I groaned as I hauled myself into my apartment and pulled off my thick coat and gloves. I laid my bag on the kitchen counter and groaned at its weight. Just thinking about the paperwork I had yet to touch stressed me out.
“Are you sure you aren’t gonna come home this week? I miss you,” my sister Zaina said through the phone that I had squeezed between my shoulder and my ear. I switched on the lights in my kitchen and reached for a half-empty bottle of wine that I had been enjoying over the past few days.
“You know I can’t, I just finished my hours at the pet clinic which means I have to stay and make sure everything works out well with my fur patients and our new apartment business. Plus, I haven’t finished everything on your stupid checklist. Seriously, why do I have to buy your clothes? I’m not your assistant,” I said as I poured myself a glass of wine before walking over to my windows.
Snow littered the concrete with specks of glittery fragments. The first snow. If I wasn't busy perhaps I could have enjoyed it more. I took a sip of my wine and savored the warmth in my stomach before setting the glass down on a nearby table and sliding the door open to my balcony.
“But you live in the city. Meanwhile I'm over here stuck in the middle of nowhere. And of course you aren't an assistant. You know, you could take over for me. Have us switch places?” Zaina said and I rolled my eyes.
“Not if I was the last woman on Earth.”
In a loose grey sweater and worn out jeans, I savored the cold against my skin and enjoyed listening to the noise taking place in the city. Distant sirens and loud conversations from strangers was my soundscape of choice. And New York made for some greatly distracting noise.
“Not woman, she-wolf,” Zaina said, pulling me out of my thoughts.
“Half-wolf," I corrected, rolling my eyes, "There’s a reason I’m living a human life, Zaina. And we both know you just want to be the pampered princess you are,” I said as I leaned against the railings and peered down below. There were few people out and about. Not surprising considering the snowfall. A harsh wind blew through the streets and I heard it howl between alleys.
New York was hardly ever peaceful. But this was one of the more serene moments of living here. I savored the muted noise. The sirens in the distance dulled down and I could just barely hear the soft jazz that played in one of the little restaurants down below. I closed my eyes and took a breath.
And then I heard something.
It sounded like a wince.
A dog’s wince.
“Mom and dad called me Princess for a reason,” Zaina said. And I was reminded that I still had my phone pressed warmly against my cheek. I pulled it away and turned my head towards the balcony next door. After a few moments, I heard a heavy thump followed by more wincing. I put my phone back against my cheek.
“Zaina, I’m gonna have to drop this call. I’ll call you later.”
I hung up.
Another wince and then a loud thud to my left.
The balconies were divided by a panel of thick concrete walls for some privacy. But the noises definitely came from next door. I was sure no one lived there. I managed the damn building. I paused for a moment before I heard another thud, and another, then a muffled shout, and then a crash.
And then I heard it. A growl.
I went back into my apartment, walked over to the kitchen counter, and opened the cabinet below the sink. I pulled out my revolver, a steel gun with a black grip, and checked the chambers – a full round of five bullets. Okay. Maybe you’re overreacting. I shook my head. Either way, someone might need medical attention and I was the closest person here.
I took the gun and pressed my ear against the wall of my apartment. I heard movement, a kind of dragging noise – but no voices maybe someone was passed out. Or maybe it was just an unexpected new neighbor that got drunk and a friend was taking care of them. A lost homeless person?
Regardless, I had to check. I tucked the gun into the waistband of my jeans and pulled on a loose black jacket before leaving my apartment and knocking next door. I knocked three times, paused, and then knocked harder.
“Hey! I live next door and heard some trouble going on. Everything okay?” I asked loudly before following it up with three loud knocks.
I heard it again. The sound of something whimpering followed by what seemed to me like muffled sobs. My doubts began to increase. I placed my right hand on my back, resting my palm on my gun’s handle as I heard heavy footsteps come toward me. The door soon opened with a golden chain dangling between me and a a scruffy-looking man.
“Sorry, friend’s dog is getting a bit out of hand. A friend of mine just moved here and we were just gonna check it out–”
“Oh, well, I’m a vet," I interrupted with a smile, "I can help you if you’d like.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. He wanted me to leave. I smiled wider.
