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The Unknown

02/07/09

  

The Unknown

By Jerale Clebourne

Part One:

In The Midnight Hour

            Vance lay in a crumpled heap on the ground, cradling his broken legs.  In hindsight, jumping off the roof might not have been the smartest move he ever made.  Even worse than the time he made a sexual advance at his fifth grade teacher.  Being a breast obsessed teenage boy filled with hormones will make you do stupid, reckless, and impulsive things.  As he glanced up at the four story roof he couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. 

            Vance leaned forward and gripped the cobblestone street with his fingertips and tried to pull himself down the street.  The pain of his shattered legs dragging across the rough ground was too much for him to bear, forcing those unconfirmed tears to the surface.  All he could do was sit there and wait for…  those eyes to come down and kill him. 

            The tears streamed down Vance’s face.  He was a believer in God, but not an active churchgoer.  Vance had always planned to confess his sins and repent on his deathbed.  But now, face to face with his own more than certain death, he found himself at a loss for words. 

            “Our f-father…”  Vance stumbled and choked on his tear covered words.  “His kingdom.  No…  My Lord– fuck!  Goddammit!”  The tears came faster now.  He became aware of their salty taste in his mouth.  The world around him became a blur of tear duct watercolor.  The nearby streetlights starburst in his waterfall eyes.  Nothing was recognizable.  Almost nothing.  The image of the darkness with the eyes was all too clear. 

            Vance watched as the enormous shadow lumbered with eerie grace to the edge of the rooftop.  Its eyes stayed fixed on its captive prey.  Vance found it impossible to make out its true shape and size.  Even as it crawled down the side of the building, its eyes seemed to remain in their exact position.  Never moving, never blinking. 

            The shadow beast snarled and moved forward.  Its eyes lowered as it approached Vance, mere inches from the ground.  The beast made a clicking noise as slid closer to him. 

            Vance tried to scream as the shadow beast raised an ebon appendage in a striking motion.  His mouth didn’t move, not even a twitch.  His eyes did all the screaming for him.  Eyes that were suddenly awash with blood. 

            Blood continued to stream across his face.  The shadow swipes were constant and furious.  Each one followed by a snarling growl that echoed like a hideous laugh, and a splash of blood that seemed to paint the entire street.  Dismembered body parts were flung into the air, leaving a bloody imprint as they hit and bounced along the ground in various directions. 

            And then it was over.  The shadow beast retreated back into the darkness, returning to the unknown.  The clicking sound against the cobblestone marked its departure. 

Part Two:

Early In The Mourning

            “Ok,” Detective Trent Carlton inquired.  “What’s the situation?”  He directed the question to Rico Vasquez, a patrol officer standing on the other side of the police tape.  Vasquez raised the tape long enough for Carlton and his partner Osland Murdock to cross. 

            “Looks like some poor guy got murdered.”

            “Oh, gee.  Ya think?” Retorted Murdock.  “Cause homicide cops always get called out in the middle of the night for a purse snatching.” 

            “Technically speaking, it’s first thing in the morning.”  Rodriguez quipped back while walking them over to the primary site of the crime scene.  Murdock opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off by his partner. 

            “He’s right you know.  It is after midnight.” 

Murdock grimaced.  “You, shut up.  You, tell us what’s going on here.” 

            Rodriguez smiled and pulled out his notepad.  “Not exactly sure what happened.  A paper delivery lady came across the body, if you wanna call it that, by accident.  She accidentally dropped the paper out the window when she went to throw it.  When she went to pick it up, she grabbed this poor guys arm instead.”

            “You talk to her?” asked Calton. 

            “Yeah.  She was pretty shaken up.  I got the basic information from her and let her go.” 

            “Thanks.  We’ll talk to her again later.  Any witnesses?” 

            “None that we’ve come across.  Everyone that we’ve talked to seems to have slept through the attack.”

            “So, what are we looking at here?”  Murdock stared down at the large puddle of blood slowly congealing at his feet, and the white plastic covering part of it. 

“Worms calls this the primary kill site.  This guy was ripped to shreds.  That right there…”  Rodriguez pointed to the plastic.  “Well, Worms says it looks like a liver, but with the bite marks and all he’s not sure.” 

“Bite marks?” both Carlton and Murdock said together. 

“That’s what he said.  Anything else you’d have to ask him.  He’s over there examining the McNuggets.”  The two detectives gave him quizzical looks.  “McNuggets.  You know, pieces and parts.”

Carlton shook his head.  “You see?” He said to Murdock.  “You see the affect you have on people?  Okay.”  Carlton began speaking aloud.  “A man torn to bits.  Bite marks in body parts.  And, no witnesses.  Well, lets go see what Worms has to say.” 

“Thanks, Rico.”

“Sure thing, Oz.  You guys take it easy.” 

            Kim Wormwood was crouched down on the sidewalk half a block away.  The magnifying headset he wore made his bug eyes look even bigger then they already were.  He saw Detectives Carlton and Murdock approaching out the corner of his eye, but continued to work.  He tried hard to ignore them. 

            “What’cha got, Worms.”  Carlton asked.  Kim continued to work, bagging up evidence, never looking up. 

            “If Wormwood is that hard for you, then simply call me Kim.  I haven’t gotten a lick of respect since the two of you made detective.  I’m a forensic investigator, dammit.  My work is just as important as yours.  We’re supposed to work together.  Be a team.”

            Carlton looked down at Kim with an odd bemused expression.  Murdock bit his lip to stifle a laugh.  Kim continued. 

            “Now everybody in the damn precinct calls me “Worms.”  Respect.  All I’m asking for is a little respect.”  Murdock opened his mouth to start joking Wormwood from his last comment, but a shake of the head from Carlton stopped him.  Murdock put his hand over his mouth and went back to biting his lip. 

            “We’re sorry, Worm-uh, Kim.  You being in forensics and all, it was too easy to pass up.”

            “Apology accepted.  Now, I suppose you want to know what I’ve found out, and why I’m here.”

            “It’d be nice.

            “At the risk of reiterating what officer Vasquez has already told you–  The victim was torn apart by what looks like some kind of animal.  That’s just my preliminary findings based on the bite and claw marks found in the victims organs and body parts, and these trace hairs that I’ve found.  I can’t be certain that they’re animal hairs just yet, That’s just an assumption considering that there is a shelter a few blocks away.  Any other questions, detective?” 

            “Yeah.” Chimed in Murdock.  “What the hell are you doin’ here?  We show up and it seems as if all our works already been done.” 

            “Look around, Osland.  This is a very commercial area.  In about forty-five minutes this street is going to be heavy with early morning traffic.  This includes children getting ready for school.  And more than likely standing at that bus stop…”  Kim pointed off to his left.  “Right over there.  Harris has already been here.  He took pictures and videotape of the entire crime scene, and even a few other areas that I directed him to.  As soon as I’m done here, orders are to bag up his body and clean up the street.”  Kim put another body part into a Ziploc bag and sealed it shut.  “As it is, we’ll be lucky if someone doesn’t stumble across this guy’s spleen.”

            “Anything else?”  Carlton asked.  “Wallet?  ID?  Anything?”

            “I’m afraid not.”

            “Well, doesn’t that just suck.  I don’t wanna hear shit from the captain about how we aren’t able to solve this when he’s not giving us anything to go on!  ‘Carlton!  Murdock!  Why haven’t you found the McNuggets killer?'”  Carlton couldn’t help but choke out a laugh at his partner’s expense. 

            “The what?” asked Wormwood, giving the two detectives his full attention for the first time that morning.  “How clever.  Your respect for the dead is touching.”

            “Worms crawls in and Worms crawls out.”  Sang Murdock aloud.

            Carlton jumped in before the two men got into a full fledge bitch-fest. 

            “Thanks, Kim.  We’ll get some hair samples from the shelter and drop ’em off to you.  Let us know if you come across anything else.”  Carlton grabbed Murdock by the arm and led him away. 

            “Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us.” 

Part Three:

The Day After The Night Before

            The cold porcelain tub was soothing and relaxing.  Sean stirred, creating small ripples in the tub of cold water and melting ice.  The old bathtub sat on four brass legs close to the far wall opposite the bathroom door.  The room was empty with the exception of a sink and mirror, and a towel rack at the foot of the tub.  A light knock on the door echoed in the near empty room. 

            “Sean? Sean, you awake yet?”  Bobby rattled the door knob, but knew that if Sean was in the bathroom then there was no getting past the myriad of locks on the private bathroom door.

            Sean’s hands lifted from the cold water and gripped the sides of the freezing bathtub.  He pulled himself up to a sitting position, and wiped the water from his face.  He ran his fingers through his long hair, squeezing some of the water out of it and moving it out of his face.  He took a deep breath, sucking in the cool air and smiling as it burned his lungs.  Small pieces of melted ice slid down his chest and launched like mini ships into a sea of icebergs. 

            The knock came again, just as soft as before.  “Sean, you okay?” 

            “Yeah, Bobby.  I’m fine.  I’ll be out in a minute.” 

            Great.  You hungry?  I’m making BLT’s in case you’re hungry.  I’ll be in the kitchen.” 

            “Yeah.  Okay.” Sean answered back.  He took a deep breath, and slid completely under the icy water. 

            Sean padded down the hall in his bare feet, being careful where he stepped.  The party last night had been loud and wild and crazy.  In other words, a good time was had by all.  The evidence of which was strewn all over the floor.  Sean had to step over everything from empty and half empty beer bottles, pizza boxes, and party guests who were either unable or unwilling to leave. 

            The kitchen wasn’t as bad off as other rooms of the house, but it was no utopia of cleanliness.  Bobby had done what he could so he could cook, but the place had seen better days.  Neither Bobby nor Sean was much of a house keeper.  Which was unfortunate for those who stayed over.  Party house rules: clean-up duties fall upon those who overstayed their welcome.  This included the poor individual who chose to pass out underneath the kitchen table. 

            “Want one?”  Bobby offered the plate of sandwiches to Sean.  He waved them away.  The two moved over to the table and took a seat.

            “No thanks.  I’m not quite in the mood for food just yet.” 

            “I take it your patented hangover cure didn’t work?” 

