I close my eyes. Block out all the blood. All the gore. Anything that’ll distract me from the visions. What the scent always brings. Have to hurry. Don’t want the trail going cold before I can peer into the past.
I’m in my human form. But I need some of the wolf. So I will my nose into a muzzle, try to stretch my snout and sniff. Nothing happens. Nothing but a burning sensation coursing up a nose that should’ve been a muzzle. Making my eyes tear. Making my chest hurt. Feels like my lungs are about to collapse. I pull away from the blood and get up off my hands and knees.
My nose feels like it’s on fire. I run a hand over it and immediately flinch, pull it back cause it started to burn too. There’s blood and snot all over it. I wipe my hand on my jeans and the searing sensation lessens. This pain will linger, loiter around like an unwanted guest until I cleanse my hand and face with water.
I breath in through my mouth and gather a lungful of air. It hurts. I exhale. Shoot the air out through my nose, spraying the floor with saliva, mucus and blood. I drop to my haunches and eyeball the mess. Feint silver speckles sparkle in the viscidity. Silver. It’s not enough to kill me. Just enough to irritate me. Just enough to make me angry.
I feel the wolf within wanting to come out. Wanting to take control. To make somebody pay for this pain. Anybody. But my man side tells the animal inside of me, the animal that’s a part of me, to shut the fuck up. With a whimper it recedes, falls back until I call it. Once a month it’ll have its night. When the moon is full and during the Hunt. The other twenty or so are mine.
I smother the animal in thought. List the facts as they stand. The silver, pulverized into a fine powder, dispersed about the crime scene, sprinkled onto the victim’s body and blood, has to be the work of somebody in the know. Somebody who knows about us. Could be a rival pack. Could be a human hunter. Could be a fucking vampire for all I know. Whoever they are, knew the silver would burn me, keep me from transforming, blind me from the visions that come with the scents. They knew how to kill a werewolf, as evidenced by the butchered remains of a fellow lycanthrope strewn all over the apartment. As evidenced by all the silver.
By my feet, a torso. A leg and an arm by the bathroom threshold. Decapitated head propped on top of the television facing the bed. Black greasy, lanky, blood-matted hair strewn across an ugly pockmarked and goateed grill. Eyes wide and staring. The other leg is on the window’s ledge. A trail of congealed blood links the leg to an arm, poking out from underneath the bed. Human digits stiff with rigor mortis curled like claws.
Poor bastard got it bad. Overkill if you ask me. Decapitation was enough. No coming back from that. This tells me something about the killer-or killers. Tells me they wanted more than mere murder. They’d butchered the beast. Made it personal. Sent a message.
The sight should bother me. Make me sick. Should make me puke. But it doesn’t. Doesn’t faze me one bit. Seeing shit like this often enough definitely desensitizes you. Wish I could feel something. Remorse. Sympathy. Outrage. Anything. Anything but this dead feeling. This nothing. But that’s not completely true. Cause I feel myself wanting to feel something. Some small voice screaming from the back of my mind. But it’s muffled. Covered by layers of apathy. And I don’t know if it’s for my protection or for everybody else’s. Cause if I listen to that voice, that fucking emphatic wail, I might just go ballistic. Hurt myself or fucking tear apart everyone around me.
Because of Allana. Because of Christopher. Then, because of Celeste. Apathy’s my best bet.
Besides, having feelings in my life, in my line of work, will get you killed. Get you dead quick. So fuck my feelings. I shed the thoughts aside and get back to it.
Did the bastard even have a chance to transform? Can’t tell with all the silver resin jamming my senses, but I don’t think he did. When we die, we always revert to the form we were born in: human or wolf. Like me, this Lyc was Born to Man.
The bastard’s name was Ruglar, muscle for the Manhattan pack known as the Shards. The Shards control the borough, have been running things on the island of many hills for the last century. Before that, the Gaia-Those Born to Wolf-controlled Manhattan, along with the other four boroughs. Back then, the Gaia used Manhattan as a prison. Banished lycanthropes there for heinous crimes. A severe punishment for the time, when most werewolves abhorred the city. When they had a choice to. When there’d been a whole lot more land left to the wild. The industrial age took that choice away, and its been downhill ever since. We adapted. Now, we fucking thrive in the city, if not run it. Though I’m sure the vampires would have something to say about that.
Don’t know if Ruglar was a bastard or not. Guess that depended on what side of the fist your face was on. Met him a couple of times while working cases. Fed me a name or two over the years, as long as those names never came back around to bite him in the ass. As long as I was working for the Shards. Like I’m doing tonight.
I’m not affiliated with any particular pack. I’m a lone wolf. Work for whoever can pay me, for whatever they need done. I’m a hunter, pure and simple. Need somebody found, need somebody killed, I’m your wolf. In this day and age hunting is a lost art. Too many werewolves rely on technology, and it’s softened their senses. Made them reliant on it. In turn, making them weak. Hell, I don’t even like carrying a mobile phone. But I have to. Part of the job. My employers insist on it.
When he was all in one piece, Ruglar was a big guy. Six-foot-four. About two hundred and sixty pounds of muscle. He didn’t have to work out much. None of us ever do; comes with the territory, comes with the bite. The bite perfects your physique. As long as you feed the body all the protein it needs. And werewolves consume a shit load of protein.
