User:Eirik/Wolf in the House

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Wolf in the House

Author: Eirik

The young man sat on the marble steps in under the dull yellow lights that surrounded the statue behind him and gazed across the still pool of water. He fidgeted a little as he checked his watch. He was early, too early really. Even if Shore arrived on time he was still almost half an hour away.

Killing the time, Neil popped open the latch on his briefcase and peered inside again. Nothing had vanished, it was all still there. The file on Shore, and all the evidence he had gathered, was accounted for.

It should be, he'd checked every five minutes for the last hour.

Once again, Neil thought about just leaving. This was an insane thing to do. If he was wrong, as he likely was, his career would be over. No reputable paper would ever hire him, no news organization would touch him. He was getting ready to throw away a career that he had worked so hard on.

Without removing it from his briefcase, Neil looked again at the picture. He still had no idea who had sent it to him, or why. It had seemed like a joke, something the guys down in the photo lab had put together out of fun. But when he made joking inquires, no one knew what he was talking about. He'd taken the picture home and examined it with a magnifying glass. As far as he could tell, it was real.

But that was ridiculous. He knew enough to know that it was easy to doctor a photo. Even before computers, someone with time and talent could have made this up. He'd tossed it aside and forgotten about it.

Then the videotape arrived.

It had come to his home, not the paper like the photo. It had come with no label, no explanation. The address label was typed, and the postmark from Shores former congressional district in Colorado. It had also not been so easy to dismiss.

Neil had done a little digging, quietly, after that. He had gotten a hold of Shores medical records, and found nothing that raised a red flag. Oh, he was a little anemic, as were millions of others, he was red-green color blind, along with about fifteen million other men, and he had a slightly elevated blood pressure. Nothing here that raised much of a red flag. There were no odd reports from anyplace that he had lived, or within miles of them. He had done a computer check of Shores hometown and every county surrounding it. There had been a grand total of two unsolved murders, both gunshots, and three unexplained disappearances.

It was actually fewer than Neil had expected to find if nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

But it was the video that made him decide to go forward. He felt that he had to. If he was wrong, it would mean the end of his career. If he was right, it would mean a Pulitzer Prize and international fame.

Or, he shuddered, Shore might just kill him, right here, tonight, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Footsteps broke the calm of the evening, and Neil turned his head. Physically, Shore was a very impressive man. Six foot, four inches tall and heavily muscular topped off with dark hair only slightly hinted with silver strands. Mentally, the man was as sharp as a tack. There wasn't a soul in Washington, of any party, that felt nearly up to his speed.

Politically, Shore was even more odd. He was Republican, but most felt it was because his district happened to be predominantly such. He was very middle of the road, and voted about equally on either side of the aisle. Perhaps the biggest oddity was that he wasn't a rich man. He had been the owner of a small publishing company before coming to Washington. He never made millions at it, and had sold it for a small nest egg when he was elected to the House. Shore had just waged a successful campaign for the Senate in Colorado, and would be taking his place in the Senate chamber in two months.

Neil smiled nervously as the man approached. Extending a hand, he said "Good evening, Senator. I'm glad you could come."

Shore firmly shook the reporters hand. "Please, I'm not a Senator yet. I presume that you're Neil Stringer from the Post?"

"Yes sir. Did your staff tell you why I wanted to see you?"

Shore sat down on the steps, "All they told me was that you claimed to have something on me that demanded my immediate attention. I must say that you've got my curiosity piqued."

"Really? Why?"

Shore shrugged, "I don't exactly have many skeletons in my closest, so to speak. No mistresses, no drug use, no financial problems. Truth be told, unless you're planning on telling the world about that little incident in the fourth grade, I'm not sure what you think you have."

"Fourth grade?"

Shore smiled, "Lets just say that it involves a little girl I had a crush on and some paste"

Neil smiled reflexively and then his face got grim. "Actually, sir, I just want you to explain a couple items that I received from a source recently. Let's start with this."

Neil opened the briefcase and pulled out the color 8x10 glossy photo. It had been taken at some distance, but with a telephoto lens. It showed Shore standing naked on the rear deck of his secluded Colorado home obviously about midway through a transformation into a wolf. Shore had a fully developed tail and a gray wolves pelt running from his rump to the top of his head. His ears were obviously those of a wolf. He was hunched over, as if loosing the ability to stand on two legs.

Shore never missed a beat. "Mr. Stringer, I'm afraid that you've been taken in by a little joke some staff members played on me during my last run for the House."

Stringer arched his eyebrows, "Really? What do you mean?"

Shore smiled again. "It's a doctored photo. They cooked it up on the computer one night. The next morning, a few staff members said that the Democrats had found a picture of me in my natural state, then they dropped this on my desk. We all laughed about it, and they promised me that they would get rid of the photo." He gestured across it, "I guess someone saved one for a souvenir and decided to take you for a little ride."