            “Sometimes when you go a little overboard, it takes you awhile to come down.  I don’t have an appetite, but I don’t have a hangover either, so you tell me.  So, how did you make out last night?” 

            “Let’s just say I wish I had a hangover, then maybe I can forget what happened.”

            “I gotta hear this.”  Sean stretched his legs out under the table and rested them on the drunk. 

            “Okay.”  Bobby took a large bite of his BLT and continued to talk while chewing.  “I finally got Cindy to go back into the bedroom with me, right.  We both start taking off our clothes.  She’s down to her bra and panties, well, panties at least.  I mean, you saw that tank top she was wearing.”

            “Oh yeah.” 

            “So, anyway–  I’ve only got my shirt off by this time.  Well, I go to take off my pants…”  Bobby stopped talking and looked around to see in anyone else was conscious and possibly listening.  “Now, this is between you and me, right?”

            “Come on, man.  How many secrets do we know about each other?”

            “Good point.  Okay.  I guess I drank more than I thought, ’cause when I go to take off my pants, I lose my balance.  I stumbled back and fell flat on my ass.  The next thing I know, I’m waking up this morning on the floor with my boxers still on, and my pants around my ankles.”  Bobby stared at his friend long and hard, waiting for some sign of understanding.  Instead he got a burst of laughter that shook the small table. 

            “Thanks, Sean.” Bobby said with a smile.  “You’re a true friend.” 

              Bobby was on the phone when Sean emerged from his bedroom.  He had changed into a jogging suit was looking around the living room for his mp3 player.  None of the party guest had aroused from their alcohol induced slumber, making his hunt more difficult than usual. 

            Bobby moved the mouth of the phone up and away from his own mouth.  “What are you looking for?” 

            “My mp3.  I thought I had left it out here.”  Sean continued to search around the TV and stereo. 

            “Check over on the computer desk.  Hey, Erika’s on the phone.  She’s looking for Vance.  Have you seen him?”

            “Not since last night.  We both left at the same time.  He was on a beer run, and I was goin’ for food.  Ah!”  Sean retrieved the mp3 player from underneath a stack of papers. 

            “Where’re you headed?” 

            “The usual.  Down Main Street, and around the park.  Why?  You want me to check on her while I’m out?” 

            “I know you want to.”  The two friends laughed. 

            Sean slipped on his shades and put his headphones on.  “I don’t know.  I’ve got a lot to do today.  But, I might be able to find time to stop by.”

Part Four:

NYPD Blues Clues

            “I’m sorry that I don’t have more to tell you.”  Nancy Holmes sat on the couch fidgeting uncontrollably.  Her fingers danced nervously in her lap.  Her discomfort was obvious and expected.  Carlton and Murdock tried to do their questioning as quickly as possible, but had to be sure that they didn’t over look anything.  Clues to the crime were already in short supply, and the last thing they needed was to botch a routine questioning.

            “It’s understandable, ma’am.”  Carlton looked over the notes he had jotted in his pad.  “I just want to make sure that we have everything, Mrs. Holmes.  Now, you say that you didn’t notice anything unusual prior to picking up the victim’s arm.  And, because of the cobblestone street you didn’t notice the puddles of blood.  Is that correct?” 

            “It’s just, that early in the morning it’s really hard to make out anything.  I just didn’t…”

            “It’s okay.  Nobody’s blaming you.  If you can, take some comfort in the fact that you were there when you were.  Something that you tell us today could be just the thing we need to catch this guy’s killer.  Without you coming along when you did, there’s a good chance we could have lost some vital clues.  I know it’s not much.” 

            “It does help some.”  Nancy smiled, but didn’t stop shaking. 

            “Is there anything else you can remember that you think might help?”  Murdock asked.  “A noise or smell?” 

            “No.  I’m sorry.”  Nancy grabbed her drink off the coffee table with both hands and tried to hold it steady long enough to take a sip. 

            “It’s okay, Mrs. Holmes.”  Carlton nudged Murdock with his elbow, and the two men stood, preparing to leave.  “You have our cards.  If you remember anything just give us a call.” 

            “Thank you.” 

            “Well, where to now?”  Murdock checked his mirrors and then pulled out into the street.  “I’m thinking Chinese, or maybe Italian.”

            “I’m afraid not.”

            “We could mix ’em and go to the Szechwan Don.” 

            “I meant no as in, “we have other things to do first.”  Carlton stopped for a second and looked at his partner.  “How the hell can you eat at that place?” 

            “What?  It’s good food.” 

            “The food’s okay, but–  I mean, egg rolls and manicotti in the same meal?  C’mon, that’s disgusting.” 

            “It’s easier if you look at it as being all the same shape.”  Murdock stopped at the light and looked over at Carlton who stared blankly at him.  “What?  Just tell me where we are going then.”

            Carlton shook his head.  When that didn’t work, he paused and shook it again. 

            “The animal shelter near the murder.  3512 Beaumont Dr.” 

            “You getting’ any ideas yet?” 

            “Nope.  Not a one.  What about you?  You think this was done by some kinda wild animal?” 

            “I certainly hope so.” 

            “How are you today?  I’m Det. Carlton.  This is my partner Det. Murdock.”  Carlton put his badge away.  “We’ve had some reports in the area of a large stray animal running around the neighborhood.  There was some concern among residents that the animal may have escaped from your shelter.” 

            “I haven’t heard anything of the sort.”  The woman stepped from behind the counter.  She was in her mid-forties with frizzy shoulder length brown hair.  She was overweight with a chubby face that couldn’t be described as cherubic because she never smiled.  Her homemade dress screamed vegan, as did her hypocritical leather shoes. 

            “And you are?” 

            “I’m Delores Hill, director of the shelter.  And, I can assure you that none of our animals have left their pens.” 

            “Well, ma’am, we have to investigate every call.  Mind if we have a look around?” 

            “I suppose not.”  Delores led the two men to the rear door.  “I assume you want to look at our outside facilities?” 

            “If it’s not too much trouble.”  Carlton forced a smile. 

            Delores gave an aggravated sigh and walked them outside.  “As you can see, all of our animals are caged and accounted for.  We even have netting that goes over the pens incase some of our feathered brethren decide to take flight.” 

            “If I may?”  Murdock interjected.  “Is there any particular reason for this hostile attitude?  Did we arrest you at a PETA rally, or something?” 

            Delores Hill rolled her eyes.  “The people in this neighborhood are always complaining about the shelter.  First it was the noise, then the smell, and now this.  They all claim to be humanitarians, but they don’t care at all about nature or the environment.” 

            Carlton and Murdock examined the shelter’s structure, looking for breaks and recent construction.  Nothing. 

            “You don’t have any exotic animals here?” 

           “No.  All of our animals are of average species.  No ferrets or anything.  We don’t even have any specialized breeds, like Huskies or Shih Tzu’s.” 

            Carlton looked over at Murdock who had the same “dead end” look in his eyes. 

            “Thank you very much for your time.” 

Part Five:

Back When I Knew You Before I Knew You

            Carlton and Murdock lethargically made their way back to the station.  The lack of clues and constant dead ends had drained the energy out of both of them.  The desk sergeant called to them as they walked by. 

            “Hey!  Trent.  Oz.  You guys got messages.  I left ’em on your desks.” 

            “Thanks, Chuck.” 

            “Yeah, thanks.” 

            Murdock walked over to his desk and looked at what had been left for him.  Sitting in the middle of his desk blotter was a box of McNuggets and a picture of Ronald McDonald and another of the Hamburglar.  There was a note attached that read:  Suspects.

            “Ho!”  Murdock lifted the blotter off his desk and dumped everything on it into the trash.  “You guys are so funny!  I’m glad to see that you all had plenty of time to sit around and play games while the rest of us were out working!” 

            “Calm down, Oz.”  Carlton scooped up the file on his desk and flopped down in his chair.  He opened the folder and quickly skimmed through the pages.  “Looks like we’ve got some prelim from Wormwood. 

            Murdock took a seat and began fishing through the trash can.  He retrieved the box of McNuggets and opened it.  Trent looked at him like he was crazy. 

            “What?  They’re not that cold.  Besides, I never got anything to eat.  Just read the damn report.” 

            Carlton was sure he was going to end up with some kind of chronic neck pain from always shaking his head at his partner’s action.  He went back to reading the highlighted sections of the report.  Suddenly, his eyebrows arched and his eyes got big. 

            “You know how you hate ending the day without really doing anything?”

            “Yeah.” 

            “Hurry up and finish your food, we’re going back out.  Autopsy shows that our dead guy had two broken legs prior to being attacked.  And I quote:  “Subject has compound fractures of the left and right tibia and fibula, consistent with a fall from a height at least two stories or more.” 

            Murdock crammed the two remaining chicken pieces into his mouth.  “Ress grow.”

            Sean walked in with a smile.  He sat his tired bones on the couch next to Bobby and put his feet up.  Bobby just smiled back at him. 

            “You know, Bobby, sometimes the world just has a way of smiling on you.” 

            “I take it you stopped by and saw Erika.” 

            “Yeah.  I decided to forgo my run and stop in on her.  You know, a friend in need and all that.  She needed someone to comfort her, and I was there.  She said things are finally over between her and Vance.”

            “Very funny.  She thinks he hooked up with someone else during the party and that’s why he didn’t come home.”   Bobby’s faux smile dropped.  He stared straight ahead, afraid to look at his friend.  “Please tell me you didn’t kill Vance so you could score with Erika.” 

            “Hey.”  Sean put his feet on the floor.  He turned towards his friend, looking at his profile.  He waited till Bobby’s eyes met his.   “Hey.  Are you serious?  You think I’d do that?  C’mon!  Vance was a cock.  A jerk.  The guy was a high school bully that never grew up.  Instead of seeing high school as the little independent world that it is, he still thinks he’s hot shit.  I mean, the guy openly bragged about being an ass.  He told everybody that he gave Erika roofies on their first date.” 

            “What?”  Bobby changed his entire position on the couch so he could look directly at Sean. 

