Patrick, Ginny, Luc and Meg were in Luc’s Subaru. George and Angie were following in George’s F150 Ford Truck. They’d packed and left by 4:30am. No traffic at that hour of the morning made for quick travel. Luc signaled the left hand turn that lead up to Spoon River. Once they turned off, Luc slowed down to look for an out of the way parking spot near the Spoon River B&B. Good thing too, as there were a bunch of cars out front. Luc passed them by and turned where Patrick pointed to a fenced off entrance about a block down. George followed.
“Damn, what a mess,” said Patrick.
“What in the hell is going on?” asked Meg.
“Probably those two paramedics stirring things up,” said Ginny. “I’ll go in the back and see if I can find Sam. Ginny headed through the back yard and paused for a moment to look at Buster’s empty backyard retreat. “Hmmm, may have to do something about that,” she thought.
She opened the door to the kitchen and peeked in. A sleepy looking Sam stood at the stove. Ginny walked over and hugged her.
“Sam, I’m so sorry,” she said.
“Me too,” said Sam. “Where’s the rest of your bunch?” Sam asked.
“Outside waiting to see if I could find you. Let me go get them,” said Ginny.
Sam nodded, wiped the tears from her eyes and went back to making chile. A few moments later, in walked one of the biggest men she’d ever seen followed by Patrick and three other people.
“Sam, this is George Moreau and his girlfriend Angie, and Luc Moreau and his wife Meg,” said Ginny.
Patrick walked over to Sam and wrapped her in his arms. He lifted her up and just hugged her.
“Damn it’s good to see you two, but what a mess,” said Sam. “Now put me down and explain who’s who before the bunch at the front desk get past Dotty.”
“Who’s Dotty?” asked Ginny.
“She’s the little gal I have to do the rough work when things get busy. She don’t talk much, but she works like no other. She’s holding down the front desk. I shut down the B&B except for those already here and you bunch. So right now she’s trying to tell everyone else where they can get rooms,” said Sam.
“Why? Are the two paramedics still saying Buster, um Brian was a werewolf?” asked Patrick.
“Yes, Idjets. Betty Jane don’t believe them, and we got him off to that funeral home right quick, but those two have mouths. My big worry is when they notice that Buster is missing,” said Sam. “Now who are these people to you Ginny?”
Ginny could see that Sam was trying to change the subject. “Luc and George here are brothers and my oh so many times removed cousins. Angie and Meg are new to the family and don’t…” Ginny left the unsaid hang in the air.
Sam nodded. “Nice to meet all of you. Ginny, I gave you your same rooms. Didn’t know how many were coming, but there are two more rooms down that same hall. Keys are in the doors,” she said.
“Okay, Luc and I will get the bags,” said Patrick. “George, I need to talk to you,” he said and gestured for George to follow. The three men left the kitchen.
“Sam, where’s a bathroom?” asked Meg.
Sam really looked at Meg for the first time. “Oh! Honey! Right down this hall,” she said. “When are you due?”
“In about five months. It’s twins, so I’m huge,” she said as Sam showed her where the bathroom was.
“Oh my. Luc’s a lucky dad. Come back to the kitchen when you’re done and I’ll have some iced tea for you,” Sam said.
“Oh, that sounds good,” said Meg.
Sam headed back to the kitchen. Ginny was keeping an eye on the chile and Angie was washing up some dishes.
“Now you two didn’t need to pitch in,” said Sam.
“Oh yes we do,” said Angie. “We’ve been up as long as you, only sitting in the car and moving feels good. Besides, we’ll ‘disappear’ faster if we’re seen to be helping you rather than sitting on our asses.”
Sam laughed. “You’ll do just fine,” she said. Sam got out the iced tea, poured four glasses and sat down for the first time in an hour. “It has been a long day and it’s only noon.”
“I agree,” said Ginny.
Patrick and Luc entered the kitchen with the luggage and kept going. Sam looked around for the other man and didn’t see him. She set more glasses out for tea, and was about to ask Ginny something when the two men came back.
