Writer. Werewolf. Canadian.
Michael Andrews seems to have it all. He's a successful author and a minor celebrity living in Manhattan. It's a pretty big step up from his humble Canadian upbringing. Of course, his lycanthropy poses a bit of a challenge. After waking up from his latest night on the town, he's naked, he's got a bullet hole in his leg, and he has a sneaking suspicion he ran into another wolf last night.
If he's going to make an evening talk show appearance to promote his latest book, he'll need to figure out what happened the previous night without letting his occasional heroics get in the way. Standing in his way are an agent, an ex-girlfriend, a variety of goons, and a fellow wolf encroaching on his territory.
It's just another day in the life of a polite, small-town Canadian trying to stay alive in the Big Apple.
A Canadian Werewolf in New York is a humorous thriller about an ordinary man dealing with extraordinary circumstances. If you like seeing an everyman try to "do right" no matter the odds, then you'll love this suspenseful and comedic tale of a Canadian bumpkin who happens to be part wolf.
Mark Leslie is a Fiction River editor who occasionally honors us with one of his fantastic stories. His dark fiction makes being scared fun, so I knew I had to have one of his books in this StoryBundle. A Canadian Werewolf in New York asks the age-old question: how does a polite Canadian werewolf survive in the urban jungle of New York City? – Allyson Longueira
"Stan Lee. David Letterman. The cast of Goodfellas. Lovely babes, innocents in the wild, the wild in the big city. Packed with humor, suspense, fun characters, an exciting chase, and of course prog rockers of the Great White North... Rush! What a fun ride. I have not only enjoyed this book, I have bought it twice for friends. Thank you, Mark Leslie"– Amazon Customer Review
"Author Leslie lets Andrews tell his own story in a first person narrative style reminiscent of Jim Butcher's laid-back, self-deprecating wizard, Harry Dresden."– Amazon Customer Review
"An always entertaining romp through New York with a werewolf who treats his abilities like superpowers instead of an affliction."– Kobo Customer Review
Chapter One: Not just another day waking up naked in a park
THIS TIME I woke to find myself sprawled naked in the grass, my shoulder nestled in a shrub and the coppery aftertaste of blood in my mouth. It was a cool morning, but humid, the unmistakable scent of the Hudson River hanging in the air.
I pulled my aching body into a sitting position and checked it over for injuries. Apart from the usual scrapes and scratches there was a nasty looking wound on my thigh. It hurt no more than a bad bruise, but it looked like a bullet hole. I ran my hand down the leg and stuck my finger inside. Yes, indeed, it was a bullet hole, the slug nestled just about an inch deep.
At least the bullet wasn't silver – now that I would have felt.
Okay, so to sum up my situation, there was a distinct taste of blood in my mouth – human blood – and a bullet wound in my leg.
Michael Andrews, what the hell had you been up to last night?
I took a look around. I was in a park on the Hudson. I could tell from the scent of the water. The early morning mist rising off the water revealed beautiful Lady Liberty to me in teasing glimpses, and in the distance, I could hear the patter of a pack of joggers heading away from me.
Okay, so this was Battery Park. I was on the south-western tip of Manhattan Island. And since I was currently a guest at the Algonquin Hotel in Mid-Town, getting three-quarters of the way across this island, through a metropolis of dense crowds of people, bare naked, was going to be one hell of a chore.
And there was something tingling at the back of my mind; something bothering me, like an important thing I had forgotten. There was something I was supposed to remember; wasn't there?
Given the semi-amnesia that struck me after spending time in wolf form, figuring out what it was that was lingering on the edge of my conscious would be a bit of a challenge.
Uncovering the secrets of what exactly I'd been up to during last night's full moon, would, of course, be another.
But I was a mystery writer, and was usually able to piece it all together upon examination of the evidence. My memories as a wolf were scattered and non-linear snatches of smells, sounds, tastes, feelings and sights – not often available to my human, conscious mind. Trying to piece them together often gave me a migraine. I'd always thought that perhaps that was how I'd preserved my sanity.
Unfortunately, with my growing popularity, it was becoming easier for people to recognize me – at least in human form. Finding a picture of myself scampering about the city butt-naked on the cover of the tabloids was not a pleasant thought.
Was it time to move out of New York?
Growing up, reading the Spider-Man comic books, I'd always wanted to live here. I was living my dream.
