Brad walked hand in hand with Nate up the front steps to his house. “Are you sure you want to meet my mom?” Brad shrugged. “We haven’t even had a real date yet.”
Nate huffed out a laugh. “We are not living in normal times. Dating protocols can go on hold while we battle the freaking supernatural!”
Brad grinned. “Agreed. Let me do the talking if she asks about Matt and David.”
“Yessir. Lying to your mom is your job.”
“We might not have to. My mom is the newspaper editor and works closely with the sheriff. I don’t know if they’ve talked today or if he’s told her anything.”
The two boys walked into the house. Nancy Holliday turned from making dinner as they walked in. “Bradley, you’re home. Have you seen your cousins? I’m almost done with dinner. Oh, hello.” She said, noticing Nathan standing next to Brad.
“Mom, this is Nate. Do you mind if he stays for dinner?”
“Of course, he can. I’ll set out an extra plate.”
“Not necessary. Neither David nor Matt will be home for dinner. I’m not sure when they will get home, but I will text them later. They were busy when I left them.”
Nancy quirked an eyebrow. “Boys, sit.” She pointed to the kitchen table and sat on one of the chairs. “I know there’s more going on than what is being reported by the sheriff.” She looked directly at her son. “And I know you’ve got yourself right in the middle of it. Talk to me, Brad.” She smiled. “You know I’m going to find out anyway.”
Nate nodded his head and looked at Brad. “I think we should tell her.”
Brad sighed. “You’re going to hate this, mom. Either you’ll think I’m lying to you, or you will believe me, and that might be worse.”
“Just tell me, Bradley. At this point, I think I need to know.”
“You’ve been to all the animal attack sites, right?”
“Yes. The sheriff even let me look at what was left of the bodies and read the coroner’s reports. I won’t go into details because I know you knew all three of the kids, but it was not a pleasant experience.”
“Did anything that you saw resemble any bear attack you’ve ever seen or heard of?”
“Honestly? No. What are you saying, son?”
Brad reached into his backpack and pulled out the two photographs. He slid the photos across the table. “These are the two photographs I took in the park last night. The sheriff got them back from his friend already.”
“And you want me to believe that this is a werewolf?”
“I want you to believe that that is David. The Montana family curse is real. My ex-boyfriend is a witch. Elias was drawn to the witch house last year because it is his family home. Eli is the last living descendant of the witches that cursed the Montana family.”
Nancy’s eyes were wide. “Are you saying that you think David is responsible for the three deaths?”
“Nope. Remember when David got bit by the big dog in the backyard, and Matt insisted it was a wolf and nobody believed him?”
Nancy quirked an eyebrow. “Second werewolf?”
Brad shrugged. “Technically, that one is the first werewolf.”
“So, this is why you boys have been suddenly living at the library?”
“I work there.” Nate quipped. “Brad will be spending more time there even after this is over?”
“I think we skipped over something in introductions. Are you dating my son?”
Nate blushed. “Yes… well, we haven’t officially gone out yet… but yes.”
“Are you still in school?”
“College and I am the junior librarian. I am pursuing a double major in Library Sciences and English Literature.”
“And how old are you?”
“Eighteen.” Nate huffed out a laugh. “All that may have made me sound older. I’m a very ambitious college freshman, and I fell into the library job. Mr. Harris needed help, and I was in the right place at the right time.”
Brad covered his face with his hands. “Mom! We haven’t even started dating yet. Don’t scare him off with the third degree!”
“You’re in high school. Nathan is in college. A mother worries.” She looked at Nate and then back at Brad. “I approve, but we might have to pry him out of the library and into the newsroom.”
“I considered journalism. No offense, but I’m more of a teacher than an investigator. The last few days’ research has been fun, but I’m more of a stay in the library guy than a go hunting for werewolves in the park guy.” Nate huffed out a laugh.
“Hey!” Brad yelled. “I resemble that remark!”
Nancy shook her head and winked at Nate. “I raised him to be too much like me. He needs someone like you to keep him grounded.” Then she looked at Brad. “Now tell me the rest. Where are my nephews.”
Brad took a drink of his ice water. “Settle in, and I’ll tell you everything I know. This might take a while.” Brad began his story.
