Saturday Fiction: Sixth Ranger

Sorry folks, I was in Canada last Saturday, so I forgot to post this. Well here it is now, a sort of culmination to the previous werewolf stories. It includes everyone’s favorite extra NPC, Lt. Spatz.

Sixth Ranger

Woofskulls

There was a rustle in the bushes. It was more than just the wind, larger than some rabbit. People were moving, and people meant danger. They always do.

A little girl popped into the clearing, chasing a grasshopper, wearing a small backpack and colorful boots with a cartoon character on the side. She looked around, and her eyes filled with wonder at the animal she saw lying there in the little den.

“Mom,” She said, “Mommy look at the doggy.”

A woman came into the clearing, wearing hiking gear and a larger pack than the child. She was dismissive at first, reaching for her daughter’s hand to pull her aside. Then she saw the wolf, and her whole body went rigid. She pulled the girl close, and tried to be still.

“Ow,” The little girl complained.

The wolf stood, and looked at them. It didn’t move, just stood in the clearing.

“That is a bad dog,” The mother said, “See, he is dirty, and shaggy. Come on, let’s go.”

The mother pulled the daughter along, the little girl dragging her feet at every step.

“But mom,” She said, “I want to pet him.”

He laid back down. Who did that lady think she was, calling him shaggy? He looked at the sun, rising high in the air, and decided he needed to go. He rose once more, trotted through the underbrush, and continued down the hillsides until he could smell the indistinguishable scent of port-a-potties, hot dogs, and motor oil.

His perspective rose, and he could feel his body twisting beneath his skin. Spatz pushed through a bush, and sat down on a bench at the edge of the park. He let out a sigh. There was relief there, he had to tell himself that. Somehow, life was a little better than before, if only a little.

Then his phone started to vibrate out of control. It buzzed, and buzzed, and buzzed until he could pull the iPhone out of his pocket and check it. Five voicemails, at least fifteen texts, the phone stopped counting.

He was going to look through the list of missed calls, but then Meredith began calling. He picked it up, leaned his head back, “Yes?”

“Can you explain to me why you have been avoiding my calls?” Meredith said.

He could tell she was stressed. Considering everything that was going on, he wasn’t surprised. She was trying to construct a new pack, pay respects to the old, and lead a war. He didn’t envy her.

Still, sometimes she was a little snippy, “My phone didn’t exist until a few seconds ago?”

Telling the truth was a bad idea. Which is why it was a bad idea to answer the phone while he was still tired.

“So you’re being funny today,” Meredith said, “you sound like you belong with those kids.”

He deserved that.

“What have I missed?” He asked.

She was talking to someone else in the background. Spike? The two new entries were still adjusting to how Meredith did business. To tell the truth, he trusted Cam and Mike more, and that’s saying a lot since he was sure Cam wanted to fight him.

“More intelligence overnight,” She said, “I believe another shifter is involved.”

That tied Spatz’ stomach in a knot. If she was talking about Levi, she would say so, wouldn’t she? Maybe, he knew Meredith kept secrets, who didn’t have secrets? Still, he prided himself on having some idea what she was planning.

“Give me your report,” Meredith said.

Spatz scratched along his neck, caught a bug that lingered there from the hills, “Well…”

The previous morning, he woke up to a phone call. The sun was barely up, and his phone was already vibrating itself off his night stand.

He grabbed it, checked it, and saw it was a txt from Levi. He still didn’t know where Levi had moved to, which was starting to make him nervous.

It said, “Have werewolves ever thought of just, not wearing leather?”

Spatz tried to read it again, but it didn’t make any additional sense. Was he drinking? Hopefully not.

He replied, “It looks so intimidating, and you feel like a TV star.”

He rolled out of bed, and remembered he worked today. It already felt long.

First job in the morning, he got a tip from Joey at the precinct. There was a scene in Chicago that he needed to see, counting as ‘anything strange or creepy’ just like Spatz asked.

He walked in on the scene, and saw Chicago PD swarming everywhere. They were taking forensics, orders were being shouted back and forth. He sniffed, and the scents in the room made him want to pinch his nose.

“What are you doing here, Lieutenant Spatz right?” asked a Lieutenant from Chicago he saw now and again. The guy was tall, and a hard-ass, real territorial. Unfortunately, he had other loyalties that meant he wasn’t all that useful as a contact.

