David B. Coe
The silence between my dad and me drowned out the rumble of the pickup’s engine and the crunch of gravel and sand beneath our tires. He rocked in his seat with the bouncing of the truck, his sun-spotted hands resting on his thighs, hot wind from the open window tousling his white hair. His eyes, the same shade of gray as mine, but glassy, were trained on the washboarded track before us. I wondered how much of what he saw actually reached him.
This camping trip had struck me as a good idea when first I thought of it. My father needed a change of scenery from his trailer and the small, dusty plot of land surrounding it. I was eager to escape the Phoenix traffic and the perpetual cloud of brown smog that hung over the city. And as owner, president, and principal investigator for Justis Fearsson Investigations, Inc., I could take time off whenever I wanted. As long as I was willing to sacrifice the income. And I was; I needed a break. A few days in Sonoran Desert National Monument would do us both some good.
I knew the risks when I made the arrangements. Only now, though, confronted with the reality of Dad in the midst of one of his unresponsive episodes, did I allow myself to contemplate what it might be like to be alone with him for two days if he spent the entire time halfway catatonic.
My dad had been a burned-out old weremyste for about as long as I had been casting spells. For three nights out of every month, for upwards of fifty years, he had endured moon phasings, descending into psychosis even as his magic strengthened beyond his control. Each night of each phasing was both unnervingly unique—the pull of the moon fueling new delusions and hallucinations—and numbingly familiar. I knew this, because I had been enduring phasings of my own for more than fifteen years. And eventually they would leave me as addled and insane as they had my father.
“How are you doing there, Pop?” I glanced his way, gauging his reaction. Not that there was much to gauge. He said nothing. His gaze didn’t waver from the rutted road. “You getting hungry?”
A frown creased his brow, which was something at least. But he didn’t say a word, or nod or shake his head.
Two days with the wooden man. Maybe I’d be better off turning around. I didn’t, of course. I’d made our plans; I was going to stick with them. We Fearsson men could be pretty stubborn. If my dad was going to sit there saying nothing, I was going to keep driving, no matter the consequences. Sometimes I questioned whether we really needed the phasings to make us nuts.
We followed the road as far into the Maricopa Wilderness as it would take us before stopping at the base of gentle rise, its slopes covered with huge saguaro cacti, chain-fruit chollas, creosote and bursage and palo verde trees.
“How does this look?” I asked.
He still stared out the windshield, but he appeared more alert. He knew we were somewhere new. His eyes followed the flight of a red-tailed hawk as it glided along the ridge in front of us, and he flexed a hand, perhaps missing the pair of old Leica binoculars that usually rested in his lap.
“This seem okay, Pop?”
He dipped his chin once.
I climbed out of the truck, watched as he did the same.
I dug his binoculars out of his bag, pulled a folding chair from the back of the pickup, and set it angled southward so he could look toward the Southern Maricopas and Sand Tank Mountains. Late afternoon sun gilded the peaks and deepened the purple shadows in the clefts and crags of the rock faces.
While he sat and watched for birds, I set up our tent and a table for the camp stove and water containers. Every now and then he’d call out the name of whatever bird crossed his line of sight.
“'Nother goddamned raven.”
He did this all the time, even when he was out of it and totally uncommunicative in every other way. It was a verbal tic, something so deeply ingrained he didn’t even think about it, like scratching an itch. He wasn’t talking to me so much as he was merely talking. And yet I took comfort in the sound of his voice, in the reassuring certainty of his pronouncements.
When he said “Eagle,” I paused in what I was doing to admire the enormous bird as it circled above us, its wings splayed, its tail twisting in the warm breeze.
It soared overhead for some time before disappearing over the ridge. I glanced at my dad, but he was still watching the spot where he had last seen the bird.
I went back to preparing our dinner. The air had already started to chill with the setting of the sun, but still the ice in our cooler would only last through tomorrow morning. So tonight we would feast: steaks, fresh tomatoes, cold beer. Tomorrow we’d make do with the prepackaged rice dishes and beef jerky.
