Monday, 14 July 2008

Case Number 3: The Hair of the Cat that Scratched You

Previously on: The Fitcher Files
Sam’s actions caught up with him when he discovered that he was to be charged with the death of the girl who exploded at the Snow Ball. While buzzing from a potion, he insults Jess and has to have a clothed shower to calm down. His old friend, Caspian DeFlyn, informs him he will be prosecuted by a man named Blackthorne. Sam isn’t happy and faints again from his wounds and exhaustion.

I stumbled out of the bar, my head gently beating along with the music behind. Slowly I began to head towards what I hoped was the right way.
Not that I was drunk of course. Big no-no there. Morose or giddy wizards are the sorts who decide that the girl they’re talking to needs to take off her top but are too drunk to do the trick right and then you have a girl with no mouth or who’s been sent to eighteenth century Peru. I hear it’s lovely, but that is beside the point!
I had been in the bar purely to lean back in shadowed corners looking out for possible cases or people who needed my help. I was hoping to pick up on some local gossip as well as a spot of the mythical talk. Drunken tales of apocalypses and towns disappearing in the night. Normal Wednesday night talk.

“So you’re one of those mages that are all the rage nowadays?”
I made a small turn of my head. An attractive be-leathered lady was stalking me. An American I guessed by the accent. Lucky ol’ me.
She smirked and brushed her dark hair out of her face.
“Go ahead magic boy. Dazzle me.”
I supposed she didn’t really mean that. You don’t want to have someone shine flashing lights at you at this time of night. Well, maybe YOU do but I didn’t. Still I stopped and stretched. I wasn’t sure why I was doing it but I wanted to have someone impressed by my skills for once.
“Fine. Okay. Right. Okay.” I cracked my knuckles. “Imagine the average pack of cards. Right? So now take one of the cards and remember that. So put it back into the imaginary pack. Now give me your hand.”
She put her hand into mine. It was much daintier then I expected. I had noticed she had a holster at her waist. A hunter perhaps? Gun enthusiast? As I looked into her eyes, I held onto the hand. Amused, she held the gaze.
Just in case she had any latent powers I thought about “Jingle Bells”, as if it was being broadcast over a massive loudspeaker. If she tried to read me she’d be deafened AND annoyed- a winning combination!
I squinted.
“I can tell you that your card is not the seven of Clubs.”
She laughed.
“Oh well done. Is that your trick?”
I shook my head.
“No. The trick is that I have your watch.”
She looked down at her wrist and I could now tell you, thanks to my new watch, she swore at me for forty seven seconds. It is good policy to annoy the hunter with the shiny pistol.
Dropping the watch into the waiting hand I watched her put it on. There was a fine scar running up her left wrist. Possibly clawmarks? Intriguing.
“Do you steal from all the women you pick up in bars?”
I wanted to say something like “Purely their hearts” but I just mumbled, “I have very nice fingers.” Okay maybe I had had something to drink but I didn’t want to send her to Nepal or anything.
A small grin played across her lips. ‘Okay’ it appeared to say ‘I shall play your bizarre nonsense game.’
She placed an arm around my shoulder and pressed into my side, pushing me into a walk. I guessed I’d been pulled. I guess my rambling was attractive. I was a romantic idiot savant.

But why should good things last? As we passed yet another alley on our trip to wherever we were heading, there was a crash of bins. We both spun. Straining I tried to see whether it was a drunk or a cat. Heavens forbid a drunken cat.
Out of the shadow came a man. Now wasn’t that worth the mild tension? But it’s true. He was a man. Cropped blonde hair, tall and missing his left eye as well as portion of his left cheek.
“Chewlip,” he hissed. He had a lisp. How quaint. Then again, try to speak normally if you’re missing a cheek!
My new friend didn’t seem happy about this.
“How the hell did you find me Ace?”
“How do ya think I fand ya?” He clearly didn’t uphold dental hygiene as a priority.
Now as a supernatural detective it pretty much stands to reason that I would have an overblown sense of honour and a need to save women from their natural tendency to get into trouble. I should be thinking that the attractive brunette would never find it in herself to do anything worse then drop litter and then be amazed when I awake tied to the train tracks.
Yet I could never get it right. Maybe there’s something snapped in my brain that means I can’t manage to blindly trust a pretty face.
I’ll hand in my private dick card in the morning. My point is while I was thinking how unfortunate this all was part of me was saying ‘she’s probably the one who took his eye and yet you’re going to get involved because-’ and here the brain gave me her not wearing the leather and being rather grateful to me. Then she ripped my eye out. But at least it saw something nice before it went.