“Not trying to intrude on your crime scene,” Spatz said as he walked into the social lodge, “I was worried this might be one of the kids I’ve worked with before.”

The guy lifted an eyebrow, “Really? Come over here.”

He was waved into the hall, and Spatz could feel the air get thicker as they walked. They reached a staircase, and the Lieutenant pointed for him to walk down. They got to the bottom, and reached a room covered in tribal gear and chiminage. The walls and ground were painted in blood that stank of something strange. There were two more scents, ones Spatz couldn’t mistake for anything else.

“Oh English, what are you doing,” Spatz whispered.

“If this is one of your kids,” The Chicago lieutenant said, “Maybe you need to think about putting him down. He ain’t much of a kid anymore.”

Spatz flared his nostrils. This wasn’t good.

Later that morning he was at Naperville central. He was out back of the school, and Mike was attempting to do his best impersonation of a shadow on the wall.

“They aren’t saying anything because they don’t know anything,” Spatz said, an arm against the wall, “But they can’t smell you on the knife Mike, I can.”

Mike shrugged, “So I’m not in trouble.”

Spatz flared his nostrils, “No, you’re not in trouble. But I know the knife is yours, and they are freaking out in there. You can’t have knives at school, I’m pretty sure that is in the rulebook somewhere.”

Mike shrugged again.

That was the ‘I didn’t read the notebook’ shrug. Spatz let out a groan, and ran his hand down his face. His phone buzzed, and he pulled it out to check it.

Mike started to walk away, and Spatz called out to him.

The boy turned around. He hadn’t exactly done anything to anyone, and considering what all attacked them at the school in the past, it wasn’t the stupidest idea to have a knife. It was just dangerous, and illegal.

“Good job keeping your prints off of it,” Spatz said, giving Mike a thumbs up.

Mike shook his head, and then went back inside. Spatz was pretty sure he saw a smirk there.

A little later he was outside an ice cream parlor.

Sylvia held two cones out, “You want vanilla, or chocolate swirl?”

“Vanilla please,” He said while reaching out for it.

She gasped, “You don’t seem like a vanilla guy.”

Spatz took a lick, “Are you going to tell me now?”

She sat at the bench-table, and seemed oblivious to what he was asking. Then her face lit up, “Oh, yeah. So we weren’t able to catch him. Still, we looked up the crystals, and they were a bunch of hippy stuff, a lot of articles about clearing the mind and helping stress. The kind of stuff mom would probably use. Then Jennifer and Dick were talking about hunting down other shifters to see what they knew, and I tried to tell them that they wouldn’t know anything, but they just kept talking about finding them and hurting them. She is such a bitch.”

Spatz nodded, and ignored his phone going off in his pocket. He was losing track of what she was talking about, but it seemed like she was interacting with the local Pure girl. If they recruited her, what would they do with her? Most Pure would rather rip a Forsaken to shreds than use them for some scheme.

“Then I started thinking about Leonard, and they might hurt him, and I started crying. So I tried to call him, and he wasn’t answering. With all this weird stuff going on, what if he is already hurt? I would just die.”

He had no idea who Leonard was. Did he forget, or was Leonard just not important?

“Oh my god, what if he is just ignoring me?” Sylvia said, her eyes going wide, “Oh my god, that dick. I’ll punch him. Well, maybe not, he got beat up pretty bad the other month. Still, I told him I liked him, and he said he liked me too. I can’t believe him!”

She pounded her fist on the table, and her ice cream fell off its cone and plopped on the table.

“Oh no!” She cried, “No, no, damnit.”

Spatz rolled his eyes, and held his cone out for her.

Sylvia sniffled, “Really? Thank you. I won’t forget this, ever, you’re the best.”

Her phone rang, and she pulled it out and looked at it.

“Oh, hey, a text from Leonard,” She said with a smile, “He says he is okay. Yes!”

Sylvia jumped up from the table and walked away, dialing Leonard’s number.

Later that day he was in a counseling office with a young man named Jacob. Mundane as far as he could tell, the boy just decided to try to make a weapon at school during shop class and use it against another student.

