Dean returned the smile with his own. “I was wondering if I could look at your security camera footage. I’m looking for a missing person.” He pulled out his wallet and showed the woman his investigator’s license. Her eyes grew large as she looked it over.
“A private investigator! Oh, how exciting. Are you working on a case, mister….” she peered again at the license, “Youngwood?”
“Ah, yes, I am. Now about your cam…”
She slipped an arm through his so quickly, Dean didn’t have a chance to do much other than blink in surprise as she started to pull him towards the back of the store.
“Uh, ma’am, ma’am! This, ah…” he tried to pull free. Her grip was gentle, but her arm had all the unyielding strength of steel as she literally dragged him helplessly in her wake to the back of the store.
As she pulled him along, dean reached into to his left hip, and unsheathed his multi-tool. Holding like a knife he stabbed the tool down hard on the edge of the woman’s wrist, hoping that he could get free. The chunk of steel rebounded off her soft-looking arm like it had bounced on a trampoline. She’s not affected by iron?!
The woman-thing reached a white door that blended in with the back wall. She pushed it open, then tossed Dean in, and closed the door behind her. She snapped her fingers, and the walls of the small room started glowing.
“Now” she growled, “Why are you really here? I’ve not harmed anyone by intent. I am upholding my bargain that was struck. I want to know why you are here, human.” The woman slowly shifted as she spoke, her body twisting into a caricature of a human body. Her skin darkened to a hard ebony as her jaws extended and fur sprouted on her face and forearms.
Oh gods, a werewolf! No wonder she wasn’t hurt by steel. How do I get out of this?
“Ma’am, I don’t know who you think I am, but I”m just here trying to find a missing person.” Dean realized those were the wrong words the moment they left his mouth. He tried to keep talking, but words wouldn’t form as he was violently lifted from the ground, a steel vise around his throat as the werewolf, now fully three meters tall, lifted him to it’s eye level. Golden eyes glittering like angry jewels locked on his.
“You DARE come into my den, and accuse me of EATING HUMANS?!” The creature’s rage surrounded him like a tornado tearing at his sanity and courage. It opened its fanged mouth, and Dean kicked at it frantically. The werewolf shivered, and slowly put Dean back on the ground and released him. Dean wasted no time scrambling back from it, plastering himself against the wall.
“I have not hunted any creature since I swore my oath to live in peace. If you have come to provoke me, you did. Congratulations, now get the fuck out of my store.”
“Wait a minute, let me say something here!” Dean backpedaled as the creature reached for him. “I’m not here after you, a girl went missing the other day and I think she was seen he…” He quickly amended himself, “next door before she disappeared.”
The werewolf paused. “Keep talking.”
“I was hired to find a girl. The last person she was with works at the Kwik-Way. As far as I know, I never even knew you were here. You’re just an old…err…grandmotherly type, that I was hoping had security cameras so I could see if she was around here the other night around eleven or so.”
Dean was babbling. He knew he was babbling. He was happy to keep babbling. It kept the werewolf from grabbing him again. Said werewolf was watching Dean closely, head tilted as she listened to him explain.
“I’m trying find her, not you. This is a misunderstanding. You misunderstood me, and I misunderstood where you were coming from.” he paused to take breath. “I don’t want trouble, I got hired to find a girl. Her mom hired me to find her, not you. How about we just start over and I’ll excuse myself for stepping one any figurative toes. how about it?”
The werewolf stared at Dean, its jaws opening and closing slowly as its lungs drew in deep breaths of air. Dean felt the trickle of cold sweat roll down his back. Even if the werewolf didn’t kill him, it could easily cripple him simply by throwing him against the wall. The creature lowered its hands to its knees and wheezed like a leaky bellows. Concern began to override Dean’s fear.
“Uh, umm…Ma’am? Are you, uh, all…right?”
The werewolf waved a hand at Dean and slowly shifted back to her human form, minus clothes. Dean turned around hurriedly.
“I am so sorry about all of this.”
“Just keep yourself turned to the wall,” came a prim, wheezing growl. “I’ve got spare clothes here.”
Dean waited for fifteen minutes for the woman to finish dressing. She had Dean turn around. She was dressed in baby blue sweat pants and shirt, the deep blue of the smock offsetting the paler blue of the sweats.
“Thank you, young man. Changing always strains the heart and lungs at my age. If you were here to kill me, you had every chance to do so. As far as I’m concerned, I owe you an apology.” She huffed, sounding like a dog trying to sneeze something distasteful out of its nose. “I’ve had people come by trying to force me into attacking them a couple of times this year. Once it was so I’d bite them and they’d change. The second, well, some humans are always hating anyone different.”
She took another deep breath and steadied herself against the wall. She waved Dean back when he started forward. “I’m fine, Mr Youngwood. Just lightheaded from the changing.”
Dean nodded and walked over to pick up his multi-tool from the ground where he’d dropped after being thrown in the room.
“Well, would it be allowable for me to review any security recordings that you might have of the last forty-eight hours? If I can find the girl on them, then I know she was here for certain.”
The woman shook her head.
“Sorry, I don’t have anything like that. Those things have a high-pitched whine that hurts my ears.”
“Oh.” Dean’s hopes fell, along with his hopeful smile. “Well, I’ll just have to do without. I hope you’ll accept my apology for all this trouble.”
She waved it off. “Most exercise I’ve had in a long while. And I should be apologizing to you, for going off and accusing you like that. My temper got the better of me.”
Dean shrugged. “So, I’ll be on my way. Thank you for an, uh, interesting, time.”
“I’m Madge O’Brien. I’ll keep my eyes open. Do you have a picture of her so I know who to look for?”
“Oh, I should have done that right off.” Dean dug in his pockets, pulled out his cell, then displayed Maren’s picture to her.
“Hmm, yes, I’ve seen her about recently. She was visiting that tall young man with the ponytail.” Madge made a sour face. “Last time I saw her was two weeks ago. She and that Vlad fellow were talking in the parking lot.”
Madge nodded. “Yes, I could hear them.” She tapped her ears. “Wolf, remember? The hearing carries over, as does the nose.”
“Were you able to understand what they were talking about?”
Madge frowned. “He was trying to talk her into going out with him that night. She said no because of classes the next morning.”
She huffed again. “Smart girl. Didn’t let him talk her into getting in trouble.”
Dean nodded. “Was there anyone else around?”
“Oh yes. Vlad’s got a gambling problem. Some gentlemen who spoke French with each other, came by to tell him he needed to pay what he owed.”
Dean’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh? That’s VERY interesting. What did they tell him?”
She gave Dean a sour look. “I don’t know French.”