Sabrina smiled sympathetically
as Amy put her sketch pad on the table to gaze pensively out of
the window. "I guess Quentin should have stayed here
instead of going into town with Chris," she commented.
"Why?" the girl asked, turning to look at her sister in law.
"To keep you company, of course." Chris' small office in the nearby town contained little more than a desk and drafting table, but his client list had grown steadily since they had moved into the old farmhouse on several acres of land. "Tell you what, why don't WE go for a walk?" she suggested as Amy turned back to the window.
Amy started to get up, but paused. "What if Chris and Quentin get back?"
"I'll leave then a note telling them where we are," Sabrina said. "You'd better get a sweater."
Quentin stood at the window of
the small office, looking at the nearly deserted street.
"Not very much goes on around here, does it?"
"No," Chris agreed, bent over his drafting table. "Not much. It's a pretty quiet little town."
"A lot like Collinsport, huh?"
"Yeah. I'll be finished here in just a minute, and we can go-" his words ended abruptly in a low moan of pain. The sound brought Quentin's head around immediately. "Chris?"
Chris shook his head to try and keep it clear. "I-I think I'd better get to the storm cellar," he told Quentin. Part of the reason he and Sabrina had chosen their property was the existence of an underground storm cellar with three-foot thick concrete walls. Chris had rigged the heavy iron door to lock from the outside when closed to make certain that nothing could escape from its confines.
Quentin frowned. "There's no full moon-" he began, only to have Chris interrupt in a brusque manner. "I KNOW that!" Another pain shuddered through him. "I didn't think this would happen again. It's been over a year-"
Quentin pulled out his keys. "I'll drive you out."
"There's no time," Chris decided, feeling as if his insides were coming apart.
"We have to try, Chris," Quentin said, pulling Chris' arm across his
The path to the old shelter was difficult to find in the deepening gloom, and concious of the nearness of the transformation, Chris insisted that Quentin wait at the car. Standing beside it, he said, "I'll go alone. You go- back to the house. Tell-Tell Sabrina--" Another pain, stronger this time, sent him headlong down the overgrown path, praying he would reach to the shelter in time.
Shaken, Quentin sat in the car,
his forehead resting on the steering wheel until he thought he
could be certain that Chris was securely locked in the storm cellar.
For some reason, he felt the need to make certain, and drawing
a deep breath, he left he car, running as he made his way down
the path that Chris had just taken. He had trouble finding
the spot, which worried him, since if Chris had opened the door,
the covering brush would have been on the ground. As he
located the door and was turning the ring mechanism to release
it, Quentin froze at the sound of a low growl close behind him. Too close. Whirling, he found the werewolf, ready to pounce. Quentin turned and ran back through to the woods to his car and barely got inside and turned the key before the animal appeared on the path.
The sound of an animal's howl brought
Sabrina up short on the path. Amy frowned. "What's
"Did you hear that?" Sabrina asked, her eyes searching the darkening woods.
"What? That dog?"
"Is that what it sounded like to you?" Sabrina wondered.
Amy shrugged, still frowning. "What else could it have been?" she asked.
The howl came again, nearer this time, and Sabrina turned. "I think we had better be getting back," she told the girl, beginning to retrace their steps-only to stop as she was confronted by a large, wolf-like creature. Amy screamed in terror, frozen to the spot. As the animal began to advance, Sabrina grabbed Amy's hand and forced her to run with her. As they ran over the uneven ground, a tree root caught Sabrina's toe and sent her sprawling. She sat up as Amy turned back to her.
"Come on, Sabrina!" Amy urged, terrified.
"My ankle," Sabrina said, shaking her head. "I think it's broken." She spared a quick glance over her shoulder, knowing that-the animal wasn't far behind them. "I want you to go for help, Amy."
"I can't leave you here!" Amy insisted.
"You don't have a choice. Now go. Please!"
Amy gave her a quick hug and turned to start back down the path again. She hadn't gotten more than a few yards away before the animal growled again, and Amy turned back to make sure Sabrina was all right. The animal lunged at the defenseless woman, and Amy screamed . . .
Quentin had found the note, and
went back out to search for Amy and Sabrina. Hearing Amy's
screams, he broke into a run. He met her coming toward him,
bloody, sobbing. She threw herself into his arms.
"Quentin! Sabrina-" she sobbed harder.
"Where is Sabrina, Amy?" he asked, and continued down the path in the direction she indicated with her hand. There was no sign of the werewolf, but finding his mark was easy. Sabrina lay on the path, her throat torn open,dead. "My God," Quentin said quietly, as Amy fell to her knees beside Sabrina's body. "Oh, Amy-"
She lifted her tear stained face. "It was-terrible. An-animal. Like a giant wolf-" She sobbed.