The five boys walked into the abandoned warehouse and looked around. Sky looked concerned. “Are you sure we won’t set off any alarms and get arrested for trespassing or anything?”
“Or maybe get accused of impersonating Marley’s Ghost?” Devon rattled the chains that he had wrapped around himself.
“We won’t be arrested,” Matt said. “If Terrie’s dad shows up, he already knows what’s going on.”
“Or that deputy shows up and burns us all as witches and monsters.” Elias scowled.
Matt shrugged. “Yeah, I guess Lilly Monroe is a new problem that we have to add to our long list of problems.”
“Where’s this cage, Matt? I can feel the moon.” David said softly.
“Come on, let’s get you back there,” Matt said, pointing toward the back of the warehouse. “Sky? How are you feeling?”
“Nothing yet, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel.”
“You’ll know it if it happens. The first time was the most painful.” David said.
“That’s comforting, babe.” Sky laughed.
Just as David stepped inside the cage, he fell to his knees. “It’s starting. Lock me up, guys.”
Matt helped Devon unwrap himself, and they started weaving the chains through the chain-link fence. Then Skylar screamed. Matt, Devon, and Elias all turned towards Sky as he fell to the ground in obvious pain. Sky’s emerald eyes were now a bright yellow, and his teeth were lengthening into fangs. In a deep growly voice, Sky screamed, “Help me! Please!”
Devon’s eyes were wide with fear. “What do we do? We don’t have a second cage!”
Matt looked to Eli. “Any ideas? Can we put them together?’
“I’d hoped it wouldn’t come to this. We weren’t sure this would happen and had no time to prepare. We don’t have a choice but to put David and Sky together and hope for the best.” Elias shrugged. “We can watch them closely and try some calming spells if they get violent.”
Devon looked at Matt. “No matter what, they are our brothers. What do you think we should do?”
“Sky trusted that David wouldn’t hurt anyone, even in wolf form. I agree with Elias. If they retain any of their own thoughts, they will be fine. We must take the chance.”
“Agreed. Now we need to act fast to get Sky in the cage and not let David get back out.”
Sky was still predominantly human as Matt and Devon half carried and half dragged him to the cage door. As soon as they were there, Eli opened the gate. They successfully got Sky into the cage and then finished securely locking it up with the chains and padlocks.
“Who’s going to make the first coffee and snacks run? This is bound to be a long night.” Eli quirked one eyebrow.
Devon sighed. “I’ll go. What do you guys want?”
Terrie got home and yelled out to her father. “Dad, I’m home! Do you need me to start dinner?”
“I’m in the den, sweety. Come in here before you get started.”
Johnny ran up to his big sister. “That mean deputy is in there. I don’t like her, Terrie. I heard her talking about you, Brad, and your other friends. Brad and Matt are both super nice. Brad saved my life! Don’t let her hurt them!”
Terrie ruffled her brother’s hair. “I’ll be careful, Johnny. Thanks for the heads up. I will always protect my friends., almost as fiercely as I protect you, little bro!”
Johnny grinned. “Love ya, big sis!”
“Love you, too,” Terrie said as she turned and walked into the den.
Terrie barely acknowledged the presence of Lilly Monroe as she walked over to her dad’s computer desk. “What’s up, dad?’
“Lilly told me there’s been a lot of activity at the witch… at the old Carrier house. Do you know anything about that?”
Terrie shrugged. “Why, yes, I do. A bunch of us were there today. Eli’s foster parents have finally gotten all the legal issues straightened out. The house will officially belong to Elias upon his eighteenth birthday in a couple of months. We were helping him clean the old place up. Is there a problem with that?” As she asked the question, Terrie was staring right at Lilly.
“No. I…” The sheriff began, but Lilly cut him off.
“Yes, there is. You are getting involved in things you cannot control. The more you hang out with the Carrier boy and the Montana boys, the greater the danger you are in.” Lilly said.
“If you are this great supernatural hunter, why haven’t you done anything? How do you know that danger exists beyond a rogue bear?”
Lilly’s eyes narrowed. “We’ve spoken of this. You know that the supernatural exists, and you know it exists in this town. With your father’s permission, I can show you further proof if you come with me to my house.”
“Go. Learn everything you can.” Ronnie said.
Lilly and Terrie left the house and walked to Lilly’s car.
