Never Cry Wolf

Or: A Pound of Prevention


A Halloween Farce Plotted by Anne Fraser, Lisa McDavid, Sara Larson and
Athan Chilton


 

It was a good night in Big Jim's if nobody got cut.  Francis sat with
his back to the wall, ever mindful that a fight in this establishment
could include broken furniture.  Janine was across from him, leaning on
the table and viewing the goings-on with an avid gleam in her eyes.

"This isn't the best place in town," Francis said, rather unnecessarily.

"It's real," Janine said, her eyes flickering every which way.

"Alex will kill you," Francis warned her.

"Too late."

Francis laughed, and ducked a flying beer mug.  He had not protested all
that much when Janine had talked him into taking her to Big Jim's.  It
appealed to Francis' sense of humour to watch the fledgling cope with
the denizens of the scuzzy bar, and he knew that not much could hurt her
short of a table leg.  But she was so busy taking in the wild side of
Fletcherville's night life -- and the regulars of Big Jim's were far
wilder than the Cliff Road Crowd -- that Francis found himself slightly
bored.  He tuned out his companion and listened to the conversations
around him.

"... he turned back into a man!" someone was protesting.

"Get out, Ferdy, that can't happen!  You were tighter than a boiled owl
and netted some poor fool by mistake.  Admit it."

"There were two wolves on the mayor's lawn, I'm telling you.  He wasn't
no man when I netted him.  I put him in pen 10 and in the morning I had
a nekked man in there."

Francis started laughing so hard that he drew more than Janine's
attention.  "So that's what happened!" he managed to choke out.

"What, what?" Janine demanded.

"Well, you know how they had to go and spring Warg from the pound?"

*               *               *               *               *
It had been Hallowe'en night, which meant the annual costume party at
the civic centre in Fletcherville.  Gideon agreed to attend, against his
better judgement.  It was either go to the party with everyone or face
the evening at Oakwoods with Cecily as his sole companion.  He decided
he would rather face the juvenile population of Fletcherville in the
grip of a sugar-buzz than the ghost with a gleam in her eye.

Two nights before the event Jessica had arrived at Oakwoods to be
confronted by a chagrined Mitch.

"I'm not going to be able to go to the party, Jessi," he said
apologetically.

"Why not?"  She glared at him.

"It's a full moon; I'll be in the cellar."

"Gideon!"  Jessica stormed into the study.

Gideon's head shot up in startlement, then he relaxed when he saw who
was behind the commotion.

"Gideon, I'm so fed up with this situation!" she snapped.

"I'm pleased to see you, too, Jessica.  Have you brought in your luggage
from your car yet?  Or did you decide that attacking me unprovoked was
your priority?" he asked.

Jessica blushed.  Running her fingers through her red-gold curls, she
drew a deep breath and shook her head.

"I'm sorry, Gideon," she said.  "Shit.  I say that I lot, don't I?
Mitch met me more or less at the door, telling me he wouldn't make the
party, 'cause you were going to lock in the the basement like an animal.
What's the matter, you don't want to admit you're human so you won't
let anyone else have any weaknesses, either?"

"KIlling people is hardly a little weakness," returned Gideon.  "Mitch
has to be locked up, as you phrase it, like an animal so he won't have
to worry about killing like one."  Gideon held out one hand, palm up,
for emphasis.

With a snap of her ghostly fingers, Cecily materialized a full snifter
of brandy on Gideon's palm.  A second snap provided for Jessica.  "Drink
up, you two!  Here, Jessi, I know you had a Snoopy, and I've seen Gideon
with that silly wolfhound."  She made a third snap of her fingers,
whereupon a jaunty red leather collar with matching leash appeared in
her lap.  "Nigel's not going to need this.  He's helping my medium hand
out trick-or-treat in South Carolina and stealing half of it."

Gideon frowned.  "But what--" he broke off abruptly and gulped half his
brandy.

"Why not?" Joshua came into the study, carrying a book with his place
marked by one finger.  "We've got two days.  We can teach him how to
heel."

And that was how the Oakwoods party came to make the star entrance of
the Hallowe'en party:  Gideon as a Victorian undertaker; Joshua as the
corpse; Jessica in a flashy gold-sequinned belly-dancer's outfit (at the
sight of which Mitch had sat howling in the middle of the floor); Cecily
as a sheep, leading Mitch in wolf form and Warg.


A few moments later, Evan and Owen entered.  There was a marked silence
between father and son.  Evan was glowering and Owen looked embarrassed
and flustered.  Their costumes only heightened the impression of a
falling-out, for Evan was dressed in the traditional Father Time/Old
Year robe, beard and scythe, while Owen was in diapers and banner as
the baby New Year.  A sharp observer would have noticed that the Baby
New Year's left ear bore the distinct impression of the back of the Old
Year's hand.

Behind this disparate pair, there entered another couple who'd obviously
quarrelled.  Alex Goldanias -- resplendent in full Victorian regalia and
eyepatch as Rochester -- and Janine -- inappropiately demur as Jane
Eyre -- showed signs of being in the midst of a family argument.  Janine's
eyes were red-rimmed, and Alex was thunderous rather than merely
brooding.

