While waiting outside for Ben to awaken from his first change after the battle with the Manolith and his drifters, Henry and Joel decide the best approach to the situation is to wait for Ben on the porch and see how he reacts. They fix up the porch swing and a rocking chair while they wait, and Joel, deciding that he could could use a smoke, goes into the house to search their late ally Jenkins’ body for a pack of smokes. His hunch that Jenkins was the kind of guy who occasionally sucked down some cancer sticks was right, but upon closer inspection, Jenkins was still breathing (despite some of his guts being on the outside), and apparently in shock. Joel goes out to the porch to get the heavy lifter, Henry, they put Jenkins in the big rig and, after consulting Ben’s 1970s phone book for a map and hospital address, they set off toward the emergency room leaving their rented guns on the kitchen table.
After making a bit of commotion in the emergency room to bump the guy with visible intestines to the front of the line, an old man who had apparently lost his hand and stopped the bleeding with a shirt and rubber band stops our “heroes” on the way out the door. He addresses Joel with an unexpected statement and calls the boys “city folk”. Joel stares him down before saying something to disregard the old man, and the old man asserts that that’s how he expects “city folk” to act. Joel stops and asks if the man actually wants anything, and the old man confirms that no, he doesn’t. Joel and Henry look the weird old man over in both the the physical and spiritual realm and find nothing odd about him, but upon exiting the hospital they spot something else. The outline of a figure staring at them from the spirit realm. His outline visible with surprising clarity. This is not null, though null is debatably still here. Joel flips it the bird and gets in the truck, but Henry positions himself to be “in his face” as it were. The spirit smells of ink. It’s a strong enough smell to pierce the gauntlet between the two worlds. It speaks, and is quite audible to the two werewolves despite the spectral wall separating the physical from the spiritual. “You will soon be receiving a message. Have a good day.” Henry and Joel leave the hospital and head back to Ben’s.
When they arrive they see some signs of life from the house signaling that Ben has most likely awoken in their absence. Henry and Joel take a moment to note their disappointment that they wouldn’t be out on the porch waiting for Ben as they originally intended. They head inside to confront Ben about recent events. They pass a bucket of bleach water by a partially cleaned wall before they find Ben in the kitchen, sitting with his back against the shelves of his open refrigerator/freezer and a blank stare on his face.
After everything that had happened Joel sees fit to reach around Ben and grab a couple of brewskis out of the fridge for Ben and himself, eventually placing Ben’s beer in front of the poor bastard. Joel pops his open.
“Why didn’t I think of that?”, Ben says.
Henry, Joel, and Ben talk for a bit about the events of the night and Ben, rather than reacting in any predictable fashion, simply expresses dissatisfaction in his performance. Henry offers to draw Ben a nice bath and Ben takes it as a good idea, the back of his shirt being drenched in orange juice that had fallen in the fridge and all. Henry and Joel decide to clear the kitchen table. They grab the table and together they flip it on its side, throwing its contents onto the floor, and then they put the table back in place. Once Ben is preoccupied in the bath, Henry expresses to Joel concern that the gravity of recent happenings has not yet dawned on Ben, while Joel dismisses Henry’s concerns stating that Ben’s probably fine and that there’s little to no problem so this should be left alone.
Eventually Ben returns from the upstairs bathroom in some clean clothes. Talk continues briefly before Henry calmly retrieves a knife from a nearby drawer and places it on the table in front of him. He tries to signal Joel about what’s about to happen, but his signal is not understood. Joel is caught completely by surprise when his accomplice tells Ben, “Now this is happening” and sends the knife into Ben’s shoulder and slashes it down across his chest.
After a few seconds of shock Joel briefly separates himself from this. Henry lifts Ben off the ground attempting to instigate a response. Upon realizing Henry’s intentions Joel re-inserts himself into the situation for Ben’s sake. Henry jams his fingers into Ben’s chest wound and Ben reflexively assumes Dalu form, but he does not fight back. Joel tries to explain clearly what Henry wants “Take a shot at him. He’s not going to stop until you do.” Henry twists his fingers in Ben’s wound and Ben goes into wolf form, squirming and whining. Joel continues to try to get Ben to do what’s expected of him, and Henry isn’t too pleased to have Joel’s input. Henry turns to Joel.
“You’re not part of the lesson!” he yells.
“I don’t like your methods!” says Joel.
“Come up with some of your own then!” Henry says before mocking Joel
“He’s fine. There’s not a problem.”
“This method worked real well with Lucy!” Joel yells.
Henry goes silent. Sarcasm. Biting, venomous sarcasm. Henry drops Ben. He leaves the room. Ben curls into the fetal position on the floor. More silence. Joel approaches Ben. Ben doesn’t react. Joel speaks.
“Look. Like I said earlier, Henry is an asshole. A stubborn asshole. But, and I know this might be hard to believe, him having stabbed you and all, his heart is in the right place.”
Joel continues to try to calm Ben down,
“This terror your feeling. We don’t do that. He stabbed you, yeah, but in about an hour, you should be right as rain. With what you are, Ben, it’s extremely difficult to kill you. Ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll take whatever is thrown at you and you’ll come back fine and dandy. You shouldn’t take shit from Henry. Don’t take shit from anybody.”
Joel helps himself to some raw hamburger from out of the fridge and offers some to Ben, “You might find it’s pretty good.” “Yeah. I’ve been eating the stuff like candy lately”, says Ben before taking a handful and wolfing it down.
