Some writers begin their story with a caveat that theirs is a work of fiction and that any resemblance to real people and events is entirely coincidental. This, however, is not a work of fiction, it is a true story. Every word of it. I swear (snicker), absolutely true. ;-)
Violence begets more violence, cruelty begets more cruelty. Someone said that life it just a competition where we all are trying to be the criminal instead of the victim. That's never more true than in the slums where a great number of people are motivated chiefly by appetite; where ignorance and poverty are poor substitutes for conscience and charity. Yet, like a lotus grows with its roots in the mud and its blossom in the sunshine, there are times when beauty sprouts and blooms in the foulest of neighborhoods.
Little Zane West was not a very strong boy. His body was a bit frail, his limbs were pale and thin, but he had a lovely face and a smile that was contagious, and when he flashed it at someone they automatically smiled back. His violet eyes were remarkable, both for their appearance and for the warmth they seemed to project. Zane was a pretty little nine-year-old, the only child of his single, hard working mother. Most people found him very appealing and easily likable for his pretty looks as well as for his personality. Zane genuinely liked other people; it was something that came naturally to him, and that affection shone forth whenever he talked to someone.
Another thing about Zane that attracted and surprised people was his artistic talent. Even at nine he was a rather outstanding artist and could capture a reasonable likeness of someone on paper in just a few minutes. The dingy little apartment where he and his mother lived was decorated with pencil and tempera paint creations taped to the walls in every room, decorations that did much to mask the dreariness of the place.
Zane was encouraged in his art by his mother, who hoped that someday he could use his talent to free himself from the poverty that currently trapped the both of them, and also by his teacher, Mr. Maples, who taught art at his elementary school. Mr. Maples saw in the boy a great potential and was amazed at how much happiness came through in his work, especially since his home life was so bleak. He provided Zane with paper, brushes and paints paid for from his own pocket since the school had few extra funds for things like that. The other students didn't seem to mind that Zane got special treatment because they, too, liked him.
That is to say, most of them liked him. There are always those others who are jealous or simply cruel, whose sole ambition in life seems to be trampling on the joy of other people; who seek to build their self-esteem, not by improving themselves, but by tearing down their neighbors. Zane's neighborhood had more than its share of bullies. Chief among them was Chuck Preston, the no-good son of a worthless father.
Chuck was had dropped out of school once he reached eighteen, even though he was only in the eighth grade. He was large, muscular and dirty, the perfect image of a bully. He learned his sadism from his old man who had made him fight other children from the time he was five. The intent of this early training was to make him into a real man, a son he could be proud of.
"You're gonna let that little bastard take that toy away from you? Hell, no, you're not. Kick his little ass or I'll kick yours", was the sort of thing young Chuck heard every day. It was easy to hurt the other children and he found that he liked to punch and kick them until they cried. Their parents complained but his dad always shut them up by promising to give them a dose of the same medicine. People avoided the Prestons as much as they could and Chuck had very few friends, which made him even more bitter and mean.
One of the people Chuck hated most was that damn little Zane West. The way he was always smiling and laughing, the way everyone talked so warmly about him and constantly praised him made Chuck sick. Zane was just a little fag, couldn't everyone see that?
Zane lived in the same building as Chuck and sometimes they would meet in the stairway. If no one was around Chuck would usually give the small boy a few bruises on his chest and back where no one could see them under his shirt. Zane always bravely dried his violet eyes before letting his mother see him.
Chuck was only one of the ugly aspects of his home life. The dirty, trash littered streets, the peeling paint inside and outside the buildings, the noise of the closely packed residents all took their toll on the young boy's enthusiasm for life at home. That and a thirst for knowledge was why he liked school so much.
One morning, in class, the teacher said, "Boys and girls, today we have a new student joining us. I want you all to welcome Jack Puline."
A scruffy looking boy with shaggy black hair, worn jeans and sneakers stood beside her, smiling at everyone. He had a mischievous, impish look to him that Jack liked. It surprised him when the boy looked directly at him and winked.
The teacher pointed him toward a desk, saying, "Why don't you sit there dear, beside Zane."
