Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

‘Wolves’ Clothing’

The werewolf was at the bottom of Goose Lagoon. That was the only thing I was sure of. I slung my rifle over my shoulder and sighed. Behind me, the members of the New Alexandria Lycanthropy Society stood, assessing my performance. I heard them mutter and curse quietly. I still didn’t know if they were going to let me live. Of course, I still didn’t know if I was going to let them live, either. All I knew for sure was that the werewolf was the bottom of Goose Lagoon.


Twenty-seven hours earlier, I hadn’t even heard of the New Alexandria Lycanthropy Society. Why should I? It wasn’t like they advertised. They preferred to keep their club quiet, for, as I found out, obvious reasons. I could have gone my whole life and died a happy man without knowing about the existence of the Society. And now I’m tied to them, probably forever.

I was just a regular, unimpressive, paranormal private investigator. You’d be surprised how much money a low-level telepath can make in that field. It’s a growth industry, but for some reason, I never had any competitors. I’m pretty sure I’m the only private investigator of the paranormal on the West Coast. So I do okay.

New Alexandria is the perfect place for the job, too. More Than Mundane magazine has repeatedly named it “The Most Haunted City in the United States,” and weirdness just seems to fester here. I don’t know why the Alex is such a strange place, but I’ve heard the rumors. Hannibal Trajan Bench the First, who founded the city, massacred the native settlement that was here before he set up camp. That’s a good one, and not inconceivable. Hannibal Trajan Bench the Second, who laid out the downtown street plan, was a student of the occult, and the city is designed like a pentagram so it catches all sorts of spirits and demons and such. I’ve studied the maps, and I don’t buy it. A good one is that Lewis and Clark, who explored the area for President Burr back in 1804, needed to survive the winter, so they sacrificed Indian babies for warmth, and cursed the place forever. Whatever it is, it keeps me employed, so it’s all right with me.

It was close to nine o’clock when I got the call. I work all hours, and a lot of nights, so it wasn’t an unusual time. I was at my favorite bar, Bela’s, drinking Scotch with no ice, but I had only just begun, so my head was clear. The phone call, I knew, ended my imbibing for the night.

“Inigo Keys, PPI,” I growled into the phone.

“Mister Keys, I have a case for you,” a voice said. It was female. I liked the no-nonsense approach of it.

“I charge two hundred dollars a day, plus expenses.”

“That’s fine, Mister Keys,” the voice said. “We’re willing to pay more for … speedy results.”

“How speedy?”

“Just come to this address: Eight Twenty-Two Saint Catherine Street. It’s downtown; the corner of Saint Catherine and Henry the Eighth.” I knew it was downtown; I’ve lived her all my life. “The building is called the Gnomon. We’re in Suite Thirteen Thirteen. The doorman will let you in.”

“Can I ask what it’s about?”

“Not over the phone. Shall we say thirty minutes?”

I live and drink on Saratoga Island; downtown’s not far away. I told the voice I’d be there. I couldn’t resist cryptic phone calls. My father said it would get me in trouble one day.


“You have to take the stairs — the elevator’s broken,” the doorman said. I glared at him, but he went back to reading his book, statue-like, and I knew I’d get no more reaction from him. So I climbed. Ten minutes later I opened the door to the thirteenth floor and found the right suite. The sign on the door read “New Alexandria Lycanthropy Society.” “Werewolves,” I muttered, pausing for a moment. It had been a long time.

I knocked, and a voice told me to enter, so I pulled the door open and went in. The lights were dim, but I could still see well enough to discern that there were seven people in the room, all sitting at a long, wooden table. At the head of the table sat a woman — the voice on the phone, I presumed. On either side of her were three people: two men and a woman on her left, three men on her right. An empty chair was placed at the foot of the table; mine, I guessed correctly, as the woman indicated that I should sit in it.

“Mister Inigo Keys,” she said softly. “Paranormal Private Investigator. Quite the reputation you have. We are impressed with your résumé.”

“And you are?” I said. They had me at a disadvantage.

“The New Alexandria Lycanthropy Society,” she said, smiling. “I thought you could read.”

“Don’t be smart. I would like to know whom I’m working for.”