“Listen, whatever is wrong with the dog, I can probably fix. Trust me,” I said and he shook his head. "I can't ignore an animal in need," I added. He paused for a moment.
“Okay, just give me a moment.” He shut the door and I waited. I heard muffled noises that sort of sounded like “Behave” and “Shut up” and, it was as if the guy thought I was deaf. Then again, perhaps it was the werewolf genes. It took a while before the door opened again.
The door opened soon enough and the man moved aside as I went in. The apartment was an absolute mess, the walls were torn up with scratches, the furniture torn to bits and well, it looked like someone rampaged and tore the place up. I almost cursed. And then I smelled it. That familiar scent of iron. Blood. It marked the floor leading to a door where I could hear the wincing and panting of an animal. I heard the door close behind me followed by the soft muted sound of something clicking – safety lever.
“You’re kidding me,” I muttered. Before the man could open his mouth, I turned around, pulled my gun out, and aimed it at the man. He gave me a look of surprise.
“Where’s the dog?” I asked and he simply gave me a stare. I rolled my eyes before taking a step forward and the man had the audacity to place his finger on the trigger of his gun.
“Four people live on this floor. No one lives to the right– but three people live within a close enough radius to hear your shitty pistol fire,” I explained.
“They can hear you too,” he said and I smiled. “You know this isn’t any of your business.”
“Yeah, well like I said, I’m a fucking vet,” I said, not breaking my smile. I aimed at his right knee and shot, earning a scream before I aimed at his left shoulder and shot again, earning a satisfying and agonized scream out of him.
“Everyone... would’ve heard... that,” he said in between pants as he fell to the ground, bleeding onto the floor. There goes another chunk of my budget. I thought to myself.
“Yeah, well, I was trying to scare you,” I said as I took hold of the barrel of my gun, and swung hard at his head. He fell with a thud and though I didn’t exactly end him, he’d bleed out soon enough. I tucked the gun back into my waistband and ran towards the sound of the whining, there was a trail of blood on the floor that led me to a closed door.
I opened it up and sighed as I saw a large wolf breathing raggedly. It looked at me and whined.
“Hey, stay with me,” I said. I got up and turned on the lights. “Listen, I need you to stay like this, do not shift, no matter how bad it is.” I examined her, she was large, black and brown, with plenty of blood soaking the fur on her lower body.
I heard a vibrating noise from outside and watched as the wolf in front of me let out a weak grunt I got up and made my way out, searching for the phone and finding it in the pocket of a pair of torn-up jeans – most likely torn from shifting. I looked at the phone and saw the caller ID – L.
I slid my finger across the screen.
“Where the hell are you?!” A man growled and I could feel the strength of that tone – Alpha. I felt a shudder run through me.
Mate. For a brief moment, that was all my brain registered until I shook myself out of it. Not now. Not ever.
“I’m sorry. My name is Auden, I’m a, uh, pack doctor and I found this she-wolf, um yeah anyways – she’s in an apartment and she’s bleeding and losing consciousness. I need help getting her out of here safely and into the closest safe space you have,” I said.
“What? What the fuck happened?! How is she?!” He shouted, making me pull back the phone from my ear. Looks like he didn’t notice.
“She’s breathing, I’m trying to keep her conscious. I’m sorry, but I want to make sure that you’re a person I can trust, I found some lunatic with a gun here before I got to her,” I said and I heard a low curse come through the speaker.
“Put me on speaker,” he said, but I hesitated. “I’m her brother. You can trust me, I swear. Our packhouse is far, but if you can help her I can have someone come and bring her back safely by morning.”
I pressed speaker on the phone.
“Lana! We’ll bring you home soon. Stay calm. Xander will come get you,” the Alpha’s voice said. The wolf’s eyes glossed over, forming tears, and I took that as a sign that I could trust him.
“I’ll tell you the address,” I said. Once I was done, I immediately switched to work mode.
“Okay, your brother is sending help, I’m gonna go get my medical kit in my apartment, whatever you do, just keep breathing, okay?” The wolf looked at me and huffed weakly before I sprinted to my apartment. I picked up a toolkit and a medical bag before running back towards her, ignoring the body in the hallway.
