1 Episode1-1: The Willow Society

New York, Syracuse: Foxtrot Mansion

The Mendoza Gala, one of the biggest and most secretive parties that are happening this year. It's actually the gathering for the coalition of the Willow Society. The Willow members are apparently the most successful professors from well-known universities who were hand-picked to join in and discuss academic goals, but my company knows better.

If it really was just a bunch of geeks getting together to have some leisurely fun, why take so many steps to ensure the privacy of the party? The Foxtrot Mansion that they've reserved for the night was paid in unmarked bills, and the host's name was signed Ulysses S. Grant. The research we've done for the past week shows no member going by that rare and famous name, but the head honcho hosting this particular party is Raul Mendoza.

Raul Mendoza graduated high school in two years, breaking several academic records in not only his local school but across the country as well. He went on to study abroad, writing a rather average record of his college life. Too average if I could have a say in it. My guess is he made some very interesting contacts during that time and used a violated paper trail to have a good cover-up. Five years passed when he decided to come back to his hometown, where he became a professor at an advanced university. It wasn't until a year later that the name Willow Society started popping up on our radars.

So here I am now standing in the front garden filled with ornate lawn furniture and exotic flowers expertly decorating the mansion in a most graceful design. And if I can get a little conceited for a moment, the garden isn't the only thing that's beautiful. The black sleeveless dress with a thigh slit and white floral pattern I picked was a very good compliment to my natural orange fur. My short, orange hair made a good look for the Official Woman style too. Makeup was lightly applied to my face, and my black stilettos fused perfectly with the black stockings. Of course, I needed a hole for my tail, guys always fall for the foxtail.

Standing next to me is a muscular grey-furred dog named Clyde Barker, wearing a traditional black tux with a red bow tie. I insisted he'd wear an orange flower to match my fur, but we couldn't find one in time.

"Okay Troy," he begins, "repeat the plan back to me."

I sigh and roll my eyes. I've repeated it four times while driving up here already, he worries too much. "My name is Ally and I'm posing as your date. Your name is Desmond and you're a professor at Woodland University. We go in, I break away after a friendly introduction and explore every nook and cranny I can find."

He raises his eyebrows, dissatisfied until I complete the entire monologue.

I continue, "The mic I'm wearing records directly back to the hard drive in the car. If I see compelling evidence of anything out of the ordinary, the glasses I'm wearing come equipped with a concealed camera on the left lens. Our time limit is two hours, we meet up back at the front entrance, we give friendly good-byes, then we leave. Good enough for you?"

He huffs. "Perfect. Okay Mr. Confident, showtime."

I practice my girl's voice a few times to get it perfect, then we walk to the big double doors, arms interlocked with each other, to have a chat with a suited bouncer.

The man gives a quizzical look at Desmond, "I don't recognize you, sir? Are you new?"

Desmond clears his throat. "No, no. I just have that forgettable face. Besides, the Willow Society stopped taking in new members back in 2007."

The bouncer chuckles lightly. "Yes, that's right. You did bring the invitation with you, yes?"

"Got it right here!" Desmond pulls out the expertly forged invitation from his suit pocket and hands it to the bouncer. "This lovely girl here is my plus one."

"I see..." he says while studying the forgery. "I was never told of a plus one rule though."

"It was a quick modification at the last minute. They sent a memo to let the immediate members know."

The bouncer kept his eyes on the paper. "Go right on in. And remember, it's a party, no business allowed tonight."

We walk in smoothly, and I let out the breath I didn't even know I was holding. "Good thing he didn't ask for our names," I comment, glancing at the guest list that was sitting on a podium near the door.

The inside of the manor is magnificently decorated. The wall-mounted candles are all lit, illuminating the garnet walls and carpet in the most flattering way. The paintings and portraits give the whole setting an antique feel. The chandelier in the center of the ceiling is shining brightly from the reflected light of the flames. All the food and drinks are pushed out of the center, leaving plenty of tango room for the guest; speaking of which are wearing only the most expensive attire; white gloves included. Most of them seem to be humans. I hope that doesn't make us anthropomorphic beings stick out too easily.