            “Yeah.  They were at a party.  He waited till she had a coupl’a beers, then roofed her.  He took her back to his place, dropped her off, then went back to the party and hooked up with some other chick.  When Erika woke up the next day, she was fully clothed and in his bed.  She saw him asleep on the couch and thought he was a perfect gentleman.  He called it his “master plan.”

Sean leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees.  He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. 

“Nobody liked him.  Besides, I had to kill someone.  I certainly didn’t want it to be you.”  Sean sat up and patted Bobby on his thigh.  “I’m gonna shower.  By the way, the place looks great.” 

            Bobby forced a smile.  He wondered about what Sean had said.  He couldn’t tell if it was a threat of if he was being sincere.  His conscious ate at him.  He thought back to that night.  The night he found out the truth about Sean.  The man who saved his life. 

            “You ready?”  It was obvious by Sean’s glassy eyes that he was too drunk to  drink anymore. 

            “Okay.  One.  Two.  Three.  Go!”  Sean and Bobby lifted their glasses and began chugging.  Beer poured down their chins and onto their already oversaturated shirts. Sean finished first and slammed his mug down on the table. 

            “Woo!”  Sean had that drunk uncontrollable smile/sneer on his face.  Bobby was two swallows behind.  He choked on his last mouthful and spit it out all over the table. 

            “Dude!  You’re cleaning that up.  And you’re buyin’ the next round.” 

            “I don’t–  uurrp!”  Bobby wiped his mouth, burped again, and spit up more beer.  Sean couldn’t stop laughing. 

            “As I was trying to gonna say.  I don’t think we should ought to drink anymore.” 

            “Are you nuts?  Can you still see me?” 

            “Yeah.”

            “Can you still talk?” 

            “I don’t know, I haven’t tried to standing up.” 

            “Do you still know your way home?” 

            “Yeah, maybe.”

            “Then you need more to drink.”  Sean stood.  His legs were shaky and slightly numb.  “I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll go get another pitcher, and we’ll talk about this over a couple of drinks.”  Sean staggered over to the bar.  Anyone with a watchful eye would have noticed how deliberate his steps and sways were. 

            There were three guys ahead of Sean.  Each was bigger and more muscular than the slim athletic Sean.  Their similar attire made it obvious that they were together.  Each wore motorcycle leather, and had the same cocky look in his eye.  None of this meant anything to Sean.  He pushed ahead of the men and stepped up to the bar. 

            “Hey!  I need another pitcher!” 

            The man closest to the bar grabbed Sean by the shoulder and spun him around. 

            “Wait your turn, jackass.” 

            Sean looked at the guy and his friends and sneered. 

            “Shouldn’t you three be up on stage doing Village People covers.”  The bartender placed a pitcher of beer in front of them.

            “Maybe we should take you up on stage and beat your ass.” 

            “‘Beat my ass?’  God, you guys are gay.” 

            “The man grabbed Sean by the collar and drew him close, while at the same time drawing back his fist. 

            “Whoa.  Whoa.  Whoa.  Whoa.  Hey guys.  Can’t you take a joke?  Hold on.” cried Sean.  The man dropped his fist, but kept Sean in his grip. 

            Bobby noticed the altercation from his table and stumbled over to help. 

            Sean turned his attention away from the bruiser holding him and to the bartender. 

            “Can I get another pitcher?”  He turned back to the man holding him.  “I’ll make you a deal.  Whoever can empty their pitcher first has to pay the other person’s tab for the whole night.”  Sean reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.  He reached inside, pulled out two hundred dollar bills, and set them on the bar in between the two pitchers of beer.  “Well?” 

            The man let Sean go and stepped back.  He looked over at his two friends who both smiled and made crude references about how badly Sean was going to lose.  “You’re on.” 

            Sean looked over at Bobby with a sneaky smile.  Bobby tried to shake his head no, but every nod felt like his head was swimming in trails of nausea.  Both Sean and the man grabbed their pitchers. 

            “Now. I’ve put up my money.  If I empty mine first, can I trust that you’ll pay up?” 

            “Don’t worry about me.” 

            “Alright then.”  Sean brought the pitcher to his lips.  “One.  Two.  Three.  Go!” 

The man tossed his head back, and began pouring beer down his throat. 

            Sean took his pitcher and tossed it in the man’s face.  The man stumbled back, dropping his beer to the floor.  Sean turned his pitcher upside down and placed it on the bar.  While the man and his two friends were dumfounded, Sean pushed by the bikers, grabbed Bobby by the arm, and ran out the bar.  The two men busted out the front door and ran as fast as they could back to the college campus.   They slowed down after two blocks and took the shortcut through the park. 

            Sean was the first to speak after they caught their breaths.  “Holy shit that was funny.” 

            “I can’t believe those guys didn’t know that was coming.”  Bobby was bent over holding his stomach.  He couldn’t stop the deep breaths or the quick pounding pace of his heart.  “Oh, man.  I think I’m gonna be sick.”  Bobby moved quickly over to the bushes.  He put his hands on the soft bushes for support and fell forward.  He laid stretch diagonally across the bushes, releasing the beer and early evening appetizers onto the ground. 

            The rush of blood in his ears and the vomit in his nose masked the motorcycles approach.  Bobby stood and wiped his mouth with the back of his arm, forgetting that he had worn a short sleeve shirt.  He was greeted with a baseball bat to the stomach. 

            The bikers from the bar had followed them to the park.  Two of them had grabbed Sean and was holding him still, while the one drenched with beer stepped up to Bobby.  He waited till Bobby righted himself before swinging the bat.  The wooden slugger slammed into the poor drunk’s stomach, breaking almost all his ribs.  Bobby fell to the ground hard, smacking his head on the concrete path.  His ribs were horribly broken, and felt as if they were sticking out his back.  The beer, coupled with the smack to the head, made his vision blurry.  The broken ribs made it hard to breathe, and the pressure of his broken ribs made his stomach reflex and dry heave. 

            The beer drenched asshole with the baseball bat walked over to Sean.  The man’s accomplices held Sean fast, each clutching an arm. 

            “There’s two kinds of pain in this world, punk.  One’s humility.  The other…  Well, I’ll show you.”  The man took several swings at the air before moving within striking distance of Sean.  He watched as Sean bent forward, his body curling up.  He assumed that Sean was trying to protect himself, until he forced both arms free from the other men.  The three men could do nothing but watch as Sean’s body began to change right in front of them. 

            Bobby had rolled over on his back, making it easier to draw what little breath he could muster.  He could barely believe his glassed over eyes.  The bikers had backed away from Sean, whose body was in the middle of some form of transformation.  All he could do was lay there and watch. 

            Sean had lifted up on his tip toes, and his back arched up and forward.  The ability to balance in such a position was impossible for even the most accomplished acrobat or contortionist.  His calves lengthened, as did his feet, ripping through his old worn shoes; forcing him down on all fours.  Sean’s jeans stretched and ripped at the seam.  His t-shirt was a shredded mess that hung from the elastic collar like a fallen halo around his neck.  Hair began to sprout from every possible pore, covering his body in darkness.  Any other part of the transmogrification was hidden from view by thick fur and early morning darkness. 

            Bobby wasn’t shocked to find the three men still standing there.  Then entire scene was fascinating to say the least.  The three men were bound almost as strongly as he was.  All four of them were too scared, shocked, and amazed by the scene before them.  And, suddenly it was all over, and the growling began.  It was low, and guttural, rising in sound, but not in pitch.  It was terrifyingly human and inhuman at the same time.   The kind of sound that puts an uneasiness in the pit of your stomach, and makes your bladder go on holiday. 

            It was the growl that shook them men from their self imposed hypnosis.  They tried to run, and disappeared from Bobby’s sight.  He could only listen to their screams and the sound of the new Sean attacking them.  The sound of ripping flesh and gnashing teeth.  It was like a seashell being drug across rough concrete, followed a mix sound of ripping duct tape, bursting water balloons, and the silence before the impact of a car crash. 

            Bobby didn’t know how long he laid there listening to it.  It all seemed to follow him into the swirling dark that was his unconsciousness. 

            When he awoke, Bobby was in a hospital bed.  His ribs had been taped and bandaged, as had the lump on his head.  Sean was there waiting for him to return to the land of the waking. 

            Sean spoke before he could say anything. 

            “I’m sorry.  I never meant for you to get hurt.  I pissed those guys off on purpose.  I had to.  I had to have a reason to kill them.  And I had to kill them, so I wouldn’t kill you.  Look, it’s all very complicated, and I don’t want to talk about it here.  As far as the hospital knows, we were doing skateboard tricks while drunk.”  Sean waited to see what Bobby’s reaction would be.  He continued to look at him from the bed.  Unmoving, Unblinking. 

            “I’ll explain it all to you.  I want to.  Just believe me when I tell you that I did it for you.  You’re my best friend.” 

            Bobby licked his dry lips, and cleared his throat.  His jaw tightened as he tried to speak. 

            “Just tell me one thing right now.”  Sean waited desperately for the question.  “How soon can I go home?” 

Part Six:

See You Next Wednesday, Mr. Landis

            The unmarked, yet obvious, police car stopped a block away from its destination.  The doors opened, and Det. Carlton and Murdock stepped out.  Carlton pulled a photo from his coat pocket and led Murdock to the crime scene.  They stopped at the primary murder site and began looking around. 

            “This is it.”  Carlton reiterated.  He examined the rooftops of the nearby buildings.  Murdock was doing the same, checking out the buildings on the opposite side of the street. 

            “Let me see those other pictures.”  Carlton pulled out the other photos and handed them to his partner.  “What are the chances he could have crawled from one of the other buildings?” 

            “Hmm.  Let’s see.  Our victim falls from at least two stories and breaks both legs.  Probably smacked his head, too.  I don’t know.  Not to good I’d say.  Dragging those broken legs behind him…  He wouldn’t get more than a few feet.” 

            “Then he must have fell from there.”  Murdock pointed to the building directly adjacent to where they were standing. 

            “Let’s go check it out.”

            The building was an old, four story, print work that had been converted to small offices.  The old design and brickwork made it a historical landmark, like many of the other buildings along the street.  A fire escape on the backside of the building made the rooftop readily accessible. 