"High cycle!" Evan exploded at Owen.  "You picked a fine time to go into
high cycle!  and to choose Janine, of all people .... "

Owen sighed.  "But, Dad --"

"Don't you 'Dad' me!  Why your Guardian let you come for a visit when
you were so obviously ready to go into your first high cycle -- "  Evan
broke off his grumbling, realizing that they were drawing attention.

"Will you kindly not flirt with everything in pants tonight?" Alex was
expostulating with Janine at the same time as Evan was lecturing his
son.

"What do you care?" Janine demanded.  "Why should it matter to you who I
flirt with?"

"Can't you tell when one of the Nameless is in high cycle?  That's
playing with fire, my girl."

Janine succinctly told him what to do with himself.  She promptly left
her cousin and vampiric sire stranded at the snack table while she went
prowling.

Cecily, with her sheep's head lolling down her back, grinned and clicked
her cider mug against Joshua's.  "To youth -- thank God mine's over!"

Josh smiled politely back, took the obligatory swig of his cider, and
stared into his mug.  "Cecily, just what kind of rocket fuel is this?"

"My special mead recipe, a Viking heirloom.  A little bit of this and
you'll want to go storm York, too."  Cecily nodded towards Gideon, who
was standing like the stag at bay with Janine in the role of the hound.
"He's going about that all wrong.  One fake pass and Janine wouldn't
stop running till she went off a cliff."

Joshua shook his head.  "Gideon's too polite to inflict heartburn on
some perfectly innocent sea serpent."

"Terrible old sobersides, he is," agreed Cecily affectionately.  "I
always thought Ambrose had some help."

"Ambrose?" Jessica reached over her ancestress' ectoplasmic shoulder and
stole her cider mug.

Cecily materialized another mug for herself.  "The first baron."

"The Monk?" asked Joshua.

"The Monkey, more like," said Cecily.  ""Poor Ambrose was just as gay as
Gideon but he didn't have the brains of a tomb effigy.  Probably because
he was usually plastered like one."  Cecily smiled.  "Grandmother wanted
me to marry him before that little matter of the dancing bear and Alice
Perrers' shift."

"Whose what?" Jessica looked dubiously at the contents of her mug.

"King Edward Third's mistress's underwear," Joshua translated.

"Exactly," said Cecily.  "It was about an hour before dawn on 12th
Night..."

The ghost, the vampire, and the mortal drew into a snickering circle. In
one way it was fortunate that the party was lit entirely by
jack-o-lanterns and candles, because no-one noticed Cecily's
flickering edges.  In another way it was highly unfortunate, in that it
prevented anyone from noticing Warg's and Mitch's increasing fascination
with the tray of cocktail weenies on coloured plastic toothpicks.

Janine had given up teasing Gideon and wandered off in search of other
prey.  Evan turned his back on Owen for a moment and that was long
enough for the young immortal to slip away and lose himself among all
the costumed party-goers.  The fledgling vampyress was cruising the
fringes of the party hoping for a victim when someone grabbed her wrist
in a grip too powerful for her to break.  She found herself
eyeball-to-eyeball with a red-headed adolescent in diapers.

"Let's party," said Owen.

Liking this plan, Janine suggested the cloakroom.  Owen, hitting high
cycle for the first time and not quite sure what to do about it, thought
that perhaps they could just dance.  But first, some snacks?  The other
appetite of high cycle was calling Owen just as strongly, and eating was
something he already knew how to do.  He headed for the buffet.  Janine,
frustrated, tagged along.

A grinning jack-o-lantern sat on the buffet not far from the cocktail
weenies that the wolves were eyeing so intently.  Janine thought that the
traditional face showed a distinct lack of imagination.  Give her a
knife, and she'd carve a pumpkin ... not that Alex or that old gargoyle
Mrs. Jenkins would let her anywhere near a knife.

Jack-o-lantern.  Cocktail weenies.  Toothpicks.  An idea dawned in what
brain Janine possessed.  She appropriated two of the weenies and two
picks, using the latter to afix the former to the pumpkin.  Instant
horns.


Joshua and Jessica were on their third or fourth drinks -- nobody
could have estimated Cecily's -- and the cackling in their corner
had begun to resemble a bad amateur production of the opening to
MacBeth. Warg and Mitch lounged on the floor, panting in the heat
from the candles and the jack-o-lanterns.

The wolves were feeling decidedly aggrieved. Warg didn't understand
human speech and Mitch's comprehension in were-morph was limited to
"food."  One of the Fletcherville children had fed Warg a cupcake
at the beginning of the party. Jessica had intervened before
Mitch got anything. She had stood by with bicarb and cleaning
equipment the time no one had allowed for the effect of all those
stale twinkies on a wolfed-out and hungry Mitch at the first full
moon after the Yule party, and she wasn't going through that again.

Then Janine showed up at the buffet. Mitch's attention perked up
automatically. So did Warg's although his interest was in the tray
of cocktail weenies rather than the way Janine moved as she
inserted impromptu horns on the jack-o-lantern's all down the row.