Ballroom music is playing from a speaker high in the corner of the room, causing some of the guests to dance with a partner. Nobody really notices us entering the party, we might even be able to skip a couple of steps in the plan.

Scratch that, we've got greeters coming in hot!

"Hello!" two jolly people say in unison. Male and female with the man being a human and the female being a short grey wolf, possibly here as a couple. It's not rare for humans to date anthros, but I personally don't see it enough myself.

I give a pleasant smile. "Oh hello there! How is your evening going?" Judging by their reaction, my voice isn't odd to them.

The wolf responds quickly, "Oh just fine. I don't think we've ever met before. I'm Amanda from the Rezin University, and this is Dr. Kenway."

The man extends his hand at the sound of his name. "Yes, I'm just a plus one actually."

Desmond returns the handshake. "Ah, nice to meet both of you. I'm Desmond, hailing from Woodland University. This here is Ally, plus one, I assure you."

"Woodland? A lot of fine students come out of Woodland. You're doing a great job over there," Amanda says.

"Hey Ally, look, I think that's our host over there," says my partner. He's right, Raul Mendoza is finally in sight. If I can remember the description and pictures provided that is. A portly Hispanic man, short black hair, about 5'8", glasses. He matches, but anything can happen out in the field.

"Oh you're right sweetie, that's our dear host. Shall we?"

"We shall. Would you kindly excuse us? It was great to get better acquainted with you."

With an enthusiastic bow and curtsy from us, we disembark the small talk train and march along to our mission objective. These people seem to have a clear conscience, whatever they're hiding can't be that bad, or perhaps they're just comfortable with their sins. It's a little early to start jumping to conclusions, but I think my employers made a mistake on this one.

"Mr. Mendoza!" Desmond calls.

Raul breaks his gaze from the group he is talking to and gives a quizzical look at us. "Y-yes? You don't look familiar, dear boy, have we met?"

"Oh yes sir, but only once. I must've not made a big impression on you if you've already thrown my face out of your memory."

"Oh don't take it personally uh-"


"-Desmond. I meet many new faces quite frequently, so forgive me if a few slip my mind every now and again. Old age, I'm afraid."

"No offense taken, sir."

I look at the circle Mendoza was talking to before we interrupted. They've already carried on their conversation without his company; we're completely ignored right now. I turn back to my partner who's still explaining his fake encounter with a forgetful man. It's a boring process, but it is a necessary step if we are to remain incognito.

My eyes wander around the entire mansion looking for hallways and rooms to explore. If I were incriminating evidence, would I be on the highest floor, or hidden in the basement? Maybe somewhere in between? How can I slip away unnoticed to even check? My mind snaps back to the conversation at the mention of my name.

"...here's Ally. Easy on the eyes wouldn't you say?" says Desmond.

Raul gives me a quick glance going up and down. "Yes indeed. Charmed my lady." His Spanish accent was more apparent in that sentence. He gently grasps my hand into his own and gives the top of it a kiss. An elegant greeting no doubt. I give him the ol' hide my face behind one hand with playful eyes look. A smirk creeps upon his face, showing how good of a job I did. That ought to get me off his radar for the night, or maybe it puts me on it. I can't be too sure sometimes.

Nevertheless, I need to break away from these people and do my job! C'mon Clyde, come up with an excuse already.

"Um honey, I think we should try out the hors d'oeuvres. The caterers must have worked so hard on them," I suggest. Once we're in the feasting crowds of people I can practically become invisible and slip into the nearest hallway.

Desmond takes time to realize what I am doing, but he notices it eventually. "Ah yes! Excellent suggestion my dear. A splendid talk my good sir, farewell for now." A firm handshake is exchanged between the two before we nonchalantly made our way towards the food.

