A Taste of Home – Chapter 17

chapter seventeen

Katie Liberman slipped in and out of consciousness, having experienced trauma after trauma over the previous few hours. She was quickly forced back into the reality of the moment by an unfriendly tree branch slapping her in the face as they sped past it. She had no idea where the two of them were heading. She tried to get her bearings by looking back, but her eyes were assaulted by the sight of her home engulfed in flames. That image only brought more painful memories to the surface, exacerbating her pounding head. Katie Liberman was traveling into unknown territory with such speed that the view of her surroundings was just a nauseating blur.

She thought back to the first incident, the instigating event that set off the rest of these unimaginable events like dominos- her father being arrested and accused of murdering one of her classmates, a boy named Ryan Weldon, as well as two paramedics attempting to help. Did she believe it though? Up until a couple of hours earlier, there was no way she could ever imagine her father harming anyone undeserving, but what she’d recently witnessed with her own two eyes was enough to make her have second thoughts.

Shortly after finding out about the charges against him, she had discovered her father had somehow escaped the stone walls of the Myrtle County Jail, along with every cop and gun-toting hayseed within 100 miles of their small town. The public was terrified by the fact Toby remained at large and, at the urging of Sheriff McGee, had thrown all the rules of due process aside to bring him in. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity to the young girl, there’d been no news of his capture or death.

Her funeral clothes, now burned to ashes in her bedroom closet, had gotten a lot of use over the past week. Her Uncle Johnny, the family equivalent of a best friend, had died at the hands of Sheriff McGee even though the townsfolk agreed en-mass to place the blame solely with her father. Granted, her father’s recent behavior was far from the norm, but he seemed to have control, and Katie couldn’t imagine him harming anyone he genuinely cared about. Her uncle’s funeral was a closed-casket affair, and the only image of Johnny which remained fresh in her memory was an old military photograph taken during the first Gulf War. It wasn’t the way she wanted to remember him.

As soon as her Uncle Johnny’s funeral ended, Becky Lowery, the kind woman who’d been her de facto mother during Jessica’s self-indulgences, packed her bags and left town. Without even saying “goodbye” to Katie or Jessica, she boarded a plane and left the tiny town of Twin Oaks behind her forever. Katie hoped their bond would’ve been enough to keep her around a little longer, but Becky had lost her true love, and she could no longer bear the daily reminders of his absence. Katie felt no bitterness toward her.

Katie, having no other choice, clung to her mother as she slowly regained clarity. As she was beginning to rebuild her bond with Jessica, Toby returned and reunited the family. Even though her father returned with a most unusual bit of baggage, Katie didn’t care.

Cursed or not, she loved her father with all her heart and was happy to live with the changes their reunion would bring. Finally, she’d slept, if only briefly, like she hadn’t been able to sleep in months. Her mother and father were together again in the same bed on the other side of her wall, and apart from the numerous people who had her father in their gun-sights, all was beginning to feel right with the world. That was when it all spun out of control.

Within minutes, her house caught fire along with every possession she held dear. They were destroyed beyond any hope of salvage. She witnessed her father violently rip open the throat of a man in their own living room, which opened a mental door she was sure would be difficult to close. The images of the event were nothing compared to the horrific sounds that accompanied them. The deputy deserved every second of the agonizing pain, though. Her only wish was that she could’ve been the one who delivered the death blow to the evil man.

Her mother, the kind and beautiful Jessica Liberman, was robbed of her life just as she’d begun her journey of recovery and was left to burn in the blaze behind them. Its glowing image shrank with every thrust forward of her father’s transformed, powerful legs. The look on her mother’s face as the bullet pierced her body and the way she slumped into a lifeless pile as the light faded from her eyes was enough to haunt Katie for the rest of her days. She’d cried a little, but there wasn’t much time for crying before the rest of the violence ensued. There was much more crying yet to be done. For now, she was simply hanging on for dear life and praying that the Sheriff’s Department didn’t catch up to them or figure out their trajectory.

