“See you tomorrow Mr. Freeze,” Delilah called from the doorway of Walter’s office. She already had her green parka on and was zipping up the front.
As always, Walter Tyler took Delilah’s ribbing about the blue color of his skin in stride. He smiled and said, “Good night Delilah, try to stay warm.”
“You too Doc, make sure you get home before the blizzard hits.”
“That should be easy tonight. It was a good day.”
“I thought so too. But then, why are you so blue?” Delilah joked.
Walter rolled his eyes. “It never gets old, does it Dee?”
Delilah laughed. “Not for me. Goodnight Doc.” Delilah flipped up the hood of her coat and left.
Even though it was only four thirty in the afternoon, Walter decided to call it a day. Delilah was right, it had been a good, no, great day for the North Adams No-Kill Animal Shelter. They managed to place their latest “guest,” Rusty, a blind, two year old Irish Setter, with a family that morning, and while a new group of rescues would arrive on the weekend, for now, at least, the shelter was empty.
Walter smiled. Only another animal lover could appreciate how happy quiet, vacant kennels made him. It meant all his charges were safe and warm with loving families.
He made his last rounds, locking doors and checking the (empty) cages. He couldn’t help himself, thirteen years of habits died hard.
Walter landed as the shelter’s vet after Veterinary school. At the time, he thought it would be a temporary position. Then his boss resigned and Walter took on the roll as the ‘Interim Director.’ Once he met and fell in love with Rose and they decided to settle down in town, his fate was sealed.
And now, even if he wanted to, it would be almost impossible to get another job. People had a hard time getting past the blue skin.
There was a mirror next to the coat rack. When Walter looked at himself he saw a man who was slightly overweight, though there was still the hint of muscle from his days rowing crew at the university. He started growing a beard, but the blonde stubble only made the blue even more striking. He decided to shave in the morning.
“It’s not even really blue. It’s more of a slate,” he muttered. Walter put on his coat and went out into the cold.
Walter tugged tightly on the front door to make certain it closed and his gloved fingers fumbled the keys into the lock. A bitter wind tousled his hair, and he realized he left his wool cap in the office.
“The hell with it, I’ll get it tomorrow,” he thought. He locked the door, turned around, and nearly dropped his keys in surprise.
A wolf sat in front of him. There was a splash of black on his gray furred back and his eyes were yellow and intense. One ear was ragged and torn, like a puppy’s chew toy, and there was a scarred, bare patch on his shoulder.
“Hello Grim,” Walter said.
Grim didn’t wag his tail or acknowledge him.
“Look, I don’t know what he needs but tonight isn’t good.”
The wolf blinked slowly, as if thinking about what Walter said.
“I’ll come see him this weekend.” Walter stepped in the direction of his Toyota SUV.
Grim rose to all fours and growled.
Walter looked up at the sky. It got dark early in January in New England, and through a break in the clouds he could see the moon was waxing gibbous, not quite full. Grim’s control would be questionable.
He sighed. “Fine, I’ll come, but I’m going to have to get in my car.”
Grim barked gruffly and jogged toward the opposite end of the parking lot. A set of headlights came on.
“Unless you have your own ride,” muttered Walter, following the wolf. .
TO BE CONTINUED... copyright 2013 John Lance