Chapter 8 Tuesday, 1000 hours (10 AM)
Chaba crossed the street to the zoo side of Fordham Road with Rom straining at the leash.
"You're not very well leash trained," Chaba joked. "I should have sent you to obedience school."
Rom looked back and growled.
Chaba walked on a little further and was accosted by a woman pushing a baby carriage.
"What a magnificent dog," she said. "What breed is it."
"A Transylvanian Shepherd," said Chaba without hesitation.
"I've never heard of it," she said, peering down at the beast.. "And I've never seen a dog like this."
"It's a rare breed. There are very few in this country."
"It's beautiful. He looks very intelligent."
Rom, embarrassed and eager to get on with the job, pulled at the leash.
"Stop it," said Chaba in Hungarian. "We have to be convincing as an older gentleman out walking his dog."
Rom stopped pulling the leash and sat down.
"What a responsive dog," said the woman. "What language was that?"
"and what did you say to your dog?"
"Sit," said Chaba.
"Hungarian must be a strange language," she said, "if it takes so many words to just say 'sit'."
Chaba smiled and the woman continued pushing the carriage down the street. Chaba pressed on to the Zoo entrance. A police officer guarded the gate.
"Good morning officer," said Chaba, pleasantly.
Just then, as per plan, Rom broke free of the leash and darted into the zoo. Chaba rushed after him.
"I'm sorry sir," said the officer. "I can't let you in the zoo, and I'm sorry about your dog."
"I understand," said Chaba, "but I'll wait. He's bound to come back."
Rom in wolf form, ran for the Education Center, where he'd last seen his Cub Scout pack. When he reached the building he looked around for cover, where he could change to back to human form. He had just found a spot, when he noticed movement at a window. Rom looked up and saw Kit climbing out. The boy shimmied to the ground and the rest of the cub pack came through the window and followed. The kids were wearing only underpants. Kit climbed back up and then clambered down again, this time with a canteen slung over his shoulder. From his concealed spot, Rom watched as Kit took a short swig from his canteen and then passed the canteen to the next scout. When all had drunk, Kit capped the canteen and hid it in the bushes at the base of the building. Even in fuzzy-headed wolf form, Rom could guess that his scouts were trying the Lycanthrozine.
The scouts stood around in a circle for a few moments, stripped off their underwear, and then, one by one, they changed to wolf, and ran off. This was good. Rom need only wait until his pack was out of sight, and then change to human form and make off with the canteen. He'd empty the canteen, change back to wolf, and run out to report success to Chaba.
Rom had hardly started out from his hiding place, when he saw two humans. They were heading straight for the concealed canteen. There was no doubt they'd seen the scouts change. What to do. Rom wished for the rational mind of his human form but there was no time. He had to keep these humans from getting that Lycanthrozine.
Rom bounded out snarling and growling. He circled around and came at the humans from the front. Rom's conditioning was such that he couldn't hurt humans, but they couldn't know that. The two men stopped in their tracks, and then retreated. Rom kept snapping at them until they ran for the safety of their car.
"I guess you're right," said Elliot, looking out the window of the car. "I thought the kids were passing the flask as some sort of ritual. But if it were just ritual, that wolf wouldn't be working so hard to see that we don't get the canteen."
"It's the canteen all right," said Sam. "Why don't we just shoot the damn wolf and grab it."
Sam took out his gun. "Come on. Let's go."
"I don't think it's a good idea," said Elliot. "Look. This is not a normal wolf. It's probably that kid we tailed up here. If we shot him, either the bullet would have no effect, or we kill our only real evidence. And besides, if it turns back into a human body, we'll have some heavy explaining to do."
"Anyway," said Elliot. "We don't know if drinking from the canteen makes a permanent change. Probably not. Otherwise the kids wouldn't need the canteen at all."
Sam put away the gun.
"Yeah. You're right. When we get the canteen, we can try out being werewolves," said Sam, "and if we like it, we can have that kid bite us and make it permanent."
"If we can get him to do that," said Elliot.
"He'll do it," said Sam, fingering his shoulder holster.
Rom kept the two humans in their car for a while and then started back to the canteen. Then he heard the car door open. Rom had to turn back and force them into their car again. Several times did this scenario repeat. Rom knew he'd never have the time to go back to the canteen, turn to human form, and make off with it. There was no way he could keep these guys from following, and he'd was sure to be seen changing. The prime precept of his people prevented him from knowingly letting a human see him change.
There was only one thing to do. He had to keep them in their car, and every so often run back to see if the Cub Scouts had retrieved the canteen. It would run him ragged, but he had to do it.
It took a long time, but eventually Rom saw and smelled that the canteen had been reclaimed, and the Cub Scouts were nowhere to be seen. At that point, Rom ran back to the zoo entrance, and back to Chaba.
Chaba snapped the leash back on and walked quickly to the car.
"Why didn't you just grab the canteen in your teeth and run?" asked Chaba after Rom had given his report.
Rom blushed. "I just didn't think of it."
Chaba sighed. "It's not your fault," he said. "In wolf form, you'd never think of carrying something. No wolf would, especially a young one. I should have gone myself. I have more experience."
"At least they didn't see me change," said Rom.
"No, but they saw the Cub Scouts become wolves," said Chaba. "If these men find out where the scouts are from, then we'll have to dissolve the Ithaca pack."
"You're kidding," said Rom.
"I'm afraid I'm not."
"That would be awful."
"Yes." Gazing through the side window, Chaba looked off into the distance. He spoke softly. "It's taken us so long to find a safe haven. We'll have to go into hiding again. The work of a generation wiped out."
"Maybe they won't find out," said Rom.
Rom could smell the sadness, and could tell that Chaba believed the Ithaca pack was as good as gone.