            The two detectives ascended the wrought iron stairwell to the rooftop.  Carlton combed the right side, while Murdock took the left.  The open fire escape meant that anyone could have come up there since the murder.  The area had, more than likely, been compromised

            Murdock shuffled around the loose rock beneath his feet.  He bent down and examined the traffic pattern carefully before calling his partner over. 

            “Hey, Trent!  Check this out.” 

            Carlton walked over to the left side of the rooftop where Murdock was squatting. 

            “What’cha got?”  Carlton bent over Murdock’s shoulder. 

            “Might be nothing, but…”  Murdock ran his hand over the spot in front of him.  “Looks like a fall.  We’ve got what looks like heavy wide paced tracks from the fire escape to here, where it looks likes our runner tripped and fell.”  Murdock spread his hands out over a section of the rock surface that had been pushed apart.  The area was several feet in length. 

            A glint among the sprawl caught Carlton’s eye.  “What’s that?”  He balanced a hand on Murdock’s shoulder and reached down into the scattered rock.  Carlton pulled out a set of keys and held them up. 

            “Well, it certainly looks like he had some place he was planning on going.” 

            “Looks like it.”  Murdock stood and knocked the dirt off his knees.  “Let’s go check out that ledge.” 

            The two walked over to the ledge and looked down. 

            “Four stories looks a lot higher when you’re looking down.” 

            “Even bigger in the dark.” 

            “What makes a guy jump from something like this, even with a wild animal chasing him?” 

            “My friends and I used to jump off the second floor of our apartments for fun.  I could even see a third story, maybe.” 

            Carlton leaned over the edge and took a closer look at the brick face.  Murdock grabbed him by the back of his pants and started to pull him back up. 

            “What the hell are you doing?” 

            “Just a hunch.  If it were me, I’d try to climb down, or at the least, hang and fall.  ‘Beengo!'” said Carlton, doing his best impression of Gary Oldman from The Professional.  “We’ll have to call Wormwood, or someone, but it looks like there might be some blood and skin scrapes.  Maybe our victim wasn’t as stupid as we thought.” 

            “If you’re done now.”  Murdock pulled his partner up.  “Okay.  We know where he went.  Now we need to know where he was coming from.” 

            “Yeah.  Come on.”  Carlton started walking back towards the fire escape.  “We need to call for forensics, and see if we can get a street check on any cars in the vicinity that might not have moved for a few days.” 

            Murdock sat on the stairs of the fire escape waiting for his partner to return.  He thought about the perplexity of the case.  He had a bad feeling about it all.  Nothing seemed to make any sense.  A wild animal chases a man off a rooftop, then rips him to shreds.  It was all too bizarre. 

            Murdock stood up and started walking the area around the fire escape.  He re-enacted the scene in his head.  He thought about what must have happened that night, leading up to a man jumping off a building, and sealing his fate.  He looked down the alley directly ahead of him.  Murdock began down the alley slowly.  He lightly kicked over small pieces of trash and looked behind boxes and other large discarded items.  He looked among the old soda cans and 40 oz. beer bottles for anything else that might have come from their victim.  Nothing jumped out at him. 

            Carlton returned and walked next to Murdock, imitating him as if he knew what his friend was doing.  “Interesting.” 

            “You see something?”  Murdock asked. 

            “Just you acting weird.” 

            Murdock gave Carlton a push, nearly knocking him over.  “Just searching for more clues.  Trying to see if our unfortunate guy came this way.  I don’t think he came here intentionally.  I think he saw the fire escape and thought it would be his best chance at getting away.”  Murdock kicked at a large turned over paper bag.  His foot hit something solid, and he bent down to examine it further.  The bag was crinkly along the bottom, as if it had gotten wet and then dried. 

            Murdock pulled the knife off his belt and opened it.  He poked the bottom of the bag with the blade and split it up the side.  He used the knife and a pen from his coat pocket to peel back the sides of the bag.  Inside was a case of Corona beer.  Murdock moved the box with his pen.  The sound of broken glass was unmistakable.  He moved the box around some more and found a receipt stuck to the other side.  The paper suffered from the same fragility as the bag.  He used the clip on the pin to grip the receipt and pulled it free from the case of beer. 

            “What’cha got?”  Inquired Carlton. 

            “A credit card receipt for…”  Murdock read the receipt.  “A case of Corona, a stick of beef jerky, and a pack of breath mints.  Not positive, but it looks like this could have come from our victim.  No one just tosses an entire case of beer in an alley.” 

            “Well, good work, detective.”

            “Thank you, detective.”  Murdock stood.  “When forensics comes, we’ll have them take this, too.  We, on the other hand, have got a credit card to trace.” 

            “The beef jerky and mints don’t seem to be in there, so I’ll assume our boy hand them on him.  When we get back I’ll check with Kim to see if he found anything else among our victim’s remains.” 

            “I don’t mind sayin’ that I hate this.”  Murdock walked with Carlton back to the car.  “It’s all high school algebra.  We’ve got all the A’s and B’s, but it doesn’t add up.  I keep running the standard formula, but all I get is Stuart Little, not Malcolm.” 

            “Say again?”  Carlton was used to his partner talking weird, but it didn’t mean he always understood him. 

            “X.  There’s no X.” 

            “Then maybe we should try a different formula.  Kim gave us another lead I think we should follow up on.”  Trent checked his watch.  “But it looks like it’ll have to wait till morning.”   

 

Part Seven:

¾ Carat Diamond Dog

            “Professor Willows?” 

            The fifty-ish man in the tweed coat stopped his ascent of the museum steps and turned his attention to the two men waiting at the top.  They flanked the approaching professor; one leaning back on a stone pillar, the other crouched down at the top of the stairs. 

            “You’re professor Allen Willows, right?” Carlton asked again.  “The leading expert in anthropology?” 

            “That is correct.  But, I am only the leading expert in this state.  Dr. Viktor Gregorov is the world’s leading expert.  So, if you are looking for the foremost expert, detectives, I suggest you try him.” 

            “How did you know we were police?” Murdock asked, dusting off the seat of his pants as he stood. 

            “Well, unless I’ve run afoul of the mob, police are the only other group that waits outside to confront people.” 

            “Well, Professor Willows…”

            “Dr. Willows.” The doctor interrupted. 

            “Excuse me.  Dr. Willows…”  Murdock rolled his eyes at the arrogant doctor as he corrected his partner, but said nothing.  It had taken them the better part of the day to track down the professor for their impromptu meeting.  Osland could keep his smart ass mouth in check long enough for them to get the answers they needed. 

            “I’m Detective Carlton.  This is my partner Detective Murdock.  We apologize for-ah, “confronting” you like this, but my partner and I need to ask you a few questions.  Is there a chance we could discuss this matter some place a little more private?” 

            “Am I in some kind of trouble, detectives?” 

            “Not at all, doctor.” 

            “Then I can’t say that I see the need for privacy.  Now, if you’ll excuse me…”  Doctor Willows attempted to push past the two men.  Murdock stepped forward and blocked his exit. 

            “If you would be so kind to indulge us, professor, we won’t keep you but a moment.” 

            Murdock stood with a gloating smile so big it could have passed for a crescent moon.  Doctor Willows sat huddled over the microscope examining the evidence the detectives brought with them.

            “This is unbelievable.  Magnificent.”  Willows continued to look at the crime scene hairs in disbelief. 

            “Well, Worms-ah, Wormwood said that you were the man to bring this to.”

            “It’s incredible.  Every bit of it.  Where did you come across this?”

            “It’s the only true piece of evidence that we found at the scene of a murder not too long ago.”  Murdock was more than happy to speak now.  Willows was hooked.  There was almost nothing he could say to make the doctor’s interest turned cold. 

            “So, what can you tell us about it?” 

            Willows looked up for the first time since the two men had presented him with the hair, and pushed himself away from the microscope. 

            “This is a crucial piece of evidence proving mans evolution from animal.” 

            Carlton and Murdock stared blankly at each other. 

            “Explain.” 

            Doctor Willows walked over to his desk and rummaged through the countless stacks of papers and manila folders.  He then turned to another stack on one of the three file cabinets behind him.  He stopped and stood in the small area between his desk and the cabinets.  Willows scratched his head while scouring the office with his eyes.  With a sudden jolt he scooted from his desk and over to a stack of unnamed cd’s next to a computer.  Willows took the top disc and loaded it into the computer tray.  He wiggled a finger at Murdock to turn off the lights, and began their cliff notes lesson in anthropology. 

            “This was part of a lecture I gave recently on a study I have been working on.  Darwin theorized that mankind evolved from apes.”  Willows cycled through the slides.  “For the longest time scientist and anthropologist have been searching for what they call “the Missing Link.”  The critical stage between ape and man.  What I have been working on is my own theory, which states that there is no “Missing Link,” at least not the way Darwin envisioned it.”  Slide.  “The problem with Darwin’s theory is that if man evolved the way he claims, then that evolution would continue to this day.  Both man and ape would continue to evolve, yet there is no evidence of that.  What most of my colleges refer to as evolution is actual adaptation.”  Slide.  “We know that the human body changes to fit its surroundings.  That much is clear in just what we see in examination of people in other countries and their environments.  It’s a form of evolution, but not on such a grand scale.”  Slide.  “What you have presented me with is clear proof that my theory is more than just a theory.  It’s borderline fact.  The reason there is no “Missing Link” evidence is because what they’re looking for does not exist in the fashion that they’re looking for it.” 

            “I don’t know about you, Trent, but I’m confused.” 

            “Let me start again.” Said Willows.  “And, please keep your laughter to yourself.  Cro-Magnon man and his ancestors were the first societal tribe.  The foundation for what we call civilization today.  The people of the tribe were broken down into groups, each with their own duties.  Among these were the hunters.  The hunters were the strongest and most savage of the tribe.  What I theorized, and what your hair sample now proves, is that the “Missing Link” stage of man isn’t a separate stage at all.  That hair has all the characteristics of a wolves fur, but the base mammal-groups are those of a human.  That hair has the base DNA encoding for both man and wolf.  What led Darwin to believe in such a creature were ape-like features found among the remains of a Cro-Magnon man.  What these remains actual show is that this particular man was able to change his physical form to one more like that of an ape.”