"A wolf?" he half questioned, closing his eyes as the confirmation of what he had already known.
Amy nodded. "Sabrina hurt her ankle, and sent me to get help. I should have stayed." She looked around. "Where's Chris? I have to tell him what happened." She rose to her feet.
"Chris?" Quentin repeated. "Chris-Chris had to go into Burns with a client. I doubt he'll be back before tomorrow morning." She began to cry again, and Quentin pulled her into his arms. "Come on. Let's go to the house. I'll call the Sheriff about what's happened."
"I hope they find that animal. It was so-strange, Quentin. After it-killed Sabrina-I thought it would come for me. But it didn't. It just-stood there, watching me, then yelped like it was hurt and turned to run away."
Quentin called the doctor, and
he arrived within moments of the Sheriff. After Amy told
the Sheriff what had happened, the doctor gave her a sedative,
and then accompanied Quentin as he took the Sheriff out to where
Sabrina's body still lay. After watching the man examine
the body, the Sheriff asked, "Well, Doc?"
"I'd say it was an animal. Her jugular was severed. Must've been a big animal of some kind."
Looking thoughtful, the Sheriff nodded. "Yeah. Strange, though. The wolves usually keep to the high ground this time of year."
The Doc shrugged. "Could be a renegade, Pete. It's happened before."
"Could be," he agreed, but his expression revealed his disbelief. "I'll put out a bulletin just in case. And I'll call the coroner over in Burns to come for the body." He looked up at the tall, dark haired man. "You're sure you don't remember the name of that client that Jennings left with, Mr. Collins?"
Quentin shook his head. "No. I'm new around here, remember? If I do remember, I'll let you know."
"I want him to call me as soon as he gets back," he told Quentin.
"I will," Quentin said, then turned back to the house. Amy was still in a drug-induced slumber, so he went into the living room and poured himself a drink. He frowned at the glass. The brandy tasted bitter. He sat down before the fire, the glass cradled in his hands. How much of this is MY fault? he asked himself. All of it, was his answer. His first mistake had been to marry Jenny. And leaving her had been his second. It would have been better for everyone if she had killed him that night in the cottage. There HAD to be an end to Magda's curse.
He sighed. It was going to be a long night.
Chris woke and remembered the beginnings of the transformation the night before. He hadn't made it to the shelter, obviously. Looking down at his blood stained, tattered clothes, Chris surpressed a shudder. Sabrina would know if anyone had been attacked, he decided, and quickly gained his bearings to take the back way to the house.
Quentin was standing by the fireplace,
staring into the dark recess when he heard the back door open.
Moments later, Chris entered the room. He looked around
the room. "Quentin."
His own memories of similar mornings sent Quentin to the liquor cabinet, where he poured the other man a brandy. "Here. I think you can probably use this."
Chris nodded, took the sifter. "Thanks." He took a sip of the fiery liquor and felt it revive him to some extent. "Where's Sabrina?"
It was the question Quentin had been dreading. "Finish your brandy and get changed-"
"Quentin, where IS she?" Chris asked, a touch of panic in his tone now.
"Stay calm, Chris. Amy's asleep-"
Chris knew something had happened. He shook his head, unwilling to accept what his mind was trying to tell him. But the truth was there in Quentin's eyes. "Oh God, no. NO!!" he cried out, throwing the empty glass into the fireplace where it hit the bricks and shattered. "What happened?" he asked, running his fingers through his hair. "What was she doing outside?"
"She and Amy had gone for a walk before I had a chance to warn them. By the time I found them-it was too late."
"Amy," Chris said, frowning. "You said she was asleep."
"The doctor gave her a strong tranquilizer." Quentin paused before telling him the rest. "She-saw it happen, Chris."
Chris sat down, covering his face with his hands. "Good Lord, no."
"She told the Sheriff it was a large wolf." He spread his hands. "I'm sorry, Chris. I know-"
"Don't, Quentin," Chris interrupted, his eyes still on the floor. "Just-don't. I can't deal with your guilt right now. I have enough of my own. Where did you tell everyone I was?"
"In Burns with a client that wouldn't be put off. I said I didn't remember the name. The Sheriff wants you to call him."
Chris nodded. "I'll do it later." He stood up wearily. "Right now, I'm gonna change clothes and get rid of these." He looked at Quentin. "Have you been up all night?"
