Beau rushed over to Nellie’s hospital bed and pulled the sheet back. Instead of seeing Nellie’s corpse as he feared, he saw the torn remains of a man in an orderly’s uniform.
Dr. Paine took the man’s pulse. “Dead,” he said. He ran from one to the other of the two patients in the beds next to Nellie’s.
“They’re both dead. Pillow over the face of one,” Dr. Paine said. “Damn the beast!”
“This man is missing his jacket,” Beau said, his mind working rapidly. “An orderly passed me in the hall pushing a body covered by a sheet. It must have been Vance taking Nellie.”
Without a word they both walked swiftly to the elevator. At the nurses’ station, Dr. Paine
commanded, “Ring the front desk. My patient is being kidnapped. Notify the guards to let no one leave.”
A nurse sprang into action as the elevator doors opened and Beau and Dr. Paine stepped in.
In the privacy of the elevator, Beau pulled out his semiautomatic, ejected the half empty clip and slid in a fresh clip. He slid the action back to chamber a silver round and then put the gun back into the shoulder holster. His face felt drenched with sweat and he mopped his brow with the forearm of his tweed jacket. He wished he had Dr. Paine’s nerves.
“Vance will want to run,” Dr. Paine said. “He won’t kill her here. He’s always taken his victims elsewhere to kill them. He’s got his victim and he’s going to flee with her so he’ll be uninterrupted. He’ll be heading for the country at the first opportunity. You check the morgue exit in the basement and I’ll take the emergency entrance.”
“Lucy’s outside,” Beau said. “If you need help, call out for her.”
With a nod, Dr. Paine stepped off the elevator and Beau pushed the button for the underground level.
The elevator doors opened into darkness. From the glow of the bulb in the elevator he could tell he was in a wide, tiled hallway. The lights should have been on, but weren’t. He drew his torch from his jacket pocket and switched it on. Two large swinging doors were near the elevator. He shined the light through the glass partition. He did not see anyone. He entered with his gun drawn. There were rows of metal lockers as well as metal tables. He had a momentary flash of memory of other times he had broken into morgues at night over the years.
Beau heard a groan behind a desk and he rushed over. In the torch’s beam he saw a man in a white hospital uniform, blood pouring from a gash on his forehead and another gash in his face. Beau saw a stack of crisply folded starched sheets on a shelf behind the desk. He pulled one down and placed it over the head wound to staunch the bleeding. Beau felt a deep sickness grip his heart. He knew before the man spoke that Vance had escaped with Nellie. Even with the cooperation of the police, it would be impossible to alert the authorities across London in time to stop him.
“What happened?” Beau asked.
“Bloke pushed a corpse in here, struck me, and loaded the body into the back of the lorry. I tried to stop him and he knocked me down and bit me. He bit me right on the face.”
Beau squeezed his eyes tightly shut. There was no reason for Cyrus Vance to have bit the man. He did it out of pure spite and meanness. “What color is the van?” Beau asked, keeping his voice level.
“White,” the man said, sitting up.
“Anything else?” Beau asked.
“It has the hospital’s name on it,” the man said, beginning to sit up more. Beau put a hand on the man’s shoulder. The man appeared to be about 30.
“Rest easy,” Beau said. “Do you hurt much?”
“Burns something terrible,” the man said as he leaned back. Beau mopped up the blood from the wound: a clear bite mark. Human instead of werewolf, not that it would matter. With the moon full, Beau knew he didn’t have much time.
Beau looked around him.
“I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to my supervisor,” the man said. “I tried to stop him. We’ve never had anyone steal a corpse from here before.”
“You have nothing to worry about,” Beau said comfortingly. The man closed his eyes. “It wasn’t your fault. I’m sure you did your best.”
“I feel awful,” the man said. “My whole body hurts. He really walloped me.”
Beau drew the sheet up into a ball against the muzzle of his gun, pressed the weapon tight against the man’s chest to muffle the sound as much as he could and pulled the trigger.
The man’s body jerked and was still. Beau looked around again. The shot sounded loud in his ears, but he knew from experience that deep in the bowels of the building the sound probably did not travel as far as he feared.
Beau picked the body up and carried it over his shoulder to one of the cadaver drawers. He opened the metal door and pulled out the sliding table, and put the body on it. He took the sheet he used to muffle the shot, wiped up the blood on the floor and threw it in a trash bin. He took another clean sheet off the shelf, draped it over the corpse and slid the body into the drawer. He had just closed the door when he heard the sound of someone running down the sloped, concrete tunnel from the street.
Beau drew his pistol and held his breath. In the beam of his light, he saw Cyrus Vance run in. He had transformed back into his werewolf form, apparently in a hurry because the coveralls he had worn were ripped and hung from him in tatters. Beau stepped away from the wall to put himself between Vance and the swinging doors to the rest of the hospital. The werewolf skidded to a stop on the tiled floor. He snarled with his ears back and his fangs bared and dripping.
The swinging doors opened behind Beau. He did not take his attention off Cyrus Vance, who crouched and stared intently as if calculating whether to chance a spring at Beau or to turn and flee back in the direction he came.
Dr. Paine stepped beside Beau and aimed his gun straight at Vance.
“Did you hear my shot, Doctor?” Beau asked.
“No,” Dr. Paine said. “Saw he wasn’t up there so I hurried down here. The guards are at the front door and the emergency entrance.”
“Good,” Beau said. “It is time for you to die, Cyrus Vance.”
The werewolf moved with a lightning speed. He grabbed a metal table and hurled it at the two men. They had to dive to dodge the heavy missile that crashed with a clang onto the floor immediately behind where they had stood.
Before they could aim again, Vance had picked up another metal table and, holding it like a giant shield, he ran around the corner to the ramp up and disappeared out of their sight.
They sprinted after him and came to the bottom of the dimly lit ramp. Vance had stopped halfway up it. Silhouetted by a street light at the top of the entrance was Lucy. From her fierce stance, Beau knew why Vance had fled back into the hospital after escaping with Nellie in the hospital’s van.
Vance threw the heavy metal table at them, but his aim was wild in his desperation.
He was trapped and he let loose an anguished howl that echoed through the narrow concrete tunnel of the ramp.
“Nellie’s alright, Beau,” Lucy called from the top of the ramp. “I saw him behind the wheel of the van and recognized him for what he is. I pulled him out from behind the wheel and the lorry crashed, but Nellie’s not hurt.”
Beau was filled with relief. He heard a loud sigh from Dr. Paine.
“Hear that wolf-man?” Beau said. “You’ll kill no one ever again. Bullet or bite, tonight you die.”
Vance threw his head back and howled again. Then lowering his head, he growled deeply. With fangs bared in rage, he charged at the two men. He flew at them like lightning. Both held their fire to take deliberate aim and then their guns barked simultaneously as he leaped for them. The two stepped aside as the werewolf’s body landed where they had stood side-by-side.
Cyrus Vance was dead.
Continue to the final chapter.