It was about six o'clock in the morning and Robby was heading for home, tired but gratified. He had been working with an almost four year old werewolf boy, for the last two nights, trying to bring on the change that should happen to a werewolf child of that age. With a child so young, it was an involuntary change that only occurred around the full moon, so he could only work with him at that time.
Finally last night, he had succeeded in helping the boy change into a puppy and he had waited for the morning to make sure that he would change back all right. Ecstatic parents and child had gone to bed and Robby had decided to take the long way home. He was walking along Seamus Riley's property line, to the rough road that went through the woods half a mile from Seamus's house.
Robby's attention was caught by the scent of fresh blood. Human blood. He didn't suffer from the deficit that dogs had. Werewolves could see in full color, not just shades of gray. A werewolf's eyes in canine form were physically identical to any other canine. Their ability to see color was a magical ability not a physical one.
Robby could see and smell drops of blood on the ground leading off the road into the woods. Since any human blood here was likely to be from a crime, he stayed to the right of the small path, which didn't disturb his sense of smell.
Very soon, Robby could scent the man the blood had come from and it was familiar. Clive Richardson, sixty-one and gay and one of the most popular men in town, for his generous ways and sparkling personality. He finally found Clive and as he changed back into a human boy, he hoped it wasn't a body.
Robby was thankful when he found that it wasn't. Badly beaten and bloody, Clive's heart was still beating strongly. He took out the cell phone that his mother had insisted that he carry when he went to Seamus's. He dialed 911 and reported that he had found a badly injured man and gave his location and the man's name and hung up.
Then Robby called his mother, she was a bit sleepy, but woke up quickly as Robby told her, “Hello, Mom, I decided to take the long way home and I found Clive Richardson. I'm about twenty yards off the woods road and he's been beaten pretty badly and he's unconscious, but his heart sounds pretty good. I called 911 and they said they'd be here as soon as possible. I'm going to have to go back out to the woods road as a wolf and go about a quarter of a mile away and change back into a human and make some footprints. Otherwise they're going to wonder how I got here, without leaving any tracks, so I'll have to go.”
Putting the cell phone back in his pocket, he changed into a wolf and went out to the road and running quickly to a spot about a quarter of a mile along the track. From here to Seamus Riley property line it was mostly rock, so hopefully if they were suspicious for any reason, they wouldn't look closely enough to find that his human tracks only started here. Turning back into a boy, he turned around and ran fifty yards hard and then fifty slow and then fifty walking and then he repeated it twice more, though the third time wasn't complete. That put him walking just at the point where he had found the blood.
Robby bent down right at the spot and he could see a little blood. He would say he had stopped to rest and stretch and seen the blood and then followed it off the trail to Clive Richardson. Since it was blood and his mother was a cop, he would say that he stayed as far to one side of the trail as he could and just went directly in. He disliked disturbing a crime scene but it was necessary to protect his people. Besides, the medics would have to make prints around the man, to get to him.
Turning back into a wolf Robby moved closer and he cataloged all the scents that he could. There were several human ones. Nobody he recognized, but he would remember them if he encountered them while in wolf form. Moving back to the side where his footprints ended he changed again and then squatted down and just waited.
Robby was calm, but there was anger behind the calm. Since this didn't appear to be a werewolf problem, technically it wasn't under his jurisdiction; not that it would stop him if he could help. He wished he could help the injured man, but though he knew some first aid, Clive was far beyond that need, the best thing he could do was nothing.
He heard an ambulance siren and he went out to the woods road to wait for it and waved it down. When it stopped, the driver got out of the front and the medic out of the back. Robby said, letting his anger seep into his voice, “It's Clive Richardson, Mr. Mayhew. He's been beaten pretty bad, but his heart seemed strong. I'll lead the way and since it's a crime scene, I'm sure my Mom would want us to try and stay as far to the right we can. You can't do anything about where he is, but if we can preserve as much as the rest of the trail as possible she and Norm will be pleased.”
They followed him, staying to the right as he had requested. When they reached Clive, Robby heard the hiss of anger in their voices as they spoke, as they arranged to check Clive and to minimize crime scene damage as much as possible. Then they got Clive on the stretcher and back to the ambulance where they loaded him in and then quickly left. Since there was nowhere to turn around on this road, they continued along it, heading for Seamus's property line and the lane that led back to the road.
*Robby, I'm on the woods road, come out and show me where you are.* said his mother and obediently he walked out to the dirt road.
When she saw him she stopped her car and got out, wearing jeans and a T shirt topped with a leather jacket, to cover her gun. She didn't carry a purse while on the job since it got in the way, especially in times like this where she could do a little investigating of the scents that were around.