“Isn’t that all you need to know?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Desiree, stop flirting with him!” the man immediately to the woman’s left hissed. It had a chilling effect on her. She turned slowly toward him, and I saw her eyes glint in the dim light. They were red. I felt the hairs on my neck stand up — a not uncommon occurrence, given my profession. I do the jobs, but that doesn’t mean I’m fearless. Desiree leaned forward, and the man did as well. She tapped her lips with her left index finger, as if she were thinking. While she did this, her right hand suddenly whipped out and slapped the man across the cheek, just lightly, so that there was no sound. The man flinched back, and I saw a thin red line on his skin where one of her nails had cut him. She leaned back in her chair.

“Reynard has given me away.” she said coyly, as if nothing had happened. “I am the president of our little club. You may call me Desiree.”

“So what’s your problem?” I asked.

Desiree stood. I could see that she cultivated a sensual presence, probably to intimidate any man she came in contact with. She was attractive but not beautiful, with short dark red hair and a long thin body. She moved like a snake. I could tell that she was dangerous.

“We here at the Society are … well, I suppose you could call us werewolf enthusiasts,” she said as she walked to her right around the table toward me. “We get together to discuss lore, research sightings, speculate about beliefs — regular things for a club to do.” She stopped a few feet away from me and smiled. It was a nasty smile, I decided, not very pleasant. Her red eyes bored into mine. I could not decide if they were natural or contact lenses. “You see, Mister Keys, we believe that werewolves are terribly misunderstood creatures. Lycanthropes have a disease that can be cured, yet most people just want to kill them. That is not what we strive for.

“As you are no doubt aware, werewolves are not uncommon in this country. So many immigrants from the dark corners of the world, bringing all their customs and curses with them, including lycanthropes. We,” she waved absentmindedly behind her, “represent some of the families who have been most closely affected by the affliction. We have all had dealings with lycanthropes in the past, and we believe we are uniquely qualified to deal with them.”

“I repeat, what’s your problem?” I asked. “It seems to me that if you are ‘uniquely qualified,’ then I certainly can’t offer anything else.”

“Yes, well, sometimes, occasionally, things get out of our control,” she said, and I saw a bit of her unshakeable veneer slip. “This is one of those times. This is one of those times when we are advocating … termination. Of a werewolf. We have … lost track of this person, and we are worried. It is a full moon tomorrow night, after all. You need to find this person, and you need to do it soon, before the werewolf escapes the city.”

“I assume you’ll tell me more about the target.”

“Of course. You like your Scotch neat, I believe? If you’d like the job, I can tell you all you need to know.:


Desiree told me a weird tale, all right. It led me to the Blavatsky Occult Library on the campus of Bench University, located in the hills in the southeast of the city. The library is the top repository of occult lore in the Western Hemisphere, and if they didn’t have it, it probably didn’t exist. I knew I had to find out more about the werewolf I was hunting, because it wouldn’t be easy to track it down. Tracking werewolves is the hard part, not the killing. The whole silver bullet thing is a myth. Werewolves are just like any other animal — shoot it in the brain or the heart, and it dies. Because they’re human most of the time, however, lycanthropes are usually cleverer than your average animal when they’re in wolf form, and this makes them difficult to hunt down. That’s why I ended up at the library — I hadn’t hunted werewolves in twenty years, and I needed to get up to speed on the latest techniques.

I learned what I needed to know about recent innovations in werewolf hunting. When I had done it, it was preferable to hunt alone — werewolves were skilled at picking off members of a herd, and a hunting party was no different. They also tended to respect a hunter coming for them by him- or herself — Tanya Oubliette was the most skilled hunter ever, in my opinion — and they would come out for a mano a mano confrontation much more readily. Which is when, of course, you would blow them away — werewolf hunters have no sense of honor. I learned from the recent literature that single hunting had fallen out of fashion — lycanthropes learn quickly — and most of them no longer felt the need to confront their hunters, which usually led quickly to their deaths. A team concept had taken over the past five years — pioneered, I was startled to learn, by the aforementioned Ms. Oubliette. Tanya, whom I had met briefly when I was a wayward youth, had organized groups of hunters into five-person teams, each with a specific purpose in the hunt. She mentioned the technique in a four-year-old issue of Supernatural Hunters Quarterly, but wisely kept the particulars to herself. Someone would have to sign up for her course, pay their money, and go through a screening process — to weed out the werewolves who might want to infiltrate her school — in order to get the secrets of her success. Tanya was a smart businesswoman, and according to the article, her new method was piling up corpses of lycanthropes at a record rate.