“Sam, I need to talk to you for a minute,” said Patrick.
“Okay, what’s up?” Sam asked.
“Well, we know what’s going on out front, and as soon as they see Buster’s old house outside, they’re going to get curious,” he said.
“Yeah, I was trying to figure out how to cope with that,” she said.
“We’ve already figured out how to do that. What I need from you is to come out to the backyard and don’t be upset,” Patrick said.
“Okay,” said Sam and they walked out the kitchen door. When everyone had joined then, Patrick put his hands on Sam’s shoulders. “Buster!” he called.
After a moment, the dog house shook, and slowly out walked a huge ‘dog’. He was scruffy and slow, but when he came over to Sam, he rubbed up against her hand and sat next to her.
Sam started crying, and Patrick put his arms around her. “Oh…” was all she could say for a moment. Then she bent her head down to ‘Buster’s’ and whispered, “George?”
Buster thumped his tail. Then he walked over to his bowl and flipped it with his paw.
“Oh! Water!” said Sam and filled the bowl. Everyone, including ‘Buster’ went inside once he’d had his drink.
Sam hugged Patrick. “Damn good thing you warned me. Otherwise there’d a been two funerals,” she said trying to dry up the tears.
“Well, we all noticed the empty dog house and knew that would give them ammunition. Now we can produce ‘Buster’, and in a week, he can either come home with us, or pass on,” said Luc.
“You’re a fast thinker Luc,” said Sam.
“Well, it helps when you run your own company,” he said.
“Yes, and soon you’re going to have your hands full too. Congratulations,” Sam said.
“Thanks. I just hope I survive,” he said.
“Luc, you’ll do just fine,” said Patrick. “What he didn’t tell you is that he’s the head of this crazy family.”
“Oh, an alpha…..” started Sam.
“In fact, the name of our company is Alpha Wolf Technologies,” said Luc as he blushed.
“And he’s a very good boss to work for,” said Angie.
“Oh hon, how are you gonna cope with… um…” Sam tried to ask diplomatically.
“Knowing him, he’ll come up and sleep with me. No problem, Sam,” said Angie.
Luc and Patrick walked into the lobby of the B&B. Dotty looked exhausted.
“Dotty, take a break, we’ll help out,” said Patrick.
Dotty smiled and ran.
Luc looked around at all the people still milling in the lobby. He cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. The sub-vocals were subtle, but made everyone snap around.
“I’d like anyone who isn’t already a guest to depart. There has been a death in the family, and we’d like time to grieve in private. There are other hotels in Spoon River that would be glad to have your business. However, this establishment is closed until after the funeral. Do you understand?” said Luc.
“You don’t have any right to kick us out!” yelled one man. “That old man was a werewolf, and we know their hiding something. The damn dog disappeared and they have to be one in the same!”
“The dog disappeared?” asked Patrick.
“Yeah! Everyone says you never saw the dog and the man together ’cause they were the same person. So don’t go trying to tell us he wasn’t a werewolf,” said the man.
“So, just because a dog disappeared and an old man died who needed a shave and a haircut, you’re saying that he was some kind of supernatural being?” asked Luc.
“Yes! And the owner of this place knew it! She tried to kick the paramedics out before he shifted on them and then wouldn’t let the sheriff or the coroner see the body. They just whisked it off in the middle of the night to hide the facts! Won’t tell us where they took it either!” the man said loudly.
“And what was that dog’s name?” asked Luc.
“Aw, everyone knows the dog’s name is Buster. Big old smelly looking husky thing,” said another man.
“Sort of like that dog over there?” asked Luc pointing to ‘Buster’ who had decided to watch things from the hall.
“Um, yeah,” said the man looking a little shook by the sight of the dog lounging in the hall.
“Did you ever think that maybe, just maybe the dog was inside? Or, that he was asleep in that fancy dog house of his outside? Or do you always jump to conclusions?” asked Patrick.
“Well, they said it happened and I’ve never known them to make things up like this,” said a woman.
