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“I am not a number!”

Lisa waited for Tepic’s signal at the intersection again, and her friend indicated the next stairway a second time.  They made their way up the stairs, passing by two dark windowed rooms.  From the look of it, the mouse inhabiting one of the rooms was fast asleep.  They crept past her and reached a gate, which blocked their path.

Tepic lifted the strange thorn key for the gate, and turned to Lisa, “We gotta go through this gate.  When we do, nip to the side and hide in the corner, cuz it makes a noise…..but i got some blanket strips ter put under, to make it quieter!”

Lisa nodded, to show she understood and whispered that she was ready.  The gate opened, and Lisa rushed inside, got to a corner and then stiffened as a howl erupted from ahead of her.  

Tepic joined her, after placing the padding between the metal gate and the floor.  The loud crash it would have made was somewhat dampened when it suddenly shut itself rapidly.  Tepic whispered to her quietly,  “We wait fer a bit, case someone comes!”

They waited for a time, and Lisa became aware of a tapping noise at the door across from her.  It kept repeating a series of taps and then starting over.  As they waited she also caught the sound of ripping paper, this one from right behind her.  It was unsettling, but finally Tepic declared confidently that they were clear and moved towards Rasend’s room.

Another howl came from the room, and Lisa took a shaky breath while Tepic put oil on the hinges and the bolt.  Tepic told her to take a step back, and she obliged while shooting a glance at the barred door behind her.  

“Now, here goes, stay back Lisa….keep watch at the bars!” Tepic whispered, and Lisa made her way back to them and looked out.  After she was ready Tepic whispered back, “Mr Wolf…. it’s me an’ Lisa, here ter help yer, yer keep back from the door, alright?”

Tepic held tight to the glass vial in his pocket, and turned the key apprehensively.  Lisa divided her attention, looking back at Tepic nervously as the lad opened the door and peeped inside.

A bounding wolf ready to tear him apart with tooth and claw was not there; instead he found Rasend was strapped down onto a metal table, with giant metal restraints that basically encased his entire form.  “Oh……strapped down… well, that’s easier….”

Rasend growled slightly, as he struggled against his bonds.  His face looked as if it had been recently roughed up, and his snout was muzzled; he seemed even thinner than he had before.  
“Now Mr Wolf, we’s gonna try an help yer, alright, so yer just does as we asks an ye’ll be alright….an’ remember, no one eats foxes, we don’t taste good!”  Lisa barely heard Tepic’s whisper, and smiled a little from her station, while Tepic took a small, shiny bit of steel from his pocket.  He tossed it over the wolf’s head.

Rasend growled lightly, and then grimaced as yet another thing was thrown over him.  Despite the muzzle, he was able to howl again.  Lisa was startled by noises coming from above, and then stiffened when a gruff shout followed. “If you do not stop howling, I will come down there and beat you again!”

Lisa tried to figure out where that shout came from, and then crept back to the cell, whispering, “I think someone’s above us.”

Tepic shook his head, guessing the man hadn’t drank the whisky he’d sent to the whole staff.  Turning back to the job he whispered, “Yer feelin any less werewolfie?”

Rasend continued to struggle against his bonds, but he didn’t seem to be changing back.  The lad wished he’d asked Arnold what he looked like when he was normal.  He would have to hope this was his normal form…it wasn’t a full moon after all.  “Can yer remember yer name, mate?  Yer real name, the one yer got when yer was born….?”

Rasend just tilted his head, looking at Tepic and showing the muzzle, growling slightly.  “Oh….. let me get rid of that… so’s yer can speak….”

“Be careful,”  Lisa warned him, while she looked back at the bars, hoping that they would not be discovered.  The tapping on the doors had stopped, and the other inmates were all being quiet now…listening to them.  She looked nervously at the now-silent doors.  Madness could happen among cats, of course, but such sufferers were either tolerated, if they weren’t dangerous, or driven away, if they were.  It seemed to Lisa that confining a sufferer in such a place as this would only make them worse.

“Nasty thing it is, all hard leather an’ buckles….”   Tepic tried to carefully unbuckle the muzzle, keeping his fingers away from the wolf’s jaws while Lisa watched to see if he needed help.  “Now keep still, mate, don’t want ter get any attention, do we?”

He removed the last buckle and Rasend growled, snapping his jaws, glad to be able to move them again.  Tepic had wisely moved his hand far away.

“Now, what’s yer name…..?”

Rasend was caught off guard by the question, it seemed, as he stopped to think.  “I knows it ain’t easy, mate, thinks back, remember yer Mum, yer on her knee, what she call yer?”

Rasend growled lightly, disheartedly, “The only thing I recall from that time is ‘Tenderpaws’…”

“Tenderpaws…… good! Now, what yer teacher call yer, cus that’ll be yer second name!”

Rasend shook his head, growling angrily, “There was no teacher-”

“No,” Tepic said quickly, “Then what about what other people called yer mum?”

Lisa was still standing by the cell door, listening to Tepic and Rasend, hoping Tepic would be successful.  Suddenly, the gruff voice that had shouted from upstairs bellowed again, but this time from across the hall. “What the hells!”

Lisa gasped as a tall, big man with a white beard and a lit cigar blotted out the light from the hallway as he started to get out his own keys.  Tepic grimaced in dismay.  They’d been found.

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