“Alright, clothes off. Get in,” Alicia demanded of Lily as she stripped out of her blouse and pants. Lily stood abreast of Alicia fumbling with the buttons of her dress and stared into the brownish water in the corroded porcelain tub leaning against the wall of their inn room. “It’s no time to be shy either. Come on, quickly now!” She helped Lily undress and move into the tub and began to scrub her raw with a sponge.
“Ow! Why are we doing this?” Lily asked as she squirmed.
“Either two things are happening right now. First, Kessel could have figured out how to start the plane, in which case I’d have heard it, but I didn’t. So that leaves the second option: He couldn’t figure it out and he’s coming after me. You saw how friendly that lot was. I’m sure they can track a scent and we need to lose ours,” she said. She had led Lily all around the industrial sector of town leaving their scent all over and acquiring new ones before picking an inn to rest in for the night. “All clean. Now, put those new clothes on.” She pointed Lily to the garments laying on the bed. Alicia finished scrubbing herself, toweled off, and dressed in an itchy wool dress too. Alicia threw her necklace over her head and tucked the keys under her collar. She shoved her pistol and her university seal into a satchel and dumped their old clothing into a burlap sack and asked Lily to bring it below to be incinerated.
While Lily was away, Alicia drew the curtains shut and checked her gun. She loaded a fresh magazine into the Luger and holstered it. As soon as Lily walked through the door, Alicia said to her, “Get some rest. I’ll keep watch.”
While Lily slept, Alicia stayed by the window watching the city. In the early hours of the morning a cacophony of howls broke the night’s silence. Lily awoke and joined Alicia at the window sill. In the distance, men, transformed into wolves, stood on rooftops calling to one another. Atop their inn they heard the scratching of claws against the stone as one of them ran and jumped off the rooftop to another. Lily gripped Alicia by the shoulder; she was shaking and mumbling a prayer in a tongue Alicia had never heard before. All through the night Alicia could see silhouettes of the wolves running and crawling about the roofs trying to place their scent. “Go back to bed.” Lily slept against her shoulder for the rest of the night.
When dawn broke, Alicia and Lily dressed in traveling cloaks that Alicia had purchased the night before, and headed to the pub below for breakfast. As they ate bread and cheese, several men entered the pub. The muscular man leading the troupe pulled up to the bar and in a boisterous voice announced: “Round of drinks for me and my men!”
“What’s the occasion?” The barkeep asked as he filled a stein.
“This fat fellow, some Doctor, asks us to move this big ruddy thing that he’s got hidden under a tarp. He says he’ll pay us double to do it now instead of in the morning. I say fine. He won’t say what it is. So I ask for double that. We’re moving it through the town square to the train yard, my men are tired and we stop. Hey, it’s late, right? Well he triples the double on the double. We’re rollin’ in it!”
Lily and Alicia made eye contact but neither girl said anything. When they finished eating, Alicia led Lily past the drunken movers and headed down the noonday street. She dragged Lily through a bazaar and then to the cobblestone streets of the main part of town and followed the signs to the train yards on Morgan Street. Across the road, Alicia recognized the human form of one of the wolfmen from the previous night. He entered a door with the number “137″ whitewashed over it.
“That must be the warehouse,” Alicia said as she put her coin purse in Lily’s hands. “There’s a train coming for Atolari. I want you to buy two tickets. I’m going to take a look inside. Go on.” Lily hid herself beneath her hood and walked with a brisk pace down the street. In front of Alicia was a growing queue of horse-drawn carts with boxes of merchandise. They were heading into warehouse “134″. Alicia walked alongside one of the carts and kept her eyes peeled. Once she was certain that no one was looking she jumped into one of the covered carts and tucked herself under the tarp. She waited to be caught but no one noticed.
Once inside, Alicia took a quick glance around, but everyone was busy working to notice her. She made a beeline for a door with the number “134″ over it. She exited into the train yard. Locomotives whistled hello and goodbye as they sped by one another blowing big billowing towers of steam. Warehouse “137″ was a couple of buildings down. She pressed herself against the the brick wall, and spied on two bald men in cloaks guarding the door. The guards growled as they pushed the doors open to allow a flatbed car inside. Alicia winced as the metal doors scraped their way along the rails, but she took the opportunity to open the side door and slip inside.
From behind some shelves, she saw her plane, wrapped and tied, hovering over the floor held up by several ropes. Underneath, Doctor Kessel gave instructions for loading onto the flatbed. She counted a dozen bald men in traveling cloaks – all wolves in sheep’s clothing. She had enough bullets but one shot would give her away. With the plane loaded and wheeled out, Kessel and his men left the warehouse. Alicia hurried to the train platform and found Lily.
“Did you find it?” Lily asked.
“Did you get the tickets?”
