Author's note: This is a part 2 to "So I Met an Owl in an Elevator". If you want, maybe read that story first to avoid spoilers. If you don't want to, no worries, have a recap and a wonderful day!
Recap: the unnamed narrator rushes to an elevator from a hotel bar while realizing a creep from the bar drugged her. She makes it to the elevator, passes out, and wakes up to find a power outage that stopped the elevator and a mysterious talking owl with muddy red feathers and dark green eyes. He introduces himself as Howl, her Guardian Owl that cut off the power to save her from the creep. Howl calls her Beautrice (which isn't her name), gives her his business card, and leaves through a portal after the power comes back on. Howl helps her run past the creep by causing a feather tornado on his face and she makes it to her hotel room. She escapes out the fire escape after finding out the creep has cops blocking the stairs looking for her. The story leaves off with her looking at the business card and heading towards the address on it. Now we begin...
Five different people have offered me raw steaks since I entered Lavern’s Tavern right next door to Howl’s business card’s address and I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. They're free, so maybe a good thing?
Aside from the raw steak fetish, Burrows Borough feels like it belongs on a TV studio as the set for ‘a suspicious small town’. Bet money they’re hiding a local murder.
I know they’re suspicious of me—probably because I’m the outsider in town—but seriously, what is with this—
“Fresh steak?” Another patron cooed at me, shoving the raw animal in my face. Fresh blood dripped down the side.
I held my head as far as away from it as I could. “No thanks.”
The steak-holder squinted at me. “Are you sure you don’t want any fresh, juicy, steak? It’s veal. Don’t you just loooovvveee veal?”
“Are you sure?”
I pushed it away with a fork. “So sure.”
Three people in the back held up more steaks, just lining up to shove bloody meat in my face.
“She didn’t take it,” one whispered.
“I still wouldn’t lower my guard around her. You never know. She could be one of them.” They stepped up closer to me, veal steak at the ready.
Alright, no amount of alcohol is going to let me tolerate this a second further. I stood and headed for Howl’s address.
“Have some raw steak on the way out,” one called after me.
“I’m good thanks. I had plenty of raw meat on my way here,” I said sarcastically.
“You heard that?” They whispered. “She does eat raw meat. I knew it. We have to warn the othe—” And I was out the door before they finished.
“Hello?” I asked as I walked into Howl’s address.
From the looks of it, it was some kind of sheriff’s office. I flicked at a name tag on the desk. Sheriff Howl Mason. Kinda weird they let a magical, talking owl be a sheriff, but whatever. I don’t judge. Besides, he said he was a ‘Guardian Owl’, so maybe he was a guardian of this town too.
“Be right there,” he said before opening the door from the back room. A man with muddy-red hair and dark green eyes stood before me. “What can I do for you—Beautrice!”
He ran up to me and gave me a stiff hug. I shoved him off. “Who the hell are you?”
The stranger ignored me. “Oh, this is so great. I can’t wait to tell the others that you came to save us just like the prophecy said. You were taking a little bit longer than I was expecting and I just knew you needed that extra shove and it worked, cause here you are. Ooh, they will be ecstatic.” He grabbed a piece of paper off the table and an ink jar. “Just need a pen… oh, right.” Before I could say anything, he rolled his shirt up to his elbow and grew a feather from his human flesh. He plucked it and used it to write. As my jaw dropped, he threw the paper in the air, clapped twice, and it disappeared into a small portal.
He held his finger to my lips. “Burrows Borough is a curse-word-free town, so please say ‘oh feathers’ instead.”
“Remove your finger from my face zone before I bite it off.”
He did. “For a generous savior, you are quite mean.”
“How did a feather come out of your arm?”
“Who are you?”
“Where is Howl?”
My right eye twitched. This guy sounded a lot like… “Howl? You’re Howl?”
“In the human flesh.”
“You’re a shape-shifter?”
“There you go.”
“So, a Guardian Owl shape-shifter… sure why not? What a minute, you said something about me saving ‘us’? Why would I save you if you’re my Guardian Owl?”
Howl awkwardly clapped his hands. “Soooooo, here’s the thing: I made the whole ‘Guardian Owl’ thing up. Completely.”