Mitch and Warg rose as one wolf and advanced stealthily on the
display. Cecily was just reaching the chase through the great hall
at Windsor with poor Ambrose, First Baron Redoak, unable to see
where he was going because his head was caught in Alice Perrers'
shift, pursued by a dancing bear, the bearward shouting "stop
thief" and three drunken knights who thought the whole thing was a
French plot against the king. Neither the ghost nor her descendants
noticed the move.

The lupines stopped in front of the largest pumpkin, paused to
look at each other, and lunged forward in a concerted snatch. Wolf
teeth snapped down simultaneously on a weenie apiece. Neither
colored plastic toothpick yielded. The wolves growled in a
grotesque parody of make-a-wish.

With a splat the jack-o-lantern shot forward and spilled its
burning candle onto the paper streamers which decorated the table.
Mitch recoiled into the tray of cocktail weenies whereupon both
wolves chowed down upon the contents.

Cecily, intent on her story, impatiently grabbed her listeners'
hands and teleported them out onto the lawn. Gideon's shout
of "Stop that at once," in his best Lord of the Manor voice, was
quite outdone by the fire alarm as the sprinkler system burst into
play.

Fox Fletcher's comparison to the Charge of the Light Brigade was
generally held to be over-dramatic. For one thing, there were
only two hundred stampeders instead of six hundred and for another
the presence of the fire station next door meant that no one got
more than about 100 feet before settling down to cheer the
volunteer firefighters on.

Since the firemen had been celebrating too, their somewhat fuzzy
aim dampened the enthusiasm of their supporters almost as quickly
as it deluged the fire.  Cecily spirited Jessi and Josh out of
range. "Whee!" said the ghost, "that's the most fun I've had around
water since Cancun."

Evan had a firm grip on his son's banner and was shaking the young
immortal.  In the midst of the crisis, Janine had abandoned her would-be
suitor and fled for the relative safety of the retaining wall outside
the community centre.  Owen had stood, dismayed, as the sprinkler system
began wetting his diaper for him, until Evan had stomped by and grabbed
his offspring by the handiest appendage, dragging him outside.

Gideon, water dripping off the mourning ribbons on his top hat, was to
be found perched on the wall with several other Fletchervillians,
watching the procedures as the volunteer fire department tried to put
out the fire and succeeded in putting out the town council.

"I think we had best go home and put on dry clothes," Evan said,
ignoring the spraying effect his long beard was having.  "Then I am
going to beat my son."

"Aw, dad," whined Owen.  He was ignored.

"We've lost Joshua, Jessica, Cecily and the wolves," Gideon objected.

"Cecily has teleportation powers," Evan reminded him.  "No doubt she's
already taken the others back to Oakwoods."

Still gripping Owen, who was beginning to think that high cycle wasn't
what it was cracked up to be, Evan went for the Caddy limo.  Gideon
followed, hoping that his Victorian mourning clothes weren't ruined.
He was a wet undertaker without a corpse.  Well, no doubt Evan was
right, and Joshua was at home right now, already in dry clothes and
laughing at Cecily's stories.

How wrong he was ... because back with Cecily and crew ....

"Cancun," echoed Joshua. Not even the moribund Fletcherville chapter of
the WCTU could have called him drunk, but he was fast becoming
philosophical. "Gideon got to meet Nessie.

Jessica snorted. "Well, don't cry about it! You didn't get to meet
Tiger Lily, either. Or the Indians."

Joshua shook his head. "I know. All I ever get to meet are silly old
ladies with too much money." The slam of a car door made them all look
round. The Oakwoods Rolls was pulling away.

"Well, I like that!" said Cecily in a tone that indicated she didn't
at all. "Gideon had better thank his lucky stars I *didn't* marry
Ambrose."

Joshua and Jessi glanced meaningfully at Cecily's glass. She waved them
away. "Because then he'd be my umpty-great grandson, too, and I could
spank him. Stop backing and filing like that, Josh, I don't want to
spank you. It's not your fault Gideon thinks I can teleport everyone
about like a taxi service, even the wolves."

"What's wrong with the wolves?" Jessica asked, somewhat truculently on
Mitch's account.

"Nothing, except that I've only got two hands and you can't trust
them not to let go in mid-flight. Where are the boys, anyway?"

"They must have gone back to Oakwoods with Gideon," Joshua said.
"I don't see them, anyway."

Cecily suddenly stood up from the Civil War memorial bench on which
the three merrymakers had foregathered. "Hark!"

"Hark, hark the lark," returned Jessica sarcastically. "Granny, you're
drunk."

"So are you. Didn't either of you hear the mermaids?"

"No, and I didn't see any pink elephants cha-chaing, either. Josh, let's
see if we can cadge a ride home. Granny's dangerous when she's like this."

Her cousin ignored her. "I want to see the mermaids."

"Good boy," said Cecily, taking his hand. "Maybe Nessie'll be along,
too."

"Wait!" Jessica grabbed Cecily's sleeve. "I'm coming along. I'll
never get back into Oakwoods if I let you get Joshua drowned."

