My eyes open slowly and I stare straight ahead as my shoulders tighten. “You love your stories. Don’t you?” My voice is menacing, not hiding my disappointment and outrage.
“Oh I could tell you a story, but the truth will hurt the most.”
My teeth grind together, my patience wearing thinner and thinner as all the pictures I’ve seen of Jenny from when she was a girl hugging her sister, to only a few years ago when she was in school, play in my mind.
“They’d run in packs and terrorize the people.” He paces again, I can hear him doing it and a part of me wants to turn around; I want to look him in the eyes and see the man who plays with fire like he has. The only reason I don’t is because he has the upper hand. He has Jenny. He has the answers.
“They attacked people, but farms mostly, leaving the families little food for themselves…” He pauses and lets out a soft sound, nearly a chuckle although I’m not certain it’s humorous; it sounds sickening.
“They ruled and there was not much to be done. Much like you and your brothers,” he says and the S hisses in the air. “They don’t run wild here anymore though, because hunters found a way. Well, there were two ways.” I remain silent, biding my time, struggling to stay patient with him.
“The first, I’m not a fan of,” he says and steps closer to me, but still I don’t react. “They’d find the female mates and put them in cages for the males to see. When the males would inevitably come to find their mates, they’d try to release them, to no avail. And then they’d wait there for the men to come, with their tails tucked under them, begging in whimpers for their mates to be freed.” Every hair stands on end as he tells his tale. All I can think about is Bethany. “I’ve been told you didn’t even need a gun to kill them when they did this. When they came to get their mates, they were so willing to do anything and accept anything in order to free their mates, you could turn your gun around and beat them to death with the end of a rifle.”
My skin pricks with the imagery that floods my mind. The fog of my breath in front of my face paints the picture of a wolf, bloodied and dead and next to it a caged mate, with bullet wounds ending her life.
“Are you implying something, Marcus?” I dare to ask him, feeling the anger rising. “If you’re threatening-”
“Bethany is safe,” he answers before I can finish and the simple confirmation is more relief than I thought imaginable, given my current position.
“The other way though… I… I find it more fitting,” Marcus says, and continues his story. “The farmers would dip a knife into bloodied water. Wolves love the taste of blood. They knew that, so they’d tempt them. They’d dip it and freeze it over and over. Practically making a popsicle, made just for wolves.”
The swing blows and creaks again as he tells me, “They’d leave the knife for the wolves, and the wild animals would lick and lick, enjoying their treat and numbing their own tongues with the ice. They’d continuing licking, even after they’d sliced their own tongues. After all, they love the taste of blood and they couldn’t feel it.”
“The wolves would bleed out?” I surmise.
“They would. They would lick the knives even after the ice was long melted, and bleed themselves to death.”
“Now, if only I’d heard that at bedtime, maybe I would have had better dreams,” I lay the flat joke out for him, downplaying the threatening tone he chooses, and keeping my voice casual.
“Humor is your preference, isn’t it?”
I don’t bother answering.
“What’s the point to your story, Marcus?” I ask him bluntly.
“I brought you a gift,” he answers. “I brought you a bloody knife.”
My jaw clenches as I wait for more from him.
“Trust me, you’re going to want this one, Jase. I think you’ve been waiting for it for a long, long time.”
“What is my bloody knife?” I ask him, gritting my teeth and praying it’s not the body of Jenny Parks. That’s all I can think right now. Please, don’t let it be her.
“Inside the trunk of the lone car across the street is your package. I sent you a video, you should watch. He’s had a high dose of your sweets. I’d think it’ll wear off by tomorrow… Good luck, Jase.”
“This is completely and totally shady,” I mutter under my breath and then look over my shoulder to make sure no one saw me walk into the alley behind the drugstore. It’s nearly 3:00 a.m. so the store is closed, as is everything else around here. “Could you freak me out any more?”