“Ma’am, it was 3am. They got woke up and put out on a call. They nearly scared an old man to death by trying to do vitals on him and pushing his best friend out of the room. They made it up because they screwed up. Brian wasn’t a werewolf, he was just a very old and rather hairy man,” said Luc.
“I still say there’s something fishy going on! How on earth did ‘family’ show up so fast? Especially when he didn’t have no family that I ever heard of,” said the first man.
“Well, we were up here a few weeks ago,” said Patrick. “We were visiting Brian then and my wife is related to him.” “Here’s hoping Ginny will forgive me for that little white lie,” he thought.
“Yeah right. Just more lies,” said the man.
“ENOUGH!” shouted Luc this time, heavy on the sub-vocals. “I give everyone three minutes to leave the premises. After that, I’m calling the sheriff.”
Everyone was so shocked, that they left. Luc locked the front door and Patrick turned the sign to Closed.
“That should take care of that,” said Luc as they walked down the hall towards the kitchen. Patrick nodded and was still trying to get the goosebumps to go away.
“You said what?” asked Ginny,
“It was just a little white lie,” said Patrick. You yourself said you had a grandma from Canada. What’s the possibility that you are related? Pretty damn close? Sort of like you are to Luc?”
“Well, okay. That reminds me. We need to go through his stuff and find his real relatives,” said Ginny.
“Why don’t you and Meg go do that while the men and ‘Buster’ go take a look around,” said Angie. “I’ll help Sam.”
“Is that alright with you?” asked Luc. Angie was right. A walk with ‘Buster’ would help squelch a lot of things.
“Don’t forget to have him go by the Dog Bar for a slice of pizza,” said Sam. “When he was feeling good he’d go by and they’d always give him a piece.”
“Good idea. We’ll be back soon,” said Luc as he, ‘Buster’ and Patrick went out the back door.
Sam turned to Ginny. “Here’s the key to his room. Go through the stuff and figure out what you need to keep or toss,” she said.
Ginny nodded and headed down the hall with Meg trailing behind her.
Three hours later, Ginny was pouring over a diary. Meg had laid down on the bed and taken a nap. Ginny was shaking her head, not able to believe what she was reading. “Damn! Patrick didn’t lie!” she thought. She re-read the family tree in the back of the diary again.
Me and Natalie
(1916) Jenny and ?
(1931) Lizzybit and David
(1948) Margaret and Jonathan
Ginny had found the family tree first as there had been a bunch of pictures stuck in the back of the diary. She glanced at the writing when the name Margaret jumped out at her. Margaret and Jonathan were her parents. That made Buster her great-great grandfather.
Buster had somehow lost track of the family prior to her birth or that of any of her siblings as none were listed. She’d been going through the other boxes first. Lots of pictures, a uniform with more ribbons than tunic and lots of memorabilia. There was also a picture of a young woman with a baby on her hip wearing Roaring Twenties style clothing. The writing on the back was smeared, but Ginny could make out “ ta l e n J n” She was looking at a picture of her great-great grandmother and her great grandmother.
Patrick came to check on Ginny and Meg and found Ginny surrounded by photos. She had a small leather bound book clutched in one hand.
“Ginny?” he said softly. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes. You didn’t lie,” she said.
“What? What do you mean?” Patrick asked.
“Today, you told that crowd that it was a family funeral, and that I was related to Brian. You were right,” Ginny said quietly.
“I… How?” asked Patrick.
The noise had woken Meg up who stretched and yawned. “Yeah, how Ginny?” she asked.
“This is his diary. Up until about 1950. It shows his family and it shows a woman named Margaret who’s married to Jonathan being born in 1948. That’s my mom and dad,” said Ginny.
“But that could be anyone,” said Patrick.
“Yes, but my grandparents were Elizabeth and David. That’s why Bitty is Elizabeth,” said Ginny. Then she handed the diary with the names and dates to Patrick.
“Oh wow,” said Patrick.
“There are other things too. Some of these pictures I remember. My mom and grandma had copies,” said Ginny.
Patrick didn’t know what to say except to walk around and hug Ginny.