            “Whoa.  Whoa.  Whoa, doc.  Are you saying that the Missing Link was actually some kind of shape changing man?” 

            “In a way.  He was the bridge between man and nature, but obviously he wasn’t the only one.  These men would, for lack of a better word, transform into their ape-man form when it was time for the hunt.  It gave them the extra strength, and aggression, and animalism necessary to hunt the bigger animals.  It was the only way they could survive.” 

            “So what you’re saying is that we’re looking for some kind of wolf-man?  This is ridiculous!”

            “No, it is not!  Not if you look at the facts.  Human beings do adapt and evolve.  It’s a proven fact.  They adapt to their needs and surroundings.”

            “So, you’re saying that there’s a need for this wolf-person?”

            “No, not anymore.  But there probably was at one time.  Just as inherent traits and disease can’t be bred out, neither can this.  It’s a part of this family’s genetics.  More than likely, though, these attacks are more basic in nature.  This being kills due to a primal desire.  A desire from both the human and animal sides, that builds to a point where it can no longer be held back.  The need to kill no longer exists, but the desire does.”

            “Where does a wolf-man fit in with the Missing Link?”

            “The ape was but one of many animals that man shared an affinity with.  Think about all the myths and legends that you have heard.  Fantastic creatures that one would never believe could exist.  Isn’t it possible that mermaids could be real?  Perhaps the ever elusive Bigfoot is an inheritor of the bear affinity?  This would explain why they are rarely ever seen, and why there is no proof of their existence.  Unless one of these beings died while in their other state, there would be no proof.”

            “So you’re saying that we’re looking for a man or woman who can turn themselves into a wolf?  No offense, doc, but-c’mon.” 

            “Yeah.  This is way too far out there for me.  My name’s Murdock, not Mulder.” 

            “Gentlemen.  We used to believe the Earth was flat, until science and fact proved otherwise.  How is this any different?” 

            “Okay, doctor.  Let’s say that all this is true, how are we supposed to find and stop this amateur Lon Chaney?”

            Dr. Willows snorted at Det. Carlton’s comment and pushed up his glasses. 

            “Though crude, your comment is more accurate then you think.  Because the human body and that of a wolf’s are structurally different, it can only change so far.  More than likely, the hands will remain slightly human in appearance, as oppose to paws, but will not be able to function like normal hands for lack of higher end motor skills.  For example, this wolf-person would be unable to open doors even though they do have hands.  But, they would be able to climb ladders and the like.  Having digits instead of paws would give them an extra advantage.  They would operate on the most base primal instincts.” 

            Murdock opened his mouth several times attempting to speak but couldn’t find the words.  He finally stopped, took a deep breath, and tried again. 

            “How would such a creature survive for so long without being seen?”

            “Conditioning, like any other animal.  More than likely, they were trained from the time their abilities first manifested on how to control the beast inside them and how to hunt in an urban environment.”

            “So, how do we find this guy?” 

            “Do you have any pictures of the crime scene with you?” Dr. Willows asked.  Trent reached in his coat pocket and pulled out the crime scene photos.  He handed them to the doctor who leafed through them with great interest and detail. 

            “No.  No.  No.  This isn’t right at all.  This wasn’t merely a need to kill.  No.  This was an act of aggression.  He or she knew this person.  They took their desire to kill out on them.  Generally, a predator will hide their kills to keep them from being found by other predators.  And, it’s never this messy.  Whoever this was, they hated them.” 

            Trent and Osland exchanged glances. 

            “Thank you, Dr. Willows.  This has been very enlightening.” 

Part Eight:

In The Kill of The Night

            The cool autumn wind blew the dead leaves from the trees and to the ground.  They twirled and danced like a delicate ballet celebrating their last moments of life.  Bobby watched them and his heart skipped a beat.  It was like an epiphany.  For the first time in his life he understood a small piece of the cycle of life, and larger part of the cycle of death.  He came to the realization that life and death were not equal parts of the same continuous line.  Instead, they were parallel lines that started from the same point and occasionally intersected.  Life creates death. 

            Bobby kicked at a small pile of leaves and almost smiled.  He thought back to when he was younger.  When he and his friends used to gather leaves into a big pile and jump in it.  Back then leaves were just leaves.  And now they represented life and death.  Mainly death. 

            Death.  That’s what was on his mind.  People had been killed, and although he hadn’t always bore witness to their deaths, he knew about it nonetheless.  Sean was a monster.  And inside him lived another monster.  He had an urge, a primal desire to kill.  Bobby was aware of this and did nothing.  He let others die in his place.  But, they would still die, wouldn’t they?  Regardless of if he knew about Sean’s other self, those people would still have been killed.  But does that make it right?  No, it was just an excuse to ease his conscious.   

            Bobby grabbed one of the floating leaves out of the air, interrupting its dance of death.  He looked at it and wondered whose life he held in his hand.  Maybe it was his own.  He crushed the leaf and held his fist tight.  Nothing.  He was still alive.  He opened his hand and looked at the tiny pieces.  Yet another death on his conscious.  He blew the leaf pieces into the air to start a new dance. 

            Behind him, Bobby heard the crunch of dry leaves and the snap of a broken twig.  He didn’t move.  He just closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. 

            “You okay?”  It wasn’t who he thought.  The voice was softer.  Kinder. 

            “Bobby?”  Cindy stepped closer to him. 

            Bobby opened his eyes and turned around.  “Hey.”

            “What’s wrong?  Hey, if this is about the other night don’t worry about it.  As sad as it sounds, you aren’t the first guy to fall asleep on me.  Hell, Chris Garner fell asleep while we were doing it once.  Come to think of it, maybe it’s me.” 

            Bobby cracked a tiny smile.  “No, it’s not you.  And, it’s not you.  It’s… something else.” 

            “Why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind?” 

            “Just thinking about life and death.  Mainly death.” 

            “Ah.  I forgot you’re a philosophy major.” 

            “Not yet.  I still I have to write my dissertation.” 

            Cindy walked over to Bobby and took his hand.  “I’ve got an idea.  Let’s go for a walk.” 

            “Where are we going?” 

            “It’s a surprise.” 

            Bobby and Cindy walked down the street toward her secret destination.  Cindy led the way, pulling Bobby along behind her by the crook of his arm.  They stopped briefly to check for traffic, then proceeded across the street. 

            “Tada!”  Cindy held her arms out triumphantly.  She looked at Bobby with a smile bigger than the bright beautiful eyes that first infatuated him with her. 

            “The park?  This is your surprise?” 

            “Yep.  Whenever I need to relax and unwind, I come here and play on the swings.”  Cindy walked over to the middle swing, letting Bobby’s hand fall from hers.  She sat down on the small rubber swing and grabbed hold of the thick metal chains.  She lifted her legs up underneath her and looked at Bobby with those big doe eyes.  Bobby just stood, like a mute, watching her. 

            “Well?  I’m waiting.” 

            “Waiting for what?” 

            Cindy rolled her eyes.  “For you to push me.” 

            “Oh.”  Bobby shuffled over behind her and grabbed the chains of the swing.  He pulled her back and let go. 

            “Higher.  I like to go real high.” 

            Bobby guided her as she swung back and gave her a hard push.  He couldn’t help but smile as he watched her glide through the air.  She was a vision of beauty.  Incredible.  Bobby couldn’t take his eyes off of her. 

            “You can have a seat, you know.”  Cindy said, when she came gliding back towards him. 

            “Yeah, I know.  I was just having so much fun pushing you.”  Bobby gave Cindy one last shove, then took a seat on the swing next to her. 

            “Did you just say you were having fun?” 

            “Huh?”  Bobby thought about it for a second.  “I guess I did.” 

            “I told you this place would work.  My first semester of college, I would come here every night.  It helped me fight the homesickness.  I couldn’t stand being away from home.  Surrounded by people I didn’t know and didn’t know me.  Coming here reminded me of the summers back home.” 

            Bobby kicked his legs against the air until he had reached a good height and speed, then relaxed. 

            “This reminds me of being dumb.” 

            “Excuse me.”  Cindy wasn’t sure what he meant.  She tried to remain objective, but couldn’t help but feel that he was call her and her little slice of refuge “dumb.” 

            “No!  Not you.”  Bobby tried to explain himself.  “This reminds me of long before  college, when I was just a kid.  A stupid, little, innocent, kid.  Long before the word child prodigy was bandied about.  Before every little thing I did had to be something extraordinary.  Back when I could just be.” 

            “I’m sorry.” 

            “It’s okay.” 

            “So, child prodigy, huh?” 

            “That’s what they say.  Personally, I think that one person said it, and everyone else just goes along so that they don’t look stupid.  I got a scholarship to Oak Dale University for writing the sentence “Thade hated death.” 

            “I don’t get it.”

            “Each word in the sentence uses the same letters.”

            “Oh.  I get it.”  Cindy smiled.  “That’s pretty clever.”

            “So they say.”  Bobby sighed.  He dropped his legs and let them drag along the ground.  “That’s why I started hanging out with Sean.  I didn’t have to be a walking brainiac around him.  I could just relax and be myself.” 

            Cindy stopped her swing beside Bobby’s.  “I take it this is about Sean.  Tell me what’s wrong.” 

            “You wouldn’t understand.  Even if you did believe me.” 

            “Then help me to understand.”

            “I guess the easiest way to describe it would be to say that he and I have a symbiotic relationship.  I need him so that I can be myself without the pressure of living up to my supposed intellect.  And he needs me so that he has someone he can confide in about his… secret activities.” 

            “Bobby.  If you wanna talk, I’ll listen.  But, if you’re gonna talk, talk.” 

            “Sean’s a killer.  He’s killed people, and I’ve lied for him.  He killed Vance.” 

            Cindy was quiet.  She hoped that it was a joke, but knew that it wasn’t.  It was in his voice.  His very countenance.  He couldn’t have been more serious if he had been reading from an encyclopedia. 

            “No.  That’s a lie.” Whispered Bobby.  Cindy breathed a much wanted sigh of relief.  “No.  I don’t need Sean.  I’m afraid of him.” 

