You think you know a person. You think you know them, right up until the daythey come out and tell you about all their deep, dark secrets and this whole other lifethey’ve been leading that you never even knew about. At least, that was the case with mygood friend, Lyle Lawrence Kingly. My name, for the information of the curious, is Niles Jameson.
I knew Lyle Kinglyfor a good many years and was actually an associate of his for a short time. We eventuallywent our separate ways, I pursuing my career of choice, he pursuing his. I still think hewas just a little too young to go into the private investigation business, but we called it’creative differences’ and left it at that. We stayed friends, however, and tried to remain intouch. So I was surprised, rather pleasantly, the day I received an overseas long-distancecall from Africa. It was Lyle, calling to see how I’d been, what I was doing, that sort of thing.
Thensuddenly his voice took on a more serious tone. “Niles, you have to come here. I may need your help. “”What is it, Lyle? What’s wrong?””I can’t tell you over the phone.
” He whispered. “It’s too important. You have tobe here. “”In Africa?” I said in disbelief. “Yes, here. It’s that important.
“”But Lyle–“”I’m an animal over here!” He hissed into the phone. “I can’t tell you any more. Idon’t dare. Please, Niles, don’t tell anyone what happens when you get here, or anythingabout this phone call.
It means my life, Niles, and it could mean my death. “I caught the nearest plane out to Africa. I was worried about my friend. If I had togo to Africa to hear it, I knew it had to be important. I stopped at his unreasonably smalloffice in the city, but he wasn’t there. This meant, unfortunately, that I had to drive fiftymiles out of the city to his house.
I was relieved when I saw his face answer the door. Wesat down and talked for a while, he fixed me a light snack, let me rest off some of theeffects of jetlag. We talked for a good long time before I finally asked him. “Lyle, why did you make me come all the way out here?””You have family secrets, don’t you, Niles?” I did. “Secrets that you wouldn’t tell anyone but those you trusted?” Yes. “Well, I’ve got one of those secrets, a dangerous one.
“”What is it?” I said to him quietly. And then he told me. “Niles, you’ve heard the stories, the ones they always tell at Halloween — aboutpeople who change into animals?””Yes, but I don’t see what that has to do with you, Lyle. “”Niles, I– I find that the direct approach works best. “”WHAT! Lyle, what are you talking about?””I — I’m a lycanthrope.
“”You’re a what?””A lycanthrope. “”A — A–“”A lycanthrope. “I was beginning to fear for not only my friend’s life, but for his sanity. “A– A lycanthrope. You’re a lycanthrope.
“”Yes. “”Like a werewolf. “”No — not a werewolf. But a shape-shifter nonetheless.
“I decided to play along, whatever his game was. “OK then. Well, what are you?””You know, I could tell you, but then you probably wouldn’t believe me. I’m sureyou already think something about me, that I’m crazy or something, right? Am I right,Niles?”I shifted uncomfortably. “Look, Lyle, the last I knew, people do not change intoanimals. “”Niles, please don’t make me do this the hard way.
“”Uh — What’s the hard way?””The hard way is that I prove it to you. “I usually try to be as open-minded as possible to all things, so I said to him, “Allright, then. “”You want me to prove it to you?” As he made this daring challenge, his eyesstarted to take on a wild look in them. “Prove it to me. ” He sighed, with an exasperated expression on his face. “I hate itwhen people won’t take me seriously.
“And he did prove it to me. He changed into a beast, right in front of my eyes. I stood there, in shock, and before I could do anything else, I heard it. . .
A lowgrowl. The animal crouched into a springing position and, with a snarl, leapt upon me. I was on the floor, paralyzed with shock and fright, as he stood over me. I couldfeel the beast’s weight pressing on me as two huge forepaws stood on my shoulders, pawswhich had the dexterity of human hands.
He brought his face right down to mine, and as Istared up into round, animal eyes, he spoke. He said to me, in a ragged, snarling voice,”Now do you believe me?”I could not answer him. I quivered on the floor, and said; “W– What are you?””The same thing I always was. ” He responded in that ragged voice. “Your friend. ” He got up off of me and, just as suddenly as he had transformed, changed back into ahuman form.
It was Lyle, standing there as though nothing had happened. I slowly got up and faced him. “How did this happen?””It didn’t just happen, Niles. ” He responded sarcastically.
“I’ve always been thisway. All my life. The only person it’s new to is you. ” He sat back down at the tablewhere we had been talking just a short while ago. Nervously, I joined him. “What kind of creature are you, Lyle?” He smiled ruefully.
“I was wondering when you’d ask. ” He said. “I’m not even a typical lycanthrope. I’m a crossbreed, between two species. For years, I didn’t even know what to call myself.
“”Call yourself what?” I asked in slight astonishment. “Oh, that’s simple, Niles. I’m a Caline. “”A Caline. ” I said, and I paused. “Um, Lyle.
. . What’s a Caline?””It’s the name I finally came up with, to call myself. ” He said.
“It stands for half-canine, half-feline. You put them both together, you wind up with ‘caline’. Which,unfortunately, I am. “”A Caline,” I said. “Half-dog, half-cat — Lyle, what are you talking about? That’simpossible!”He shot me a look.
“Well, you’re talking to the world’s only one, as far as I knowof, Niles. “”Well, what– When did all this happen?””Like I said, I’ve been this way all my life. It has to do with my — well,questionable parentage. “”Your parents? What does this have to do with your parents?””Everything. My father was a werewolf from the States, and my mother was awere-lion from over here. “”A were-li–“”Yes, Niles, a were-lion.
It would take a while to explain. Just accept what I’mtelling you for the moment. Anyway, dad came over here on a vacation some years ago. Idon’t know all the specifics, but sometime during then he met my mother, and somehowthey fell in love with each other. Dad eventually moved to Africa so they could betogether. They married on human terms, and after several months together, Mom finallytold him they needed to have ‘a little talk’.
To this day, neither one of them knows whowas more surprised. “I just sat quietly, trying to absorb it all. He continued. “I grew up knowing about my parents, expecting the change. . .
But I never knewhow I would turn out, what I would be. Not even Mom or Dad knew what to expect, sinceno one knew what would happen if such two different species bred before. But when Ifinally did start to change, I was still loved and understood. I also grew up listening to a lotof arguments. Not real fights, you know, but one constant argument: Mom wanted to stayat home, but Dad couldn’t stand the hot climate. A few times he did actually move back,but they just couldn’t stand to stay apart.
The last I knew, Dad was still living here togetherwith Mom, but I can’t be sure. I haven’t called in a while. “”Is there anything else?” I asked, astonished. “Oh, yes.
I’m not a werewolf, not a were-lion, but a werebeast nonetheless. I’m aCaline. So my worst troubles occurred when I tried to find the two species I was a hybridfrom. You have no idea how hard it was for a crossbreed like me.
The first group ofwerewolves I came across wanted nothing to do with me. That particular pack wasn’t aperfect example of the whole species, though, and I do have a couple of friends on thatside. Were-lions, however, are a much rarer breed, and I had to ask my mother how Icould find a pride. The were-lions were much more accepting of me, I suppose because Itake more after my mother.
But anyone I met from that side always seemed unnerved byme. I suppose they just couldn’t get around those inherent canine characteristics. “”Anywhere I went, whatever species I tried to associate with, I was rejected,” Lylecontinued. “I was tolerated, refused, harassed, and ignored, but never accepted. One timeI almost lost an ear in a fight with a were-tiger who said he ‘didn’t like my attitude’.
I justsuppose no one could accept the idea of me being a Caline. “”What happened?” I asked, too absorbed in the discussion. “Hmmm?””With you — and the were-tiger?””Oh, I got away without incident. “”Oh,” I said.
“I suppose the idea of such two different species being successfullybred together didn’t come off too well. “”Exactly. ” Lyle added. “You’re not going to believe this, Niles, but the mostaccepting group of my situation has been you humans. “”Really?” I was astounded.
Then I thought of something. “Um, Lyle, how manypeople have you told all this to?””Only my closest friends, Niles, the people I know I can trust. “”Ah. ” Well, I was glad to know I was in that circle of people. “My looks are no help, either.
