Read Mark of the Wolf Online

Authors: T. L. Shreffler

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Mark of the Wolf (2 page)

BOOK: Mark of the Wolf
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Beeeep. “Hello, this is Principal Kirkus
from the Black River High School, I’m calling about a discipline
issue we’re having with your daughter, Madeline. We understand
Madeline is under pressure from her mother’s passing, but certain
obligations must be tended to…”

Maddy sighed and pressed fast-forward.
Whatever bullshit excuse her father had used for her behavior was
obviously not working anymore. If only they knew the truth about
her home life… but if she said anything, her father was sure to
throw her out, and realistically she had nowhere to go nor anyone
to run to. Even worse, the beatings would become more violent, and
that was what scared her the most.

The next message was about the electric bill,
and how the power would be turned off by tomorrow if it wasn’t
paid. Maddy would have liked to do something about that, but once
again her father had taken all the money from the jar in the
kitchen, and she had kept only a spare twenty for herself, which
she stashed in a hole at the bottom of the couch.

Another message, somebody hanging up. A
fourth message, this one with a longer pause, someone (she guessed
was a guy) clearing his throat, then another hang up. She sighed;
probably one of her father’s drunk friends calling for money, which
nobody seemed to have. Then finally she got to the fifth message,
and a thin, nasally voice came on the line, one that immediately
caught her attention. It was the type one imagined a snake would
talk with.


Mr. Baker, this is Ronny Dougal,
calling from
Ron’s Pawn and Loan
about an debt you owe us. We’ve been trying to
contact you at your work number, but it seems you no longer are
employed there. Mr. Baker, this presents a little problem...” There
was a pause, and the hair rose on Maddy’s arms. Loan? Debt? Her
stepfather hadn’t mentioned anything about this during his regular
drunk rambling, but that wasn’t so unusual. However, somehow these
creeps had gotten his home number, which was
very
unusual. When the voice spoke next,
it was vicious. “Listen here you cock-sucking-mother-fucking
bastard, you better get us our fucking money or you know what’s
going to happen. We came by earlier today, nice house you got
there, and I see you have a daughter. She’s a hot piece of ass, and
I’m sure you’d just hate it if something happened to her.” There
was a meaningful pause. “You have two hours to get us our money, or
we’re coming and taking it. If you don’t got the money, then we’re
taking someone else as a lean. You got that, motherfucker?
Good.”

Maddy's face paled; she could hardly believe
her ears. She felt numb and stunned. What the hell? She had the
urge to replay the message, but it was so vile that she couldn’t
bring herself to even touch the answering machine. Her hand fell to
her side and she clenched it into a fist. Her good-for-nothing
father had really fucked up this time, and it seemed that he had
finally tried to screw with the wrong people. She took a deep
breath, still in shock, unsure of what to do. Suddenly the cabin
she had lived in her entire life seemed like a strange, exposed
place. Someone had gone through their house, and she hadn’t even
noticed.

The answering machine kept running, and finally the
electronic voice went off, politely informing her –
“Message left
Monday, October 21st, 5:06pm.”

That was today.

She glanced at the clock, her heart suddenly
slamming in her chest.

It had just turned seven o’clock.

She would have panicked, but instead a polite knock sounded
at the door, as though on cue. Maddy’s body was frozen to the spot;
fear lashed through her and wiped away any survival sense she might
have had. All she could do was stare. A long silence ensued and she
began to relax a tad; perhaps this whole thing was just to scare
her. That sounded reasonable, right? A lot of times gangs just
wanted to scare you to get what they wanted, not actually
hurt
you…
right?
Or maybe it was just
a crazy coincidence – had her father forgotten his keys? Maybe some
girl scouts had wandered miles out of their way to sell cookies –
at night. As she began to take a step away from the door, a
resounding crash answered her questions, and a muffled shriek
escaped her lips. Someone was trying to kick open the
door!


