June 30th, 1975, England
Libby paced restlessly as she waited for the plane to taxi up to the terminal. It was twenty minutes late, and it seemed an eternity. The tannoy system crackled overhead announcing the Pan Am flight’s arrival. As the airport staff began to open the doors from the customs area, Libby could feel that tingle across her skin that told her that Papa was truly on the plane and headed her direction. She watched the crowd of people deplane. Then she saw Tilly, and behind her… “Papa!”
Andre heard Libellule call and turned towards the sound of her voice only to be tackled by a tall young woman in an embroidered peasant blouse and bell bottom jeans. He dropped his luggage as they hugged each other tightly.
“Oi! Move on!” someone behind Andre said.
Andre released Libby and turned to find the red faced businessman from the plane behind them. “What?”
“Yer holdin up the queue. Take your doxie off to one side.”
“She’s my daughter, and we haven’t seen each other in three years. So mind your mouth.”
“Daughter? You don’t look old enough to have a daughter her age. Your wife on the other hand is a bit past her prime.”
Andre clenched his fists and stepped towards the man.
“Andre,…” Tilly tried to move between the two men. Then she heard the none too subtle sub-vocals vibrating the air.
“I suggest you move on,” Libby said in a voice that made everyone around her move away.
The businessman cleared his throat and scuttled for the exit.
Libby smiled at her papa and took his hand as they walked out.
A week later, Andre stood with Tilly as they watched Libby chase rabbits across Bodmin Moor. He was amazed at how much Libby had changed in three years. She was so grown up and at the same time, his little girl. They’d talked for hours once they’d gotten to the hotel. Tilly had finally fallen asleep in a chair only to wake up hours later with a stiff neck. At breakfast, they had decided to head west to Padstow or Camelford. From there, the three of them hiked Bodmin Moor.
Tilly smiled. “You realize that she’s the reason for the upsurge in sightings of various ‘beasts’.”
Andre looked at her puzzled. “What?”
“Every time she runs on the moors or in the forests, there is a flurry of sightings about ‘hounds, beasts or wolves’ on the moors.”
Andre’s mouth twitched. Then a smile broke out on his face. “Really?”
“Yes. And she delights in it.”
Andre looked back at his daughter and began to laugh as he watched the ‘beast’ hunt butterflies.
That night as they ate shepherds pie and drank Scrumpie, Andre broached the subject of the future.
“I know what I want to do Papa.”
“And that is?”
“I want to work with shifters. With those like you gathered in the Yukon.”
“Libby, are you certain? It’s a difficult job even for trained professionals.”
“Yes, Papa. My degree is in psychology. Plus, I watch you help others before I went to University. I can hear most shifters, especially the crazy ones.”
“Even Granpere Buster?”
“Not so much. He lonely, not crazy. He went quiet a year ago, but he is not dead.” Libby was solemn as she spoke of him. “I hear the shifters here too. Some have so little shifter that they can’t shift, but still think like a wolf. I went to Spain and France last summer, and ran into shifters there as well. One still writes me.”
Tilly nodded. She’d had a long conversation with Libby over that shifter. The girl was like Jelka. Feral and yet needing people of her own kind.
Andre sighed. “How do you plan to do this grand thing?”
“You have that hospital in America. Maybe we have one here in Europe. There are many deserted manors and country houses. If we make it safe, they will come.”
Andre knew she was right. Over civilization was the biggest enemy of the shifters. Even the family stronghold west of Leithbridge was crowded. Many of the family had moved to Montana to escape. In Europe, people were packed into cities with no hope of escape. “What about money?”
“The family has made good investments, Andre. Money isn’t an issue as long as you err on the conservative side,” said Tilly.
Libby smiled at Tilly.
Andre looked at the two women. “How long have you been plotting this you two?”
“Since you disappeared.”
Libby nodded in agreement with Tilly. “It runs in the family, this taking care of people.”
Andre laughed at the pun and hugged the two women. “Alright. Where do we start?”
“Toulouse, and then into the Pyrenees.”
“Why there Libby?” Andre didn’t understand her choice.
“Mama’s grand-mere told her that the family came from there long time back.” Libby smiled. “And if that Franco ever dies, we need to go into the Basque areas of Spain.”
Andre thought for a moment. “More family history?”
In the morning, they headed back to Oxford. It took Libby three days to pack up her possessions and make travel arrangements. It took another week to visit with Gabby’s parents, Joan and Betsy. At Heathrow, Tilly took a flight back to Canada, while Andre and Libby headed to France.
The woods were quiet. Andre and Libby had been walking for nearly an hour and had stopped on a crest of a hill. He spread a blanket to sit on and Libby unpacked their lunch from her backpack. Twenty minutes passed before Libby nodded towards a copse of trees off to the right. Andre looked, but saw nothing.
Libby spoke softly. “There are two of them watching us. One shifted, one not.”
Andre went on eating slices of apple and waited. They’d been criss-crossing the area for two days after hearing tales of beasts in the woods. The wait reminded him of the time after Maria’s death, and the shifters that would suddenly show up at the edge of the fire. Longing winning out over fear and then the relief of pack all around. He was glad that he had known Jelka and some of the wilder cousins. It helped him understand the issues inherent with those of two natures. He ate the last bite of apple, put away his knife and stretched out on the blanket and closed his eyes.
“They’ve moved out from the trees. The one shifted back.”
Andre breathed slowly. He swore he could hear the footpads echoing up through the grass as they came closer. Ten minutes passed before a shadow blocked the sun. He didn’t open his eyes, but continued to lay still.
“Bonjour. Un Beau jour pour une promenade dans les bois.”
Andre could hear the subtle sniffs that told him the two people were checking to see what he and Libby were.
“Elle… est un loup,” one whispered to the other.
Libby laughed. “Oui. Toi aussi.” That broke the ice and the two men sat down next to Libby and Andre on the blanket.
It took a month to find the right spot. A long abandoned farmhouse became the newest shifter enclave. Paul and Corbett, the two shifters,helped find local builders to do the renovations. Andre dealt with the paperwork and Libby told all of them what she wanted done. By late September, the work was done.
“What now? Andre asked.