With a rush of cold air, the two of them passed under the rusted, iron gates of Clark Cemetery. It was a place she’d always been forbidden to go on her own, and she stared in awe as the headstones they passed shimmered in the moonlight. Suddenly, her stomach dropped like a rollercoaster fall as Toby descended the stairway beyond the opened door of an ancient looking stone building. Her eyes being unable to adjust to the instant darkness caused her other senses to perk in unison, revealing a novel damp, musty smell. Finally, after carrying Katie on his back for what seemed like ages, her father stopped. Breathing heavily underneath his fur coat, Toby eased Katie down onto the frigid, damp floor. She quickly gave him a hug. The fur receded into his body with a bristling sound as Toby lit a series of battery powered LED lanterns and returned to the form of something a lot more recognizable.

“We’re safe for now Katie, rest easy.”

Realizing where her father had taken her, she jumped immediately for the nearest corner. The lanterns caused the stone walls of the old mausoleum to glow bluish, sending chills up the length of Katie’s spine. The sight of the old wooden coffins built into the walls gave her the ominous feeling she would soon be among the deceased in their eternal slumber.

“Dad, I can’t stay here!” she attempted to bargain with him.

“Honey, this is where I’ve been staying since I’ve been gone, and nothing bad has happened to me so far.”

“I don’t care! I’ve got to get out of here!” she demanded.

Toby sighed deeply and stepped closer to comfort his grieving daughter.

 “And just where do you think you’ll go, baby?” he asked her gently. “Everyone is looking for the two of us, and this is the last place on Earth they would think to find us.”

She flopped down on Toby’s makeshift bed, defeated by her father’s reasoning. As far as she was concerned, she’d spent enough time in the presence of death without being reminded of it every time she opened her eyes, as well as every time she closed them. Her body’s need for sleep was beginning to cloud her mind, but the fear of going unconscious lingered. She fought hard to stay awake, fearing what could happen if she surrendered to slumber. After all, he was the only one she had left in the world of the living.

“And why in the hell would you be scared to death of this place? In the past twenty-four hours, you’ve seen your own father turn into a werewolf and then rip out a man’s throat like it was raw cookie dough!” Toby informed her, confused. “After all that, you jumped on my back and let me take you wherever we were going. The death and monster thing doesn’t bother you, but the creepy old mausoleum does? I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to figure you out.”

Katie’s emotions were swirling in her stomach like leaves in a whirlwind on an autumn day. Each time she attempted to grasp hold of it and take control, a different feeling would surface and just confuse her even more. The fear of her current surroundings would grip her and then give way to sadness triggered by the thought of her mother’s awful fate. That never seemed to last more than a few seconds before the anxiety of not knowing what would happen to them next set in. Then she would swallow the other horrible feelings and almost lose consciousness again.

“Well, how long do we have to stay here, then?” she insisted.

“Hopefully, only a couple of days. I haven’t had much of a chance to plan any further than that.”

Toby was grappling with his own horrible cognitions, many of them the same as Katie’s. He paused to process the reality that his home, in which he’d anticipated living in for the remainder of his life, was utterly destroyed.

“I guess we can move into Uncle Johnny’s old house, just as soon as I get this all straightened out.”

“How exactly do we plan on doing that? Setting things right, I mean?” Katie asked.

“First of all, there is no ‘we’ involved in all of this,” he retorted quickly. “And second, I don’t know if what I have in mind is going to set things right, but at least it will take you out of harm’s way. Without McGee, the rest of them will be lost, and there will be no one left to give out orders involving revenge killings.”

“Well, why can’t I help you?” the young girl persisted.

Toby’s nerves were frazzled, and he had no decent outlet. With everything that had transpired earlier in the evening and being preoccupied with getting Katie to safety, he hadn’t a chance to grieve for the loss of his wife at all. He’d spent every moment since Jessica’s death running through Twin Oaks’ wooded areas for dear life and dodging gunfire from crooked law enforcement officials. The levee of necessity that duly held back his tears would not hold much longer. He felt the sting in his eyes as those tears began to well up. The expression on his young daughter’s face told him she was not far from losing her own adrenaline-fueled composure.

