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The first hint of predawn light crept over the eastern skyline as Cinder, driving the long bed low-rider, pulled up at a park, or what was left of a park. A few rusty swing sets creaked and moaned in protest over their condition as the rather strong breeze brought warmer than normal temperatures in from the south. A pair of stripped down, burned out hulks of cars marked the western edge of the park and the northern border still had the backstop of what had been a youth baseball field, but it had not see a game in well over a dozen years.
Glancing around and seeing nothing but a cat sitting on what was left of a picnic table, Cinder brought the truck to a stop. Climbing out, he sniffed the air and listened for any signs of trouble. Hearing only the panicked whimpers of his three captives, he quickly moved around to the back pulled on a ski mask again, and yanked back the tarp. All three looked at him with terror in their eyes as their eyes adjusted after being covered with a tarp for almost thirty minutes.
Seeing the young money feeder had done a fair amount of kicking, trying to get out of the blanket the other teen had been nice enough to wrap him and then tie him in, he reached down and grabbed the boy's chin. "Boy, if you kick my bike and knock it over, one of two things is going to happen. First it could fall and crush you or your old man. Second, and actually far worse for you, it could fall the other direction and do some damage to it. If you put a single scratch on my bike, any guarantee of protection from me you have been given vanishes. Got it?"
Not getting anything but tears, he clenched the boy's chin with just enough pressure to be uncomfortable. "Boy, I thought we had an understanding before we left the drug house. I don't want any harm to come to you, but in return for my protection, I expect your total cooperation. I gave you my word; I'd get you out of this without another hair on your head harmed if you did things my way, and there is nothing in this realm or the spirit realms as steadfast as my word. However, you are breaking our pact and by doing so risking my resolve to keep you safe. Don't try me. Now, if I don't get an answer I am going to drop you off right here with Mr. Six-fucking-teen and drive away with your old man. I'm not going to say this again. Do NOT do anything to hurt my bike. Do you understand?"
The boy nodded, so Cinder let go, "Good. I am going to say this one more time. I don't have any desire to hurt you kid; your dad got you into this. Blame him."
Cinder then yanked the older boy out and used his blade to cut the small plastic strips from around the teen's hands and feet. He then yanked the boxers out of the punk's mouth and threw them into the back of the truck. "Good luck, shit head."
The teen looked around with pure fear instantly realizing he was in a very bad area of the city. With his front upper and lower teeth lying on the floor of the drug house, he made a bit of a whistling sound, "You jussst leavin' me here, dresssed like thissss?"
"Yeah. Just be happy I let you keep those boxers and be even happier it's almost sixty and not raining." Cinder shoved the teen hard sending him several steps away from the truck. "A couple of words of advice for you; this is Viper territory. They wear green and they use this park as a meeting place. You have anywhere between a half an hour to an hour before the first ones, the desperate ones, start emerging from the holes they live in and you really don't want to be here when they do. Oh, one last thing, be careful were you step. A great deal of the crap out here is directly related to what your grandfather did and was bringing you into. The city doesn't clean up down here like they do where I am sure you are used to living, either. Have fun. Maybe this'll help." He dropped a twenty dollar bill, flipped the tarp back over the accountant and his son, and climbed back in the cab.
The teen tried to run toward the truck, but it was too late. All this got him was a few rocks sprayed back at him from the spinning tires before they caught traction. He wiped at a spot of blood on his leg from where one of the rocks had hit him as he snatched the twenty. He looked around, seeing nothing familiar. His only thought was getting back to his Grandfather's house or stash house. Wearing nothing but boxers, he decided to head toward the distant interstate bridge, not knowing what else to do. It took only a few steps for the first piece of glass to find his bare feet. He yelped and pulled it out. Wincing in pain, he suddenly noticed broken bottles, rusted pieces of metal and a plethora of drug paraphernalia including needles littering the ground. He cursed, realizing the asshole had dropped him off here, without shoes, on purpose, trying to make a point about the drugs. He moved a great deal slower. Before he was even out of the park, he saw a skinny man wearing a green bandana as the man came out of a nearby boarded up building. The next thing he noticed was the rather lewd grin... He turned away from the interstate and started running...
Cinder watched the teen in the rear view mirror of the truck until he could no longer see him. There was a twinge of guilt as he saw the kid hop and look at his foot, but after the way the kid had acted and the fact his grandfather had been one of the higher ups in the cartel, the feeling was momentary. It certainly didn't help the teen's chances when Cinder found out the punk had full knowledge of what his Grandfather had done and was doing to the other kids in the drug house. Still, he had given the kid a shot, which is far more than many werewolves would have done.
