Figuring out the werewolf pack’s secrets was more difficult than I anticipated. I spent a lot of time in the Riverview area, but there is no such thing as sneaking up on a werewolf. Even when they’re in human form, their senses are 100 times better than a regular person’s. I finally had to admit that I wouldn’t be getting any answers from them until McGregor decided to talk.
I didn’t spend all my time dwelling on the frat brother werewolves. Business was booming. Between the case of possession that was actually, and obviously, paranoid schizophrenia; the dybbuk box that was a small steamer trunk with a mouse infestation; and the satanic cult that was a couple of rambunctious teens with an Ouija board, I was able to get a few legitimate cases to fill my time.
I wouldn’t say I was giving up on learning anything from the werewolves, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, either. That’s what made it so surprising when McGregor called.
I was in my office on a Tuesday, almost three weeks after our visit to Arcadia College. The office phone bleated out an unexpected ring, making me flail away from my laptop in surprise.
“Caro Spencer,” I answered.
“Hey, Caro?” the male voice on the other end asked. There was something familiar about him, a sort of cultured accent, but I couldn’t place it.
“Yes?” I asked. I thought it was obvious from how I greeted the caller.
“It’s McGregor Pierson; we met a few weeks ago?” Of course! The reason I couldn’t place him was the uncertainty in his voice; a total 360 from the cocky, self-assured, politician Penny and I met.
“Oh, right, McGregor,” I said, working to keep my growing excitement under wraps. “What can I do for you?”
“I wondered if we might be able to talk.”
“Sure.” I said, “What’s going on?”
He coughed. “Maybe we could meet somewhere?”
“Alright,” I let the line stay quiet for a bit before asking, “when and where?”
He asked me to meet him that night at the 50’s-style diner on Pine Grove’s main street. It was a three minute walk from my office.
When I hung up with McGregor, I texted Penny.
Me: Guess who I’m meeting for dinner tonight?
Penny: The Muffin Man?
Penny: The Muffin Man?
Me: What? No. That doesn’t even make sense.
Me: McGregor, the guy from Omega Kappa Beta.
Penny: Whoa. Like a date?
Me: No, you dork. He called and said he wanted to meet. Didn’t say why, though.
Me: You wanna come?
Penny: Not tonight. Keep me updated?
Me: Of course.
Penny hadn’t been around much lately. At first, when he didn’t return my calls or texts, I figured he was being all depressed, but then I’d go to his house and find his car gone. I almost thought he’d found a girlfriend, before realizing he’d have to know girls to date one. He didn’t ignore me completely; he would answer my messages eventually, like nothing strange was going on. It’s not even like he went with me on every investigation, but he’d show up at least twice a week, not just twice over a three week period.
I was at the diner ten minutes early. The hostess sat me at an electrical blue colored booth with a tiny jukebox pressed against the wall, and snapped two plastic coated menus down on the Formica table top.
When he walked in the door, the hesitation I’d noticed on the phone was replaced by a confident swagger and a blinding crooked smile. He slid into the booth across from me.
“Thanks for meeting me tonight,” he said.
“No problem,” I said. “What’s up?”
Before he could answer, a smiling waitress in a blue and white striped dress and pink apron bopped up to the table and took our order. He got two patty melts, a plate of cheese fries, and a strawberry milkshake. He must have seen the shocked reaction on my face, because as the waitress sashayed away he patted his (flat) stomach and said, “werewolf metabolism.”
I smiled, but asked, “Why did you want to meet me?”
“Oh, I see how it is. You like to get right down to business.”
“There’s no point in drawing it out.”
“Maybe the pleasure of my company?” His eyes were doing that twinkling thing again. I was losing my concentration.
I snorted. “What do you want, McGregor?” I asked.
“I need you to stop hanging around Riverview,” the smile was gone.
“I can’t do that.”
“You’re gonna get yourself hurt.”
“I’m not afraid of you.”
“That’ll change when I’m a 7 foot wolf with teeth that could bite completely through your thigh.”
I laughed. “You’re just a bunch of talk, aren’t you?”
He smiled that crooked smile. “Don’t bet on that to save you,” he said. “It won’t just be me out there.”