I looked up blinking.
The two of them were staring at me confused.
“You’ve been standing there making faces for the last few minutes” Tulip said, guardedly. At least I supposed it was Tulip. We hadn’t exchanged pleasantries.
“Faces?” I was appalled. Could people tell that I was talking to myself like that? This was deeply troubling and would surely spell ruin for my career as a poker champion.
“Who the hell are ya anywaz?” Ace growled.
Something I knew.
“Samuel T Fitcher.” I said not really knowing what to expect. Surely my name would have entered some form of common knowledge by now. You know, protector of the protectionless and all that.
Ace looked at me. I began to slip into a fighting pose ready for him to punish me for killing his demon lord or sending a scion of his cult to jail.
Instead he said “Like the sspy?”
“No, not like the spy.” I replied slightly put out. It seemed I had a way to go before I became the scourge of the darkness.
“Like the bird?” Tulip added.
I shook my head. “No, that’s a finch. A fitch is a polecat.”
“A what?” she asked.
“It’sh a Shkunk.” Ace added.
“I can’t but feel we’ve gone off topic.” I murmured.

Ace nodded then leapt at me. Should have expected it but there you are. I tried to conjure a shield with my bracelet but he was too quick.
I spun in the air and struck the wall. I felt the shield shatter while I enjoyed the blinding flashes before my eyes. Oh possible brain damage- how I’ve missed you.
Struggling to my feet I gave myself a quick mental checking. My arm was still attached thanks to the bracelet. Good enough.
Kicking out, I managed to hit a shin. Ace grunted as I pushed him back. My elbow contacted with his nose and there was a nice crunch and spurt of blood. Five points to the mage.
My revelry was ruined when he grabbed my arm and began to pull it back. No way I was going to give him the twenty points for breaking my arm. So I stuck my fingers in his patch and shoved. He didn’t like that one bit. Letting go, he put his hands to his face and howled. A proper howl as his face began to shift into something more bestial.
I had just tried to take a werewolf on in unarmed combat. He wouldn’t have broken my arm. He would have ripped it out and beat me to death with it. The things I get myself into.
While this was happening I noticed Miss Tulip making a subtle escape by sprinting down the alley.
I summed my feelings and emotions up rather well, I felt.
Ace looked around and let out a bark at the now running woman. began to race after her retreating form. No way she was going to leave me to fight this thing by myself. All this thanks to the broken chivalry portion of my brain.
I had almost caught up with her when I felt a weight on my back. As I stumbled Ace, fully lupine, flew over me. Spinning on my heel I drew the blast rod out of my coat and fired. The rod hopped in my hand and I fumbled it. The spell missed the sprinting wolf, breaking a window.
With in seconds, I was alone with naught but a few bruises and a dented shield bracelet to show at the next cheese and wine party.
Groaning slightly, I bent down to pick up the rod. Then I went to get silver.


Opening the main door, I slid into my office and pulled the cabinet open. I didn’t have a lot of weapons but I knew I had a silver blade somewhere. I know it should be a gun but gun laws made that a spot hard.
That said I could pop downstairs to the safehouse. “Hey chaps, the Private Eye who lives above your den of crime here. Just wondering if I can borrow one of your shooters to go kill a mythical beast who may or may not be consuming a young woman as we speak?”
I was pulled from my thoughts by a cough.
Brandishing a mistletoe stake (for those Viking vampires) I glanced up. Framed in the doorway, Jess and Cali glared back with identical looks of annoyance. Well, Jess looked. Cali emitted menace. I remember a time when she liked me. That was a good not-quite-a month of friendship I had going there.
“What?” I said slowly.
“Where’s the pizza?” Jess said.
“You said you were getting a pizza while we sorted through our budget,” Cali added.
“Budget?” Did I have space for the…what was it? A scythe? An axe? I put it back, not having the time to identify weapons.
“We haven’t had a client since Daddy nearly a week ago.” Jess said more morosely then I thought it needed to be. “And you have a habit of breaking things which we need to pay for.”
I examined a red sock that seemed to be stuffed with conkers. Why did I have this? Tossing it into the bin I faced the door.
“Fine. We’re in financial problems but listen to what’s happened. I went to check on the Hole.”
“Hole in the Wall,” Cali interrupted, “isn’t quite a demon bar but if they want to drink they end up there most likely.”
I glared. I wanted to get this done as quickly as possible. Jess didn’t need the additional information. Anyway the Hole wasn’t a demon bar. It just happened to sell Brimstone and Coke for under a fiver. Good deal if you could drink it.
I started again.
“So I-” oh what to reveal? “I met a possible client. But as we walked away she was attacked by a werewolf. We fought, the client ran and now I need some silver.”
That done, I dove into the amulet drawer. Yet they wouldn’t leave the doorway.
“Silver. Anything silver I can stick down his throat?” I called at them.
Getting to my feet, I started to look through the change on the desk.
“They’re all brass ones.” Cali said as if this was self-evident.
“What about that penticlegram thing of yours?” Jess asked.
“I like my pentacle,” I murmured. Images of me having to hold the necklace in my hand as Ace bit it off. Tummy ache. Ends justifying the means.
Of course I could just melt it, or stick the broken part in his eye socket. For there are fifty way to kill your werewolf.
Really, I wasn’t sure why I was worried. Stab anything hard enough and it should die. But there was a way to do things. Years of tradition to uphold. Can’t be saving humanity from destruction willy-nilly, can you?
At last my hand closed over a handle in the drawer labelled “Mis. Stabbing.” Pulling it out, I now had a tarnished 4’’ silver blade. Yes, this will stop my neck being torn to giblets.
I grabbed a sheath off the tierack and attached it and the blade to my trousers. I could continue to play through the possible strategies. The silver would counter the healing advantage Ace had over me. But honestly everyone had a healing advantage over me, thanks to me being a potion lightweight. Such is my life. Hell, where would I get my kicks otherwise?
“So are you going to help me out or are you just going to stand in the doorway?” I asked, deciding against the vial of holy water. I didn’t want to fall onto it and have shards of holy glass piercing me.
Jess asked the question we were all thinking, “What about pizza?”
“Tell you what, we come back in one piece we can get pizza,” I said.
Cali didn’t move.
“Are you coming or not?” I was starting to get annoyed.
Finally she turned around, took her coat off the back of a chair and walked out without a word.
I followed, leaving Jess to lock up.