I also wanted to check up on the New Alexandria Lycanthropy Society. Desiree did not fill me with confidence about her organization’s altruistic and passive raison d’être. Something was missing from her account, and I wondered if anyone had done any real research on the group.

It turned out the Society was quite old — almost a century had passed since the founder, Hieronymous MacGillicuddy, first arrived in the city and established his club. “Hi Mac,” as he was called, had known with whom to curry favor — he was Transporation Secretary under Mayor Victor DeGroot, and his daughter had married Scipio Belisarius Bench, the younger brother of Hannibal Trajan Bench the Fifth, in 1919. Hi Mac was a generous philanthropist, but in all his years in the city — he was 33 when he arrived and died at 88 — he never had a “real” job — his work for DeGroot was the first of several government positions he held that paid him a pittance. He was rich when he arrived in the Alex, but no one ever knew where his wealth came from. It was, however, a mystery I was uninterested in. I just wanted to know about the Lycanthropy Society. According to the article I read in More Than Mundane, Hi Mac opened the Society in the summer of 1908 in order to “facilitate the understanding of the tragic disease in order to expedite the conception of a cure.” The article went on to say that the Society was still dedicated to this principle, which I didn’t believe for a minute. If they were dedicated to anything, they were dedicated to hunting werewolves and killing them.

I looked up Desiree in the New Alexandria Who’s Who. There were four Desirees, but only one could be her. Desiree Hanover, 35 years old, heir to vast fortune in, of all things, food distribution. Her company supplied grocery stores throughout the Northwest and southern Canada. The entry didn’t mention her involvement in the Society, but it had to be her — all the other women named Desiree were over 70. I also looked for a man named Reynard. This was easier — there was only one entry for a man by that name: Reynard Sinclair, 59 years old, born in Scotland but he had lived in the U.S. since he was 3 years old. His father was an inventor who struck it rich with a new combination of helium and hydrogen that was far less flammable than that used in zeppelins before the war. It allowed the industry to recover after the Hindenburg exploded, and Sinclair Senior became a wealthy man. Sinclair Junior was a typical dissolute heir, living off his inheritance and involving himself in strange schemes to get richer, some of which worked, others of which cost him dearly. I found little else about him, but at least I knew more than I did than when I entered the Society’s suite.

It was ten o’clock in the morning when I finished at the library. The southeast wasn’t my part of town; I didn’t know where to go to get a decent breakfast. I was resigned to heading back to the island for a bite when, as I walked down the steps in front of the library, I heard my name. I looked around and saw a short, stocky man coming toward me. I swore under my breath. There was no escape, though. Father Yuttleton wanted to say hello.


His mother actually naming him “Father” was one of the cruelest ironies I have ever personally known. She was a good Catholic, and wanted her firstborn to enter the priesthood, hence the name. Not too much pressure, I guess. It turns out that Father was one of the most lascivious, irreverent, worldly people I have ever encountered, and any form of religion was not for him. His mother, good woman that she was, consoled herself by holding out hope for grandchildren, but Father had no interest in children, and if he had them, he did not know about them. Yuttleton was a disgusting person, and I was glad I rarely ran into him. He pumped my hand vigorously when he reached me and quickly invited me to coffee so we could catch up. I tried to refuse, but he could be remarkably insistent. Soon we were sitting in a greasy little shop right off campus, and Yuttleton was regaling me with tales of his exploits since we had last seen each other six years earlier.

I tried to listen, but his stories mostly consisted of somehow getting involved with a woman, treating her perversely, then ripping her off and vanishing on her. Yuttleton took pleasure in this aspect of his life. He was also full of get-rich-quick schemes, which, for reason far beyond his control, never panned out. Everyone else was to blame for this, of course. I was drinking iced tea quickly — the coffee smelled terrible — and trying to think of an excuse to leave when he mentioned Desiree. I held up my hand to stop him.

“Desiree Hanover?” I asked.