“Katie, honey,” he gained her attention. “It’s okay to cry now. You don’t have to play the role of the untouchable big girl. I plan on doing the same here in just a little while.”

“If we cry, they win,” she shot back, summoning up the anger that helped to keep her strong during the previous traumatic days.

 “Not true,” Toby answered, but he was interrupted again.

“Yes it is, Dad. If we cry, it shows all of them a sign of weakness. We’re going to have to suck it up, press on, and get back at them!”

Toby was gob smacked that his precious little girl was speaking like one of his Gulf War buddies. The last thing he wanted was to reject every one of her thoughts and ideas for fear of her leaving and attempting to take revenge on her own. She was far too young, too weak, and too inexperienced in the ways of the world to possess the militant attitude she wore outwardly. Pulling her closer, he hugged her tightly, holding on to the last remaining link to his departed love and partner.

“Fine, then. If you’re not going to cry, then try to get some rest while I keep watch. They’ll definitely have an advantage if we’re both caught sleeping.”

“I can’t sleep in here, Dad!” she answered with sadness beginning to well up in her voice.

“I’ll stay awake and make sure nothing bad happens,” he reassured. “When it’s daylight, and not so scary in here, then you can stay awake and watch over me, deal?”

At first, he could tell Katie was more than a little apprehensive about allowing herself to fall asleep. It wasn’t long, however, before it became apparent his promise to watch over her was enough. 

She crawled snugly underneath the warm blankets on the raised platform, closed her eyes, and began crying hard, finally giving an outlet to the pain in her young heart. On into the night, her childlike whimpers could be heard in tiny echoes from the stone walls surrounding them until the arrival of her deep sleep shushed them. Toby was almost certain her crying continued in the silence of her dreams; there was no consolation anyone could give her to ease the tremendous pain. He remained at the ready for anyone who might traverse the stairway leading to their hiding place. Still, in the darkest corner of the underground mausoleum, he finally allowed his own tears of pain and grief to flow freely. How long would he have to suffer this curse? How long before he lost control and it took over completely, erasing the last clinging fragments of humanity? Was Katie truly safe in his care? These were bad thoughts compounded by extreme exhaustion. His weary body was conquered by its own need for sleep, but there would be no rest for his troubled mind…

***

Toby’s transformation was complete. Through weary eyes, he gazed upon the unforgiving, celestial summoner of evil orbiting ever higher in the midnight sky. He gracefully raised his canine head, nostrils skyward, sniffing for hints of a potential kill. Nothing. The forest floor was covered with leaves, and his ears perked with each subtle rustling breeze. He heard the eerie creaking of the ancient branches overhead as the wind began to pick up in velocity. His nose anticipated the oncoming rain. A deafening clap of thunder shook his wooded sanctuary, heralding a torrential downpour. He watched as crazed raindrops danced wildly upon the fallen leaves. To most, the sudden atmospheric chaos would’ve been a curse upon their spirits, but this was a positive turn of events for the creature. The forest instantly came to life with the essence of oak, sap, and millions of unrecognizable yet delectable scents. The rain was his savior, and it was only a matter of time until his quest would come to a triumphant completion.  Now, the smell of prey would be delivered unto him. With anticipation building, he released a shrieking howl which would’ve sent shivers down the spines of the most courageous of men.

Suddenly, it came. At first, it was a gentle nudge to his instinctual consciousness. Then, it became a flood of satisfaction. He sprinted through the underbrush, speeding in the direction of the wind and the source of the scent whetting his undeniable, fiery hunger. As he approached a spacious clearing, he slowed his pace and crouched down in a stalking, low crawl.

Bathed in the almost blinding luminescence of a porch light sat the motionless silhouette of a small female. She was overcome and dragged away without so much as a whimper.