Now, however, he had a much larger problem to deal with. The two in the back of the truck were on opposite ends of the spectrum for Cinder. The father was a total scumbag, and really deserved to die. However, if he ended the man's existence, he would be taking out the boy's protector, and the boy had not really done anything to deserve serious punishment.
Glancing down at the address on the man's driver's license, he guided the truck through the mostly empty streets while he thought it over. The boy had told Cinder he had no mother, since she had died of breast cancer just over a year ago and his father had not remarried. This left Cinder either killing the father and being responsible for another kid, which just wasn't going to happen, or figuring out a way to punish the father yet leave the son-of-a-bitch alive so the kid had a protector. Grumbling at the realization he would simply have to let the man live, left a sour taste in his mouth, but the only other option was a state run facility... or was it... Cinder grinned as another idea hit him. It would take some work, but it was something he could live with.
He glanced down at the man's cell phone which told him the address in question was just up ahead on his right, so he piloted the truck to the location the GPS guided him to, only to end up on cul-de-sac in a very high end neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. He pulled into the driveway and glanced around. Nothing stirred, but leaving here in a low-rider or a Harley was not going to work. However, maybe the man had something in the four car garage he could put his bike in and simply drive back out.
He jumped out, not closing the door so there wouldn't be any sounds to alert any neighbors of activity outside and moved around to the back. This time he pulled the ski mask over his head only after he could hide his features from anyone looking out with the edge of the tarp in the off chance some old lady was needing to let the cat out or some other weirdness. He looked and almost took the gag out of the accountant but quickly changed his mind. Instead he pulled a wadded up sock out of the boy's mouth and spoke with a near snarl. "Give me the proper security code for the garage door to your house. If an alarm of any kind goes off I will drive this truck to the river, pull out my bike and push it in with your old man still in it. Yell and it will be even worse. Now, what is the code."
Once again Cinder's heightened senses went into high gear as he listened to the tone, sniffed the boy's odor, and felt the boy's pulse. The boy took a few seconds to calm enough to finally spit out "It's pound one, two, two, one, pound."
Even though the kid was terrified, there was no sign of deception. Cinder input the code, slipped back behind the wheel and used the idle speed to roll the low rider into the empty spot between the large Ford F-350 and the ski boat. With a bit of a relieved sigh, he hit the button for the door to slide closed and moved back to his bike.
He grumbled as he realized the size of the F-350 made it all but impossible to pick up his bike and transfer it. Rather annoyed, he moved the trap so it kept the two unwilling passengers totally covered while giving him access to his Harley. With a loud growl, he transformed into his war form, giving him more than enough height and extra muscle to 'wolf handle' the very heavy machine out of the back of the lower truck and into the much bigger pick-up.
He changed back and sighed. Taking a couple of minutes, he transferred the impressive amount of captured cash into the Ford and finally put his battle vest and blades, other than his hunting knife, in the front passenger seat. Finally he picked up the accountant and cut him loose. "Carry your boy into the house, and if you have any alarms, you best disarm them."
The man turned pale as he realized he could now see Cinder's face. He quickly looked away, "I'll forget what you look like... just put the mask back on..."
Cinder backhanded the man, "Shut the hell up and get us into the house."
"They know where I live..."
"So, no one even knows the stash house was hit yet. Give it another three or four hours, then they will have to figure out who lived and who didn't. In the mean time, you are going to give me bank account numbers and we are going to transfer some funds, not all of them, just some. I want them to have to scramble around and point fingers for a bit."
"They'll kill me!"
"Look around jackass; they aren't here, I am. Now let's get into your house and behind a computer. Get me full access and you just might live long enough to get your some of your personal lives reset and run. If you don't, you will not leave this house again, ever."
The man gulped as he lifted up his son with a great deal of effort, and made his way into the house. Cinder couldn't help but glance around, noting the house was one step down from a space station. It even had an automatic vacuum unit running around keeping the carpet spotless and there was a touch panel for a robotic lawn mowing unit right next to the sliding glass window leading out to a pretty large sized pool. Even the sink was fully automated. A trio of sensors detected if dishes had been dropped off for cleaning. A pair of robotic arms were folded down waiting to grab said item and transfer it into the dish washer built into the cabinets above and a conveyer belt then stood ready to transfer said items out of the dishwasher to a pre-selected spot where other small robotic arms were ready to grab and stack everything from cups to plates to bowls in the cabinets. He didn't bother to look, but he was sure the laundry room had something very similar. It was truly disturbing to see just how little the man or his son had to do for themselves.
Before the man could put his son down, Cinder shook his head, "Nope, you carry him to the computer and he stays wrapped up until you get me access and I transfer what I want. Then I take the Ford and you can get your kid and get the fuck out before the other members of the drug syndicate realize what you did."