Jack plopped into the seat and gave Zane a big grin. Zane giggled and said, "Hi".
At recess Zane asked Jack, "Do you want me to show you around the school?"
"That would be great. Thanks."
"This is the cafeteria. You can buy your lunch here, but I always bring mine," said Zane, not wanting to admit to the new boy that his mom couldn't afford to buy his lunches.
"This is the library. I love it here. You can check out books and take them home."
"Do you read a lot?"
"Oh, yeah, I do."
"Down this hall is the principal's office."
"Hey, look at that picture on the wall there. That's pretty."
"You painted it? No way."
"Yeah," Zane said, feeling modest. "I did it for art class and Mr. Maples hung it up there."
"Wow, you're really good."
The pair of them went out into the playground. It was a large, fenced-in compound with a couple of small, stunted trees, some swings and slides and an area where a large group of boys were kicking around a ball. They settled under one of the trees and leaned against the trunk to talk.
Three other boys soon came swaggering along and stood over them. The biggest boy, Craig, was a troublemaker. He was in Zane's class but was three years older, having been held back more than once. He and his equally obnoxious henchmen, Todd and Deshawn, tried to be the rulers of the playground. Craig kicked Zane's feet and said, "Hey, art boy, give me your lunch money."
"I don't have any."
"Oh, yeah. Your mommy's too poor, ain't she?" He kicked Jack's foot and said, "Okay, asshole, you give me your lunch money."
Jack leapt to his feet, his fists clenched, and growled, "Why don't you try to take it from me, you ugly piece of crap?"
Craig stepped back in surprise. No one had ever stood up to him before and it caught him off guard. He looked around and saw a teacher watching them.
"You're lucky there's teachers around, you little shit, or I'd pound you," Craig said, trying to hide the tone of relief in his voice as he chickened out and led his gang off to intimidate someone easier.
"Wow, you're brave. Weren't you afraid of them?"
"Them? They're nothing. I'll kick their butts if they mess with me. I'll kick their butts if they mess with you, too."
That made Zane feel warm inside. He liked this new kid.
Zane and Jack became good friends and began to hang around together after school. Zane met Jack's parents and they were very nice people who seemed happy that Jack had made such a good friend. His dad looked a lot like Jack, only much taller and more muscular. He had the same smattering of freckles across his cheeks and nose, the same shaggy hair and the same mischievous smile. His mom was thin and pretty and she always had cookies or other snacks for them.
They lived on the same street as Zane but in a much nicer building. It was a few blocks away from Zane's apartment, still in the rough neighborhood but not so near the center. Together the two boys would go to the small nearby park or just hang at each other's place and talk.
A couple of months after school started there was an announcement about an art contest for all of the elementary schools in the city. Each grade would choose an artwork by one of its students and those would be judged along with the ones from the other schools and the winners would get a prize and their art would be printed in the newspaper. The winning art would also be framed and hung in the city library for a month so everyone could see them.
Mr. Maples was enthusiastic about Zane's chances of winning and he encouraged him strongly to do something new and special.
"Yeah, dude", Jack said, "You could totally win this thing. I know you could. How much is the prize?"
"The winner from each grade gets a thousand dollars, a thousand dollars. Just think, I could get my mom some new dresses and stuff."
"Yeah, and some new art supplies for you. So, what are you going to paint?"
"I don't know yet. Mr. Maples said he would give me some canvas panels and some acrylic paint to use, though. I won't have to use tempera paint so I can do something nicer than usual."
Zane's painting turned out even better than he hoped. He painted his friend Jack sitting under a tree in the park with sun shining through the leaves and dappling the grass around him with light. Jack was delighted with the picture and his parents were so impressed they offered to buy it from Zane after the show. Zane was moved by their offer but graciously told them that it was a gift for their son, his best friend.
Mr. Maples proclaimed that it was an excellent painting and that it should easily win for its category. Zane was hopeful, but very nervous. The winners were to be announced in the paper the following Saturday, an eternity away. He waited anxiously day after day until finally the day came. That morning he got out of bed and padded into the kitchen, yawning and still sleepy. His mom sat at the table with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. His heart raced when she looked up at him and then gave him a big, big smile. She turned the paper around so he could see it. There was a full color photograph of Zane's painting and the article said that the judges were especially impressed by it.
