Cyrus Vance watched from the woods as the three people searched his cottage. He was certainly they would not find anything useful inside. He was always careful and his caution had paid off. He always circled a place before entering it, including his own home, just as he always meticulously watched his victims and planned the kills of them – sometimes stretching the hunt out for days. He had returned from stalking the next woman he planned as his victim. But now he found himself more curious about the three who hunted him, particularly the woman. He had seen their car parked on a narrow farm lane, two parallel paths into a grove of trees. He walked up to the car and sniffed it, the sharp, lingering odor of metal and gun oil telling him the people were armed. They were either poachers or they hunted him. As their scent led him to his cottage, he knew no poachers would have walked in that direction. He returned to his car in an even more secluded area of his property. He took off his clothes and willed himself to transform into his wolf-form, uttering the Latin phrases he had been taught by his Master and friends. He always felt an exquisite blend of physical agony and mental pleasure as fur grew from his skin, his face stretched into a muzzle, his teeth and ears grew longer and pointed, and his limbs filled with wiry muscle. The rush of his heightened senses and strength made him shake briefly with overwhelming power before he crouched on all fours and ran on his paws across the grassy field into the tree line.
Even in the darkness he found them easily, waiting in ambush for him to arrive home in his motorcar. They waited with patience and stillness in the shadows. As a hunter, he recognized the signs of other experienced hunters and if it had not been for his caution he would have pulled up to his death. Since they were there to kill him, he deduced they also must know what he was and how to do it.
He was downwind from them and caught their scent and marked it to his memory. For a moment he thought of retreating silently and away and returning after they had left.
But he knew they would return. His cottage that had served him so well for so long, a refuge of wild beauty in the English countryside, was lost to him because of them. He would have to move away. The thought angered him and he felt his heart pound under his chest.
They should have to pay for their intrusion with their lives. He moved silently to where the woman stood alone. He watched her. She was lovely and intriguing. He would kill her first, ripping her apart in such a way that her two companions would forget their discipline and follow him into the woods for revenge.
He attacked the woman, but she moved with a surprising speed. She shot at him and the rounds flew so close he heard them pass like the buzz of a fast-flying bee.
Vance fled and ducked behind a tree. He turned and listened and sniffed the air. One of the men followed and Vance threw himself at him. He knocked the man down, but it felt like he had struck a tree. He would kill this one at least, but before he could the other two arrived, shooting at him. He ran further into the woods. This time no one followed. He feared their silver. He did not know who they were or how they knew how to find him, but if they tracked him to his home, they would know how to kill him and he wanted to kill, not be killed. He waited a few moments and then crept forward cautiously. They were entering his cottage. He watched them warily from under the trees as their flashlights moved about inside the windows.
He ran back to their car and marked the left rear tire with his urine. He then raced with his long, four-legged gait back to his own car where he resumed his human shape and dressed quickly. As long as it did not rain hard, he would be able to follow the scent for he still possessed his werewolf’s keen sense of smell even in his human shape.
The car of the intruders departed and he waited before following them, staying far back on the country roads and then moving closer once they entered the city and joined other traffic.
He made note of the address of where they dropped off the man he had nearly killed and noticed how furtive he appeared, at first heading for his door and then rushing to his car once they pulled out of sight. He thought of following him, but decided to see where the other two went first. The woman was dropped off next and he again made note of the address in a small notebook. He then followed the driver, who parked the car in a garage and entered into an apartment building near Victoria Station.
He sat in his car for a couple of minutes until he saw a light come on in a darkened apartment on the second floor.
Vance decided to go back to the woman’s place. He stepped inside the exterior door and looked at the eight mailboxes in the small entry way. Only one listed a woman’s name: Elizabeth Lovecraft. He walked around the outside of the building. There were lights on in an apartment at the rear on the corner of the fourth floor. He took off his shoes and set them down on the brick paving stones and with his preternatural strength he scaled the building’s wall.