With Ben and Henry successfully calmed down, Henry slinks back into the room. Conversation reopens. Ben has questions about what he is. Conversation becomes explanation. Explanation of what he is, the myths, the facts, the rules, the responsibilities. Explanation gives way to instruction. Instruction gives way to-
There’s a bird in the window. It’s positioned in such a way that the pane of glass is going through its body. Ben points it out and checks that he isn’t the only one seeing it. Henry and Joel explain that they were told that they would be receiving a message and that this is probably it.
The bird speaks in the first tongue, which Ben can’t understand. It explains that he is to lead them to meet someone, but can not divulge who he is. He notes that they must go to the spirit, for the spirit will not come to them. After briefly speculating that they may be visiting a spirit of bureaucracy, or that this spirit may hand them off to yet another spirit (which Joel notes would be infuriating), Joel suggests they equip themselves. Joel grabs his nail bat. Henry grabs his sledge, and Ben grabs a dented toaster oven (which he assures everyone he has wielded effectively in the past, noting the dent). It’s at this point Henry and Joel notice that their rented guns are missing.
“Where are the guns?” they ask.
“You returned those when you took Jenkins to the hospital, right?” Ben
asks, concern in his voice.
“No. We left them here in the kitchen.” they say.
Joel and Henry assure Ben that while this is a problem, the bird is their top priority at the moment, and that they’ll investigate the matter of the missing guns upon their return. They open the window, and climb out after the bird.
After following the bird for a while they end up finding a brilliant silver collared wolf spirit. The bird tries to negotiate for his payment for bringing Henry, Joel, and Ben with him, and the spirit considers this and then after a brief gnashing of teeth, the bird is consumed whole. The spirit tells them that some of the powers that be have reconsidered their application for becoming a pack and if they don’t fuck things up, a pack they will be. In preparation for their vows of fraternity their tribal patrons have sent them a fledgling spirit to act as a totem. The spirit is as yet undefined in nature but will be given form based on the pack’s actions. It should be arriving sometime that week. Also, they apparently owe this silvered wolf a solid for saving their lives. When Ben inquires how the spirit saved their lives, he is answered by an explosion in the distance. Apparently, the spirit wolf spared them all a fiery death by calling them away from the house in time to avoid a rapture in the gas main. They are dismissed and they head back home to Ben’s.
Or… what was Ben’s. His house would better be described as a smoldering crater. Upon investigation by Henry and Joel, they find that the propane tank was used to start off the destruction. Joel makes sure to let Ben know about this in classic mechanic fashion, “Now here’s you problem.”
Ben goes apeshit. The calm seeming man finds anything in his general area to rage on. This lasts for a while. Ben calms down after some of this, after the gang uses their wolfen charms to find some tracks and a propane smelling trail. They track footprints and smell to coffee shop. They play it very low-key. Order a coffee. There is some flubbing of the Waitresses name, to which Joel harps on anyone who was guilty of it with a resounding “Charlene, asshole!”.
There’s a man in a green suit who leaves the diner with the smell of propane on him. Sources in the diner call him Martin. Martin becomes the target of the the group’s stalking, and they follow him to his mother’s house. The group forces their way in, and disregard the harmless mother of Martin. They go up to his room, and Ben watches the old lady. Martin is found hiding in a large drawer in a wardrobe and denying any unusual behavior. The boys don’t take kindly to tight lips, and they slap him around a little. Martin doesn’t let too much go.
Downstairs Martin’s mother starts having a heart attack. That makes it back to the hospital for everyone involved regardless of interrogation.
They arrive and try to get the lady dealt with as quickly as possible. Henry wants to check on Jenkins and asks to go back there. The guard denies him passage. Staff only. Henry ignores the guard and pushes past. The guard becomes flustered and hangs out. Joel tries to instigate the guard trying to mess with Henry, encouraging him to try and “kick his ass”. The guard refuses to go back there as apparently he’s not allowed to do so. The guard says he could call the police when Joel starts questioning the guard’s effectiveness.
“But you’ll just stop the police here, won’t you?”
“Well yeah, but they could beat me up.”
Joel is relatively flabbergasted by just how stone dumb this guy is, but he figures he’ll offer the guard a favor.
“All right. I’ll go get my friend out for you.”, says Joel.
“Oh, would you?”, says the guard.
Joel obviously doesn’t intend to do this at all. He goes and hangs with Henry and Martin and the doctor informs them of the accidents that cost an old man his arm, and Jenkin’s status, and Martin begins remembering the things he did, and it seems like Martin wasn’t really in control of his actions. The boys aren’t sure if they believe this.
Henry catches a glimpse of a woman that looks awfully familiar. Of course, that’d be ludicrous. The woman he thinks he’s seeing is dead. Henry approaches the lady and gets her to turn towards him. He starts to apologize for the case of mistaken identity, but the woman bolts for some reason. Henry starts running, which leads to Joel running. The chase is on, and after a bit, the lady runs herself into a corner. Joel starts talking.
“When a police officer comes up to you and you run away when they wouldn’t have suspected you of anything otherwise”
“They chase you”, Henry adds.
After a moment of silence she responds.
“You’re not cops”
But with that, she loses sight of the boys and the boys have lost sight of her. They’ve suddenly slipped into the shadow version of the hospital.