Robby pointed toward where he had found Clive. “We stayed to the right, on the way in, unfortunately we had to do a lot of damage where he was found to check to see how he was and the medics to get him out.” Unhappily, he continued, “Also I had to make some footprints, to hide the fact that it was a wolf who found him, but I tried to do as little damage as possible.”
Hary squatted down at the start of the trail into the woods and examined the ground carefully. She told him reassuringly, “I don't think this is the main crime scene anyway, Robby, It looks like scuff marks as someone was dragged along. I think he was just dumped here. It's so far from anywhere, but anyone who knows about this road would know it's not traveled very often.
She said, “Okay, keep watch and warm me if you hear anyone coming. I'll do a little snooping.” her eyes glowing as she changed into wolf form and began to make the same sort of examination that Robby had made, cataloging scents to see if anything was familiar. She moved into the woods staying to one side, as Robby had done. After a couple of minutes she came back out and changed back into a woman.
Hary told him, “Well it smells like four humans plus Clive, but none of the scents are familiar.” Taking out her cell phone, she hit the speed dial for the police station, “Hello, Maxine, give me Norm.”
“Okay, Hary. Connecting you.” said the receptionist at the police station.
“Hello, Hary, what do you think.” asked Norm Peters.
She explained, “This doesn't look like the main crime scene, Norm, more likely to be a dumping ground. Are the State Police forensics boys on their way?” The Benson police force was a good one, but it was too small to have the facilities for forensics, so the State Police performed that job for them.
“They are. They should arrive at your location in about fifteen minutes. You might as well send Robby home. He can come down later and give his statement.” said Norm.
Hary said, “Okay, Norm.” and hung up, she gathered Robby into a hug and kissed him on the top of the head, “I'm glad you decided to take the long way home, Robby. If he's badly injured, it's unlikely he would have been found before he died. Now go home, have a bath and catch a couple of hours sleep. When I get finished here, I'll pick you up and take you down to the police station where you can make your statement. Unfortunately, we're going to have to fudge where you were last night and get the whole family in sync on your whereabouts, just in case.”
“Okay, Mom.” He said unhappily and he began to head for home, walking with his head down.
The State Police Forensics team confirmed that Clive hadn't been beaten where he had been found, but had indeed been dumped there, but they hadn't been able to come up with much. Clive Richardson had regained consciousness but either couldn't or wouldn't say what had happened.
Robby had been unsettled since Sunday, he'd been on a high from helping the werewolf boy change and then suddenly the low of finding Clive had affected him severely. He hadn't felt like going to school for the last three days and his mother hadn't insisted on it. Sometimes he had been in human form, but right at the moment he was in wolf form and he was close to the paved road that went past the woods.
Robby heard a car stop and pull off the road. Curious, he moved toward the edge of the woods. He saw that the car was an old one and two teenage boys were leaning against the car door and smoking. They were skinheads, dressed in leather jackets and jeans. The wind had been blowing toward them but suddenly it veered and blew toward Robby. He growled with anger. The scent was familiar. These were two of the humans he had smelled where Clive Richardson had been dumped and they were smoking marijuana.
Robby wanted to hear what they were saying. He could get quite a bit closer because the grass just off the shoulder was almost waist high on a human adult. Moving out of the direct line that the wind was blowing the smoke, since even second hand the drug could affect werewolves, he moved into the grass and got within twenty feet of them before he had to stop.
“...easiest five hundred dollars we ever made. Just to beat up the old geezer and frighten him into moving in with his nephew in the city. We didn't even have to phone the cops, like he wanted us to, cuz some kid was out running and found him. Come on, Kaz, let’s get back to Cormier.” They dropped their cigarettes on the road shoulder and ground them out.
'At least they're bright enough to do that,' mused Robby angrily, as they got back into their car and drove away and Robby made very sure he got their license plate. Changing back into a boy, he took out the cell phone and he called the police station and asked for his mother.
“Hello, Robby, how are you feeling now?” asked Hary.
“Much better, Mom,” said an almost cheerful Robby. “Mom, remember you said that even dumb criminals don't return to the scene of the crime.”
She said, “Yes, even they watch television, Robby.”
Robby gave a sort of derision as he said, “Well, these ones must be really, really dumb, Mom, because they did. A couple of skinheads, one of them named Kaz and I got their license plate number,” he gave it to her. “They're from Cormier and you better start looking into Clive's nephew. It seems that he paid them five hundred dollars to beat up Clive and scare him into moving in with him. What do you want to bet that sometime in the future Clive would have had an accident?”
Haiy told him, “We never even thought of the nephew seriously, Robby, though we did have the Prescott city police check on his whereabouts and he wasn't anywhere near Benson at the time. What are you going to do now, Robby? From the way you sound I gather you feel much better.”