“No one is going to press charges today,” Spatz said, “Still, you need to ask yourself where you were going with this. I know it seems like this world is everything today, but trust me there is a whole big world out there, and attacking someone like that can-”

His phone started to ring.

Spatz took a deep breath, held a finger up, and then plucked his phone out. It was Levi. He silenced it, and put it back.

“Where was I? You never know how long-”

It started to ring again. He flipped it, Levi. Silenced it.

“Do you have somewhere to be?” The kid said, his voice hoarse from an earlier screaming match with the faculty.

“No,” He said, “I’m here.”

“Maybe you can pick that up, and talk to someone that matters.”

His phone started to ring again. Spatz let out a sigh.

After the meeting was done, his phone rang again, and he picked it up.

“Oh there you are,” Levi said, “Do you think I should order out tonight? Or do Taco Bell again.”

Spatz let out a low grumble.

Later in the evening he pulled over on the side of the road, rolled down the window, and yelled out.

“Cam, need a ride?”

Cam had his bag in hand, full of what Spatz had to guess was boxing gear. There were other kids with him, none of which Spatz recognized. Cam looked at them, and the others laughed before Cam jogged over to the window.

“I’mma just catch the bus,” Cam said into the window, “Thanks officer.”

Spatz had almost forgot he was still in a cruiser.

“Look,” Spatz said, “Streets aren’t exactly safe these days, I was on my way into the city.”

As far as Spatz could tell, getting Cam to trust you was the hard part. How Levi had ever managed it was a mystery that Spatz had never figured out. Spatz didn’t want to call it trust issues, with the bit of the guy’s history that he knew, he was right to keep himself distant. Still, he had some friends right there, that’s better than before.

“I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news,” Cam said, “But a Black guy jumping into a police car, not the safest scenario.”

Spatz started to laugh, but let it fall off. He wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to that one.

Cam looked over his shoulder, and waved goodbye to the rest of his group.

“Look, I wanted to talk to you anyway,” Cam said, “So lets just do this.”

He circled around the car and jumped in. Spatz pulled away, and they were off toward Chicago.

“So you got some new friends huh?” Spatz asked.

“Oh, you noticed detective?”

Spatz shook his head, “Fine, what did you want to talk about?”

“That hunt thing,” Cam said, his voice getting, “That was… that something you guys do all the time?”

Spatz smirked, “Wild right? Not all the time, no. It helps control the chaos. We can’t just jump at every fight that pops up, sometimes you need rules. The hunt is the game. It makes it like a soccer game, sets up the boundaries, and defines the players.”

“Except instead of a bunch of guys kicking a ball around,” Cam said, “You’re killing people.”

There was a little regret there. Spatz could hear it. That wasn’t Cam’s fight, maybe it wasn’t the best time to bring him in. He didn’t know what the shifters were doing, he didn’t feel the pressure to get revenge against the Pure.

“Usually spirits,” Spatz said, “Like that spider-creature we fought. Or someone like Bohle.”

Cam nodded, “I’m not against it, just trying to figure out what I’m signing up for. I can’t be up every night chasing whatever pissed you guys off that morning, you know?”

“Yeah, I hear you.”

“What the f-”

Cam didn’t get to finish his sentence, a mess of fur and screams hit the sidewalk next to them. It looked like it fell out of an abandoned apartment building. It rolled over, scrambled to its feet, stood up like a man.

“Beshilu!” Spatz said as the car yanked forward and screeched to a stop.

“What?” Cam said.

The creature ran off into the night, and then a woman with animalistic features on her face landed where it once did, and buckled from prominent injuries along her arm and chest.

“A rat,” Spatz said, “Come on, we need to catch it.”

Spatz jumped out of the car, and Cam leaned out the police car window, “Why not just chase it in here?”

“Not in the police car,” Spatz said, and then ran to the woman’s side.

That didn’t resolve itself until well into the night.

“It was unrelated,” Spatz said as he collapsed on the bed in Levi’s motel room.

“Unrelated like, what?” Levi said, “Because a scary rat spirit sounds like it could be related.”

Spatz shrugged, “Beshilu are always around. Another werewolf thing. Father wolf couldn’t destroy them, so they spread around the world, getting their revenge on us for always hunting them.”

Levi frowned, “Do you ever, you know, listen to yourself when you’re telling those stories?”