They gathered up all of the photographs, and repacked the boxes. Ginny held onto the diary. She wanted to finish reading it.
“Let’s go get something to eat,” said Patrick.
“Okay. I totally spaced lunch. Plus I want to hear about your trip out with ‘Buster’,” said Ginny.
“So do I,” said Meg.
The three of them locked the door and went to find Sam.
Over dinner everyone talked about Ginny’s find. Since they were in the dining room, George had shifted back and joined them.
“You should have seen them at the Dog Bar. Those two paramedics had them convinced that ‘Buster’ was dead and gone. So when he showed up for pizza, they just about shit,” said George. “It’s good pizza too.”
That made everyone laugh.
“So, if Brian is Ginny’s great-great grandfather, that makes him Luc’s and George’s great-great uncle or something like that,” said Meg.
“Yes. Jenny had a couple of sisters and brothers and one of her sisters ran off with an uncle of Luc’s,” said Ginny.
“You know, if’n I didn’t know better, I’d a thunk I was in the twilight zone,” said Sam.
“Dee dee Dee dee,” sang Patrick who then smiled at Sam.
Sam smiled. She was glad that they were here to help her. It didn’t take away the pain, but it certainly helped to ease it.
“I talked to Doc Roger’s friend who’s the pastor of the local chapel and he said we could hold a service there tomorrow if we were up to it, or day after. I called the funeral home and they said everything would be ready by 10am tomorrow,” said Patrick.
“We are doing two remembrances aren’t we?” asked Luc.
“Of course. Just need to get the public one done first,” said Ginny. “Besides, George is going to have to be ‘Buster’ for the first too.”
“Yes, and I’d really like to render tribute if I could,” said George.
“What do you mean by two services?” asked Sam.
“First one is for people. Second is for shifters and family,” said Luc.
“Oh,” said Sam.
“You’d be welcome at both, because you were his family for so long,” said Patrick.
“Well, but I…” stammered Sam.
“Sam, if you weren’t at the first, he’d come back to haunt you!” said Ginny only partially teasing.
“Fine. Just tell me what’s expected,” said Sam.
They discussed plans while they ate.
Donald and James from the funeral home brought the urn with Brian’s remains to the B&B the next morning at 10am. Sam invited them to the service at 2pm, and they said that they’d try to be there. She thanked them again and asked if there was any charge as money had been left for cremation.
“Ma’am, I knew Buster and I’d feel bad to charge for his cremation. There was hardly anything left of him. Give the money to a charity or something,” Donald said.
“Are you sure?” asked Sam.
“Yes. We talked about it. Plus, with all the hassle those idiots are causing you, I couldn’t bear to charge you,” Donald said.
“All right, but if I find out you shorted yourselves, I’ll be after you,” she said.
“Don’t worry Sam,” said James as they walked off. What Sam didn’t know is that Luc had paid for the cremation on the condition that James and Donald never say anything about it.
Sam waved them off and locked the door. Then she went to lay down until an hour before the first service.
The service was a typical non-denominational funeral. Ginny had hung up his WWI uniform on a hanger and put out pictures of the family on the altar. ‘Buster’ sat at the back, and howled a time or two until patted by Patrick.
Outside, the paramedics were still trying to raise a stink, but it wasn’t working out so well. Especially as ‘Buster’ came out of the chapel and growled at them as the family followed behind. Luc and Patrick took point and made sure that no one bothered any of the women, who hovered around Sam and protected her from reporters, and curious people in general.
At the door of the B&B, Luc stood outside until everyone was in. Then he waited, as he knew the crowd would try and interrupt things.
“I don’t know what your problem is, but it is time to leave us alone. Sam has a business to run and my cousins and I need time to grieve. I suggest you all go home and watch TV if you want to see supernatural beings,” said Luc.
“I still say you’re hiding something!” said the arrogant man from the day before.
“You really should think before you open your mouth. If Brian was a werewolf and we’re all related to him, shouldn’t you be afraid?” said Luc.