Everyone in the neighborhood was thrilled for him. The teachers were proud of him and the prestige he had brought to their school. Jack's father was proud too and said that he would drive them all to the library for the presentation ceremony and to see the paintings all hung.
While his parents waited in the car Jack went up the stairs to get Zane and his mother. Zane meanwhile had started down the stairs and found Chuck waiting for him one flight down.
"Hey, you little asshole. I got something for you," Chuck said sneeringly.
"Leave me alone, Chuck."
"I'll leave you alone. I'll leave you something else, too. Something purple", he laughed as he punched the little boy in the back. "And another one, and..."
"What's going on here?" Jack demanded angrily as he came up the stairs.
"Fuck off, asshole. We're just having a little fun", Chuck snarled. "You want a little of this?"
Chuck leaned over, drew back his fist and started to punch Jack, but the little boy swung quickly and his small fist connected with the big bully's nose. It made a loud pop and Chuck squealed in pain as blood spurted all over his shirt. He dashed back up to his apartment and slammed the door.
"Has that been going on for long?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, he always does it where no one can see the bruises."
Zane's mom came down and said, "What's going on? Where did that blood come from?"
"Chuck had an accident."
Later, Jack told his dad about the incident and his dad said that someone should keep an eye on that Chuck.
Chuck brooded over his bloody nose. It wasn't broken but it sure hurt and he was unused to feeling that kind of pain. The only person who had ever hit him was his father and he always used a belt. Of course, that hadn't happened for several years since Chuck had grown as tall as his dad.
For some reason, even though it had been Jack who delivered the blow, it was Zane that he blamed most. He was going to get even, too. He would teach that little prick a lesson, but he couldn't do it there in their building. No, it had to be somewhere else so no one could say that he had done it. The more he thought about it the angrier he became. He decided that he would break the little artist's arms and stomp his fingers. That would show him. He just had to wait for the right moment. After that he would take care of his little buddy.
Zane was feeling especially elated in the days after his victory. People were constantly congratulating him and that made him feel really happy. The check for the prize money had been put in the bank, but his mom let him keep out a hundred dollars to buy some art supplies. He secretly took part of it and bought her a bottle of some wonderful perfume and couldn't wait to give it to her.
The sky was getting dark and it was time to get home. Because of his excitement he didn't notice that he was being followed. Zane had lived in the neighborhood long enough to know to stay out of alleys; streets were safer with more people, but he was in a hurry and darted into the space between two buildings.
Chuck was more familiar with dark alleys and now, having slipped ahead of the smaller boy, he stood just inside the door of an abandoned old building waiting for his young prey to come skipping along. It was a perfect place for an ambush. He would jerk the little brat inside and stomp him. They were far enough from the street that no one would hear his cries. He waited in silence, listening for footsteps but what he heard was a creaking sound behind him. Turning to peer into the darkness he caught a glimpse of something swiftly moving.
"What the f...." was the last thing he ever said.
Zane's mom was delighted with the perfume and put some on immediately. The fragrance filled the room with the scent of Mimosa blossoms and made them both feel happy, like a window had opened into another world where it was springtime.
It took about a week for Zane to notice that Chuck wasn't hanging around anymore. He cautiously asked a couple of people about it and the man who ran the newspaper stand said, "His old man says he took off. Run away. He ain't seen him in a week. Good riddance, I say. Boy was nothing but a troublemaker like his old man. I hope he never comes back."
Zane was relieved. He too hoped that Chuck would never come back.
It isn't always easy for artists to find inspiration. Zane felt that he needed a new perspective on the city so he decided to see how things looked from the roof of his building. Someone had broken the lock on the door at the top of the stairs a long time ago, but Zane had never ventured up to the roof before. He had always been afraid he would run into Chuck. Now he delighted in the view before him, row after row of rectangular shapes that faded into the distance, the winding river shining under the sun, the far off mountains. There were even boats on the river. Everything looked so different from up on the roof.