Spatz sat up, “I brought ice, I don’t know why you didn’t just get some from down the hallway.”

“I don’t trust those,” Levi said, “Thanks though. Now we can have drinks.”

He tried not to roll his eyes. He was drinking at a younger age, though beers instead of colorful cocktails.

“You’re kind of extra grumpy today,” Levi said as he went into the motel room freezer and pulled out a small assortment of alcohol.

“Long day,” Spatz replied.

Levi took it all to a table, “You’re not going to talk about it are you?”

Spatz just let out a noncommittal groan, and closed his eyes. He was fine just listening to Levi work, and not worrying for a one minute.

“Another user got attacked,” Levi said over the clink of ice, “This one was a bird, they said something about werewolves. I’m starting to think Meredith is trying to start something.”

She wasn’t, it already started. Spatz didn’t bother explaining that, he knew what Levi’s response would be. Still, shifters and werewolves didn’t always get along, and that is just how it was. He was risking a lot even being there. What if Levi was also working with the Pure? What if that was why Sylvia was so close to Jennifer? What if he was just being played, or lead into a trap. What would be his excuse to Meredith when she found out he put central Illinois at risk, over what?

He realized he was growling, and he sat up with a start.

Levi was staring at him.

Spatz pulled himself off the bed, and reached out for his coat.

“You’re going?” Levi said, a note of actual concern in his voice, for once.

“Yeah,” Spatz replied, “I have to be somewhere tonight.”

Levi was standing in front of two half-made drinks, “Fine, I guess I’ll get drunk alone.”

He didn’t have time to be guilt-tripped. He put on his coat, and went to the door.

“Call me tomorrow,” Spatz said as he opened the door.

“Sure that won’t interrupt you and your boyfriend?” Levi snapped.

Spatz shook his head and closed the door behind him. He went down the stairs, checked his phone one last time, and then stopped and looked up to the sky.

There, peeking from behind the clouds, the full moon. He could feel it, like the heat of the sun at high noon, burning against his skin. Another werewolf might give in to it, another werewolf might have looked for bloodshed, or at least some act of violence or passion.

Spatz walked around to the back of the motel, and his body began to shift. He fell to all fours, and let out a howl that made the night tremble. This was his night, and he had a long run ahead of him.

“So that’s all?” Meredith asked, “A few incidents at the school?”

Spatz cracked his neck, “That and the situation at that lodge in Chicago, but you heard about that one.”

Meredith was silent on the other side of the line.

“Fine,” She said, “Can you pick up the boy? I want him to join us tonight, and he seems reluctant.”

“Yes ma’am,” Spatz said. Then she hung up, and Spatz let out all the air in his lungs. Another day, and more work ahead.

Saturday Fiction: A Good Boy

Time for a little more Werewolf storytime. This one follows one of the last two members of my group’s pack. His history is interesting, because his character development was shifted when he took the life of an enemy and the pack started to view him as less than stable. After that, his mother vanished from his house. He didn’t have it easy.

Woofskulls

A Good Boy

Chicago was weird. Compared to the suburbs of Naperville, it was like living in a maze of neighborhoods. The world was always screaming, people shouting, cars roaring, and machines rumbling. At first it can make it hard to survive. Perseverance makes anything possible.

It was bright enough out that Tim had his shades on. He pulled his backpack close, and looked back and forth across the street. There were buildings everywhere, half of them poorly marked offices and the others small shops and businesses that Tim had no interest in.

The dog stayed close to his heels, stopping whenever he stopped, sniffing at people who passed Tim on the sidewalk.

Tim stopped at a corner security camera, reached into his pocket, and touched the pole that connected to the security cam.

“Tell me something,” Tim whispered, butchering spirit tongue.

The camera stirred awake. Tim could feel the spirit within it, for the first time truly noticing what is around it.

“What do you offer?” The spirit replied.

Tim thought for a moment, “A new view.”

The spirit thought for a moment, “What do you wish?”

Tim lifted up a picture of his mother into the camera’s view. He took in a deep breath, thought about it, and then asked his question.

“Have you seen her?”

There was no hesitation. That was an aspect of spirits that Tim liked, when it was in his favor. The weaker ones rarely played games. Games were alien to them.

“Yes.”

Tim’s heart leaped, “When?”

“Many times.” The spirit said.