"Please mister," the boy spoke in a soft begging voice, "I got to pee!"
Had the kid not had such an easy life up till now, Cinder realized he would have probably caved, but looking around again annoyed him just enough to want the boy to have it hard, just for a little while. Maybe it'd teach him a valuable lesson about life. Besides, Cinder thought, it'd do him some good to see bad things happen to people who are involved with drugs or the like. He glanced down with a smirk. "Either piss in the blanket or hold it until your old man gets me the access I want and I send the money to some interesting places. Don't speak again unless I say you can or I will tie a bit more rope around the blanket and leave you there overnight, and it isn't even seven in the morning."
The boy almost said something but thought better of it. His mouth clamped shut tightly enough to see areas of the lips turn a whitish color.
"Smart, now let's hope you're old man is as intelligent." Cinder stated as he turned back and smacked the back of the head of the accountant.
The guy whimpered as he pulled up a banking page out of the Caymans.
Cinder shoved him off the chair as soon as the accountant had logged on and Cinder looked at the balance and the transfers. Not only could he smell the nervousness of a lie emanating from the man, he could also tell by the computer the man had not given him access to the drug syndicate's funds. "YOU MUST REALLY THINK I'M A FUCKING IDIOT!" He roared.
"What?" The man asked taking shallow breaths while looking up from the floor, not even trying to stand.
"This is your account. The IP addresses of all the transfers have been logged and they all come from here! You didn't even try to hide them, so if this isn't scrubbed money it has at least been put though the spin cycle." He yanked the man back up and shoved him back into the chair. "Last chance asshole!"
The man's hands shook like leafs in hurricane. "They'll know it's me! I've got over one point four mill in that Caiman account. Just take it!"
"Which is exactly what I want. I want them to know it's you!" Cinder smiled with an arctic coldness to his face and eyes. "Also, thanks for the information. Where is your other account."
Cinder's hand crashed into the man cheek flinging him off the chair a second time. "You are way too stupid to be this good with money. You just told me you had at least one other account by saying 'that Caiman account'. If you didn't have another one, you would have said my account or the account, not 'that account'. Now, I can do this all day and eventually you will give me full access. By then your boy will have pissed and shit the blanket plus will be very hungry and thirsty, maybe even starting to dehydrate since he is in a pretty thick king sized blanket which means it is wrapped around him several times, so he has got to be pretty damned warm in there. Even if you don't want to think about your face, which will be multi colored if you keep this up, think about your kid. He is right there, looking at you, his eyes begging for you to do the right thing so he can get out of the mummy wrap, take a piss and get dressed."
"I can't, they'll kill me!"
Cinder kicked the man's side. "You can and you will."
It took a couple of seconds for the guy to get back his breath. "I'll give you all three of my accounts, almost three point eight between all in numbered accounts, clean and untraceable! Take it and go!"
"I don't want your money. I want theirs." Cinder stepped down on the man's knee and started to twist his boot heal. While the man tried to pull his leg out from under Cinder and push him off without success, Cinder continued to talk, sounding more and more angry as he did so. He felt the rant coming and decided to go with it. "I didn't take out a major drug house just because I wanted quick cash. I also want them to see there are those of us out here who will not put up with their shit.
"The crap they sell kills, ruins families and makes whole sections of this city unsafe for people to venture out at night at all and in some areas it ain't much better during the day. They are cooking the crap up and selling it on my streets. I can take out drug houses all day long, but the money is too good. A raid like tonight is one week's take for what... a fifty mile radius? They'll just set up another one which will take me two or three months to find and next time they will be even more careful. They will split up the drop off days, the times, shuttle in only part of the coke and meth. So when I hit them again I get maybe half, if I am lucky, and I do a lot less damage to their organization. NO, I want this one to hurt like a bitch. I take a hunk of their cash, then I have really bitch slapped them and they will feel the sting for a while! There will be fear, even if momentary fear and if nothing else, they will be down to the level of those on the streets they are helping to create for a precious few seconds."
"Get off, get off..." The guy continued to try to yank his leg out from under Cinder only to get the boot pressed in deeper with each attempt to pull free. Tears poured down his face and snot bubbled out of his nose. "They'll find you... Just take my money... please stop!"
"I can only hope they are stupid enough to come after me. I have friends the likes of which will make their first attempt at me their last. Now, give me the fucking account numbers!"
"Don't you get it!" the man half screamed, half cried, "They'll never stop. They'll find me and kill me!"
"You? What, you care more about yourself then the kid?" Cinder pointed down to the boy who had tears of his own coming down his face.
