“Go,” Nellie told Beau as he looked down at her unbelievably pale face. “Follow Lucy.”
Beau rushed out the door and down the stairs at a run. When he came to the ground floor, he turned down a hall and ran out the back door. Outside Nellie’s flat, he switched on his torch and found the werewolf’s blood trail easily. He scanned the sky quickly, but did not see Lucy flying above him.
Beau followed the blood at a jog and scanned the alley and the skies warily. The trail went on for several blocks, crossing empty streets devoid of cars and pedestrians. Too much time had elapsed. He should have given chase immediately instead of standing by helplessly as Lucy drank from Nellie. Lucy had drunk slowly from Nellie because of her weakness from her own blood loss. As more of Nellie’s life’s blood flowed into her, Lucy grew stronger. Beau watched as the gaping wound in Lucy’s back closed with just the faintest line visible.
He had gently taken Lucy and pulled her back from Nellie just as Dr. Paine entered. Nellie stirred as Lucy sprang for the window. Beau was torn between staying by his friend’s side and following after Lucy and the werewolf.
Nellie made his mind up for him by ordering him to go. The trail went through a residential neighborhood to retail shops to a warehouse district. The blood drops led through a smashed wooden door within a larger sliding door at a loading dock. Beau inhaled sharply and drew his handgun. He should have found Lucy by now, but it was possible Vance had realized that Lucy was flying above him and he had ducked inside to lose her. Vance could have run straight through the warehouse to an exit on the other side. Or he could be inside in the shadows waiting to ambush any pursuer. Following a werewolf into a darkened warehouse alone was tantamount to throwing his life away. But Lucy could be in there fighting the werewolf and in need of assistance. Beau listened a moment. He heard nothing except the loud pounding of his heart.
Then he heard a light drumming on the tin roof above the loading dock. It had begun raining. If Vance had run through to an exit on the other side of the building, the blood trail would soon wash away in the rain. Beau took a quick glance inside and ducked back. He inhaled several times deeply and rushed in, sweeping his light across the room with his gun in front of him. Wood barrels were stacked on one side with wood crates on the other. A set of stairs led up to a glass door overlooking the loading dock area. He saw a round, red circle of a fat blood drop on the worn wooden stair. He crept up the stairs quietly. Where was Lucy? He couldn’t think about that. He had to keep his thoughts focused. Up three more stairs was another drop. His eyes came even with the small platform in front of the door.
He looked up and around him and moved quickly to the office door, his movements precise from long experience. He threw the door open with his gun at the ready. A metal first aid box was open. The bloody outline of a human footprint was on the desk. Beau cursed silently and stepped out of the office. No foot prints had tread on the blood on the steps so he had not likely gone back that way. A metal employee locker was open. Nothing was inside. There was a small bloody smear visible. Beau looked inside the other lockers. They contained white, workmen’s coveralls. Beau suspected that Vance had transformed back into his human form and put the coveralls on to blend in with the people on the street. Beau examined the locker handle. Beau picked up the phone on the desk and dialed Nellie’s number, hoping to catch Dr. Paine still there. There was no answer. They must have departed for the hospital, he thought. Beau took the back door from the office, which led to a darkened hallway. He held his torch and pistol in front of him, sweeping the darkness with it. He found another set of stairs down to the building’s front doors. He tried the door and it was unlocked. He stepped out, did a quick scan and saw no one present and tucked his gun into his shoulder holster. The last thing he needed was to have to explain to a police constable why he was carrying a gun on a London street. He looked up in the sky. Several blocks away, he saw movement above a building at the edge of a street lamp’s glow. It was too large to be a bird. He took off at a sprint across the street, dodging an oncoming truck, and raced down the street back in the direction towards Nellie’s place. Vance had circled back on the street parallel to the one Beau had followed him down.
Beau swerved past a man with an umbrella on the sidewalk while keeping a watch overhead, hoping for another glimpse of Lucy. He dodged other pedestrians as he sprinted down the rain-splattered street. Beau passed several buildings and came to the intersection of Nellie’s street a block down from her building. There were several constables milling about in front of the building. Beau looked the other way. He caught another glimpse of Lucy flying, just over rooftop height over his head. From the brief view he had the impression she was circling. She disappeared from view. A moment later, she stepped out between two buildings and he hurried to her.
“Your coat, please,” she said.
