by T. P. Keating
Don't get me wrong; the wolf in me loves
the full moon. It's just that I don't love the wolf in me. The subway train, or tube train as they insist on calling it here,
eventually arrived and interrupted my musing. Yes, my London odyssey still continues! Off we went. Now the shopper in me I
do love. The bargain hunter, that is. That's it. The hunting instinct remains; I've simply harnessed it for a nobler cause.
“Hello Kimberly,” said Malcolm
Fairfax, when we'd met at the exit of the New Emperor Coffee HQ on Regent Street. “I'm on my way to our Pimlico branch.
“Sightseeing. Actually, Pimlico is
nearby. Care to join me? I could do with a guide.”
“That all depends on my boss at New
Emperor Coffee giving me permission to take the rest of the day off.”
“Permission granted!” Now we
sat side by side on the train.
“What sights do you intend to see?”
“Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Downing
“Oh I say, my old school chum Piers
Pelly lives around the corner from Big Ben. You'll like him.”
“What does he do?”
“He's semi-retired. Here's our station.”
Which wasn't an answer to my question. Malcolm
is such a secretive person. In the 4 months I'd been in London, he'd mentioned almost nothing about his background. Even his
foreground could be hazy sometimes. Though, in all fairness, he'd never once let me down on our special assignments for New
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were
interesting, probably because Malcolm gave me a mini history lesson. His habitual black suit and black umbrella made him look
at home in the surroundings. At a little over fifty, he could easily pass for an MP. I felt a bit self-conscious in my velveteen
plum pantsuit with matching broad-brimmed hat and kitten heels. But, dear sister, you'd told me it's this season's look to
die for back in Manhattan, and I've always respected your style tips.
“Piers' place is this way.”
He shepherded me down charming, well-kept streets of small, well-kept houses. On this April morning, my head felt warm beneath
my hat, yet my unadorned neck felt distinctly cold. Roll on summer. “Here we are.” He rang the doorbell. Footsteps
inside. The door opened.
“Mal, you sly devil!”
“Piercie, you damn fox!”
They shook hands. A casual observer would
take it as a regular Malcolm handshake, but I registered the extra vigor.
“Kimberly, this is Piers Pelly. Piers,
meet Kimberly Duncan.” A shortish man with an open-neck white shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, he shook my hand and ushered
us in. An orange-carpeted hall led to an orange-carpeted study. Piers poured tea into two extra china cups and made sure that
we were well supplied with shortbread biscuits.
“So, Malcolm, you're here because
the nation is in the gravest peril?”
“Naturally, old chap, naturally.”
“Say what?” My New York tones
sounded out of place in this swanky old-world setting. I half-expected a chimney sweep and a nanny to burst into song, and
then dance around us with cartoon penguins.
Malcolm leant forward in his armchair. “Since
your arrival in London, Kimberly, you have twice been attacked by werewolves. Which crime statistics show is well above the
national average. They were both under hypnotic control, thus allowing them to assault a fellow wolf. As you discovered, Lord
Doig had hypnotized the second fellow. But recent information has revealed that he too was under the control of another. Namely,
the Red Hoodie.”
“Can either of you two gentlemen explain
who this Red Hoodie might be, and why I'm his target?”
“Because of the large red hood, his
appearance is a mystery,” said Piers. “Government agents managed to recover his little red notebook. It contains
details of the two hypnotized werewolves. It also names a single target. You. With drawings of skull and crossbones, and a
saying, repeated over and over, ‘Die Kimberly die’.”
“Basically, neither of you has a clue
why the Red Hoodie wants to kill me, do you?” They ruefully shook their heads. This Red Hoodie sounded about 8 years
“Where is he now?”
“Like all vermin, he has taken to
the sewers,” Malcolm replied.
“And emergency access to the sewers
can be gained through my basement,” added Piers. “That's why, down the centuries, this house has only ever been
owned by MPs.”
I started to join the dots. “You mentioned
that the nation is in peril. That means that the Red Hoodie is also a threat to the government, doesn’t it? Care to
tell me why?”
“I am not at liberty to say. However,
I am authorized to offer New Emperor Coffee a rather generous tax break,” said Piers.