On his way back down the stairs he slowed as he passed Chuck's apartment. The door was slightly open and he could hear Chuck's dad, Roy, talking to someone on the phone. Pausing long enough to hear him say something about a delivery he quickly decided it was something he didn't want to know about so he moved on quickly.
The man inside the apartment saw a flash of movement through the narrow opening of the door and walked over to peer out. He saw Zane dashing into his apartment below and wondered if the boy had been listening. A nosy kid like that could be a real nuisance.
Ever since Jack had defied Craig in the playground Craig had avoided Zane whenever Jack was around, which was most of the time. Now he had heard about the prize money from the art contest and he felt he deserved a share of it so he told his pals that he was going to collect on all of the lunch money that Zane had been denying him.
Jack was in a stall in the boys' room one afternoon and overheard Todd and Deshawn telling another boy about a gun that Craig had.
"It's an automatic, a Glock. He got it from under his dad's bed. You should see it, it weighs a ton. He let me hold it," said Todd.
"Me too," said Deshawn.
"What's he gonna do with it?"
"Says he's gonna rob somebody. Now don't you go telling anybody. It's a secret."
Jack was no dummy. He knew someone who had recently come into a bit of cash and he was worried about his friend.
A couple of days later Zane stayed late at school to help Mr. Maples decorate the hall for Christmas. It was cold and snowy when he stepped out to go home and Zane was looking at the ground, watching his feet so he wouldn't slip on the ice. As he passed the corner of the building Craig stepped into his path.
"Hey, punk. You owe me something."
"I don't owe you anything, Craig. Now let me by."
"You haven't been paying your playground tax, Zaney-poo. You owe me for a couple of years' worth of lunch money. Now that you're rich it's time to pay up. I figure you owe me half of your prize money."
"I'm not giving you anything."
Craig pulled a shiny pistol from his coat and said, "Oh, I think you will. Now, you're gonna get that money for me or I'm gonna put a bullet in your mom's head and then one in yours. Get it? If you tell anybody, I'll kill you."
Before Zane could say anything they both heard a low growl. From around the corner of the building a strange, snarling beast suddenly sprang and landed in front of Craig who recoiled and fell backward on his butt in the snow. He raised the gun and aimed it at the animal but the creature's gaping jaws suddenly snapped forward and bit his arm clean through. Craig's severed hand, still clutching the gun, and forearm fell to the icy sidewalk while he clutched at the remainder of his arm. He screamed hysterically as his blood spurted in long jets, leaving streaks of bright red in the snow; then he passed out.
The beast turned and looked at Zane and said, "Well, that could have gone better." Zane fainted dead away.
He awoke to find Jack kneeling over him rubbing snow in his face and saying, "Wake up, Zane. You gotta wake up."
Zane sat up and saw Craig lying in a puddle of blood, his arm lying beside him.
"Jack, we gotta get outta here. There's a monster, Jack. I saw it, it tried to eat Craig. We gotta go. Come on."
"That's right, we gotta get moving. Just let me get my coat back on."
Hand in hand they raced to Zane's place which was closer. Zane sat trembling with terror on his bed while his friend put his arm around him to comfort him.
"You won't believe it, Jack. It, it looked like a werewolf. A short, little werewolf."
"Actually, I do believe it."
"You saw it?"
"Not exactly. Look, now don't freak out, but that was me."
"What? You? I don't understand."
"Try to remember, did anything seem familiar about it?"
"Oh my God, it talked to me. In, in your voice. It was you!"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you, dude. I'm a werewolf."
Zane drew back in fear. "Are you going to kill me?"
"Kill...? What? Of course not. You're my friend. I was trying to protect you, buddy. I heard that Craig had a gun and I waited so I could make sure you were safe. I was just going to scare him good but he tried to shoot me and I just reacted. I didn't mean to bite him so hard."
"Is he dead?"
"No, I tied off the wound and stopped the bleeding. I'm sure someone has called the police by now. He's probably in a hospital getting fixed up. I just wonder what he's going to say, though. If he says he got bit by a werewolf they'll think he's nuts, and he's gonna have to explain about that gun in his hand."