This night’s meal helped my father considerably, as food often did. After a few slices of tomato and a couple of bites of steak, he roused himself, reminding me of a dog waking up from a long nap.
“I don’t remember getting here,” he said, swiveling in his chair, taking in our surroundings.
“Yeah, you’ve been pretty much out of it all day.”
“Sorry about that.”
I lifted a shoulder, smiled. “You’re here now.”
“Steak’s good. Tomatoes, too.” He sipped his beer. “And this. Thanks.”
An owl hooted from nearby, low and resonant.
“I knew that one.”
And so it went. Neither of us said a lot, but when my dad spoke now it was to me rather than at me. He even helped me clean our plastic camping plates. But he went to bed early. Odd as it seemed, spending much of the day barely functional left him more exhausted than any normal day would. I stayed out by the table, reading by the fading glow of the twilight sky. As stars emerged, I retrieved a couple of candles from the truck, lit them, and stuck them to the table using a bit of melted wax. I would have preferred a campfire, but BLM regulations prohibited them in the monument.
We had planned this trip with care, making sure it would coincide with the new moon, so as to be as removed from the influence of the full as possible. The sky darkened to black, and star glow suffused the night. I couldn’t see much beyond the circle of dancing light defined by the candles.
But in the middle of reading, I simply stopped and peered out into the darkness. I couldn’t say why. I don’t think I heard or smelled anything unusual, nor did I sense the cool tingle of a spell on my skin.
An instant after I looked up from my reading, the tent zipper trilled and my father crawled out, his hair sticking up, his eyes puffy. He’d been asleep.
“What is it?” he asked, taking an uncertain step in the direction I’d been staring. “Do you feel it?”
“I’m not sure what I feel. Something woke you?”
“Yeah. Don’t know what.” He tried to smooth down his hair.
A rustling in the creosote drew our gazes once more. I stepped away from the table—and the candles—trying to discern more in the darkness. My heart raced and I considered retrieving the handgun tucked under the front seat of the pickup.
A shadow shifted, in front of me and slightly to the left. I retreated, ceding the step I had taken seconds before. The shape before me was large, low to the ground. My first thought was that it might be a mountain lion. I opened my mouth to tell my father to get in the truck, but even as I did, the shadow coalesced, padded closer.
A wolf, female. Or else the largest coyote I’d ever seen. Yellow eyes, frosted fur of buff and rust. The ears were rounded, the snout blunt. Definitely a wolf. The federal and state fish and game services had been working to reestablish Mexican wolf populations in Arizona. Apparently they’d been more successful than I knew.
“That’s a were,” my father said.
Hearing this, I turned, though in my smarter moments I knew showing my back to any wild animal was an invitation to trouble. “How can you tell?”
He shrugged. “Dunno. I just can. It’s a were.”
“A werewolf? Seriously?”
He scowled. “You know it doesn’t work that way.”
I faced the wolf again. It remained exactly as it had been, eyes on me, shoulders hunched, one paw forward, as if caught in mid-stride.
A were. Weres were a bit like weremystes, and yet nothing at all like us. They were subject to the phasings; every month on the full moon and on the nights immediately before and after, they shifted to their animal forms. But other than that, they possessed no magic. They couldn’t cast spells or see portents of the future or ward themselves from enemies. And mythology and Hollywood movies notwithstanding, they couldn’t taint others and make them into weres with a bite, anymore than I could force someone to become a sorcerer by sinking my teeth into him. That was what my father meant when he said “it doesn’t work that way.” Werewolves were no different from any other were. When in the form of their totem beasts, they behaved largely as those animals would, although maybe with a bit more intelligence. Or less, I suppose, depending on the person.
