Wendy gasped as the door burst open and two large men exploded into her shop. Both were decked out entirely in black, each bristling with enough guns and knives to equip an entire SWAT team. Two of those guns, two of the bigger ones, were currently leveled, shoulder stocks socked home and fingers on triggers, at her. She froze, then gasped again when one of them started to bellow.
“Where is it? Where did it go?”
The shouting one kept his gun trained on Wendy while the other swept his about the shop, the barrel darting about like the head of a small, nervous bird.
“I asked you a question! Where did it go?”
Wendy’s mouth worked, but she was unable to speak. The chihuahua currently nestled in her arms whimpered, trembling in response to the sudden shouting, and the small sound nudging her out of her paralysis.
“I asked you a question! Answer me! Where is—”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Wendy was surprised by her own volume. “You’re being clear as mud! Tell me what you’re looking for so I can tell you I don’t have it and you can get the hell out of my shop!”
At her shout the darting gun barrel was leveled at her, its wielder adding his own voice to the cacophony.
“Is it her? I think it’s her. You think it’s her?”
He stepped forward, jabbing the gun at her on the last word. She quailed at the wild look in the man’s eyes, sure he was about to shoot, but the man who had started the shouting reached out and pressed his partner’s gun barrel toward the floor while he pointed his own at the ceiling.
“Of course it’s not her, Jim. We were chasing a male.”
“Oh yeah? What makes you so sure?”
“It didn’t have any clothes! What I gotta do, draw you a diagram?”
His expression had shifted from urgent to embarrassed, and Jim eyed Wendy as he broke out in a blush.
“She’s right, Jim. We’re losing our heads here.”
The hand was held out in her direction now, patting the air in a calming motion as he stepped closer.
“Have you seen a wolf, or a big dog come through here, maybe past the window or front door? We were chasing it in this direction.”
Wendy stared at him for a moment, wondering if this was some sort of joke. His eyes remained steady, his face like stone. She opened her mouth to answer, but Jim chose that exact moment to go a little crazy, swinging his gun back up and spinning about, shouting “I can smell it! Can’t you smell it, Bill? I can — it’s here!”
Bill inhaled, sniffing deeply, then stared at Wendy, stepping back and bringing his gun to bear once more.
“I can smell it. Where is it?”
“What are you talking about? What do you smell?”
Bill’s grin was tight.
“The werewolf, lady. I smell the werewolf. The overpowering scent of wet dog. The scent is so strong I can’t believe I missed it before. He must be close. Where is he?”
“Seriously? That’s why you burst in here, shouting and waving guns in my face? You guys think you’re chasing a werewolf?”
She took a half-step forward.
“First of all, I hate to break it to you, but outside of the movies werewolves don’t exist!”
“Lady,” Jim began, “I hate to break it to you, but I smell what I—”
Wendy took another half-step.
“Second, did you look at the sign outside before you broke down my door? Have you looked around — I mean really looked around?”
Her arms were still full of trembling chihuahua so she jerked her chin angrily about, pointing out things that filled the room.
The dual slop-sink with attached sprayer.
The floor-tub, also with sprayer.
Shelves covered with bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and various anti vermin powders and creams.
The rack of scissors, clippers, and three different electric trimmers mounted above a metal table.
“This is my pet grooming shop! The last time it didn’t smell like wet dog was before I signed the lease!”
She watched as the men looked about the room, actually taking it all in for the first time. Jim’s big face creased in confusion, but Bill’s cheeks reddened and he stared at the floor for a moment before looking her in the eye again.
“I … I’m sorry. Our mistake.”
Jim’s baffled gaze turned to take in his partner.
“What are you talking about? We were following the thing when he—”
Bill’s hand shot up, cutting Jim off mid-sentence.
“Just let it go, Jim. We screwed the pooch on this one.”
His eyes dropped to the tiny dog clutched to Wendy’s chest, then rose to meet her gaze again.
“So to speak. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, Ma’am.”
“Well…” Wendy cast about for some sort of bravado, but all she came up with was “…you should be!”
Bill opened his mouth to make some response, but closed it again without speaking. He gestured toward the door and began herding Jim out into the night, the two of them shuffling like schoolboys called onto the carpet. Jim complained, but went. The bell over the door failed to ring, having, she now saw, been snapped right off the wall by the force of the door bursting open just moments earlier. Wendy watched them get into a pickup truck parked out front; stood there trembling and watching ‘til they’d driven out of sight.
“Okay,” she said, her voice breaking and near tears. “They’re gone. Please, just go now and don’t hurt me. Please.”
In Wendy’s arms the chihuahua relaxed slightly, easing up on the bloody grip it had on her thumb, where small sharp teeth were buried in her flesh up to the black gums. It did not release her entirely, however, and Wendy started to scream as the little dog began to change.