Inside, Inez had just reached the bar and was reaching for where the phone was sitting next to a napkin holder on the bar when it started to ring. She waved it in the air at Matsui and Jesse who were looking at her with confusion before answering it.
“Yeah, I got it.”
“No…The wolf is here.”
It took less than two seconds for Inez to cross the bar and be at the front plate glass window.
“No shit,” Adelaide whispered.
“Okay, just…don’t move.”
“Yeah, I’ve got that much of plan figured out. I was hoping you could fill in the rest.”
“What are you looking at?” Jesse appeared next to her, looking out the window. “What are they doing…is that a fucking wolf?”
“There’s a wolf outside?” Matsui jumped the bar and ended up on Inez’s other side. “What the hell?”
“I’m calling animal control,” Jesse said. He started towards the kitchen.
“Why the fucking hell not?” Jesse asked.
“Because they won’t know what to do with it-”
“They won’t know what to do with a fucking wolf?”
“-and anyway, they won’t get here in time. We need to scare it off, at least long enough to get Adelaide and Gus back inside the bar.”
“Okay,” Matsui said. “How do we do that?”
“Do you have a gun?” Inez asked.
Matsui’s eyes brightened. “Yes! Yes I do!”
“Not in the bar you don’t, idiot,” Jesse said. “It’s in the back of your truck.”
“Not my gun, the bar’s gun. It’s…” Matsui winced and balled up its fist.
“Well?” Inez asked, holding out her hands.
“It’s locked in Big Bill’s office. He lost the keys last week.”
“Oh, well, let me go break down the door,” Jesse said. “Tell Gus to hold still for about half an hour, I’m sure that thing will understand.”
“You’re not helping,” Inez said. She started looking around the bar. “We need to work with what we have.”
Outside, soft flakes of snow were pushed down the street nearly horizontal from the never-ending wind. Both Gus and Adelaide’s eyes were watering from the cold. Gus’s fingers, still wrapped around the top of the car door, were stiff and white. The pinky he had broken back in high school had long since checked out, and he could see it starting to turn blue. Neither of them dared moved. Every move they made bigger than a cough made the wolf shift, almost nervously.
“Why is it just standing there?” Gus asked, most of his voice carried away by the wind.
“If I didn’t know any better…”
“Well, it’s kind of acting drugged, right?”
It was. Even as it had stood watching them it had tilted this way and that, sometimes putting out a paw to keep from tumbling right over. Its eyes were sharp, yes, but they didn’t look as sharp as they should have been, and while every sound they made drew its attention, if they stayed quiet for a while, the eyes would lose focus and start to drift.
“What are they doing in there?” Gus asked, glancing at the phone still held up to Adelaide’s ear.
“Mostly yelling at each other.”
“Oh. Good,” Gus said. “I think we should get in the van.”
Adelaide shook her head slightly. “Inez will come up with something. We can’t draw its attention-”
“We can’t wait here any longer,” Gus said. “If it has been drugged, it looks like it’s coming out of it.”
Adelaide looked at the wolf again. He was right. It wasn’t stumbling anymore.
“Back up slowly, into the car. Try to get into the driver’s seat. Once you’re there, I’ll come around the door.”
Adelaide took her hand and phone away from her ear and lowered the phone into her coat pocket. With either hand she got a hold on the car frame. The wolf watched, but did nothing.
There was only a soft rasp as she picked her left boot up off the ground. In agonizingly slow movements, she bent her leg at the knee until she was confident that her boot would make it over the bottom of the van frame and in. After what seemed like much, much too long, her boot finally found the foot well.
Her grip on the door frame got tighter as she began to do the same with the other foot. It had to go up higher to get over the seat. She didn’t dare try to move back until the back of her boot rasped against her coat.
“It’s, uh…it’s looking a bit more interested in us,” Gus said. “I don’t want to hurry you, but maybe you could move less slow?”
The glove on Adelaide’s right hand betrayed her and her grip on the car frame disappeared. The right side of her body dropped down until her knee met the frame of the car door. The impact egged a high-pitched keening noise out of her, one she managed to bite down on after half a second.
But half a second was too much. The wolf remembered that they were there, and then remembered that it was a wolf, and they were prey. Its ears went back, and its teeth, shiny and so much sharper than its eyes, appeared along with a low growl that surfed the wind to meet them. It was back on its haunches and then it had launched at them before Gus could even think.
In the space of two seconds, while the wolf was rapidly crossing the thirty yards between them, Gus pulled his hand off the car door (ignoring the fact that his fingers stayed at the same angle), came around to the other side, pushed Adelaide back into the passenger seat and slammed the car door shut. He turned to run toward the bar.
Too late. Two large paws met his chest and he was shoved back at the car. Rancid, meaty breath and high-pitched barking and low-pitched growling and a frenzy of pearl white and serrated teeth all occupied the space just inches in front of his face. It lunged at his throat.
A well-placed shove at its neck and shoulder kept it from reaching Gus’s jugular. It came at him again and he pushed back. From behind him he could hear Adelaide screaming something. There was no way Gus could keep this up. Every time the wolf pushed at him it got closer and closer. Gus had to figure something out but his brain had stopped trying to think.
The wolf’s, though, hadn’t. Tired of being foiled at every bite, the wolf went to take out the obstacle.
Gus’s scream was throaty and painful, making his throat burn. Not that he felt it. The wolf’s jaws, clamped down on his right arm around the elbow, were taking up all of his senses. Warmth dripped and spread all around his skin and soaked into his shirt, and beyond the pain there was an awful loose feeling around the muscles in his hands. Unaware of what he was doing, he started beating on the wolf with his other hand.
The wolf bit down harder, and Gus heard a high-pitched crack as he felt bone shatter.
When it let go of his arm, it was only to finally reach Gus’s throat, where the blood ran fast and the screams could be stopped. As he stared down the open bloody throat of the wolf, Gus’s brain had enough left to think, I didn’t think it would be this.
A long whistle along with shouts of ‘hey!’ and ‘over here!’ started coming from the bar. Both Gus and the wolf turned to look at where the sound was coming from.
A ball of fire, bright red and yellow, crashed into the back of the wolf and exploded, sending smaller droplets of fire into the air. The smell of singed fur joined the fracas. The wolf growled and finally backed away from Gus, intent on going for the sender of the fire ball.
Gus dropped to the ground and cradled his arm. He looked up from the blood pooling next to him just in time to see another fire ball hit the ground directly in front of the wolf, and yet another hit just to the left.
A third hit the wolf square in the face. Fearful keening noises came out of its throat. With a last look Gus could almost describe as sad, it ran off down the street before the fourth could hit it, instead fizzling out on the snowy grass. Gus waited to see what would kill him first – the blood loss or the cold.