Adam’s past steps into his future and needs his help to clear away a mysterious murder among the werewolves. Chris isn’t being left out of the fun as she tags along for the ride, but the world she finds herself in is much less trusting than the one she left. Now Adam and she have to navigate each other and their foes as they search for answers around them and within themselves.
"Definitely here," I replied.
It was a dark and cold morning as I helped my dad hang up the last of the fallen pictures. Adam and my adventure with Eb the Werewolf were long behind us, a whole two days and a half behind us. My parents had insisted we stick around for at least another few days. At least, my mom insisted. My dad demanded it. Unfortunately, it wasn't because he missed me so desperately, but because of the utter mess Adam's fight had caused to the house. All the repairs had to be done on a budget, too. Their house insurance didn't cover werewolf fights.
Thwack thwack went the hammer. My dad stepped back and admired the repaired family photo, and all the rest of the pictures on the wall in the living room. "All right, that should do it," he told me.
My shoulders slumped and I sighed. "Are you sure there isn't a loose nail or a bit of peeled wallpaper we missed?"
I sarcastically asked him.
His eyes browsed the room and he shook his head. "Nope, looks good as new."
"Good, let's eat breakfast," I suggested.
I tossed off the yoke of the spare tool belt that lay around my waist and hurried to the dining room across the hall. The faint aromas of my mom's cooking wafted from the kitchen and filled the house with promises of a full stomach. I peeked into the dining room and found Adam setting the table. He sported an apron on his front that had a print of purple flowers.
"Nice apron," I teased him as I slipped into the room.
He paused and looked down at himself. "Your mother insisted. It was either this or the one with the print of her skull collection."
"I see. Didn't want to lose your appetite?" I guessed as I sat in my seat.
"I thought perhaps the small animal bodies were too apt to my situation in life," he pointed out.
I snorted. "You may be a werewolf, but I can't imagine you dining on squirrel burger."
"There has been many a cold night where I dined on worse fare," he told me as he resumed his chore.
Dad entered the room and took his seat at the head of the table. "I would rather you two not talk about such things at the table," he scolded us.
A sly grin slipped onto my lips and I leaned towards Adam. "Then why don't we talk about what we're going to do on our honeymoon?" I suggested.
"Not that, either!" Dad growled.
"Not so loud, Ralph, honey," Mom scolded him as she swept into the room with a platter of pancakes in her hands.
"They started it!" he defended himself.
"Ralph," Mom warned him.
I was saved the embarrassment of my dad sulking when I heard a knock on the door. I jumped to my feet and moved towards the dining room entrance. "Be right back," I called to them.
I slid over to the front door and opened the entrance a crack. On the porch stood the raggediest man I'd ever seen. His ragged clothes were patches of rags held together with more patches of rags. He was stooped over, but stood at a height between Adam and mine. His bent head was mostly covered by a ragged hood so that I couldn't get a good look at his face.
"Is an Adam Smith residing in this residence?" the person asked me. Judging by his voice he was male and about the same age as my dad.
I started at the name. "How do you know that?" I questioned him.
He chuckled. "I happen to have some business with him. May I come in?"
"I-I don't know about that. Let me get Adam," I suggested. I tried to shut the door, but his gnarled hand whipped out and caught the entrance before the knob caught the latch. He pushed it open with little effort and pushed past me into the house. "Adam!" I yelped as I stumbled back.
Adam and my parents stepped out of the living room. My savior took in the situation and his eyes fell on the stranger. He growled and lunged at the man. His hands wrapped around the man's ragged collar, and Adam slammed him against the wall closest to the front door.
"He knows who you are," I yelled to Adam.
Adam's eyes narrowed and he tried to study the man's face, but the stranger touched his chin to his chest and evaded Adam's inspection. "Who are you?" Adam demanded to know.
The man chuckled and raised his head. The hood fell back and revealed a man of fifty with graying temples and wrinkles about his pale cheeks. "Hello, Adam. Long time no see," he quipped.
Adam leaned back and his eyes widened. "Cain," he whispered.
"Mind putting me down?" the man requested.
"You know this guy?" I asked my fiance.
Adam shook himself and glared at the man. "What are you doing here?" he questioned him.
The man known as Cain sheepishly grinned. "Funny thing about that. I was just in the neighborhood and-" Adam gave him a hard shake.
"None of your lies, Cain. You don't go anywhere where you don't have a reason, especially to a place of no consequence where there has been werewolf trouble," Adam pointed out.
Cain sighed. "You're right, as always. I've been here longer than you. It was I who changed that old woodsman, and let me tell you he wasn't fun to bite. His bathing habits are-"
Adam growled and slammed Cain's back into the wall. "You'll have to fix that!" my dad shouted.
"Honey!" Mom scolded him.
"Are you senile in your ancient age?" Adam growled to our guest as his eyes narrowed. "He was not capable of controlling the beast!"
"But you handled him decently well, and I needed to see if you'd grown soft in your domestication," Cain insisted.
Adam stuck his face in Cain's and snarled. "What if that werewolf had bitten someone? What would you have done then?" he growled.