“Then what can it offer to me, personally?”
“These government issue night goggles
and the best of British luck.”
Following which, the night goggles let me
view the underground world in fetching shades of green. Kimberly issue perfume masked the unpleasant smells. Fortunately,
the tunnel beneath the house was dry and tall enough to stand in. Using the map Piers gave me, I headed for the first spot
that we considered likely for a Red Hoodie lair. An abandoned nuclear fallout shelter.
The single motive for trying to kill me
was my werewolf heritage. Did that mean the British government contained werewolves too? No, surely that couldn't be? Then
My bones felt the full moon rise and my
heart began to beat to an animal rhythm. No wonder many modern werewolves took up drumming careers. Herbal painkillers, coupled
with my subterranean location, helped to keep the moon-induced discomfort at relative bay.
Three quarters of the way to a possible
lair, while naming all the current chart bands with werewolf drummers, and politicians the world over with a wolfish appearance,
a person wearing a hooded top crossed my path. Carefully, I slunk along behind. Within a minute, the person stopped dead,
though without turning.
“It's Kimberly, isn't it?” he
stated, in an aristocratic voice that dripped with contempt.
“Please, don't be shy. Not when death
“Sure, it's Kimberly.”
“I want you dead. Yet you insist on
creeping along behind me. Even for a werewolf, you're mightily dense.”
I refused to get angry. Stay calm and ask
a few incisive questions. “Why am I your target?”
“Why shouldn't you be? Treat each
pest control operation as a separate job, that's me. No need to get paranoid, animal brain.”
My residue anger coaxed the wolf forward.
I focused on not succumbing. It worked. Let's try another question. “Why are the government afraid of you?”
“Who fed you that crap? I've done
their bidding for ages. They pay me with a list of names. Everyone wins. Trust you to believe what you're told. You're one
corporate puppet, dearie. How low has the once mighty, independent wolf fallen.”
Don't let him infuriate you, I instructed
myself. Stay calm. Keep cool. Oh my god, he was still yapping. “You're like a cappuccino, where you drink the foam and
anticipate the coffee. Then you drink more foam, and then some more. Until you realize, hey, this stupid Kimberccino is froth
all the way down. Shallow, stupid Kimberly. Yeah, that's you.”
I snapped. How dare he insult my coffee?
In business, reputation is all. I raced towards him, flossed fangs bared. He raised a gun. My paw swiped it from his hand.
He drew another. My hind paw sent it flying. He lifted his hood. I knew him. I couldn't place the name, as minor British royalty
isn't my strong point. Hadn't he avoided a fine for speeding on the motorway last year? He fell to his knees. The wolf saw
an exposed throat and sprang.
An explosion filled my goggles with green
light. The force sent me flying hundreds of yards, until my shoulders crunched against a wall. Winded, I fell with a howl.
“And when I came to and returned to
the scene of the explosion, shreds of a hood were strewn everywhere. It was red.” Malcolm and Piers glanced at each
other. I'd spent the rest of the full moon holed up in a rather drab spare bedroom at Piers's house, existing on sandwiches
and cans of soda, while my unique silver talisman kept the wolf and her symptoms at bay. When the moon waned, I waxed and
“Like brave young Kimberly suggests,
the Red Hoodie was killed in the blast,” said Piers. “Case closed. No doubt his family will want the funeral to
be a private affair. You will receive the details of the tax break very shortly.” On the morning of the fourth day,
we were taking a late breakfast in the dining room.
“I just hope the explosion didn't
damage the sewer.” My voice came out growlier that I'd intended. Perhaps I wouldn't venture outside until the afternoon.
Piers smiled. “Kimberly, politics
lost an astute mind when you decided to go into the coffee business.”
I considered the tax break and smiled too,
still feeling mightily tired from my exertions. “Any chance of more tea and toast?” I enquired.
“Jolly good show!” replied Piers.
“We'll make an English wolf of you yet.” We all laughed and helped ourselves to more hot buttered toast.
Well, Jo-Beth, I'd appreciate your opinion.
Is 15 percent of the price a reasonable amount to charge, for the use of my name on a special in-house creation, the Kimberccino?
Copyright T. P. Keating 2005