"Yeah. I couldn't sleep-"
"Then why don't you go and try to catch some sleep now? I'll look in on Amy in a few minutes. And Quentin-" he waited for the other man to turn and look at him. "I want you to take Amy back to Collinwood for me. Today."
Quentin frowned. "Collinwood? But-"
"No 'buts', Quentin. Barnabas offered to take care of her for me if it ever became necessary. It has."
"She might not want to go and leave you."
"She'll go. Promise me that you'll do as I ask."
Quentin tried to read Chris' expression, but found himself unable to focus very clearly on anything. At last, he nodded. "I promise. It's the least I can do, I guess."
After showering and putting on clean clothes, Chris picked up a photograph of Sabrina that was on the desk in the room they had shared. She had been so brave, so understanding. This couldn't go on, he decided. HE couldn't go on. Not now. Sitting at the desk, he took out a pen and paper and wrote,
I cannot go on without Sabrina. I hope you will be able to
understand one day, Amy, and forgive me. You're to go
to Collinwood and Barnabas. He'll take care of you as if
you were his own sister. I love you,
The second letter was no less difficult.
I'm sure Quentin has told you what happened. I know
this is the coward's way out, but I can't keep killing
innocent people. I'm sending Amy to you because I know
how close you and she are. She'll need you, and I know
you'll take care of her.
I'll leave it up to you when to tell her the truth-but she
must know. The curse must end with her.
Chris placed the second letter inside an envelope, sealed it and wrote Barnabas' name on the front. Placing it nearby where it would be seen, he took a deep breath. Then, from deeper inside the drawer, Chris pulled out a small revolver . . .
Amy woke suddenly, her mind full of some
unknown fear that had nothing to do with Sabrina's death.
This concerned Chris. Something was wrong. He was
in danger. Quickly, she pushed back the blanket and ran
down the hall toward Chris and Sabrina's room.
Chris closed the gun's cylinder, then placed the muzzle against his temple. A part of his mind registered that the cold steel felt strangely comforting against his heated flesh. As his finger tightened on the trigger, he heard Amy's voice. "CHRIS! NO!"
In his room, Quentin was instantly awakened
by the sound of a gunshot and Amy's scream at the same moment.
He was on his feet and to the door of Chris' room in an instant.
Amy was standing in the doorway, not moving, her hand on the door
knob. She didn't respond to Quentin's arrival. "Amy?
What's wrong?" Her eyes were fixed on a point across
the room, and with a frown, Quentin looked in that direction as
well. Chris' head was on the desk, a gun in his hand.
Quickly, Quentin crossed to feel for a pulse, but he knew there
would be none.
Chris Jennings was dead.
Quentin's eyes fell on the envelope with Barnabas' name on it. He put it inside his pocket, his eyes scanning the room for any sign of the clothes Chris had worn the night before, then went over to the telephone beside the bed and dialed a number for the second
time in twelve hours.
"This is Quentin Collins, Sheriff . . . You'd better come back out to the Jennings place . . . Yes, he came home-, . . . Look, Sheriff, he killed himself . . . Yes, I'll be here." He hung up the telephone, and saw Amy, still in the doorway. He went to her, blocking her view of the grisly scene at the desk. "Amy?" There was no response. Shaking her gently, he tried
again. "AMY." Her gaze was still fixed on something she could no longer physically see. She didn't resist as he led her back to her own room and helped her back into bed.
The sheriff looked up at Quentin
as the hearsh drove away. "Will you be staying on,
"No. I have to take Amy back East. I'll make arrangements for Chris and Sabrina's bodies to be sent there as well. Chris and Amy's parents and brother are buried in Collinsport."
Dr. Mitchell came into the room, drawing their attention. "How is she, Doc?"
"She's in a deep state of shock. I'm not an expert, of course." He looked at Quentin. "I would suggest, Mr. Collins, that you find a competent psychiatrist as soon as possible." His eyes scanned Quentin's strained features. "For yourself as well, I should think."
Quentin nodded. "It so happens that I know one in Collinsport. She'll be taken care of, Doctor. My cousin Barnabas will see to that. As for me, I have a promise to keep to Chris before I can worry about how I'm feeling."
Amy sat at the window of her room, not
seeing the green trees and grass that had so fascinated her the
day before. She could hear them talking in the other room,
but nothing they had said had been of interest to her. Until
she heard Quentin say Barnabas' name.
Her mind grabbed ahold of it as if the name were a life-line. Barnabas. Barnabas. Barnabas.
Once she was with Barnabas, everything would be fine. Like it was before. Barnabas . . .