She couldn’t see but that probably had something to do with the fact that she couldn’t open her eyes. Her hearing didn’t seem to be impaired, judging by the voices she heard swarming around her. She tasted her own blood in her mouth and when she breathed in, she smelled a mixture of sweat, perfume and automobile exhaust. Her leg where the bullet had hit felt like it was on fire and the pavement under her cheek was cold and damp. All of her senses seemed to be in working order.
She didn’t have to open her eyes to feel the crowd of people moving closer.
“What the hell is a wolf doing in downtown Asheville?”
“What should we do?”
“Stay away from it, it’s still alive, you can see it breathing.”
A voice she recognized as Brett the cop came next, “Stand aside, people. Let’s see what we have here.”
The fresh air wafting over her body told her that the crowd had listened to the voice of authority for once. She heard his clunky shoes move closer then smelled the tobacco on his breath, felt the heat of his body as he leaned over her.
“You shouldn’t touch it,” someone yelled, “they’re more dangerous when they’re hurt.”
“Is it dead?”
“What if it has rabies? I’ve heard you can still get rabies from a dead animal.”
“Oh my God, shoot it!”
The creak of leather had her bracing for another bullet but it never came. Instead, she heard Brett the cop say, “Dispatch, I need someone from Animal Services to come to the front entrance of Cover Me in downtown Asheville.” His feet shifted again, one of the boots squeaked in protest. “Yeah, yeah, it’s a nightclub at 1735 Center Street. We’ve got a wolf down in the street.”
A buzz of response then Brett continued, “Yeah, I said a wolf and before you ask, no, I don’t know how it ended up here. Just send somebody down here from Animal Services, okay?” Another buzz followed by a squawk. “Looks like its hurt pretty bad, so maybe you oughta see if you can get a vet to come with them. Right, I’ll be right here.”
The radio squealed again. If she’d had hands she would’ve had to fight to keep them from covering her ears. As it was, her paws twitched and someone yelled, “Did you see that? It’s alive!”
The voice of authority spoke again, “Okay people, show’s over. Animal Services will be here soon and they’ll take care of this. Y’all just go on about your business.”
The shuffling of a multitude of feet and a few sullen remarks told her that the crowd followed Brett the cop’s directive. That was good; less people meant less interference when she made her getaway. Now all she needed to do was come up with a brilliant escape plan.
Something prodded at her hip and she forced her body to remain lifeless. Maybe the Animal Services people would just take her out in the woods and dump her body if they thought she was dead. Yeah, keep telling yourself that Lyssa. They wouldn’t do that even if they did think she was dead. More than likely they’d take her to North Carolina Wildlife Resources in Asheville and before they did that, they’d tranquilize her to guard against her coming to life and attacking them. Just what she needed on top of the unaccustomed alcohol she’d had earlier. By the time she woke up, she’d be in a cage and there’d be no hope of escaping then.
A car pulled up, its brakes squeaking as it stopped, and she concentrated on keeping her paws still. What was it with all the squeaking tonight? First Officer Brett’s shoe then his radio and now the brakes on the car which probably carried the Animal Services people; it was all getting on her nerves.
The city of Asheville needed to invest some money in a few quarts of oil, radios that had better reception, and maybe some new shoes for their patrolmen.
A woman asked, “What’ve you got here, Donner?”
“Well, hey, aren’t I the lucky one? Hi there, Celia, how you doing, pretty lady?”
“I’m fine. Move out of the way and let me get a look.”
“Careful now, that’s a wild animal there, it could…”
“I know it’s a wild animal, else they wouldn’t have called me now would they?”
“Hey, no need to get your panties in a twist, sweetheart, I’m just trying to protect you.”
“Yeah, right, I don’t need your kind of hands-on protection.” It was muttered and Officer Donner probably didn’t hear, but Lyssa’s keen ears picked up every word. It would seem Brett the cop had a problem controlling his hands when it came to the women on the Asheville PD.
A car door slammed and Lyssa heard footsteps coming toward them.
It was a man’s voice this time, “What’ve we got, Celia?”
“Hi, Dr. Hunt.” Her voice had lost that cool disdain and sounded about fifty degrees warmer. “It looks like a wolf but I can’t be sure until Donner stops acting like an overprotective father and lets me get a closer look.”
“Officer Donner, would you move out of the way, please?”
“Sure thing, doc, I was just making sure the little lady didn’t get hurt.”
Someone sighed, probably Celia. Lyssa heard the squeak of Brett the Cop’s shoe as he stepped aside.
“Stand back, Donner, Dr. Hunt and I will take care of this.”
A whiff of subtle perfume and a gentle touch on her leg in the area of the bullet wound told Lyssa that Celia had crouched down beside her.
“It’s a wolf all right. Wonder what it’s doing downtown? What the hell did you have to shoot if for, Donner?”
“Hey, there were people around. I didn’t want that thing to bite somebody or something. That’s a wild animal. It could be rabid for all I knew.”
“It was probably more scared of the people than they were of it. You should’ve just let it go.”
“I was just doing my duty. Protect and serve, remember?”
Lying as still as she could, Lyssa wished she could open her eyes and get a look at her defender. Probably not a good idea, considering that might get her nothing but a tranquilizer dart in the backside.
Another finger prodded the wound, this one thicker and firmer. Must be the vet and damn it, she really wanted to open her eyes now. His scent washed away the smell of the dirty street, the lingering hint of tobacco from Brett the cop, and even the woman’s perfume. He smelled like a combination of fresh air and sunshine with a hint of wildness mixed in.
When he spoke, his voice washed over her like a soothing balm. What the heck?
“She hasn’t lost much blood and it looks like the bullet went clean through but I need to take her back to my office so I can examine her more closely and clean up the wound. I’ve got a crate in the back of my van. Hey, heads up, Donner.” There was a metallic jingle as if he’d tossed some keys. “Take those and open the back before you go.”
Lyssa wanted to yell at him to go away and leave her alone but she couldn’t do that as long as she was in wolf-mode and she didn’t think he’d understand if she howled it. At least he was skilled enough to figure out her gender without lifting her hind leg and checking. And maybe once he got her to his office and fixed her up she’d find a way to escape.
She just hoped the combination of the anesthetic and the alcohol wouldn’t cause her to shift back to human form while she was under. If it did, there was no telling what he would do.
He slid his hands under her body and lifted her.
Big hands, yet gentle and she wondered if the hands and voice were a good representation of the man.
“Aren’t you going to tranquilize her first? What if she wakes up?” Celia asked.
“She’s out and my van’s right over there. I can lock her in the crate if I need to but I don’t think I will.”
Lyssa kept her body limp as he moved her. Thoughts of leaping out of his arms and running as fast as she could ran through her mind but she rejected them almost as soon as they took form. She was tired and disoriented from the alcohol. She’d probably end up getting hit by another car since she couldn’t open her eyes which meant she wouldn’t get very far before the vet or the Animal Services officer caught her. Besides, if Brett the cop was still around, the possibility existed that she’d wind up with another bullet somewhere in her already wounded body.
It was a case of the lesser of two evils and though she didn’t like it, she didn’t offer any resistance to the man who gently slid her body into a crate probably meant for a large dog then shut and latched the door.
At least he didn’t lock it so there was a chance she could get away when they got to his office.