The headlights of Val’s truck shone on a scene of violence. At the top of the driveway of the Creed House a huge pack of dogs were attacking a manifested Drowns-In-Lace. Out of her vehicle, Val saw that this was no ordinary pack. There was the expected assortment of strays and feral dogs, but there was also tags and collars reflecting off of the light. There were local dogs here. Large dogs leaped for the spirit’s throat, while small ones nipped on her cracked Sunday church shoes. Drowns-In-Lace seemed more annoyed than angered. She plucked a border collie off of her hand, a few fingers pulling off as she did so and tossed the dog into the pond.
Off to her right, Val saw Troy emerge from the woods. He paused not far from the scene, head cocked in puzzlement. Val had to agree, even for them, this was not normal. That these dogs were able to attack the Fear Spirit was odd enough. Even more, they should have been able to smell that wolves lived here. It was a rare canine that would willing face her kind. She passed over the idea of the hard and fast answer. It would be easy to shift into her wolf form and lay waste to these intruders. If they had all been wild dogs, she just might have. But a number of these dogs had owners, people who loved these canines. Counted them as family members, not merely as pets. She imagined a child asking her parent where Bosco was and ‘Lost Dog’ papers posted on telephone poles. Val wouldn’t have that on her conscience. She searched for the words Ken had been drilling her in the First Tongue. “What is going on here?”
Drowns-In-Lace lifted her foot and stepped on a poodle, “I am fulfilling my contract.” She pressed down, smiling gently as the dog began to whimper.
Not one of the dogs turned on her or Troy as they approached. They continued barking and biting the spirit. “I thank you for your continued service. We will handle this from here.” She had never been one for formalities, but hoped that she was giving her words the right inflection. Ken had said that most spirits expected a certain amount of deference from the People. She didn’t want to piss off their home’s guardian.
“Do it quickly, these things are not afraid.” Drowns-In-Lace returned to the Shadow in a flat splash of scummy pond water. The dogs looked confused for a moment and then began barking at the pond. So, they were after her. They can even trace her across the Gauntlet.
Troy’s ears perked and he looked down the driveway. Val heard it a bit later, a motorcycle. Motorcycles on Route 6 might mean a lot of things to the average citizen of Wellsboro. At this time of night, it could only mean one thing: the Five Ardent Spirits pack. Luckily, it only sounded like a single cycle. If it had been the entire pack, there might have been some concern. Jake was still at the hospital. Cain was off in the Shadow. Ken was still learning from his grandmother. And Anthony was still keeping an eye on their northern border, making sure that the Freedom’s Trident pack wasn’t moving on their land. It was only Troy and Val that were there as the motorcycle stopped on the road in front of their driveway. At least it wasn’t the one that looked like her asshole father.
The Ardent Spirit didn’t step off of Route 6, his pack’s claimed territory. It was the one they called Doc. Over the din of barking dogs he called out, “I apologize for the infringement on your territory.” He looked to his right and a black dog the size of a Volkswagen Beetle manifested and barked a command. Val had to cover her ears, it was so loud. She could only imagine the ache that Troy must be feeling with his heightened senses. The pack of dogs immediately stopped barking at the pond. Slowly, as they came to themselves, the dogs began to get a sense of where they were. Most took off running into the woods.
Val and Troy loped down the driveway, closing the distance between them and Doc, but not getting too close. That was one huge fucking dog. “What’s all this about?”
Doc rested his hand on the side of the Black Dog. Things were always tense at territory borders, especially with one as odd as a road cutting through multiple packs’ lands. He knew that this was a new pack, trying to establish their identity and authority. Best to be the calm one here. Doc pats the Black Dog, signaling the spirit to return to the Shadow, but not to stray far in case things go south. “We’ve kept it out of the public eye, but some of our people have been killed, torn apart really. Their bodies look like they were slaughtered by one of our kind. Whatever is doing this smells of fear. The stink is all over its victims.” The older werewolf returned to his motorcycle, “Be aware, it looks like this thing is moving East.”
As the rear red light of Doc’s motorcycle fades into the distance, Troy and Val look at each other, then towards the pond.
“Drowns-In-Lace, did you hear all of that?” Val called the the Fear Spirit. While she thought that their guardian was completely capable of shredding her victims, Val didn’t think that the spirit had a hand in these murders. However, she may know something that could help them. The spirit crawled out of the pond. It raised it’s mud and leaf matted head towards Val. “It seems that you have a rival.”
“As if there were a power that could threaten me.” Drowns-In-Lace placed her hands on the ground. The dark blue veins extended from her translucent skin, burrowing into the ground. She looked up at Val and Troy. “None of my kind are within my senses.”
“How far is that?”
She paused, searching for the words, “Something like fifteen of your miles.” The Fear Spirit began to sink into her home. “Should you find this thing, bring it to me, so that I may become stronger and serve you better.”
Troy quickly turned off the tap. “What the fuck.” A glance at his watch told him that it was 7 in the morning. The shower was just getting relaxing after last night’s run. Thoughts of another intruder and wondering what threat it would pose to the territory had kept him on edge all night. Now, somebody was honking their fucking horn. Throwing on a towel, Troy swore that if it was Jake wanting to go out to breakfast, he’d double-tap his packmate.
Through the front door, Troy saw that Val was out on the porch talking with someone. Joining her, Troy saw the sheriff. “Hey there sheriff, what’s up?” Troy noticed that Val’s casual smile turned to daggers when she briefly looked at him. ‘What the hell,’ Troy thought. He mentally ran through the previous night and couldn’t think of anything he’d done that would set her off. He looked down to Sheriff Tompson, maybe Val was trying to send him a signal. Wait, signals, Val was smiling. She was leaning over the railing, wearing only her nightshirt. Then he had come to her side, only wearing a towel. He could only guess what it looked like to the sheriff. Troy didn’t know if there was a female equivalent to ‘cock-blocking.’ If there was, then he was surely guilty of it now.