"Oh, God. I'm having trouble getting this. There's no such thing as werewolves."
"Sure there is. Werewolves, vampires, witches, everything. You wouldn't believe what all is out there."
"Don't you have to wait for a full moon to change?"
"No, that's just old legend stuff. We can turn any time we want to."
"Can, can I see? Prove it to me."
"Are you sure? It's kinda scary until you get used to it."
"Okay. I have to take my clothes off though. Mom gets pissed if I rip too many shirts and jeans."
Jack stripped quickly, tossing his clothes on the bed. As he stepped out of his underwear he said, "Ready? Here goes." The air around him seemed to waver and ripple, like the air over hot pavement, then it happened so quickly that Zane couldn't see the actual transformation. In a flash Jack was covered in hair, his face transformed into a short snout with wicked sharp teeth and his hands sprouted tough looking claws.
"What do you think? Cool, huh?"
Zane fainted again.
A little later he came to and found Jack, clothed and back to normal, sitting on his bed looking at him. "Thought I was going to have to throw a glass of water in your face like they do in the old movies. Too bad, I've always wanted to do that to somebody. You okay?"
"Yeah, I guess so. It's a lot to take in, if you know what I mean."
"Huh? Oh, sure. Of course. You'll always be my best friend, no matter what. We can't let a little, uh, fur come between us." His thoughts were racing around in his head as he scrambled for something more to say. "I noticed that your fur is the same dark brown color as your hair."
"Yeah, we got a cousin who's a red head. You should see him when he changes. It's a riot."
"Does it hurt when you, you know...?"
"No. Not at all. It feels great after I've changed, though. Like I'm free and powerful."
"And your folks know?"
"Sure. They're proud of me."
"Dude, you know you've got a tail?"
"I know, and I'm the only nine-year-old in our school with hair down there," Pete said, pointing to his groin.
"Ha, ha, you've got hair everywhere. Even on your butt."
They both began to laugh.
It took a long time for Zane to ask all his questions, but by the time he finished he was feeling a lot better about the whole situation.
News spread quickly about the little boy who was found with a severed arm and a big gun. The police had lots to ask him but Craig was in the hospital, and in shock. He wouldn't be talking to anyone for a while. Unfortunately the doctors were not able to reattach his arm.
There were all sorts of speculation about what could have happened. The police tended to believe it was some sort of example of gang related violence, while some people thought that there was a sword wielding madman running around. Many others believed that a big dog had attacked him because there were paw prints in the snow, but those were mostly obliterated by the footprints of people's shoes.
Zane felt a little bad about Craig's arm, but not too bad. After all, Craig had threatened to kill him and his mother and he might actually have done it. For that and for several years of torment that Zane and the other children had endured, Craig deserved to be punished. So Zane looked on it as a good thing.
Zane took Jack to the roof to show him the great view.
"I bet I can see a hundred miles from up here", Jack said, enthusiastically.
"Yeah, you can even see the mountains in that direction."
"Wow. I love the mountains. Sometimes my dad takes us all camping up there. You'll have to come with us next time."
"Really?" said Zane, "That would be awesome. I've never been to the mountains."
"Hey, draw my picture."
"Okay. Let's get the river behind you. Perfect, now, sit real still."
They posed and drew for more than an hour before Jack got restless.
Looking at the portrait in progress Jack said, admiringly, "Dude, how do you do that? You make it look so easy".
"I don't know. It just happens. The world is so beautiful that it fills me up and sometimes I feel like I'm gonna bust so I have to draw and paint to get it all out."
"You think the world is beautiful? We're in a slum."
"I know. It doesn't matter, though. There's beauty everywhere, you just have to see it. I can't explain it."
"You are one special kid."
"Thanks. You know, you are too. You're the best friend I've ever had. I... I love you, Jack."
"I love you, too, Picasso. Don't get all mushy on me though," Jack said with a big grin.
While Zane worked on the background of the picture Jack explored the roof. There were some old bird cages where someone had long ago kept homing pigeons. They were still covered in dried bird poop and rotten straw. Someone had been using part of the roof to store or discard junk.