The accountant grabbed both sides of his knee in agony. His own anger bubbled up as the pain and fear of the cartel got to him. "Why should I? Who the hell is he without me? The only thing making him different than some slum shithead is me and my money! Without me he's shit!"
Cinder felt the calming chill of a much deeper, darker, rage building and this time he let it flow through him. He took his foot off the man's knee and spoke in a voice totally devoid of emotion. "He is your son. You brought him into this world and it is your duty, your obligation, to give him the best and safest life you can until he becomes a man. You are his protector."
The man gripped his damaged knee and wiped the snot off his face with his five hundred dollar shirt sleeve. Mistaking the deadly calm of the man as shock or surprise, he tried to push what he saw as a momentary advantage. "Not even you can believe even half the sewage coming out of your mouth. Do you really think I'd take him to a crack and meth house to load cash into a machine if I gave a shit? I didn't want the son-of-a-bitch to begin with, but it was the only way to keep getting his bitch mom to put out so I humored her. I gave her a kid. She wasn't even fuckable for seven months, but I gave the slut her time. Then the cunt went up and got breast cancer, of all the fucking things to get. She wanted to have it taken off, can you believe the nerve? One of reasons I gave her Avery was the tits, and she had the impudence to want them taken off. I refused and she took a hunk of my cash and took off and got her tit taken off, and still died. Serves the stupid cunt right.
"Now look, I have a damned kid, my bank account dropped by three hundred thousand to cut off one of the best looking tits I have ever sucked on, and I don't even have a consistent piece of ass for my trouble. Now you spew some crap about me being a protector, what a joke.
"You know why Avery was there tonight? He was there because I was supposed to get a bonus for bringing him, a bonus you screwed up. Now you want me to kill myself for the little shit? You're insane and you are the stupid one. Besides, if you like the kid so much then think this over...They won't just come after me, they'll try to use Avery against me. And you know what? It'll work about as well as it's working for you.
"You want him to be nice and safe or you want him because he's cute it doesn't make a rat's ass difference to me. Whatever you are going to do to me, isn't half of what the syndicate is going to do if I hand over the..."
Suddenly Avery spoke, his face a mask of tears and anger. "You really were going to hand me to him after we were done with the cash, just like I thought I heard when you wear talking to him! You lied to me!"
"Shut up Avery!"
Cinder slammed his fist into the man's left shoulder dislocating it with a single blow. "Answer him or I will start taking pieces off of you!"
The man screamed and fell back thrashing while holding his shoulder. "Alright, Shit! Yes! Of course I was, I was going to let him have Avery..."
Cinder grabbed the damaged shoulder. "I said to answer your son, not me!"
An ear piercing scream nearly rattled the windows. It took nearly two minutes for the man to regain enough composure to speak. "You little shit! See what you're doing to me! This is your fault!" Seeing Cinder's hand moving toward his shoulder again he shook his head, "Fine, yes, Avery, you heard the call right." The man fired back, "He offered me a ten day trip to his Hawaiian condo, right on a golf course and said he'd arrange it so you could go to that absurdly expensive summer camp in Greece you wanted me to fork over twenty two grand for!"
Cinder looked down, "Are you going to give me the account information or do I continue to play with what is left of your shoulder?"
Avery glared at his father. "He doesn't have to. I will. One of them is a fake name account, Gertrude Eleanor Vigidorowitz. The password is Hope Diamond and the secure access is seven, nine, four, six, Alpha, Xray, November, five, zero, Lima, Tango, Percent Sign, Ampersand, two, one. Those aren't letters, they are spelled out with capitol letters for the first third and last letter of each word. It's a Swiss account. The other one I know about is in the Caymans in the same bank as the one dad just brought up. It is a numbered account, but I don't have it memorized. I have it and all the passwords in my room, though."
The accountant went pale. "God-damn-it Avery, NO!"
Cinder smirked; the smell coming off the man was enough to verify the truth. Still, he looked down at Avery, "How and why do you know this information?"
All of the boy's fear had been replaced by an absolute hateful anger and it showed as he spoke with a nasty edge to his voice. "I have been going over there every week for the last several months for cash feeding, been forced to go down to my boxes sooner and sooner each time, sometimes hours before the cash even started showing up. I saw and heard what happens in there, and tonight was way better than some..." Pure hatred flashed in his eyes as he sent a truly defiant stare in his father's direction. "Now I think I know why. He was waiting for the cash to get finished up, which is way he was so pissed about the Chinese guy being so late... He was waiting on me!"
"Probably." Cinder agreed without really taking into account how cold his single word sounded to the kid.