In my dreams though, I'd been the wall-crawler, swinging around the rooftops and nabbing the bad guys. I'd never imagined I would be one of the monsters that Spider-Man faced down, like that astronaut who, wearing a moon rock on a chain around his neck, was afflicted with the curse of the werewolf.
But that never made sense to me. After all, everyone knows that being bitten by a werewolf is the way that a person becomes a werewolf.
Okay, maybe not everyone, because I don't know everyone. But I do know me. I'd been in the city for almost three weeks after that wolf attack before my first experience of lycanthropy.
At the time, after getting over the understanding of what had happened to me and the reality of living with it, it was desperately hard to hold a job. Sure, I wanted to be a writer – but I had to hold a job to keep an income. Holding the types of jobs I was skilled at, being a waiter or a delivery driver, was often difficult. I mean, waking up naked in strange places often left me late for work. Never-mind the times that I'd destroyed my uniform when turning into a wolf before I had the chance to get home and undress. And trying to avoid the night shift for several days in a row every month by calling in sick often left my employers with another good reason to fire me.
It wasn't until I was about six months into my curse that I'd discovered I could put my wolf-blood to good use. Since becoming a werewolf, my human self was able to retain some of the benefits of my wolfish nature. My senses were all heightened, so I no longer needed to wear glasses, for example. My strength seemed to double, sometimes quadruple, depending on the proximity of the full moon.
My ability to heal also dramatically improved and my constitution has never been better. I haven't had a cold or caught a flu since becoming a werewolf.
So, while it's not a glamorous life, it's not all entirely bad.
My extra strength and immune system allowed me to work the more dangerous labor jobs such as roofing and construction and even garbage collection. Later I was able to move up within the companies I worked for by being able to see and hear things that normal people couldn't. My ability to interact with and influence people was heightened. I was able to pull off an incredible charisma that I often used to my advantage.
It was how I was able to get an editor to agree to read my first novel, which actually hit the New York Times bestseller list.
With the success came appearances on talk shows and the occasional red-carpet event, like when one of my novels had been turned into a feature film. That made blending into the crowd about as easy as playing "pick-up sticks" with my butt cheeks; a phrase I learned from Buddy.
Not that I wasn't used to having to find new ways to sneak back home naked after a night of howling at the moon, but the celebrity aspect was starting to make the task of not being recognized that much more difficult.
After quickly determining that there was no one nearby in the sliver of park I was in, I decided to take the time to remove the bullet from my leg. If I didn't, my body would quickly heal over it, leaving it permanently inside. The bleeding had stopped and the wound had already started to heal, so I could tell it was at least a few hours old. By the end of the day the healing would be well advanced, and by the day after next the scab might even be ready to fall off.
I was able to push my fingers inside enough to snag the bullet between the tip of my index finger and my thumbnail. After a few seconds of painful twisting and prying, it slipped right out.
Getting up, I flicked the bullet into the murky depths of the Hudson.
Judging by the sun's position in the sky and the sounds of traffic, it was likely around 5:30 a.m. The sun was beginning its rise, but it being an August morning, the humidity and smog hung in the air like a light fog.
The first significant set of commuters would be arriving on the 6:20 a.m. Staten Island Ferry. The Ferry landed just south of me. What I needed to find as quickly as possible was something to cover me up. Ideally clothes, but the foliage of the park's trees or wrapping my torso in a discarded newspaper were a more likely consideration.
Provided I could get a handful of change, I'd even be able to take the subway. If not, I had a long walk ahead of me. And, despite my healing ability and the thicker padding on my feet now, walking that many miles in my bare feet on pavement and concrete still wasn't pleasant.
I surveyed the park a little more closely, picking up on the scents around me. Grass, the sap from the trees, the cigarette butts. There was the smell of semen and latex, from a condom that I could see now that I'd sensed it, about three yards to my right, just beneath a park bench. Near it I could see a newspaper, smell the newsprint, stale cheap cologne, the scent of vaginal fluids, and of the bitter dregs left behind in a coffee cup lying on its side.
But there was a second distinct vaginal scent, unobscured by latex. I started walking toward it.
On the other side of a tree near the bench, there was a pair of pink panties. I headed over and picked them up, judging whether or not I'd be able to fit into them.
