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Our Fantastic Fables weekend story features a great take on The Wolf’s Paw fable from author Jeanne Stein. Jeanne’s upcoming release is CROSSROADS (available August 30th), which is the seventh book in her wildly popular Anna Strong Chronicles urban fantasy series. Thanks to Jeanne and the fantastic team over at Penguin/Ace, three of you who comment on this post will win a copy of the book! See details below.
The Wolf’s Paw is based on an adaptation of Little Red Riding hood by Angela Carter in her collection The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories published in 1973.
A girl goes to visit her grandmother, but encounters a werewolf on the way, whose paw she cuts off with a knife. When she reaches her grandmother’s house, the paw has turned into a hand with the grandmother’s ring on it, and the grandmother is both delirious and missing her hand. This reveals the girl’s grandmother as the werewolf, and she is stoned to death. The girl then inherits all of her grandmother’s possessions.
The Wolf’s Paw
by Jeanne C. Stein
Makes me smile since it’s usually me doing the squirming.
“What’s the matter? We’ve only been here an hour. You got some place better to be?”
I turn my face away so he can’t see the smile. I know he has some place better to be. I saw her in the doorway when I picked him up at his condo.
“Don’t be a smart ass, Anna. Tell me again what we’re doing here?”
“Easy money. Five thousand dollars, remember? Snatch and grab.”
“Snatch what? Where is the prick?”
A movement from the bushes on the opposite side of the road. David doesn’t see it. But I do. Vampire eyes. We’ve been watching the guy’s front door. There’s no back door out of the apartment.
Still. I catch a scent.
I reach for the door handle. “I’ve got to pee.”
David reaches for an empty coffee cup.
“Very funny. I’ll be right back.”
He mutters something under his breath but I’m already behind the car and bolting to follow the sound of the rustling bushes to our right. Vampire senses jump to the fore. Eyes pierce the darkness, turning night to day. Ears hear every insect crawling, skittering or buzzing out of my path. Nose catches the scent of the creature moving away from me.
But something else.
David doesn’t know that I got close to the guy we’re after this afternoon. Got close enough to breathe in his scent, close enough to make the grab myself before I was interrupted by a pain in the ass who stopped me on the sidewalk to ask for directions. By the time I got rid of him, the skip had disappeared.
But it’s the same scent I detect now under the musk of fur and testosterone.
I move noiselessly through the bushes. Close the distance between us. He’s just ahead of me. But he’s moving faster than a man would be and is crouched low to the ground. It doesn’t take much of a jump to determine what I’m chasing.
I let vampire have her head. Fighting werewolves is not my favorite pastime. They can be nasty creatures. If I’d known that’s what I was chasing, I’d never have involved David. Can’t worry about that now.
Where’s the guy going? We’re in Balboa Park. It’s not quite dusk on a hot summer evening and I can’t make out where he’s headed. Until he takes a sharp turn and waits for traffic on the Prado to clear. Then he lopes across the road and straight into the dog park—the only area open to off-leash pets.
Curious. What’s he doing? Looking for a chance to get lucky?
I call Vampire back and proceed after him, fully human. The park is not yet as crowded as it’s going to be in an hour or so when the home-from-work crowd brings their pets for a romp. But there are a half-dozen dogs sniffing and scuffling, their owners chatting nearby.
The wolf pauses, watching. He’s bigger than most of the dogs but no one pays any attention. I enter the park and start toward him.
The wolf turns and meets my eyes. He lifts his nose. He recognizes vampire. But then he turns away, casually ignoring me, resuming his perusal of the animals as if searching for just the right one.
He makes his choice with a snarl and faster than I would have thought possible, he lunges.
Toward a child, playing off by herself to the right of the group of adults.
I reach her first, scoop her up and thrust her into the arms of a startled woman.
Wolf gathers himself to lunge at me.
If I call up vampire in front of all these people, it won’t be pretty. Instead, I pull the .38 from the waistband of my jeans, aim and fire.
I catch the wolf in midair, but I haven’t accounted for his speed and the bullet slams into his leg, blowing off a paw and breaking bone with a sickening crack. He lands with a howl, whirls on three good legs and stumbles off the way he came.
I want to go after him but my way is impeded by a group of frantic onlookers, all reaching out hands to thank me, all asking the same questions at once.
What was that?
Who are you?
Are you a cop?
By the time I finally get free, and make it back to David, he’s standing by the car, our skip, naked and bloody, already in handcuffs.
David has his cell at his ear. When he sees me, he clicks off. “Where the fuck have you been?”
I point to the skip. “What happened to him?”
David has fastened a tourniquet around the guys arm, just below the elbow. A stump at the end of his wrist drips blood. “Somebody blew this guy’s hand off. He isn’t saying who. I got him as he tried to sneak his way back into the apartment. The paramedics are on the way.”
The guy and I—wolf and vampire—stare into each other’s eyes. I wonder if we’re thinking the same thing…my, what big secrets we have.
Jeanne Stein is the national bestselling author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles. Her character, Anna Strong, received a RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Urban Fantasy Protagonist in 2008. The sixth in the Anna Strong series, Chosen, was released last August and was nominated best UF for 2010 again from RT Book Reviewers Choice. She also has numerous short story credits, including the novella, Blood Debt, from the New York Times bestselling anthology, Hexed. Her series has been picked up in three foreign countries and her short stories published in collections here in the US and the UK. The seventh in the Anna Strong series, Crossroads, debuts in three days!
Want to read more from Jeanne Stein?
This giveaway is provided by Jeanne and Penguin/Ace
Three winners will each receive a copy of Crossroads by Jeanne Stein
One winner will receive a copy of the Hexed Anthology
Available on August 30, 2011 from Penguin/Ace
About the Book:
As a bounty hunter, Anna Strong knew how to find trouble. But now that she’s a vampire, trouble seems to have a knack for finding her…
The death of Anna’s old vampire mentor is causing ripples in the mortal world. His forensic report has brought up some anomalies and people are asking questions-questions that no vampire wants to answer. Anna needs to lie low, but the sudden discovery of a slew of drained bodies near the Mexican border brings an old flame back into her life and with him, a new challenge. Then, some stunning news from an unexpected source sends Anna and her friend Daniel Frey on a journey that may change both their lives-forever.
Click HERE to read an excerpt
1. Leave a comment for Jeanne, let us know what you think of this fable, book or series.
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5. All Fantastic Fables winners will be announced on September 7th.
6. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.
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