Avery's face turned even redder as anger caused it to it to flush more. "On Monday, I heard dad on the phone and wanted to make sure I had a way to stop him so I put a key logger on the computer and recorded everything. I memorized one of the accounts hoping to use it incase..."
Cinder shook his head and quickly cut the boy off. "Resourceful, but not well thought out. If you had let on you knew such information, he would have never let you leave the house and after he was done with you, he would have killed you."
The boy's eyes went wide and much of the color drained from his cheeks as the words soaked in. "Oh, yeah..."
Off to the side, the accountant pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and lunged, not at Cinder, but at his son.
Cinder caught the movement and his last bit of inner restraint vanished. Even as he kicked Avery away from the lunge, his body was starting to transform. This time he let the full inner beast come out, not even trying to hold back. Claws burst out of his hands as they thickened and pure black fur burst out over most of his body. At the same time, his skull flattened and elongated and dark black fur seemed to cascade over the extend face starting at his hair line and rolling downward till it covered all but the tip of his midnight black nose. Teeth became canine-like, but were smaller and shaper than a normal werewolf. Sill they continued to grow to fill his mouth as his whole body grew bigger.
Popping sounds came from his legs as they took on a canine appearance and his knees reversed, bending backward instead of forward. The chest pushed out and his already thick muscles thickened even more keeping his compact and muscular frame intact as he grew, while a single streak of reddish brown fur curled out from his Adam's apple down to the bottom of his rib cage while the rest was pure black. This left him looking less like a normal werewolf and more like an upright wolverine.
The last structures to come out as Cinder changed into full war-form were his dewclaws. This, above all else, set Cinder's war-form apart from most werewolves. For, although his war-form was small at just a shade under seven feet, his dew claws where much longer, straighter, stronger and sharper than any other werewolf in the Sept. These were more like being armed with a pair of short swords than claws. It was these structures which had lead Cinder to master the blades he carried in his human form.
Before the accountant and made it to the point where his son had been, he flew back across the room from a single backhand of the transforming Cinder. The process of the instant change was spectacularly fast, but for Cinder, time seemed to slow and he felt it all. This only angered him more. The force of the single blow was enough to partially embed the accountant into the sheetrock on the left side of the fireplace.
Cinder leapt forward with an unearthly roar, his twin dewclaws drove into the man's eye sockets and easily pierced the back of his skull. From there it was a simple matter to pull his hands apart and split the skull like a melon. His anger still not quite sated, he drug his claws down the length of the man's torso separating the rib bones from the breast bone. Blood gushed out to the point where each footfall Cinder made caused a squishing sound in the carpet. Still not calm, Cinder took out the rest of is aggression on the niceties of the house, leaving sparking wires, burst plumbing and half of the automated robotic vacuum spinning in never ending circles on a very small section of the carpet before he finally allowed himself to resume some kind of rational thought.
Cinder finally allowed himself to change back, breathing hard, not from exertion, but the need to regain full control over himself. He looked around, and shook his head. He hated to 'totally loose it' as he called it when he just let the beast take over. It had been this kind of rage that had left him stuck in the body and with the hair of a twelve year and four day old and he knew it. At least he aged somewhat like a human and his body had continued to increase in mass, but still...
Cinder's mind briefly wandered back to the day of his first change even though he fought the urge to do so. The circumstances between this and then were just too similar for him not to remember, and unfortunately, he did remember, he remembered every agonizing pop of a bone and every gruesome detail.
He had heard through the grape vine, Todd, AKA Razor Wolf, also had been one of the very few and truly unfortunate ones to have remembered the first shifting, but it was so rare, Cinder kind of doubted it. Even this attempt at trying to push the memory back failed so he finally just let it come...
The school day had been like any other. He was an outstanding student, but an outcast. He didn't like the childish games his sixth grade teacher tried to get him to play, and he never could understand why the others his age would want to play such stupid mind numbing undertakings as the whisper chain. He already knew Monique would be the first to mishear or misunderstand the phrase spoken by the teacher. She was dumb as a box of rocks.
Here was a bunch of kids wasting time on a whisper chain when there were far more important things to work toward. All he wanted to do was find out where his friend had disappeared to, but this too was something mocked at, so he didn't join in and as usual, the teacher said something. This had led him to mouthing off, and as was not at all uncommon, he had spent the rest of the day in the office.
As he left school, late, since the assistant principle figured it was somehow a punishment for him to be forced to stay and do his school work plus and extra worksheet or two, the sky was already growing dark. Of course it didn't help he was in Fort Kent, Maine and it was February 24th. Nor did it help he had been a smart ass and had finished the first extra worksheet in less than seven minutes, so the lady had given him a small essay to write. Still, there was a good thirty minutes before sunset as he stepped out of the school building, and it was only a twenty minute walk home. Knowing he would once again get the belt for mouthing off to Miss Summers, he figured he would delay his arrival home on the off chance his father would leave for work before he got home.
