Not long after I went into the tire business, I bought an inflatable werewolf and put it on top of my store. I didn’t get it to scare off intruders or vampires or anything, and I didn’t get it to sell tires. I got it because I thought my shop needed a mascot, something the locals could identify as uniquely my brand, like the Michelin Man or Twinkie the Kid. Don’t ask me what a werewolf has to do with tires; that’s not the point. It’s a landmark, something people can add to directions given to out-of-town guests, and that’s what I needed: something for people to remember.

“Drive straight,” they say, “through the blinking light and past the Shop and Save. When you see the werewolf, you’re almost out of town. And you’ll want to keep going; there’s no reason to stop here.”

I run a tire business in a little place called Inwood, Indiana. It’s one of those towns so small you’ll miss it if you sneeze while passing through. And, yes, there’s only the one light, and it blinks yellow, day and night; there’s not enough traffic here to warrant anything else.

I found Simon – that’s what we named the werewolf – at the flea market over at Culver. It’s there every Saturday and Sunday from sunup to sundown. The flea market, not the werewolf. He used to sit out front of the store, arm raised in a wave, drawing customers in. That lasted until some local punks tried to steal him. Now, Simon sits up on top of my tire shop, chained to the roof so he doesn’t fly away in the crosswinds that blow through Inwood.

There’s a billboard on the side of the road by the shop. At night, it’s lit up. If you’re leaving town, the billboard’s lights are bright enough that my werewolf looks like a silhouette against a full moon. It’s kind of scary, if you ask me, and I think many of my neighbors would agree.

But tires aren’t what brought a werewolf to my store; it was my Notary Commission that did that. And when I say ‘werewolf,’ I don’t mean like the inflatable kind up on the roof. I’m talking about the God’s honest, flesh and blood kind.

I suppose I didn’t need to get my Notary Public Commission, but I like to do what I can to help out those who can’t do for themselves. I could charge ten bucks for my John Hancock, or maybe twenty since I’ve got the market cornered. But that’s just not my way. So, up on top of the tire shop, Simon the werewolf stands watch over Inwood. He’s next to a stack of tires, and he’s holding a sign that says, “Notary Public: Free.”

So, one night, early Fall, I stayed late at the store. It was a little past closing time, and it was cold; I had just lit the pilot to the gas heater on the wall. I close things down at six, and it had been dark for a good hour. A newspaper sprawled across the counter, baseball scores that mattered circled in red.

Outside, light flickered. It looked like lightning but wasn’t. I stared out the big window up front, out where everything was dark except for the billboard. Clouds rolled and wind blew something fierce. Leaves raced across the empty parking lot, and I got so caught up in watching them I nearly jumped out of my skin when the light flicked again. It was the billboard, and its bulbs must have been on their last legs.

I watched, mesmerized by the flickering light, until it finally quit teasing and winked out for good. An absolute darkness swallowed me and my store in one giant gulp.

The moon played hide and seek amongst the clouds, and wind shook the trees a little harder. Nothing rough, but enough to make me shiver in spite of the heater now turned up to ten.

In the dark, out by the giant pole supporting the now dark billboard, two pinpricks of light blinked at me. And when I say blinked, I mean blinked. I knew with certainty these lights were eyes, and they were as red as the flames dancing in the heater.

I froze there a minute, watching the eyes watching me. I didn’t even know my hand had reached up and undid the cord until the blinds it was holding dropped in front of my face, covering the window and blocking me from whatever red-eyed demon watched.

I don’t scare easy, but that night I found layers of fear I didn’t know I had. I cut the lights out in the shop, turned off the heater, and left everything where it was, newspaper and all. I built up my courage, locked the front door behind me, and got to my truck as quick as I could. Once safely inside, doors locked and engine idling, I chanced a look in the billboard’s direction. I hadn’t noticed its lights come back on. Everything was bright as day again in the circle of light around my truck and the store. I was sweating. I rolled down the window and waited while my heart idled with the truck. When I at last pulled onto the road headed home, a howl ripped through the night that shook me to the roots of my soul. I slammed on the brakes and spotted Simon, up top, swaying a little in the wind. He hadn’t made that sound, but I knew what had.

It might sound strange that a grown man should think a werewolf stalked his tire shop, but that’s exactly what I believed. I don’t know if Simon planted the idea in my mind or what, but I knew, sure as anything, those red eyes and that howl belonged to a monster. When I opened up the shop the next morning, I found the rest of the proof I needed.

