Vic passed a hand over the lock and slowly turned the handle. He opened the door half an inch, then closed it again. “Remember,” he whispered, “If you get yourself killed, I’m not making you into a vampire. You’ll just have to stay dead.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ricky said, pitching his voice low in case he had miscalculated and there were werewolves nearby. “I don’t suppose you’d reconsider?” He pointed to the cooler at his feet.
“You think I’m crazy?” Vic pulled his leather coat tight against his body. “Good luck, human. I’ll tell Kalila to make sure you get a nice funeral.”
Ricky watched him slip into the night, then turned to the task at hand. Willing himself not to be nervous, he let himself into the building and set the cooler down quietly. The vestibule was empty, and in the distance he could hear sounds of bickering and a faint metallic rattle. He had once asked Calvin how the local werewolves kept from getting caught in lupine form, but had only half-believed the answer. Tonight, he needed that information to be true.
Leaving the cooler near the door, he moved quietly down the hallway, following the sound of raised voices. A maze of halls led to a locked steel door, on the other side of which came the sound of rattling cages and voices raised in protest. Ricky glanced at his watch. They couldn’t have locked themselves up yet, could they? He dared a peek through the door’s tiny window of fortified glass and could make out long rows of cages with people moving among them. Some were already shaggy, and a few waited patiently in their cages while others argued with the union leaders.
Ricky took a step back and considered. Then he looked again, this time ignoring the werewolves and trying to get a view of the room’s ceiling. To his relief, it was a drop ceiling, at least thirty feet high, with no way to reach it from inside the room without a ladder. He hurried back to the entry, retrieved his cooler, and went upstairs.
It took nearly ten minutes of frantic searching, and Ricky had almost decided to go with his backup plan to use the air ducts when he found an entry into the ceiling over the great room below. He took the bags of meat out of the cooler and hauled them into place. Below, some of the werewolves were being locked into cages and the ones still wandering loose were becoming hairier by the minute.
Clearly the alpha was the one walking the rows, snarling orders, so Ricky selected the spot farthest away, lifted a corner of a ceiling tile and dropped a steak into the room. He followed its trajectory with his eyes as it landed beside a sullen young male. The werewolf looked at the steak in confusion, but before he could grab it, an older, hairier half-wolf grabbed it.
Two other wolves saw something going on and trotted over. Ricky set the ceiling tile back in place and listened to the ensuing squabble. He selected another steak, made sure the alpha had his back turned, and dropped it where the lower-ranking wolves would be sure to find it. The snarling and arguing grew louder as the half-changed wolves fought over the meat. Cages and order were forgotten as Ricky dropped more steaks into the room. Now the alpha realized what was going on and joined the melee, fighting the others for his share and status.
Ricky tossed two of the last three ribeyes into the room and lay on his belly, listening to the howling below, as heavy bodies heaved, bit, and knocked each other against the cages. It was quite a fight. Whoever was left standing at the end of it would not only be the leader, but very hungry. Luckily, the last steak was a juicy one. Ricky hoped it would be enough.
(To be concluded next week!)