The dog was at his feet, panting and looking around. A few people walking around were looking at him like he was insane. Maybe he was, at least a little bit. This whole adventure was starting to feel strange, like a dream. Though, what did that say about him.

Becoming a giant beast, fighting other furred monsters, channeling spirits, that felt real. Chicago was dreamlike. Trying to maintain his GPA in undergrad studies, that was foreign.

“When, like, recently,” Tim stuttered out, “When last.”

“Seven days.”

Tim could feel himself breathing too hard. Something was rumbling to the fore, a sensation like panic and anger all mixed in one.

“Thank you,” Tim said. He went into his backpack, and pulled out a picture of him and the rest of the pack, taken in front of a pool back in Naperville. He found some gum on the pavement, and stuck the picture to the ground, at the edge of the camera’s view.

“Come on boy,” Tim motioned and started to walk again. What was his mother doing here just a week ago? Multiple watcher spirits had seen her, and he was closing in. Still, she always seemed ahead.

To make it worse, his original suspicions weren’t true. None of the packs knew who she was. He consulted with a few Bone Shadow tribesman, and they couldn’t do much more than tell him to seek the aid of spirits. He was starting to fear the worst. Maybe his mother was a Pure.

Maybe he should have taken Sylvia’s advice, let her come and sniff his mother out. This was his problem though. He didn’t want to join a war, and he wasn’t joining Meredith. With Levi off doing whatever, he was all by himself.

The dog nipped at his heels.

Not completely alone.

He stopped and gave the dog a rub on the head. It barked softly, and Tim pulled out a treat. Later they would go and hunt, find a fresh kill, and Tim could relax.

He stood and looked at the building in front of him. It wasn’t marked with a name, but there was something about the logo. There were two birds there, based on their heads they looked like eagles. His mind went back to the letter from his mother, and the two feathers he found inside.

Tim looked down, “I guess we better check it out. Keep quiet though.”

He walked inside, and a secretary behind a desk smiled at him. The whole business looked like a meeting house. There weren’t any brochures, or signs. Nothing was welcoming to strangers, if you weren’t looking for this place you could walk in walk out and never know where you were.

“New member?” She said, “Or lost?”

Tim didn’t know whether to smile, or look stern, so he sort of did both, “Uhm, new member.”

“Oh, who recommended you?”

Shit. Tim could feel a million thoughts bubbling to the surface, but none of them were going to get him past a simple secretary. Maybe he should just run out, pretend he was in the wrong building. It was easier than looking at that smiling face and waiting for the word-puke to come out.

“Kir…kirsten?” Tim said, “Like, Kirsten English.”

The girl looked down at a book in front of her, turned a page, and then nodded.

“Okay,” She said as she got down and headed down a hall, “I’ll get someone for you.”

This was a breakthrough. There was no other way to see it. His mother wanted him to find this place, wanted him to know she was going to come here. What was here? He walked over to a plaque, covered with a few first names, the two-bird logo, and saw ‘TEL elders’.”

Two-eagle league? Twin-eagle lodge? A million other possibilities. He could ask, except that might look strange if he was supposed to be here. He would ask a spirit, except this building seemed mostly barren.

Tim checked his phone. A text from Levi.

“A pack of canine shifters are dead. You weren’t involved right?”

There were footsteps approaching. Tim put his phone away. Levi’s random return to reality could be saved for later.

A man with long blond hair and a beard that needed shaving came into the room.

“Here he is,” The girl said, “I forgot to get your name, sorry.”

Tim felt a chill go up his spine. His dog started to growl.

The man smiled, and looked down at the dog. “Someone’s a little protective. Hi, I’m Ray. You said Kirsten recommended you?”

Tim nodded, “Yes, yeah, she did.”

“Well then,” Ray said, “Come on in, do we have something to show you.”

He needed to run. He needed to turn tail and bolt as soon as he could. Still, they knew his mother. His mother lead him here, and they knew anything about her. He had to stay for now.

He nodded, and followed as Ray walked down a hall.

The building wasn’t barren. The resonance was dark. This building had a locus, he could feel that now. It had a locus, and something was feeding on it.

They walked past rooms that looked like small meeting rooms, like classrooms for children. Chalkboards, pictures of the outdoors, books piled on tables.