"So nice to be loved for myself," murmured Joshua as Cecily faded them
all away.

In all the fuss, no-one had actually noticed the wolves slip away.  Wet,
afraid because of all the commotion, and feeling slightly ill from too
many cocktail weenies, er, wolfed down, the real wolf and the morphed
one disappeared into the shadows.

There were strange men with scary hoses, loud bells and other disturbing
noises, and people running around in wet costumes.  And water.  Water
was for drinking.  Maybe occasionally for swimming in, but not
involuntarily and at the end of October.  Warg and Mitch simply followed
their noses to which a scent even more enticing than cocktail weenies
was wafting on the chilly end of autumn breeze.

"Let's go home, Doris," growled Hercules Fletcher, His Honour the Mayor
of Fletcherville.  Hercules was alittle shrimp of a fellow, and tended
to remind people of Don Knotts.  He was another victim of the Fletcher
family nomenclature.  "And your mother had better not have let that mutt
out..."

"Fifi is not a mutt," Doris (who had not been born a Fletcher, and who
had insisted that the mayor's children be given names that she could
yell out the door without giggling) protested.  "Fifi is a pedigreed
chihuahua."

"A rat that shakes constantly," the mayor grunted.  "And that's in
heat."

His Honour and Doris decided that they might as well go home.  The fire
was out, and most of the population of Fletcherville was soaking wet.
It had been a full day for the village. Fox Fletcher could be seen
lurking in the ruins, happily jotting things down in his notebook.

When the mayor and his wife arrived home they found two large grey
dogs, possibly German Shepherds, sitting on the front lawn, howling out
their unrequited lust for little Fifi.  The object of their affection
and her mistress, were peering anxiously out the guest bedroom window.
The little dog was shaking uncontrollably. Her mistress, in face cream
and curlers, was also shaking.

"Hercules!"  Doris' mother shrieked and could be heard even though her
window was not open.  "Do something!"

"Shoo, doggies," said Hercules.  He was afraid of large dogs, and these
looked mean.

"Whose dogs are those?" Doris demanded.  "Whoever they belong to should
be made to come and get them and pay a fine.  Beasts this size
shouldn't be allowed to run loose.  They could eat the children."

The Fletcher children were all in their late teens, and would have
scoffed at their canine edibility.  They were also all out watching the
fun at the community centre.

"We'd better call the pound," the mayor decided, when the doggies
refused to shoo.

Mortimer and Ferdinand Fletcher were the town drunk and the assistant
town drunk.  They ran the dog pound at night.  Nobody would trust
them to do anything else.  When they got the mayor's call, they were
sharing a bottle to compensate themselves for missing the Hallowe'en
party.

"Bring the _big_ nets," Hercules insisted to his soused cousins.

"Right you are, Herc," Ferdy hiccuped.  "Get the truck out, Mort.  Seems
Hizzoner's got two big mutts sitting on his lawn singing to his mom in
law's dog."

The Fletchers piled into the animal collection van and wove their way to
the mayor's.  Luckily, it wasn't far and there was no-one else on the
road.

"Mort," said Ferdy as he staggered out of the van and took in the
situation.  "Them's wolves."




"Ferdy," Mort informed his partner censoriously, "You're drunk."

"I am *not*!" Ferdy steadied himself against the door, thereby
pushing it closed and shoving Mort back into the driver's seat.

"Yes, you are," Mort said. He shouldered the door open again.

"I am not either drunk!" Ferdy demonstrated his sobriety with an
expansive gesture. The door slammed with a resounding clang. Mort
involuntarily resumed a seated position. "You're the one who's drunk --
you can't even get out of the van."

Meanwhile back at the upstairs window, Fifi was standing on her spindly
hind legs and pawing at the glass. She yapped; the two suitors chorused
happily back.  Doris's mother shouted.

In spite of a running discussion of the precise definition of wolf
("Nonsense - - they ain't walking on two legs." "Not werewolves, you
fool." "Whadda' ya mean, they weren't wolves; they're still wolves!")
Ferdy and Mortimer agreed that something had to be done, especially
after Doris appeared in the front yard with a broom, attempted to
dispose of the problem herself and was chased up a tree for her pains.
Ferdy took one end of a net suitable for restraining a brontosaurus.
Mort, who had his arm caught in the other end, was obliged to accompany
him.

"Now!" shouted Ferdy. The net flew into the air and draped itself
squarely around Mort.

Mort's color commentary on the play-by-play would have shocked and
embarrassed the residents of the Fletcherville Old Sailors' Home.
The two wolves stared frostily over their shoulders before abandoning
their game with Doris to return to their vigil under the guestroom
window.

The mayor's mother-in-law disappeared from the casement and strode
onto the lawn. If there had been a sound track, the Ride of the
Valkyries would have been appropriate. "Cut out the fooling around!"
she ordered, as Ferdy and Mort emerged simultaneously from the
net. "Get those, those hellhounds out of here --"

The dogcatching dipsomaniacs did their best. This time it was Mort
who screeched "now!" perhaps half a second after the net had fallen
over Ferdy, Mort *and* the mayor's mother-in-law.