Ruglar’s the third member of the Shards killed in the last month, and it’s making the pack nervous. All this killing with no answers. The other two were murdered in the same fashion, dismembered. Probably with a silver blade of somesort. Possibly a sword. Could’ve been a scythe for all I know. With all the silver present, examining the wound further right now is impossible. The blade didn’t have to be silver. Decapitation with anything does the trick. It’s just easier if the weapon’s made of silver; it’ll cut right through us like butter.
Every crime scene had been saturated with powdered silver, maybe micronized. Don’t know how it went down. Don’t know why the victims hadn’t transformed. Had they had a chance to? Like I said, hard to tell with all the silver prevalent in the room.
My nose is still itching and burning. Have to rid my nostrils of the clinging silver before it drives me crazy. I head over to the bathroom, if you could call it that. More like a closet with plumbing.
I get to the sink and run the hot water. Bend over and rinse my hands under the faucet. The hot water doesn’t scald. In fact, it’s soothing, cleansing. I splash water over my face, completely saturate it. I plug up the sink with the stopper that’s attached to the faucet’s neck by a rusty chain. The sink fills. I dunk my face in and inhale. I pull my face out and exhale through my nose, coughing and sputtering. More silver-speckled blood and mucus. Without touching the water-even a particle of silver will sting-I pull on the chain and unstop the sink, watching the blood, phlegm, and water swirl down the drain.
I dry my face with a stained towel. Look at myself in the heat-fogged mirror. Can’t see a damned thing. I wipe the mirror with the towel. Toss the towel to the floor. Looks like I managed to get all the blood off my face.
The face staring back at me looks like the mug of a man in his thirties. I’m actually much older than that. Try tacking on a century. It’s a handsome face, or so I’m told. I really don’t give a fuck about my looks. But it sometimes helps. And sometimes it gets me into a whole lot of trouble. I got a round head, made rounder by the buzz cut I sport. I like it short. Less fuss. Less to think about. Less for an opponent to grab in a scrap in my human form. Can’t always let the wolf out in a fight. Got to be ready to rumble in whatever form I’m in. Don’t want to frighten the saps-as in Homo sapiens. They don’t know about us and we’d like to keep it that way. Have to keep it that way. If the saps knew about us, they’d exterminate us, and it wouldn’t be difficult, thanks to our weakness to silver.
My pate’s roundness is offset by angular features. High cheekbones and a strong jaw line leading to a chiseled cleft free chin. Brown eyes, the same color as my hair, canopied by sharp eyebrows that aren’t quite a unibrow. I’m about a buck eighty, five foot ten, lean and muscular.
The phone in my jeans starts vibrating. I reach into the front pocket and pull it out. The screen says restricted, but I’m pretty sure I know who’s calling. My employer.
“Call me, Simon,” I say, even though I know he won’t.
“Have you found anything, Mr. Sturn?”
I smirk and snort. “Found plenty, Oscar.” I use his first name, knowing it irritates him. I’m an imp at heart. “Plenty parts. Plenty silver. Plenty blood. You get the picture.”
“The same as the others,” he says low, like he’s talking more to himself.
My employer, Oscar Malitent, has a lot on his mind. A lot to worry about. He’s contemplating. I can practically hear his brain percolating. Percolating with unease. Three dead. He needs answers soon. Like now. I bet the Shards Alpha, Tibus, is getting impatient. He doesn’t even know that I’m on the case, and Oscar would like to keep it that way. Has to keep it that way to save face. At least for now. It’s unwise looking weak in front of the big dog. But keeping secrets is just as bad.
“Need I remind you that this is a delicate situation?” Tension thickens Oscar’s tongue.
No, he doesn’t need to remind me. There’s a truce going on between the vampires and the werewolves. Anonymity’s just as important to the dead fucks as it is to us. There’s also a truce between rival wolf packs, those in the outer boroughs. All these fucking truces didn’t do the three mutilated wolves any good. We have to be sure. Eliminate the innocent from the equation. Hope it’s a human hunter and not a wolf or a vampire. Makes things a lot easier. Less political. Less of a chance for a war nobody wants. It’s bad for business. Bad for existence. And I like living.
“Look,” I tell him, “wish I could tell you it’s not a vampire. Wish I could tell you it’s not a wolf. Would fucking love to tell you that it was a sap. But I can’t. At least not yet.”
“This is the third body, and rumors are circulating. It’s only a matter of time before Tibus finds out.”
“If rumors are flowing, chances are Tibus already knows,” I say. “And need I remind you, that I’m going to do what you and your boys couldn’t do.” He knows I’m right. My record is flawless. I always come through.
“My apologies, Mr. Sturn, I’ve a lot packed on my plate.” Oscar sighs. I hear him running his hands through his hair. But the stress sticks and saturates his voice. “I should have contacted you after the first find. I was hoping that it was an isolated incident. Or at least something my men could have handled. Something they could have contained.”
“Relax, Oscar. You did the right thing. I would’ve done the same. But now I’m on the case. And I work best alone. I’ll call you when I find something or whenever I got something useful to say. But until then, Oscar, leave me the fuck alone.”
I turn off the phone and shove it back into my pants.