Carefully decorated tables line up against the walls all stocked to the max with well-prepared meals. Four plates of beautifully crafted salad on the left. Many steaks and various meats take up most of the right side. Wine glasses are already filled just waiting for someone to grab them, and they're organized by the type of brand they had in them. In the center was a very large glass bowl with a type of stew in it. It's cloudy, so I can't distinguish the ingredients, but the guests are grabbing bowls filled to the brim of the stuff.

Desmond leaned in close to my ear. "Just grab something and fit in for a bit."

I decide to go with the stew. Seeing it being devoured the way it is made me curious about the taste. I grab an empty bowl and fill it halfway, then pick a spoon from the container. I stir it a bit before finally trying a taste. Assorted vegetables and meats are present, and the taste is so delectable and unique. It's the meats that give it such a tasty flavor. I can't name the flavor because of my limited knowledge of food, but it definitely doesn't taste familiar. I wish it did though so that I can include it in future meals.

I finish up my bowl and place it back on the table. I turn to find Desmond at the steaks putting away more T-bones than necessary. I skip towards him to give some fake dialogue in hopes that it could keep eyes off me.

"Sweetie? I'm going to make my way to the little vixen's room."

He whips his head at me, effectively snapped out of his food trance. "Sure honey. I'll be right here when you get back."

Some of the crowd lifts their heads off their plates for a brief moment only to process the information and go back to eating. That's right, just a person going to the bathroom, nothing special here! I easily slip away unnoticed down an empty hallway and begin testing doors on each side of the walls. There are three doors for each wall, making six rooms to check.

The first, a simple dining room with a table and four chairs in the center. There are candles set on top, but they haven't been lit yet. Must be for later on tonight. The room is pretty barren, so it doesn't take long to fully inspect. Really, all I did was check under the table. Nothing here and everything seems pretty average to me. Next room!

I creak open the door and peek out just a little. Nobody's looking over here except Desmond. I slip right out and quietly shut the door behind me, and make my way across the hall.

The second door is the bathroom. Oh, the irony. Since I'm here I might as well do some quick adjustments. The door shuts and I begin the very brief inspection of the small space. I thought mansions had huge bathrooms, but this is no bigger than mine(but it definitely looks better than mine). No wires of any kind, and no cameras in place.

I lean into the mirror that is hanging above the sink. Hair still dashingly fixed. Makeup's not smeared. The dress is still in place. All is good except for the panties, which are increasingly uncomfortable on my delicate pieces. I fix them in the best way I could manage, but I'm not much better off.

I need to remember that this mansion is only rented for one night, so I should narrow some thinking down. I don't expect to find files or any paperwork here, but maybe a special room for a special event. Not exactly a one-time thing, but more of a ritual or something along those lines.

I do my usual peek around the slightly opened door before I move on to the third door. However, this door is locked. Now there could be plenty of explanations as to why a door would be locked while guests rent the house out, but to save time I'd rather assume it's got something bad behind it. My exceptionally pampered claws make a great lock picking tool, making my work very swift. Once I hear the satisfying click of a breached lock, I waste no time entering the room and shutting the door behind me.

The first thing I notice is the smell. So sweet, so well seasoned, so mouth-watering. It's the food! I must have broken into the kitchen, but why would they keep the kitchen locked? I guess that secret stew is a little more valuable than I initially thought. The place is spacious, but there's nobody here.

Countertops stretched from one end of the room to the other, only leaving a small opening on each side for the crew to walk through. They were loaded with cutting boards and knives of all sizes, some still stuck in piles of meat. Against a wall was all the ovens and fryers, and it looks like they're still running.

I venture towards the middle of the room looking all around. Getting closer to the ovens, I'm sure that they are indeed still on. I wonder what's in there that smells so good. Brisket? Roasted beef? My curiosity is peaked, I need to know the ingredient!

I take another quick glance around the place just to make sure, and then I grip the handle with anticipation. Slowly pulling the hatch down, I felt the heat of the oven on my fingers first, and then my face. The light in the oven shined brilliantly over the highly delicious food, and I nearly vomited at the sight of it.

A belly button and some nipples steamed inside the oven. "It's humans," I whisper, looking at the torso. "They're eating each other!"

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