuff. He wants you to call him when you get a chance, to arrange for delivery.”