New Berwick, Illinois--a mystic place where witches rule under the watchful eyes of the Dominions.
(Recap from previous chapters)
Dr. Lorac warned Jewel and River, that pathologist, Charlton Daniels, planned to deliver a tube of werewolf blood taken from the little Sooner boy to the state lab. The wolves, headed by River, tried to trick Charlton by positioning a beautiful woman pretending to have car trouble in his path. When Charlton grew suspicious (based on a phone call from his unsuspecting friend, Ben) two teen werewolves, Matthew and Rick, ran him off the road. Charlton escaped into the dark mysterious woods and hid in a large hole of a giant tree. River, Dex, Matthew and Rick remained human, but their friends shape shift into vicious wolves right before Daniels' eyes, and terrorize him into handing over the tube of blood--plus, keep his mouth shut. Having soiled his undergarments, bleeding and dirty, Charlton calls his friend Ben to pick him up and to bring clean clothes.
(Continued from part 2)
It was well in the afternoon when Ben drove off 49-South and onto the dark road leading to a dead end. Ben remembered the place well. As a boy, acting on a dare from his friends, he had biked there one Halloween night.
Ben squinted, looking left and right through the sun beaten windshield. All he had gotten from a hysterical Charlton was that he'd been run off the road by some fiendish characters. Ben slowed down and searched for skid marks as a clue to where Charlton could be waiting. A few more minutes, and it was checkmate. There were dark tire markings leading into a forced path in the woods. He pulled off the road and followed the artistic tread marks through the soft ground—dead leaves and gravel crunching under his own tires. As his car inched deeper into the wooded area, it was as if the sky had blinked from daylight to night. Ben's jaw dropped as he peered through the sudden darkness. He swallowed hard and mumbled to himself. Then a stream of sunlight lit fresh scrapings on several trees that acted as arrows pointing him to a stump. He blew a gush of breath at seeing Charlton's damaged, grey Buick sitting like an abandoned junked car. Ben eased up and parked.
He got out of the car and walked up to the Buick. Charlton sat with his forehead resting on the steering wheel. When Ben tapped on the window, Charlton jumped back and his nose flared. Then his shoulders eased down. Charlton cracked open the door.
"Ben, thank God. I wasn't sure you'd find me."
Ben wrinkled his nose. "Yo ... you all right?"
"Yeah. Did you bring the clothes?"
"Sure. I'll get them."
Ben hurried back to his car. He reached over the driver's seat and brought out a dark cloth shopping bag. Charlton was standing on the outside of the car when Ben returned and handed him the bag. Charlton walked to the back of his Buick and peeled away his clothes. Ben looked away as he changed.
"I know you have a lot of questions," Charlton said. He tossed aside his soiled underwear. "I'll try to explain on the way back."
"Sure thing, Charlie. I'll go start the car," Ben said, walking swiftly by him.
Ben slid into the car, started it and rolled down all the windows. Charlton finished dressing, walked over to Ben's car and got in. Ben slowly backed the car out. Charlton stared into the blackness where he'd been held captive by the wolves. He shut his eyes until Ben was clear out of the woods and back onto the road.
Ben drove for several minutes in total silence. There was not even a radio sound or phone ring that broke through this quiet barrier. Ben looked over at Charlton several times, but neither spoke. Ben tried to whistle, but only air and spit came out.
"I know something happened." Ben said. "And I'm trying to be patient. You call me, scared out of your mind. I drop everything to come to this God awful place. Find you dirty, your face bloody and smelling like piss and shit. And you're just going to sit there?"
Charlton tapped his knee with his fingertips at a fast tempo.
Ben took his eyes off the road. "I'm in the dark, here, Charlie, help me out," he said in a high pitched voice. Ben put his focus back on the road and a sharp curve that was coming up ahead. There was another long silence. Ben’s jaw tightened and he shook his head. Charlton stopped tapping, and he stared, as if he were in another moment of time.
"Your Dr. Lorac is a liar. My life's been threatened. I ... me," he poked a finger into his own chest, "had living proof of that age-old speculation about the strange inhabitants living among us in this town. Now it's gone. And to tell you more, would only have me committed to a freaking institution. Plus, having you, my best friend, see me like this." His eyes filled. "I really appreciate you, Ben. But that's all I can safely say right now."
"Jesus Christ." Ben ran a hand over the side of his face. "It's okay. You've seen me worse. Remember when I got drunk that time at my bachelor’s party and puked all over everybody? Remember?" Ben forced a laugh, but Charlton's face remained stone.
"Just answer me this," Ben said in a more serious tone, "did what happened to you out there have anything to do with your going to the state lab this morning?"
"Yeah, I never made it, though. But that's only the tip of the iceberg."
"You can trust me—"
Charlton glanced over at him. "I'm not dragging you into this. It's too dangerous."
Ben turned his head slightly to look at him. Charlton's eyes were glazed and his face was grim and pale. "Whatever it is, you don't have to carry this by yourself. You know that," Ben said.
