Fifteen minutes later, the limo pulled up to an abandoned gas station and parked beside one of the rusty old pumps. It was one of the really old ones that looked like a robot sticking its fingers in its ears, but I wasn't in any mood to think about that when Hendricks opened the door and pulled me out after him.
This has to be a trick, I thought as he dragged me across the parking lot towards the door, which hung on one hinge from the dilapidated wall. There'll be a secret door in there, like at Dr. Munse's office, to take us someplace weirder.
As we walked away, I glanced back just in time to see the limo morph into a junky old hippy van, its paint flaking off in chunks. I kept quiet as Hendricks led me into the building, remembering his earlier threat to rip my head off. His good mood had soured after Victor stabbed him, and it didn't look like he was going to cheer up anytime soon. Not that I blamed him, I guess. If somebody had stabbed me in the chest, I'd probably be pissed too.
The inside of the gas station was exactly what the outside suggested it would be. Dust everywhere, graffiti on all the walls, and the front counter had been smashed to splinters. A mouse ran by my foot. Seven months ago, I probably would have screamed and scurried away on my tiptoes. Now I just stepped on it, hardly noticing it.
“Where is that idiot?" Hendricks grumbled to himself, looking around. I didn't know who he was talking about, but he didn't seem to be here. “I'm not waiting for him. He can make his own way back."
He tapped his cane on the floor, and the ground rumbled. A hole opened up at our feet, big enough for a person to fall into.
“Oh, jeez," I exclaimed, and tried to back away. Hendricks gave me a smack with his cane, though, and I stopped. The hole was deep, too. So deep I couldn't see the bottom, but a weird smell was coming out of it.
“Get going," he said, pointing down into it.
“What, jump?" I asked, looking at him incredulously. “Are you crazy?"
“No, but I am rather irritated," he said. “Do it."
His black eyes chilled my bones, and I decided it would be better to do what he said than see what he'd do if I didn't. He didn't want me dead, after all. If he did, then he wouldn't have brought me all the way out here when he could have just zapped me weeks ago. Taking a deep breath, I stepped up to the edge of the hole and jumped. I kept my body as straight as I could, trying to keep from hitting the walls, bracing myself for when I landed.
The light was gone less than a second later, leaving me plummeting into pitch blackness. I fought off the panic when nothing caught me. I was falling so fast now that there was no way I'd survive hitting the ground. But Hendricks didn't want me dead. I kept telling myself that as I fell faster and faster. My hair whipped around my face, but it didn't matter since I couldn't see anything. And was it just the wind, or was it getting colder down here? How deep did this hole—
Suddenly, I wasn't falling anymore. It was instantaneous, but I didn't feel an impact, or even whiplash. After a few seconds, I realized I hadn't actually landed. I was still in the air, but something was holding me there. A weak lightbulb flickered to life, revealing a black stone wall in front of me.
I hung there for about half a minute before I heard something up above, and looked up to see Hendricks coming down after me. His coat fluttered in the wind, making him look like a big, black bat in the darkness. He narrowly avoided landing on me, and came to a stop a few inches away.
“Welcome to my home," he said dismissively, and the two of us dropped out of the air. We only fell a couple of feet before hitting the ground, but my knees still buckled from the shock. Hendricks stayed upright, not even stumbling when he landed.
“Where are we?" I asked as I got back to my feet.
“Underground," he answered, heading for one of the walls. When we drew nearer, I finally saw there was a door there. “An old mineshaft I decided I liked, so I helped to workers to abandon it."
I glanced upwards again, but saw that the hole we'd fallen through wasn't there anymore. Just solid rock.
“Even if you were to dig straight up, you wouldn't find yourself where we came in," he said, reading my expression. “The hole is magic. I can open it anywhere I want, and it always leads to this room."
“Of course," I grumbled, still looking forlornly at the ceiling, “it would never be that easy, would it?"
“Don't worry, you won't be here long," he said, and then swatted me with his cane to get me moving forward.
“What are you planning to do with me?" I asked as we walked down the dark tunnel. More lights came on as we went, but they were all so weak that I could barely see. I guess that wasn't a problem for Hendricks, because every time I slowed down or hesitated he would hit me with the cane again. I could tell he was holding back. If he wanted, he could have broken my spine with that thing.
“I told you the first time we met," he answered. “There are plenty of people who would pay a good price for a Silverblood werewolf."
“That's it?" I asked. “You just want to sell me?" Not that I wanted him to do anything else, but after all the effort he'd gone to get me… well, I expected more.
“Do you know how rare Silverbloods are, Amber? You are one of the most valuable items I have for sale. In fact, I've already found a buyer for you."
“But why steal me from Majestic? Why not make your own?"
He turned to me. “Because creating a Silverblood is extremely difficult. You must administer just the right amount of silver for just the right amount of time for the werewolf to grow immune to it. That amount differs for every werewolf, and even a small miscalculation will result in the werewolf's death. I'm afraid I just don't have the patience for such work." He gave me that chilling smile again. “Besides, stealing it from those fools was much more fun!"
Well, I thought as he hit me again to get me moving, at least he's in a better mood.
He led me into a larger chamber, where more lights flickered on to reveal a… living room. A large rug had been thrown over the stony floor, and an arm chair and table sat on it, along with a few other things. There was also a cage against the far wall, which I figured was for me.
“Get in," Hendricks said, confirming my suspicion. He swung his cane, and the door opened. I gave him a reproachful look, and he raised his eyebrows. “What? Did you think I was going to offer you a room in a five star hotel? Get in!"
At least it was bigger than those kennels Majestic wanted to keep me in, I decided as I climbed inside. I turned and looked at him, waiting for him to slam the door closed on me.
“Wait," he said, holding up his hand, “come here first."
I obeyed, and he reached inside his coat and pulled out a long, thin strip of leather.
“What's that fo—" I said, but was cut off when he reached out and wrapped it around my neck. Something clicked, and when he pulled his hands away the leather stayed there. I reached up to feel it. It was a collar.
“Oh come on," I griped. “You've got to be kidding me!"
I stopped talking when a weird sensation came over me. Hendricks slammed the door just as the magic hit me full force. My body contorted against my will, and I fell to the floor of the cage. It took me a few seconds to realize I was turning into my wolf form. My body swelled, bursting out of my clothes, and was instantly covered by fur. When it was finished, I stood up on all fours and gave Hendricks a shocked look. How had he done that? I hadn't tried to change, which meant that he'd done something to me. I tried to change back, but something was keeping me stuck in wolf form. The collar!
“Sorry," he said, smirking. “But my client is only interested in buying a wolf, not a whiny teenage girl."
I growled at him, but he ignored me, walking to the chair and taking a seat facing away from me.
NEXT TIME: Well, looks like Amber's got nothing to but sit and wait and see what Hendricks has in store for her. He says he's already found a buyer. Who could it be, and what does he want a Silverblood werewolf for?