Note: Walk is intended for mature audiences only
Ken heard the howling as he shut off his jeep. “Damn.” His family’s territory back in West Virginia covered miles and miles of land. His grandmother eschewed the use of modern technology in maintaining their territory. So, the only way the pack could communicate over such distances was through their howls. He was no Cahalith bard, but Ken had become adept at the subtle variations and tones of the lupine speech. Two werewolves had found someone unexpected. One issued a challenge to the interloper, the other called out his location to his fellow pack mates. Then, in the distance, he heard two responses. The first called out that he was on the trail of their prey. A second, further away, called that he was coming to join his packmates against the trespasser.
Ken pulled his Glock from his glove compartment. A fifth howl tore at the night. This howl he had heard before. Not only because it was a howl of challenge, but because it was Val’s howl of challenge. “That’s not good,” he grabbed a couple extra clips and took off at a dead run. Times like this, he wished that he was better at fighting. Then, he’d be able to shift and run swiftly to his packmate’s aid. It was just practical to dedicate the spiritual power necessary to shift with your clothing. Taking off your clothes to transform and then having the presence of mind to come back to them, or having stashes of clothes throughout your territory was just a pain in the ass. To transform with a gun, not to mention the clip and each and every bullet would be grossly unproductive. As he ran, Ken heard another familiar growl. That was Troy, he had caught up with Val and had joined her attack.
When he came upon the battle scene, Val was there alone, fighting against two other werewolves while a third stood over a pit in the ground. No, she wasn’t alone. As Troy tried to leap out, the werewolf standing over the pit kicked him back down. Val roared in pain as one of her opponents raked down her arm. “Alright, let’s even things up.” Ken aimed at the werewolf keeping Troy at bay and fired. You could shoot a human practically anywhere and they would be out of a fight. The gift of regeneration changed that for a werewolf. The first thing the healing took away was the initial shock and pain. It was unlikely that a single shot would put the werewolf out of commission. Instead, Ken shot him in the leg. It produced the desired result. As the werewolf gripped his leg in the initial shock, he lost his balance and fell into the pit with Troy. The pit then filled with the growling sounds of two wolves fighting.
As Ken ran by the pit, he called down to Troy. "Remember the Oath of the Moon. He is of the People." He didn’t have a chance to stop Cain with Eddie of the Serpent’s Creed. The Oath was important, it was what kept the Uratha from becoming monsters like the Ridden. He would do his best to keep his Purity and the Purity of his pack. He fired again, this time targeting one of the werewolves on Val.
Val took the moment’s opportunity Ken’s intervention allowed to shift into her dire wolf form. The power of her war form was beginning to ebb and she did not want to be thrown into her weaker human form. She needed some time to heal from the damage she had taken in the fight. Though minor, she had taken several wounds. Val gathered her spiritual strength and let loose her Dominance Gift of Warning Growl. Fear took hold in the heart of one of her attackers as he faltered in pressing his attack. The other also paused, looking to the new danger.
Troy pulled himself out of the pit after defeating the werewolf. Now that he was beaten, Troy was able to appreciate his opponent. At the start of the fight, he had scrawled a symbol in the dirt and holes had swallowed Val and himself. He didn’t know how Val had been able to escape her pit, the edges of his own were so loosely packed that he was unable to purchase a grip. It was a gift that he could respect. He wondered where he might be able to learn it. He joined Val, transforming into his dire wolf form, and lept upon the werewolf that turned on Ken. He bit deep into the shoulder of the werewolf. As he rent flesh, a wildness flared in his opponent’s eyes. The Pure, if that was what these werewolves were, may be different than the Forsaken in many ways, but they were also very similar. Troy could see the Death Rage take hold in his opponent. While the rage of the Kuruth could inspire a mindless blood lust, in times of overwhelming danger, it could also inspire a panicked flight. As he shifted into his war form, the werewolf, arm limply hanging by his side, took in his surroundings. There were three Gauru, all in good health, facing him. He was outnumbered and in pain. The peril drove his instincts to run. The final werewolf, realizing he was outnumbered, growled, “The Crimson Rivers is not done with you,” before joining his packmates in flight.
“Come on, we need to go,” Ken stated. “It’s only a matter of time before they regroup, maybe even call for reinforcements.”
Back at the Creed House, Ken was the last one to finish with his shower. “Where’s the others? We need to talk about these Crimson Rivers Uratha.”
Val rubbed her arm, the scars from the evenings battle were finally fading away. “Jake put in another double shift. He sacked out early. Note on the fridge says there’s left over take out.”
“Cain’s still in the Shadow and Anthony’s up North at Lake Hammond. Anthony made his last check in at a pay phone, said his cell’s dead.” He took a drink of ice water. “But, hey, all the important people are here.”
Ken was about to say something, but noticed that Val had her slight smile on. She knew that Troy joking. He wondered when those two started tolerating each other so well. “Alright, then, from what Val told me, this Dr. Martins is the key. We need to get rid of him.”