“I was just looking for Cain,” Sheriff Tompson took off his sunglasses, “we’ve found a body in the park. It looks pretty bad.” He opened the door to his cruiser, “I know that he’s on vacation right now, but if you hear from him, let him know.” He nodded to Val and Troy, “Sorry to have bothered you. I’ll let you get back to your morning.” Troy winced.
“You think it’s this thing that took out some of the Ardent Spirit’s people?” Val said once they were back inside.
Troy thought it was actually Eddie Creed that they had finally found, but there always was the chance it was this new threat. Best to be sure. “Maybe. I think we should check it out.”
It turned out that Troy was right. In their wolf form, he unerringly led Val to an area cordoned off with police tape. “It’s not the thing Doc spoke about. This is where I left Eddie Creed’s body.”
Val breathed deep near the tape, there was nothing that smelled like Drowns-In-Lace. No kind of fear at all. “You just left his body out in the open?”
Troy looked askance at Val, “I didn’t just drag him here. I did a lot of work first. Digging out the bullets, snapping his bones, splitting him open to make it easier for the local beasts to chew on him. By the time I was done with him, no one would think anything other than an unfortunate end to some sloppy hiker.”
Val might have made a comment, but her ears perked. “People are coming, two of them.”
The two werewolves faded into the woods, traveling downwind from the site. Human vision might give their position away, but scent and hearing would be just as useful. They smelled of sweat, smoke, and grease. They’d clearly been on the road for some time. Their conversation came into range.
“Well, what do you think?” The male smelled older than the other, judging by the amount of Ben-Gay he had rubbed on his body.
“I don’t know, this one’s a lot older than the others. Still, it’s on the same path.” This one was probably a mechanic, smelling of oil, grease, and some kind of chemicals.
“Still, I think we should head back to town. We can grab our stuff and see if we can stop this thing here. We might be missing some essentials. Do we know any locals?”
“Rumor is that Talbot’s here.”
“Talbot? I heard he got out of the game.”
“Nobody get’s out of hunting.” The pair of men left the crime scene. Val and Troy shared a meaningful look and followed them as the two made their way back to their van.
Talbot’s was the first stop the two hunters made, confirming to Val and Troy that they had heard correctly. Parking across the street, they watched the hunters walk up the side stairs to the apartment above. Troy tried to picture Talbot in his head. He seemed the friendly sort. The fact that the bar was plastered with Philadelphia Eagles signs and posters didn’t hurt either. “Val, tell me about Talbot.”
“How should I know? He’s from Philly, right? Shouldn’t you know who he is?”
“Like I’m supposed to know everyone from the city. You’re the one who always spending her time in bars.”
The thought of slamming his head into the dashboard passed through Val’s mind, “Look, something’s going on.”
At the top of the stairs, Talbot was pushing one of the men out of his door. “I’m done. Done, I told you. Jeter, Tompson, I don’t ever want to see you on my doorstep again.” Val had never seen the bartender so upset.
The two hunters returned to their van, throwing confused looks towards Talbot’s apartment. They returned to a room at the Sherwood Motel after grabbing some food at the local McDonald’s. “Now I really don’t care for these guys.” Val opened the door to Ma’s. She and Troy decided to watch the motel from the vantage point of the diner. “They go to McDonald’s when they’ve got a local place like this to eat?”
Troy paused eating his breakfast. “Philly is so different now. Looks like there is going to be a war between the werewolves and the vampires.”
Val paused eating her omelet. “Vampires? Those things are real?” She had never really given much thought to the idea of the monsters’ existence. But, since werewolves were real, there was no reason for vampires not to be real too.
Troy Libertys Sentinels nodded. “The focused on maintaining a peaceful balance with other creatures. This new pack has taken to hunting them down.”
Val shook her head. “Sounds like this new pack has got the right idea. I can’t believe that your old pack would allow predators to live in your territory.”
“Not my territory anymore. There’s nothing left for me there. I’m more concerned about Freedom’s Trident. I think that we only faced their weakest members. That woman, Dancer in Darkness, she had to be using the same gifts as I did, but I didn’t even know she was there.”
“I think that Anthony is keeping an eye out up there and we’ll deal with it when it happens.” Val glanced over to the motel, still no movement from the hunters. “This is getting boring. I’m ordering pie.”
“Maybe we should call the cops on them? Then I can check out the room.”
Val shrugged and flipped out her phone. "Hey,Kathy, it’s Val. No, unfortunately I haven’t heard from Cain, but that’s what I’m calling about. I was out jogging in the park and I saw two strange guys driving off in a white van with New York plates. I mentioned it to a friend of mine and he said that he saw the same two guys at the Sherwood Motel. Now I don’t know if they have anything to do with it, but I thought Sheriff Thompson should know."
Less than five minutes later, the sheriff was knocking on the motel door of the hunters. After a short argument, the two were driven off in the back of the sheriff’s car.
Troy was across the street and into the motel room shortly after. Inside looked straight out of some crime movie. There were pictures and reports tacked up around the room. The photos showed bodies that had been torn to pieces. Troy could see why the Five Ardent Spirits were concerned. He took out his phone and started documenting everything in the room. He’d have all of their information without alerting the hunters that they were being watched.
Troy rejoined Val at the diner after she alerted him that his time was running short. “We’ve got to look into these murders.”
Photo is taken from here.
Week 18:Killer On the Road
Who let the dogs out?