Claw marks cut deep into the wooden pole hoisting the billboard. The hand that gashed that wood was powerful, each streak about an inch deep and spaced three or so inches apart. It looked like marked territory to me.

She came through my door at two in the afternoon, that werewolf, tall and blonde with confidence to spare.

“Welcome to Inwood.” She couldn’t have been local. “What kind of tires can I put on your vehicle today, ma’am?”

None of my words sounded right. They slowed down the more I talked, and when I got to the end of the sentence, the word ‘ma’am’ came out in some sort of a choked whisper.

Sunglasses masked her eyes, I remember, because when she took them off, a chill raced up my spine and through every strand of every hair on my head. I knew those eyes from the night before. I don’t know how I knew it, but the red eyes from the billboard sign belonged to this out of town beauty.

“No tires, thank you,” she said, her voice smooth as sweet cream butter. “I’m happy to say I don’t need any of those. I do, however, need the services of a notary.”

She put her purse on the counter and said, “I noticed your werewolf up there.” She pointed through the ceiling at my flea market find. “That’s why I stopped.” She calculated my reaction, or I at least thought she did. Satisfied with the results, she asked, “Are you the notary?”

Like a schoolboy under the sudden weight of a monstrous crush, I said, “Well, yes, ma’am, I am, I mean, I don’t usually charge people because it’s more for the community, you understand, and I sell tires mainly as my business, if you know what I mean, and I …”

I was out of words and couldn’t finish.

She just looked at me, like her red eyes from the night before had looked at me, and I could only look right back at her. She smiled.

“I have some papers I need notarized, and I could use your help. It’s for a piece of property in Georgia.” She waved a folder at me. “In the Blue Ridge Mountains. I need to make sure these ownership documents are legal.”

She opened the folder full of papers, right there on top of the box scores from last night’s game, and selected the topmost sheet. I took a minute and looked it over.

“Everything looks good to me,” I said. “Will your husband’s name be on the deed?”

“Not any longer,” she said. “He’s dead. That’s kind of why I need you to notarize these papers, so everything is, as they say, bulletproof.”

There was nothing out of order with what she wanted, so I did as she asked. I stamped her papers –there were five in all – and I signed them, making all of her documents legal and beyond reproach. With our business completed, she put five twenty-dollar bills on the counter and pushed them toward me.

“I can’t take your money, ma’am. What I do is a service, not for profit. Unless you want tires; I have to charge you for that.” I smiled, weak and helpless.

“Please, call me Susannah,” she said, taking hold of my arm. I already knew her name from the documents. Susannah Giroux.

Susannah Giroux looked me dead in the eyes again, and this time, she said, “There is no need to tell anyone I was here. Nor of the work you’ve done for me. Can you be discreet?”

It was as if she thought I wouldn’t remember the conversation, like I was supposed to be hypnotized or something. I wasn’t, but I said anyway, “I won’t tell anyone.”

She smiled at me and I smiled right back at her.

“Thank you,” she said, and turned for the door. She stopped and came back to the counter.

“What possessed you to put a werewolf on your shop? Was there a reason?”

“No, not really,” I said. “I found him at a flea market the next town over and wanted a mascot, sort of a way to let people know where to find me.”

“Well, it worked, wouldn’t you say? It brought me here.”

She smiled and kind of laughed. She shook my hand, and I thought she might try to talk funny to me again, but instead, a kind of dark cloud passed over her face, hiding her smile. She said, “Be careful with your werewolf; other, well, interested parties, might stop by, as I did, to see exactly what he’s selling.” She shook her head, and the light came back to her eyes. “I may return, from time to time. Will you keep your Commission active and our dealings quiet?”

I just nodded.

“Have you given him a name?” she said, casting her eyes toward the roof.

“The werewolf?” I asked. “Well, no; I hadn’t thought to. You have any suggestions?”

She didn’t hesitate. “Let’s call him Simon.”

‘Let’s’ she said, as if she had some stake in my inflatable werewolf.

“Simon,” I said to myself, trying the name on for size. I couldn’t think of any reason to say no, so I said, “Sure. Simon it is.”

She let my hand go and went to the door, her confident stride telling me she didn’t intend to turn back. And she didn’t, either, even when I asked, “Why Simon?”

She stopped, her hand on the front door, her back to me.

After an awfully long moment she said, “Simon is a werewolf I once loved.”

And although our business dealings were finished for the day, it wasn’t the last time I saw Susannah Giroux.

Not even a week passed before an interested party did indeed show up at my place.

