It was a cold autumn night in 1926, the same day they moved into the Hall.
“I don’t like it,” Reggie said. All fur and teeth and muscle, tall enough to fill the doorway. “It’s not right.”
The man in the green leather armchair smelled like dust and sun-baked linen. And cinnamon. And salt, a lot like salt. He was wrapped head to toe in bandages, over which he wore human clothes. His name was Neferkare-Ka-Imsety, though he’d taken on a more modern name: Neville, as much an affectation as his silk smoking jacket or his ascot.
Neville lifted the damned thing in slender fingers, turned it this way, then that. Showing it off.
Reggie’s eyes narrowed. “It don’t fit with who I wanna be.” When he was fully transformed, human words always got stuck in his snout. Like meat trapped between his teeth. “We do this and I’m as good as an animal, right? You see?”
“So,” Neville said, tilting his head to one side. “You’d rather I not do it.”
Reggie stared at the thing in that bandaged hand and he could feel himself slavering for it.
“It ain’t like I said that.”
Neville brought his hand back. Reggie’s ears folded back in anticipation. With one swift movement Neville tossed the pink rubber ball through the library’s doorway, out into the hallway. It bounced off one wall, then another, with a sound that turned Reggie into a blur in the air.
Claws clattered on the parquet floor. Reggie slammed into the wainscoting but kept moving, dashing straight at the ball even as it bounced again, spinning and arcing up into the air, bouncing around a corner.
Reggie’s tail flicked an end table as he burst past it. The nearly priceless vase standing on the table rocked on its base and started to topple, but Reggie was already gone, halfway to the conservatory, and he didn’t see it fall.
It was alright. A spectral hand reached through the wall and caught the vase before it could smash. Set it back exactly where it belonged, and brushed some dust off its lip in the process.
The glass panes of the conservatory were glazed with moonlight that made Reggie want to howl, want to run and hunt and ravage, but the ball! The ball! It kept bouncing, spinning away from him but there! He smashed through some terra cotta planters, all four paws off the ground now. Landed with a crash that rattled the high windows. One final leap and he was on it, squeezing the ball hard between his sharp teeth, and the way it scrunched and changed shape in his mouth was worth it. Worth all of it.
That was the first night Reggie admitted to himself that he truly was a werewolf, and not just a chauffeur.
Back in the library Neville lifted his pipe from its stand and took up the book that had been draped open across his knee. Neville had had plenty of time to accept his own nature, that he was an undead mummy, but then he was four thousand years old, which he believed gave one a certain perspective.