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The Night of the Werewolf

Part 3

"Wan Lo, hold him," said Professor Miracle. Large hands grasped Sean's shoulders, pushing him down in the chair.

Sean forced himself to remain calm, but appear harried. "What's this?" he struggled gently, "this isn't the way to treat guests!" Carefully Sean judged the pressure Wan Lo exerted on his shoulders measuring it in case he needed to react quickly should his ruse fail entirely.

Wan Lo was not, he guessed exerting his full force, but the strongman was a strong man ... Miracle came around the desk and prodded Sean gently in the chest with his walking stick. "I have an idea of what we shall do with you," said Miracle. Green gas suddenly puffed out from the end of the stick into Sean's face. Sean's face screwed up tightly and he collapsed forward.

Then he squinted very carefully. He had managed to avoid inhaling the full force of the gas. He was woozy to be sure, but not completely unconscious - but he felt that it was better if Miracle and Wan Lo thought he was.

"Take his coat then tie him," said Miracle.

"Yes, Doctor Tezlowska," said Wan Lo in a gravelly voice. Sean's jacket was stripped off and his hands tied behind his back.

"Leave the jacket," said Tezlowska, "we'll need it later." Wan Lo grunted and Sean risked a quick peek, the giant was smirking. "Go get the cart ready."

Wan Lo's steps receded and Sean heard Miracle/Tezlowska come closer. "Hmm." A hand prodded his face, a moment later a glass of water was dashed in his face.

Sean jerked awake, trying to shake the water from his eyes. "That's a fine way to treat an old man," he grunted with a wheeze.

"Not so old, are you 'Mister Simonchild?'" said Tezlowska. "Up close, the make-up is visible. A very good job, I grant you. If I hadn't been able to examine you carefully, I wouldn't have seen it. So who are you really and why are you here?"

Sean sighed. "I'm Richard Simonchild. Shrewd business always hinges on knowing one's competitor or compatriot, as the case might be. You'd be surprised at what a dottering old man can learn when he snoops around, never been caught before. I'd shake your hand, but I'm a bit tied up at the moment," he cracked with a smile.

Tezlowska looked at him for a long moment. "A pity, then. I had thought ... well, never mind. I'm afraid Mr. Simonchild that your snooping days are through. If it makes you feel any better, know that you will have given your life for science."

"Excuse me," Sean asked incredously. "My only intention was to buy you out, the circus. Is this how you deal with all business inquiries?" Sensing the discussion going downhill quickly, Sean began to check his bonds and pour out whatever persuasion he could to impart innocence or whatever could buy him some time to stave off the Professor's threat.

"No, it's not how I deal with 'business inquiries,' it's how I deal with snoopers," said Tezlowska. "Ah, Wan Lo. Let us go. Gag him." As Sean struggled, Wan Lo gagged him then lifted him up. He was carried out of the office wagon and placed in the back of wagon with horses in harness. They began to roll out into the surrounding prairie. After a mile or two, Tezlowska began to talk, pausing at one point to remove Sean's gag. "Pretty enough country, in its way. Remarkable that so many people are so passionate about its future, though - it doesn't seem special. Still, opportunities are here for a man of genius. The land of opportunity, that's what this is, yes?"

"It is admirably suited for some things, though. One of those things you'll be meeting, 'Simonchild.' I'm rather proud of it, although it is really a minor diversion to raise some capital for my important work. You will meet the result of an intensive breeding project, a creature unseen in this land for thousands of years, canis magnus, the great wolf. It's not a true canis magnus, of course - the species is extinct, but it's close. One of the greatest hunters of a previous age. It's sense of smell is extraordinary - you did save his jacket, Wan Lo? - and in this country, it would be - it is - an extraordinary weapon. A pack of these magnificent beasts would patrolling the borders, striking from stealth. Lupine assassins ..."

"The werewolf from the papers," Sean said. " You created it? but why? The way you talk sounds like much more than some sideshow attraction."

"More, much more. As to why ... On the one hand, to see if I could. On the other, to raise some money for more interesting projects. There are people who will pay good money for such a weapon, but they wanted proof of it's effectiveness. They were almost convinced, but wanted one more sample. Your misfortune and poorly timed snooping saves me the trouble of finding another appropriate target," said Tezlowska. "Your sacrifice is for the greater good. The money will finance my researches, which will be of inestimable value to all mankind."

"Paying for a single uncontrollable beast isn't a wise investment, you need more astute business partners, Tezlowska" Sean squirmed at the man's madness, "Killing me won't make them smarter, or your research more appreciated by the world."

"Who said it was either uncontrollable or single?"

Sean looked at the man and simply said "You are a madman!" He wriggled, "You cannot hope to get away with this, the law will surely catch you."

"Genius is above the law!" the man nearly screamed, before calming himself, "They have failed to catch me for years, why should they stop failing now? Ah, we have arrived."

Sean looked around around, there was nothing remarkable in the area; it was isolated and desolate. "Take him out, Wan Lo."

"Yes, Doctor." The big Chinaman set Sean on the ground.

"Now, 'Simonchild,' if you wish to persist in the absurdity of claiming to be a simple businessman. We shall proceed. Wan Lo ..."

Wan Lo had long ago removed Sean's gun from his holster, now he patted Sean down and removed Sean's few spare rounds. He handed Tezlowska the gun. "Thank you Wan Lo." Tezlowska aimed the gun at Sean. "Now."