On the outside of her window frame he noticed a small, arcane symbol carved into the wood. From the necromantic lessons of his Master he knew it was a ward to keep out summoned creatures from other planes of existence. He was impressed. His hunters were indeed quite experienced, he thought. He was right not to underestimate them. It held no power over him, but against anything he could conjure it would.
Vance fingers and toes clung to the bricks as he peered into the room. He could see her on the opposite side of the room at a desk, typing away. She smoked. He had always liked watching his victims when they could not see him and she was quite an attractive woman. He noticed her long, graceful fingers, her straight jaw line, her brows knitted in concentration. He guessed she was in her late 20s.
She sat motionless as she drank and he wondered about her thoughts. Her dark eyes had a far-away look. She pet her cat and as he watched her he thought of the many ways he would like to use her to pleasure himself before he fed upon her flesh. Sometimes he fed on his victims even as he raped them, their screams of horror and pain adding to his carnal pleasure.
He had killed often, both as a werewolf and as a man. At last, he thought, as she walked over to her sofa and lay down. He waited to make certain she was asleep, drew his knife, and holding on to the ledge with one hand and the knife in the other, slid the blade between the gap of the upper and lower window frames. He undid the lock quietly, pushed up the window and stepped in. The cat jumped off the sofa, hissed at him and ran. In his bare feet, he walked silently over to her. He stood above her. She had moved just slightly when the cat left. He lowered his face to about a foot above her. He inhaled deeply and moved his head back and forth from above her head to her hips. She smelled of cigarettes and whisky and for one who lived a rather Spartan existence, judging from her furnishings, she wore an expensive perfume. He watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest and his eyes lingered on the gap of her blouse. Such creamy white skin would taste succulent as he tore it with his teeth. He hesitated. He wanted to give in to his desires. But he also did not want to alert her friends. Not yet. If he killed her now, they would know he had reversed the tables and was on to them.
No, he would wait. The full moon was only two nights away and though he could transform at will, the full moon was when he obtained the most pleasure in killing and feeding. Anticipation would make him savor her death more. He backed up on his padded feet to her desk and picked up her typewritten pages. He read them. This provided him with nearly everything he wanted to know. He opened the desk drawers as silently as possible, keeping a cautious eye on her as he did so. He saw a drawer full of passports in various names, but all with her photo. He wrote down the names in his notebook.
Elizabeth probably wasn’t her real name either. He returned them to the drawer and closed it. She mumbled in her sleep. Her jacket was hung behind her seat. He picked it up inhaled sharply to catch her scent, sniffing it with sharp, wolfish movements of his nostrils. He looked over at her as she mumbled. She must be having a nightmare. He hoped he was in it as he left her apartment through the window, closing it behind him.
Beau woke with the sunlight shining in through the open curtains. He reached over, but the bed next to him was empty. There was, however, coffee in an urn on the nightstand with a cup and saucer and a note. He read it with a warm smile, poured himself a cup and looked around for his clothes. They were neatly folded at the end of the bed. Lucy had a compulsion to keep order about her. He had discovered that soon after he had begun seeing her two months earlier when they had walked one afternoon to a market in Chinatown. A bag of rice spilled from a cart in front of her and she stopped and began counting each grain before putting it in a basket. An elderly Chinese man saw what she was doing and immediately called the workmen indoors into his warehouse and bolted the doors. Beau bent to help her, uncertain what she was doing. She smacked his hand away without looking at him or stopping her counting. Later, when they went to a tea shop to escape the rain, she told him that the counting of rice or corn or other grains spilled on the ground was a weakness of the Undead.
“The same with any brooms in my path,” she said, laughing. “I have to count each stalk tied to the handle.”
“Why is that?” Beau asked.
“I have no idea,” Lucy said.
“But what about sunlight?” he asked. “In all the movies vampires are destroyed by sunlight.”
