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Chapter 9

Truthfully the attack had scared me silly and I lay in bed unable to sleep, seeing over and over again in my head the image of smoke being shot and killed as I ran for my life. Who or what were these “men” and why were they hunting us? I could not understand it, we harmed no one, what did we do to deserve being hunted like animals?

I must have finally dropped into a light doze and my alarm buzzer woke me up at its usual time. I smacked the snooze button, groaned and turned around to snuggle back under, my warm goose down duvet and mumbled just five more minutes to myself.

“Clarissa! Come and eat,” my mom yelled up the stairs about fifteen minutes later. I awoke with a jump. “oh shit!” I thought. I had overslept and wasn’t even dressed yet. I gave my alarm clock a filthy look and hustled as fast as possible into thermal leggings, dark blue jeans my thermal spencer and a pink long sleeved t shirt. I was still tugging my fur lined boots on over my favorite pink and white striped woolly socks as I stumble, hopped, down the stairs to the kitchen. I pretty much inhaled my breakfast I ate so fast and dam but the bacon eggs and toast went down well. My mom had thoughtfully kept my portion of bacon raw, I chomped it down in one gulp.

I was just busy brushing and tying up my hair when Joanna knocked on the front door for our walk to school. I grabbed my school bag, tugged on my padded neon pink parka with its fur lined hoodie and yelled, “bye Mom, Bye aunt Evelyn.”

I rushed out the front door tucking my rebellious hair into the hoodie as I went. Where we live it’s cold all year round, so even though it was technically summer the air still had a frosty chill that turned our breath to smoke trails as we walked and talked.

She took one look at me and asked, “OK, what happened?”

As we walked to school in the crisp frosty air I told her.

“Oh my that’s terrible” she said and gave me a hug. “I know you didn’t know Smoke well, but still.” It started to snow again as we walked in the frosty air towards our school. Joanna was quiet and I didn’t feel much like talking either.This was looking to be the coldest summer on record.

The weather matched my mood. “I have to do something Joanna,” I said eventually, “these wolves are my family now.”

“I agree, But first we need to find out who they are and who is behind them.”

“Well I have a ‘history’ lesson after school at the school library on the history of witches and werewolves maybe that will give us a direction.” I answered as we got to the school grounds.

She chuckled as we walked under the wrought iron archway of the school. “Have fun,” she said tongue in cheek, she knows how much I hate history.

We parted ways and promised to meet at her house after my history lesson. We were studying two different fields of academics so we seldom saw each other during school time. I was doing business studies, accounting, business economics that kind of thing but Joanna wanted to be a scientist and her subjects were geared towards a university exemption. My day was the same humdrum routine but after school I made my way the six blocks in the slushy snow towards the library with a sense of anticipation. Maybe now I would finally get some answers.

The library was an old stone building, it was one of the first buildings built in the town and was listed as a historical monument. As I opened the heavy wooden door the smell of the place assaulted my nose, almost making me sneeze. The air smelled of dust, musty paper, old books and furniture polish. Book shelves covered the walls all the way up to the ceiling and long, wheeled, wooden ladders gave access to the upper levels of books. Curved around the middle of the room were shorter bookshelves filled with paperback books and fiction stories. There were a few old, scratched but polished wooden tables with hard ladder back chairs around them. The library had a few people in it, mostly students like myself but also some retirees and nannies with small children.

In front of me was an oval, hip height, wood panelled, reception counter, behind which Ms. Cunningham was seated on a black mesh swivel office chair. It was the most modern looking item in the room. Even the computers were ancient. Pale beige, boxy things with the old black screens and green text on them. Ms. Cunningham was wearing a pale blue cashmere twin set blouse and skirt. Around her neck and in her ears she wore pale pink pearls. She was totally absorbed in the book she was reading and it took a minute for her to notice I was there.

She finally looked up from the huge dusty tome she was reading. It was as thick as an encyclopedia, covered in fern green leather which had faded and cracked with time. Faded gold calligraphy was embossed on it in a curly script. I couldn’t read it from that distance but I knew it was a magic book of some sort, it seemed to leak a slight golden aura. When she saw me she smiled, put down the book and opened the flap in the counter.

She walked towards me with a big smile, “I’m glad to see you made it.”

I smiled back and asked, “where must I put my stuff?” She opened the flap in the counter she had exited from and showed me where I could stow my school bag among tattered or damaged old books which were collecting dust under the counter.

I did as she indicated and then she said, “Follow me.” and took off with surprising speed weaving among the tables and bookcases.

It was like being in a maze of wood and paper. Then she reached a door, it looked like the wall around it, only when you looked closely did you see the frame. She pressed a button concealed behind the nearest book case and the door slid open.

With a furtive glance around we stepped in. It was a very special room. Filled with a long mahogany table that looked ancient. Cherry wood book shelves filled with books lined the walls. More books were heaped in haphazard piles on the floor you had to step around them like a mini maze to get to the table in the center of the room. There were also lots of pot plants, so many in fact, that the room had a moist smell like the forest after a rain storm.

The mahogany table was covered with flasks and bunsen burners and even a genuine little black cauldron. Crystals, semi precious stones and herbs hung from the ceiling on fishing line so in the gloom it almost looked like they hovered in mid air. Naturally there were candles of every colour shape and size. The room took my breath away. She looked pleased at the effect her room had on me and smiled.

She removed two piles of books and scrolls from two three legged stools and gestured that I should sit. On the table in front of us she cleared a space and picked up a black book the size of an encyclopedia. It had silver old fashioned script on the cover which said “Ye historie of werewolves and other creatures of the night.”

I took a deep breath, damn that was one big book I thought. She saw my face and laughed gently, “Don’t worry there is only one chapter on werewolves, we don’t know too much about them.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, one chapter I could handle. She opened the book to a bookmarked place and began to read it out loud. I stopped her as I remembered something “Wasn’t Lira supposed to join us?” I asked.

“Hmm, you right, she was,” Ms Cunningham replied, pushing her glasses into a more comfortable position on her long pointy nose. “ I wonder what happened?” she didn’t seem concerned and just shook her head, already concentrating on the book again. I just let it go and concentrated on what she was reading to me. But in the back of my mind, my wolfy side twitched, something was wrong. At the end of an hour I knew very little more than I knew before but there was one good piece of news. Apparently a crystal of Jasper combined with a spell could help me control when I changed. Ms. Cunningham agreed to make me such a necklace.

As I left the library, after my training session, I walked past a TV store. In the window six big flat screen TV’s were showing live action footage of a crime scene. I instantly recognised our town in the background and my heart sank. I read the word tape underneath the announcer’s face and felt chilled to the bone. The script said “Young local girl found with throat slashed in back alley behind local restaurant.”

It looked like the whole of our small police department was there and the red and blue lights of the police cars swirling off the bricks and snow made everything look surreal. The body was covered in a deep red emergency blanket and a light snow had started to fall, flecking the blanket with white spots. There was an unmistakable curl of blonde hair peeking out the top of the blanket and that gave me a pretty good idea it was Lira.

I felt frozen both literally and figuratively. I had seen this girl only yesterday in my aunt’s house. What the hell was going on in our town? I walked into the store to hear what the announcer was saying.

“Preliminary reports are suggesting that the young woman was evidently the victim of a wolf attack sometime in the early hours of the morning. Although it is unusual for wolves to come this far into town it has happened in the past.” the announcer said.

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