The fluidity of Jill’s movements faltered as the adrenaline drained from her system. Her legs wobbled and she stumbled away from the crash feeling afraid and alone. She found a small bush away from the crash but still within sight of it and settled down beneath it. The supple vegetation camouflaged her black and tan coat and also shielded her from any prying eyes. A sob escaped her lips. She sounded like a distressed puppy. She felt like one too and hoped her father would find her soon.
The smell of cigarettes wafted on the breeze. Jill’s nose twitched and she lifted her head, pinpointing the source of the smell. Her keen sight caught the lit cigarette as it drifted down the embankment. No doubt a passerby flicked it from their car. She almost dismissed it when she saw it land dangerously close to the overturned car. It skidded along the ground in the breeze until it connected with the gas, the small spark enough to catch. Fire engulfed the vehicle quickly and spread to the nearby vegetation. Plastic melted away from the wrecked car and fell in large globs. The frame become malleable and distorted under the rising heat. Various combustible items popped and exploded throughout the wreckage sending flames in all directions.
The acrid smells assailed Jill’s nostrils and she almost missed it. The scent of another animal caught her attention. She sniffed and cocked her head, tracking the scent until she spotted him just beyond the flames.
“Jill!” Tom called as he rushed frantically around the inferno, moving dangerously close as he tried to find her.
“Help!” Jill called but her words continued to sound like a puppy’s pitiful cries. He turned in her direction and moved closer, sniffing the ground until he stood before her hiding place. He bend down and saw her.
“Jill?” he asked.
Jill tried her voice again but her words came out in whimpers and whines. He pushed his way through the bushes and frantically licked at her face. In her wolf form, she found it surprisingly soothing. He lay down beside her and lay his head across her neck.
“Shhhh, it’s ok now, I’m here,” he said.
She cried more, frustrated at how her voice sounded.
He licked her again. “I know your frustrated but try to calm down. Think of the human words first and then try to say them.”
Jill thought hard and tried again, “How did you know what I was saying?” Relief washed over her to be able to speak again.
“Trust me, I’m fluent in puppy speak. Our adaptability to shift from human to wolf is always hardest the first time. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for your first time. It must have been a pretty frightening thing. Honestly, I wasn’t sure you could change. Most young ones do it years earlier because their pliancy is better. Late shifters have a harder time and sometimes it’s very painful because their bones are not as flexible. Are you ok?”
“Yes. It wasn’t painful just scary,” Jill said.
“Who’s in the car smelling liked burned haddock?”
“Officer Billy. He died in the crash before the fire erupted. Daddy, he knew I wasn’t completely human. He knew about you too. He was taking me to see a Professor Pendergast. He came to our school with Billy once. He’s still a threat.”
“Well, any evidence you were in the car is going up in flames. We’ll have to deal with the professor when the time comes. Let’s go home,” he said.
Tom and Jill moved from under the bush and stood. Tom sniffed the air and shook his head.
“Your pack is here,” he said.
Jill lifted her head, scented the air and smiled. As if on que, Robbie and Layla bounded through the trees and skidded to a halt in front of her.
“Sweet! You shifted!” Robbie said, greeting her with a few licks to her face. Layla joined in greeting her too.
“Alright kids, let’s get out of here. Jill can you find your way home by retracing their trail?”
Jill put her nose down and found the trail with ease. She howled in triumpth before she bounded through the trees with Robbie, Layla and Tomas close behind.