Matt got home to a quiet house. Neither David or Aunt Nancy were home from work yet. He threw his backpack on his bed and changed his clothes. After throwing his school clothes in his hamper, he went into the kitchen to grab some snacks. Doritos and Mountain Dew in hand, he collapsed onto the couch and fired up his Xbox. He decided to zone out with some mindless monster killing in Diablo III until it was time to go to Eli’s house.
When David got home from work, the only sound he heard in the house was coming from the living room. It sounded like either Matt or Brad or maybe both were playing Xbox. He kicked off his work boots, placing them by the kitchen door, and shuffled slowly down the hallway toward the sounds of the video game violence. David was exhausted, both physically and emotionally. “Thank God it’s Friday, little brother!” He said as he entered the living room and saw that Matt was the one playing Diablo III.
Matt paused his game. “Yeah, I’m glad the school week is over, but with the curfew, I probably won’t get to see Terrie tonight. We’ve hung out with groups of friends, but this was going to be our first big alone date.”
David nearly collapsed onto the couch and put his feet up onto the ottoman. “How come you’re not with her right now? The sheriff probably isn’t home yet. You could be over there getting in some of that alone time.” David winked and waggled his eyebrows at his brother.
Matt blushed. “You’re disgusting. Is that all you ever think about? We haven’t even had a real date yet. Maybe I should warn Skylar that he’s dating a perv!”
“Lighten up, little brother. Your mind went there pretty quick. You were thinking the same thing I was. Seriously, though, why aren’t you over there hanging out with your girl until this stupid curfew goes into effect? I’m meeting Sky as soon as I get showered and changed.”
“I can’t. I have something else I have to do first. I’d meet her afterwards, but I might not be done until close to eight.”
“Your loss. I’m meeting up with Skylar for sure. We haven’t gone on a real date yet either. No promises on me making it home before curfew.” He winked at Matt.
“The curfew sucks, but it’s not a joke, David. Two kids have died. Two people that I knew. One was Brad’s best friend, and the other one was close with Terrie.”
David sighed. “I know. I’m not downplaying what happened to them. Hell, Kim is the one who introduced me to Sky. I just need one good thing in my life right now. Skylar is a good thing.”
“I know what you mean, David. Things have been weird ever since we’ve been here, and I’m referring to more than just animal attacks in the park. You go be with Sky. I’ll take care of everything else.”
“Hey! I’m the big brother. I should be taking care of things, and you should be going out having fun.”
“You’ve taken care of everything for over four months. It’s my turn now.” Matt turned off his game and stood up. “It’s almost five o’clock. I gotta go meet Elias. Have fun with Sky, big brother.”
David’s brow furrowed. “Be careful, Matt. I’ll see you tonight.”
Matt grabbed his coat, said goodbye to his brother, and left the house.
David pondered his brother’s words after he left. What was Matt up to? Did he know what was happening with David, or was he talking about the deaths of his friends? Was Matt still having nightmares about wolves? David desperately needed to talk to Skylar and find out if he’d discovered anything new? Sky’s texts from last night said that he’d found some helpful information. Sky was upset that David hadn’t answered until this morning, but David knew that he’d understand when David told him about the second blackout. What was happening? Was everything connected? David sent a text to Sky telling him that he’d meet him at Will’s Diner at five-thirty, and then he got up and headed into the shower.
When Brad walked into the research room at the library, Devon Taylor waved him over to a table that was already piled high with books and old newspapers. Brad grinned and walked over to the table. “Wow. How did you get all this stuff setup already? Nice work!”
Devon smirked. “I had a study hall last period. I used senior privileges to escape early. I’m your junior editor, but I’m still a senior. Anyway, along with all this,” He waved a hand at all the research materials, “I have also bookmarked half a dozen or so websites. I’ll text you the links.”
“This is amazing, Dev. You remind me every day how thankful I am that I stole you away from the yearbook committee. If you don’t major in journalism, I’ll kick your ass myself.”
“None of that kinky talk, Holliday. You know I don’t swing that way. You’re thinking of my brother.” Devon winked at Brad.
Brad rolled his eyes. “Speaking of Skylar, he seems to be getting along rather well with my cousin. Has he said anything to you?”
“Has he said anything? He can’t stop talking about him! We may be related soon by the way he talks. Didn’t they just meet?”
“Don’t you believe in love at first sight, Dev?”
“Lust at first sight maybe.” Devon smirked.
“Well, David is a hottie for sure.”