“Sure. High society snooty type. She was my latest conquest.” He sniffed and picked something out of his nose. I smiled.

“I have met Desiree Hanover,” I said. “How did you get involved with her?”

“I was coming off a relationship,” he said, “and I had some extra cash. I figured I would go to some of the upscale places around town — check out the new meat. So I wrangled an invitation to the Midsummer’s Eve Ball — the one they hold on Bench’s yacht on Thor Lake every year. Biggest event I ever went to, let me tell you — I actually shave and showered, rented a tux, the whole shebang.

“So I’m on board, and it’s mostly old bluebloods — Bench and his cronies, the mayor, the governor — nobody I’d want to get too close to — they all could easily find out about me. I’m trolling the decks, but I’m getting pretty frustrated. Then I saw her. She stood out because she was probably the youngest one there, as well as one of the few women there on her own merits — most of the bitches were trophy wives, and I couldn’t get close to many of them. I knew who she was, but couldn’t think of how to approach her. Then I remembered her favorite topic.”


He did a double take. “You’re more up-to-date than I thought, Inigo,” he said, obviously impressed. “I shouldn’t be surprised, given your profession, but I didn’t think that was such common knowledge.”

“Maybe I’m just remarkably well informed. Continue with your tale.”

Yuttleton claimed to have information on the Northwest’s deadliest werewolf — a lure Desiree could not resist. I have never understood Yuttleton’s Rasputin-like hold over women, but I suppose it comes from always telling them what they want to hear. I doubt if Yuttleton knew anything about where to find a werewolf, but he knew what buttons of Desiree’s to push. He loed her on, claiming knowledge he didn’t have, all to get her into bed.

“So did you?” I asked, trying to get him to reach the point. Yuttleton looked down at his mug.

“No, actually, I did not have the pleasure of nailing Miss Hanover,” he said. “She was too tough, and eventually, I had to admit I knew nothing about the Northwest’s most dangerous lycanthrope. She did, however, get a little drunk — not drunk enough, as it turned out — and tell me many interesting things about her little club.”

“What club?” I said, feigning ignorance.

“You know about her interest in werewolves but not about the Society?” He told me what he knew, which was about what I already knew. “Anyway, she let slip that they in the market.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t say. It was just one of the many things she told me. It struck me as strange, that’s all. Most of it was about werewolf lore — studying patterns, lunar movements, that sort of thing. I guess the club of hers is about finding and documenting werewolves.”

I didn’t say anything. Yuttleton rambled on for a while, and then I made an excuse and left him. Desiree’s case still wasn’t clear, but I had a better sense of it. I had only a few hours of sunlight left, and I had to prepare for the hunt.


I sat watching the sun go down over the West Hills. I was on top of the tallest apartment building in the city, in the garden of one of the richest men in the country. He was also one of my oldest friends.

How I know Roderick Arnulfing and get to call him my friend is a story for another day. What he could tell me, however, about the Alex’s high-and-mighty was very much on my mind. He knew it, too.

“This is not a social call,” he said as he gave me a gin and tonic. “The last time I saw you, I got involved in that headless horseman thing. You are usually trouble, Inigo.”

“Tell me about the Menagerie.”

“Shit. Cut to the chase. I warrant some foreplay.”

“No time. I have a deadline.”

“I could get in trouble.”

“So could a lot of other people with less money and fewer connections. You can buy your way out of almost anything, Roddy.” I took a sip of my drink. “If you want to be difficult, though, I’m sure Bench would like to know a few things about you. Our trip to Shangri-La, for instance.”

He smiled. “You’re a prick, Inigo, but you’re a good prick.” He sat down in a chaise lounge across from me. “So. Desiree Hanover hired you.” Roderick did not ask questions. He never has.

I hid my surprise. “It seems I was the last to know.”

“We here in the Alex are quite a close-knit group. I know all about your little mission.” He sighed. “I think you should reconsider.”

“Because of the Menagerie?”

“Bench would not like it if he knew you knew about that. You’re going to tell me how you found out.”

“Come on, Roddy — deadline. You know. A few hours, maximum. The werewolf will be gone after tonight.”