When Toby awoke the next morning, he turned to meet his latest conquest. A sickening, gut-wrenching horror swept through his every tingling nerve. Through tear-filled eyes, he gazed in terror upon a familiar face. His gaze was returned by the vacant eyes of his lifeless daughter. As unbearable agony began to overtake his already troubled soul, he came to the realization that cruel fate had granted him his dearest wish. He had gotten a small taste of home.

***

Toby sprang up immediately, his consciousness still very much overpowered by the torturous nightmare. After instinctively turning to reassure himself of Katie’s safety and well-being, he laid his head back on the stone floor as tears welled up in his eyes. This was all becoming too much for him to handle. Thankfully, the latest trauma had only been a horrendously vivid and detailed dream.

“Katie, Katie, wake up, Katie…”

The whispers in the darkness were enough to bring Toby immediately back to life, regardless of what his aching muscles and clouded mind were trying to tell him. He slowly opened his heavy eyes to the bright blue glow illuminating his surroundings. He was certain he’d extinguished the lanterns shortly before drifting off to sleep. Concentrating his senses on the small, subterranean room, he smelled nothing unusual, but his ears were repeatedly haunted by the whispers of his daughter’s name.

“Katie, Katie, wake up…”

Suddenly, it hit him.

“Dammit, Johnny, she can’t hear you but I sure as hell can!” Toby scolded the apparition. “Why don’t you give it a rest until morning?!”

“Well, if you say so, Mr. I’ve-been-a-werewolf-for-a-week-and-already-know-everything,” Johnny fired back without missing a beat. “How do you know she can’t hear me?”

“I don’t!” Toby replied. “But I figured she would’ve been startled awake by now and freaked out because she can’t see you either!”

Johnny’s glow dimmed slightly as he headed over to Toby and took a seat on the stone ground next to him.  

“You don’t have to tell me anything,” Johnny said sadly, all hints of snappy comebacks gone. “Word travels fast in the ghost world. What do you plan on doing now?”

“I’m going to do the only thing I can do,” he spoke nervously. “The Myrtle County Fair starts tomorrow, and I’m going to be there waiting for McGee to slip up. I’ve got to end this.”

They sat silently for several minutes. The previous week was the most unusual week either of them ever experienced. Each of them was being forced to adapt to a new kind of existence never imagined in their wildest dreams. As he often did while he was living, Johnny broke the silence.

“You know, when I first realized I was doomed to walk the earth for all eternity, it was kind of fun. I spent all my time peeking in and out of places where I shouldn’t be, watching the things chicks do in the privacy of their own homes when they think that no one is paying attention. Did you know there are ghosts everywhere?”

“No, I didn’t,” Toby answered. “I mean, I guess I always figured that there were more of them out there, but you’re the only one I’ve seen so far. I guess it’s because of our personal ties.”

“I can see them all!” Johnny said angrily. “All of those damned people whose deaths made me happy, they’re all here! They all want to talk, and there is nowhere to hide from them!”

At first, Toby couldn’t believe he was sitting and listening to his best friend vent about the troubles of the afterlife, but after his werewolf crash course with Kurt Jimmerson, he’d learned to throw out all rules of normalcy and just keep up. He attempted to put his arm around the apparition out of habit, but it quickly fell to the ground, having passed through the vision as though it wasn’t even there.

“Sorry about that,” Toby whispered under his breath. “I didn’t mean to violate you or anything.”

“Sure you did!” Johnny fired back as though he’d been waiting for that exact moment. “You’ve been trying to violate me since the day we met! You’re the world’s first gay, Jewish werewolf!”

Toby was too exhausted for banter with his best friend. He offered no comeback.

“Actually, not to change the subject from your favorite topic,” Toby interrupted. “I don’t think I’m an actual werewolf by Hollywood definition. It has nothing to do with the phases of the moon or anything like that. I can turn it on and off whenever I want with emotions and thoughts. I’m not sure what I am.”

