Unlike many of my later stories only one person tells this one, so I name her as the narrator, though the Prologue is in the third person.
“Speaking. Is that you, Edward?”
“Yes it is Robby. I've got some news for you. The minister has finally surfaced. At a Gypsy bar in Jacksonville, Florida. He met an old friend of yours. Cyrus Amree, your drug pusher. It seems they left together.”
“Bye, Edward, thanks for the info.”
“Always a pleasure Elder.
My new grandfather had his arm around me and he was talking to Robby. “I thank you for the gift of Jenna to our family, Robby. I don't think I've ever seen Steve and Carrie happier,” said David Ross, and he gave me a squeeze.
“I'm always glad to help, but did you have to bring the whole clan? All those tall kids are giving us an inferiority complex.” Robby grinned to show he was kidding, though I could tell he was being semi-serious. I grinned, Robby had talked about it during our morning runs over the last two weeks.
He told us, “Nothing to do with you, actually. It's puberty or lack of it, that I'm talking about. See those two carrot tops, making a raid on the food. That's Lyle and Vernon Swanson, they're distant cousins of mine. Lyle's my age but Vernon turned sixteen this last summer, and he's only three inches taller. That's what werewolves like me who've just turned twelve have to look forward to for the next three or four years. All of our friends shooting up all around us, and us growing a whole two or three inches.”
“However Vernon's just about to start his growth spurt. I can see it from his aura. Both of his parents are tall, so he'll add a foot or more to his height in the next one or two years. I thought Gary, since he became a werewolf so late and in such an unusual manner, might miss our glorious pre-pubescent period. Not a chance. I had to tell them that he'd be joining the club. I was really devastated when I had to tell him.” he said with such obvious fake sorrow that, David Ross had to laugh and I giggled.
“Actually,” said Robby, seriously “it's not as bad for us as it is for a lot of kids who have a delayed puberty, since there's so many of us around here, that go through it.”
Robby looked at us and tapped his upper lip a couple of times. He said gravely, “I've already told Steve. Reverend Mitchell has resurfaced. He showed up in Jacksonville, and made acquaintance with an old enemy of mine. He was a drug pusher who was selling drugs to werewolf teenagers and a few younger kids. Steve helped me get a hold of him and cut off his drug supply. He was exiled and no self-respecting Gypsy will have anything to do with him anymore.”
“But Cyrus knows exactly where Benson is, and when they start to move I would bet that they head here. Cyrus wants revenge on me, and Mitchell wants his trophy back.” He looked at me and I felt chills run up and down my spine. Reverend Mitchell had never hurt me, though he had stopped me from changing, but he scared me just the same.
My morning runs with Robby are pure delight. That was one of the few things that the Reverend Mitchell hadn't objected to, but I'd never had anyone to run with before. He's a couple of inches under five feet tall, so I've got seven inches on him, yet he moves so freely and effortlessly, that at times it seems like I'm struggling to keep up with him.
Wil Wilkins sometimes joins us, though certainly not running, he rides his bike and sneers at our foolishness. Carrie, my new Mom, joins us sometimes as well, about every third morning, but Steve has about the same attitude as Wil towards running. He's six six and weighs three hundred and twenty pounds and in human form he's not all that graceful, though occasionally in the late evening we'll all change to Sasquatch form, and go for a run, and the difference is incredible. He's no longer clumsy but incredibly graceful, and he moves smoothly through the woods, making almost no sound at all.
I'd been home schooled by the Reverend and I was surprised when I was tested that I fitted into my own age group so well. Steve said that for a no-account low-life the preacher had been a pretty good teacher. I thought my height was really going to set me apart. I'd gotten some of it in Tenison with the other kids, but Robby introduced me to Ricky Anders and David Simpson.
They're nice and they're the leaders of the fifth graders, and we seemed to click right from the beginning, and quickly became best friends. They adore Robby, and they explained what happened just before last Christmas when he caught them with another boy, when they had a puppy tied up. I think they were a bit naive about what Nolan Armstead intended to do. And they were very lucky that they hadn't harmed that puppy, since Robby told me it was his little brother Teddy.
They'd gotten a whipping on their bare butts with a switch, and Robby had talked to their brothers and arranged additional punishment, but he hadn't gone to their parents, which probably would have ruined their friendship. We probably made a strange threesome, the two boys both several inches under five feet and me five inches over five feet.
