We ran for thirty minutes, sticking to the woods but keeping the town in sight. I could smell every car that passed on the nearby street, the rancid, acidic scent burning my sensitive nostrils. D.K. stayed in the front, leading the rest of the pack down a path he obviously knew by heart, but I couldn't even see. He knew where the G-Nome's hideout was, even if the rest of us didn't.
My mouth began to water, despite myself, at the thought of sinking my teeth into some flesh. Part of me felt guilty for it, but I reminded myself that the G-Nomes weren't humans- they were gremlins. I wasn't particularly fond of nonhumans at the moment. If nothing else, this might be a good way to let off a little steam. To you humans, this might sound horrifying. Let's just say that a wild animal's mind works in ways you will never understand.
D.K. led us down a side road, still hidden by the trees. People say that you can always tell you're in a bad neighborhood when there are shopping carts parked on the curb. That was this kind of neighborhood. I only caught glimpses of the front yards, but from what I could see there were more than shopping carts here. Car parts and rusty, half-made machines were scattered across the lawns, and the smell of grease and oil was so thick I was almost swimming in it. All in all, it was the perfect neighborhood for a gang of gremlins to squat in.
We came to the last house on the block, and D.K. circled around it, not stopping until he was behind the back yard. The property was closed off by a little chain link fence. If I had been human, I would have laughed at that. It was so rusty it looked like a stray breeze would turn it to dust. If Zeke was trying to protect himself from werewolves, he was doing a pathetic job. That fence couldn't have kept a wiener dog out.
With an eager growl, I stepped forward, but then found my path blocked by Tyler. He gave a quick shake of his shaggy head, and I stepped back, realizing my mistake. D.K. was the alpha. D.K. would decide when we attacked. D.K. would be the first to hop the fence. D.K. always went first.
Luckily, D.K. didn't notice my attempt to overstep his authority. He had his eyes fixed unblinkingly at the house, filled with primal, rabid rage. A growl came from his throat as he bared his teeth and slowly made his way to the fence. The rest of us followed. Even when I knew my place, it was hard to hold myself back. My alpha's bloodlust was contagious. My blood boiled with the desire to kill. And eat.
D.K. stopped just short of the fence, and stuck his nose up to sniff the air. I sniffed too, but couldn't smell anything different from the rest of the neighborhood. The same oil, and grease, and machine smoke. What was he waiting for? He'd been freaking manic back at the house. Why was he just standing here, wasting the time we could be using to tear these insolent gremlins apart?
And then the glass door to the back yard slid open, and Zeke stepped out.
“Dalton, buddy!" he greeted us, his wide impish smile covering his whole face. “What's up?"
I felt my blood run cold, and I could tell Tyler and Kaylie were the same on either side of me. Nobody called D.K. by his first name. Nobody.
The fur on D.K.'s back bristled, and he let out a snarl that would have chilled me if Zeke's insolence hadn't already done so.
“What do you want, doggy boy?" the head gremlin went on. “Afraid I don't have any bones for you today."
This time, Kaylie growled too. I wasn't sure if it was because she was offended for D.K.'s sake, or offended by Zeke's derogatory tone. I could feel my own hackles rising. This guy might have been a gremlin, but we were werewolves, the proud animal in me insisted. We deserved more respect than this!
Another snarl from D.K., and Zeke put his hands up in front of himself in mock surrender. “Okay, okay, big guy. I know why you're here. You're still sore about that money you didn't get yesterday, aren't you?"
Zeke laughed and put his hands casually in his pockets. “Sorry to say it, but that part of town's mine now. They've decided to do the smart thing and be more scared of me than you. Do yourself a favor and stay away from there, okay? If I see you or your puppies in my turf, I'll have to…" he paused dramatically, like he was thinking of something really horrible to say. “Run over them and leave them on the side of the road."
This didn't sound like such a huge insult to me, but it D.K. properly riled up. If wolves could roar, I swear he would have done so like a grizzly bear.
“And you had the brilliant idea to come here and take us on," Zeke went on. “Right here at our own house. You couldn't even wait until we left." He laughed. “Well, if you really want to try, then go ahead. I'll wait for you inside."
He stepped back inside the house, but before he shut the door, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a hunk of metal. He threw it into the backyard, and I watched it bounce and roll for a few feet over the crudely manicured lawn. What was he trying to…
I jumped roughly a mile into the air, startled, when the ground suddenly exploded. Dirt and grass went flying everywhere, along with a bright flash and a loud noise. To my relief, I saw that the rest of the pack was just as frightened as I was. Only Tyler managed to keep his composure, but the stiff way he was standing and the way he bared his teeth told me he had been scared too.
“There's about twenty more of those all around the yard," Zeke called out to us, still standing inside his door. “Buried just underneath the ground. They're not military grade, but they've got more than enough punch to take your leg off." He shrugged nonchalantly. “Have fun, buddy! Maybe I'll see you inside." With that, he slid the glass door back into place with a slam.
Comprehension finally dawned on me. Zeke didn't need a strong fence around his yard. If anybody tried to break into his house, they'd pay for it before they even made it to the door. I wasn't sure if he was a genius or a psychopath, but either way, there was no way we'd be getting past a yard full of land mines.
NEXT TIME: Whoa, looks like the G-Nomes are more prepared than anyone thought. If you think that's going to make D.K. give up, though, then you obviously don't know him. Tune in next week to see his BRILLIANT idea for getting around the land mines!