"Momma!" cried Doris. "Hercules, don't just do something, stand there!"
In delivering this blatant steal from Bullwinkle, she overbalanced and
crashed out of the tree, just in time to set the newly unnetted trio
sprawling again.

Ferdy, Mort, Momma and Doris all tried to rise at once. This was a
mistake, as all of them had both feet and at least one arm through
the interstices of the net. The net transformed into a giant cat's
cradle which somehow hung itself up on the birdbath, stranding the
guardians of Fifi's dubious virtue like a set of demented moutain
climbers who had retained their ropes while mislaying the mountain.

"Herc!" they screamed in chorus.

Hercules Fletcher was descended from a long line of stern New England
patriots, all the way back to the Minutemen. True, it took more like
five minutes, but never let it be said that a Fletcher shirked his
duty to home, family, and visiting chihuahuas. Herc appeared at the front
door, clutching his father's World War Two service revolver, a .45
which appeared to have had ambitions toward becoming a cannon.

Herc's name was screamed again in quite a different tone. Too late!
With his hands shaking wildly and his face averted, Hercules pulled the
trigger.

Pandemonium crescendoed in one last grand finale as the wolves howled,
the net party screamed, the bird bath thudded over and Herc yelled
"Geronimo!" The moment when the bullet actually shattered the glass
in the guest room window was marked only by a shrill yelp as Fifi
fled for cover.

Everything stopped. Mitch stared at Warg; Warg looked at Mitch. The
wolves didn't like sudden, loud bangs. It made them nervous. Besides,
the neighbors were pouring out of the other houses now and something
about their demeanour made the lupine visitors feel less than welcome.
Fifi had run out on them, too.

The wolves shook themselves and began to retreat. The crowd blocked
all sides, but there was one nice, safe, dark hole. With little
whimpers of relief, Warg and Mitch clambered into the back of the
animal control van.

When the neighbours could stop laughing, they helped the mayor et al out
of the net.  Someone had thoughtfully slammed the back of the van door
shut, trapping the two wolves inside.  Warg had been in vehicles before
and promply lay down and went to sleep, dreaming of Fifi and cocktail
weenies, objects that bore a disturbing similiarity to each other.
Mitch had never been inside a car in his morph form. The werewolf
didn't like it.  It smelled of metal, gasoline, and whatever high test
fuel Ferdy and Mort had been drinking.  He went frantic as only a true
werewolf can and starting hurtling himself at the door, trying to get
out.  Luckily, or unluckily, the van was solidly built. Mitch merely
succeeded in stunning himself.

"Now see what you've done!" Hercules roared at his two substandard
cousins.  "Those dogs have gotten away."

"Wolves," said Ferdy stubbornly.

"I'll see that you're both docked a week's sal-- what did you say,
Ferdy?"

"Them's wolves, Herc."

"You call me Your Honour, you old coot.  They are not wolves, they're
somebody's German Shepherds.  And they've gotten loose, so they're
terrorizing the village, raping innocent chihuahuas and messing on
lawns.  Someone will sue us for letting two dangerous animals run wild."

"They're in the back of the van, Herc," said a quiet voice.

"They're what?" His Honour demanded.

"In the back of the van.  They jumped in there after you shot the
birdbath."

"I did _not_..."  Hercules peered at the speaker.  "Tod Fletcher, you
report one word of anything that happened tonight in the Gazette, and
I'll have you thrown in jail."

The scarred and maimed reporter grinned.  "Censorship of the press,
Your Honour?"

"Fox ... "  Hercules gave it up.  Nothing seemed to scare Fox any more.
He'd been a changed man since he'd been "gotten to" by the Cliff Road
Crowd.

Say, didn't one of them have a pet wolf?  Hercules dismissed the thought
as soon as it occured.  "You're sure the dogs are in the van, Fox?"

Fox nodded.  "I shut the door on them myself."

"Mort, Ferdy!"  Hercules hollered.  "Git your sorry carcasses back in
the van and take those animals to the pound!"

"I'm not driving any wolf anywhere," Ferdy said stubbornly.

"Move it!"

They moved it, arguing all the way back.

"Wolf's got sharper fangs," Mort said.  "Wolf wouldn't have just jumped
into the van.  What'd two wolves be doing in Fletcherville, anyway?"

"If you don't watch where you're driving, we won't be in Fletcherville,
either."

Somehow, perhaps because God really does look after drunks and fools,
Ferd and Morty ended up back at the pound.  They had to use the nets to
get the two wolves out of the back.  Warg wanted more of a ride, and
Mitch had become used to this haven.  The pound looked scary and smelled
strange, of dogs, cats, and powerful cleaners used to disguise what dogs
and cats did.  Ferdy and Mort sweated off some of their booze wrestling
the two big animals into separate holding pens.  Mitch was put in run
ten, next to a sad-eyed little spaniel.  Warg was placed further down
the row, in seven, between a boxer and something that resembled and
animated dishrag and might have even been a dog.