I'd even been introduced to werewolf football. It's a good thing I wasn't a shrinking violet, because they made no allowances for age or sex. Also like werewolves, Sasquatch kids are more durable than regular human kids. We didn't play football every night. We gathered in the Hansen-Wilson screened in back porch and did our homework. There was usually seven of us. Barry who's five and in kindergarten, is adorable and of course he doesn't have any homework, and Teddy who's seven and in the second grade only has a little. So usually they end up playing with Blue, who's Robby's, well I guess since he's not a pet, I'll have to call him his friend and familiar. Then there's Lyle Swanson, he's a carrot top redhead, and like Robby he has green eyes, but Robby has reddish blond hair. Then there's Gary Wilson who has brown hair, and gray eyes, and finally Wil Wilkins, who's a Gypsy and also with dark brown hair and brown eyes, and then there's me, at least partly Native American, with black hair and black eyes. Sometimes Wil's sister Cary, who's a year younger than he is joins us, but she takes music lessons or practices weekdays right after school.
Ricky and David would have liked to join us, but for some reason their parents insist that they go home and do their homework all alone. I don't know why, when they could have had the two smartest kids in the whole school, in Robby and Wil, to help them. I heard Steve talk about that one evening and he said that they're just about equal but their grade point average was at least a dozen points better than any other student in school.
They're serious yet at the same time they make it fun, and they're always there to help. Steve also said that since they all started doing their homework together, both Gary and Lyle's grades have gone up. He made me promise not to say anything about that to them, and it's too soon to tell if it's helping me, but he said he wouldn't be surprised.
Also we get our homework done quicker, and we understand it better, and then after that we play games. They're always active games and usually about every other day its football. Werewolf kids love tackle football, the rougher the better.
The first day I was at a bit of a disadvantage since I didn't know how rough they played. Steve told me, but I didn't believe him. I should have. It wasn't until Barry, and then Teddy tackled me on successive plays, that I realized that they weren't fooling, but it took my first tackle of Teddy to realize how durable they were. I tackled him so hard I think he bounced, and he just got up with a big grin on his face.
And I learned to watch my back too, from both sides. You turned your back on someone, whether he was on your side or on the other side and you were liable to get tackled. As Wil told me. When werewolf kids play football, every play was the beginning of a wrestling match, and again they had no regard for age or sex. Since I wasn't a werewolf, that first day they didn't start any wrestling matches with me, but I realized that if I wanted to be treated as one of the guys, so to speak, I was going to have to get involved. So, when Robby carelessly and conveniently turned his back on me, I tackled him, and we got involved in my first wrestling match.
As I found out, after wrestling with all of them, I'd picked the toughest kid there, for my first time. Robby was faster, and stronger and more slippery than any of the others, and I simply couldn't hold him down, and when one of you got to your feet, or ended up sitting on you, that was the end of that wrestling match.
Wil of course sat on the back porch usually with Blue on his lap, and watched. He said as a human, he wasn't stupid enough to get involved with werewolf kids in a football match. He wasn't durable enough.
After Robby gave the warning about the Reverend Mitchell, I noticed I was never alone. There was always someone close by, and usually it was Robby. As I found out later, he expected me to be kidnapped and he figured if he was along he'd end up being kidnapped as well.
Which is exactly what happened. We were walking home from school and like the last two or three days, Robby and I were alone. We'd end up in the back porch and a few minutes later the others would show up.
Robby looked over his shoulder one day, and said to me, “We're about to be kidnapped. Don't resist. Just do as you're told.”
A mini-van suddenly stopped beside us, and I could see the Reverend Mitchell in the passenger seat. I didn't recognize the driver, but the fact that he was pointing a gun at us sent shivers up my spine. The side door of the van slid open, and the driver snarled, “Now who's in trouble, Elder. You and your friend get in the van.”
“Certainly Cyrus,” and looking at Robby I could see his eyes were twinkling with humor. He gallantly bowed me into the back seat of the van, and for some reason I wasn't afraid, knowing that Robby was actually finding this funny. I could see that both of the men in the front seat were tense. We were approaching an intersection ahead of us. There was a car approaching us, and one in front of us. Suddenly the car in front of us sped up and crossed through the intersection, and then abruptly stopped, as did the one coming in our direction.
Suddenly the road was blocked and there was no way to pass, the shoulders were too narrow, if they tried to get around them they'd end up in the ditch. The road going right was also blocked; two cars were parked there. The only thing the Gypsy could do was turn left, and he did.
Cyrus looked in the mirror and swore, then said, “They're all following us.”
Robby said, “They're going to block the road in back of us Cyrus, and just a little warning, when you go around the sharp bend that's coming up, there's another road block, so I'd slow down if I were you.”
The Reverend, who was oddly defeated by this, obviously he'd been so confident in his superiority that this had come as a major shock to him. He said dully, “You set this up? This was a trap all the time?”
