I feel so stupid. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it earlier.
My cousin Dennis came for a visit. Dennis had always been the black sheep of the family, a funny analogy on several levels. You see, Dennis owns a sheep ranch in Montana so I guess you should call him a shepherd rather than a sheep. And then, well, let’s just say I bet he plays several roles on his ranch.
There was a big trade show for sheep ranchers being held in Chicago. Since I live in the ‘burbs Dennis asked if he could spend a few days at my house. Why not? This was the first time he’d left Montana in over 15 years and the first time I’d seen him since we were kids.
He gave me a clue on the very first day. We were comparing the flatland urban landscape of my home to the mountainous, rural scenery of his Montana ranch.
“So, what’re you hiding?” I asked as a joke.
“Hiding?” He seemed suddenly alert.
“Yeah,” I said. “It seems if you want to disappear from the world Montana is the place. You can be a una-bomber or a polygamist and nobody’s going to question it.”
He laughed nervously. “I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said. “I’m here, in Authority’s Den, am I not?”
I should have suspected something.
A few days later we drove down to the park. Dennis loved to walk and tried to spend every free moment outside. I figured it was from herding sheep in the wilds of Montana.
Dennis stepped out of the car and sniffed the air. “A lot of people walk their dogs here, don’t they?” he asked.
“Yeah, sure,” I said. “It’s a great place for it. Is there a problem?”
“No,” he said. He gave me a reassuring smile.
As we walked I noticed all of the dogs behaving strangely around us, zeroing in on Dennis. Some yelped and shied away. A few others lunged and barked wildly. A puppy scampered back and forth making the “let’s play” gestures. Another whined pathetically while it pulled on its leash towards Dennis. All of them seemed affected in one way or another. Dennis, for his part, ignored them.
Later I asked Dennis if he had dogs to help him manage his flock.
“Well, sort of,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I ‘have’ them, but a pack does live on the ranch and they’re a big help to me and my mate Sheena. Our pack is a highly efficient team.” He then changed the subject.
Oh, why didn’t I guess?
I decided to surprise Dennis and invited some relatives. They were going to arrive a few days after he was scheduled to leave, but since he had driven I couldn’t see any problems. His partner, Sheena, had taken care of the flock in his absence, couldn’t she do it for a few more days?
Dennis was upset. “Don’t you understand?” he asked. “The 22nd is a full moon. I have to be back on the ranch by then.”
I was confused. “Do the sheep have a problem with full moons?” I asked, innocently enough. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
He put his arms across his chest and frowned. “I have to be there,” was all he said.
“But Jane is coming in from New York,” I said. “When was the last time you saw your sister? Or you brother? Eric’s flying in from Florida. And what about your cousins? Bill is driving in from Cleveland and Mary from Green Bay. It’s a family reunion and its happening because you came out of hiding. You’re the guest of honor, you have to be here.”
I finally talked him into it. Now I’m beating myself up.
On the 22nd Dennis told us he’d heard from Sheena. There was an emergency back on the ranch and he had to leave right away. Stupidly enough we forced him to stay and told him he could go first thing in the morning on the 23rd.
Throughout the day he tried to escape but we kept reigning him in. Why were we so blind?
It’s now just past midnight. I’m holed up in the shed with Mary and I’m not sure how much longer we can last. I doubt if I’ll sleep again after I saw what he did to Bill. That is, if I survive.
Why didn’t I know?
You see, Dennis is a werewolf and I’m out of silver bullets.