The clinic’s door was forced open. Deep grooves ran from the wall to the door’s frame. Blood was slowly running down the wall, adding a layer of crimson to the dull paint job. The door was slightly ajar, leaving a splinter of darkness to peek from inside. Doctor Albert Lenz saw the break-in and sighed. He was just returning from a late dinner and was planning on closing up for the night, but that plan had just gone out the window. The sign above the door marked the building as the "Lenz Clinic" and usually stood horizontally, but was currently pointing straight down, hanging only on its left fixture. Nothing moved in front of the clinic. Albert had been in a similar situation before and found it was best to go along with what was about to happen next. Tucking the keys back in his pocket, he calmly walked inside the clinic. A knife’s edge touched his neck. That wasn’t unusual.
“Do you want to die tonight?” a low, human voice said from behind the knife.
“Not particularly,” Albert with a tone used at the cash register of a store.
“Come on, Frank. Don’t be like that I told you he’s cool,” another voice spoke from further inside the room.
The new voice was deeper, more bestial, and in a great deal of pain.
“Let’s hope he is,” the knife holder said with distrust and a bit of condescension, “otherwise you’re in deep trouble, Jimmy.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jimmy said, then groaned, “can we cut the bullshit and get on with this?”
“Josh, get the lights and keep a lookout,” Frank commanded and pulled Albert with his free hand.
The pitch-black darkness didn’t bother Frank as they took two steps, and the room lit up. The knife holder turned out to be a fully naked man accompanied by three werewolves. The humanoid wolves stood in key locations around Albert. One was behind him, the other near the window, head turned towards the outside. The third was Jimmy, who was lying on the exam table. His body dripped blood from all over. Albert moved away from the knife and went over to Jimmy. Frank’s displeasure ran through his face, but he did not comment.
“They got you good, huh, Jimmy?” Albert asked as he looked over the wounds.
“Sure did, doc,” Jimmy said and formed a boyish smile with his monstrous mouth.
Several of his teeth were missing, and he smelled. Not like the usual fur smell wolves had, but something different, rotten.
“Sorry about that, doc,” Jimmy apologized when he saw Albert grimacing. “I got hit by two stink rounds tonight, and that’s where the stench’s from.” Jimmy tried to lift his right arm to the back of his head but only made it halfway.
Throwing a sad glance over his arm, Jimmy looked back at Albert and forced a small smile. Saying nothing, Albert continued his examination. The further he got, the more he was amazed that Jimmy was able to stay conscious.
Jimmy was 45 and was very much participating in a young man’s or rather, wolf’s game, now. He’d been to the clinic several times before. Once because he tried to become a pack leader but lost the fight and nearly died. Then two more times when his coworkers found out he was a wolf and beat him within an inch of his life, and the last one was now.
“Three broken ribs, broken elbow joint, punctured lung and I suspect a mild concussion from the stink rounds,” Albert announced, more to Frank than Jimmy. “You might just make it if you stay put.” Albert said as he removed his plastic gloves and threw them in the trash.
“That’s not an option, doc,” Frank said with a shake of his head. “We need to get out of here in the next 15 minutes.”
“Impossible,” Albert said with a frown and crossed his arms on his chest. “He’s not going anywhere. You dragged him here, and now he’s in my care.”
Frank took two quick steps and put the knife to Albert’s neck.
“You givin’ orders now, doc?” Frank’s voice was almost as low as Jimmy’s. “Help Jimmy out, and we won’t mince you.”
Albert saw the intent in Frank’s eyes and believed the threat. Even so, he did not flinch at all.
“I am helping him,” Albert spoke in the most peaceful tone he could muster as his anger grew. “I’ll make it simple so you understand. He moves, he dies. He stays, he has a chance.”
Albert saw the other two wolves turn their heads from their assigned tasks and give him looks of disbelief. Apparently, Frank didn’t get much backtalk, because his face tightened and he stepped even closer to Albert.
“You wanna try that again?” Frank asked, baring his transforming teeth.
“Go ahead then, transform,” Albert taunted, “let's see that pure-blood form of yours.”
Albert gambled on his assumption. On one hand, it could pay off if Frank wasn't able to transform right now, and if it didn't, Albert would be rent to pieces. In either case, his patient wasn’t subject to anyone’s orders but Albert’s. Frank’s hand wobbled from rage, and his face grew crimson. He withdrew the knife and stepped back. The two others quickly looked away. Frank began to transform, and just as he did, he collapsed to the ground and reverted back to his, very naked, human form.
“Come on, doc,” Jimmy implored, “don't step on his paws. You know it's embarrassing for us not to be able to transform even if it's because of the stink rounds."