“Do you know what we do here?” Ray asked.

Tim swallowed, “She, well, she was vague.”

“That’s okay,” Ray said, “If Kirsten wanted you here, that means she had her reasons. We have a history as environmentalists. Our lodge is at the forefront of the fights against Keystone, the pollution of Lake Michigan, even issues far away from Illinois. Recently we’re looking to expand, move our operations from something grassroots to something everyone in Chicago can be part of.”

They went through a door, and Tim followed Ray down a thin staircase. He could feel something in the air, a sort of energy. This wasn’t just essence, it wasn’t just spirits, there was something else at play. What was his mother mixed up in?

They reached the landing, a small room. Two others were there, cleaning up damage. Was there a fight here? He could smell it, blood was shed, recently, just days ago? Was she there? He could smell her in the mess, an old scent. It wasn’t quite mom, something was different.

“Who is this?” Said one of the men with a large broom in hand.

This was all wrong.

“He said Skyblossom recommended him,” Ray said as he walked to the center of the room.

This place, it wasn’t some environmentalist room. The center of the room, it had a large circle curved into the concrete foundation. A strange character was drawn there. It was repeated on the walls, crystals hung from the walls. It looked like a sort of tribal spiritualism, mixed with new age nonsense. Still, the power here was real.

“You’ve barked up the wrong tree,” Ray said, shrugging, “Uratha.”

Who was Skyblossom? Why would mother call herself Skyblossom?

“Tell me what you know about Kirsten English,” Tim said, putting his backpack down, “And I’ll let you keep going.”

The one with the broom started laughing. “Fucking Uratha, they never know when they’re beat.”

“You’re lucky you figured this much out,” Ray said. His eyes seemed to glaze over.

They aren’t human. That’s what Tim told himself, they aren’t human.

“Just tell me something, anything,” Tim said, “Please.”

Claimed. Their bodies latched onto by terrible spirits. He couldn’t tell what they were, possibly magath. It infested them, a sick essence that leaked at the seams. The whole room was tainted with it. Why would his mom ever be here? What was she hiding?

Ray’s arm started to twist and meld, until it became sharp like a knife. The others dropped their tools, and their bodies also began to warp.

“Fine,” Tim whispered. He had a name now, that was enough, a new start.

He could feel his body warping, the panic and anger gripping his heart as it exploded in size. He shook his head, and his shades fell away to reveal an eye misted with a field of stars. His whole body pulsed with muscle, his mind retreating in the face of the monster he was letting loose.

This was their choice.

A better Uratha might have had control. In the chaos that ensued, they might have been reserved and taken their time. The twisted spirits might have gained an upper-hand in those moments of hesitation. Tim didn’t let that happen. They weren’t powerful spirits, or particularly smart. They wanted to outnumber him, but he overpowered them.

His claws ripped into sinew, and his jaws bit deep into their twisted flesh. They became more monstrous as the fighting continued, and Tim responded in kind. The chaos they were cleaning up was renewed, blood spread on the walls, claw marks across the occult symbols.

When he finished, only one was still breathing, lying in a mess on the floor.

Tim went and grabbed his shades from the ground, then looked down on the Claimed.

“Skyblossom,” Tim said, “Tell me what you know.”

It bubbled blood, but it didn’t respond. Tim put it out of its misery.

“Come,” Tim said. The dog bounded to his side. They started back up the steps. As they made their way back to the front desk, Tim noticed the girl hiding behind the counter.

“You,” He started, trying to think of how to put it, “Just go.”

She nodded, and then ran out of the building.

Maybe he would txt Levi. Still, there was something he didn’t understand.

The Claimed on the floor, he wasn’t taunting Tim with his silence. That look on his face when Skyblossom was brought up again, it was fear. A spirit so afraid of his mom they would stay silent and be destroyed?

This was getting worse.

Saturday Fiction: Big Bird

For this Saturday, more Werewolf stories. Once again, I did some fiction work to prepare my players for more sessions. I was surprised how much they enjoyed them, so I went all the way to 4 (with a 5th one that I haven’t finished yet). Here you go.

Woofskulls

Big Bird

Out in the middle of the woods, a clean red corvette pulled along a dirt trail and stopped outside an old cabin. The engine died, and Lieutenant Spatz stepped out of the car, grabbed a tote bag full of groceries, and sniffed at the air.