Before Devon left to go on his coffee and snack run, he stopped to watch the wolves. The two wolves were sniffing and circling each other, only stopping to rattle and shake the chain-link enclosure. Then the smaller wolf, the wolf with the greenish-yellow eyes – Skylar, lay prone and submitted to the blue-eyed wolf’s inspection.
Devon kept watching for a while, then his eyes went wide, and he turned to Matt. “Are they doing what I think they’re doing?”
Matt had an equally shocked expression on his face. “It’s like National geographic porn with a Stephen King twist. I don’t want to watch, but I can’t look away.”
“Eli! Are you recording them?! I don’t even want to watch this once. Why would you save it?” Devon asked.
Elias huffed out a laugh. “Not for me! For them. David has told us that he can’t remember his time as a wolf, except maybe a few flashes of memory. I thought this might be something they want to remember.” Eli shrugged.
“I don’t even know what to say to that. Or to that.” Matt pointed to the cage.
“It’s probably their first time together, too. Can life get any weirder for all of us?” Devon said.
Matt rolled his eyes and then laughed. “A couple weeks ago, I was living the straight life on the beaches of Southern California. Now, I’m a bisexual witch watching my brother and his boyfriend have werewolf sex. No. I don’t think life can get any weirder.”
“On the positive side, this may prove that they retain at least a portion of their true personalities as wolves. They are less restrained and more primal, but they are who they are. I believe Sky was right about David. He would not kill, even as a wolf.” Eli said.
“I hope you’re both right. Looking at those two, I’m inclined to believe it.” Matt said.
“Since we’re sure they’re not going to kill each other, I’ll head out on that coffee and snack run,” Devon said.
“Excellent idea. I’m starved.” Eli grinned.
Terrie followed Lilly into her small cottage, situated on the edge of town. Lilly pulled open a door which led to a darkened stairway.” “Follow me,” Lilly said.
Terrie frowned. She was a little nervous, but her dad knew where she was and who she was with, so she followed. At the bottom of the stairs stood a steel door that looked like the door to a bank vault. “That doesn’t look like it belongs in this old cottage.”
“I did some home improvements when I moved in,” Lilly said as she stood in front of an electronic scanner to the right of the door. She put her thumb on the pad and waited for the beep, then she entered a series of numbers into the keypad. Finally, the door opened. Lilly led Terrie into a room that was bright and shiny. Everything was either stainless steel or painted white.
“Ouch. I didn’t know I’d need sunglasses.” Terrie scoffed. Then the items in the room caught her attention. There were swords and knives and guns and weapons of almost every variety. There was also a ceiling-to-floor bookshelf that covered three walls. Most of the books looked ancient. “Wow,” Terrie said in awe.
“Feel free to look around and ask questions. This is one of our oldest collections of books and weapons. Roxbury Falls has been a beacon for the supernatural for thousands of years. We thought we had finally eradicated the witches nearly twenty years ago, then magic was again detected here.”
“You are talking about Elias Carrier. You thought you had eradicated the witches by murdering his mother, but you didn’t know about Eli.”
“It was not me, personally, but yes, the rest of that is accurate.”
Terrie’s eyes narrowed. “Are you planning Eli’s murder right now?”
“If he continues to use magic, he will be dealt with most harshly.”
“What if he is using magic to help people? Magic isn’t inherently evil. People are. Would you kill him if he was helping people?”
“Magic and magical creatures are unnatural and cannot be allowed to exist.”
“So, you lied. Even if Elias doesn’t use magic, you still want him dead because he is magical.” Terrie said as she turned away from Lilly. “Wooden stakes? Are vampires real?” Terrie asked as she stared into a glass case full of stakes, holy water, and other vampire fighting gear.
“Most of the legends have a factual origin. Vampires haven’t been sighted outside of Eastern Europe in over a hundred years.”
Terrie nodded and moved on. She walked toward the bookshelves. As she got closer, she felt as if she had walked through a curtain of spiderwebs, but nothing was there. Terrie turned and saw Lilly staring at her with a shocked expression.
“What do you know about your mother?” Lilly asked.
“Not much. Why do you ask?”
“You just passed through a spelled barrier that only those with Hunter blood can pass through. That explains why you have been drawn to the witch and the Montana boys. Hunters are drawn to the supernatural, so we can destroy it.”