“We’ll need an army to get into that place. It’s heavily fortified and well armed.” Troy knew that between Cain and himself, they’d be able to plan an attack, but they wouldn’t have enough manpower to execute it.
“No, I think that we can rid of him without any killing. The doctor that you two rescued from the Beetle, Blake, right?” Troy and Val nodded. “If we keep Blake alive, she should be able to get that asylum shut down. With the asylum shut down, Martins doesn’t have any reason to stay.”
Val picked up the day planner. “I don’t think that Blake is an option. I think that Lunacy may have pushed her around the bend.” She flipped to the end, Here, listen to this: ‘I hear heavy footsteps in the hall.’ ’They’re sharp claws click on the linoleum floor.’ ‘Beasts who walk like men.’ ’Shelton’s fighting them. He’s almost less human than they are.’ ’I’m so afraid. I locked the door, I wish I could lock this out of my mind.‘" Val flipped the book to show how erratic the doctor’s writing had become at the end.
“Great, if she opened up her mouth, no one would believe what she had to say.” Ken scratched his head thinking of another angle.
“When I traveled to Philly, I made a deal with the Legion. To get me through all the other territories safely, I agreed to let them know when I heard any movements by the Pure. Maybe they could do something?”
Val froze in place, and turned her head to stare at Troy. You made a fuckin’ deal with them? she wanted to ask. Or maybe she just wanted to hit him. Hard. ‘Cause she was fairly sure the Legion would think that deal applied to Troy’s pack-mates. Asshole probably hadn’t even thought about that, had he? Just go ahead, make a promise. Stupid fucker. And now? Now he wanted to ask for their help? Run up against a little trouble, and go running to mama to suck on her teat and ask for her to help out against the big bully? Fuck no.
After a moment more, she took a deep breath in through her nose, and then let it out slowly. “No,” she said firmly. “I’m not crawling to them with my belly on the ground asking for help.”
“I suppose I could hold off on telling them anything until we take care of it.” Troy was torn. He had a legitimate debt to the Legion, but he had to consider the feelings of his packmates. “Maybe we could have Cain put a skunk,” he shook his head with a laugh. “No, probably wouldn’t work.”
Val closed the day planner and tossed it on the coffee table. “Everyone else might think anything Blake says is crazy, but not us. She may know more than just what’s written here. Something that we’d be able to use.”
Ken nodded, “Sounds like a good place to start.”
“Dr. Blake, my name is Officer Cain. I was hoping I could talk to you.” Troy flashed Cain’s badge. “I’ve spoken with the woman that found you in that used car lot,” he nodded in Val’s direction. “Can you remember how you got from the Inez Wellness Home to Steve’s Cars?”
As soon as Troy mentioned the Home, wildness entered Dr. Blake’s eyes. “I don’t remember.”
“Don’t?” Troy raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t want to remember,” Blake stammered as she turned her head from Troy.
Troy lowered his voice to an intimidating level, “Dr. Blake, you’re going to tell me what you know, or I’m going to make sure that you go from this hospital room straight to a padded cell. You see, we found your planner. I’m sure that if I turned this over to your superiors, you’d not only lose your job, but you wouldn’t see the light of day again without being jacked up on Thorazine.”
The doctor slowly turned to Troy, “After arriving at the Home, Dr. Martins locked me in his office.”
“And did you find your Army buddy, Shelton Gaines?”
“Yes,” Blake winced in pain, not wanting to remember, “No, he, he wasn’t himself.”
“Did you manage to escape with Gaines’ help?” The doctor closed her eyes, trying to shut out her memories of the supernatural. The pain of remembering was bringing tears to her eyes. Troy looked to Val. “Is there something you can do to make this any easier?” Val looked at the sedative drip that was attached to the doctor’s IV and increased the dosage. Slowly, the doctor began to breathe easier. Troy took a lighter tone, “Listen, we’re after the administrator, Martins. Do you have any evidence we can use against him?”
The doctor shook her head, “Not without destroying my life. I could say that he was a monster.” She involuntarily shuddered, “His mouth, you’d never believe.”
Val touched the doctor’s arm, “You’d be surprised what we would believe.”
“Monsters.” She gripped her sheets like a child having a nightmare. “They were monsters.”
Troy looked at Val, the doctor would be of no use. He placed Cain’s business card on her bedside table, “Here’s my number. If you remember anything.”
Driving home, Troy frustratingly slapped the door, “So, how about we just burn the place to the ground?”
“And kill all the workers and guards who are not monsters?”
“It’s just like the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Those people knew the danger of signing on.”
Val shook her head, “Clerks? Really?”
“OK, then how about we just grab the evil doctor?”
“And do what with him exactly? Do you really think that you will be able to force him to do what you want?”
An idea struck Troy, “The hunters’ cameras. We can get what we want from them.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Martins releases patients for the rest of his pack to hunt. We set up the cameras and catch him doing the deed. We set up the cameras to collect the evidence, then we’ve got his nuts in a vise.”
Val smiled, “You know, Troy, you need to use your brain a little more often. You might even become useful.”
Troy nodded, “Thanks, Val, and fuck you too.”