He looked around, put on a pair of shades, and then walked over to the cabin door. He opened it.

“Knock next time,” Levi said from the couch. He was typing away at a laptop, and didn’t look at Spatz as he entered.

The cabin wasn’t much more than that couch, a coffee table, a small kitchen made up of a sink and toaster oven, and stairs that lead up to a bed.

Spatz sniffed, and twitched his nose, “Has someone else been up here?”

Levi put down the laptop and pulled the bag over to him, “Don’t sniff my house. That’s weird.”

“Force of habit.”

He pulled out a loaf of bread and a pack of cookies, “And what if there was? Are you jealous or something?”

Spatz shrugged.

“You got the wrong crackers,” Levi said, “But otherwise, this is pretty good. Thanks.”

Why Spatz was still doing this for him was something Levi was still trying to figure out. It was hard enough getting everything else in his life in order. At least this one thing wasn’t a problem. He didn’t have to show his face in town, which lead to the best benefit of all.

“Are you still okay out here?” Spatz asked, looking around the apartment.

Levi shrugged, popped open the box of crackers and stuffed one in his mouth, “I’m fine.”

“Your friends were asking about you.”

He stopped chewing. “Which ones?”

“Mike and Cam,” Spatz said, “I saw them in Chicago.”

So they finally settled on working with Meredith? Well, Mike was already leaning that way, but Cam needed somebody to work for. That made sense.

“They’re big boys, they can take care of themselves.”

“Meredith is keeping them safe,” Spatz said.

Levi scoffed.

“Right,” Spatz added, “I forgot. She who will not be named.”

“Are you hungry or something?” Levi said, jumping up from the couch. He leaned forward for a second and hissed as pain shot through his arm. When he looked up, Spatz was watching him.

“A sandwich?” Spatz said.

Spatz liked to pretend he wasn’t observant. Levi couldn’t decide if he liked that trait, or hated it. Maybe that was part of being Meredith’s lapdog, no telling the alpha-bitch what you noticed until it was the right time.

Levi took the bread into the kitchen, and started making something.

“You two are a lot alike, you know that?” Spatz said as he sat on the couch.

“Don’t care.”

“Just saying.”

There was a chime on Levi’s laptop, and he ran back into the room. He picked it up over the edge of the couch, put it on the armrest, and looked at the message with a stern face.

“You can’t possibly have internet out here.” Spatz said as he watched Levi type away.

“Its called tethering, grandpa. You can look it up on your apple back home.”

Spatz looked a little hurt, and whispered, “Grandpa?”

It was a message. Not exactly what he wanted to hear. It was another strange happening in Chicago, another shifter dropped out. Thankfully it wasn’t one he knew well, he was getting tired of losing friends. Instead this was just more proof of a bigger picture.

There was a thump at the window. Spatz looked, but Levi didn’t bother.

“Something wrong?” Spatz asked.

He shook his head, “It’s nothing. Uni homework. Has anything strange been going on in the city?”

Spatz shrugged, “Maybe.”

Levi narrowed his eyes on Spatz, “Why don’t you just tell me.”

Spatz took off his shades and folded them up.

“Is this because of Meredith?” Levi asked, “Are you keeping stuff from me now?”

“You’re dead as far as she knows,” Spatz shrugged.

Levi closed his laptop, “So what?”

Spatz sat back and sighed.

He wanted to know about the smell. No wonder that woman kept Spatz around. He was completely loyal, to a fault. He was like a worried puppy, doing whatever it took to figure out why his master was sad. Levi was sure that Meredith’s biggest mistake was ordering Spatz to watch out for his pack.

“I’m going to have to move,” Levi said, “Something happened. It shouldn’t happen again.”

When it happened, Levi was pretty sure he was going to die. He was hyperventilating in the middle of the forest, trying to overhear the man in a trenchcoat walking up the trail to his cabin.

The man was on his phone, talking to someone, he never used a real name.

“I’m pretty sure this is the place. Don’t know why it would be hiding in a cabin, but we can figure that out after.”

Levi had eyes in the woods. When someone decided to take a stroll toward him, he could make himself scarce. The problem was, his crows never saw Mr. Trenchcoat enter the forest. There was no car, or bicycle. He came out of nowhere. He looked too human to be spirit stuff, but Levi knew from experience that you never knew what was strange about someone until they let you know.