“I am secure enough in my own sexuality to agree with you on that. My brother hit the jackpot on that one. David actually reminds me of Ross Lynch when Ross was blonde.”
“I wouldn’t put him in Ross Lynch’s category, but there is a resemblance. Your brother is a hottie, too, though. Anyway, are you finding anything over there?”
“I’m not sure exactly what I’m looking for. All you’ve told me is that we’re researching past animal attacks because of what happened to Kim and Kevin.”
“Yeah. And I want to know what animals that are indigenous to this area that could be big enough to do what was done to them.”
“Believe it or not, I’m finding way more animal attacks than I thought I’d find. Almost none in the last fifteen years, but before that there were more than there should be, especially against pets and livestock. The number of large predators that we have in this area just doesn’t account for the number of attacks.”
“You said that you’ve cross-referenced the reports with newspaper articles. Did any of them say if they pinpointed exactly what was doing the killing?”
“They’ve always assumed bears, because of the size of the tracks. They’ve never reported catching or killing a bear near town, though.” Devon laughed. “That fact has given rise to numerous whack job websites. Some of which mention your family and the infamous werewolf curse.”
Brad sighed. “What if… what if they’re not all whack jobs? What if there was some truth to it?”
“What’re you saying, Brad? You’re the facts and research king. Are you saying, now, that we should believe in supernatural curses and fantastical creatures?”
“What if someone that you trusted,” Brad stopped in mid-sentence, sighed, and started back up again. “What if I told you that I’d seen a werewolf with my own eyes?”
The loud thumping of falling books interrupted Devon before he could reply. Both boys turned to see the junior librarian, Nathan Burke, standing a few feet away with his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide.
Brad leaped to his feet and walked towards Nate. “I don’t know what you thought you heard, but,”
Nate cut him off with anear squeal. “You’ve seen a werewolf?! I knew they were real!”
Matt jammed his skateboard into his backpack and slung it over his shoulder on his way up the walkway to Eli’s house. He knocked on the door, and it was answered by a lady who looked to be about ten years older than Aunt Nancy, which put her around fifty years old. “Can I help you, young man?” The lady asked.
“Is Elias home?”
The lady scowled. “Are you a friend of Eli’s or one of those thugs who hurt him?”
“I’m… I guess, a friend? He is expecting me. My name is Matt.”
The lady looked at Matt suspiciously, but she let him inside. She turned and went about halfway up a staircase. “Eli! There’s someone at the door for you! He says his name is Matt!”
Elias appeared at the top of the staircase and looked down. “Really? Thanks, Judy. Tell him that I’ll be right down.”
The lady, now identified as Judy, came back down the stairs. “Elias will be down in a minute.” She peered over her eyeglasses at Matt, looking him up and down. “Do you two go to school together? He hasn’t mentioned any new friends or brought anyone home in a long time.” She got a sad look in her eyes.
Eli came running down the stairs and slid across the hardwood floor in his socks, coming to a stop right in front of Matt. He looked at his foster mother. “Thanks, Judy. This is Matt. We’re gonna hang out here for a little while and then go out.”
“Where,” Judy glanced from Elias to matt and back again. “Never mind. Just be safe, and make sure you are home before eight. The sheriff put a curfew on the town this morning.”
“We know. I’ll make sure we’re both home before the curfew.” Judy nodded and turned to walk deeper into the house. Elias turned to Matt. “I didn’t expect to see you until after six. Are you sure you want to be seen coming to my house?”
“I’ve decided that I don’t care. Everyone is going to make their own assumptions about me hanging out with you, and none of them care about the truth.”
“Sounds to me like you’re referring to assumptions that have already been made. Anything that I should be aware of?”
“You already know what Derrick said about the curse. And… Brad… he thinks… I don’t know. I guess he’s being a jealous ex-boyfriend.”
Elias arched one eyebrow. “What does he think? Does he think that I’m telling you about the curse to get into your pants?”
“I got the impression that he thought that I saved you from the bullies to get into yours.” Matt laughed.
Eli’s eyes grew wide and then a slow smile crept across his face. “Aren’t you dating Terrie Hanson? I thought you were straight, aren’t you?”
Matt smirked. “I told you he’s not being rational. He did apologize later. I helped you out of that situation, because it was the right thing to do, and I’m hanging out with you to talk about the curse.”
Elias looked thoughtful for a moment. “So, you’re just using me for my mind and not my body?”
Matt rolled his eyes. I’m not using you at all, Elias. I think underneath the loner exterior that you try to portray, there’s a genuinely good guy that I could be friends with.”
