Before we left, Mr. Hall took me to the armory. A whole room dedicated to killing things. I had been here once before when I was issued a survival knife for my survival training.
Today, I would get a gun. A simple Beretta that would carry me through my life. Or until the weight of my job became too much for the metal and gears to bear. I didn’t wish to die today, or anytime soon, but sometimes the desired did come. But not today.
At dusk, Mr. Hall and I set out to Central Park. I sat at a bench on the sidewalk where the werewolf was known to hunt, and I waited. Mr. Hall stayed in the shadows hidden behind a veil. He thought he was inconspicuous, but every time he made a note, my heart started to race.
I went through my usual mantra. 5 things I could see. The moon and the stars, that was two. The trees beyond my teacher was another. The sidewalk winding through Central Park, and over my shoulder, the reflection of the City sky in on the water. That made five.
Four things I could touch. The bench beneath me, the soft strands of my hair I had recently dyed a beautiful shade of light blue.
I reached behind my neck. The edges of a bandage were rough against my fingers. The bandage covered a tattoo I had gotten — stupid me. A stylized dragon I called Mushu. The dragon drawing wasn’t of my favorite character, but I liked the way the tattoo had come out. I was so fucking high that day that I don’t remember getting the tattoo done at all.
3 things I could hear. The wind in the trees, a twig snapping in the treeline beyond where Mr. Hall stood. A quiet growl rumbled through the air, and I was on my feet heading in the direction. My mantra was interrupted.
Mr. Hall scribbled on his notepad, and I tried to ignore him as I stalked towards the sound that had pulled me from my anxiety. At least now, I had something to focus on other than Mr. Hall’s notes.
Another snap in the treeline signaled the sound was getting closer to Mr. Hall. He was the next target. I should let my teacher show me how things got done, but he was unaware of the situation. He was hyper-focused on me.
A blur of motion jumped out of the trees, and I extended my hand, a gust of air flung the creature away into the woods, and Mr. Hall glared at me stunned. He turned to see the not-so-small wolf scrambling away from us. My teacher turned to me and started writing furiously in his notebook, but I didn’t care, I had a werewolf to track now.
Except this werewolf made a lot of noise, every step through the wood broke a branch or snapped a twig. The beast left an easy path to follow through the tree line. Cars screeched on the other side. For most people tracking the wolf through the city would be tough, but not for me. My mind raced with thoughts of what Mr. Hall had been writing, distracting me from my mission. I’d missed my shot at killing the beast. But I had done so to protect him, he would fail to listen my side of the story. They always did.
But I let my senses go. The cool night air cooling the sweat on my skin as I followed the beast at a breakneck pace trying not to lose the trail. His scent was lodged in my nose over all the other scents. The city smelled of urine and garbage and lousy air — the smog so thick in my nose I was surprised by the intensity of the forest I detected trailing the wolf. If I dared open my mouth more than I was I would taste the foul scent. The muscles of my own body rippled with exertion as my senses expanded, and I saw things most people did not. I tracked him through scent and vision, unlike others. My sight was hard to explain to others, the best I ever managed was a bunch of cascading lights running every which way, the possibilities were endless. I didn’t see the future or the past, but the present — all the possibilities of the moment. Which way, how high, down the alley or up the street. — all questions I didn’t need to ask, I knew.
Down one alley, twisted through the street until we were at the end of your chase. A fence three stories high blocked the wolf’s path. He was tired, and climbing in wolf form was difficult. The beast clung to the chain-link barrier and howled in misery. The soft scent of damp forest ground was much stronger as I drew near. His golden eyes stared at me. A deep rumble sounded in his throat, and I stopped. A werewolf bite would kill a Venatori. There was no chance of survival.
“Shoot the beast.” My teacher shouted behind me.
I couldn’t. There was no threat, just a scared little boy staring at me through the eyes of a wolf. He wasn’t one of the members of the Lone wolf pack, I’d recognize him. Unless he was new, but the Lone Wolf pack didn’t turn sixteen-year-old boys, the way he looked at me, the fear in his eyes as he growled at me.
I couldn’t shoot him. But my teacher urged me on again. “Shoot it.”
I drew my gun from the holster at my waist. I couldn’t do kill him, but I’d fail the class if I didn’t pass. And Dae’lin would cut off everything I loved to do. There would be no dancing, no sneaking out to hang with my friends. There would be no elemental classes, no helping her in the office researching the cases she gave me. One course could ruin my life. I was no older than the boy who now stared down the barrel of my gun. My concerns weren’t worldly. I was selfish. But the pain of squeezing that trigger seared my soul as I did the one thing I shouldn’t do.
But there was no choice in the matter. Not in my head at that moment as my teacher yelled, “Shoot it!”
The wolf lunged, and the trigger moved a hair, and the gun fired one loud blast. There was a yelp followed by silence as the wolf recoiled from the shot and thumped to the ground. Mr. Hall was at my side, his hand on my shoulder. “I was worried for a moment. You got an A. That was excellent tracking.”
I barely nodded as I stare at the wolf lying on the ground, the form shifting back to his human self, and I had been right, the werewolf was a boy. No more than sixteen, my age. Fuck!
I shook my head. “I’ll clean this up.”
Mr. Hall dismissed the fallen wolf and shrugged, “The cleaners are on the way.”
“I can do this, the least I can do. Spin whatever story you want, there won’t be a body left to mourn.” I said flatly as I pulled from the man’s grip and walked towards the boy.