“Yes.” He sighed again. “I will not tell you everything. Only that if this wolf gets into the Menagerie, it will die. Desiree does not care about that. She cares only about the cachet that will accrue to her name and her club. She understands little about what it takes to live well in the Alex.”

“What about the rest of them?”

“They follow her lead. Sinclair, especially — the little lapdog that he is.” He shook his head. “The nouveau riche — so crass.”

I smiled. “So I’m not to kill it?”

“Heavens, no. But you should.”

“You won’t tell me why it will die in the Menagerie?”

“It doesn’t matter. Trust me. The Menagerie — some of the animals in it are extinct. The press would love to know of its existence. We could say we’re preserving life forms no longer extant elsewhere, but the truth is — we hunt them. We kill them. We eat them. You have never tasted grilled basilisk.”

“Tastes like chicken?”

“Kill it. You’d be doing it justice.”


Bluffing people is what I do best. I had no idea what the Menagerie was, but I pulled the word out of Roddy’s mind when we were talking and decided to go for it. I often wish my telepathy was stronger, but then I probably wouldn’t have as much fun at my job.

Detective work is kind of fun, but sometimes — it sucks. I had an appointment to keep, and I now knew I was probably going to have to kill someone. I had killed before — I was in the Special Forces during the Libyan War — but that didn’t mean I liked it. Killing werewolves was even harder, because usually, the poor bastards didn’t want to be werewolves, and occasionally, the human part of them didn’t even know they were werewolves. This case, despite the financial benefits, wasn’t even close to a simple bag-‘n’-tag, and I would be happy when it was over and I could forget Desiree and her little club. Of course, knowing what I did about Desiree, I figured I needed to take precautions. So, before I headed out, I made a phone call to an old friend.

The moon was full by the time I reached the train yards on the southeast corner of Jackson Island. Desiree had told me that the werewolf knew of her plans for it and was going to jump a train that night. She also told me that her club wanted to be there to witness the kill, so I walked into the warehouse in which we planned to meet and lit a cigarette. It was the signal. Before I could react, they were in front of me.

“It’s here,” Desiree hissed, licking her lips.

“So,” I said, trying to form a plan to kill the beast before she could capture it, “how’s this going to work? I’ve been reading up on hunting these things, and the latest techniques indicate that I should have a team. I doubt if Tanya Oubliette’s going to show up to discuss her secrets, so are you going to be my team? And if so, are you ready for it?”

Desiree chuckled. “Yes, we’re your team. We are … intimate with Miz Oubliette’s methods. You’re the point man, Mister Keys, simply because you’re the best shot up close. This creature will not allow us to take it down with long-range sniper fire. It’s too intelligent.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Hunt it. We will herd it to you, and you will put a bullet in its brain. You won’t see us, but we’ll be there. We don’t know which train it’s trying to catch, but it mustn’t be allowed to escape. It’s too dangerous.”

I nodded and left the building. I had tried to read their minds at our first meeting, and I had just tried again, but they were all shielded from my meager talents. I knew they would be herding it, but how would they capture it without my knowing? They would obviously have to kill me, but then why did they need me in the first place if they knew where the werewolf was going to be? What was my role?

The Alex train yard abuts the Saratoga River, which runs from Goose Lagoon north to Snowden Lake, then farther north into Washington. I could see Saratoga Island across the river; I thought of walking quickly up to the Grover Bridge and going home. Desiree had plenty of money, I knew, and if I killed the werewolf instead of letting her capture it, I would technically be completing the job. My need for money overcame my disgust.

The best way to hunt a werewolf is by smell and sound. When the moon is full and the skies are clear, werewolves almost cannot resist howling, even if they know they’re being hunted. The night was not completely clear, but I knew that at any moment the scudding clouds would reveal the moon, and then I would hear it. In the meantime, I would smell for it. I have a particularly good sense of smell, and werewolves aren’t the cleanest animals. I looped up to the north end of the yards, keeping silent and making sure the light breeze was blowing in my face. I assumed the lycanthrope was south of me — all the trains were, and it was jumping a train, after all — and as long as I was upwind of it, I’d be undetected, at least by its nose. If the wind shifted, I’d be in trouble, but I was experienced enough to sense when it did.