It was a Thursday, an off day for the Braves before a big road trip to San Francisco, and I was, for once, going home on time. The moon was full, but I don’t know if that mattered; the beast that kept me from my truck could have climbed out of the pits of Hell any day it wanted, I think.

I had turned the lock on the shop and sorted my keys to the one I needed. In the other hand, ever-present box scores held my attention. It was my parking lot, after all; I could have found my way across it in the pitch black of an eclipse if need be. But something didn’t feel right. Something in the air, maybe, or a smell, I don’t really recall, made my hair stand up on the back of my neck. I stopped dead in my tracks, still some fifty feet or so from the truck, and I listened.

Since meeting Susannah, my world had taken somewhat of a turn, you might say. I didn’t expect to see her again, if I’m honest, and I had already chided myself a time or two for believing, even for a second, that werewolves were real. But in the eternity of my slow walk to the truck that night, I believed all over again.

Heavy breathing in the trees behind the billboard got my attention first, and then the eyes. These eyes were different, though. This new set of eyes didn’t blink, and they were angry. A low, sustained growl started somewhere in those trees, and then a massive, clawed hand wrapped nearly around the billboard pole. The beast pulled itself into the light, and as it did, enormous claws gashed a new set of marks over the ones I was sure Susannah had made earlier.

Oh God, I thought. Who do I belong to now?

The beast threw back its head and let out a howl that made the howl I heard the week before sound like the song of a dear sweet friend. This creature was no friend.

It took a step or two toward me and stopped to growl some more. It reminded me of a dragon in a movie, the way its head lowered and its eyes squinted, clawed hands held out at its sides and teeth bared. I knew as sure as I knew the Braves were about to get swept out by the Bay, this night would be my last on Earth.

Yet, here I am telling the story; I suppose I miscalculated the seriousness of Susannah Giroux’s marks on that billboard pole.

I didn’t see her appear behind me, but she must have come from the deep darkness the other beast couldn’t see. It stopped where it was, mere feet in front me, and stood up to its full height, which must have been ten, twelve feet. But it looked confused, maybe even a little afraid.

Oh yes, it was afraid.

I must have sensed her, finally, because I looked around just as Susannah put a hand – a clawed hand – on my shoulder to tell me to get in my car.

“I’ve got this,” she said, eyes glowing red hot, her fangs no longer hiding behind that smile. “You go on home. We’ll deal another day.”

She didn’t look like the other one: no fur, no long snout or pointed ears. She was mostly the Susannah I knew. Mostly. But something about her was deadly, and I almost felt pity for the other werewolf in my parking lot, for I believed it was about to die.

I didn’t watch them tangle up for more than a few seconds. Susannah was on the beast before I could say yes, I’ll go home, and by the time I had put the truck on the highway, she had chased it into the woods behind the billboard. I looked the next morning and only saw traces of where they’d been. Downed saplings and shredded earth led away into the distance, and I didn’t dare search any further.

When I opened up to sell tires, I found Simon, deflated, and folded neatly in a box marked, in Susannah’s hand, ‘storage.’

I’ve sold tires in Inwood for many years since these encounters. For a while, Susannah Giroux appeared, like a ghost, and asked me to notarize paperwork: certified documents, various deeds to properties, powers of attorney. There were all kinds. Each time, she would take my hand, or my arm, and she would look me in the eyes and repeat her question: Can you be discreet? I always said I could. I don’t think she was trying to hypnotize me anymore, if she ever was. I think she knew I meant her no harm. I never forgot her, even after she stopped showing up, which she eventually did. I always wondered what happened to her. I even worried a little bit for her, though I knew, first hand, she could take care of herself. My store was her territory; in some ways, I guess I was, too.

I’ll retire from the business next year, and I’ll let my notary commission lapse. At seventy-nine, I think my mind is still sharp, though I’m not really the one to ask. But I hear things from time to time, and I wonder.

Here, a town is terrorized by sightings of a large beast, and pets go missing; there, something, good or evil, lurks in the shadows and leaves deep cut marks on buildings or trees. Do I know the secrets behind these happenings? I might, but I don’t have it in me to investigate.

Most recently, though, a bowling alley was ripped apart in Fouke, Louisiana, and a cabin burned down in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia a few days after that. I don’t know if these events are related, and I don’t know if the cabin that burned was the one whose documentation I notarized for Susannah all those years ago, but I bet if I looked hard enough, I’d find that it was. But I’m an old man who thinks a werewolf visited his tire store, so who knows what to believe?