“Yep,” Albert nodded, and turned around to Jimmy, “but since he’s a pure-blood, he thinks he can boss people around and tell them how to do their jobs. That's how it works in your pack, not in my clinic.” Albert stuck his chin out to put a fine point on his stance.
“Heh, you're a tough son of a bitch, doc. No one's denying that,” Jimmy said stifling a chuckle and wincing from the pain.
“What I said stands, Jimmy. If you go out there, you’ll most probably die,” Albert put his hands on the exam table and leaned in closer.
“We all gotta go sometime, doc,” Jimmy said quietly. “This is my chance to help out my family. Can’t get a normal job to save my life, so this is all I got. Please, doc, if you can get me up one last time, that would be the greatest help ever for me.” He gave Albert a warm, goofy smile through his swollen lips.
“I can’t,” Albert said after a sad exhale. “I can’t possibly, in good conscience, tell you that there’s an autoinjector of epinephrine in that cabinet over there.” Albert pointed to the cabinet with his head, and the wolf by the window went over to get it.
“Are you sure?” Albert asked in a grave tone.
“As anyone can be, yeah,” Jimmy said and looked over to Frank, who was stirring. “Welcome back, boss.”
Frank growled and stood up.
“We’re all set up here boss, all I need from you is your word.”
“About what?” Frank asked as he blinked his eyes awake.
“That you’ll take care of James, just like you promised.”
Frank’s features sharpened as he thought for a moment, then nodded.
“You’ve got my word, Jimmy. We’ll take care of him, you don’t have to worry. A hero’s kid won’t be left behind in my pack,” Frank nodded to Jimmy sealing the pledge.
Jimmy nodded back.
“You have to use the epinephrine on your outer thigh,” Albert showed Jimmy where and stepped back.
Jimmy slammed the injector into his thigh. His muscles locked for a moment, then he stood up from the table.
“Thanks,” he said to Albert and walked outside the door, leaving it wide open.
A few moments of silence followed. No one spoke or moved.
“Thank you,” Frank said finally.
“Just make sure to keep your word,” Albert said, and with a curt gesture showed them the door.
The two wolves made it outside in a blink of an eye while Frank had to take a few steps.
“And try not to come here if you can help it,” Albert called after him. “You leave a bad taste in my mouth.”
Frank disappeared into the night without a retort. Albert stepped out as well. He stood by the door and watched as the neighborhood emitted the low hum of civilization - dogs barking, police or emergency cars speeding and the somehow never absent crying child. The sounds of life. As Albert listened, he wrestled with his actions in the clinic. Was it his place to deny a man’s last wish? Was assisted suicide ethical? Did he make the right choice? He went back inside and tried to close the door. After a few failed attempts, he gave up and got out his emergency bottle of scotch. Sitting down at his desk, he drank a few glasses and didn’t realize when he'd fallen asleep.
Sunrays woke him up. Tasting leftover alcohol in his mouth, he grimaced and stood up to call a locksmith for the door. His phone said it was 09:22 AM. Looking around, he saw no one had robbed the place while he slept, which was good at least. As he searched for a locksmith online, a car stopped close by and honked its horn. Albert looked up and saw a small boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old, get out and make his way to him. The boy held a brown bag in front of his chest like it was very valuable.
“Are you doc Al?” the small boy asked.
“I am, yes. And what’s your name?” Albert asked as he put his phone away.
“I’m James. My dad said to give you this if uncle Frank came to take me to live with him,” the boy offered the bag to Albert, who took it in his shaking hands.
Opening the bag revealed a few stacks of hundred dollars. Albert closed up the bag and handed it back to the boy.
“You keep this with you,” Albert said and knelt down. “You’ll probably need it more than me one day.”
The boy looked confused but took the bag back, probably not wanting to upset a friend of his father.
“Where is uncle Frank taking you, do you know?” Albert asked softly as he looked at Frank, who was sitting in the back seat of the car, feet out, resting on the pavement.
“He said we’re going to visit my cousins,” the boy’s face lit up as he spoke. “He said they live in a farm, and no one gets angry if you transform by mistake during the day.”
“I see, that’s great,” Albert said, nodding with understanding. “Well, you run along now then and be sure to have fun.”
“I will,” the boy said beaming and ran back to the car.
Frank picked him up by the shoulders and gently put him inside. Before closing the door, he gave Albert a final nod. Albert waited for the car to drive off and made a decision then and there. He ripped the sign above the door down, got the leftover bottle, and left. On the way back to his apartment, the guilt made him finish the bottle, and his conscience compelled his hand to throw the sign into a nearby dumpster.
Writing prompt source and artist picture: