Sadie returns in Amazing Grace.
The wind played havoc with her senses. Overhead, the full moon’s light was strobed by the shaking, shivering branches. Vibrant smelling leaves whipped by her snout, their stems scratching her. The wind itself poked and prodded, cold fingers reaching out to get beneath her fur to the soft skin beneath.
She had nowhere to go, nowhere to be, but her pounding heart shot adrenaline through her system. Run from the wind, run from what rides with it. Darting and weaving, she dodged around trees like some purebred pup on an agility course. She leapt over crumbling escarpments, hitting the ground hard enough to send shockwaves up her legs. But no matter how hard or far she ran, the sense of dread kept right on her heels.
“Get up,” said a gruff voice, followed by a jab to her ribs. Blinking, she looked up, the sun blurring her vision temporarily. Above her was a shadow with stooped shoulders and a wide-brimmed hat. A growl passed by her lips.
“Get up, Sadie.” Her heart jolted. That name. It had meant something once. It made her stomach squirm.
A hand as rough as the voice that came with it grabbed her by the scruff like she was nothing more than a puppy, not the 50 kilogram wolf she knew herself to be. He threw her to the ground and stones bit into her side. Sadie growled again and he kicked her swiftly.
“Knock it off, you don’t scare me.” She jumped to her feet, bent her head low to the ground and growled again. He stood there with his arms crossed. Sadie leapt at him and he moved so effortlessly out of the way he may as well have never been there in the first place. Confused, Sadie looked around and she felt a blow land across the back of her neck. She went down on her belly, her legs comically splayed.
“I told you to knock that off. Now shift.” Sadie looked at him, her head tilted to the side like a confused puppy. “Back to the girl, you stupid mutt.” She knew he’d hit her again but she just didn’t know how. It was mind-boggling. Somewhere under all this fur was a girl. She knew it but she didn’t know how to get back to her.
“Damn kids, get stuck all the goddamn time.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a black rod. With a twist and a snap, it extended with two barbs appearing at one end. He rammed Sadie with it and electricity rocketed through her. Her muscles went into spasm and contracted, shifting like molten plastic under her skin. Panting and gasping, Sadie had returned to her true form.
“Skinny bitch, aren’t you,” said the man matter-of-factly. His eyes roved over her as if she were a newly-born calf. Was she worth the trouble? With a grunt, he grabbed her by the arm and hefted her to her feet. She fell onto all fours.
“None of that.” He yanked her up and shoved her forward with a firm hand in her back.
“And you didn’t think to give her a scrap of clothing, Peter?” The woman’s voice carried the faint lilt of a half-forgotten accent as she berated the man. “What would someone had thought if they’d seen you? A naked girl in a van.” She shook her head and rested a hand on Sadie’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, sweet thing, we’ll get you cleaned up and covered.” Peter dipped his hat at the aging woman and jumped back in his van. He sped off with a bang from his exhaust.
The woman led Sadie through a house adorned with needlepoints and floral patterns. It was…homely. But in a way that one might construct a movie set to be. There was something artificial about how everything was placed. Everything had been considered, nothing suggested that the old woman hadn’t simply been standing behind the door waiting for Sadie to come: no half-drunk cup of tea on the table, no needlepoint set aside on the sofa, no radio mumbling in the corner.
As she scrubbed at Sadie’s dirt-stained body and dressed her in cheap, ill-fitting clothes, she introduced herself as Madam Pierce. She asked Sadie questions but before she could ever respond, she answered them for herself. Occasionally, she’d make a note of something in a small notepad she kept in her apron pocket.
“Where am I?” Sadie finally managed to ask, her voice having died with a hiss so many times before.
“Careful, dear, you don’t want to strain those vocal chords. All you’d be able to do is growl.” Madam Pierce laughed. Sadie waited for her to answer. “We’re here to help you, Sadie. People have missed you terribly and we can’t just send you back on home. There’s matters to be dealt with. You must have been out there a long time. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone as rough as you.”
“As rough as me?”
“Oh, most girls don’t take so well to the change as you, dear. Systems go into shock or they pine for home and end up getting themselves in trouble. Not you though,” she winked conspiratorially, “like a duck to water, you did. Peter’s had his hands full tracking you down. But we’ll get you back home soon. Soon as you’re rehabilitated, that is.”
“Oh, you may look like a girl now but the wolf’s still in you. It’ll take more than a shower and some clothes to chase the beast away. We’ll get it out of you. We’ve not failed yet.”
Sadie shivered and something inside of her whimpered, pulling back into the confines of her heart.