You could argue that running back for weapons cost precious time that would have been better spent just running after the wolf and hoping I could kick him to death. If Tulip had been killed by the time I got there I would have- in fact where was I going?
I stopped my dramatic walking and Cali and Jess walked into my back.
This sort of lack of planning and need to just run around randomly might explain the client lull. “Oh I’m sorry. I thought you wanted me to find the killer not protect you from him. Am I still getting paid? Was that one blink for yes?”
I sat down on the pavement and tried to ignore the confused questions.
What did I know? I met Tulip in the bar, I was my usual obnoxious myself, we got attacked. No, she got attacked: I just gurned and broke a nose which would be healed by now. Had I considered she knew what she was doing? Even if she did, was she worth saving? But that way laid Nietzscheian doom so I stopped.
“Get up.”
Cali was emitting that intense fury still.
“Get up. You drag us out in the midst of winter to hunt a wolf, you can have the decency not to sit in the road and make faces.”
Snarling, I got to my feet.
“If you have any ideas how to find him, be my guest!”
The anger was gone, replaced with indifference. Shows what a great leader I am that I provoke such loyalties.
Cali slipped her hands into her coat pockets.
“As much as I’d love to, I know nothing about him.”
“Goes by the name of Ace. About 6’4’’, cropped blonde hair, left eye missing, nose broken thanks to me and-”
“What about the client?” I was beginning to get sick of these interruptions.
“Late twenties.”
I had a flash of her smirking face. Would I like to have seen more smiles? I guess so.
“She had a certain Je ne suis quois”
“You even know what that means?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, find out.”
That was her comeback? Ridiculous stand-up? At least I was still maintaining an iota of professionalism- even if it was achieved by belittling my colleague.
I continued with my description.
“Mid-length dark hair, tan, dainty hands, American. She’s wearing a leather coat- ”
“Oh leather. She must be evil then.”
I pushed myself into her face so we were almost touching noses.
“If you’re not going to help then just go home.”
She shoved me back.
“I don’t like the way you’re acting.”
“Thought I was paying you enough not to care,” I snapped back.
“Clearly not enough.”
She stormed off back the way we came.
I looked at Jess. She had been slouched against a lamppost trying to stay out of the way of the hissyfit.
“Do you want me to follow her?” She seemed to address this to the moon rather then anyone who could give an answer.
“Do you want to follow her?”
I was tired and just wanted to go to bed. Ace had probably caught his prey by now. Chalk up another in the list of “People Sam has got killed through ineptitude.” Hell I was just getting over the fact I got a girl ripped apart by a demon and I was likely going to be killed for it.
Remember kids, it’s all about the angst. You don’t have that; you don’t have anything.

Jess glanced briefly at the retreating woman.
“She probably needs some time.” She didn’t seem overly worried about this. Unless this was me projecting onto her. I had to check I wasn’t literally projecting my feelings. That would have been the perfect ending to the evening.
“You okay with me going home?” She seemed as exhausted as me.
I looked around the empty road. When no mangled corpses fell into my line of sight I agreed to let her go. I even offered to walk her back.
“You don’t need to,” she said quickly- which made me believe that no one liked me anymore.
“If I don’t, this will be the one time you get jumped. Sod’s Law.” Following that logic, I’d run into Ace. Kill two birds.