“I just told you!” Johnny exclaimed. “You’re a gay, Jewish werewolf. All you must do is think about it, and it happens. If I try to compare it to a movie, you’re Teen Wolf, which was a gay movie.”

“Ouch!” Toby recoiled slightly. “I forgot about that movie. You’re absolutely right. I’m a gay werewolf, but I’m not Jewish.”

He’d missed the lengthy conversations with Johnny that involved nothing of real importance, just snappy wits. The only person he’d communicated with regularly over the past week was Kurt Jimmerson and Kurt sucked at the snappy comeback game. The man had no personality. Toby was still upset with Jimmerson for leaving town when he could’ve most used his help, but after all, Kurt did have a life to live up north. He’d provided Toby with the tools to solve his problems but had forgotten to leave the instruction manual.

Johnny, as if reading Toby’s mind, began to speak of Kurt Jimmerson, and their conversation took on a more serious tone.

“Did you ever think maybe the reason that Jimmerson guy left was because he was the cause of all this?” Johnny speculated. “Did you ever think this was the reason why he schooled you and hurried home?”

“It’s crossed my mind several times, but I figured he would’ve killed me had that been the case,” he reasoned.  “Besides, he was very passionate about hunting down some big, bad werewolf that killed his family a while back. The only reason he left was because he spends his vacations down here feeding on wild game and searching for him. His time was up. He’s some kind of big, hot-shot attorney in New York.”

“Well that was all kinds of nice of him!” Johnny spoke sarcastically. “He bites you, turns you, teaches you how to half-ass control it, and then scoots on back to Yankee-land while your life is flipped upside down and everything and everyone you love gets taken away from you. What a douche!”

Toby agreed with what Johnny was saying one hundred percent, but there hadn’t been a whole lot he could do when it came to Jimmerson. He’d been at the man’s mercy since the moment they met. He often wondered if there was an ulterior motive, because the man’s personality didn’t match that of someone who would give two good bits about anything or anyone other than himself. Kurt explained to him that, if he hadn’t intervened, Toby would’ve never had the power to confront or defeat the Sheriff when the time came, and he was right. He would’ve been long dead by now if it weren’t for his new powers and senses.

“You gotta admit, though,” Toby began again. “I’d be dead by now if it weren’t for him. These new abilities have been pretty handy when it’s come down to avoiding or dispatching everyone trying to find and kill me.”

“Yeah Toby, but at what cost? You’ve lost your wife, your home, and your job. Katie is all that you’ve got left.”

Toby interrupted him again. “And if it weren’t for these abilities, she’d be gone too, as well as me. I’ve got to count what blessings I’ve got left and dish out the rest of them as revenge!”

All the arguing echoing off the stone walls caused Katie to stir slightly. From her perspective, it was a very one-sided argument because one voice was all she could hear. Barely raising her head and looking at her father, she smiled at him. It seemed that he’d stayed awake and kept watch just as promised. She lowered her head hard against her makeshift pillow. She was out.

“That poor girl has been through hell and back,” Johnny said when he noticed her moving. “And she doesn’t even know it yet.”

“Katie is strong,” Toby replied instantly.

“Oh really?” Johnny started again. “How strong, exactly, do you have to be to deal with the fact that your father is a murderer, and then a dog, and then watch your mother die right before your very eyes? You’ve got tons of future therapy bills stacking up and you haven’t even taken her to her first session yet!”

“First things first,” Toby persisted. “I have to take out McGee and bring this whole shit-storm to a screeching halt, and then I’ll worry about the damage this has done to her. If I fail to take out Jessie, then all of that crap you just mentioned will be the least of her worries.”

Toby was becoming impatient and found himself wishing Johnny would just disappear long enough for him to do what had to be done. The last thing he needed was Johnny’s constant, negative, running narrative. The thought of it all made Toby cringe. As far as he was concerned, Katie’s life began tomorrow, and he alone held the keys to her future.