There was an old wooden shed of some sort but the door was fastened securely with a new lock and the windows were painted over from the inside so Jack had no idea what it was for. Jack walked around the shed looking for a way to peek inside and when he didn't find a opening he decided to try a different approach. He undressed and quickly morphed into his furry form. With extra strength and long claws he pried a board from the back of the small building and was rewarded with a view of the interior. Not much light filtered in past the painted windows but there was enough to show him several large, wooden crates stacked against a wall. This stoked his curiosity so, since he had come that far, he decided to go a bit farther and pulled off another board. Squeezing through the opening Jack next used his helpful claws on one of the crates. The smell of metal was very strong, even before he began to open the box. It took some doing but he managed to pry a lid up enough to reveal its contents.
He could see that it was full of guns, large rifles, all glossy and new. His fur bristled in fear and anger. Guns were always bad news and Jack wondered who had stashed them there. He would have to tell his dad so they could decide what to do. The police would probably have to be called but he certainly couldn't be involved. There would be too many questions. Jack slipped back out the way he had come in and redressed.
"You about through there, buddy?" he asked Zane.
"Just finishing up. Where were you?"
"Just looking around. Hey, let's go to my place and see what mom has for snacks."
Roy Preston locked his door and leaned against it. His heart was pounding like he had run a marathon. With his ear pressed to the wood he listened for the two boys to go past on their way back down.
He had made it back to his place just before they came in from the roof so they had no idea that they had been spied upon. The burly, grizzled man still couldn't believe what he had seen, a damn werewolf. Sure he had been drinking, it was afternoon, but he wasn't so drunk that he was imagining things like werewolves. It was real, that little bastard had turned into a hairy little monster, and not only that, he had been in the shed and seen the guns.
His customers wouldn't be happy about their discovery. The Mafia didn't reward carelessness. There was just one thing for it. He would have to get rid of both those little bastards before they spilled the beans. But how to do it? How do you kill a werewolf? They were supposed to be tough. Fortunately, he had the internet. You can find anything on Google.
In a basement apartment in a nearby building a thin little man puttered around with some chemistry lab equipment. It was like something out of an old movie, beakers and flasks of colored chemicals cluttered the tabletop, a bottle of red liquid bubbled over a small flame and the smell of sulfur fouled the air.
The man was pouring something from a test tube into the red liquid, carefully adding it drop by drop, when a sudden pounding at the door made him squeal and jerk in fright. A drop from the test tube fell on the table and began to smoke. Cursing, he put the acid back down and ran his fingers through his thinning, oily hair. "Who is it?" he barked angrily.
"Roy. Open up you damn little rat."
Roy stepped into the cluttered room, his hulking frame towering over the other man, who cowered and cringed slightly. "What can I do for you, Roy?"
"I need something, but I gotta tell you, Greaser, this is just between the two of us. Nobody else can know about it, see? If I find out you told anybody I'll rip your head off. Got it?"
The man flinched and softly snarled at the insulting nickname. "I got it, Roy. I got it. When have I ever betrayed your trust? I'm as secretive as a Sphinx. Now, just what is it you need?"
"A... a silver bullet."
The man raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Werewolf trouble, Roy?" he asked with a hint of amusement in his voice.
"Never you mind. Can you make one?"
"Certainly, I can make one. I'll need to know what caliber and I'll need the silver. I'm fresh out."
"I've got what you need right here. How long will it take?"
"It'll be ready tomorrow night. Come back then."
Jack felt that Zane would be safer not knowing about the illegal stash of firearms hidden on the roof, at least until someone older could be informed and the situation remedied. He was sure his dad would know what to do.
"Mom, when will dad be home?"
"Oh, honey, your dad had to go out of town for a couple of days for his job. He didn't find out until this morning and there wasn't time to tell you good-bye. I'm sorry. What is it you need?"
"Rats. Look, there's something bad going on at Zane's building. I found a bunch of boxes of guns in a shed up on the roof. I don't know what it means but there's something dangerous going on."
"Well, you boys stay off that roof, you hear me? Don't go getting yourselves in trouble. Who knows what can happen."