We know you’re in there,” a voice
sneered. It wasn’t the same voice from the message machine, but it
had the same slimy quality.

Maddy didn’t move; she didn’t know what to do. Her father’s
beatings she could deal with, she had learned how to cope with
that; just lie still and not struggle until a convenient moment
when she could run, or he lost interest. This was different,
however. This was a stranger, and he was trying to break
into
her house, and all
she knew how to do was run.

She took a few steps back, glancing around,
deciding if she should hide or if there were any weapons. There
were a few knives in the kitchen, but she doubted that would do
much against a gun, and who knew what these creeps were packing?
There was a curse as another kick landed on the door; she was
amazed it had held for so long.


Just break the fucking window,
dipshit,” a second voice said. Shit, now there were two of them.
How many more had come? It occurred to her that if they intended a
kidnapping, there might be as many as five waiting
outside.

The thought sent her heart racing even
harder. She had to get out of there. She fell to her knees and
reached under the couch, ripping out the twenty before turning
towards the back door. She had to take her chances, and the back of
her house was right against the forest – with any luck, they hadn’t
attempted to walk through all of the thick bushes and trees. There
was a louder crash and the tinkle of breaking glass from the
bedroom — the window. She turned and scrambled to the back door.
Her hands were shaking; it felt like eons before she got the lock
to turn.

Then she yanked open the door and dashed
outside, not bothering with her shoes. She was used to fleeing
barefoot.

She had half-expected someone to be at the
back door, but she was still caught off-guard when a man came
charging out of the darkness, tackling her to the ground. She fell
with a scream, rolling across musty leaves and sharp rocks,
slamming her fists against the man who held her. She must have hit
a weak point, because he grunted and his hold loosened. Without
hesitating, she kneed him in the balls and pushed his convulsing
body off of her, jumping to her feet and dashing through the trees.
She took the trail she always followed, the ground slanting upward
and leading her into the mountain, assuring her of which direction
she was headed. She dodged trees and broken branches, leaping over
ditches that her feet remembered. For once she was thankful for all
those nights spent hiding in the woods; at least now she could
navigate confidently.

There were curses and shouts from behind her,
and a gun shot, though she didn’t know where the bullet went. She
knew it was too dark to see her, but the men tried to follow
anyway, pointing hazy flashlights into the trees and stumbling
along clumsily. The air dragged in her lungs – her adrenaline was
so strong that she couldn’t breathe properly. There was already a
stitch in her side, and she had only been running for a minute.

Then suddenly someone grabbed her. She let
out a scream, kicking and fighting, but the man threw her against a
tree, pressing her down and cussing. How had he caught up with her?
Or had he been hiding in the woods already? Maybe these jerks were
better organized than she thought.

Suddenly something solid and metal smashed
against the side of her head, making her see stars. She whimpered
in shock and pain and almost fell, but the man’s rough hands held
her upright, and the blow came again, this time sending her
spiraling in and out of consciousness. She gasped, pain exploding
in her head. Her eyes watered and her body trembled.


Dumb bitch,” the man spat. “Fucking
little cunt… shut the fuck up and stand still.” She wanted to
fight, she wanted to get away, but she couldn’t make her body obey
her commands. Her head was pounding. She felt a trickle of blood
down her cheek, and her fear bit so deep that she had to hold back
tears. She was going to die. She was going to die and this was how
it would end – alone in the darkness, beaten to death, just as she
had always feared.

The other men were approaching now. She could
hear their laughs and vulgar jokes. Then abruptly she felt
something else – a hand over her shirt, grouping through her
sweatshirt and over the mounds of her breasts, down her flat
stomach and to her thighs.


She's a tight little cunt,” the man
said to those behind him.


That’s what the boss said,” another
one joined in, his voice familiar – she guessed it was the one who
had first tried to kick down her door. “Eighteen.”

More laughter. “I want to taste it.”