“Have you stopped to think for a second about what all you’re going up against?” Johnny asked. “It’s not just Jessie McGee and what’s left of his posse. It’s every single goofball in this town that owns a gun. McGee has them convinced you’re a danger to them and their families. He’s got them all thinking that you’ll sneak into their homes and do to them what you did to the Weldon boy!”

“I didn’t kill the damn Weldon boy!” Toby snapped. “The only people I have killed were the ones that were trying to kill me!”

“Either way, a body count is a body count and you’ve got one hell of a body count!” Johnny continued. “They’re all going to have their guns pointed at you for whatever reason, even if it’s only for the simple fact that they get to shoot someone and not get in trouble for it.”

“Then I suppose I’ll have to be all sneaky about it, won’t I?” Toby whispered quietly, realizing that he was becoming too loud again.

Johnny just shook his glowing head. “If you do that then the next in line is going to pick up where McGee left off,” Johnny explained further. “You’ll be fighting this fight until they catch you.”

“Then what do you suggest I do, Rambo’s ghost?” he asked impatiently. “How in the hell am I supposed to end this nightmare once and for all?”

“You’re going to have to expose him for what he is in front of everyone.”

Toby’s patience was wearing horribly thin, to the point that the chilly temperature in the small room felt as though it was rising steadily. He’d known for days that the fateful confrontation was coming but hadn’t been able to devise a plan which wouldn’t result in him lying dead somewhere on the fair’s midway. What if it didn’t happen? What if no one realized how evil Jessie McGee was, and they all remained loyal to their heroic Sheriff? What then? He didn’t really like his odds all that much and was hoping Johnny would shut up soon.

“I guess I’ll just have to get rid of the ones that get in the way. If that doesn’t send them into a fear frenzy, then I’ll come back here, get Katie, and we’ll become Mexicans.”

“Oh yeah, that’ll work for you!” Johnny snickered. “They’ll catch you and have you in the world’s biggest tortilla before you can blink. They eat dog there, you know.”

“Shut up!” Toby finally ordered. “If you have no helpful advice to offer, then shut up!”

Finally, the room was silent again. For the moment…

“Want to know what I think?” Johnny asked quietly.

“No!” Toby barked. “I don’t want to know what you think!”

“Well, tough shit, I’m telling you anyway!” he persisted. “You’ve somehow got to get that douchebag reporter on your side. You’ve got to get Jessie’s antics into the media and that guy hates him with a passion.”

“And how do I know he won’t turn me in the minute he catches sight of me?” Toby demanded. “How do I know that he won’t scream and holler until the local gun club comes to his rescue?”

“Geez, Toby,” Johnny raised his voice. “He’s a damn reporter! If it came down to doing a story about some cop doing his job and taking out the bad guy, or the bad guy giving himself up to expose the cop’s evil empire, which story do you think he’d be more inclined to break? Damn, sometimes I feel like I’ve never taught you anything at all!”

Johnny looked over to see Toby’s dumbfounded face half-hidden in the cold darkness. Toby never thought for a second about allying himself with a journalist and handling the situation in a tactical manner. It’d always been about rushing in as quickly as possible and ripping the head from his foe before anyone even noticed his presence. For once in his life, even though his corporeal life had ended, Johnny Haynes had said something intelligent that sent his best friend’s mind searching for something other than a snappy retort. 

“Johnny, even if you exist forever, what you just said has to be the smartest thing that will ever come out of where your mouth used to be!”

“Thanks,” Johnny replied, slightly confused. “I guess.”

“That’s the new and improved plan!” Toby explained excitedly. “I’ll find a way to get to Savage, tell him the whole story, he’ll expose McGee, and then I can just kill him for fun instead of necessity!”

“You see, now you’re thinking like a smart doggie!” Johnny teased. “It doesn’t have to be all blood and guts and terror at the county fair!”

“But if he doesn’t believe me,” Toby said, his voice becoming somber. “Then there will be one more person I’ve got to take care of.”