Satisfied with their night's work, Ferdy and Mort went back to their
card game and their liquid comfort, still arguing as to what was a wolf.


"I still don't believe it," said Jessica, shaking her head. The salt
spray on her red-gold curls glinted in the moonlight.

"I do," Joshua replied, stepping cautiously from Nessie's back onto
a convenient rock and extending a hand to his cousin. "Why shouldn't
there be mermaids celebrating Halloween? A few years ago I didn't
believe in vampires, either."

"Sometimes I'm *still* not sure I believe in vampires." Cecily levitated
her descendants beyond the high tide mark and bent to thank the Great Orm
of Loch Ness. She always politely avoided the popular term "Loch Ness
Monster," since poor Nessie was sensitive about it. "At least, not in
repressed seventeenth century ex-Puritan barons. Maybe I *should* have
married Ambrose. Gideon's father could never have been a descendant
of mine!"

Nessie surged toward Scotland with a valedictory flip of his tail
as the mermaids undulated away in perfect stroke and chorus. Cecily
took Jessica and Joshua by the hand and the three dematerialized to
Oakwoods.

The sky above the great mansion was reddening toward dawn. Jessica
hurried upstairs to her guest room while Cecily and Joshua paused in
the drawing room for a brandy. A tape protruded from the vcr,
evidently abandoned by Gideon at the approach of the sun. Josh picked
it up, looked at it and at the empty brandy snifter beside Gideon's
favorite chair. "Poor Gideon, he must have been have been desperate
for distraction. This is the new episode of Forever Knight."

"I didn't know Gideon was an FK fan," said Cecily, sipping at her
brandy.

"He isn't. He only watches it when he's sulking, so he can argue with
me about it." Joshua replaced the tape in the machine.

Several hours later the peace of Oakwoods was shattered by WFLET, "the
voice of Fletcherville," blasting from Owen's room. Evan's curses in
an innovative mixture of the various Celtic languages clashed horribly
with the sound of Fox Fletcher delivering his Fletcherville Follies
portion of the morning show. Owen bounded downstairs. "Hi, Dad, what's
for breakfast?"

Evan was pouring his seventh batch of pancakes and grinning proudly at
his offspring's urgent request, "don't forget the sausage, Dad -- I'm
*hungry*!" when Joshua wandered into the kitchen.

Josh sniffed the aroma, smiled and picked up a plate. "Just pancakes,
Evan. Where's Mitch?"

"I don't know," said Evan, flipping the next pancake directly onto Owen's
plate. "Did he go up to bed when you got home?"

Josh looked up, surprised. "When I got home? But I thought Mitch and
Warg went home with you."

"No, they went with -- no, they can't have gone with you if you don't
know." Evan turned the gas off under the griddle. "That's enough, Owen.
We've got to find our wandering boys before Gideon discovers they're
off the straight and narrow."

Evan and Joshua launched a room by room search, leaving Evan
in possession of enough pancakes and sausage to give Paul Bunyan
heartburn. Mitch's room was entirely untenanted. Jessica, somewhat
cross at being dragged out of bed, expressed the opinion that Mitch
was in one of the bathrooms repenting of his sins in regard to
trays of cocktail wieners. She was heard to lock the door after them.

By the time all of Oakwoods, including attics, cellars and outbuildings,
had been investigated the Nameless One and the human were becoming
seriously concerned. They retreated to the kitchen for a strategy
session. Owen had finished the pancakes and was experimenting with
modifications to make the toaster shoot raisin toast directly across
the room. He ducked as his father tried to deliver a swift clip to
the ear, and settled for another tumbler of orange juice instead.

"Hey," said Owen, "I bet that's who tried to rape the chihuahua!"

"Owen, if you've been getting into the liquor, you're going straight
back to your guardian." Evan loomed above his son.

"No, honest! It was on Fox Fletcher's show. There were a couple of big
German Shepherds in the mayor's yard last night and the mayor shot his
birdbath trying to get rid of them."

Evan snorted. "Sounds like Herc -- bet he was really trying to shoot
his ma-in-law instead. Ok, we know where they were, anyway. Look, if
you can keep your mind on the search, I'll buy you an entire carton
the flavor of the month at Baskin Robbins."

"Will you settle for where they are?" Owen was smirking. "And I want
a carton of Rocky Road, too."

"Done," said Joshua. "Spill it, Owen."

"Fox said Animal Control took them to the pound. He was pretty funny.
The way he put it was, you couldn't be sure whether that meant the
the animals were being controlled or doing the controlling."

Half an hour later the Oakwoods station wagon pulled up at the Noah
Fletcher Memorial Animal Shelter. Joshua looked puzzled. "Wasn't that
Mary's car we passed? I hope nothing's happened to Ruddigore." Joshua
was fond of the twins' big red setter.

Dawn.  A bleak, rainy November morning, the kind where the dampness sets
into your bones and you want to turn over and go back to sleep.

In pen number 10 of the Noah Fletcher Memorial Animal Shelter, there was
a stirring.  But what had been put in there amid the chaos of last night
was not what woke up.