Elias got a faraway look in his eyes and frowned. “That may have been true once, but I’m not sure that it is anymore. Anyway, back to you, you have not answered my two questions. I bet you were hoping that I’d forget.”
Matt looked away from Elias and glanced toward the kitchen. “Are we going to stand in the hallway all night, or what? If you want answers, you’re going to have to feed me first!”
Elias clapped a hand onto Matt’s back and guided him toward the kitchen. “You know, this is starting to feel like a date, Mr. Montana.”
“You wish.” Matt laughed, but his cheeks tinged with blush.
“Yes, I do.” Eli grinned.
With leftover pizza, a bag of Doritos, and two bottles of Mountain Dew spread out on the table between them, Matt looked across the table at Eli. “This isn’t a date, Eli. I don’t want you to think that it might be. Above and beyond all the weird stuff, I do think that we could be friends, though.”
Eli smiled, but looked a little sad. “I know that, Matt, and thank you for saying that we could be friends. I’d like that. Friendship is very important, and I don’t have many. Well, I actually don’t have any, I guess. You seem to be gaining a lot of friends. Are you sure you need another one?”
“I have a lot of Brad’s friends. I don’t really feel like a part of that group. At least not yet. And, yes, I’m sure that I want you to be my friend.”
Eli grinned. “As your brand-new friend, I’d like to direct your attention to the fact that you are still avoiding my questions.”
Matt sighed. “You are relentless.”
Elias waggled his eyebrows. “These are very important questions that could affect the very foundation of our new friendship.”
Matt rolled his eyes dramatically. “Yes, I am dating Terrie. As far as the other question, what I will say is that I try not to label my own, or anyone else’s sexuality. Everyone is unique, and that’s the way it should be.”
“That is a very California answer.” Eli said with a smirk. “But, in your unlabeled sexuality, have you ever done anything with another boy?”
“No, I have not. There’s only been one other girl besides Terrie that I’ve even kissed. Not much to tell on that front with anyone.” Matt blushed.
“I’m basically in the same boat. Brad was the first, and only, boy that I’ve kissed. I thought we were on the verge of doing more, then he dumped me.”
“I may be out of line here, but I’ve answered two of your questions now. I’ve heard Brad’s side, what’s your version of events leading up to the breakup?”
Elias hung his head and sighed. After chewing on his lower lip for a minute, he looked up again. “I’m sure it will… mostly… line up with Brad’s story. I was new in town and I was getting bullied. This adorably cute boy named Brad asked me to be his friend, so I said yes. We hung out, a lot. Finally, I took a chance and kissed him. It was like fireworks in my brain, the best moment in my life up to that point. Things were good between us for a long time. Then I turned fifteen. On the night of my birthday, I had a nightmare. An older lady commanded me to go to the old house at the edge of town. When I woke up, I was compelled to go. I couldn’t stop myself. Inside the house, she appeared to me while I was awake, and she told me that she was the spirit of my mother.” Elias paused for a moment, then continued. “I won’t go into detail of what she told me right now. It’ll be easier to show you some stuff when we go to the house.”
“Ok. That makes sense.” Matt said.
“She showed me enough to make me believe that I was a witch like she claimed to be. I mean, how could I doubt it, she was a ghost. If ghosts can exist, why not witches? So, I kept going back to the house. It took time away from me and Brad, but I just couldn’t not go, and I couldn’t tell him. I knew he wouldn’t understand. Eventually, I was seen and the rumors started. Brad confronted me, and I told him that I couldn’t stop investigating my past. This was the only link that I’ve ever had to who I am. When I refused to stop going to the house, Bradley broke up with me. I thought he was my best friend. I thought he loved me, but to save face at school, he broke my heart. I did the only thing I could, I closed myself off from everyone, and I spent even more time than ever out at the house. When I wasn’t there, I was in my room here. I brought some of the witch’s journals and spell books here. Some of what I’ve read is amazing and some of it is scary.”
“Do you believe that it is real, Eli? So much is happening all around us. Is magic the cause? Is the curse real?”
Elias moved around the table and sat facing Matt, their knees touching. He grabbed both of Matt’s hands. “It is, Matt. Magic is real, and it’s amazing and exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I wanted so badly to share it with Brad, but he wouldn’t let me. Can I share it with you?”
Matt stared deep into Eli’s mahogany brown eyes. He saw excitement and fear, but most of all, he saw hope. “Yeah. Of course. Let’s go to your mom’s house. What’re friends for, right?” Matt smiled.