It was unlikely, though, and he knew it. A call from the school pretty much assured his dad would stay till he got home. He would get the lecture and he would drop his pants and take the belt. This would be worse tonight, since he had actually called the young teacher a 'worthless preschool teacher'. Cinder was betting a good ten lashes, the last one, maybe even two, would be with the buckle. This was something he endured and in some ways took pride in. He had stuck up for himself with the teacher, even knowing the rules of the school and his parents.
The beating brought out tears every time. Hell they hurt. But he didn't really even hold them against his father. Cinder knew the rules and knew the punishments for breaking them. What's fair was fair. Still, he was tweleve and if he could get out of a butt lashing, he'd sure as hell try. At the very worst this would lead to an extra strip or two. He shrugged and decided instead of taking the quicker route by turning up Brookside, he chose to go a bit further and turned on Eagle instead. Sure this wasted a bit of time, but would also take him past the home of his missing friend of almost two years.
Cinder blamed himself and knew the boy had been behind some of the strange things the whole class saw happen at the Philadelphia museum. Cinder knew someone was watching, taking notes, separating them into small groups to find out who was behind the strange phenomenons... He had tried to stay with him, and should not have allowed the pushy security guard to shoe him off to join a different group... but still there was this weird hope, the optimism only found within a child, that this time would be different. Maybe this time he would see the golden red hair and green eyes of his friend, building a snowman and putting tits on it, just to piss off his parents...
Unlike countless other times over the past two years, this time he didn't even make it to the house. Instead he saw the absolute wrong thing at the worst possible time. Just as he moved off into the woods a bit to walk though deeper snow, just for the fun of it, he wondered how they had taken his friend, had it been a car, a van, a man on a snowmobile with a dart gun... a hundred ideas, many of them totally outlandish, played though his mind as he walked... he saw the emerald green car pull up and stop only fifty yards from him. At the same time the passenger side door flew open and a man jumped out pointing a gun at two kids from the fourth grade who had been wrapping up an impromptu snowball fight and were heading home as the sky turned a mixture of red and gold.
As the man reached out and grabbed the hood of Jacob, and told the other boy, Julian, he better get in or his buddy was as good as dead, time slowed. Colors of a million shades rippled around him and then... the first bone in his hand popped out of position. It felt like a gunshot had ripped into him. In fact he actually thought the guy had turned and shot him... but then his jaw jutted forward. He screamed... But it was not a scream it was a howl... a howl of pent up frustration and rage... of a desire to protect... to defend his school mates... his pack... Pack, the term seemed an odd one at the time, but it was there and they were part of his pack. They were kids in his school. Julian had even shown him some kindness on occasion... Julian needed the protection of the pack Alpha and right at the instant of change there was no pack, there was just Cinder and thus he had to be the pack Alpha and protect the weaker members!
Even as these thoughts spilled into his brain, more bones shifted and snapped, bent and changed form. The teeth in his mouth seemed to pull back in his jaw and the jawbone itself then sent what felt like a hundred daggers of razor sharp teeth jutting though his gums. The pain was a hundred fold worse than the time he had bit down on a fish bone and had it stab into the roof of his mouth so deeply a doctor had to pull it out...
Just when he thought it couldn't get worse, he found he was wrong, and not just a little wrong, a lot wrong. His kneecaps rolled off to the side and his legs suddenly bent the wrong direction. It was like a hyper extension of the knee to a thirty degree angle, but it was both of them and then they stayed there. This, above all else, was the most horrifying agony he had ever felt or imagined. The rest, his claw bursting out of each finger, his thumbs rolling, literally spinning as it moved up to become his dewclaws were not as bad as the knees.... Then, just as he thought it was over... the massive and wickedly sharp dewclaws exploded outward. He actually thought his thumbs had been ripped off him. With every bone, every joint, every muscle screaming at him as to their outrage of being so violently treated, he roared. It took only a few long gaping pouncing like leaps to make it to the old Buick and only a single wipe of his left hand to rip the neck out of the man with the gun.
The man's death jerks cause the Colt .45 to fire, striking Cinder in the side. But the pain, although bad was nothing compared to the transformation. In way of comparison, the belt he had been expecting felt worse then the bullet had. Still the extra nudge of pain was enough to send him over the edge. His rage seemed to double. He picked up the dying man like a ragdoll and started slamming him into the car, the force was enough to dent metal, explode windows, and shatter bones. By the time Cinder tossed what was left of the man into the woods, there was nothing but pulp left.