            Cindy tried to catch her breath after the sigh, but felt the air escaping her.  It was as if the air was running from her frightened lungs.  She tightened her stomach over and over again, in an attempt to draw a breath.  Finally it came to her, and she held it in her lungs for fear it would never return. 

            It seemed an eternity before she exhaled.  The sound of the air leaving her lungs broke the long silence between her and Bobby. 

            Her voice trembled and cracked as she spoke.  “Well.”  Cindy swallowed hard.  “Maybe you should do something about it.” 

Part Nine:

A Clip Full of Coors

            Carlton and Murdock sat at their respective desks going over what few clues they had.  Both men skimmed over the pages of information that they had, not really reading any of the documents, but were trying to ignore everything they had learned the day before.  Occasionally one would look up at the other expecting some sign that was okay to believe everything they had been told; but when the other looked up, they would quickly look away. 

            Trent slammed the folder he was “reading” down on the desk.   “Ok!  Let’s get this shit out in the open and stop with all this elementary school mess.”  This was out of character for him.  Osland was the short-tempered, hot headed one. 

            “You’re right.  Let’s talk.”  Both men looked around at the other officers in the office. 

            “Gym?” asked Carlton. 

            “Gym.” replied Murdock.

            The dialogue between the two men dissolved as they changed into their police sweats.  It wasn’t until they stepped into the musty old concrete and metal fence gym that they began to talk again.  Trent walked over to the weight bench and checked the weights already on it. 

            “You wanna go first?  I’ll spot you.” 

            “What’s up there?”

            “‘Bout 125.” 

            “I can handle that.”  Osland hiked up his sweats and straddled the bench.  He checked his head and leaned back on the thinly cushioned bench.  Trent looked down at Oz with a crooked smile.  His partner licked his lips, gripped the bar, and lifted.  His arms nearly buckled under the unexpected weight. 

            Osland huffed several times, and held the weight bar up in the air.  “How much is this?  It has to be more than 125 pounds.” 

            Trent stepped away from his partner, leaving him sweating on the bench, holding the weight.  He pretended to look at and recalculate the weight bar. 

            “Oh!  Okay, I see what I did wrong.  I only counted one side.  My bad.” 

            “Help me.” Grunted Osland.  Trent grabbed the weights in the middle and helped his partner lower it back down. 

            As soon as the weights were released Osland jumped off the bench and lunged at his partner. 

            “You bastard.”  Trent ducked, dodged, and batted Osland’s swinging fists.  Before either man noticed, they were standing on the heavy foam mats in the center of the gym.  After taking a few friendly punches to the chest and shoulder, Trent started swinging back. 

            “So?” asked Oz as he swung at his friend. 

            “So, what?”  The two men talked as they sparred. 

            “So, do you believe it?” 

            “No.  But that doesn’t mean anything.”  Trent responded while batting away Oz’s right. 

            “How so?”

            “Who was it that said: ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’?” 

            “Some dude.  I think it was Sherlock Holmes.”  Oz ducked a left jab and planted two light punches in his partners stomach. 

            “I thought it was a real person?”

            “What do you mean?  Sherlock Holmes was real!”

            “No he wasn’t.”  Trent gave him two quick slaps on the chin with an open hand. 

            “Yeah.  They just exaggerated all of his cases when they put them into print.” 

            “Whatever.  The point is, I don’t believe what the doctor said, but nothing else seems to fit.”  Trent slid behind his partner and flicked his ear. 

            “Yeah.  I know what you mean.  It’s hard for me to believe it too, but it all makes sense.  Or, maybe I just want it to make sense ’cause nothing else does.” 

            The two men stopped their slap boxing match and sat down on the mat. 

            “You know we’re screwed either way.”  Trent sighed.

            “Come again?”

            “Think about it.  This case is too big for us to just drop.  Cap would have our ass.”

            “True.”

            “But, how do we solve this case.  We can’t go to the captain and say: ‘We caught the guy.  Turns out he was a werewolf.  Case closed.'”

            “Your right.  So, what do we do?” 

            “I don’t know.” Pause.  “Let’s just worry about that if, and when we catch him.” 

            The two men sat in silence, thinking about their careers and the idea that this “creature” was out there.  Running wild.  And, though neither one said anything about it, they both thought of the possibility of more than one of these “things” silently stalking normal humans.

            “C’mon.  Let’s shower and get back on the road.  There has to be something out there that we missed.” 

            The hot water was a welcomed release for the tension and stress that had built up inside both men

            Murdock stood, facing the shower, his head bent down, letting the warm beads pelt and trickle down his back.  Once, when he was kid, he stood on the edge of a building with his arms out from his sides and leaned forward.  The harsh winds and unrelenting rain of the summer storm held him in place.  It was if nature itself refused to let him fall.  Every time he took a shower, he wanted to feel that way again.  Pure.

            Carlton sat on a short wooden stool, legs crossed meditation style, with his back to the water.  He controlled his breathing, taking in long slow drags, and pictured himself under a tranquil waterfall.  He imagined everything inside, the tension, and anger, and doubt, as a force rising within him.  The warm water acted as control rods, releasing the pressure and allowing all of the negativity to flow out of him.  In his mind, he pictured it as a skin of evil that slowly peeled away and was carried down the drain.  The meditation classes worked wonders for him.  He no longer had to worry about his darker side coming out.  Sometimes he wondered if being a cop was the right profession for him.  The line was so hard to see at times.  And as for justice…  It seemed as though he could go weeks without seeing it.  He reminded himself, on a regular basis, that it was there; even when it wasn’t right in front of him. 

            “Hello!”  The call echoed through out the concrete and tile locker room.  “Trent!  Oz!  You guys decent!” Rico screamed as he headed for the showers. 

            “I want to make sure I give you guys enough time to hop into separate stalls!” 

            Rico rounded the corner and stood just inside the shower room, remaining far enough away from the steam and spray.  Neither man had moved from their relaxing position.  Oz turned his head just enough to make his words clear. 

            “You’re real funny.” 

            Trent didn’t move.  He tried to drown out the outside noise and continue to focus on his inner self. 

            “What do you want, Vasquez?”  Water rolled down Oz’s face and trickled into his mouth. 

            “Nothin’ major.  Figured I’d try and catch you two unaware and win the office bet.” 

            “This from the guy who can’t seem to take his eyes off my ass.”

            “I’ve just never seen one with so much hair.” 

            “What-do-you-want?”  Trent grumbled through gritted teeth. 

            “Whoa.  This case has really got the two of you fried.  In that case, I’ll cut to the chase.  I used to work the dog and pony squad before I transferred here…”

            Trent turned his head just enough to face Rico.  Water pelted the side of his face and rolled into his eyes.  “You were a pooper trooper?  That explains a lot.”

            “Yeah, so…” Vasquez continued on, ignoring Oz’s remark.  “We had this case once, I figure, even if it’s not related, it might turn into a lead.  We found this mangled body in a ditch.  Some poor woman, walking home late one night, gets mauled by a dog.  We track everything back to this guy who says his dog got loose the night before and hasn’t come home.  We looked for a couple of days and couldn’t find anything.  The very next day, after we decide to file the case, the guy calls up, says he found the dog and that it was covered in dried blood.  He shot and killed him, and then gave him to the vet to be cremated. We talked to the vet, and everything checked out, so we considered it case closed.” 

            Trent lifted his head higher and opened his eyes wide.  “How long ago was this?”

            “I don’t know.”  Rico rubbed his chin with his thumb.  “It was before I came here, so about 8 months or so.  See, I knew this would be something you guys could use.  I can practically smell the polish on that gold shield.” 

            Trent unfolded his legs and stepped off the stool.  He twisted the knobs to the shower and grabbed his towel from the top of the stall. 

            “You got the file?” 

            “Yeah!  It’s upstairs on your desk.”

            Trent wrapped the towel around his waist and hurried for the locker room.  He rapped on Oz’s stall door as he passed by.  “We gotta get to work.” 

            “Let me guess- He killed another dog, but not his.  No, no, no!  He had two dogs.”  Rico was getting excited.  He was a good cop and believed whole-heartedly in the law.  He was one of those few that you hear others talk about during their funeral as believing he could make a change in the world. 

            The two detectives blotted themselves dry, leaving the majority of their body and their police issue haircuts still wet.  They dressed quickly, sliding pre-knotted ties over their heads, and feet into already tied shoes.  Oz didn’t even wince as he repeatedly hit his bruised arm into the locker door. 

            “So, you’re gonna give me shared credit on this one, right?” 

            Trent threw his suit jacket over his shoulder and headed for the stairs.  “You don’t want none of this, Rico.  Trust me.” 

            Rico’s brow furrowed.  He looked over at Osland, who just shook his head, and walked off after his partner.  Rico stood there, not knowing what to do.  He finally turned and looked at the empty doorway. 

            “Good luck.”

Part Ten:

I Saw Lon Chaney Sitting At Szechwan Don

            Bobby stared at the phone as if it were a person who had died and come back to life.  He had lifted the small cordless from its cradle more times than he had fingers on one hand, but always put it down immediately.  He wished Cindy was still there with, but he had sent her home.  He had to.  This was something he had to do alone.  He’d already told her too much, and put to much emotional weight on her shoulders.  It was even too late to tell her that it was a joke and that none of it was true.  She had read his face.  More than that, she had looked directly into his soul.  The truth of it all was laid bare for her to read. 

            Bobby had already convinced himself that it was something that needed to be done.  And, it had to be done by him.  Now, all he had to do, was do it.  He grabbed the phone again with his left hand, and slowly lifted it from its housing.  It was as fast as he could move.  His right arm shot out, as if it had a mind of its own and grabbed the left arm just below the elbow, stopping it from backing down again.  He brought the phone up to his face; holding it close like an old person with glaucoma. 

            His right arm still held his left tight, making sure that it went through with the task.  The thumb on his left hand reached over and pushed the three buttons.  Bobby brought the phone up to his ear and waited for it to ring.  He focused hard to hear past the pounding in his ears. 

            “911 Emergency Response.”

            Bobby swallowed hard and took a deep breath. 