I knew Desiree’s club wouldn’t use wolfsbane. Some thing it wards off werewolves and therefore can be used to keep the animal within a certain area, but, as usual, it’s a myth. All wolfsbane does it let the lycanthrope know that there’s someone in the area who knows about werewolf lore. I was sure the Society would simply stalk the exits to the train yard and keep the werewolf in range.

As I hunted, I tried to figure out the puzzle. Desiree wants a werewolf for the Menagerie. She knows that one’s in town, and that this is the first night of the full moon, so the wolf will be out. She also knows that it’s leaving town. She hires me to kill it, but she doesn’t want it dead. Why didn’t she hunt it herself? kept flitting through my mind. Why does she need me?

I decided it was because I was the bait. I was to draw the werewolf out in the open, where the Society would capture it. When I sighted it to kill it, they would shoot me and take it. Simple. Now I had to figure out how to beat them.

The moon broke through the clouds. I waited. After less than two minutes, I heard a howl off to the south. Perfect. I scanned with my mind. Telepathy is tricky, and not terribly effective long-range, but it can be done. I picked out an animal mind, burning dully maybe two hundred yards south and slightly to the left. I knew that Desiree’s gang had heard it too, if they were any good. I had to hurry.

I kept to the shadows, hoping the wolf wouldn’t spot me. Lycanthropes have excellent night vision, but their depth perception isn’t great. Shadows can confuse them, and since I was still upwind, I had an advantage. I was so focused on the noise in front of me that I almost missed the movement to my left, about where the Saratoga River flows out of Goose Lagoon. Something was scuffling along the bank, heading for the water. I turned fully, trusting my instincts that it was more than a rat or a stray dog. I saw the humanoid form, and then it crossed a patch of moonlight and was revealed. The werewolf.

It hadn’t seen me. Somehow it had covered over one hundred yards in a few seconds and was making a break for the north or across the neck of the river. I sighted along my Grumm X-12 Thunderbird rifle — “the only gun you’ll ever need if you ever need to hunt the supernatural,” according to their advertisement — and lined up the shot. The wolf had obviously slipped through the Society’s loop. I had no time to waste.

I paused. The wolf turned and saw me. It hissed and crouched, ready to attack. I had it in my crosshairs when suddenly I saw something bizarre. The wolf was clutching something it its right front paw. It looked like a locket of some sort. I lowered my rifle slightly and gazed into the wolf’s eyes. The lycanthrope wasn’t feral or enraged — what I saw in its eyes was something like regret. I slung my rifle over my shoulder and took a step forward. The wolf hissed again, but I held my hands up to show I wasn’t holding another weapon. I held out my hand, palm up, to indicate I would take a look at the locket it was clutching. I didn’t know if it understood speech, but I whispered, “It’s okay. It’s fine.” The wolf looked me up and down, sniffed, then extended its paw and dropped the locket into my hand. I opened it and looked down at the picture within. I knew then why Desiree wanted to capture it.

“Yes, it’s Tanya Oubliette,” I heard Desiree’s voice behind me say. “Oh, the cruel irony.”

She was at least ten feet behind me. I hadn’t heard anyone else approach — not that I had even heard her approach. I closed the locket with Tanya’s picture in it. “What are you going to do with me?”

“Well, you were supposed to hear our recorded wolf howl and head south. We knew where she was, and were going to pick her up once you were out of the area. You spotted her too quickly.”

The wolf had frozen, sniffing the air. I suspect she knew she was trapped. She stayed still eyeing me and Desiree, ready to make a move.

“Why did you hire me in the first place? You could have done all this yourself.”

“True. But dear Tanya knew about us. It’s why she was in town. One of us — never mind who — is a lycanthrope, although tonight it’s safely secreted away on an island offshore, and Tanya was here hunting. I expect she does this out of some need to assuage her own guilt. It’s nothing to feel guilty about, dear,” she said to the wolf. The thing that had been Tanya crouched, but didn’t move further. I heard the click of a gun being cocked behind me.

“If she knew we were hunting her, she would never have come out. Seeing you, and knowing you weren’t part of the Society — well, she thought you had come to actually kill her.”

“I am going to kill her. It’s what she wants.”

Desiree chuckled. “Yes, but it’s not what I want, Mister Keys. Surely you had figured that out?”

