The Cactus Killer – Chapter 18

Good morning everyone.  If you’re a March Madness fan, how’s your bracket doing?  Hopefully better than the pile of flaming crap mine has turned out to be.  Every year I put myself through this in the hopes of matching the great year of 2001 when I went 30 for 32 on my opening round picks.  Ughhh… maybe it’s time to let the legend live and not try to catch it.

In better news, the initial Two Dudes, Brews, & Books podcast went live last night.  You can find it and listen at http://twodudesbrewsbooks.podomatic.com if you’d like.  It’s about 17 minutes (perfect for listening to over your break at work) and we talk about everything from our books to baseball.  Hopefully you enjoy it.

Well that’s it for today from me.  I hope you got a great weekend planned.  Let’s roll into said weekend with the real reason you’re here…

The_Cactus_Killer

Chapter 18

 It was late, but that didn’t stop us from having a family meeting. I called dad and told him what the vampires were offering. Within ten minutes, mom called me back and said to be over at ten that evening so everyone in the pack had a chance to discuss the matter.

When I got to their house, my younger brother, Felix met me at the door and we walked to the backyard, which also served as the official meeting ground of the Red pack. Everyone else was in their wolf form, except for Felix and, of course, me. Dad led them in the howling to signal the start of the meeting and over the next ten minutes, I just sat there listening. Just like every other occasion, it just reminded me of how different I was. I also thought about the words Liz had said about breaking off and being my own person.

Finally, after all the formalities were met, everyone transformed back into their human forms and my part was about to begin. Dad, being the Alpha, took the floor. “As you all know, the vampires have offered one of our own a great position. My son, Victor, has been offered their position of chief inspector. If any among us see reason he should not go, please let your voice be heard.”

I looked around; no one said anything at first. In fact, my older brother Bernard gave me a quick thumbs up. It seemed like I would be given the okay which then meant the ball would be in my court. I hadn’t made my choice yet, but if the pack supported it, I knew which way I was leaning.

“Let the vampires have our reject I say! We have wasted too many of our resources on him up to this point!”

Silence filled the air after that outburst. Everyone was looking around to see who said that. Our pack was the smallest in Full Moon, but we still had over eighty wolves present. It didn’t take long to figure it out as my cousin, Kano, made his way to the front. I was quite surprised as we had little interaction and I couldn’t remember spitting in his cereal.

“Kano!” Dad’s voice boomed through the huge space that was his backyard. “Why have you disrespected a member of the pack in such a way?”

“We coddle him too much! I, for one say, we oust the Omega fully from our ranks. If they want him, they can have him.”

Yeah, I was the Omega of our pack. Not that anyone treated me differently, but I wasn’t involved in most pack meetings because of my handicap and so by rights, I was the Omega. It wasn’t a big deal to me, but to others I guess it was. “Well Kano, you certainly won’t be on my Christmas card list anymore.”

That brought a few chuckles from the group, which I guess only added fuel to Kano’s fire. “How dare you talk to me like that, Omega? I have half a mind to challenge you for rites.”

One thing I never learned was to keep my mouth shut. “Well, we agree on one thing, you only have half a mind.”

I crossed the line. Dad could not interfere on my behalf with this, as any issue between two pack members was to be dealt by each other. My smart mouth had pushed Kano too far now. “That’s it Victor, I challenge you to rites of the pack!”

Rites of the pack basically meant a challenge for position. As I am the lowest of the low, this challenge was probably designed to have me expelled. “What would you gain from this, Kano?”

“If I win, you must leave the pack, and by extension the town, and never return.”

“Okay, and if I win, you get to become Omega, how does that sound?”

“It matters not, Victor. How to you expect to be victorious when you can’t unleash your wolf?”

This wasn’t some drunk and disorderly wolf to knock around long enough to sober up, so he had a good point. Another fact that he didn’t know was that I was just about on my deathbed not even twenty-four hours ago. Granted I felt fine, but I could see mom and dad’s faces in the shadows. Both were incredibly worried. Dad composed himself and stepped forward.

“Victor and Kano have both agreed to challenge of rites. Do both of you understand what the demands of each are?” We both nodded. “As Alpha, I accept either outcome as final. Does either participant wish to forfeit?”

Kano scoffed, “Never.”

Dad looked at me. “Not on your life.”

“Then prepare yourselves, the rites begin now!”

Kano wasted no time in transforming into his Red wolf and charged. His snarling face showed off an impressive set of fangs. I braced myself for his attack and decided my best chance was to throw a punch just before he got to me. About ten feet before he got to me, he jumped into the air. As he closed, I felt a rush of adrenaline and timed my punch. I connected hard into the side of his face and sent the wolf sprawling.