He then turned on the unconscious driver, knowing he was every bit as much to blame for this outrage as the gunman had been. He ripped the man in half as he pulled him out of the shattered front window then yanked out the engine block and started pounding on what was left. Blood splattered on branches forty feet above him as he cracked the concrete and the engine block with his sudden lust to get vengeance for the two boys.
As a final act of rage, he threw what was left of the car, actually picked it up and threw it. As it wrapped around a tree the trunk popped open and the lifeless body of a boy fell out... Killed, not by the two thugs, but by his rampage... This jarred him back to reality... His body shifted back... he made his way over to the boy, his hands tied snugly behind his back and his neck bent at an absurdly wrong angle. "No!" Cinder screamed as he tried to pull up a piece of metal from the wreckage of the car and put it up to his throat. Just as the metal drew blood, a shimmering light encompassed him, sent a shock hard enough to stop his hand, and spoke, "I cannot let you do this."
"Why! I'm a monster!"
"You are not a monster you are wolf-kin and your desire to protect two boys has brought it to the surface! Even now I have summoned help for you, child of the wolf. More will become clear in short order!"
Cinder tried to pull the jagged hunk of metal across his throat again, only to get a fearsome shock which all but paralyzed him while sending the chunk of metal well out of his reach. Still he managed to pull himself back to a kneeling position and reach out to rest his hands on the dead child. "Let me die! I let them take my friend and I killed this kid! I don't care what I am, I can't live like this!"
A hard shock hit him a third time, and still Cinder managed to get up to a knee and pull the twine from around the lifeless child's hands. "I cannot grow up knowing I did this, now let me be!"
The voices chuckled as it sent out another pulse of electrical energy. "Then grow up you shall not. Grow older you shall, just maybe not as fast. Consider this you punishment. Now, stop this child of the wolf, they would have killed the boy you now hold in your arms as soon as they got the two you just saved to a secure place. If anything, you just made his death a great deal faster and less painful."
"How do you know..."
"Because this is not their first time. They would have killed the boy in front of the other two as a demonstration of what would happen if they didn't do what the two men you killed wanted. A great evil has been purged from this world today, and you are to be credited."
"I deserve nothing." Cinder fired back, "Not until I seek out all those who would do this and destroy them!"
"My, my, for a child of the wolf who wanted to die only a few ticks of your clock ago, you certainly seemed to have changed your mind."
Cinder took a couple of deep breaths as he felt a righteous anger fill him. At the same time the cold of the late day winter Maine weather started to be felt as he realized he was nude, his clothing shredded. "I didn't know this... I mean I have read and seen things... but those were stories. This is real, and until I find my friend... these killers... murderers of kids need to be found and destroyed!"
Another jolt of energy shot out from the glow, this one warming him. "Of this we are in agreement, child of the wolf. Once you have been taken in and taught more including how to transform with your clothing intact, you must seek me out again. I think we can help each other. Until then..." The glow faded as an elderly man approached.
The man quickly wrapped Cinder in a heavy cloak. "My my, even for a first change this is quite vicious... and... well it is not often I have seen a spirit spend more time than is needed to summon one of us, let alone stick around, hold a conversation with a new pup, and give a warming aura. Let's see if we can't get you into some warm clothing and start your teaching into the inner wolf. For something tells me you are destined to do something great."
Cinder glared at the man, "I'm not going anywhere until Jacob and Julian are safe!"
The man took a step back, clearly surprised."Very well." The man changed into a werewolf and picked up the two unconscious boys. "Lead me to where they will be safe. I will drop them off and you can ring the bell and meet me back in the wood line once you are certain they will be taken care of."
Cinder eyed the wolf beast, "How come it doesn't hurt you to change?"
"It will get to the point of being nearly painless in a matter of a full moon or two, and virtually unnoticeable after a year. I can show you all. Unfortunately, this means you will not go home again. To your parents, you must be dead. We will leave what is left of your jacket in this mess to further the deception."
"Deal." Cinder nodded and pointed to the north. "My missing friend's dad will make sure they get home. He is just up the road...."
Cinder pulled himself back from the memory and looked back at Avery. The boy's mind had not been able to cope with the spiritual and physical power of seeing and feeling someone shape shift and had shut down. The large wet spot on the front of the blanket told Cinder, just how badly the youngster had needed to go, and with a total mind shutdown there was nothing left to keep it in check.
Cinder sniffed the air and crinkled his nose. It was not at all uncommon for a human to shit themselves as the brain decided the only things it need to do was keep the person breathing and heart beating, Avery was just one of many Cinder had caused this to happen to, so he took it in stride. The natural defense of most people was simple enough. The brain would not allow itself to know such a thing as a werewolf existed, so the memory of seeing it never formed and the brain shut itself off as if needing a reality reboot.