He looked at his watch. The kids should just about be getting home from school about now. He said decisively, “I'm going to ask Rose to drive me into Cormier. I can't do anything as an Elder, but I can as a citizen. Even the fact that it was Clive's nephew, who was responsible for it, it might still frighten him into moving into the city. He's too good a person to lose. I'm going to Guido's and see if I can't get some help to persuade him to stay.”
Guido's was right next door to the ice cream parlor, so Rose took Teddy and Barry for some ice cream while Robby went into Guido's. He sat on a stool at the counter and asked for a Coke. Guido served him, but looked at him coldly. “There's an ice cream place just next door, kid.”
“Don't worry, Guido, he's a werewolf, in fact he's an Elder.” yelled a voice that Robby recognized as Lyle Swanson's older brother Vernon.
Guido, his voice much more congenial this time, asked, “You, Robby Hansen?” and Robby nodded.
Robby turned to face the booths and despite the fact that it wasn't that long after school had let out, they were pretty full. He told them, “I didn't come here as an Elder and I'm not trying to move into your hangout. I'm the one who found Clive Richardson and I was really unsettled by it. Though I've been an Elder for only a few months, I'm used to being in control of situations. This is a situation that has nothing to do with werewolves and I have no responsibly for it, so I've been sorta feeling lost.”
Robby asked, “Everybody knows that the old cliche about criminals revisiting the sight of the crime is nonsense, right?”
He saw almost everyone nod. “Wrong.” he stated flatly. “I've stayed out of school for the last three days and I've just been wandering around in the woods.” he explained what he had seen, “The city papers have been referring to this as a gay bashing incident. Well I happen to know that Clive's nephew is also gay and he was the one who's responsible for this.”
One of the kids, who Robby didn't recognize, obviously from Cormier, “Kaz is as gay as they come, Robby and so is the crowd he runs with. Sure they're skinheads, but they're gay. I've got some gay friends and they look down on them with scorn. They're trying to fit in with both crowds and because of the way they're going about it, they're not succeeding with either.”
Robby nodded. He told them, “As I said, I'm not here as an Elder. I'm only a kid, but I'm a citizen too. Clive Richardson is too good a person for our communities to lose. How many times have sports teams or clubs in Benson or Cormier been unable to find transport? Somebody, will say, 'Let's call Clive, he'll give us a ride.' and Clive will be right there with that old school bus that he drives and give a ride. Ten miles or a trip into the city, it never mattered to Clive. He never even asks for gas money. Who here has had that type of help from Clive?”
He got a yell from almost everybody in the place.
“As a citizen, I'm asking for your help. The doctors say that Clive can get out this Sunday, so this is what I want you to do.” and Robby began telling them his plan.
By Sunday, Clive's nephew and the four gay skinheads had been arrested and were in jail and Clive was feeling depressed about his nephew. Hary and Paul had offered to drive him home and he had accepted, not sure how long he would stay in Benson.
When they stopped at the Cormier high school, he wondered what was going on. They helped him out of the van despite his protests and Robby was pushing him around the school toward the football field. The Cormier football stands would hold three thousand people and on the other side of it was a hill.
Well those stands were packed and so was the hill and every inch of space surrounding the field was filled with people standing three and four deep. There might have been a few people from in and around Benson and Cormier that weren't there, but there weren't very many. As Robby pushed the man around the corner, everyone in the crowd began chanting, “Clive, Clive, Clive.” And there was a banner stretched between the far football goalpost, said 'WELCOME, CLIVE RICHARDSON, OUTSTANDING FAMILY MEMBER'
It sent shivers down everyone's spines, especially Clive's. It was a welcoming chant and as Robby pushed him through the opening the crowd made way to let them through and onto the field, then closing up behind them. The crowd began to applaud, cheers and whistles ringing out.
A small platform had been set up and the mayors of Benson and Cormier were standing on it. The mayor of Benson began to speak over the PA system. “We know that you're depressed by the betrayal of your nephew, but we just wanted to let you know that the rest of your family fully appreciates you. Right family?”
A roar of approval rang out from the crowd. He continued his speech with occasional breaks when the crowd broke into applause or further roars of approval. After about ten minutes the Cormier mayor took over with the same type of reception, finishing with, “That's all of the speeches, Clive, we won't force you to make any. We have three final things for you, a plaque from Benson and one from Cormier honoring you for being the outstanding citizen you have been for the forty years of your adult life and a framed front page of a special edition of the Cormier Post. This edition contains signatures from over ten thousand people and written messages from many of us.”
The depression was gone from Clive Richardson heart. The betrayal not forgotten, but put aside, because of the reception of his real family, the people of Benson and Cormier.
I would imagine that a stand to hold three thousand people would be unusual for a small high school, but it doubles as the town’s sports center.