I washed my hands in the kitchen sink and slipped my hands into gloves. I took out a sterile syringe and immediately got to numbing the wound. It was deep, some kind of laceration, just above her left thigh that cut straight towards her stomach, which was why she was lying on her right side. Fortunately, wolves healed quickly, so it was no longer as deep as it probably was. But it still needed to stop bleeding – and to heal in the right form, otherwise, she’d lose too much blood and I doubted that she'd be able to get off this floor alive.
I talked to her to make sure she was still conscious as I cleaned up the wound, washing it with what I had and moving flesh around, making sure that most of the fur was out of the way. I cut parts of frayed skin, wincing as she screamed and moved about, making me apply more anesthesia. I continued to work.
It didn’t take me too long– but I did finish with more than enough blood on my jeans, on the floor, my hands, and enough blood to drown in. There was a lot even for a werewolf to bleed out from. Thankfully, she was still breathing, though she’d passed out a while ago. When I checked, the stitches I placed had already started to pull together. All she needed now was to not shift until that healed up – otherwise, she'd rip that whole thing apart and bleed to death. Grotesque, but true.
I stood up and began cleaning. I took my stuff to the bathroom and shoved all the bloody waste material into a trash bag. I checked on the wolf and smiled as she continued to breathe softly but in regular small pants. She would need meds to avoid infections – but until we got her to a better location, this would do. At least the bleeding stopped and her wounds were sutured.
I placed my tools back into my kit and sighed in relief as I let myself relax now that the job was done. I hadn't had such an exhilarating experience since I was a young healer in training at the packhouse back home. The wolf had begun to breathe normally, her eyes slowly blinked awake, glazing over me as the anesthesia continued to numb her senses. I patted her head.
“You’ll be fine now. I’ll go grab you a blanket or something, okay?” I asked before I stood and grabbed my kit.
I made my way over to my apartment and made a few quick calls about clean-up. Thankfully, werewolves were pretty good at cleaning up messes – and someone would come by to pick up the dead body by tomorrow. I didn’t exactly check if he was a werewolf, but I guessed he was. After all, capturing a werewolf, as a human, was no easy business. I shook my head. The guy was dead, any problems he made would be dealt with by the pack.
I decided to shower.
As soon as I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror I groaned. My dark brown hair that I had tied in a ponytail looked like a mess, whatever mascara I had from yesterday crumbled under my eyes, my lips were chapped, and I could already see the dark bags forming beneath my deep brown eyes.
My clothes would have to be disposed of, there was no way I was gonna try and wash off this much blood. I grimaced as I peeled my jeans off my legs and jumped into my shower for a quick wash. I pulled on a simple navy blue long-sleeved dress that fell just at the middle of my thighs before grabbing a spare blanket I didn’t mind staining to give the wolf next door. Not that she would’ve needed it in terms of warmth, but I knew it would provide some comfort.
As I headed back into the room where the wolf was, I watched as she barked – well, attempted to bark anyways, but winced instead at my figure. I got close to her and placed the blanket on her.
“Okay, okay, I’m sure you’ll be fine here– I don’t think I can move you, so you’ll have to stay here for the night, I can stay here if–”
Before I could even finish speaking, the wolf started to move, slowly and weakly pulling herself up. I was about to admonish her, but she looked so determined. I eyed her stitches and they looked like they'd do alright.
“Okay, I get it. Come,” I said as I walked over to her right side and helped lift her with whatever strength I had left. I draped the blanket over her body and helped maintain her balance as she limped out of the apartment.
She paused for a moment in front of the corpse of the man that I had killed and she released a loud growl. I patted her head and sighed as she stumbled and limped forward. I guided her into my apartment and she settled on a black carpet in the living room. I sighed as I lifted the blanket off of her back and covered more of her body with it before I picked up my phone and finally called the front desk.
“Miss Breaux? Is there a problem-”
“I need you to run a check on all security cameras. Send me any suspicious movement, especially on my floor.”
“Yes, Miss Breaux. Would you like it done by tomorrow?”
I hung up and sighed spotting my wine and grabbing it. I gulped it down and leaned against the wall as the wolf on my carpet fell asleep...
What the actual fuck was going on?