I didn’t know a lot of weres personally; I wasn’t friends with any. But I had vague connections to plenty: friends of friends, weremystes with weres in their families. I’d heard of werecats, werecoyotes, wereowls, werebighorn, to name a few. But, perhaps ironically, I’d never encountered an actual werewolf, either in person or anecdotally. Until now, if my father was right.
“Assuming this really is a were—”
“It is,” he said.
“Assuming it is,” I began again, “why would she have shifted tonight? There’s no moon, no phasing. If there was, you and I wouldn’t be out here.”
Dad’s frown returned. Apparently I’d stumped him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a good question. A damn good one. But I swear to you this is a were.”
I studied the animal, knowing of no way to determine from an animal’s appearance whether or not it was a were. But I couldn’t deny that both my father and I had been tuned to the wolf before she reached us, before we could even see her. Maybe that meant something. It also occurred to me that the wolves released into the wild by state and federal biologists had been equipped with radio collars. This animal didn’t wear one.
I eased toward the truck, and the wolf followed me with her eyes, her massive head turning slowly. She growled low in her throat, but she didn’t raise her hackles or bare her teeth, which I took as a good sign.
Reaching the pickup, I opened the door with care, found the food bag, and pulled out a strip of dried beef. Jerky wasn’t exactly health food for wolves, but I meant this more as a peace offering than anything else. I tossed it in the were’s direction, and it landed a few feet in front of her. She eyed it, regarded me again, then crept forward, her stare swinging from me to the food.
When she was close enough, she took the beef in her teeth, appeared to decide that teriyaki flavored jerky was pretty darn tasty, and settled down on the dirt to gnaw on it.
Still moving slowly, I walked back to the table and sat. My father joined me there.
“Darnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“A wolf eating meat?”
The look he gave me took me back twenty years, to when he was still a sane cop working for the Phoenix Police Department, and I was a smart-ass kid, on the leading edge of my teens.
“You should be nicer to me. I’m not a well man.”
“You seem well enough right now.”
He nodded, watching the wolf. “Nothing like the arrival of a were to clear the mind.”
“Why are you so convinced—”
“I know weres.”
He said it in a way that made me think there was more to this than an old sorcerer understanding a branch of runecrafting lore.
He huffed a breath, eyes still on the animal. “There was a guy I knew when I was I on the job.” He glanced my way. “You were just a kid, barely walking and talking. Your mom and I were still doing okay, and I was holding it together well enough. I’d convinced myself I could stay a cop for as long as I wanted. It never even occurred to me . . . all that would happen later.
“Anyway, this guy—he was another detective. Johnny Paulson. Through everything, his name has stuck with me. He knew I was a weremyste, and he’d always say stuff to me. Cryptic stuff, like he wanted me to know that he knew, but wouldn’t let on to anyone else. So, for instance, the day after a phasing ended, he’d ask me about my days off in this knowing way. Or he’d send these weird looks my way whenever a group of us was discussing anything that was difficult to explain or even remotely related to magic. Stuff like that.
“It bothered me at first. It was kind of creepy. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to blackmail me, or if he was some sort of runecrafting wannabe. 'Cause I couldn’t see any magic on him at all.
“But then one morning, right after a phasing, he comes into work bearing the marks of a pretty severe beating. He’s limping, he has bruises and cuts all over his face and neck. He’s basically a mess. The other guys are giving him a hard time about it, asking if his old lady smacked him around, or if he got robbed and couldn’t find a real cop to help him out. Normal detective room razzing, you know? But the whole time, he’s watching me. Not in that knowing way this time, but scared, like he thinks I might say something to get him in trouble.
“So when I can, I pull him aside and ask what the hell really happened to him, and that’s when he tells me: He’s a were. Every month he drives north into the mountains and transforms into a deer. Most times it goes fine, but this time he was nearly taken by a mountain lion. Hence the bruises and cuts.”
“Geez,” I said, breathing the word and considering the wolf. She had finished her piece of jerky and was watching me, perhaps waiting for seconds. I walked back to the truck, retrieved another piece, and tossed it to her. She caught it on the fly and set to work on it.