Toby slumped back down into the corner again, the joy from Johnny’s realization now slipping away. Sure, it was an awesome plan in theory, but the chances of it backfiring and causing more damage when put into practice were almost greater than the chances of success. Taking out the Sheriff, no matter how fun it sounded, was only a temporary solution to a more permanent problem. Regardless of the personal joy and vengeful feelings which wrapped him like a fleece blanket when the thought crossed his mind, the solution to his dilemma had to be in the best interests of the only person left who truly mattered. For Katie’s sake, he knew he had to try Johnny’s idea.

“Honestly, Toby,” Johnny began again, this time more seriously. “It’s not a lot of fun and games being dead. Yeah, I like to joke about some of the crap I’ve been doing lately, but I would give anything to touch something once again. I’d take a million bullets if it meant that I could see Becky one last time.”

“Johnny,” Toby asked, changing the subject. “What’s going to happen to Jessica? Why can’t I see her like I see you?”

Johnny had known all along this question was eventually coming and he didn’t have the answer his friend was looking for. He knew little of what he was or why he was still hanging around Twin Oaks. Offering no comfort, he replied with the only answer.

“I don’t know, Toby. I didn’t have the luxury of a mentor when this first happened to me like you did. I’ve been finding out everything as it occurs, and to be honest, it’s a good thing I’m already dead because some of the stuff I’ve learned would give me a heart attack if I were still alive, mostly the spandex realization I told you about the other day. Some of the spirits that are just hanging around here, most of them too old and from another generation that I don’t even know, told me what happened to Jess. I haven’t seen her, nor do I think I will anytime soon.”

“Why is that?” Toby asked, with a hint of sadness in his voice.

“Maybe it’s because you’re not meant to see her,” Johnny answered. “It’s the same reason that you can’t see anyone else, either. Maybe they don’t want to be seen. Trust me, they’re around. They’re everywhere! You can see me because of our personal ties. I’d hate to think you and I were closer to each other than you were to your own wife, but the two of you weren’t exactly the best of friends there toward the end.”

“Yeah,” Toby agreed, “but we made up before she died.”

“I know,” Johnny offered solace, “but maybe it just wasn’t enough. Sometimes, you just can’t change things no matter how hard you try. You just have to accept it for what it is.”

Toby sat stifling his tears in the darkness, praying his moans were not loud enough to wake Katie. One of the two had to be strong and the last thing the poor girl needed to see was the man who’d be her savior sobbing like a baby. For the second time in their conversation, Johnny was exactly right. There are some things that can’t be changed no matter how hard one works to change them. Those things were dictated by fate, and fate was saying that Toby’s and Katie’s moments of truth would come the following evening. If Toby was successful, there was a chance that some sort of recognizable life would return to the two of them, at least one salvageable enough to turn into something pleasant, eventually. If Toby failed, however, he would be better off killing the poor angel in her sleep because it would be nothing compared to what Jessie McGee would have in store when he finally found her.

“I hope you’re wrong, Johnny,” Toby said with heartfelt sincerity. “Because I’ve got a lot of things ahead of me that need changing.”

     “If you fail, it won’t be any of your worry, anymore,” Johnny finished Toby’s sentence while glancing over at Katie. “It will be hers.”

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Toby Liberman is nearing the end of his rope. After a fateful confrontation with his wife’s lover, he is chased into the woods only to be discovered by an unidentifiable creature. He is attacked and rendered unconscious. Upon waking at the scene of a gruesome triple homicide, Toby is arrested as the sole suspect and thrown into a jail cell with a strange man that knows way too much about his predicament. The stranger reveals to Toby that he now possesses the curse of the werewolf. Using his new-found strength to flee his captors, Toby begins to discover that things are not what they seem in the sleepy town of Twin Oaks, TX. Now hunted by law enforcement, as well as the town’s gun toting civilians, Toby seeks vengeance against his false accusers and embarks upon a quest to clear his name once and for all. 

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