“I don’t know if I am what you say I am, but no one will destroy my friends. I will stop you myself.”
“You will change your mind as the bodies pile up in your town.”
Terrie’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve shown me your toys. You’ve spun your tales. I already believed that there was more going on in Roxbury Falls than most people think. Can I go home now?”
Lilly handed Terrie a book. “Take this. Read it. It explains the importance of your heritage as a witch hunter. It also explains why you can never trust a supernatural creature, and they are creatures. Even the witches who walk around looking human. Elias Carrier is not a cute teen boy to watch movies with. He is an emissary of Satan who must be burned out of existence.”
Terrie took the book. “I’ll read your book, but I’ll also hook you up with a good therapist and some anger management classes.”
Lilly led Terrie out of the basement and back to the car. “You will be back, and when you come back, you will be begging for my help to eradicate the evil that has infected your town.”
As Terrie listened to Lilly rattle on, she tried to remember as much about the setup of the house and security systems as she could. Terrie thought that she and her friends might need some of Lilly’s weapons to kill the rogue werewolf. With one last look around the property, Terrie slid into the passenger seat of Lilly’s car.
Brad slid his phone back into his pocket and sighed. “Do you want the good news, the bad news, or the weird news first?” He asked Nate.
Nate reached over and grabbed another handful of popcorn before answering. “May as well start with weird.” He huffed out a laugh.
“Werewolves have sex. Well, at least our two do. LGBTQ+ werewolf sex. I’d like to see that in a pride parade.” Brad grinned.
Nate’s eyes went wide. “Glad I wasn’t taking a drink! I may have squirted Mountain Dew out of my nose. That is wild!” Nate’s brow furrowed. “I guess that means that the bad news is that Sky is a wolf for sure, and the good news is that they didn’t kill each other, am I right?”
“Yep! That’s the news update for now. Did you pick out another movie yet?”
“How about ‘Julie and the Phantoms’ instead of a movie? I’m sure this won’t be our only Netflix night.” Nate waggled his eyebrows.
“I sure hope we have more! That show has hot boys and great music. Can’t go wrong with that combo! Excellent choice!”
“Oh, aren’t I a hot enough boy for you?” Nate gave a pouty look.
Brad rolled his eyes. “Of course, you are, but more is better, right?” He laughed.
Nate smiled. “You’re funny. I think I like you a little bit.”
Brad started the show and snuggled up against Nate. “I’ve thought of a loophole in my mom’s rule. She said that she better not find both of us in the same bedroom in the morning, but I really don’t want to be alone tonight.” He looked up at Nate.
Nate leaned down and gave Brad a kiss that was little more than a quick peck on the lips. “What’s your loophole?”
Brad smirked. “We watch tv until we fall asleep right here, just like this.” He snuggled in closer to Nate.
“I approve of this plan. It’s evil, yet sweet and innocent.” Nate chuckled and let his hand slide down from Brad’s shoulder to his waist. Nate leaned his head against Brad, and the two boys settled in to watch tv.
Devon got back from the snack run and stopped in his tracks when he saw Matt and Eli. “Dude! Should I wear a bell or something? First, I had to see Sky and David getting busy, now the two of you.”
Elias rolled his eyes. “We were not having sex. We were barely kissing. I wouldn’t even call it making out.”
“You’re just jealous.” Matt laughed. “We need to find you a girlfriend. Sky said the same thing.”
“Not really looking right now, bro. I talk to a few girls, but I’m just so busy with school, lacrosse and baseball, and the newspaper that I don’t have time to date. It’ll happen when the time is right.” Devon shrugged.
“The important thing right now,” Eli smirked, “is did you get my Mountain Dew and white cheddar Cheetos?”
“Your wish is my command.” Devon grinned and handed one of the grocery bags to Elias. “Where are we setting up for the night?”
Eli took the bags and pointed. “We set up a table and the sleeping bag over there. Only one sleeping at a time, I think. Two can stay awake easier than one.”
“Agreed. How’re our boys doing?” Devon nodded toward the cage.
Matt grinned and blushed. “It seems they wore themselves out. They’re asleep. They look kind of adorable for werewolves. They’re asleep and cuddling.”