Mitch groaned and reached out, expecting the padded walls of his cell in
the basement of Oakwoods, or maybe his own bed if Evan had been in a
nice mood and carried him there.  He was not expecting chain link.
Slowly the other signals his body was receiving made themselves known.
He was very cold, and lying on something that was even colder.  Hard.
damp.  It felt like ... cement?  And smelled like ... dog?

One eye cracked open.  Chain link fencing swam before his bloodshot orb.
Another eye, framed by brown and white fur, peered at him anxiously from
the other side of the chain link.

His stomach rebelled. He managed to sit up before he threw up, since
he knew from experience that it was very bad to be sick while lying on
his back.  There was a whimper but whether it came from Mitch or the
occupant of the next run was hard to tell.

He didn't feel much better after heaving his guts out, but managed to
open both eyes.  And wished he hadn't.  He was crouched naked and
shivering in a large pen, and there were dogs everywhere.  Right next
door was a cute little spaniel, looking at him with deep concern and
love.  Mitch could hear Warg's distinctive whine further away but
couldn't focus enough to search out the wolf amongst the dogs.

He couldn't stand up, even if he wanted to, because the pen was only
about four feet high.  His brain clicked upon the truth.

"Holy shit, I'm in the pound."

"Better check those holding pens, Ferdy," said a voice.  "Day shift'll
be here soon."

"How are we gonna explain the wolves?"  demanded another voice.

"For the last time, them ain't wolves!"  A pair of boots came in sight,
and gradually the legs, in bright orange coveralls, and a torso swam
into Mitch's view as well.  "Ferdy!"  The boots stopped dead in front of
pen 10.  "Mister, what are you doing here?  Ferdy, you idiot, you netted
a nekked man!"

"I did no such thing!"  Another pair of orange coveralls and boots
appeared.  "How'd he git in there?"

"Just get me out," Mitch requested weakly.

"You look pretty sick, mister, we better call 911," said Ferdy.

Mort elbowed him.  "What do we tell them, Ferdy?  That we netted a human
being last night?  We'll lose our jobs for sure."

The cocktail weiners made themselves felt again.  Mort made an
exclamation of disgust.

"Even when I'm as drunk as a seagull, I don't make a mess like that," he
said.

"Don't yell at the poor fellow, he's sick, not drunk."  Ferdy unlocked
pen 10, and helped Mitch crawl out.  "Where's your clothes, mister?"

"I... I don't know," Mitch said, dazed.

"We got a spare set of coveralls, don't we, Mort?"

"Reckon.  Not finest kind, but better than being nekked."  Mort went
into the depths of the back room and produced the coveralls, which were
filthy and smelled of dog.

Mitch was so grateful for the warmth and covering for his "nekkedness"
that he put them on without complaint.  They were several inches too
short in the leg and arm for the lanky werewolf.

"I think there's some tea around here," Ferdy had taken quite a liking
to this stranger he'd netted, even if the fellow had been a wolf last
night.  "I'll make you some."

"That would be nice," Mitch said weakly.

"Bathroom's through there," Mort pointed helpfully.

As soon as Mitch was in the bathroom, Mort turned on his partner.  "He's
gonna sue the village!  How could you have netted a person?"

"He was a wolf last night, Mort," Ferdy said stubbornly. "He's one of
them weren'twolves."

"That's werewolves, and there ain't no such thing!"

"Reckon we caught one."

"T'other one hasn't changed, too, has it?  Then you netted a man and his
dog, Ferdy."

"You were there, too, Mort.  He weren't a man last night!"

"Ah, you were drunk!"

"So were you!"

Mitch returned from the bathroom then and sipped at the tea they
offered.  The teabag must have been pretty stale, but at least the mug
was almost clean.

"Got anyone you can call, mister, to come get you?" Mort asked.  "We're
real sorry we netted you, could have sworn you were a dog last night."

"It's okay," Mitch smiled slightly.  "It must have been my Hallowe'en
costume that fooled you.  Can't imagine what happened to it.  Yes,
there's someone I can call."

But Evan, Owen and Joshua had already started for the pound.  Mitch's
call reached only the answering machine.  "That's odd," Mitch frowned.
"But just as well, Evan would never let me hear the end of this.  Who
else would be home now?"

He telephoned Fairlawn, and Mary promised to come and get him.  She
arrived quickly, concerned for Mitch.  In the fuss of getting him into
the car, neither of them gave a thought to rescuing Warg.  Mitch was too
sick, and Mary was too worried about him.

Neither of them saw the Oakwoods car arrive at the pound.

Mary whisked Mitch home, and chivvied him into the shower while she
turned down the blankets on his bed for him.  She gave him some Gravol
and told him to go to sleep.  Mitch was tired and still feeling sick, so
didn't think about removing the borrowed coveralls from sight.  Mary
didn't, either, so they were draped over the back of a chair in plain
sight...