Now it was Eli’s turn to blush. “Right. Yeah. Let’s go!” He let go of one of Matt’s hands, but he still held the other one as he pulled Matt toward the door. He realized what he was doing and he let it go. He blushed even redder than he did before. “Oops. Sorry. Uh… grab your coat. I’ll tell Judy and Mark that we’re leaving.”
“No. I said what if.” Brad said quickly.
Nate studied Brad for a minute. “You’ve seen one. I can see it in your eyes. You’re not a convincing liar. Tell me exactly what you saw!” Nate’s bright green eyes were dancing with excitement.
“You’re both crazy. Werewolves aren’t real. What’s next? Vampires? Zombies? Mummies?” Devon huffed out a laugh.
“I… I can’t swear on a Bible that what I saw was a werewolf, but I can say that it absolutely was not a bear. The research we just did proves there are no animals that match the thing that I saw. Also, yes it was dark, but the thing stood on two legs and it was wearing clothes. I saw it attack Kevin. I swear to God!”
Devon shook his head. “I believe you saw something big, and I believe you were stressed and scared if you were right there when Kevin was killed. Let’s treat this like any other story and do our research. Nate, can you direct us to the books on werewolf legends? Not the Hollywood stuff, but like actual Native American legends and stuff like that.”
“Absolutely. If you don’t mind, I can help a lot. I have read every book, article, and clipping on werewolves that the library has, and more internet research than you can imagine.” Nate laughed nervously.
“Let’s get started then.” Brad said
Nate grinned and disappeared into the library.
When David got to Will’s Diner, Sky was already waiting for him. Sky walked over and greeted David with a hug. “Are you sure this is the place that you want to eat for our first date? There’s also Paulie’s Pasta Pavilion a couple streets over.”
“No. This is perfect. Kim worked here. She was the first non-family member that I met in town, and she introduced me to you. This can be like our own private memorial service to her. I want to honor her, Sky. I’m so scared that I may have been involved in what happened to both her and that boy.”
Sky took David’s hand and led him into the diner. “Boo, I honestly don’t think that you could ever hurt anyone. Not ever. Now, let’s go get something to eat and we can talk about what’s bothering you.”
“I’m sorry that I didn’t text you last night. I’ll explain why when I tell you everything else that has happened.” The two boys found a table furthest away from the counter, off in the corner by themselves.
Nate hurried back to the research table and dumped an armful of books out in front of Brad and Devon. These will be the most helpful to you. I brought some on witchcraft as well, because this is Roxbury Falls, if we have a werewolf it is most likely tied to the curse on the Montana family.” He raised an eyebrow at Brad.
Brad raised both hands in front of him like he was warding off an attack. “Hey, don’t look at me! I’m not a direct descendant. My mom’s sister married a Montana.”
They were sorting and stacking the books that Nate had brought them. Devon stopped flipping through the book on Sioux skin walker myths and looked over at the other two boys. “This can’t be real, can it? I mean even if there’s some sort of monster stalking the town, it can’t be David or Matt. It just can’t be. They’re so… nice. Hell, my big bro is dating David.”
“Really? I hadn’t heard that Sky had a new boyfriend. This David must be something special to attract him.” Nate blushed.
“How come you never hooked up with Sky? I thought you would. You were both single through your whole senior year. The two hottest gay guys in school, I thought for sure you’d go to prom together at least.”
“Just because we’re both gay doesn’t mean that we automatically like each other, Devon. Do you date every single girl you think is pretty?”
“I try, Nathan, I try.”
Nate shook his head. “And yet you’re single and hanging out at the library on a Friday night.”
“Whatever, dude!” Devon laughed.
“Besides, I had my eye on someone else last year. Sadly, he had a boyfriend.”
“Aww, that sucks. His loss. Who was it? I can’t think of many other gay guys in our school.”
Nate smirked but also blushed a deep scarlet. “You probably know him. He was a sophomore last year. I tried to woo him onto to yearbook committee to get to know him better, but he was too busy running the school newspaper. Then he started dating someone, and I knew I’d lost my chance.”
Brad’s mouth opened then closed three or four times, but no words came out. Finally, he found his voice. “I’m flattered and a little speechless. I… I’m not sure how to respond.”
Devon laughed out loud. “Well, that’s a first! Nate, you should confess your crushes more often. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for two years to get him to shut up!”
Brad smiled. “Nate, we are definitely not done with this conversation, but it’s getting late. We have to get back to work on this research. You said you’ve read all of this and seen all the movies and all the tv shows. Tell me what you know about werewolves.”