...“So you brought me here? Where is here, anyway? And why didn’t you just take me to a hospital?”
“One question at a time.” The man paused, as though he were pondering which question to answer first, prioritizing them. “I thought about taking you to a hospital, but I don’t like to have much contact with other people. It’s a long story, but let’s just say I don’t have healthy memories of my time among them. I did, however, examine you, right there in the street, checking to see how severe your cuts and bumps were. I was able to determine, best I could, that while you looked like hell, nothing had happened to you that couldn’t be fixed with time and care.”
The wolf’s face turned to Beau and he could feel the man’s gaze upon him. “I still don’t know if I made the right choice. Your admission that you don’t remember what happened to you concerns me; perhaps I need to reconsider.
“In any event, I checked you over and determined that you needed help, so I brought you here, to my home. We are in a remote area east of Seattle, in the foothills of the Cascades. I had this house built for me to meet my need for solitude. I did not bring you here to keep you against your will; let me make that clear. You are free to leave whenever you like.”
Beau looked around him. He had never, in his whole life, been ensconced in such comforting and comfortable surroundings. Still, this was weird. “My things? Where are my things?”
The man put a gentle hand on Beau’s knee. “You had nothing, just the clothes on your back and those were torn and bloody.” He paused. “I had to throw them away. We’ll see that you get some new ones when you want to go.”
The man said nothing for several moments, and then went on. “I think you should stay with me for a few more days. Get yourself more properly healed and then, when you’re ready, I will not only see that you are clothed, but that you have safe transport back to Seattle. And if you need, we can also get you to a doctor. I suspect, though, you’re still in a bit of shock and that’s affected your memory.”
“Why would you do this?” Beau wondered.
“Why wouldn’t I? What kind of beast would I be if I left you all alone, bleeding and hurt, in that alley? I only did what I would want someone to do for me if the tables were turned.”
“But all of this….” Beau gestured to the room with his hand. “All of this seems above and beyond the call.”
“Perhaps for some. I suppose I could have left you at an emergency room and washed my hands of you. But that’s not me. I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty to bring you here.”
“I don’t know what to think. I wish I could remember what happened.” But Beau wasn’t so sure he wanted that wish granted. Already, shadowy images were swirling around in his memory, hooded figures, cold—and they filled him with dread.
“You will.” The man stood. “Now, I think you should eat before everything gets totally cold. There’s roast chicken there….” He took a few steps toward the door. “In the morning, I’ll bring you some clothes and we can go outside, if you feel up to it.”
The man was closing the door behind him.
“Wait!” Beau called after him. “Who are you? You haven’t told me who you are.”
The man turned slightly and gestured toward the mask. “Just call me Beast.” He chuckled, but the sound carried no mirth, only despair. “It’s what I am, anyway.”
Before Beau could say anything else, Beast had closed the door...