Cain nervously smiled. "But it didn't because you were here to protect everyone, and I need you to do the same for me. You see, I'm in desperate need of a friend," he pleaded.
I raised my hand. "Wait a sec. You bit Eb why? So you could get us here?" I asked him.
Cain shrugged. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"It wasn't," Adam snarled.
Cain leaned his head away from Adam and held up his hands. "I know that, but I'm desperate. I've been accused of killing another of our kind, and you know what that means."
Adam started back and raised an eyebrow. "Who are you accused of killing?"
Cain's face fell and he closed his eyes. His voice came out in a soft whisper. "Abel."
Adam's eyes widened. "Abel is dead?"
His captive gave a nod. "Yes, and worse yet everyone believes I am responsible."
"Are you?" Adam asked him.
Cain whipped his head forward and glared at Adam. "You dare ask that of me?" he shot back.
"You did loose a werewolf on my hometown who almost killed us," I reminded him.
Cain paused and frowned. "Point taken, but that is in the past. What I need is for you to solve my present dilemma. There is no one else I can go to for help."
Oh man. More trouble. I sighed and set a hand on one of Adam's arms. "He can't cause any more trouble than he already has, so you may as well let him down so we can hear what he has to say," I advised Adam.
Adam snarled one final time and opened his hands. Cain dropped to the floor in a bundle of his filthy clothes. He stood and brushed himself off. "I must say I'm glad-"
Dad strode up and socked Cain in the cheek. Cain stumbled back against the wall. "Dear!" Mom scolded him.
Dad rubbed his sore knuckles and glared at Cain. "He deserved worse for getting our family into this mess. Who does he think he is?"
"My mentor," Adam spoke up.
I glanced between Adam and the ragged man, and I jerked a thumb at the stranger. "This guy's your master? The mighty one who trained you after you were bitten?"
"The one and only," Cain spoke up. He straightened against the wall and rubbed his jaw. "You have a nice punch for a human," he commented to my dad.
"Wait until you see my gun," Dad threatened.
"I think I can wait because what I have to say can't." Cain's eyes flickered to Adam. "When I told you you're the only one I can trust, I wasn't lying. Everyone believes I murdered Abel, even-" he paused to sigh, "-even Lilith. She insisted I run away from the house when I came to her covered in Abel's blood and holding that weapon."
Adam frowned and held up his hand. "If you wish for me to help you then you must start at the beginning."
Cain glanced past him at the living room. "Mind if we sit down? I haven't had a comfortable place to sit for two months."
My mom came up behind him and took his arm. She smiled into his dirty face. "Of course. Here, let's put you in the comfortable chair."
"Annie, that's mine!" Dad protested.
"Behave, Ralph. Can't you see he's tired?" she scolded him.
"And an accused murderer!" he countered.
"Innocent until proven guilty," she mildly reprimanded as she led Cain into the living room.
Cain smiled at my mom as she set him in my dad's favorite chair. "You're very kind. I've seen a lot of that in your daughter."
I frowned and hurried after him to stand before the chair. "Wait, what? You've been watching me?" I questioned him.
Cain sheepishly grinned and shrugged. "Within propriety, of course. I only wished to ascertain how close was your relationship with Adam."
"Close enough that if something had happened to her with your new creation you would not be worrying about the murder charge," Adam spoke up as he followed us into the room
My dad brought up the rear and scowled at the chair interloper. "Would someone mind explaining to me what in the world is going on?" he demanded.
"Does anyone want cocoa?" Mom spoke up. I had to admire my mom for her ability to smile in the face of a tense situation.
"A tempting proposition, Mrs. Monet, but perhaps later. I owe my young student and your family an explanation for my actions," Cain told her.
"All right, but don't hesitate to ask," she insisted. She took a seat on the couch and my dad grudgingly joined her. Adam and I stood off to one side and glared at the troublemaker.
Cain cleared his throat and turned to my fiance and me. "Let me start by first apologizing. I have been watching you both for a month, studying your relationship and Adam's skills to judge my next move. I hit upon a plan to test Adam and his relationship with you by causing the werewolf trouble you remedied several days ago. With the conclusion of my test, I have made my presence known to you."
"That was all just some stupid test to see if Adam could beat up another werewolf?" I questioned him.
Cain smiled and nodded. "Yes, and he passed, though his tracking skills could use some improvement."
I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at him. "You could have just asked him if he'd beaten the crap out of a werewolf recently. He just had to kill a rabid one a few months back!"
Cain raised an eyebrow and his eyes flickered to Adam. "Is this true? You've killed another of our kind?"
"A werewolf by the name of Ashton," Adam confirmed. "He nearly revealed our existence to a number of humans and tried to kill several people, myself included."
Cain relaxed and smiled. "I see, self-defense. Well, you have me beat. The evidence against me is pretty firm, and even I'm not sure if I'm not guilty."
I tilted my head to one side and frowned. "Don't you know if you killed this Abel guy?"
Our guest shrugged. "I can't really remember that night. It's all one big blur."
"Perhaps you should start from the beginning," Mom suggested.
"Yeah, like who the hell you are exactly," Dad agreed.
Cain bowed his head to them. "You are quite right. I shall tell you my tale."