He noticed her wet blouse hung loosely around her, ripped through the back by her wings. He took off his trench coat and she put it on, tying it as she spoke.
“A truck spewing smoke has masked his scent,” she said.
Beau’s mind raced. Vance came back for a reason. Nellie.
“He must have returned and seen Nellie loaded into the ambulance,” Beau said. “He’s mostly likely in human form and in white coveralls. More than likely it’s not just the smoke that masked his scent, but he got into a cab to follow the ambulance. Which hospital would they have taken Nellie?”
“I’m not certain,” Lucy said.
Beau hurried over to the constables. “I’m a friend of the woman who was hurt. Do you know the name of the hospital where she was taken?”
A constable named the hospital and Beau returned to Lucy as he waved over a taxi.
“That’s not far,” Lucy said. Moments later they arrived.
Beau paid the fare and hurried in. Lucy stopped outside of the hospital’s doors.
“Aren’t you coming?” he asked.
Lucy’s face was crestfallen and she looked even paler than usual. “I can’t,” she said with anguish. “This hospital originated as a monastery caring for people. Apparently this is still holy ground.”
Beau turned to face her squarely. He did not know what to say. He never thought much about religion himself and had never asked her about her views, but from her pained tone he could tell it was important to her.
Beau put a hand on her shoulder. She grasped it with a squeeze. She reached her other hand up to his face. A finger traced a faded, old scar from his brow down to the jut of his right cheekbone. “Go,” she said. “Save your friend. Be careful for me though. I’ll look for the shape-shifter out here in case he hasn’t entered yet.”
Beau nodded and hurried in. He looked back once as he entered the doors. She was gone.
Inside the entrance was a directory listing offices and patient wards. Beau looked intently at it for a minute before he approached a white-uniformed nurse at the front desk and asked for Nellie Thompson.
The nurse looked through the register. “We have admitted no one by that name,” the nurse said.
“I meant her cousin Elizabeth Lovecraft,” he said.
The nurse looked at him suspiciously. He knew how he must appear to her, reeking of whisky, blood splattered on his clothes, a battered face, an American accent.
“She’s here, but you can’t see her,” the nurse said sternly. “It’s after visiting hours. She must be quite popular. You’re the second person to ask after Miss Lovecraft.”
“I see her doctor just down the hall,” Beau said. He had read the register upside down. Nellie was in a third floor ward. “I’ll just have a word with him to make sure she’s alright.” The nurse began to say something, but a woman had replaced Beau with a question at the front desk. Beau walked down the hall, glanced back and saw the nurse was looking through the hospital register book, and he darted down another hallway to the elevators.
There were four patient recovery wards listed on the third floor.
As he stepped out of the elevator, he saw a white-jacketed orderly pushing a sheet-covered corpse down the hall towards him. Beau looked around and saw a metal cart with a stethoscope and clipboard. He draped the stethoscope around his neck as he’d seen Dr. Paine do, picked up the clipboard and walked past the orderly and the nurses at the floor’s nurses’ station. They didn’t look up at him. Beau stepped into the first ward. There was a parallel row of beds, but they were all filled with men. He stepped out and turned down the hall to the next recovery ward. There were several women, but curtained panels hid some of the beds from view. Beau entered confidently, trying to look like he belonged, scanning the clipboards attached to the metal rails at the foot of the beds as he passed them. Nellie wasn’t there. A woman called out to him, “Doctor, I need to speak to you.”
“I’ll send a nurse,” Beau said without turning.
Beau stepped out into the hall and looked to his left and right. The elevator doors chimed and to Beau’s relief Dr. Paine stepped out.
Dr. Paine walked down the hall, his medical bag in his left hand and his coat draped over his right arm.
“Good evening, Doctor,” Dr. Paine said with a slight smile as he stopped in front of Beau. “I was just downstairs to call Headquarters with an update.”
Dr. Paine’s expression disappeared when Beau whispered, “Cyrus Vance followed the ambulance here.”
“Our patient is in here,” Dr. Paine said, pointing down the hall.
They entered the ward he indicated. “She’s over there, between the two screens,” Dr. Paine said as they entered the dimly lit ward.
Their footsteps echoed in the quiet of the ward. Nellie had shared the ward with two dying women. But as Beau and Dr. Paine entered the space between the two curtained panels, they both inhaled sharply. A blood soaked sheet covered the still form on the bed.
Continue to Chapter 14