It was amazing what people threw away and in what places. While the origin of these panties seemed obvious to me based on the other evidence – a pair of lovers had likely enjoyed each other in the dark on this bench – I'd always wondered, for example, why you sometimes see a single shoe on the side of the road. Who throws out such articles of clothing, and why there? I'd never met anyone in all my travels who admitted to losing or throwing away a single shoe while in a vehicle or traveling – so why, in all my time, was it such a common sight?
A mystery for another day, I thought, shuddering in revulsion at what I was about to do.
I blew out through my nose as I bent, stepped into the panties, and pulled them up.
Fortunately, they had a good bit of play in them, so, though snug, I was able to pull them on.
It was a start at least. And I tried really hard not to think about the fact I was wearing a stranger's discarded panties.
I kept walking south, feeling I was on a roll.
Maybe I'd even find a pair of shoes my size.
As I was walking, again that spark of an idea that there was something I was supposed to remember struck me. I actually stopped walking, trying to tease it out of where it was lurking in the shadows.
That's when a solid snippet of memory from the previous night came to me.
The squeal of tires and brakes, and a bright, painful flash of headlight beams.
The memory burst stopped all other thoughts. It flashed through my mind again, this time joined by the smell of rubber burning, overtop of a stronger, background, fishy smell. Then the memory was gone again. I pawed at it tentatively, but couldn't bring anything else back.
Instead, I started thinking about the last memory I had as a human.
Ever since one of my novels was made into a blockbuster movie two and a half years ago, the rest of my novels had been republished and the royalties started screaming in. With the advance from the movie rights having been socked away into a secure investment, and with all the extra cash coming in, I finally abandoned my Chelsea bachelor apartment, and decided to take up residence at the Algonquin.
The Algonquin, of course, was known for its literary history.
If I could live out my childhood dream of living in New York, and of being a writer like the genius who created Spider-Man, Stan Lee, I could live out a later adult fantasy in which I was a writer-in-residence of sorts in that hotel.
The management was able to cut me enough of a deal for the long-term suite, and I made frequent appearances in the lobby, where the cultural elite liked to hang out before Broadway shows or the Opera. I didn't mind hanging out there, it was a thrill to be part of the ambiance. After all, it was the ambiance of the Algonquin's lobby that had attracted me in the first place.
So last night, after an unproductive writing session, I'd headed out for an early evening stroll. I thought I would have enough time to get to Central Park, where I often liked to be before a change. Being locked up in a hotel room as a wolf was a dangerous thing, and, while I sometimes did that, I liked to also ensure that I gave my other-half a good outing, the ability to run and expend what must be pent-up energy in a healthy way.
When I was planning on doing a Central Park outing, I often stashed clothes somewhere in the park for when I awoke. I had to keep finding new places to stash my clothes because they kept getting stolen. It's amazing at how quick certain homeless folks can be at finding things you thought were well-hidden.
By then, of course, I'd stopped having to also stash a set of keys or a wallet or I.D. or anything like that. One of the benefits of living at the Algonquin was that the Concierge knew me and I could get in and up to my room without any hassle whenever I didn't have my key or I.D.
Last night, however, I didn't remember even making it to Central Park.
It had been evening, the sun setting. I'd left the Algonquin wearing a pair of disposable clothes with my change of clothes stashed in a plastic grocery bag. No, I didn't like to get naked before the change and thus save the clothes I was in – so, I wore either older or discount-store clothing on wolf nights.
I was walking up Fifth Avenue toward the park . . .
. . . and that's where my human memory failed. The wolf-related amnesia that I suffer from typically strikes anywhere from five to fifteen minutes before and after a transition. That told me it was possible I didn't even make it to Central Park before I changed. The walk was a good ten to twenty minutes, depending on whether or not the cross-walk lights and traffic were in my favor.
So it was likely I didn't make it to Central Park.
The other clue I had was the fact that, when I made the change in Central Park, my wolf-self usually didn't leave the boundaries of the park. With plenty of places to run, cavort, and hunt down rodents and other small animals, there was little reason for my wolf-self to wander.
Consumed in the memories and the attempt at regurgitating the events of last night, I almost failed to notice as I crossed towards the outer edge of Battery Park, the scent of another human just downwind to my right. It was a single person, a man, and his scent was coming from around the corner of the building on State Street where the people from the Staten Island ferry came in. His scent was getting stronger as he approached.
I glanced down at myself, clad in the tight, pink panties, then to the left and right. There was no real place to hide. It was too late to duck under cover.