The sun had just begun to rise as Ben pulled to a stop outside the dilapidated old barn. Purple and orange light cascaded out over the cornfields, which stretched to the horizon in either direction. Ben checked his phone again to make sure this was the right place.
No one answered. Ben yawned and helped Toby out of his basket. He cracked open the Red Bull he’d bought at the last gas station. Toby sniffed around on the grass.
There was a loud thunk inside the barn. The big wooden door swung open, and three wolves pranced out, followed by Marcus Alcindor. He waved when he saw Ben.
“Little early for you?” he said.
“I just stayed up all night.” Ben chugged his energy drink in one go. The wolves circled Toby, and he wagged his tail, letting them sniff his butt, sniffing theirs. He was getting more comfortable around them and vice versa. “Are we still in Illinois?”
It had taken him three hours to drive out here. The moped wasn’t built for long distances. He’d had to stop for gas twice.
“City people.” Marcus muttered. “You think Chicago is all there is. Ninety percent of the state is rural.”
“Yeah, and there’s like twelve people in all of it.” Ben tossed the empty can in Toby’s basket and cracked his knuckles. “What are we doing? Dog training? He’ll sit on command, but beyond that he doesn’t do a lot of dog tricks.”
Marcus whistled. The wolves came running to him.
“Wait here.” he said, heading into the barn.
Ben leaned against his moped. He pulled out a Slim Jim and took a bite. Toby trotted over and sat in front of him. Ben ripped off a small piece and tossed it. Toby caught it in his mouth.
“Hey,” Ben pet the dog behind the ears. “You haven’t said anything in my head in a while. Are we cool?”
The inugami did not respond, in either body language or mental link. Ben ripped off another piece of Slim Jim. Maybe more bribery would–