“”Your looks–“”You saw me. “”Well, I didn’t see very much of you while you were in my face. “”Oh. ” And he changed again, so I could get a better look at him. He was basically lionlike in appearance, but with a distinctly canine accent to hisfeatures.
His fur was a strange, off-white shade, a color that gave way to a stark whiteunderbelly. His sable-black, glossy mane framed his face and flowed down his neck,hiding all but the tips of his two pointed ears. His hands and feet were now four huge,padded paws. He turned and looked at me with round eyes that were neither canine norfeline, but beyond description. They were almost aglow, with a look of wildness in themthat was as frightening as it was fascinating. But I could see what would have astounded ahuman and caused a werebeast to judge him, what was probably the greatest problem withhis appearance; The same sable shag that comprised his mane also covered his tail.
But I didn’t really concentrate on his features as much as I did on him. For rightthen, I just stood there with my mouth open, staring at him in awe. “Lyle–“He shot me a glance out of his round, animal eyes. “Lyle, you’re beautiful. “He spoke.
“You just tell that to all the other species. “I could understand the words, but his voice sounded like paper that had gonethrough a shredder. And I couldn’t help noticing the four, deadly-sharp fangs that flashedin his mouth as he talked. “What’s it like.
. . Being a Caline, I mean?”He answered again, in that ragged voice. “Believe it or not, Niles, it’s actually got afew good points. I couldn’t list too many of them offhand, though. Um.
. . Ah, yes!” Hiseyes lit up. “Well, for example, I seem to have a greater sensory acuity than most otherwerebeasts.
I tend to notice things that either of my parent species would ordinarily miss. “”It’s the strangest thing, being able both to howl and to roar. “He sighed, glanced at me, and continued talking. “However, I do have trouble unsheathing and retracting my claws. “From each forepaw came five razorlike claws that could rip a man to shreds inseconds.
Was Lyle trying to make me nervous?”Every time I get them into one position, I have such difficulty getting them into theother,” he said, withdrawing the deathly blades. I had been looking at the structure of hispaws for quite some time, and soon I noticed something. “What about your thumb –dewclaw — whatever?””I was just getting to that,” Lyle said, delighted that I had asked. “It’s just anotherone of nature’s ways of dealing with the human-animal connection.
” Lyle held out a pawfor me to see. One of the joints in his hand — paw — moved, and a fifth digit equivalent toa thumb seemed to me to appear out of nowhere. It was furry, and padded, and equippedat the end with a retractable talon, just as all the others, but now it was in a roughly humanposition. Lyle, standing on three legs, reached up and, seizing one of the thin-stemmedglasses from the dinner table, held it with his five clawed appendages as accurately as if hispadded paw had been a human hand. He then began to twirl it around more deftly thanmost humans could have.
Needless to say, I was very impressed. He set the delicate glass back on the table and turned the paw toward me again. The dewclaw moved back into place, conveniently out of the way. I then realized that ithad not just appeared, but had been there all along.
This joint, I realized, made it veryconvenient for werebeasts to get around. Just then, Lyle let out a chuckle that sounded more like a snarl. “I just can’t believewhat you said, Niles. Me– beautiful. ” I looked at his smile, and I saw the huge ivorydaggers in his mouth again.
And I remembered the reputation werebeasts have involvinghumans. “Lyle?””Yes?””Have you ever. . . Killed anyone?”He looked me dead straight in the eyes. “Once.
“I stood there, shocked, horrified. Lyle should have been the one surprised by thequestion, astounded that I could even ask such a thing. I had expected him to saysomething like, ‘Niles, of course not!’, or ‘What are you talking about?’, or ‘You know Iwould never do such a thing’. I expected him to say anything, anything but what he hadsaid. He’s killed someone before, I thought. He could kill me.
. . With white and shakinghand I reached out to steady myself on the back of a chair. Lyle pulled the chair out, andhelped me sit down.
I looked up at him and said,”Lyle — how could you? Of all the people, you’re not the type. . . ” Of course, bythen I realized I was talking to someone who had just been telling me about a whole otherside to his life that I knew nothing about. I had no idea what type he really was. Lyle puthis hand on my shoulder.