When the Oakwoods crew arrived at the pound, the day shift was taking
over from Mort and Ferdy.  Lobelia Fletcher and Nate Jackson (who'd
gotten the job because all the Fletchers were already employed) were
sober, hadn't been at the disaster at the community centre, and were
only too happy to release Warg into the custody of his owners.  After
the payment of a stiff fine, which Joshua settled by check.

They had no knowledge of a second dog picked up on the mayor's lawn.
Mort and Ferdy swore that there was only one, and reports of two dogs
were simply Fox having been at the booze.  In this they maligned their
cousin--Fox didn't drink.

Joshua and Evan looked at each other.  Owen seemed not to notice the
gravity of the missing Mitch situation and was flirting with the
sad-eyed spaniel in run 11.  By silent agreement, Josh and Evan decided
not to ask if the pound was _sure_ they hadn't picked up a wolf who had
turned into a man in the morning.  It wasn't the sort of question you
could ask.

"He's sick and alone somewhere," Joshua fretted.  "I know what it's like
when he wakes up after a full moon.  Evan--we have to find him!"

"We'll look," Evan said soothingly.  "Come on, Owen, leave that spaniel
alone!  At least stick to your own species."

They scoured downtown Fletcherville, playing close attention to the area
around the community centre.  No Mitch.  The mayor's neighbourhood
yielded similar results.  Joshua was worried, Evan beginning to be so,
and Owen was hungry.

"Maybe he made his way back to the Cliff Road," Evan sighed after the
fifth fruitless pass through the park.

They drove slowly, but there was no sign of their wayward werewolf.
Warg was useless as a tracker.  Told to find Mitch, he wagged his tail
and whined.  Two worried and one hungry hunter admitted defeat and
returned to Oakwoods Mitchless.  Warg went up and scratched plaintively
on his master's bedroom door, but Evan shooed him away.

Dusk fell early, for the clocks had been set back.  It was no later than
five p.m. when Gideon should have been stirring.  There being no signs
of action from that quarter, Joshua went into the master bedroom to
investigate and found his lover still lying in bed.  Sulking.

"You didn't come home last night," Gideon said.

Josh was not in the mood for this.  "Don't," he said.  "This isn't the
time."

Gideon turned over and pulled the covers over his head.  Joshua sighed.
Of all the times for him to revert to acting 18...

"If you don't stop it right now," Joshua said, "I'm going to call
Cecily."

"What's she going to do?" demanded the muffled voice.  "Short sheet the
bed?"

For an answer, the blankets and sheets were abruptly yanked away from
Gideon's grasp.  It happened so quickly that he had no time to apply his
vampiric strength to holding on to his coverings.  He turned his head to
behold Cecily standing by the bedside, her hands on her hips.

"Are you going to get out of this bed right now, or do I have to get you
out?" demanded the ghost who had raised five sons and hadn't taken
nonsense from any of them.

"Don't feel like it," Gideon said, but he sounded more uncertian now
than petulant.

Cecily seized one vampiric ear.  And yanked.

"Ow!" came the protest from the yanked Baron.  "Alright, I'm getting out
of bed!"

"See to it, then," huffed Cecily, and smacked him one for good measure.
"If I hear of you giving my grandson this sort of trouble again, I'll
use a hairbrush on you."

Gideon rolled hurriedly out of bed.  "You wouldn't dare," he said.

Cecily snorted.  "Wouldn't I?  This is no time to be lollygagging around,
feeling sorry for yourself just because Josh wanted to meet Nessie.
Your werewolf is missing."

"What?  Mitch is missing?"  Gideon rounded on Joshua.  "Why didn't you
tell me?"  No-one ever saw the vampire snap out of a sulk so quickly.
He washed and dressed so quickly that he left jet-trails behind him.
"Where have you looked?" he demanded when he was decent.  "How did you
lose him?"  He eyed Cecily suspiciously.  "I thought you were keeping an
eye on him!"

"If you had made certain everyone was in one place before taking off for
home last night..."

"Children!" Joshua intervened.  "Let's not lay blame.  We've looked
everywhere, Gideon.  Warg was in the pound this morning, but there's no
sign of Mitch anywhere."

Galvanized, Gideon left the master bedroom and strode down the hall to
Mitch's room.  Warg was lying dejectedly in front of the door, and rose
to his feet at the vampire's approach.  He whined.

Gideon opened Mitch's bedroom door.  "Have you tried in here?" he
inquired, and pointed to the bed where Mitch was still snoozing soundly
under the influence of a rough night and 20 mg of Gravol.

And there, in plain sight, were a pair of filthy orange overalls with
"Property of Noah Fletcher Memorial Animal Facility" blazoned on the
back.
_____
Epilogue
_____
When the dust had settled and Mitch had been forced to tell his story,
he insisted on going back to the pound.  Not merely to return the
overalls, either.  When he arrived back home at Oakwoods, he had the
small, sad-eyed brown and white spaniel with him.

"Her name's Pumpkin," he said defiantly, daring anyone to tell him he
couldn't have the dog.

"But why do you want her?" Jessica inquired, looking at the soulful
little creature.

Mitch reached down and lifted up the dog's head, gazing into her eyes.
"You never looked at me like that," he replied.

_______
The End