Sometimes this was quick, many times it was not. Cinder could tell, by the way Avery's body twitched and jerked, he would be out for a while, maybe hours. Of course the boy had been under a huge amount of stress over the last several hours and had been up all night feeding cash into a machine, so he was going with little to no sleep. This last stressor had been the preverbal stone that tipped the cart. The boy would need a great deal of protection over the next few hours. He picked up the bundled boy and walked around the large house for a few minutes before finally finding what was clearly Avery's room. The boy was extremely interested in archeology, and almost every bit of his room showed it.
There were pictures of ruins from a dozen countries, models of Stonehenge, the temple of Athena, the great pyramids, a section of the Great Wall of China, and a dozen other places. Even the boy's bedspread told of his interests, as it was adorned with the Celtic alphabet. Cinder was not easily impressed, but this was certainly the room of a boy with a great deal of intelligence and focus. He guessed, correctly, the boy was much like Cinder himself had been, an outcast. This was not the same kind of outcast as kids who are mean, fat, or physically weak deal with. Instead it was the opposite; it was an outcast because of the jealousy of other students. Avery, just like Cinder, was smart, almost too smart for his own good.
He deposited the boy on the ground and dug around for a few minutes. It didn't take long to find a small pocket phone book with all sorts of information the boy had taken off of his father's computer with the secret key logger. This was all he needed. He dug through the boy's room a bit more, found a school backpack and stuffed some clothing in it. He then made his way around the house, found a small safe not well hidden behind a cheap reproduction of a Van Gogh and used his wolf hearing to crack it. Inside, he found exactly what he was looking for. He pocketed it, and after a moment's hesitation decided it would be a waste to leave the six bars of gold and small box full of gold coins behind.
With all of this stashed in the pickup, Cinder moved on to the blood splattered computer and used the code book Avery had made. First he all but emptied the three accounts the accountant claimed were his and shunted them into a brand new one. With this done and hidden from easy inspection, he then grabbed a huge hunk of cash from the larger drug account and moved it into the smaller one.
Cinder moved quickly after this as he then took half of the total and put it into an account in Budapest. With the remaining money, he took half again. This time he moved the large sum into an account in Luxemburg. Satisfied, he grinned as he stuck in a pair of flash-drives with programs he created for this very purpose. Within seconds, the programs went to work on a pre-set plan of shunting the pilfered drug cartel's funds into a series of eight new accounts. He pulled the drives back out left the computer to do its thing. He knew from simulations this would take around ten minutes to run its cycle.
Even while Cinder made final preparations and double checked the house, making sure he didn't miss anything too valuable, or accidently leave a family pet locked in a room somewhere, the programming was busy. The eight accounts he created broke up and sent the money out to eight more each. The process was repeated a dozen times before the money started moving between all the accounts in random amounts, but never over thirty thousand. Every one of the dummy accounts had been opened from different places with wireless internet and a cheap laptop bought out of a pawn shop with cash. Nothing could be traced back to Cinder or his home.
Once one hundred transfers had happened out of each account, the second part of his programming would kick in. This would slowly drain money away from the maze of accounts and into one of two accounts. The first one and by far easier to find was in the Caymans. The second one was much better hidden and was in a bank in Switzerland. The second half of the programming would have to wait however, since he figured he now only had minutes to secure the boy and get out of the house. Alarm bells had surely started to sound in cartel money laundering centers locally as well as in Bogotá, Mexico City, Barbados, and even Afghanistan. Those were guesses on Cinder's part, but they were educated ones.
He went back to the boy's room and shrugged. The boy would have to start over. He picked up the still unconscious child, placed him in the back of the pickup and pulled out into the driveway. He momentarily thought about taking the boat, but shook off the idea. Keeping anything traceable would endanger Drake. He could not risk it.
Cinder then went back in, verified the first part of his programming had completed its cycle, and pulled the pipe for the natural gas fireplace out of the wall and closed the door to the garage. He knew it would not take long for a spark to ignite the ever increasing levels of natural gas. He pulled out at a slow speed, turned off the cul-de-sac, and drove toward the city. A couple of minutes after he hit the main highway taking him back into town, a spark from the automated dishwashing unit was enough to cause the imminent explosion. Windows blew outward giving the fire needed oxygen. Within minutes the whole house was nothing more than a raging inferno.
This chapter is dedicated to my four legged companion of over a decade. He passed on March 2, 2012.
He was the finest animal I had ever known let alone owned and he will be missed by many.