“I know about your plans.”

“You are clever! Too bad. We could have used you more often.”

I turned. Desiree was holding a small gun in her right hand, probably full of tranquilizers. In her left hand she clutched a larger gun, probably to take care of me.

“This is stupid, Desiree. In all my research, I didn’t get the idea that you were a stupid woman.”

“You don’t know anything. This is far above you.”

“What is? The Menagerie? A bunch of rich people who don’t know what to do with their money? That’s a crock, Desiree. You just like to torture animals. How are you going to justify keeping Tanya there when the full moon’s over?

She smiled. “We have our ways.”

I nodded. “Well, count me out.” I turned back to the wolf, which was still crouched. “What do you want, Tanya?” I asked, hoping she could understand me. “It’s your choice.”

“She’s an animal!” Desiree hissed. “She doesn’t get a choice!”

“Why don’t you let her decide?”

The wolf stood up on her hind legs. She looked me straight in the eyes. “Kill … me …” she whispered. “The pain …”

Before Desiree could react, I pulled the rifle from my shoulder. I heard a shout behind me, but it was cut off by the sound of the blast when I pulled the trigger. I hadn’t aimed well, but my instincts were sound. The bullet tore through Tanya’s jaw and slammed into her brain, spewing blood in a halo out of the back of her head. She staggered backward, already dead, and tumbled into the lagoon. She floated for a moment, and then sank, twirling like a falling leaf.

I waited for the gunshot the bullet in the back of the head. Desiree, I knew, liked getting what she wanted. I heard footsteps and shouts and knew the rest of the Society would soon arrive. I re-slung my rifle and turned.

Desiree had the larger gun on me, aimed right at my head. “Give me a reason,” she whispered. “Give me a reason not to kill you.”

“Go ahead. Pull the trigger. You can probably buy your way out of the charge.”


“The murder charge,” I said as the rest of the members showed up. “There are witnesses.”

“Them?” She indicated her underlings. “They wanted Tanya alive as much as I did. They don’t care what happens to you.”

“Not them. Them.” I pointed up. On the warehouse roof opposite the dirt road and scrub where we stood were two men. One of them was named Christian Fletcher. He was an investigative reporter for Channel 7 News. The other man was his cameraman, armed with his weapon of choice. Chris waved.

“You bastard,” Desiree said. She knew who Chris was. “You …”

“I’d like my money now,” I said. “You did say you’d bring it with you, for when the job’s done.”

Desiree lowered her gun. “Maybe I should kill all three of you. That would teach you.”

“Maybe. But maybe I should kill all of you. It’d be just like, I don’t know, putting down a mad dog.”

She curled her lip in a slight snarl, but she knew she was beaten. She signaled to Reynard, who went to his car and retrieved an envelope stuffed with money. I smiled graciously as I accepted it. Then we went our separate ways.


Chris had been happy for the phone call I made to him. He loved storied about sticking it to the rich. He never ran the story, of course. It was a condition of my “escape.” I promised Desiree we’d keep her little club and any mention of the Menagerie out of the news and I stayed alive. Chris got a cut of the money, so why did he need the scoop?

That night I went back to Bela’s and ordered a drink. Carlov, the bartender, took one look at me and told me the first one was on the house. “You had a rough night, can tell.”


“You talk about it?”

“Not now, buddy. Thanks.” I sipped the Scotch and smiled. Tanya went out like she had to. Not like she wanted to, but like she had to. It was a good enough death.

[I enjoyed writing this story, even though there are some plot holes – most notably, why Tanya was hunting so close to the full moon. Come on, woman! Anyway, just like yesterday’s story, I tried to do something a bit different, although I’m sure it’s not unique at all. Plots are hard, man! Obviously, due to this story, I should write an Elsa Bloodstone series, right? I hoped you liked this, and I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about my fictional city in which these stories are set – as I noted yesterday, I had planned more of them, but alas, life got in the way, and this is all we have. Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading!]

One comment

  1. tomfitz1

    Burgas: Still waiting for the book of short stories by you.

    You should watch BLACK MIRROR Season 6 Episode 4 “Maizey Day”

    I think you’d get a kick out of this one. As well as Episode 1, 2 and 5.

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