The Dodge Challenger sped down I-5 from Portland on the path to Crater Lake National Park and whatever was in store for Eliot there. The file Vance had given him on Dr. Woolsey had been helpful despite its sparseness. Eliot glanced at the picture lying in the passenger's seat. Although the photo was blurry, he could instantly tell that the man in it was Dr. Eric Woolsey.
He was older than Eliot's first encounter with him; but there was not mistaking who he was. The years hadn't been as kind to the doctor as they had been to Eliot.
While Eliot's hair was still the same dark brown as it was nearly twenty years ago—hazelnut or chestnut brown according to a hairstylist he dated once—the doctor's had silver wings spreading across both temples. Woolsey was sixty years old now.
Eliot recognized the small building atop the mountain in the photo. It was the lookout on top of Mt. Scott. He had taken a trip there last year when he needed some peace. He had reasoned that if the snow didn't keep Hardison and Parker from following him, surely the 8,900-foot elevation would. Eliot couldn't help but smile. Worked like a charm.
His thoughts drifted back to a cold, dark room. The doctor had kept them all separated while he ran tests and did his experiments. There always seemed to be a pleased look on Woolsey's face when he ran tests on Eliot.
He could recall every moment strapped to that cold exam table, shivering from cold. Face it, Spencer, you were scared too. And now those three men were going through the same thing. If they were still alive.
Some of the men involved in the same round as Eliot had died during the tests after the initial treatments to turn them.
Others survived the treatments and tests only to waste away when their bodies couldn't handle the strain of shifting numerous times. And the shifting hurt. Every time. Muscle and bone making way for the changes that had to occur to complete the transformation had been excruciating the first time. There had been no way to be prepared for the onslaught of fire coursing through his body. He could barely hear the screams of the other men over his own.
But once the shifting was complete, all the pain was forgotten: replaced by strength, power and heightened senses. The feeling of freedom was unlike anything he had ever experienced. But the fact remained that what the doctor was doing was wrong.
He checked the time and noted that he had been on the road three and a half hours. He should be there in the next half hour. Nerves made his hands slippery on the steering wheel as the prospect of seeing the man that changed his life forever crashed down on him.
Vance had been right to call him. No one else could handle a situation like this. This trip was for recon only. Get the lay of the land, familiarize himself with the camp and leave to plan his assault. No contact today. In and out. Simple.
Forty minutes later, Eliot turned onto Cloudcap Rd. Being situated between Crater Lake and Rim Drive, his car shouldn't be visible from the doctor's camp. Judging from the photos of the lookout on the mountain, the camp should be in Scott Bluffs to the northwest of Mt. Scott.
He looked across the wooded area of the bluffs. He had some walking to do. He grabbed his bag from the trunk, shrugged into the shoulder straps and zipped up his jacket to guard against the chill in the air.
While October wasn't as cold as November or December, it was still cold enough to snow on occasion. He sincerely hoped today was not one of those occasions. Either way he had some ground to cover to get to a vantage point that could show him the doctor's base.
Eliot looked up at the sky. If he played his cards right he'd have shadows cast from the bluffs to cover his approach. Let's get this show on the road.
Five minutes later, Eliot had never been more thankful for his enhanced abilities. What should have taken him ten to fifteen minutes took only five. He found a suitable spot high enough to scan the surrounding area but not so high that he could be seen.
He examined the area, looking for any sign of an encampment. Movement a hundred yards north of his position caught his attention. Fabric danced in the gentle breeze, rippled in the forest.
Five tents stood inside a chain link fence encompassing a small, but efficient looking camp. Eliot took note of the distinctive camo green color. Military issue.
So, Dr. Woolsey was here after all.
Eliot had to get closer if he was going to get a better idea of what he was dealing with here. He crept as close as he dared to the fence and stood still listening to the sounds inside. Sounds of movement and urgent conversations drifted across the wind.
Eliot closed his eyes and tilted his head to better concentrate and use his wolf hearing.
A chill ran the length of his spine when he heard the doctor's voice for the first time in years in anything other than nightmares. "We're going to have to move the operation," he said. Another voice argued the logistics of moving the subjects at this stage.
Eliot tilted his head to the other side. So at least two of them are still alive. Maybe he wasn't too late to help them.
His eyes shot open when he heard another voice. It was a man's voice but there was a low growling undertone to it. "Don't you smell it? It's like us. But not like us." A second voice answered in the same rough tone. "What do you think it is? Could there be another one like us?"
Eliot inched along in the shadows, inwardly cursing his decision to come here in the daylight. He hoped the sun-dappled trees would help him stay hidden from the occupants of the camp while he tried to see who was discussing his scent.
The western side of the camp offered the best view of its inner workings and he made his way to that side of the fence. His mouth went dry and his hands were shaky and sweating at the sight before him. Two humanoid/wolf hybrids stood on two legs with noses in the air, ears twitching, trying to catch the slightest of noises. Their grotesque condition made his stomach churn. While they stood on two legs, they were the legs of a wolf; not a human. Muscles flexed in human torsos as wolf heads turned side to side looking for the source of the distracting smell.
"Shit. They're unstable like the others," Eliot whispered before he could stop himself.
He slipped out of his hiding spot to get a better look at them but quickly moved back to keep from being seen. The movement was all the wolves needed to pinpoint the newcomer to their world. The taller creatures turned in Eliot's direction and spotted him. Long necks were exposed as they howled in recognition, or sadness. Eliot couldn't tell.
"What the hell are they howling about?" The doctor's voice again. Eliot was rooted to the spot as Dr. Woolsey charged out of the tent, followed by a man who must have been military judging by the stiff stance.
Eliot was sure his mouth was full of sand it was so dry. Hearing the doctor and seeing him again were two different things. "Oh fuck!" The physician looked in the direction his wolves were staring and a wide smile spread across his face. "The prodigal son has returned."
A stumbling step backward put distance between Eliot and the fence. "No." He shook his head. "No, you sick son of a bitch."
He didn't know how, but his voice barely wavered. That was good. Can't have him thinking he got under his skin. Eliot's mind ran through various options as to how to attack, how to take out the doctor and save the two men that were his prisoners without getting himself killed in the process.
He took a moment too long and lost track of the doctor's henchman. That is until he heard the report of the gun and felt the fire enter his upper chest.
A tree caught and supported his weight as he wobbled on his feet. Already a weakness and searing pain overtook his body. Silver. Of course they have silver to keep unruly wolves in line.
Woolsey smirked as he watched Eliot struggle to stay on his feet. "Silver still works. No matter how stable or advanced you are. Bring him inside," he said to a second soldier who had appeared beside him.
Eliot pushed himself from the tree and lurched off into the woods. He had to put some distance between them. That bullet was going to have to come out of there. And he was going to stop that maniac. Eliot swore inwardly again as he heard the gate creak open behind him and growls fill the air. "Get him, boys!" In and out. Simple. Bullshit.