The man stammered and then turned and walked off in a huff.
“I guess one werewolf was okay, especially if he was an old man, but the idea of a hotel full of them was just too improbable,” said Patrick.
The two men laughed and went in to join the rest.
Late that night, Patrick checked around before the family exited the B&B. All of them were dressed in dark clothes. Ginny walked with Sam, while Patrick and Luc guided Meg and Angie. Shifter night vision made it unnecessary for flashlights. George in the guise of ‘Buster’ followed behind, keeping a nose out for anything unusual. After about a mile, the forest behind the B&B opened up into a meadow. George loped around the meadow, came back and shook his head at Luc. Then he nosed a pack from Angie and disappeared for a few minutes. He came back dressed in jeans and a shirt and stood with Angie.
Ginny set the urn down in the middle of the meadow. She had the picture of Brian with his wife Natalie and propped it in front. Luc got out the glasses and the bottle of Canadian Whiskey he’d bought in town. He stepped up next to Ginny.
“We gather under the moon, in the woods and beneath open skies to honor a man who thought himself forgotten. Brian Davy had seen a lot in his life. He survived wars, and difficult times. He knew love and family. Some of that family is here tonight. Family by blood and family by choice,” Luc said. He opened the whiskey and poured a shot into everyone’s glass. When that was done, he set down the bottle.
“To Buster, my great-great uncle whom I knew as Buster,” Luc said and took a sip of the whiskey.
“I didn’t know the man, but heard of him through my cousin and her mate. I’ve slept in his house, and spent time with his family of choice, Sam. To Buster, my great-great uncle,” said George who then took a sip.
“I knew him as Buster. He kept my mate company while I was busy and we took many a walk and run under the moon. He was a good person and I will miss him,” said Patrick and he sipped his whiskey.
“To Buster,” said Angie who sipped her whiskey.
“To Buster, great-great uncle to my mate,” said Meg who took a sip of whiskey.
“I first knew him as Buster. He’d sit on my bed while I recovered from a concussion. He kept my mate company on runs in the forest. After he passed, I learned that he was my great-great grandfather and his name was Brian Davy. He was a good man who went to war and used his abilities to keep his buddies safe behind enemy lines. The love of his life was Natalie. They had five children together. I’m still learning about him. For whatever reason, he lost track of his family, or his family lost track of him. He came to the mountains to die, but instead found a new family. He passed with family around him. To my great-great grandfather Brian,” said Ginny. She took a sip of her whiskey and turned to Sam.
“I…um… I met Brian years ago, when he came here thinking he was going to die. Instead, I gained a friend and companion. In my way, I loved him as a family. As he wanted, I called him by his nickname, Buster. I will miss him,” said Sam with tears streaming down her face. She took a shot of whiskey.
“To Buster,” they all said and finished off their whiskey. Then, as each one shifted just a bit, a chorus of howls began to fill the night air. Angie, Meg and Sam listened to the sing-song vocals, Ginny was higher pitched, while George made the ground rumble or so it seemed. After a couple of minutes, it slowly died down. Off in the far distance, two more howls cascaded across the hills. Then there was silence.
Ginny picked up the urn, opened the top and stood off to one side and slowly poured the contents out. The breeze caught the ashes and tumbled them across the meadow. When two thirds of it was gone, she put the top back on and gave it back to Patrick to put in the pack.
Luc took the whiskey and after raising it to the sky, he poured a libation out on the earth. Then he capped the whiskey and put it in the pack as well.
“Let’s go home,” Luc said.
“Luc, who were the other two howls we heard,” asked Sam.
“Donald and James most likely,” said Luc.
Sam blinked. “Oh,” as it dawned on her. “I didn’t know.”
“No, most times you never would. We try to keep quiet,” said Luc as they walked down the mountain.
“Okay. I won’t tell,” said Sam.
“I know you won’t. Besides, you’re family,” said Patrick from the other side.
They walked down into the area behind the B&B, with George as ‘Buster’ trailing behind. No one was around, and they got inside without incident. It was late and they all headed to bed.