“What?” I screeched. “You lied to me? Why would you do that?”
He desperately waved his hands around as he explained. “I needed you to trust me so you could come to this town. You’re the one who was prophesied as the savior for us, Beautrice.”
“I should have known from that horrible ‘we’re owls that guardian people’ line.” I took a deep breath, placed my hands on my hips, and smiled as all the anger and tension left my body. “You know what? That’s okay.” I walked up to him, placed a kind hand on his shoulder as a fake gesture of peace. Just as he relaxed, I leaned in and whispered in his ear, “Because I'm not Beautrice.”
All the color drained from Howl’s face. Before he could say anything, his office’s doors swung open and three townsfolk filtered in with huge grins and open arms. “Howl, buddy! You did it. You found the savior.”
They all hugged him, but Howl stiffly returned the favor.
“Admittedly,” one of them said with a jagged scar across her face, “We were angry about you exposing yourself to humans at the hotel and risking exposing us to them as well…” Jagged Scar laughed awkwardly and the others faked a laugh too. “But then you bring her back.” She hugged me too earning a surprised ‘ooh’. “The savior. It is so good to see you. Just like in my prophecy.”
“Actually, Jagged Scar—” I said, but Howl cut me off by yanking my arm and pulling me to the side.
“Don’t tell them you’re not the savior, please. They can’t know I messed up. I’ll be banished from Burrows Borough. You lied to me, I lied to you. We’re even, so don’t say anything. Just smile and nod. I’ll sneak you out of here and you can return to your normal life while I find the true savior. Please?” He whispered in my ear so the others couldn’t hear.
“Fine,” I whispered back. Once he let me go, I walked up to the trio and proudly said, “I am not the savior nor Beautrice.” I whipped my head back around to face Howl. “No one tells me how to curse, fucker.”
“Pelt face,” he (assumably, not really sure if it counts) cursed back.
Jagged Scar glared at Howl. Straightening up, her eyes shifted to a chilling yellow. “Is this true?”
“Well… I—I—” Howl stuttered.
Taking a step forward, Jagged Scar raised her arms as they partly turned into large bird wings. Her bones snapped into weird places as black feathers sprouted, poking through her outfit like daggers. Jagged Face looked like a terrifying owl-angel hybrid. She raised her voice, and repeated, “I asked, ‘Is this true?’”
I think this is my cue to leave. Quietly, I took a step towards the back door when Jagged Scar snapped her head in my direction. “Where do you think you’re going, human?” She snapped. Stalking closer to me, more of her body turned into a huge owl-angel hybrid and looked like she was about to peck my eyes out. No thank you, Ma’am. I like my eyes. They’re very good at staring at Chris Hemworth’s abs, thank you very much. Ang thank you, Chris Hemsworth for existing. “You know about us. You know too much.”
“Actually, I’m a lot dumber than I look. I definitely haven’t caught on to your secret about this town being full of owl shape-shifters or anything—oh wait.”
Her lips morphed into a sleek beak.
“See… See?” I pointed at myself. “Total dumbass.”
“I’m afraid there will be consequences for these actions, Howl and not-Beautrice.”
“But what if—now hear me out—” I said. “There weren’t?”
Behind her, the others transformed into half-owl, half-human forms as well. Part of me hoped they were some kind of owl flashmob, but let’s be real. Real flash mobs nowadays are so unrealistic—they only happen in movies like a girl falling for her hot stalker. Seriously Hollywood, *claps once in between each word* get your act together with all this romanticizing of unhealthy relationships.
Where was I? Oh right, the perilous, life-or-death situation with the owl-angels.
Jagged Scar lunged at me first. I screamed, ducked, and rolled under Howl’s sheriff table. The other two jumped at Howl—who had also transformed into an owl-angel. The one with too tight skinny jeans pecked at his face before Howl chucked a landline at him. At least he’s holding his own. In a way.
Shoving her beak through the wooden desk, Jagged Scar tried to bite my face off. Again, I screamed and kicked at her. She stole my shoe. “Those cost two hundred dollars!” Even though I got them on sale for forty bucks. But she doesn't know that.