            “I got…” pause.  “I’ve got some information about the murder on Main Street.”

            Osland whipped the car around the corner and cut off the blue Chevy behind him as he suddenly changed lanes. 

            “Slow down.  You don’t even know where we’re going.”

            Trent flipped through the file pages diligently.  His eyes scanned over every word with laser like precision.  To say he worked best under pressure was an understatement.  When it came to police work, he was damn near the best.  When under pressure, there was no one better.  His assimilation of knowledge and quick response time was unfathomable.  But, unfortunately, when the pressure got too tight, and things begin to stretch very thin, the other Trent would emerge.  The side of himself that he had tried hard to keep hidden, ever since its first emergence during his early teen years.  The side of him that made its own rules and its own laws.  The side of himself that screamed: Might makes everything right

            Trent read excerpts from the file as they sped off down the road. 

            “It says here, that Sean Peterson claimed his husky had broken its leash and some how got over the fence.  He said that he doesn’t know why it attacked the woman.  And stated that he had found the dog in the woods when he lived in North Dakota.”  

            Oz tried to slow the car down, but found it almost impossible to lift his foot off the pedal. 

            “The vet stated that Mr. Peterson did bring him a bloodied husky and claimed that he had put the animal down himself.” 

            “What’re you thinking?” 

            “Homicide took pictures of the crime scene, and Animal Patrol went out and took pictures of the dog’s habitat.  The crime scene shows that the victim was attacked, and then drug off to a secluded area where the attack recommenced.  That doesn’t sound like any dog I know.  What is even more puzzling is the picture of the owner’s backyard, where he claims to have kept the dog.”

            Osland finally hit a red light, which forced him to stop the car and step off the gas.  “Well?  Give it to me, Peabody!  What’s wrong with the picture?”

            Trent moved the picture over to where his partner could see it.  “See the broken chain tied to the tree?  There aren’t any wear patterns from it scraping back and forth from the dog’s movements.  There aren’t any dry patches of ground from where the dog digs, or even where he shits.  Even the fence is in perfect condition.  No scratches on the paint or cracks in the wood.”

            The light had turned green, but Oz hadn’t moved the car.  He continued to examine the picture.  It all became clear to him.  There was no doghouse for bad weather.  No food dishes.  Nothing to say that any form of animal, save for a squirrel or bird lived in that backyard. 

            The traffic behind them howled and blared.  The drivers screamed at him as they pulled around the stopped car.  Oz reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out his badge.  He held it up to the window with his middle finger. 

            “What’s even more puzzling,” Trent continued.  “Is this…”  He pointed to a large swing gate door built at ground level along the side of the house.  There was a small window above it.  “That’s twice the size of a normal dog door.  Not to mention that it leads to the bathroom.  You can tell by the small window above it.  There’s one other thing.”  Trent pulled another folder out of the file and slid it on top of the other.  It was an enlarged picture of the swing gate door. 

            “Look at the hinges.  That door only goes one way.  In.”

            Osland put his badge back in his pocket as he straightened up in the seat.  He stomped on the gas and screeched through the light, which had turned red again. 

            “Tell me which way.”

            The car fishtailed as I swung around the corner, doing well over 60 in a 35 mile per hour zone.  Trent gripped the handrail above the door frame and continued to examine the file documents and photos.  The digital tones of the “Law and Order” theme played on Osland’s cell phone.  Oz did a double take at the stop sign, checking for traffic, before running it.  He pushed the call button on the palm-sized phone, clipped to the dash, and growled at it. 

            “Osland.”

            “Detective. We’ve received a call from a young man saying that he has some information related to the case.  He claims to know the identity of your suspect.” 

            Osland slowed the car down to the proper speed limit and looked over at Trent, who returned his glance.  “Tell me.” 

            “He wouldn’t give anything more than his name and address.  Bobby Smalls.  Address: 1865 Carrington Way.” 

            Osland looked over at Trent again.  Trent nodded.  His face was stone determination.  It was the same address that they were already on their way to. 

            The car went three more blocks, then turned and parked on the corner.  Oz pulled his 9mm out of its holster and checked the clip and chamber. 

            Trent looked down at his holster, and the two full clips held snuggly in their leather sleeves.  He opened the dash and removed an extra one, just in case.  He put the third clip in his coat pocket and opened the car door. 

            “You ready?”  The question was rhetorical.  Neither of them were ready for what it was that resided in that house.  They had no idea of what to expect.  All they knew, was that whatever it was, there was no training in the world that could have prepared them for it.  The two of them approached the house cautiously.  Oz had pulled his weapon before they even reached the front walk, and held it pointed down, inconspicuously, by his thigh.  Trent reached inside his jacket and unsnapped the guard on his holster. 

            Oz stood sideways, against the hinge side of the front door; his shoulder rested on the house.  Trent faced the door, but kept the majority of his body out of the frame.  Behind them a street light blinked and sputtered to life.  Neither man noticed how dark it had gotten, till just then.  Oz shivered, then brushed some leaves off the steps to cover his nervousness; attempting to blame it on the cold autumn air. 

            The front door rattled. As chains were removed and locks were slid back.  Oz stiffened, and flexed his trigger finger.  Trent slid his hand into his jacket, looking very Napoleonic in appearance.  The door opened slowly. 

            Bobby greeted the two detectives.  There was no fear or anxiety in his face.  Just sadness and regret. 

            “You the police?” 

            Trent and Oz looked Bobby up and down, and each gave the living room a quick scan.  The two relaxed, but didn’t drop their guard. 

            “I’m Detective Carlton.  This is Detective Murdock.  You Bobby Smalls?” 

            “Yeah.”

            “May we come in?”

            “Huh?  Uh-yeah.”  Bobby step aside and let the two men in. 

            Trent walked to the center of the room and took a flanking point, keeping an eye on the front door, Bobby, and the hallway that led to the rest of the house.  Oz did a half circle around Bobby, putting the young man between himself and the door. 

            “We’re investigating the murder on Main St. a few nights back.  You wanted to talk to us?”  Trent said, cutting to the chase.  He holstered his gun, and pulled out his pad and pencil. 

            Oz  put his gun away as well, but rested his hand on his hip, cutting down on the time it would take to draw it again if needed. 

            “My friend-” Bobby stopped.  “My roommate, Sean.  He killed Vance.”

            “Vance..”  Trent interrupted, fishing for a last name. 

            “Vance Dominic.  He wanted Vance’s girlfriend Erika.”  Bobby saw Trent’s look, and answered before he asked the question.  “Erika Sanders.” 

            “You do know that- Vance, was torn apart?”  Oz questioned. 

            “Yeah.  Sean…  Sean is- I don’t know how to say this.  I mean, you’re not gonna believe me, but…”

            Trent heard the pins of the lock as they tumbled into place.  He dropped the pad and pencil, and reached for his gun.  As fast as years of practice had made him, he wasn’t fast enough to save Oz. 

Part 11:

Wolfsbane

            There’s no scientific term for it.  It’s just a mental condition that occurs during extremely traumatic situations.  Psychologists have theorized that it’s the minds way of dealing with that particular episode.  The brain tries to slow down the imagery, giving the person more time to react.  While at the same time, it attempts to speed it up, to get the ordeal over as quickly as possible.  The cross wiring in the brain is what many believe to be the cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Effectively, this is what happened to Murdock. 

            Sean glared at the two detectives.  His eyes went black.  And, in what was nothing more than a few seconds, he had splintered the front door, and bounded out into the night, with Trent heedlessly chasing behind him. 

            Osland lay across the living room sofa clutching his cleanly sliced chest.  His eyes blinked repeatedly, trying to see past the blood.  He was barely even aware of Bobby calling for back-up on the phone.  He could only lie there and let the previous events seconds replay themselves in his head. 

            Oz could only clearly remember seeing Sean’s eyes turn black, like that of a wild animal.  Even though he couldn’t believe the things that he saw, he knew that they had to be true.  What he recalled played like a bad movie shown on an old 1970’s high school projector.  It moved in blurred stop motion clips, accompanied by out of sync sound bytes. 

Sean lurched forward, followed by the low shredded popping sound of tearing clothes.  His arms dropped down, elongating, even as his shoulders and neck extended straining for the ceiling; arching as they went.  The sound of skin stretching was the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, as the spine and back enlarged and curved back.  It was like smoothed pieces of broken pottery pushing and stretching against a heavy rubber tarp.  Oz never blinked or turned away.  He saw it all.  Captured forever in his minds eye.  Even the most minute detail was caught and would haunt him long after he had died.  What came next, was the clicking, popping, twisting sound of bone, flesh and muscle as his legs reconfigured themselves for moving on all fours.  Before Oz knew it, he was face to face with the man-thing that, only the blink of an eye before, if he had blinked, was still a few feet away.  And now, the hunched over beast was only a few inches away, staring at him with a deep guttural half-human growl.  And then the lower jaw extended and nose protruded.  As it all played back, Oz, couldn’t decide what to focus in on.  The part of the face that was growing straight towards him, or the eyes that shifted backwards, retreating to the upper brow, slinking back away from the snout.  The sprouting of the hair was the last element to make the horror show complete.  It was like watching a time-lapse video.  Oz could almost see each individual pore as it opened and pushed out the thick, coarse animal hair.  The fur and whiskers grazed Oz’s face as they grew, like the soft uncomfortable caress of a lonely old woman. 

            The creature raised up tall, its knees and fore paws still bent, its ears rubbing against the ceiling. 

            All Trent could do was stare in disbelief.  Both he and Oz had come to the conclusion, prior to arriving at the house, that the professor’s theory had to be true; but now, seeing it before their eyes, it was too much to take in.  Thoughts sped through his mind faster than he could acknowledge or comprehend.  “Oh my God.  This can’t be real. What the hell?  I think I’m going to throw up.  Heaven help us.  If you hurt my partner I’ll kill you.” 