"Aw, Mom, I can take care of myself."
"You heard me, Son. Wait until your father gets back and we'll let him decide what to do. Meanwhile, stay off that roof."
Roy held the two silver bullets in the palm of his hand. Greaser had polished them up nice and shiny and they gleamed brightly in the sunlight from his open window. He loaded his big revolver with four regular bullets and the two new ones, rolling the chambers so that the silvers would be the first two shots to be fired.
Now he had a nice surprise for that little monster. He had other plans for the other kid, Zane. He was a little hottie and Roy had been thinking about him for a while. He was getting ripe now and was about ready for plucking and fucking.
The first boy of that age that Roy had ever molested was his own son, Chuck.
Boy, how he squealed the first time, but he got used to it soon enough. He was a hot little piece until he got big enough to say no and began to fight back. After getting a couple of black eyes Roy decided it was just too much trouble and found a couple of other kids that weren't so unmanageable. This little Zane would be fun to screw for a while. Of course, then he would have to off him, but that was not a big deal. His thin little neck would snap easily. Besides, what was one more?
Since the police hadn't been here to arrest him, he assumed that the boys hadn't reported what they had found. He had to take care of them before they did. That meant luring them back to the roof and it needed to be done today. All afternoon he listened for them, sitting by his slightly open door. When he heard their voices and laughter in the stairwell he sat up straight. They went into Zane's apartment and closed the door loudly behind them. Roy waited for a couple of minutes and took his cell phone into the hall. As he descended to the floor below him he pretended to talk on his phone, loudly so that everyone could hear him.
"That's right. I moved the merchandise last night. It's all gone. Sure they were happy with them. Yeah, I made a fortune. Okay, you'll get your share, don't worry. I'm just glad to have them out of here."
He continued in that vein as he went down.
Zane and Jack could hear him clearly as he passed their door. Zane ignored him because he didn't know what sort of merchandise Roy was talking about. Jack got a troubled look on his face. Roy must have been talking about the guns. He had hoped that his dad would be back in time to help them, but if the guns were gone then it was too late to do anything about them. What if Roy had been talking about something else, though? He needed to go back to the roof to see.
"Zane, I think I left my pocket knife up on the roof yesterday. Do you want to go help me look for it?"
"I didn't know you had a pocket knife."
"Yeah, it was new. I forgot to show you. Come on, let's go look."
They didn't know they were being watched from below as they went up.
"Where do you think you lost it?"
"I don't know. You look around over there and I'll look behind this shed."
Jack slipped out of his clothing and changed into his fur suit. As soon as he pried the boards from the back of the shed again he smelled the aroma of iron and knew the guns were still there. He eased inside to make sure. Suddenly he heard Zane shouting and he raced back out to see what was wrong.
"Let me go! Stop! Ow, what are you doing?" Zane was yelling. Jack peeked around the corner of the shed and saw that Roy had him in a choke hold and was pointing a pistol at his head.
"Alright, wolf boy! I see you peeking around there. Come on out where I can see you better or I'll blow your little friend's head off."
Jack gasped and jumped back. He had to think. If he tried to rush the man he wouldn't make it before Roy pulled the trigger. Could he sneak around from the other side? His heart was racing and a low, dangerous sounding growl came from his throat. He called out, "What do you want?"
"I told you what I want. Now get out here before I pull this trigger."
Roy knew he had two chances to kill the monster so he wanted him to be in the open where he could have a clear shot. He couldn't afford to miss. He tightened his grip on Zane's neck and caused him to cry out in pain. "I'm not fucking around you little monster. Get out here now."
Jack steeled himself. He had never been shot before and while he knew a bullet couldn't kill him it would still hurt really badly. What choice did he have, though? The only thing he could think of to do was to rush the man, take a bullet or two, and hope he still had the strength to overpower him. Having made up his mind he said, "Okay, let him go, I'm coming out."
"I'll let him go when you're out in the open so I can see you."