“No, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. See if you can find a cage.”

He hung up his phone, and then walked into Levi’s cabin.

Waiting for him to come out was torture. When the man left again he had a frown on his face, and looked back and forth.

Then Levi let out a loud caw, and dropped on his head. Whoever this idiot was, he didn’t expect a giant bird-man. Levi laid into him with his claws, doing whatever damage he could before the man could recover.

The guy rolled out from under him, pulled out a strange crooked knife, and slashed back. The blade stuck into Levi’s wing, and he let out a loud cry before swatting trenchcoat man to the ground.

Levi pinned him on his face, and then shifted back to human. He was panting, trying to seem confident when he could count his physical fights on one hand.

“What’re you doing in my house?” Levi asked as he squeezed the guy’s wrist until he dropped the knife.

The guy hid his pain behind a chuckle, “I tracked that strange magic of yours.”

“Tracked it?” Levi said, “How?”

“I could explain it, but that wouldn’t help you understand,” He said with a smile.

Levi put his knee into the guy’s neck, “I’ll give it a shot, I’m pretty clever.”

“Okay, okay,” He said, “Magic leaves a residue. If you can see it, it is pretty easy to recognize unique signatures. Your magic is… primitive, freaky. I wanted to know why.”

“Maybe call next time?” Levi said.

The guy lifted an eyebrow, “You attacked me.”

“Yeah, well shut up.”

“Look,” The man said, trying to adjust his shoulder to be in a comfortable position, “How about we work together? We can figure out what is up with your magic together, do some lab experiments, I can show you a secret or two while we’re at it.”

Levi looked at him, and thought about it. The word cages was still ringing around in his head. He knew even then that Spatz was going to be mad at him for this.

“How about no?” Levi said before punching the guy in the back of the head.

Levi could still feel the knife wound, and he still had the knife. It was healing up fine, but he knew he was going to have to cut down on the curses.

“That’s not much,” Spatz said.

Levi looked at his laptop, “When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.”

Spatz nodded, and mulled it over from his seat. “We haven’t figured ours out either. The pure, the other werewolves, are acting strange. They have switched up their tactics. A lot less killing, a lot more recruiting.”

“Coyote?” Levi asked.

Spatz shook his head, “The Bohles don’t seem to be involved.”

Levi sighed, “Spirit stuff.”

“Typically, yeah,” Spatz said, “But while you may not like spirit stuff, that is our life. We’re spirit stuff.”

Levi’s phone chimed, and he pulled it out. It was a message from Sylvia. Something was happening in Naperville, she also mentioned something about Jennifer, and undying love. Levi had trouble getting through it all without his eyes glazing over.

Definitely spirit stuff.

“Maybe I should go,” Spatz said.

He looked up, and pointed at the kitchen, “Get your sandwich. Just, you know, put the bread together.”

“You mean make the sandwich?”

Spatz walked into the kitchen, put it together, and took a bite. “This is pretty good.”

“Of course it is,” Levi said, “I made it.”

Spatz nodded, and walked to the door. “Let me know where you go, okay?”

“If I don’t, is your girlfriend going to unleash the hounds?”

“Girlfriend? Meredith?” Spatz grimaced, “Sick.”

“I’m not going to get hurt,” Levi said, rolling his eyes.

Levi could see Spatz trying not to look at his arm. There it was again, trying not to notice.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll hunt you down,” Spatz said, “That’s my job.”

“As her minion?” Levi said as Spatz opened the door.

“As an officer in my department,” Spatz said as he turned on the porch, “It is literally my job.”

Levi smiled.

“Plus,” Spatz added, sniffing at the air, “Wolf stuff. We don’t take this pack thing lightly.”

He shook his head, and closed the door on Spatz. “Idiot.”

As Spatz walked back to his car, he didn’t look up at the trees, or on the roof of the cabin. Which made it easy to miss all the crows there, watching, in silence.

Inside, Levi went over to the window and opened it. Two crows hopped in, letting out soft caws and adjusting on the window sill.

“Well,” Levi said to the birds as he pulled his laptop over to the counter near the window, “I hope you have something interesting for me.”