            Oz saw the creatures fur move across the right side of its body, like a strong wind blowing across a field of grain.  His years of police training kicked in, and the police issue was out of its shoulder holster and in his hand several electrical impulses before the thought crossed his mind.  The man and monster seemed to move simultaneously.  Oz began squeezing the trigger before he had the beast in his sights.  He never heard the shots or felt the recoil of the gun.  The sounds that echoed in his head were the tinkling of broken glass, and the dry crack of splintered wood.  There was also the other sound.  The one that roared and threatened the other two into silence.  The bellowing roar of pain, and hatred, and bloodlust.  A thick, wet growl.  The last sound many woodland animals heard before they found themselves staring up at the unforgiving sky.  It was the signify sound of death. 

            The Sean-beast moved with a speed that was incalculable.  Oz felt the creature shove him backwards into Bobby and onto the couch.  It turned sharply, moving for the door.  The beast dug its claws into the space between the hinges of the door, and shoved it against the opposite side of the frame.  The door shattered across the middle and flung itself at Det. Carlton.  Trent threw his arms up to protect himself, and caught a forearm and shoulder full of splinters. 

            Oz grabbed the back of the couch and tried to pull himself up.  A wave of pain shot through his chest like sharp knives dipped in electricity.  It wasn’t until he saw the look on Trent’s face that he knew. 

            Trent whipped around towards the broken doorway, then back at Oz.  He quickly turned his glance to Bobby.  Oz could see the cold hate in his eyes.  A look he hadn’t seen since the Loughlin case.  It meant that Trent was going to kill someone.  And, even if he had been physically able to, he knew that it would be pointless to try and stop him. 

            “You!  Call 911!  Tell them Det. Trent Carlton, emergency number117MWJ!  Officer down!”  Trent cast a sorrowful eye down at Osland.  “Hang in there, buddy.”

            Trent snapped back around to the open door.  He scooped up Oz’s gun and disappeared in a tornado of autumn leaves. 

Part 12:

A Killing Moon

Or

The Effects of Bullets On Man and the Wolf Metamorphs

            Trent ran recklessly through the dried leaves and broken branches, chasing after the creature that, as far as he knew, had killed his partner.  All he could think about was Osland lying there in the quickly spreading pool of crimson, trying to hold his wounds together.  The cuts were so clean and precise.  Trent swore that he could clearly see the bones of Oz’s ribs.  His grip on the two guns was loose.  He knew better than to tense up before he was ready to shoot. 

            The detective had no idea where he was going, he was just running into the night.  He had veered off street and down into a nearby park.  He stopped and tried to focus on his surroundings.  The bastard of evolution could be anywhere.  Running for the Greatland Woods, slowly creeping up behind him, or worse, it could have doubled back to kill Bobby and finish the job it had done on Oz.  No!  He couldn’t think like that.  He had to push his concern for Oz out of his head, or else he might end up the same way.  It was too late to put his anger back in the box, but he could maintain control of his fear. 

            Trent closed his eyes and listened to the world around him.  As he did, he thought back to what had just happened.  If only he had been as fast as Oz was.  Maybe, just maybe he could’ve gotten off a shot, too.  Then, things might not have turned out they way they had.  Oz’s four rapid fire shots sounded in his mind.  Wait!  There was something else!  Four shots.  Four sounds.  Oz’s first shot hit the window and shattered the glass.  His second went into the wall.  Three and four.  What happened to three and four?  Trent’s eyes opened.  The other two sounds.  They were soft, not like the sharp chiming of glass, or the hard burst of cracking wood.  These were- the sound of flesh being torn. 

            Trent tried to remember what he saw afterwards.  There were splashes of red on the door that was thrown at him.  Oz hit him!  He wounded him.  That’s why he ran. 

            Trent pulled out his pocket flashlight and shined it on the ground around him.  He held the light in his teeth, and started back towards the house, following the sounds of sirens.  Several feet back, he saw it.  The glint of fresh blood on the leaves below.  He followed the trail as it headed for the main road.  Trent quickened his pace, but made sure not to loose the trail. 

            The splashes of blood began to run closer and closer together as the beast slowed in its movements.  Trent stopped and panned around himself.  For all he knew, the monster could’ve stopped and been lying in wait for him.  They say that there’s nothing more dangerous that a wounded animal.  To Trent, that put them on equal ground. 

            Trent focused the flashlight on everything that gleamed or glinted in the light.  He wanted to make sure that it wasn’t the creature’s eyes staring at him. 

            A crash in the distance caught his attention.  Trent shifted the light in mouth sideways and gripped its textured handle with his incisors. He bolted towards the sound, making his way to the park’s edge.  He stopped under a street light and looked at the ground.  The sidewalk was wet with heavy drops of blood and bloody footprints.  Bloody human footprints.  The trail leaded across the street to the back of an out of business grocery store. 

            There, lying amongst the trash and over turned cans was Sean.  Blood poured from the hole in his stomach.  He was naked and vulnerable.  Laying there, covered in blood, pale skinned, shivering in the biting cold, he looked as though he had just been born.  He made a feeble attempt to crawl away, but the strength was no longer there.

            Trent approached him, slowly, both guns aimed at the crumpled figure.  Sean’s eyes blinked rapidly, as he tried to focus.  He tried to speak, lips quivering.  His lips mouthed words that never came out.  Instead, he coughed sharply and spewed blood on the ground.  Small trails of steam rose from the warm blood on the cold asphalt. 

            Sean tried again to speak, blood spraying off his lips.

            “It’s not my fault.  I didn’t ask to be born like this.  I’m just doing what I need to to survive.” 

            Trent drew back the hammer on Oz’s gun.  “Me too, kid.  Me too.” 

            Trent fired twice.  He walked away from Sean’s body and took a seat on the loading dock steps; never taking his eyes off of him.  He laid the guns down beside himself and pulled the cell phone out of his coat pocket. 

            “Dr. Willows?  This is Det. Carlton.  I’m sorry for calling you so late, but I wanted you to know you were right.  I just put two bullets in his head.”  Pause.  “No.  He had already turned back to his human form.”  Pause.  “I don’t think so.  I think they’re gonna cover this up.”  Trent walked back over to the body.  He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and dipped it in the blood.  “What if I could get you a blood sample?  I’ll bring it to your lab as soon as I can.”

            Trent walked back to the loading dock steps.  He stashed the handkerchief in the open end of the metal rail.  He flipped the phone open again and dialed a new number.

            “This is detective Carlton.  I’m in the loading area of the old Food Baron store.  It’s over.” 

            The sound of the door shutting woke Oz from his drug induced sleep.  He saw the silhouette behind the curtain, and tried to sit himself up in bed.  The pull of the stitches quickly put an end to that.  He continued to lie there, and cleared his throat. 

            “Nurse, my crotch is dirty again.  I think I need another sponge bath.” 

            “Sure thing, detective.” Came the gruff and masculine voice from the other side of the curtain.  “I knew that was just the drugs talking when you said no before.” 

            “Uh…”  Oz fumbled with the call button, desperately trying to find someone to rescue him. 

            The curtain snapped back to reveal Trent standing on the other side. 

            “Vasquez was right.  You are gay.” Trent said with a smile. 

            “You scared the shit outta me!”  Oz grabbed the bed’s remote and used it to raise the head.  Trent grabbed a chair from the corner of the room and brought it over. 

            Oz had to stare at his partner long and hard.  In the four years they had been partnered together, he had never seen him in anything short of pressed slacks and a button down shirt.  And, here he was before him wearing loose fitting jeans and a t-shirt for the  rock band Helpful Corn. 

            “What’s with the get up?”

            “I’m off duty.  Way off duty.  How you feeling?” 

            “Okay, I guess.  They said that the cuts were so clean, that they were fairly easy to stitch up.  Unfortunately, that furry bastard cut through some muscles.  It’ll be a while before those heal.  He also cut into my rib bones on the left side.  Docs say I’ll have to have constant checkups to make sure infection doesn’t set in.  Waitaminute!  What do you mean, ‘Way off duty’?” 

            Trent sort of smiled and gave a half laugh.  “I quit.”

            “What?!”

            “It was either quit or be fired.  You put two slugs into that beast.  By the time I caught up to him, he had turned back into his normal self.  It didn’t matter either way.  None of the facts equaled what we got.  There was no concrete proof of anything.  It all came down to you and I killing an innocent man.”   

            Trent pulled his chair closer to the bed and leaned on the rails. 

            “We were put in a no win situation.  We had to stop that… thing.  Catching him and putting him on trial wasn’t an option.  We wouldn’t have gotten past round one.  I did my job, and I have no regrets.  I joined the force to do my part in making this city safe, and now I’ve found out that there’s something even more dangerous out there than your average mugger, murder, and drug dealer.  You heard the professor, this isn’t an isolated incident.  They are products of evolution.  Who knows how many of them there are out there.  And if they’re anything like this guy Sean was, they have to be stopped.” 

            “So, what?  You’re gonna try and hunt these things down?  C’mon, Trent, get real!”

            “I talked to that doctor from the museum. He agrees with me.  He said he could use someone with good investigative skills.  Says, there’s a lot of unexplained stuff out there.  Things that people need to be made aware of.” 

            “So, you’re gonna work for him?”

            “He’s willing to completely fund the whole thing.”  Trent thumped on the bed with his fingers.  He tried to find a way to tell Oz what was really on his mind.  “I talked to that guy Bobby for a minute.  He told me that a month or so before, that two men showed up on his door step looking for Sean.  They talked with him for about an hour, or so.  Bobby said that Sean later told him the men were with the government.  They were trying to recruit him for the military.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  The military trying to recruit someone at random?  This guy wasn’t fresh out of high school.  He was a year out of college.  They knew.  They had to know about him, about who he was.  What he was.  There’s more to this than we know.  And, I don’t know about you, but I want to know what they know.” 

            Trent looked away.  He thumped the bed some more.  He continued to look away from Oz as he spoke. 

            “I can’t do it alone.” 

            “What are you saying?  You want me to join you on this bullshit hunt of yours?  Like you even have to ask.  I’m there.  Docs say that with my injuries, I could probably retire from the force anyway.”

            The biggest smile Osland had ever seen crossed Trent’s face as he turned back around to face him. 

            Trent reached behind himself and pulled a small stack of rolled up papers from his back pocket.  He tossed them in Oz’s lap. 

Letter of Resignation

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