“Niles, I’m sorry. I forgot you’d have taken it this hard. I should have explained toyou first. You see, in my profession, I have a tendency to accumulate quite a few enemies.
The very nature of the business — sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, as it were –can get some people really mad at you really quick. Private investigation has painted abull’s eye on me, Niles, and there are plenty of people who want to take shots. This one man, the man I killed, had plenty of reason to hate me. I was directlyresponsible for getting about 20 of his friends sent to prison for illegal-arms trading. Inearly got him, too, and if it weren’t for a legal technicality, a well-placed loophole, he’dstill be alive today — and rotting in prison where he belonged. He took out a hit on me; he put a $20,000 price tag on my head.
That didn’t workout too well. After all, how would you know that this strange-looking animal is the sameperson you’re getting paid a sweet amount of money to put a bullet through? I just had tostay a beast until they gave up looking for me. When that happened, the guy took his $20grand back and went out looking for me himself. He found me passing through an old abandoned warehouse in the city. He had mecornered in there, I couldn’t get out.
He was holding a gun on me, Niles, and he was aboutto shoot. I didn’t have any other choice. He didn’t even know what got him. One quickbite to the jugular and it was all over. He didn’t suffer. I’m not that kind of person.
“Suddenly, I was beginning to see Lyle in a whole new light. He had killed in self-defense; he was no murderer. “Nobody ever found his body either. I was too upset at the time to notice, butactually, he tasted pretty good. “”WHAT! You ate the guy? You ate the guy?””Well, Niles, I don’t often follow the family history, but eating your enemies is atime-honored werebeast tradition.
“Lyle spoke. “Really, Niles, I’m not all that sure you understand. “”I understand what you told me. But I still can’t believe you actually ate that guy. ” I shuddered at the thought. “Believe whatever you want, it’s still the truth.
” He responded. “At least I’m notlike some other werebeasts which I could all too easily name. Besides, you act as if youstill don’t understand me. You’re sitting there, fidgeting, looking at me like any second I’mabout to jump up and eat you. You’re treating me like I’m some kind of wild animal. “”Aren’t you?””Oh.
Well — yes. ” Without knowing it, I had caught Lyle off-guard and thrownhim and emotional curve. But I continued nevertheless. “You’re making it very hard for me not to act that way.
After all, you have thequalities of some of the world’s most vicious — and successful — predators, you have bettersenses than I could even hope to imagine, you killed a man–“”Would you kill, to save your own life?””Well, I–“”The question is no different when applied to a human. It’s just because I’m awerebeast that it has a little different twist. “”You do have a point, but Lyle–“”I’m one of the good guys, Niles. Think about it. ‘Private Investigator’. Whywould I devote myself so much to helping humans?””Because humans were the only ones who accepted you?”Lyle beamed.
“Now you’re catching on!” He said. “You were right. Humanswere the only ones who accepted me for what I was, as you are learning to do, Niles. Thehuman world was the only one where I was treated without bias or disdain.
But still, let me tell you about one of my cases, just to make sure you understand. “”One of your cases. . . “”Yes! You wouldn’t believe how much help it is to be what I am, particularly whenit comes to my cases.
I get some pretty weird ones. In fact, some I wouldn’t even be ableto solve if I were just a human. I could tell you. . . “”Well then, by all means, go ahead.
“”Really? Well, okay, let me think of one. . . One morning, I was at my desk when this woman walks into my office. She wasdressed all in red, just like she had come straight out of some old detective movie from the40s. Really weird, really spooky stuff, to say the least.
She said she had come to me because she was worried about her husband. Heworked for an oil company, and she thought that might have something to do with whatwas going on with him. Her husband had been doing strange things, working withsuspicious people she didn’t know, barely even coming back home. Nobody else couldfind him. So she turned to me. There must be good money in oil.
She looked rich. I remember she was wearing awhite fox on her shoulders. She must have forgotten it, because she left it there and didn’tcome back for it. If there’s one thing I share with other werebeasts, it’s an absolute hatred for crueltyto and mistreatment of animals. So, after I’d torn the awful thing to shreds and disposed ofit, I started working on her case.”So saying, he began his story.Category: English