She laughed again. He thought it the most delightful sound he had ever heard. “An idea of a friend of mine,” Lucy said. “He had worked in espionage during the Elizabethan Age when he was mortal. When he first saw a motion picture at the turn of this century, he realized the power and influence movies would have on audiences. So he befriended motion picture directors and suggested they make movies about vampires. There were a few false beliefs that sunlight destroyed our kind. But it was a vampire who had planted the idea to the movie directors and made the myth become reality in the minds of so many. A brilliant bit of subterfuge that helps us because if I am walking in the sunlight, I surely must not be a creature of the night.” She had imitated Bela Lugosi’s voice as she said “creature of the night” and laughed.
“Amazing,” Beau said. “Even in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula moves in the daylight yet that fact is forgotten.”
Lucy’s expression had changed suddenly and she looked away from him to outside where the rain was falling. Beau set his tea cup down.
The rain drummed against the glass in the sudden silence between them, blurring the world outside. He thought the sky had grown darker until it was pitch black outside despite being in the afternoon. The darkness disappeared for a brief instant as a lightning bolt struck nearby followed almost simultaneously with the thunder’s crack. The darkness returned. The rain beat against the glass. The teashop staff gathered at the front door to peer into the storm.
Just as suddenly, Lucy had turned back around to him and grabbed his hand. “Let’s run outside in the rain,” she said.
“You’re mad!” Beau said.
She smiled mischievously at him and pulled him up with her surprising strength. He tossed several coins on the table not caring if he overpaid which he suspected he had since he was still getting used to British currency at that time. They had run outside, down the street to nearby St. James Park, splashing through puddles on the path. Their clothes were soaked through and he had pulled her close to him and kissed her for the first time. He could taste the rain upon her lips as they held each other close and lightning flashed around them.
Beau set his coffee down and smiled at the memory. That had been two months ago, two long, glorious months.
Though she didn’t need to sleep by daylight, she preferred to do so. However, he didn’t know where she was. This was her home, but she had mentioned she had many places throughout London where she kept her earth-filled boxes. He had never asked where they were and she had not volunteered. When he wished to see her, he left a message for her in care of general delivery at a Post Office near Piccadilly Circus.
But when he wasn’t with Dr. Paine or Nellie, he was nearly always with Lucy. He didn’t know how his friends would react if they found out about his relationship with her. Months earlier the three of them had traveled with Lucy to an archaeological dig at a Sumerian temple dedicated to Lilith* in western Iraq. Lucy and Nellie had seemed companionable enough on the voyage. But there had been unexpected consequences from the ritual Nellie had performed upon Lucy. Lucy had disappeared into the desert without a word to them and she had traveled alone for a time. Beau thought he would never see her again until she showed up outside of his apartment two months ago. He could not remember a happier time in his life than the period after he invited her in.
Besides, Beau thought, Nellie being alive proved that Lucy didn’t hold a grudge about what had happened. He took another drink of coffee when he noticed the time. He had to hurry or he’d be late for a meeting with the others. He dressed in a hurry, checking himself in a mirror to make sure the collar of his shirt hid his bandage. Just barely, but it would do, he thought.
In a different London neighborhood, Nellie woke up with her cat licking her chin. He was hungry either for attention or food. She picked him up and carried him to the kitchen. His food bowl was empty. She opened a tin of tuna and spooned it into the bowl for him and gave him a pat on the head as he rushed to it.
She yawned, filled the kettle and put it on the stove. The blue flames hissed under the copper bottom.
She had fallen asleep in her clothes again. As the investigation wore on, she had focused so intently on solving the murders and tracking down the killer that she’d fallen asleep several times at her desk, reading autopsy reports, river flow charts or witness statements.
The three of them had been so close to ending Vance’s existence. She cut a slice of bread from the loaf in the bread box and put it into the toaster. Vance could be anywhere, stalking his next victim. She made herself a cup of tea and ate her toast leaning against the kitchen sink. Her cat rubbed up against her ankles and she bent down to scratch his ear with her free hand while holding her toast in the other.
