Read parts 1 and 2 here and here.
“You want me to help you break out?” Grundy asked incredulously.
“No,” Ryken said. “I want you to free us. Before the other 30 are sent away.”
Grundy looked at Ryken’s nameplate. The number of human kills he’d made. Grundy turned in his seat and looked at the numbers on all the wolves’ nameplates. He shook his head furiously.
“I can’t. I can’t help you kill more people.”
Ryken flicked his tail in agitation. “We are wolves. We kill.”
“It’s wrong,” Grundy protested.
“For humans, not for wolves,” Ryken countered.
Grundy shook his head rhythmically and looked at his hands. He spoke into his lap.
“I can’t kill any more people.”
Ryken tilted his head. He turned an ear toward Grundy, who fell silent.
When Grundy’s father became too sick to stay at home by himself, Grundy took a leave of absence from work and stayed with him during the day. He wrote down dosages and symptoms carefully in his stepmother’s green notebook labeled “ALS.”
After two months, Grundy’s father placed a shaky hand on Grundy’s arm. He spoke in a hoarse voice. Grundy automatically reached for a pitcher of water but his father stopped him.
“Addy, I’m tired. You’ve been here with me. You’ve seen this, how hard it is. I don’t want it anymore.”
Grundy patted his father’s papery hand. “I know.”
His father wheezed, “I want you to do something for me. Help me.”
Grundy resisted. He argued and whined. He even stood up to walk away, but then his father said please and son. For the first and only time. Grundy agreed. He slid the pillow from under his father’s head, gave him his morphine, and waited.
It worked. When Grundy placed the pillow over his father’s face, there was no struggle. The fingers of his father’s left hand raised slightly in a sort of final Peace gesture, then dropped to the bed. Grundy put the pillow back under his father’s head. He waited two hours before he dialed 911, his stepmother, and his brothers and told them all the same lies:
“Yes, in his sleep. Just like that.”
“Yes, I’ll be alright.”
Facing Ryken, Grundy stood up so quickly the folding chair toppled. “No! I won’t help you.”
He ran from the room, oblivious to the jeering of the wolves. He went straight to the office to request Monday off.
Grundy reluctantly returned on Tuesday. The intern told him that Matt had prepared the work cart and was waiting at the wolves’ room. Grundy and Matt fed the wolves together and, as usual, met at Ryken’s cage.
Ryken regarded Matt. “Omega, you did a fine job in the other one’s absence.”
“Thank you,” Matt whispered. He grinned at the floor.
“The other one said you wouldn’t, but you did. You were perfectly adequate,” Ryken said dryly.
Grundy, bewildered, looked from Ryken to Matt. Matt kept his head down but glared at Grundy.
Grundy spoke quickly. “No, I didn’t. I never said anything like that. I’ve never said anything at all about you, Matt.”
“Ryken wouldn’t lie to me,” Matt mumbled.
“Of course I wouldn’t. If I tell you that the other one mocked you, be certain that he did,” Ryken asserted.
Matt spun on his heels and walked out. Grundy called after him.
“Leave him,” Ryken said.
Grundy waited for an explanation. Ryken yawned.
“Nevermind him, Omega. He brought the wrong treats when you weren’t here. He failed. You’ve earned your place. Come.”
Ryken pressed his side against the door of the cage. Still confused, Grundy moved closer and reached through the feeding slot to pet Ryken the way Evan had. He’d never had the chance to pet a wolf that wasn’t sedated. He closed his eyes, marveling at the lush fur and the powerful muscles underneath. Ryken turned to let Grundy scratch his ear.
Ryken bit through Grundy’s hand and held it tightly. Grundy screamed. The pain brought him to his knees.
“Matt! Ryken, please! Let go! MATT!”
Matt rushed back into the room. Grundy was relieved until Matt walked over to the cart. He lifted a large container and pulled out a knife. He charged at Grundy and plunged the knife into him. Ryken held Grundy’s hand in his mouth until Grundy fell.
Grundy lay on his side. He watched the pool of blood spread past his extended fingertips. The pain stopped. He was grateful to go into shock.
At the edge of his consciousness, Grundy heard metal screech against metal as Matt pushed the latch on Ryken’s cage. Matt’s voice quivered.
“You’ll take me with you. Right, Ryken? You said. If I let you all go?”
Matt opened the cage and stepped backward into the pool of blood.
“If I let you go, you’ll take me with you?”
I had so much fun writing this story! I hadn’t planned to make it a 3-part story but got the idea to expand it from awesome reader Ms. Magoo. The original idea for the story grew from a writing prompt at The Book Salon.