Standing beyond the light of the candles, I thought I could see lights moving in the distance to the east. Headlights perhaps. I was also able to make out the rumble of engines. More than one. I hoped they wouldn’t come too close.
When I faced my dad and the were once again, I saw that the animal was staring eastward as well, her ears up. She growled again, her fur bristling.
“So did you and this guy become friends?” I asked.
“For a while, yeah. Once I understood how he knew I was a weremyste and why he was so interested in me, I wasn’t so suspicious of him. He was a loner—never married, didn’t have many friends, and I thought he was a little . . . off, if you know what I mean. So we weren’t close or anything. But we’d talk when we got the chance. And a couple of times he introduced me to other weres he knew. I’m really not sure why. Maybe he figured they must be as lonely as he was, and I might spend time talking to them, too. The truth is, that’s what happened. I hung out with all of them. Not a lot. But most months after the phasings we’d get together and talk. I learned a lot about what it means to be a were: the pain of their change, the frustration of being impacted by the moon that way, but not having spell magic. That sort of thing.
“And I suppose somewhere along the way I got a feel for what they’re like and how to recognize them.” He raised his chin, indicating the wolf. “That’s how I know this one’s a were.”
I gazed to the east again; those headlights and engines were drawing nearer, as unwelcome on this night as a monsoon rain. The were had gotten to her feet and was peering that way, too. She let out a low whine.
“What happened to your friend?” I finally asked. “Paulson. He still around?”
Dad shook his head. “No. He met the same fate as lots of weres who aren’t as lucky as our friend here, and aren’t at the top of the food chain. A few years after that first time he’d come back all bruised and cut, he didn’t come back from a phasing at all. The higher-ups in the department were pissed at him for missing work, but those of us who knew him were more scared than anything else. And with reason, it turned out. His body was found a few days later in some remote section of Prescott National Forest. He’d been badly mauled by a mountain lion. He was far from his campsite, and he had no clothes on, so the folks who found him didn’t quite know what to make of it. But those who knew him understood perfectly.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
I don’t think he heard me. “What the hell is all that noise?” he said, climbing to his feet and peering after those engines.
The vehicles were close now. I counted three of them—Jeeps with lights mounted above their windshields. The wolf let out a high bark and growled again: a full growl this time, her hackles up and her teeth bared. I expected her to bolt at any moment.
In addition to the headlights and windshield lights, the Jeeps all had spotlights mounted on them. And one had a three point buck roped to the hood.
“I don’t like this, Justis.”
“She doesn’t, either.”
“Poachers from the look of them.” Dad eyed the wolf. “I wonder if they’ve been after this girl.”
I nodded, agreeing that it was a possibility, and thinking as well that for a guy who’d been out of it earlier in the day, he sounded pretty lucid now.
I hurried to the pickup and pulled out my weapon, a Glock 22 .40. While there, I also grabbed my scrying stone, a small slice of sea green agate that I usually used for divination spells. I tucked the pistol into the back of my jeans, palmed the stone, and hurried to my father’s side. I didn’t want a confrontation, and I had no intention of starting one by waving a firearm in front of these guys. But I also wasn’t going to face them unarmed.
“You didn’t happen to bring an extra weapon along, did you?” Dad asked.
“Only the one, and I was hoping I wouldn’t need it.”
We didn’t have time to say more. The Jeeps pulled up to our campsite with a billowing cloud of dust that glowed red in the gleam of their headlights.
The wolf bared her teeth again, her ears lying flat.
I cast a warding over the three of us. Spells work best for me when I envision them in three elements, or sometimes seven. There’s power in numbers, three and seven in particular. For this spell, I used seven: our visitors, their rifles, which I could see outlined in the glare, the ammo in them, my father, the wolf, me, and a protective shield around us, keeping us safe in case they opened fire. The words themselves were unimportant. What mattered was my ability to visualize the conjuring and hold all the component parts in my mind.
