"Oh, how awful" I replied, not knowing what else to say. "But, why did he attack your sister?"
"Grandad had turned senile years before. One full moon, he became the wolf and couldn't remember how to turn back, so grandma says. Mum told us he'd died, but that obviously wasn't true. He used to hang around in the woods, picking off the slow, fat kids, but every now and then, he'd wander into the back garden and sit by the hedge looking in the windows at her."
"Do you think he remembered your grandma?"
"I doubt it. She said she never saw recognition in his eyes. She just thought it may have been a half-remembered habit - Grandad used to sit in the garden smoking his pipe while grandma cooked or washed up or something."
"Oh" I said.
We stopped at the gate, slightly awkwardly. I opened it and went halfway through.
"But what about your sister?"
"Rebecca..." he paused. "She really loved grandad when she was little. She was heartbroken when mum told her he'd died. And then, finding out that he was a senile old werewolf, her grandma was a werefox and her brother was something in between... In fact, finding out that she herself was a werefox the very next month when puberty set in, was a bit too much for her. She moped about at home for a couple of years, then ran away just before she was sixteen. She got in contact with mum a year or so ago, but won't speak to, or even acknowledge me, hence that business on the NightShip earlier."
After another, slightly less awkward silence, I asked "Would you like to come in? You know, have a drink or something before you go home?"
"I... Yes. I'd like that" he said, with the faintest of smiles. We walked up the path beside the garage and as we reached the patio, he turned back. "The cherry tree" he exclaimed.
I turned, too. "Oh yes. I'd forgotten about that" I declared, glaring at the offending gnarled old thing. "I'm pretty sure it's dead. It's been bereft of leaves and flowers all year."
Marcus was looking up at the top of the tree. "Except on that twig, right at the very top" he said.
"There" and he pointed up to a small twig, adorned with a few small leaves, yet to turn brown and fall to the ground.
Bugger. That damn tree was still clinging to life! "Oh, yes" I said in feigned interest.
Marcus approached the tree, his outstretched hand just about brushed the rough grey-brown bark before he snatched it back, a look of surprise on his face. "Well, bugger me" he breathed.
Chance'd be a fine thing the Host's SubConscious muttered.
I ignored the SubC. "What is it?" I asked.
"Well, I can't cut it down" Marcus replied. "You see, there's a hamadryad living in it."