She thought again of the events. Vance must have circled his property instead of just driving straight home as they expected. That sort of caution must be part of his daily routine. She would make sure they would not make the same mistake again.
That is, she thought grimly, if they get a second chance.
She noticed the time and finished her tea and dressed. At Headquarters, she sat next to Dr. Paine outside the Chief’s office. Dr. Paine looked at his watch and up at the clock at the mantle. He spun his fedora in his hands.
“He’s late,” Dr. Paine said.
“He’s always late,” she said.
“Not talking about me, I trust,” the Chief said, smiling, his hand out inviting them into his inner sanctum.
“No, sir,” Dr. Paine said.
“I was just on the phone with our team in Cairo,” the Chief said as he moved back behind his mahogany desk. “I was hoping to have this Vance business cleared up to send you to Egypt. Mr. Clark could use your assistance there.”
Nellie handed the report across the desk to the Chief. He read it in silence, making the occasional note on the margins. There was a tap on the door and the Chief’s secretary opened it. “Mr. Jackson is here,” she said.
“Send him in,” the Chief said, not looking up.
“Sorry I’m late, sir,” Beau said.
The Chief made a motion with his hand for Beau to be seated.
Beau looked around the room. Three of the walls were lined with leather-bound books. When the Chief came to the last page of Nellie’s report, he pulled out his ink pad and stamp, marked the front page of the report “Secret,” and signed his initials under it.
The Chief looked up at them.
“Not beating your selves up over him escaping?” he asked, lighting his pipe. “No need. You should have had at least seven other people with you to have done the job proper. I sent you to assassinate a werewolf, not a man. Not your fault we’re stretched too thin, chasing the bloody Germans all over the globe. Don’t blame yourselves.”
“No, sir,” Nellie said unconvincingly.
“Right,” he said. “Keep at it. You can have one more week to bag him. Then I must send you to Egypt to deal with the situation there.”
They nodded and walked out of the office. “Mary, is Room 3 available?” Dr. Paine asked.
“It is, sir.”
In the conference room, Dr. Paine unrolled a map of Great Britain marked with the locations of Cyrus Vance’s known killings.
He picked up the phone and rang for Records to send up all the Vance files.
Beau groaned. “We’ve been through them.”
“We’ll go through them again,” Dr. Paine said. “Look for anything we missed before. Pay attention to anyone who might be an associate or acquaintance. Vance has led a rather lonely existence since leaving University. There can’t be that many people he’d seek shelter with.”
Dr. Paine looked at Beau. “Are you feeling well?”
“Fine,” Beau said.
“You look awful,” he said. “Did you go out to the pubs last night?”
“No,” Beau said. “I’m just tired. The fight with Vance took a lot out of me.”
Nellie looked at him quizzically. Before she could speak, a rap at the door informed them the Records’ clerk had arrived. He wheeled a metal cart in stacked with folders and departed with a curt nod.
They spent hours reading the files, well-thumbed from their previous efforts. Before, they had focused on finding Vance. Now they were looking for clues to people who knew him.
At 2 o’clock, the Chief’s secretary carried in a tray of sandwiches and coffee to them. They worked mostly in silence throughout the day and into the night, the only sound being the clock on the wall and the scratching of their pencils in their notebooks.
When Dr. Paine called a stop for the evening, Beau felt as exhausted as he ever had from a football practice at college. The three departed with their plans to meet the next day.
Nellie yawned and bid the Doctor good night as he dropped her off at the front of her building. She was surprised by the lateness of the hour. Nellie looked forward to her bed. She thought of reading the work she brought home, but after so many hours of it decided it would have to wait until the morning. After she fed her cat, she undressed and put on her nightgown and slipped into the sheets. She stretched, turned out the lamp next to her bed and was asleep within moments.
As he watched her from outside, Cyrus Vance smiled to himself. He would make her suffering exquisite. He felt his face begin to stretch and saliva dripped from a fang.
Continue to Chapter 6.