I repeated the elements to myself six times, and on the seventh, released the magic. It settled over us like that dust. As it did, my father looked my way. So did the were.
“A warding,” I said, pitching my voice so both of them could hear.
Dad nodded, and I saw some of the tension drain out of the wolf’s stance.
The lights from the Jeeps shone in our eyes, silhouetting the men in them. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought each vehicle might have carried three people. I hoped the warding would hold.
I raised the stone, catching the glare with it, reflecting it back on the men arrayed before us, and shifting it so that it shone on each face.
“Hey!” one of them said, raising a hand to shield his eyes. “Stop that.”
“I will when you switch off your lights.”
They were white, dressed in camo. Most had beards, or at least three-day scruff, and almost all of them were what I might charitably describe as burly. All right, they were fat.
These weren’t drug runners, and chances were they weren’t professional poachers, either. They were a bunch of guys out hunting on federal land, in violation of at least a few BLM regulations. They had probably started by spotlighting deer and then got it in their heads to go after something bigger, more exciting. And to make the situation even better, I thought I could make out coolers in the back of all three Jeeps. Filled with cheap American beer, no doubt. Not only were they hunting at night, driving their Jeeps through the wilderness at excessive speeds, with loaded rifles in their hands, they were probably halfway to shit-faced.
But while they might not have been criminal masterminds, they were well-armed and there were nine of them. Several of them appeared to be eyeing the wolf.
It was hard to tell for certain, though, because those damn lights were still shining in our eyes. And so I kept the reflection from my stone on the face of the guy who’d told me to stop. I was stupid that way.
He had been holding his rifle with the barrel pointed up at the stars, but now he lowered it, leveling it at my chest. He didn’t raise the weapon to take aim, but his approximation was close enough, and he had his finger on the trigger.
“I told you to get that thing out of my eyes.”
I wanted to tell him that, in fact, the stone wasn’t in his eyes. Just the light it was reflecting. But I didn’t think he’d appreciate being corrected, and I wasn’t sure that cracking wise with what appeared to be a Mossberg Patriot bolt-action rifle aimed at my heart was such a great idea. Instead I went with uncompromising defiance.
“And I told you to shut off the goddamned lights.”
As I said, I’m not always the sharpest pencil in the box.
“I have a better idea,” said the driver of the second Jeep. “Why don’t you shut the fuck up, get that thing out of Dave’s eyes, and get the hell out of our way so that we can shoot that wolf we’ve been tracking.”
I cast a quick look at my dad, only to find that he was already watching me. He gave a small shake of his head, which could have meant, “hell no, we’re not giving up the wolf,” or “don’t be an idiot; there are nine of them and they’re all armed.”
I was betting on the former.
“Yeah,” I said, sporting a little frown. “I don’t think I’m going to do any of those things. But thanks for the suggestion.” The driver opened his mouth to say more, but I didn’t let him. “Killing wolves is illegal in Arizona. Spotlight hunting deer is illegal in Arizona; you didn’t use a spotlight when you killed that buck, did you?” A couple of the men exchanged glances. “It’s also illegal to hunt without a license. I assume you all have licenses.”
“What are you? A cop?”
I wasn’t about to tell him that I was a disgraced cop who’d had to leave the force due to “undisclosed psychological problems”—in other words, the phasings. But I hoped the implication would be enough to end our standoff.
“Well, actually . . .”
“Oh, shit,” another of the men said, “he is a cop.”
Dave, the guy with the rifle aimed at me, shook his head. “He’s lyin’. He’s no cop.”
I gazed back at him, not bothering to confirm or deny.
“The bitch is ours,” he said, pointing at the wolf with his free hand. “We’ve been tracking her for more than an hour. Give her up, and we’ll be on our way. You’ll have no trouble.”
“And if we don’t?”
