Jackson signed in and grabbed a number. The four wolves were standing to the side of the stage. There was a man on either side of them, one holding a leash attached the collar, the other holding a small remote. Jackson found a seat near the front right as the first wolf was tugged forward by the leash.
He held back a scowl when the wolf stumbled into the steps and nearly fell. The wolf had greasy hair that might have been blonde once, before the filth coated the strands. It wasn’t near as matted as C36M657’s though. If that was an attempt by the previous owner to make him look a little more presentable, sellable, then it missed the mark by a mile.
“First up we have Werewolf number N17M115. A rare wolf from the Northern Mountains. Born in the wild, this fighter wolf has his instincts intact. Captured when he was 5, he was trained from a young age and has been fighting ever since hitting puberty. He has only ever lost one fight…” Jackson tuned him out. He didn’t want to hear it or else he’d be purchasing more than one wolf today.
The wolf, N17M115 stood hunched over. His shoulders were pulled back from the tight cuffs, but his spine curved down, his head hung still and low. Jackson wondered if his only loss was from giving up. If the wolf was just sick of this life and ready for it to end. His hand clenched around the cheap plastic number as he fought the urge to take this one home as well. N17M115, he repeated to himself. The numbers were easy enough to remember.
The bidding started high and flew higher. Wild born fighter’s were rare and worth the money for both collectors and fighters alike. The auctioneer eventually yelled out, “Sold!” and the wolf was led off the opposite side of the stage. Jackson’s stomach clenched when he saw the sunglassed man from earlier was the one who purchased him, and, for a moment, the revulsion threatened to overwhelm him.
He didn’t have time to focus on it though, C36M657 was being led onto the stage.
“Wolf number C36M657. Born wild, captured when he was 8 years old.” A murmur rose through the crowd. “Undefeated after fighting for 24 years! This remarkable specimen is truly one of a kind. He has a second speciality as personal, so even if you’re not looking to join the fights, this could still be the wolf for you. Let’s start the bidding at one million.”
Not unexpected, but a higher starting bid than usual for sure. Jackson raised his number. Four times, he raised his number. Sunglasses, with his new wolf kneeling on the floor beside him, stared him down every time. Jackson rolled his eyes at him and raised the paddle again. And again. And again.
8 million. 9 million. 10. With a sigh, Jackson stood up, “20 mil.”
The crowd was silent. A breeze ruffled a loose paper. The auctioneer stared at him. “20 million dollars. Going once.” Silence. “Going twice.” A long beat of silence. The auctioneer glanced over towards Sunglasses. “Sold, please come to the stage to collect your wolf.”
Jackson wiggled his fingers in a cheery wave at Sunglasses and made his way to the stage. He was handed the remote and the leash. “The leash has to stay attached until you’ve left the market, right now the controller is set to a distance of 8 feet. Keep it there until you’ve left. Don’t forget to check with the cashier that your payment method is up to date before you leave.”
Jackson nodded and started to turn away.
“Oh, and I’d keep that blindfold on if I were you.” The man lowered his voice. “It can be overwhelming to remove it in a crowd like this.”
Yeah. It’s overwhelming to give the wolf his sight back after denying for an unknown amount of time. Jackson gave a tight smile. “Sure thing. Thanks.” He tightened his hold on the leash and led the way, slowly, around the crowd. Heads turned to watch them walk away. Jackson didn’t say anything to the wolf as he stumbled over the uneven path. He stopped at the cashier and she waved him on without a word. His account would always be in good standing here. As he left the crowd, he heard the auctioneer clear his throat and start the next sale.
“Hey!” Jackson paused at Sunglasses voice behind him. He turned to see Sunglasses and N17M115 walking up behind him. “Hey, just a fair warning for you.” Sunglasses leaned in closer. Jackson stood still, if he stepped back now it would be as big a defeat as if he’d let the man buy C36M657. “Get it tested before you fuck it. The wolf’s previous owner was never too careful with it.” The words were whispered in Jackson’s ear.
Jackson’s vision blurred as rage filled his chest. He very carefully did not react. He kept his breathing even and his jaw unclenched as his heart pounded in his chest. The man stepped back with a smug smirk sitting ugly on his face. Forcing a smile onto his stiff face, Jackson nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.” Jackson glanced at the defeated wolf behind Sunglasses, but there was nothing he could do for him. “Let’s go,” he said to his wolf and turned away.
Sunglasses didn’t call out again.
They made it to the car with no more interruptions. Jackson opened the passenger door and reached up to take off the wolf’s blindfold. His hand brushed against the side of the wolf’s face and the wolf reared back with a snarl. His lips curled up. His teeth grew into fangs. A low, warning growl emanated from his chest.
Jackson’s heart lodged itself firmly in his throat, but he didn’t jump back. “For fuck’s sake, calm down, will you? Unless you want to keep the blindfold on, then by all means, try and bite me again.”
At his words, the wolf straightened. The fangs receded back into normal, human looking teeth. His face was blank again.
“I’m going to take off the blindfold now. Try not to attack this time. And you can talk now, so anytime you feel like telling me your name, I’d appreciate it.”
Jackson reached up for the blindfold again. His fingers brushed against the wolf’s face and Jackson felt the wolf tense. After a second of nothing happening, Jackson pushed the blindfold away. The wolf kept his eyes closed. The blindfold was stuck in the tangled mats of hair. Jackson let it stay there, they could work it out later, when they were home. “Turn around so I can free your arms.”
The wolf turned on command. Jackson started at the wrist and got every buckle, hook, and lock undone. The wolf slowly let his arms fall to his sides. Jackson bit his tongue to keep from commenting on the deep lines and bruises where the cuffs had dug in around the visible skin of his wrist. He could only imagine what the rest of his arms looked like under the shirt.
“Wren.” The wolf’s voice was rough and hoarse, as though he hadn’t used it in much too long.
“My name.” It was painful to hear him talk. The wolf turned back around to face him. His body was held stiff, his shoulders were still back in the position the cuffs had forced them into. “Wren.” Wren’s eyes slowly cracked open and he winced. Jackson caught a flash of gold before his eyes were shut again.
“All right, Wren. Let’s go home.”