Roy was nervous. He really hoped this silver bullet thing would work. He watched as Jack stepped out from the shed and aimed his gun at him. At the same time a dark shadow fell across him and he heard a scraping sound behind him. Turning his head to look, he saw something that made his heart almost stop. A tall, hairy monster was towering over him, its long fangs dripping saliva, razor sharp claws reaching for him and glowing yellow eyes burning fear into his brain.
"Ah-h-h-h-h. What the hell are you?" Roy managed to scream.
"I'm his father, you fuck wad. Let's see if you can fly." The huge beast wrapped a powerful paw around Roy's neck and lifted him into the air. Zane fell to the roof as Roy released him, trying to pry the thing's grip from his throat. With one great heave Roy was thrown through the air and over the side of the building. He fell six floors and bounced off the lid of the dumpster in the alley below onto the filthy pavement.
"Dad, dad, I'm so glad you're here." Jack hugged his father tightly for a moment before turning to help Zane. "Are you okay, Zane? Did he hurt you?"
Zane was scared and crying. His neck hurt but he wasn't bleeding. He was, however, terrified at seeing Jack's dad in his werewolf form.
"I didn't know your dad was a werewolf, too."
"Sure, where do you think I got it from?"
Mr. Puline quickly changed back into his normal self. His sweatpants were a torn rag around his waist and his shredded shirt was lying on the roof behind them. "I didn't have time to strip. This is why I wear sweatpants so much. Shame about that shirt, though, I really liked it."
Jack was pulling on his own pants and said, "Mom said you were out of town. How did you get back so soon?"
"Your mom called me and told me what you had found so I rushed home. I can't believe you stumbled on this stuff. I've been looking for this for months now."
Zane was confused. "What do you mean? Looking for what?"
Mr. Puline said, "Zane, we have something to explain. I'm an agent with the FBI and we've been trying to track down the source of a bunch of illegal arms shipments that have been coming from this city. I took my family undercover to live in this neighborhood because I knew I was getting close. I thought I had hit a dead end until you boys found the stash of weapons up here."
Jack said, "I didn't tell you because I didn't want to put you in any danger. That shed is full of rifles. Sorry, dude. I guess I put you in danger after all."
"Jack, you risked your life for me. You were gonna let him shoot you."
"Aw, he couldn't hurt me. I mean, he could hurt me, but bullets can't kill me. Unless they're silver, that is."
Mr. Puline was examining the dropped revolver and said, "Jack, take a look at this." In his hand was six bullets and two of them were silver. "You took a big chance, son, after your mom told you to stay away from here."
"Sorry, dad, I really am. Good thing you got here when you did," said Jack, looking a bit sick.
Zane said, "You killed Roy?"
"Yeah, I'll have to explain that to my boss. He's not going to be happy about it, especially since I had to take out Chuck, too."
"You killed Chuck?"
"He was about to kill you. I was following him after Jack told me about the incident in the stairway. Chuck was waiting for you when you took that shortcut through the alley, but I got him first. It's no big loss, believe me. Chuck and his father were both too evil to live, as far as I'm concerned."
Zane's life changed after that. Because of the records they found in Roy's apartment the FBI was able to arrest a whole slew of people and put a stop to a major source of illegal arms. Once the case was wrapped up there was no need for the Pulines to continue living in the slums so they moved out to a beautiful house in the country.
Mr. Puline arranged for Zane and Jack to collect some reward money, since they had actually been the ones to find the merchandise that led to the closing of the case.
On one level Zane was happy for his friend, yet on another level he was deeply sad to see him move away. He moped around the apartment for a day or two while his mother watched him. If he had looked up he might have seen a small smile tweaking the corners of her mouth whenever he would let out a big sigh.
Finally she said, after receiving a phone call, "Zane, I've got some news. Mr. and Mrs. Puline have been helping me with something. How would you feel if we moved from here?"
"Move? Yeah, where to? How can we?"
"I've used your share of the reward money to buy us a house."
"Really? Where is it?"
"It's in the country. It's the one next door to Jack and his parents."
Zane felt a little dizzy. "Oh my God!!" he screamed. "You mean it? Really? Oh my God! We're gonna live next door to Jack? Oh, thanks Mom, thanks so much."