Maddy faded in and out of her surroundings.
The conversation was confusing and terrifying at the same time; she
couldn’t make herself focus. Her head was bursting at the seams,
splitting down the middle, hurting worse than any time her father
had beat her. At least he had used his hands – this man had hit her
with the blunt of a gun.

She heard fabric ripping. It was a moment
before she realized it was her shirt. They were taking off her
clothes, their hands rough, uncaring and bruising.

It was too much. She screamed.

The men cussed and grabbed her harder, but
suddenly there was a sound in the forest. At first she thought it
was her imagination – a low growl issued through the trees, deep
and feral and utterly terrifying. The men stopped and stood still.
Maddy let out a slow breath. Her body slowly sunk back to the
ground, released by their hard hands.


What the fuck-”


Shut up!” the leader hissed, the one
who had hit her. He turned and took a step away. “Fucking wolf or
something….”

A wild animal? Maddy couldn’t be sure and at
the moment she didn’t care; she was about to pass out any second,
and all she could do was focus on the ground, tell herself that it
was okay to go to sleep, okay to never wake up.

The growl continued, rising in volume, until
the men had moved a few feet away from her, instinctively huddling
together. Then the growl turned into a roar. There was a scream, a
gun was fired, but she couldn’t tell what was happening – it was
too dark. Scuffling, growling, a terrible ripping sound that was
far juicier than just torn clothes. She didn’t want to imagine what
was happening, and in her heart she knew that she would be next.
No, not killed by a beating – eaten alive by wild animals.
Great.

The gun shots continued until there was one
final, blood-curdling scream, then the loose sound of a body
falling limply to the earth. She ducked her head down, swooning,
nauseas and trying not to vomit. She fought to stay conscious. She
was not going to be found in the morning chewed up and in a pile of
her own puke.

When a hand touched her shoulder, she almost
screamed.


Fuck,” she heard, though it was just
a soft sound, barely a whisper. The voice was familiar, though she
hated to hope; she was sure she was hallucinating. She would have
said something, except that her head hurt so bad she could barely
remember her name. The hand traveled from her shoulder to her face,
cupping along the side of it and pushing her hair out of the way.
Another soft curse. Then arms were sliding around her shoulders and
under her knees, and she was being lifted up – suddenly she was
eleven years old again, terrified of the dark and even more
terrified of going home. She turned instinctively and buried her
face against a warm, muscular shoulder. No shirt.

She tried to wonder at that, but couldn’t
keep her eyes open anymore. Her brain was shutting down. She let
out a soft breath and went limp in his arms.

Everything went dark.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Upon returning to consciousness, her first
inane thought was about whether or not she had finished her
homework.

Wait, had she even gone home last night? She
couldn’t remember….

With a soft sigh, she turned her head against
the pillow and took a deep breath, rubbing her nose against the
fabric. It smelled good, but… different. She breathed again,
enjoying the spicy odor of cologne and something more tangible,
something definitely masculine.

Then she stretched, and her heart slammed
against her chest – she was in a bed. Not on the couch. What the
hell?

It all came back to her with a jarring burst
of pain. Her temples throbbed. She groaned, bringing her hand to
her head; every time she tried to move, her brain let out a pulsing
stab. Her hand hovered above the wound before dropping back to her
side – best not to touch it. Then she frowned. If she wasn’t dead,
and she wasn’t in the woods, where the fuck was she?

She opened her eyes and squinted against the
light. It took her a moment before she could fully focus, then she
looked around, seeing a small window with heavy, ugly brown drapes
pulled across. It might have been afternoon, because the muffled
light still bothered her eyes. The walls had the slightly yellow
tint of old paint. A worn-down dresser stood across from her on the
opposite wall. Other than that, the bedroom was bare.

With a groan, she sat up slowly, careful not
to move her head too much. Sitting upright was more difficult than
she had anticipated – the room kept wanting to sway to the left,
but she forced it to straighten. She twitched her toes. Good,
everything in working order.

BOOK: Mark of the Wolf
5.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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