Worthless without its brother, I ripped off my other shoe and played whack-a-mole each time Jagged Scar popped her feathery face through the hole. “Back.” Whack! “Off.” Whack! “You.” Whack! “Creep.” Whack!
Tired of being hit in the face, Jagged Scar gripped the sides of the desk, lifted it up and threw it across the room. Howl watched the desk sail, and shoved Skinny Jeans in front of it. The bird was out cold. Grinning at his last competitor, Howl bared his fists-talons. The odds were in his favor now.
But they weren’t for me.
Huffing and puffing and threatening to blow this sheriff office down, Jagged Scar extended the talons in her human hands, making them almost completely owl. As she leapt towards me, I covered my face and braced for impact, but Howl had a better idea. He grabbed the last owl-angel lackey by the wings and launched her at Jagged Scar, killing two birds out with one throw.
I cleared my mind’s throat. Ahem. Sorry not sorry for that pun.
Staring down at the mess of a sheriff office we made, Howl told me, “We need to go.”
Honestly, I wasn’t gonna argue with the guy.
“Where’s your car?” He asked. “We need to get out of town, immediately.”
The first twenty minutes of our getaway was complete silence, with the exception of occasional jazz music whenever my radio decided to work. I smacked it a few more times before giving up. Finally, Howl decided to talk. “I guess you would like a complete explanation.”
“Yeah, that’d be nice. Also an end location. Right now, I’m driving to Denny’s—which is where I go after every major life crisis. Pancakes can make even finding out your secret twin living two thousand miles away better.”
Howl raised a suspicious eyebrow.
“Mom spilled the beans after she got too drunk at my twenty-first birthday. Pancakes at midnight was the most normal part of that day.”
He waved his hand. “Whatever. Keep going to this ‘Denny’s’ as long as it puts distance between us and Burrows Borough. I’ll explain on the way, not-Beautrice.”
“My name is Bell for the record.”
Howl took a deep breath and began, “By now you know, Burrows Borough is a town of shape-shifting owls and we’re in trouble. There’s another group of shape-shifting bobcats that are trying to kill us.”
“Bobcats are natural predators of owls. They’re far stronger and basically want to eat us. Gruesome stuff.”
“Well, I mean, are you tasty?”
Howl looked at me in horror. “I don’t know, are you tasty? Why don’t we go find a cannibal and find out?”
“Alright. Alright. It was a joke. Just use your portals or whatever to get away."
“We can’t run forever, Bell. There's only so many places to go. Eventually, we have to face them. Anyway, we were noticing some of our kind disappearing, when our leader had a vision—a prophecy.”
“Magical owl prophecy. Got it.”
“She foretold of a savior that would… well… save us. In her vision, she saw you—er, someone who looked like you. We sent out scouts to find her, and I found you—but so did the bobcat shape-shifters. The guy who drugged you and the fake cops, they were both bobcat shape-shifters trying to get to you before we did.”
“What… what would have happened if they did?”
Howl shrugged. “Maybe eat you. But I can’t be sure because I don’t know if you’re tasty enough.”
“I get it! Just stop.” I gripped the wheel so tight my knuckles turned white. “God, they were sniffing out my scent back at the hotel. Do you think they can track me?”
Howl looked away and ignored the comment which meant ‘yes’, but he didn’t want to admit to my mortal danger. “Anyway, the council is pissed at me for exposing the owl shape-shifters to you, a normal human. They’re pretty paranoid about humans coming to town in general and either finding out our secrets or secretly being a bobcat shape-shifter out to kill them.”
“That’s why they were rubbing raw veal steaks in my face. They were trying to find out if I was a bobcat shape-shifter.” I paused. “There has to be a better way of doing that.”
“So, where does this leave us?”
“Hopefully with getting extra pancakes. You think they’ll sprinkle it with mouse guts for me?”
I gagged. “If they do, we’re sitting at different tables.”
“But I don’t have any money. Everything I have, everything I was… is back there in Burrows Borough.”
Light from the street lamps flickered in and out of the car. The road was alone and empty without any other cards. And while the street was straight, we were at a crossroads.
“What do we do?” I asked.
“The bobcat shape-shifters aren’t going to stop hunting you or us.” Howl grinned. “So we’ll just have to get to them first. I have a plan.”