Robby nodded explaining, “Certainly, Reverend. A major transgression, disobeying and then kidnapping an Elder. Much worse even than holding a were captive. I warned you not to come to Benson, but I was pretty sure that you'd want to get Jenna back. She was your trophy, your good luck charm. I went to all that trouble of placing the whereabouts of Benson in your mind and then I find it was all wasted because you met Cyrus.”
I saw Cyrus begin to raise the gun he was holding and a little shiver went through me despite my confidence in Robby. “Uh uh, Cyrus, a live Elder and you live, a dead Elder and you'll be the first human in Benson to be pulled apart by a pack of wolves.”
Cyrus let the gun slump down to the seat, and I took in a gulp of air. I hadn't even realized I was holding my breath. He began to slow down as well, obviously he believed that there was a road block waiting for him. It was a good thing he did, because there was. “Turn to the left into that lane, Cyrus. You're going to meet a fellow Gypsy, Seamus Riley, and I believe Ishmael Wilkins is there as well.”
I saw Cyrus's shoulders shudder, Robby said, oddly reassuringly. “Don't worry Cyrus, we don't intend to hurt either you or the Reverend.” We turned onto the rough lane and began bumping toward the distant farmhouse. When we got near we could see a large helicopter in the field and several people, waiting for us, and I recognized Ishmael Wilkins, Wil's uncle, Seamus Riley and Sam Reynolds. I'd traveled on his Lear Jet a few weeks ago.
We stopped only a few feet from them. Robby leaned forward, “The gun, Cyrus, carefully please, by the barrel. If you'll look up you'll see that there's a sharpshooter in Seamus's loft, so if you're careless with it, you'll end up very dead.”
Looking up at the loft, I could see the sharpshooter, and with my superior eyesight, I could see that it was Robby's mother. I knew she would have absolutely no hesitation if there was any danger to her child.
Cyrus did as he was told, handing the gun to Robby by the barrel. “We can get out now, Jenna, go around the back of the van, so you don't get in Mom's sightline.
I did as I was told. This was a different Robby, from one I'd ever seen before. This was an Elder talking, and one who expected to be obeyed. As Robby got out of the van to join me, I saw Steve and Carrie come out of the farmhouse. I ran to them, to be gathered up in those large comforting arms.
I turned around to watch what was going on. I hadn't noticed a tarpaulin covered box, which had been hidden by the people. Robby spoke to one of the men. “You agree that the punishment fits the crime, Elder.”
“I know you set this up, Robby, but then entrapment is a quite legitimate ruse. Yes the punishment fits the crime, Elder.”
“You will change into a wolf, Reverend and you will be locked in that form. Permanently? Well that's up to you. We can do it the easy way, or the hard way.” Robby said.
The Reverend Mitchell changed into a wolf, and for a moment I thought he was going to attack Robby. Obviously so did his mother, because a shot rang out, hitting about three feet from him, and he yelped and jumped away from it. Robby flipped the tarpaulin off of the box and I could see it was a large cage. He opened the door, “I'd get in quickly if I were you, Reverend. Mom's not the most patient person in the world.”
The wolf walked slowly into the cage, and Robby closed the door behind him, and I heard it click as it locked. Robby squatted down in front of the cage and closed his eyes, suddenly Blue was pressed against his side, and he reached down with his hand fondling the cat's head. Then he became still, and didn't move for about two minutes. When he opened his eyes, he looked at the wolf, “You're locked into that form, Reverend, but it isn't sealed. That means any Elder can release you. You will be visited about once a year, and don't bother trying to escape. You're going to be in Siberia, Reverend, and you've never learned how to hunt, so you'd starve pretty quickly. Just in case you do escape and manage to survive, I've also added a prohibition against attacking humans, or anything you can tell is domestic stock.”
Robby stood up and brushed his hands together. Obviously his business with the Reverend was finished. “Edward, you have the documents?”
“Yes, Elder,” said one of the men and handed Robby an envelope.
Robby opened it, “Passport, in the name of Cyrus Amree, one visa for Siberia, one contract, which you will sign, Cyrus, which puts you in the employ of Alexie Yachenco for five years. You'll receive an annual salary of sixty thousand dollars US, the bulk of which will be paid at the end of your employment. We don't want you to have enough free money to bribe yourself out, now do we Cyrus.”
“I ain't going to Siberia,” shouted Cyrus, furiously.
“Take your choice, Cyrus, go to Siberia, or we'll bury you. You've caused trouble twice. We don't allow third chances.” Robby looked at Cyrus, and from where I was I could see that his eyes were very cold, and I knew he meant what he said. I guess Cyrus realized that too, since he took the pen that Robby offered and signed the contract, which was witnessed by Steve and the man he called Edward.
Robby may have frightened Cyrus, but to me it was strangely comforting, to realize that his werewolves and I, had such a ruthless protector.