He lifted a shoulder. “I don’t think you’re that dumb. You don’t want anything to happen to the old man.”
“He means me, right?” my dad said.
It was all I could do not to laugh out loud. “Yeah, I’m afraid so.”
“I had a feeling.”
I didn’t put much stock in my ability to scry the future, but none of the outcomes I could envision for this encounter were very good. Right now, only Dave had been bold enough to threaten us with a weapon, but that could change at any time, and if it did, we were in trouble. So I cast. Again, it might not have been the best idea, but there was no way I would allow them to hurt the wolf. I didn’t care whether or not she was a were. She didn’t deserve to be gunned down by these idiots.
Three elements to my spell this time—as simple as a spell could be. Dave’s hands, his rifle, my hands.
One moment he still held the weapon leveled at me; the next it had vanished from his grip and reappeared in mine.
“What the fuck!”
I glanced down at the rifle. It was light, well balanced. “Nice,” I said. I tossed it to my dad without looking, heard him catch it.
“Thanks,” he said.
I cast a second time, taking a rifle out of the hands of another guy in the third Jeep. This one was a Howa Hogue, and I didn’t like it quite as much. Of course, that was beside the point.
“How the hell did you do that?” asked the driver who’d earlier told me to shut up.
I replied with a cold smile. “How the hell do you think?” And for good measure, I cast again. One of the lights on his windshield rack, a rock on the ground at my feet, and the distance in between. The rock flew as if thrown by Sandy Koufax and shattered the light with a spray of glass and sparks.
“Now turn off those lights before I break every goddamned one of them.”
Again the men glanced at each other. After a few seconds, they shut off the windshield lights, though their headlights stayed on. That was fine with me. Now that the scrying stone was no longer reflecting that glare, I put it in my pocket.
“Much better,” I said. “Now you’re all going to back up, turn your Jeeps around, and drive away from here. Without the wolf.”
“We’re still seven to your two,” Dave said.
I resisted the urge to compliment him on his math skills. “Yes, you are. But do you really want this to come down to a fire fight?”
He stared back at me in a way that made me wonder if he did. For several seconds no one said a word.
Just when I thought he might relent, he grabbed a rifle from the guy sitting beside him, aimed, and squeezed off a shot at the were. I shouted a warning, which was lost in the deafening report of the rifle. The wolf flinched, but the bullet never touched her. It ricocheted off my warding with an incongruously soft flash of blue-green magic, and struck the grill of Dave’s Jeep. He’d been lucky. If he’d aimed any higher the shot would have rebounded on him.
The report continued to echo off the hills around us, repeating and fading for several seconds.
“What the hell, Dave?” one of the others said.
Dave could do little more than gape. I think he wanted to get out and check the front grill, but was afraid to come that close to me.
“You’re not going to kill this wolf,” I said. “Not tonight anyway. Now get out of here.”
“Are you, like, a witch, or something?” another man asked.
As before, I decided it would be rude to laugh. “Not a witch, no. I’m a weremyste.”
“Hey, I’ve heard of them,” came a voice from the third Jeep.
The guy sitting in front of this genius twisted around. “Well, then I guess you get a fucking gold star, don’t you?”
“Come on, Dave,” said the driver. “Let’s get going. We can find other game.”
Dave regarded me, clearly less sure of himself than he had been a short time before. “What about our weapons?”
“I don’t want this rifle, and my dad doesn’t want yours. We just want you away from here.”
To prove my point, I used another transporting spell to return the Howa Hogue I was holding to the guy from whom I’d taken it. I swear, he nearly wet himself when the weapon reappeared in his hands.
Still I could tell Dave wasn’t yet ready to give in. I’d seen guys like him when I was on the force: so full of themselves, so convinced that they were the toughest hombres on two legs that they never, ever backed down from fights, even when they were destined to lose. Most of them wound up doing time, or getting themselves killed.
