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Shadow of the Moon (Chapter Four)

"They're just wolves," Will said.

"Maybe."

They weren't behaving like wolves. They sat in a semi-circle, patient, more like well-behaved dogs expecting a treat than wild animals, their attention focused on the windows but not on us. They were waiting for something, or perhaps, someone.

"We can't shoot them," Will continued.

"No?"

"No," he said firmly.

As a member of the wolf clan, Will had a soft spot for the species. According to Ojibwe legend each clan member–bear clan, badger clan, stork clan and so on–was a descendant of the clan's totem animal. Which would make Will part wolf. However, since many of his relatives had started to slobber and slaver and chase us everywhere we went with the intent of killing us, he'd changed his opinion a bit.

"If they're really wolves," he continued, "they're endangered."

Not too long ago, the wolves had recovered enough in Wisconsin to be taken off the endangered species list, but recently they'd been put back again. This might have something to do with Edward's penchant for shooting first and discovering if the beast were wolf or werewolf later. I preferred Edward's way of doing things myself, but Will–being Will–disagreed.

Somewhere in the clinic a bell chimed – soft not harsh – if the place hadn't been as silent as the proverbial tomb, we wouldn't have heard it.

Outside, the wolves cocked their heads then got to their feet and advanced. A chill wind seemed to swirl through the hall, though not a window, not a door, was open.

The way the animals moved–in tandem, exactly the same–freaked me out. They resembled computerized wolves on a movie screen, one wolf cloned over and over. If it weren't for their physical differences – brown, black, ash, white, auburn fur – I would think they were clones, which would be another problem entirely.

As the wolves neared the clinic, Will tensed.

"They can't get in," I said. "No thumbs."

Doors were a problem for the quadrupedal. Thank God.

"I doubt that's going to be an issue much longer."

The outlines of the beasts shimmered in the half-light, becoming indistinct, then solidifying again. Each time they reshaped a little differently. Within minutes the back door opened and dozens of people filed inside.

Stark naked, but they didn't seem to mind, probably because they didn't seem to know. They moved with a shuffling, zombie-like gait, and as they did they repeated the word "boxenwolf" like a litany.

I lifted my gun; Will shoved it back down. "You can't.

"You saw them shift. They're werewolves."

"Are they?"

Before I could stop him – he'd always been quicker than spit – Will snatched my knife and laid the flat of the blade against the nearest person's arm. I winced, expecting smoke, flames, screaming agony – the usual response when silver touched a werewolf in any form–but nothing happened.

Will flipped the knife end over end, catching it nimbly by the blade and handing it back to me with a quirk of his brow that very clearly mimed, Told you so.

Lucky for him, he didn't say it.

"Hey!" I set the heel of my hand against the nearest naked chest–a middle-aged guy with an impressive spare tire. "What's your name?"

"Boxenwolf," he replied, and took another step.

"Hold on a second." I kept my hand right where it was,

The man didn't even glance my way before he shoved my chest so hard I flew several feet and crashed into the nearest wall.

"Damn." I shook my head, freezing mid-shake when pain rocketed through my eye sockets and settled in my back teeth. Every time that happened, it hurt.

"You okay?" Will stood over me, concern in his eyes. But he knew better than to fuss. Or help me up after I'd been knocked down. That only made me feel more of an idiot.

"No." I clambered to my feet, rubbing at the sore spot on my chest. "That's gonna leave a mark."

"It always does." Will turned his attention to the shuffling, mumbling mass of patients. "Strength like that isn't quite human."

"Ya think?" I muttered. "So what are they?"

"Boxenwolves."

I sighed. He was right, but– "What's a boxenwolf?"

Will shrugged.

The residents separated, heading into the empty rooms. I strode to a doorway and watched as an elderly woman methodically put on her patient gown and climbed into bed. Closing her eyes, she appeared to sleep. Will peered into the next empty room.

"Asleep?" I asked. He nodded.

I moved to the bedside and tapped the woman on the shoulder. "Ma'am?"

Slowly she opened her eyes; confusion filled them. "Are you the new nurse?"

"No, I'm–uh–Jessie."

"How nice." She gave me a sleepy smile. She didn't seem evil.

"Do you know why you're here?" I asked.

"To get well."

"What's wrong with you?"

She blinked at the question, which I suppose had been rude, but rude had always been my true middle name.

"I'm crazy, child. Didn't you read the front door?"

"You don't seem crazy."

"Does anyone?" she murmured, and went back to sleep.

In my experience the crazy always seemed very crazy. But, also in my experience, crazy often went hand-in-hand with psychotic, murderer–be it werewolf or human.

I returned to Will. "We've got to figure out what they are." I pulled out my cell phone. "I'll call Elise."

Elise Hanover, Edward's right-hand woman, was a scientist who knew quite a bit about what made werewolves tick. I pressed the speed dial.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

Juggling the phone, I reached for my gun. Will already had his. Together we trained our weapons on the man who emerged from the shadows.

He was a lot younger than I expected, although what I expected, I don't know–certainly not the slim, tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed guy in a white coat. Beneath it he wore a blue shirt and a yellow tie, the contrast emphasizing his own coloring.

"Who the hell are you?" I demanded, ever Miss Manners.

"I should be asking you that question. This is my clinic."

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