Tezlowska aimed the gun at Sean then aimed past him into the ground. Rapidly he emptied the revolver and handed to Wan Lo who replaced it in Sean's holster. "Now, 'Simonchild,' look here." He pointed to the end of the wagon, where Sean saw half his jacket tied to a piece of rope that had been dragging on the ground. He then removed a watch from his pocket and checked the time, "Yes, I think that should be close enough. Wan Lo, if you would be so kind as to free our guest." As Wan Lo untied Sean's hands, Tezlowska continued to speak. "The other half of this jacket is with the *well trained* canis magnus as we speak. They are, as I may have mentioned, remarkable trackers, primarily by scent. Within a few very moments, the wolf be released. I would suggest you run, Mister Simonchild. Not that it will do you any good. Good bye."

He climbed in the wagon, as did Wan Lo. The strongman clucked to the horses and they began to drive off.

"Wait!" he called out trying to formulate a plan. "There will be others who know more than I do. I'm not alone, we represent a wealthy and powerful organization!"

"It's too late for that, now. Whether or not it's true, we'll be gone by the time anyone will be able to respond to your dissappearance," said Tezlowska airily. The wagon trundled down the road.

"Blast it!" he spat out kicking the dirt vowing to see Tezlowska again. Sean looked around, hoping that something Tezlowska would help. Was this a test? were there observers watching? He scanned the area looking for a reflection, or onlookers. Dissatisfied he knew could not outrun the beasts, so his only hope was to outwit them. He looked over the area, hoping for a climbable tree or rocky crag where he could hole up.

The sound of hoofbeats brought Sean around. Trotting up sidesaddle on a pure white donkey was the woman from the circus, Alison. "Mister Simonchild," she called.

Startled, he turned around and collapsed on the ground taking care to cover his face where his disguise had been marred.

"Mister Simonchild!" Alison dismounted and rushed to his side. "What have they done? I heard them threaten you ..."

Quickly Sean rose and grabbed for Alison. "Don't be afraid, does anyone know you are here?"

"Your face!" Alison recovered quickly, "There is more to you than meets the eye, sir!" she said coyly. "No, no one. I couldn't let them murder a harmless old man," she gave Sean a look, "so I got Grizelda and followed you."

"That is an understatement, Miss Alison," he replied. "Quickly, we haven't much time. We need to move much faster than Grizelda there can carry us."

"The wolves," he said looking out toward the horizon. "Miracle is behind the werewolves, and he has targeted me," Sean tried to explain hustling Alison back toward the donkey. "Do you know someplace safe we can go?"

"Around here?" Alison looked aimlessly about, "No, we've only been here a short while."

"We can't stay here, come on." Sean helped her onto the donkey and began to remove his shirt. "Do you have a weapon?"

"The werewolf?" She rustled in her bag and came up with a derringer. "I have this." She paused to look admiringly at Sean's now-naked torso.

"It'll have to do," he said looking back down the trail. He pulled his pistol from his holster and emptied the spent casings from the cylinder. He loaded it with two rounds removed from Alison's derringer. Shaking his right arm, his spring-loaded derringer popped out into his right hand. He transferred the bullets from that to the pistol as well before holstering it; four bullets wasn't great, but it was better than none.

"I recall a trail a couple of miles back." Sean dropped his shirt to the ground, "that is where we should head." He pointed off to the side, "you ride over there, I'll retrace the wagon trail and try not to create a new path for the wolves to follow."

He set off at a trot back down the trail. Alison set off to side he had indicated and followed. Soon enough, he reached the turn off he had seen. He called Alison over and jumped onto the donkey.

"Hopefully," he began, "the wolf will continue on down the road here and not pick up my scent since I won't be veering off it." Settling onto the donkey's back he added, "at least that's the plan. It may smell the donkey, but it's sniffing for me and back there," he thumbed over his shoulder, "is where it'll hope to find me."

They set off down the road, hoping to find something that would help them against the wolf. They had been riding for ten minutes or so, when behind them they heard a howling rise behind them. Without much urging the donkey picked up the pace. A few moments later, they rounded a bend and saw ahead of them a small shack. They crossed a dry streambed and approached the shack.

Sean looked for any signs of occupation. If someone were here that would mean another gunhand, a welcomed sight. He urged the donkey closer and called out, "Anybody there? Friend approaching." The last thing he needed was some prospector filling him full of shot because he thought him a claimjumper.

There was no response, so they approached and carefully entered. The tiny shack was empty of human presence. The fire, however, was tidily banked and a pot of beans was slowly simmering on the back - the inhabitant, singular judging by the bed, was clearly intending to be back for dinner. It would start getting dark within an hour, so that meant that whoever it was should be back soon.

"Looks like we arrived just in time for dinner, " Sean said sending Alison inside to wait. He tied up the donkey out of sight from the road and found a spot to wait for the owner to return. "Definitely don't need a shootout over a misunderstanding," he muttered to himself as he found a stump to sit on where he could keep an eye on the road.

Sean kept scanning the area looking for either the returning homeowner or an unwanted guest. Instinct or blind luck made him look left in time to see a dark shape break from cover barey twenty feet away and move toward him in a blur. In one nightmare moment he saw what looked like a wolf, only half again as large, covered in short fur so dark as to be nearly black with hind legs a little disproportionately long, so as it raced toward him its head was very low to the ground. Sean started to move and the slashing jaws of the creature caught him in the leg as it moved past. He felt a tearing pain in his calf as the wolf spun around, legs scrabbling in the dust as it sought to reverse direction.

Sean grimaced from the wound and suppressed a shout. Seeing that the door was a few feet away and the wolf was looking to close fast he judged that he could make the door before the wolf could return to take more out of his hide. It was a gamble, but one he decided to take. He turned, and ran.

Night of the Werewolf, Part 4
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