Neil nodded, "That's pretty much what I felt about the picture, and I wasn't even going to bother you about it, until I got this in the mail." He pulled out the miniature video player and screen and turned it on. It was cued up to the beginning. Neil handed it to Shore.

He watched Shores reaction as he watched the tape. It had been taken from about the same location using a telephoto video lens. It recorded faithfully as the Representative walked out of his back door, stopped and looked around. He was already naked. His eyes closed and his ears started to grow. His own hair was mixed in with the growing fur as he fell to his hands, now paws. In the span of about one minute, it was over. The United States Representative was a timber wolf.

Shore clicked off the machine and handed it back to Neil. "What do you want to know?"

"Then you admit it? This is you?"

Shore shrugged. "I'd look pretty stupid to deny that. It's pretty clearly me. In fact, I even remember that day. It was only a few weeks ago, the last time I was home. Have you ever run through the Colorado mountains in the fall, Mr. Stringer?"

Neil shook his head, bewildered. This wasn't exactly the reaction he expected.

"Oh, you should. Even as a human, the sights, the smells, wonderful. I go back whenever I can."

"How did you become" Neil paused as he struggled for the right word.

"A werewolf? It's not like I had a choice. You could call it a genetic disease, but that's not entirely accurate. It doesn't really show up in genetic testing. In fact, it barely shows up at all in medical tests. I assume that you pulled my medical records?"

Neil nodded. "It didn't show anything out the ordinary."

"It wouldn't. There are a fairly small number of symptoms of lyncanthropcy that show up in medical tests. The only ones that typically do are anemia and, in males, colorblindness."

"Colorblindness in males? What about females?"

"Oh, about a quarter are colorblind in human form, but all of us have canine vision in animal form. None of us knows why."

"What about your blood pressure?"

Shore smiled, "That, I'm sorry to say, can be written off to too much meat in my diet." Shore put up a hand quickly, "Don't get the wrong idea! I'm not talking about all the deer and elk I eat, because I frankly don't do that kind of thing. My meat comes from the supermarket, just like yours."

Neil started to get nervous. Shore was saying an awful lot to a reporter about something he obviously wanted to keep quiet. He started to fidget a little, and suddenly wished he had left the story alone.

"Is there anything else that you want to know, Mr. Stringer?"

"I'm a little curious. WhWhy are you being so candid about this? I mean, you're not planning on... I mean, people know we're meeting tonight, and "

Shore actually laughed. "Mr. Stringer, don't be so worried! Your life is in absolutely no danger! Frankly, I don't care how much you know. I think that it's safe to say that, even with the video, your editor will never allow this into print."

Stringer got worried, "Why? Is he one of you?"

Shore laughed again, then stopped. "Hmmm, I was going to say no, but come to think of it, he might be. I've never really come out and asked him, though he does seem to bear some of the signs."

"What are those?"

Shore considered for a moment. "I would tell you, really I would, but it would be tough to explain. It's the kind of thing that only another lychanthrope would notice. There's a certain quality to the way the person carries themselves. It's subtle, even I miss it now and then. Regardless, I doubt that he would allow a story like this to grace the paper. The only way that he would is if I confirmed it, and I can tell you right now that I won't."

"Why not? What are you afraid of?"

"Neil, you're a bright young man, don't act stupid now. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I came clean. I would go from being a very popular Senator with Presidential aspirations to either feared or Leno and Lettermans nightly punching bag, and I don't like either option."

Neil sagged a little. Shore was right. The Post, or any other reputable paper, would never run this story. The only way that they would is with Shores official admission. The story was so outlandish, they certinaly wouldn't even ask for it.

Shore seemed to sense Neil's thoughts. "Look, Neil. I'm impressed that with you. I really am. I can't imagine that many reporters would have been willing to stick there neck out like this and try and get the truth, regardless of how insane that truth seemed. If you're ever interested, I can always use a man like you in my office."

He looked at the future Senator. "Are you just trying to get me to stop with the story? I could still try and run it, you know."

Shore shrugged. "The offer stands, either way. Frankly, Neil, even if you do manage to run it, I doubt you'll ever convince the American people that it was true without my help. It's a story that would die pretty soon. After a couple years, it would pop up now and then, and most people wouldn't even remember which Senator it was about."

Neil nodded. Shore was right, on all counts. He could still try and run with the story, but it wouldn't do much good. He dropped the video player in his briefcase and sighed. "I'm sorry to have bothered you, sir."

He got up and started to walk away when he heard, "Wait, Neil." He stopped and turned.

"Neil, I think that I can make this up to you. I was a young man once, and I know that you probably had hopes of breaking a big story tonight, making your career." The future Senator looked around slyly, "If you're still interested in that possibility, I have some information on a certain member of the President-elect's staff that could just make you famous"

"Isn't President-elect Winters a close friend of yours?"

"There are no friends in Washington. Besides, wolves and politicians always go for the jugular. We're a lot like reporters in that way."

Neil smiled reflexively at hearing that, "Can you be a little more specific?" he said as he reached for his notepad.