“Yeah, whatever,” Dave said at last, breaking eye contact and dismissing the entire confrontation with a disdainful gesture. I had the distinct impression he was trying to convince everyone there he didn’t care one way or another about the wolf or my dad or me. I guess he figured we all had bad memories. He shoved the weapon he’d taken into the hands of the guy next to him. “Give me back my rifle already.”
My father opened the breech on the Mossberg and removed the free round and the magazine. And casting his own transporting spell he sent the weapon back to Dave. An instant later he cast again, and the bullet and magazine fell into the hunter’s lap.
Dave examined the weapon, perhaps checking it for damage or magical alteration. Then he met my gaze again. I pulled out my Glock. I didn’t aim it; I held it casually at my side. But I made certain he could see it.
His expression soured, tipped over into that bored look once more. “Let’s get going.” The way he said it, one might have thought this had been his intention all along.
The Jeeps backed into three-point turns and pulled away, raising enough dust to make me squint in the darkness, and to leave my teeth feeling gritty. We stood without moving, without speaking, marking their retreat. When the glow from their lights had dulled, and the revving of the engines had subsided to a whisper, my father stepped to the were and knelt.
He scratched her head, allowed her to lick his cheek.
“You’re a beauty, aren’t you?” he said.
I joined them. “You should stay here tonight,” I told the wolf, hoping she could understand me. “I don’t know how far the protection from my warding can stretch, but you should be safe if you stick close to us.”
She stared back at me, eyes luminous with candle glow and starlight.
“I can leave out a pair of a jeans and a T-shirt so that you’ll have something to wear in the morning if you change back.” I smiled. “I’m sorry, but this is my only pair of shoes.”
She answered with a high bark and licked my hand.
“I wonder why she took this form so long before the full moon,” my father said. “I wonder if somehow she can change at will.”
“Can weres do that?”
He shrugged, shook his head. “I don’t know. Yesterday I would have said no, but it makes about as much sense as any other explanation I can think of.”
I gazed after the Jeeps. I couldn’t hear them anymore, and full darkness had fallen over the desert once again. Except for the weapon I still held in my hand, there was nothing at all to indicate the hunters had been here.
I retrieved my book from the table. “Well, I’m going to turn in.”
“Okay,” my father said, still scratching the wolf’s ears. “I think I’ll sit out for a while.”
“You all right?”
“Fine,” he said. “But I’m awake, and I want to keep an eye out for a while, in case those guys double back and try to hurt her.”
I handed him the Glock. “Wake me if you need to.”
I walked to the truck, put the book on the front seat, and pulled out those spare clothes. The wolf watched me as I placed them on the table and crossed to the tent.
I feared I might have trouble sleeping—after a confrontation like the one we’d had with the hunters, it wouldn’t have been unusual for me to stay up half the night. But I was asleep almost as soon as I stretched out on my sleeping pad. I barely even woke when my father came in some time later.
I was awake with first light. I crawled out of the tent, doing my best not to wake my dad.
Dawn silvered the cacti and brush, and a few bright stars still shone in the brightening sky. Low in the east, the first hint of gold tinged the horizon.
The wolf was gone. So were the clothes I’d left out. Fresh footprints in the dirt—human, delicate—led away from our campground, winding past the prickly pear and chollas and up the small rise, where they vanished amid the rocks and saguaros. I considered following them to the top of the ridge; perhaps I could catch a glimpse of the were in her human form. But if she had wanted that, she would have waited to leave until we woke.
Instead I stayed where I was, brewed some coffee, listened as the cactus wrens and black-throated sparrows practiced their morning duets. And I waited for my father to wake.
Copyright © 2015 David B. Coe
David B. Coe is the author of many fantasy and contemporary fantasy novels and stories. His contemporary fantasy series The Case Files of Justin Fearsson begins with Spell Blind, and continues with latest entry His Father's Eyes. Coe lives with his wife, Nancy Berner, and their two daughters in Sewanee, Tennessee.