Charlton looked down at his lap.
Ben turned his full attention back to the winding road and then said, "Okay, if you think you can handle it."
The rest of the journey was again, in complete silence. Ben pulled up to the front of the condo and Charlton got out. He turned sharply and stuck his head through the window. "Thanks Ben." He turned and walked off.
Ben watched him a little ways, and then yelled through the open passenger window, "Don't worry about your car. I'll have it picked up." Charlton never turned, but threw up his hand. Ben watched the well-dressed doorman flash a smile before opening the door. Charlton walked in and Ben drove off.
Inside his condo, Charlton tossed his key card on the mahogany antique desk in the bedroom and made a beeline to the shower. He clicked the shower knob and then shed Ben's clothes. Under the heat and steam, he closed his eyes as the water flowed down his hair and face, his chest and stomach, his buttocks and thighs—turning brown at his ankles and swirling into the drain. He lingered there under his private water fall like he needed to wash River and the wolves off of his skin—as if the steam could erase the yellow eyes burning into his, its wet snout on his face, the coarse fur brushing against his brow—Its daggered fangs at his throat.
He stepped out of the shower and stood naked before the mirror. He smoothed a finger across the red line on his cheek. He jumped at the sound of his phone. He grabbed a towel and put it around his neck as he walked to the Chest of drawers where his phone lay. His top lip curled when he saw Dr. Sally Lorac's name. He hesitated, then picked it up and clicked on.
"Go to hell, you Bitch!"
He clicked off—threw the phone on the Chest of drawers, walked over to his bed and plopped down. He placed the towel aside, put one hand behind his head and closed his eyes.
He shifted his body many times in his sleep—eye lids fluttering, head snatching left and right, body jerking. He sprang up, taking in a noisy gush of air into his lungs and looked around his bedroom wide-eyed. The phlegm in his chest made his cough sound like a choked car motor. He eased his head back onto the pillow. Goose bumps peppered his body because the central air had kicked on. He had been asleep for several hours, and it was still light.
Dr. Lorac called Charlton multiple times and left messages. But none were returned.
Weeks rolled by, and Charlton had not reported to work. Dr. Lorac inquired and learned that he had called out sick. A few days later, Charlton walked into the office of Dr. Jim Brighton, the Sheerfield Medical Center's chief of staff, and handed over his resignation. He had accepted a prestigious position at a leading hospital in another state, but asked Dr. Brighton not to disclose his whereabouts. It was agreed in writing. Ben was the only non-relative who knew where he'd moved.
Although Ben never got the full account of what had happened. Charlton had made it was clear to him that Dr. Lorac was involved. Ben remained very distant towards her, but kept a professional relationship.
Dr. Lorac had learned in a phone call from Jewel how Charlton was made to turn over the tube of blood. After she was told the details, she made an excuse to get off the phone and ran to the bathroom sink. She splashed cold water on her face, and then stared into the mirror open-mouthed.
It had been weeks since Charlton left. She still moped around her apartment. At eleven o'clock, she closed her diary and rested her back against the fluffy pillows. She had just patted a tear from the corner of her eye when Beethoven's 5th symphony sprang from her phone.
She quickly picked up. "River."
"I hope I didn't wake you."
"No, not at all."
"I never thanked you for the heads up. This could have been disastrous for the wolves."
There was silence on both ends. Then she said, "I feel awful about Charlie."
"We had to, Sally. We weren't really going to hurt him. But we --"
"I know, I know. It couldn't be helped. I just feel so badly for him. She sighed. "My head is killing me. I've got to get some sleep." She yawned. "Is Jewel still up?"
"Yeah, in the shower."
"Tell her I said good night."
"I will. And Sally, try not to worry. I'm sure wherever he is, he'll be fine."
"Sure. Good night."
New Berwick, Illinois is comprised of four regions: Falcon Haven, Northern and Southern Greyscott Falls, Sheerfield County and Ironforge.
Northern Greyscott Falls:
River Porter....... Main Character
Jewel Porter....... River's wife
Their daughters....Chelsey, Abby, Dria, and Becca
Southern Greyscott Falls:
Dex Porter.........River's brother
Matthew (Matt) Porter... Dex's son
Jan Porter ....Dex's wife and Jewel's cousin/sister-in-law
Raymond Carter.. Dex's neighbor
Debbie Carter... Raymond's mother
Beatrice ....... Jewel's best friend
Kayla Morrison.. Beatrice's niece
Wayne Tilbert....... Sheriff of Sheerfield County
Reece Tilbert....... Wayne's wife/Sheerfield Bank president
Veronica (Ronnie) Tilbert...Wayne daughter/Kayla's BFF
Christopher Tilbert.........Wayne and Reece's son
Christa......................Veronica and Kayla's BFF
Bob Wilson..................Sheerfield County Coroner
Hollie Brewer...............Corina's sister/Sorcerer
New Berwick residents
Art Work: Her Eyes by Diane Azdamar at dianae.cgsociety.org