“I had enough for two. I saw Doctor Kessel board one of the noble cars up front.” Alicia peeked over Lily’s shoulder at the green cars at the head of the train.
“He was alone,” Lily said.
Alicia took both train tickets. “You’re not coming aboard. I want you to fly after the train. Keep an eye on the last car. You’ll know it when you see it.”
“But where are you going?”
“To test a theory.” Alicia hid under her hood and boarded the train. She took a seat on a bench by the window. It took another twenty minutes to fill the car to maximum capacity before it pulled out of the station. Alicia turned her eye to each passenger. Most of the travelers were families with young children – she hoped that she could pull this off without causing anyone harm. Not a sign of the bald men that guarded Kessel were in sight. The train cut through the woods surrounding Lebenwald, but as far as Alicia could see much of the wood was floating down a river to a lumber mill. Alicia waited a little longer for the train to pick up speed and did some mental calculations. “That ought to do it,” she mumbled and excused herself. She pushed the door open for the next car, a cargo hold filled with boxes and luggage. Two of Kessel’s guards turned towards her.
“Ladies room?” she asked. The guards snarled. Alicia backed out of the car and opened the door leading outside. The trees whipped by in a blur. Alicia found a ladder on the side of the train, swung herself onto it and climbed up. On top of the car she crouch walked across the flat center of the roof. She could see her beautiful mechanical bird on the flatbed at the end of the train.
Two giant claws gripped the side of the car and a wolfman swung itself onto the rooftop. It roared at her, narrowed its eyes, and swiped at Alicia. She fell backwards; the wolfman shredded her cloak sleeve. Alicia pulled out her Luger and fired twice. The wolfman twisted left and right as the bullets impacted in his chest. She closed one eye and shot him in the foot. His foot slipped, split his legs, and he slid off the curved side of the car’s roof crying all the way down. Alicia crawled along the top to the end of the car. As she climbed down the ladder, she saw the other wolfman on the roof heading towards her.
On the flatbed, Alicia undid the knots tying her plane down to the car.
“Hold it right there!” She turned to face Doctor Bartram Kessel and his Luger. He stood in the doorway of the luggage car.
Alicia kept working. “You won’t shoot me!”
“What makes you so sure?”
“You can’t fly the plane.”
“Because you still have the keys! All I have to do is shoot.”
“I’ll fall off the train. How will you find my corpse?”Alicia undid the last of the bindings and the tarp billowed and peeled off the plane and flung itself into the distance. “I’ll be taking this now.” The wolfman jumped down onto the flatbed and growled at her.
“She’s got the keys, get them from her!” Kessel screamed before closing the door.
The wolfman’s mouth salivated for her flesh and the claws glistened in the high sun. Alicia fired two rounds at him but the wolf was faster and shucked and shimmed around them and lunged at her. Alicia dived under the plane’s fuselage and the wolf smacked his head hard against the wing. He shook it off and reached for her with a claw. She dodged and rose on the other side. As she stood, the wolf crashed on her and flattened her to the floor again. The gun popped from her hand and bounced across the flatbed.
She twisted to the side and got a face full of the wolf’s teeth and a nose full of a rotting flesh stench from its mouth. She tried to move but the wolfman sat on her. The wolf raised its arms ready to dig its claws into her. She shut her eyes. Was this the end?
A whiny, whimpering yelp came from her executioner. Alicia opened her eyes to see the wolfman flying into the blue sky. Caw! Caw! Alicia stood up. “Lily!” She smiled. The wolf thrashed at the bird but the giant talons held on to it. Lily reached down with her beak snatched the wolf’s head and rent it from the body and spit it into the woods below.
Alicia got to her feet, gripped the side of her plane, and climbed into the cockpit.
“Kill her! Kill her!” She could hear Doctor Kessel scream. Alicia pulled the two keys from around her neck and insert them into the dashboard and fired the engine up. The propeller at the nose spun up. A new wolfman jumped onto the nose of the craft. Alicia glanced out the slide window. The trees were whipping by fast now. Maybe seventy miles per hour she figured.
“You’ll never get away!” Kessel shouted. “You’re trapped. You’re dead!”
The wolfman growled at her. There was no time to check the flaps to make sure everything was working. Now or never. Alicia grabbed the yoke and pulled back. Up, up, they went off the flatbed. She glanced out and saw the wolfman panic and latch onto the hull of the plane. They were flying. It worked! “Bye,” Alicia said as she flipped the plane upside down. Everything inside crashed against the roof of the plane. The wolfman yelped and disappeared from her view. Alicia righted the plane and put on her goggles. She saw the train below and an angry Kessel shaking his cane at her. Between the train and the plane was Lily. Caw! Caw! Alicia turned the plane around and with Lily at her side they flew back to the Watchmaker’s home.