6: IT’S AFTER YOU
Leonetti flashes a badge and pulls up a Crime Scene tape cordon to walk over to a body.
He shuts his mouth tight as he smells the blood, taking a moment to compose himself before speaking.
“So, what do we have?”
“Animal attack maybe.” The CSI shrugs. “Or... hopefully.”
Leonetti nods, pauses, and looks across the street.
Grimacing, he walks over to a particular house and knocks on a particular door.
The group return from Alcatraz, without Valia, to find Leonetti waiting for them in the front room.
“Something you need to see.”
A dead body being loaded into a coroner’s van, less than two hundred feet from their door.
Four deep jagged cuts on the victim’s throat, almost enough to take his head off.
Like claw marks.
“So, who has an alibi?” Jones asks. “Because I don’t. We could all end up taking the fall.”
Arthur looks at him like he’s reading that as a threat.
Dr. Barrow sniffs the air. “Smells like... wet dog. What could that mean...?”
Arthur and Pavel share a look and blanch.
Leonetti returns with a photo of the victim’s ID.
“Nobody I know,” Pavel confirms.
The others shake their heads.
Behind him, Dr. Barrow retrieves some blood with his fingertip, tastes it, spits it out.
Arthur makes a call.
“You didn’t mention this before, but... this city have a werewolf problem?”
Valia raises her eyebrows.
“As far as I know, we have a werewolf. And he only lives here over winter.”
“Oh. Uh... we may need to talk to him.”
“Ask C. He’s... less unfriendly with the Circle than most.”
Dr. Barrow takes the news of a werewolf visiting as a sign to find more boltholes, stashing sealed garment bags of clean clothes in out of the way places around the storm drains.
He also takes the time to string some lights around the fatberg.
A splash behind him.
“I didn’t hear you come in.”
Sal stops closer.
“What do you know about werewolves?”
C has half her head shaved, the other half of her hair dyed blue, and is dressed to go skateboarding.
“His name is Hughes. Apparently this is an old joke. He’s not local. He says there used to be more of his people on the coast but they left before the cities. There are still some up country, but he’s the only one who sticks around. And no, I don’t know why. He likes his territory to be clearly understood. But he doesn’t make a habit of killing people. Or even vampires. If he did, he probably had a good reason. Or what he thought was a good reason.”
“So he doesn’t eat people?”
“We all say we don’t eat people.”
“How best to approach a werewolf?” Dr. Barrow asks. “Do you... bring him a gift? Meat? Roadkill?”
“Mother would say get someone else to.” Sal shrugs, and her bones click as she does. “But if you have to... get downwind, let him know you’re coming, unarmed...”
Following Sal’s directions, they reach the edge of Glen Canyon Park.
It doesn’t take long for Hughes to find them.
Tall, heavy-set, with premature silver in his dark hair and shaggy beard. Lumberjack shirt, faded jeans, well-used walking boots.
Hughes breathes deep, low and loud. He’d steam up a window if he was indoors.
“What brings you to my place?”
Arthur steps forward.
“A killing near our... residence.”
“You were going to say territory but you can’t make that claim.” Hughes half smiles, showing a glint of more sharp teeth than even a vampire.
“It looked like it might have been...”
“One of mine? Haven’t been down that way a while. Haven’t had need to. But. Maybe one of mine passed by. Not there any more. I can maybe get them to talk to you.”
“There was something wrong with this person,” Dr. Barrow says, stepping closer.
“Like we can talk.” Hughes shrugs. “What?”
“A... dusty taste to his blood.”
Hughes considers this.
“Let you know come Monday. Let yourselves out.”
This leaves them a night to wait, to pursue other lines of inquiry, and to try and keep busy.
Dr. Barrow looks at a blood sample from the victim in the haematology lab.
“Like he’d been dead a week...”
Then he goes to the blood fridge, finds it empty apart from one pint. Leaves a passive-aggressive note about sharing resources. Then takes the pint and drinks it.
Pavel and Henry attend midnight mass at the church near the Mission.
Alvarez does as well. He and the Canon talk at some length as the congregation file out.
Jones meets with Elena Davison, who introduces him to local businesspeople. Who are actually people.
Monday night, and they find a message on their answering service. An address. An owner-operated gas station in the hills halfway to Fresno.
Henry makes an excuse about his injury not quite being healed from the last time he went on the highway.
They travel together, Pavel driving one car with Dr. Barrow at his side, Jones and Arthur in a second.
“Why a gas station?”
“Real easy to start a fire.”
A young man, rail thin, in threadbare jeans and a sleeveless old shirt.
Another boy, faded T-shirt and cargo pants.
A middle-aged woman with a shock of auburn hair, wearing a man’s shirt too big for her and a cotton skirt down to her ankles.
All three barefoot.
Dr. Barrow looks at the roadkill he collected before thinking better of it. Maybe it wouldn’t be insulting after all.
“We’re here about the body outside our house.”
The woman leans against her car, wolf eyes watching the vampires.
“Yeah, we saw ’em. Smelt wrong.”
“Wrong? Wrong how?” Dr. Barrow asks.
“Like you. Worse. Kind of... dusty.” She shrugs.
“Dusty...” Barrow echoes with a slight nod.
“Sick. Kind of sickness can spread.”
She looks up.
“And it’s after you.”
(Barrow sniffs the air. “Smells like... wet dog. What could that mean...?”
Arthur and Pavel share a look and blanch.)
Arthur and Pavel’s players share a look and blanch. The reaction to the hint of a werewolf clearly divided those familiar with the Classic World Of Darkness from those not. Mostly because the former were swearing and running away.