“Holy crap!” That was Felix summing it up wisely. Just like that it was over. Kano couldn’t get to his feet and soon transformed back into a human which was the sign for defeat. His eyes were both black and blue and he was missing two front teeth. He tried to get to his feet, but he collapsed again.

Dad broke out of his shocked stupor, “Victor Inglewood has emerged the winner. Does anyone dispute this outcome?”

More silence, but it didn’t last long this time. Soon the whole pack was cheering and Bernard came over and put me up on his shoulders. I was no longer the Omega wolf!

**Elizabeth**

I was curious about the customs of werewolves, so I snuck over to the meeting with Reno. Phil kept watch at the house just in case anything went wrong. Reno and I watched from a nearby rooftop and to be honest, it was rather boring at first with all the howling.

“I’ll never understand these fur balls. I like Vic, but if he was a full-on werewolf, I think we would need to look into another candidate.”

“Reno, just because we do not understand their culture does not make it less inferior to ours; though the howling would get old, would it not?”

While we both laughed, the howling finally subsided into a more civil meeting. Again, nothing out of the ordinary and it seemed as if everything would go smoothly. That was until one rather arrogant wolf decided to make his feeling known to the rest.

“That guy seems like a jerk. Why can’t he just be happy or at the very least keep his mouth shut?”

“Jealousy breeds contempt Reno, especially in a pack like system. “

“Do you know what an Omega is?”

I had heard the term before, and knew it was derogatory in the werewolf world. “Vic is the lowest member of the pack; that is what Omega means.”

“That doesn’t make sense; he seems to be the most creative and smartest of the bunch. This Kano idiot should fill that role.”

“I have a feeling it has more to do with Vic’s condition that does not allow him to transform. It makes sense the pack views him as the weakest member.”

“It still sounds like a bunch of bullshit in my book.”

We continued to watch as the matter escalated. Vic, using sarcasm as his weapon of choice, unfortunately brought this confrontation to a boiling point. What started out as just a disagreement had quickly dissolved into some sort of werewolf duel.

“Should we get involved Ambassador?”

“No, this is not our fight, Reno. If we interfered, it would bring even more shame to Vic. We must trust in our friend.”

Inside I wanted nothing more than to step in. It was not even a day since we had to perform a miracle to keep him alive and I had no idea what sort of shape he was in. Reno and I continued to watch as Callum went over the rules of engagement between the two. If Vic lost, he would never be able to return to his home.

“This is pretty serious isn’t it?”

I nodded, “Yes, yes it is.”

Kano soon turned into a large wolf with red fur and a mouthful of daggers for teeth. Vic, on the other hand, just stood there with a hard look on his face. The wolf charged him and I saw a slight shift in his stance, he was preparing for an attack. The wolf jumped at him and as he pulled back to throw a punch, I saw a flash of red in his eyes, just like a vampire gets when they transform. That was followed by a punch that ended the fight just as quickly as it started. Both Reno and I sat there stunned.

“Ambassador, did you see his eyes before he connected with that punch?”

“I did. It would appear my blood gave him quite the boost there.”

“I’ll say, I’m surprised that other wolf isn’t dead.”

I looked back down, and Kano had transformed back into his human form. He was in bad shape, black eyes and missing teeth. He promptly collapsed as the pack started cheering for Vic’s effort. I smiled to myself, as I think this was the first time he felt truly a part of his own family.

“Come Reno, we have watched enough. He has earned the right to celebrate with his family this evening.”

“You’re right ma’am. But damn, that punch was amazing. I felt it up here.”

As we prepared to jump back to the street, I glared at Reno. “Do not call me ma’am; you know it makes me feel old.”

As we jumped down, I am pretty sure he mumbled ‘you are old.’ 

-Jeremy

You can find all my work, including “The Cactus Killer,” @ www.amazon.com/authors/jeremycroston

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About Jeremy Croston

I'm a comic loving, soccer playing, devoted husband who has a writing addiction. I can be found at Orlando Solar Bear hockey games, at the local sports bar cheering on my teams from Philly (go Flyers!), and being led astray by my schnauzer, JJ. Check out my Amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/jeremycroston to see my collections. Feel free to friend me on Facebook too at www.facebook.com/jcroston2 (there is another one of me out there apparently). Outside of writing, I work in business development and am considered an expert in all things Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thanks for stopping by and looking forward to talking to you soon!
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