Inez was running across the parking lot, flanked on either side by Jesse and Mat. The van behind Gus shuddered as Adelaide slammed the passenger door. They all reached him at the same time.
“Jesus Christ, Gus, are you okay?”
“What the hell were you thinking?”
“That is a lot of blood.”
“We need to get him inside.”
“I’ll call an ambulance.”
“What do you mean no?”
“Adelaide, get the first aid kit from the back.”
“I mean…that’s too much blood.”
“Just help me get him inside.”
Jesse took his legs while Matsui and Adelaide took either shoulder. Mat was on the side with the bite, and he took extra care not to touch the broken bone or blood. Or look at any of it too hard. Inez held the door to the bowling alley bar open.
“Take him to the pool table. Set him down, gently.”
He was barely down before Adelaide darted back outside, before Inez could even suggest that might not have been a good idea.
“Can I call 911 now?” Matsui asked. He was covered in blood up to his arms. They all were, actually.
“No, you can’t,” Inez said. She saw the look on his face and help up her hands. “I know how it sounds, but if you call an ambulance and get them involved, the situation is going to get a lot more complicated.”
“What are you even talking about?” Jesse asked. Confusion and terror were starting to be replaced with anger. “The situation is that Gus was just attacked by a wolf. He needs surgery and stitches and I’m pretty sure I’m staring at a piece of bone right this second.”
“Oh, don’t say that,” Gus said with a groan. He was trying to watch the faces of his friends as they talked. Mostly his eyes seemed to swim across the ceiling. “I don’t want to look at it. Do I want to look at it?”
“No!” came from four different people.
Adelaide had just come in the front door carrying a giant, red plastic tackle box. She set it down on a bar stool and started rummaging through until she found what she was looking for. Jesse tossed his hands in the air.
“Oh, great. He’s going to bleed out on the pool table, so you’re going to take his temperature.” He was yelling now.
“He’s not going to bleed out,” Inez said, sounding only partly sure of herself. “He’s going to be…fine. We just need to give it a minute.”
“Open up, Gus,” Adelaide said, and stuck the thermometer in Gus’s mouth. He didn’t seem have enough energy to argue.
“Listen to me, you crazy bitch,” Jesse said. “He’s not just going to magically be fine.”
Inez and Adelaide glanced at each, having another of their quick, unspoken conversations.
“Actually…” Inez said out loud.
“What the fuck are you, a Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
The thermometer beeped. “102.4,” Adelaide said, before putting the thermometer back in Gus’s mouth. Jesse’s face had turned purple, and he sucked in air as he got ready to scream again. Matsui, who up until this point had been sitting on a barstool, calmly watching everything with eyes partially glazed over, stepped in front of Jesse at the last second, holding a hand up in front of his face.
“Give me one good reason not to call the ambulance right now,” Matsui said, his voice even.
“You’re not going to believe me.”
Inez looked at Adelaide, tried to decipher what she was thinking at that moment. Adelaide only shrugged.
Inez took a solid breath. “Okay, fine. Gus wasn’t attacked by a wolf. He was bit by a werewolf.”
Jesse started for the phone behind the bar.
“You people really are crazy. Werewolf? Werewolf? I’m going to call an ambulance, and then I’m going to call the police.”
If Matsui had just slapped Jesse he would have had the same look on his face. Matsui looked calmly back, arms crossed at his chest. “Don’t call.”
“You…you can’t seriously tell me you believe any of this.”
“It’s a full moon. That wolf was…huge.”
“Just a few minutes, that’s all,” Inez said quickly. “It takes a few minutes, but he is going to heal, I swear.”
Jesse looked between Matsui, and Inez, and Adelaide and Gus. Adelaide looked at the thermometer.
Gus looked considerably worse. He was almost completely white, and sweating hard. His breath was coming in small, fast jags. His eyes were opened but completely unfocused, swimming. Gus was dying.
With a shake of his head, Jesse picked the phone off the counter. Matsui walked calmly to the phone and pushed Jesse away before he could hit the first ‘one.’
“You’re crazy like they are!”
Jesse pushed back, and the phone hit the ground with a plastic clatter. A shoving matched erupted, with Jesse falling back farther each time.
“Guys, stop it…someone is going to get hurt and we will have to call an ambulance. Guys!”
Inez whipped around. “What did you just say?”
“104.3. His temperature is coming back down. It’s coming. It’s about to happen.”
“What’s about- Jesse, get off- what’s about to happen?”
“Mat, come over here,” Inez said. She was standing next to Gus, now, on his good side. “Around here, behind him. Help Adelaide hold his shoulders.”
“I thought you said he was going to heal,” Matsui said as he walked around.
“He is,” Adelaide said flatly, but her face made Matsui think that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. He stood behind his friend, looked down at his pale face, and wondered not for the first time what the hell he was doing. Over at the bar, Jesse had picked up the receiver for the phone, but he hadn’t dialed anything yet. He was watching. Waiting. Matsui realized he was waiting for something, too. Something was gathering in the room, in the air above them. They could feel it.
Inez had taken Gus’s left hand with her own.
“Gus. Gus, can you hear me?” Her voice was soft, and she carefully brushed the hair out of his eyes. “Hey, I need you to wake up now.”
Gus opened his eyes and after a few seconds managed to bring them into focus.
“Is the ambulance here?” His voice was almost nothing.
“No, it’s not,” she said. “Gus, I need you to hold my hand, okay? And I want you to squeeze it as hard as you need to?”
“Because, sweetie. This is going to hurt like a motherfucker.”