“It’s comforting that humans aren’t the only ones that fall asleep after sex.” Devon laughed.
“I know, right?! And cuddling! I sure hope that witches are into cuddling, too!” Matt smirked at Elias.
“Oh, absolutely! I can one hundred percent confirm that they are.” Eli laughed.
Devon rolled his eyes. “Get a room!”
“We have a whole house, but no, we’re here with you instead,” Eli said.
“Blame my brother. No! Blame his brother.” Devon pointed at Matt.
Matt rolled his eyes and pulled out a deck of cards. “We’re in for a long night. What card games do you guys know how to play?”
The three boys settled in at the table with cards and snacks while always keeping one eye on the werewolf cage.
Terrie got home and rushed right into the den to talk to her father. She found him still working at his computer. “Dad, we need to talk. It’s important.”
“What is it, honey? What did you find out at Lilly’s?”
“More than I wanted to, but all of it was important. The first thing is that Lilly’s house has a secret basement full of books and weapons. All of it is about tracking and killing supernatural beasts. Lilly said that Roxbury Falls has always been a beacon to the supernatural.”
“The town, this whole area, has always had unexplained deaths and weird things happening. Knowing what we know now, Lilly might be right.”
Terrie looked directly into her father’s eyes. “How much did you know about all of this before the last couple of days?”
“What do you mean? What else did she tell you?”
“What I mean is, did you know that the supernatural was real? Did you know that there was a werewolf in Roxbury Falls as soon as Kim was killed?”
Ronnie sighed. “I suspected after Kim, and I was pretty sure after Kevin. That’s why I put the curfew in place so quickly. I didn’t know it was a werewolf, not for sure. I’ve never dealt with anything like this, Terrie. I thought all this supernatural stuff was behind us years ago.”
Tears started to form in the corners of Terrie’s eyes. “You thought it was over after mom died, isn’t that what you mean? My mother was a witch hunter, wasn’t she? What really happened to her, dad? Did witches kill her?”
“No. Just the opposite. Witch hunters killed your mother while she was trying to save the life of her best friend, Marie Carrier.”
“Wow. Oh my God. That’s insane. So, mom wasn’t a witch hunter? Lilly told me that I have witch hunter blood.”
“You do. Your mom’s ancestors were all witch hunters, but she chose another path. Your mother was the first witch protector in hundreds of years. She wanted to make peace with the covens, and she had done just that. Marie and Julia were inseparable. Your mom went nuts when the witches started dying. She tried everything to save them, but there were just too many hunters. The hunters wouldn’t listen to anything your mom had to say about peace. They believe that all supernatural beings should be killed no matter what.”
“Did you know what Lilly was when you hired her?”
“Not until you told me about Elias. I know Lilly was fascinated with that house, but I had no reason to believe that hunters would come back to this town until you told me that Elias was a witch.”
“All of my friends involved in this are in danger now, aren’t they?”
“If they have ties to the supernatural, then yes. I’ll try my best to handle this as sheriff. If it’s only Lilly, we might be able to manage this. We do need to confirm who or what is killing kids, though, Terrie. I’m sure you want that just as much as I do.”
“I do, but I’m thinking that even if we deliver the guilty wolf to Lilly, she will still go after Elias and the others.”
“If she is anything like the hunters who were here seventeen years ago, you are right. I’ll try to get her to leave town, Terrie. Please don’t do anything stupid. I can’t lose you like I lost your mother.”
“I promise not to do anything stupid, but I will defend my friends. I won’t sit back and let anyone hurt Matt or Elias or any of the others.”
“I would expect nothing less. You are exactly like your mother. Just be safe, Terrie. That’s all I ask.”
Terrie grinned. “Saying that I am like mom is the best compliment you could ever give me. I’ll try my best to be as safe as possible, dad. I won’t back down, though.”
“I meant what I said. I am proud. You are a strong and independent woman. Your mother would be proud, too. You and your friends just try to lay low while I get Lilly out of town.”
“Thank you for being honest with me, dad. I’ll keep you in the loop. This new information about witch protectors might be what we need to get Lilly off our backs. Just know that it’s much too late for us to do nothing, and we’re not going to hide or run.”
“Understood. Good night, Terrie. I’m heading off to bed. I love you.”
“I love you, too, dad. Good night.”