The waitress came back with a tray full of food. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized we’d been leaning forward, our faces only a few inches apart. Blood flooded my cheeks. I occupied myself with my French fries in the hopes he didn’t notice.
“Who are you protecting, McGregor?” I asked.
He winced around his mouth-full of burger. “That’s not how this works.”
I slammed my soda glass on table, sloshing some over the rim. “It’s exactly how it works. Some inexperienced witch is making zombies they can’t control and one of your boys might know something about it. I can’t let that go.”
“You have to, because I’m not telling you anything.”
“So, this is just what you do, then? Protect them no matter what?”
“I’m not only the chapter leader of a fraternity, Caro,” he pushed all his plates of food away. “I’m the—“
“Alpha?” My mouth pulled into a closed-mouth smirk.
He squirmed, eyes fixed on his fingers. “Basically.”
“Please tell me you can’t read each other’s thoughts.”
“Of course not,” he snapped. “But I’m their pack leader. I have a responsibility to them.”
“Right,” I said. “And I have a responsibility to protect normal people from the monsters. I don’t think you want anyone put in danger, either. I need your help to prevent innocent people from being hurt.”
McGregor rubbed at his jaw line, leaving long red streaks on his face. “I can’t betray him. But,” he continued before I could express my displeasure. “I’ll arrange for you to meet them. We’ll ask anyone who has information to come forward.”
“If he refuses?” I asked.
He shrugged. “You’ll have to figure that out yourself.”
I twiddled with my unused fork, mulling over his proposed solution. I couldn’t think of anything better.
“Okay,” I said.
We exchanged cell numbers and called it a night.
For the next few days, I checked my phone every few minutes. McGregor didn’t message me until Friday. A short: “Tonight. 8:00. Willow Hill.”
I texted Penny about the meeting, but he didn’t respond, so I set off toward Riverview alone.
Most people find graveyards eerie, if not downright terrifying, at night. I think they’re lovely. Light breeze tossing tree branches, buzzing of cicadas and crickets, no signs of habitation—total peace.
The gates were chained and padlocked. I dealt with that with ease, picking the lock with quick and nimble fingers. I slipped through the bars, easing them closed behind me.
I heard the footsteps swishing through the grass before I saw them. It wasn’t everyone. McGregor said there were fifteen brothers, but there were only eight guys with him. They all wore long athletic shorts and matching t-shirts from a luau themed sorority mixer. McGregor stood in the middle of the group, hands on his hips.
“Gentleman,” he said, “I’d like to introduce you to Caro Spencer,” he gestured to me.
I waved, “Hi.”
A few waved back, one smiled, the rest stood with their arms crossed, faces pulled into dour scowls.
McGregor was unfazed by their negative attitudes. “Caro has a favor to ask of us. She provides an important service for our community, and I want us to do whatever we can to help her out.” A few of the guys, the scowling ones, shared a dubious look. “Why don’t you explain to them a little about what’s been going on?” McGregor asked.
I stepped forward, ignoring the way my heart felt as though it was beating itself up my throat. I explained about the zombies and the conclusions I drew from their existence. I examined every face before me, but they were all closed off, listening but distant.
When I finished, McGregor separated himself, crossing to stand next to me. “As Caro said, this has the potential to be a very dangerous situation. She wants to ensure that no one is hurt. If you know anything about this, I’d really appreciate if you shared that information with her.”
I watched to see if he singled out any of the guys in particular, but he fixed each in turn in his gaze. No one’s face gave anything away. Minutes drug by with McGregor staring at the members of his pack, waiting for the one that was hiding something to reveal his secret. Nothing happened.
He shrugged, giving me a quick frown, before turning back to face the others. “Okay, none of you know anything. That’s fair. Thanks for indulging us.”
“Yeah, thanks,” I said, voice a little hoarse.
McGregor turned back to me. “I did what I could. Sorry.”
“If someone is killed because of this…” I let the words trail off.
“It’s not my fault,” he said. “I protect my guys. I keep them away from people during the full moon.”
I dropped my gaze from his, shaking my head. “I hope, for your sake, that I figure this out before that happens.”
He didn’t respond; his twinkling brown eyes clouded over with confusion and anger. He turned away from me, “Let’s go, guys,” he said.
I watched them jog back into the darkness. McGregor didn’t look back.