In retrospect, I would have rather had Ace. As we approached the house the door flew opened.
“Where the hell have you-” she stopped when she saw me. Her face changed from simple annoyance to annoyance with a delicious side order of hatred.
I just sighed. “Karin”
“Offic-” she began, getting ready for a rerun of her “Respect me” rant. “Officer Masterson. Yes, yes.” I pushed Jess towards her house. “Sister. Go. Take. Leave. Shout. Night.”
But it wouldn’t be a true meeting with Karin if I didn’t try to ensure myself a period in the cells.
“When you find a mangled woman in the morning that’s all my fault. Goodnight Jessica.”
And off into the darkness I huffed.


“Your order sir.”
I winced at the clatter of the china on the table. My head was thumping. I hadn’t had any luck after spending a few hours looking into bushes and getting in a screaming match with a drunk. In the end I had fallen into bed around two. Now it was a freezing Thursday morning and I had to get awake enough to deal with the fallout of the many stupid things I had done.
“Thank you, BadgerLookingTeaShopGirl” I murmured absentmindedly.
“You’re welcome, InsaneLongCoatedPrivateDetective” she said as she walked back behind the counter.
I blinked a few times.
Did she have that planned before? Was she naturally quick with the comebacks? Could she teach Cali? Would she be my friend?
All mildly interesting- but I had tea to drink.
There were a couple of students sitting at table behind me. I watched them in the inexplicable mirror hanging on the wall. Their constant stroking and giggling was distracting me from building up a good brood. The girl picked up her bag and leaned in for a goodbye kiss.
“Wait, before you go,” the guy reached into his pocket, “there’s something I want you to have.”
He pulled out a small wooden box. The girl moved to stand before him and blocked what was going on from me. I hate it when people stopped me intruding into their private lives.
The girl let out a small squeal.
“Oh it’s beautiful. But isn’t this-”
“Yes it is,” so bloody smug.
“But I thought the old lady dropped it into the sea.”
I blinked a few times. Yet the madness continued.
“Well I went down and got it for you.” He leant back in his chair, wallowing in his own brilliance- and excellent swimming talents.
“Oh you shouldn’t have,” she squealed as she threw her arms around him and leapt in his lap for more smooching.
I ate my toasted teacake in disgust.
It was in the position of aggravation I prepared to write a strongly worded letter to the Times over miscreants. As I got to the part where they should all be put in deep holes and have cabbages thrown at them until they buckled down and flew straight, the door opened and in walked my personal Javert.
I raised a hand in greeting.
She looked at me and I was pleasantly surprised to see that she didn’t scoff and turn around or throw some icy barb about my lack of morals. No, she simply ignored me. Kicking myself for expecting miracles, I went back to glaring at the canoodling couple.
“I’m going to sit down and you’re going to talk only when asked to. Is that understood?”
I looked up. Officer Masterson was glaring at me, making me rejoice at the stability of the status quo. She was in her full uniform, which would have provoked some reaction from me about the hat or the jumper but frankly I couldn’t be arsed.I nodded and she sat down, blocking the reflection of the teens. Small mercies.
Taking a slurp of her coffee the staring contest began. Her eyes remained steely. I started thinking of what I needed to buy next time I went shopping. I was onto ‘a nice pair of warm socks for those cold winter nights’ when she spoke.
“I don’t like you.”
Well, I thought, I would have only guessed via your words, actions and general demeanour but now you’ve put it so bluntly I know for sure.
I just raised one manly eyebrow.
“Stop making faces,” she growled. Oh law of three. How wonderful.
“Now I don’t like you but my little sister has got it into her head that you’re some kind of champion.”
I winced.
“Don’t say that.”
“What?” She seemed slightly startled by this reaction. She had probably being waiting for the outburst later on.
“Why not?”
“Just,” I paused, “just don’t.”
After she looked me over appearing to reassess me, she restarted the speech.

“She sees you as a hero”, here she paused and continued when I didn’t throw the table out the window, “and believes you make a difference. That somehow her being with you is important and you need someone to ground you.”
“And that person is her?”
“She thinks so. I don’t like it but she’s sure she can help you. She believes her work matters.”
I stirred my cooling tea. Was the spoon silver? Focus Sam.
“It hasn’t been a week yet and she already believes she has made a difference?”
Officer Masterson let out a breath and shook her head. She appeared to be looking back over the years. I just licked my finger and began to pick up teacake crumbs.
She sighed a little.
“She’s always been that way. Believing she can help those who didn’t ask for it. When she was a kid, she-”
Officer Masterson appeared to remember whom she was talking to. That I was on the no-no list when it came to spilling one’s heart-warming tales of children rescuing rabbits or sticking their fingers in household appliances.
I tried to resume the conversation.
“Do you want me to fire her?”
She shook her head slowly.
“She’d still try and get involved. Maybe even by herself. I don’t want that.”
I let out a small snort of derisive surprise.
“You’d rather place your sister’s life in the hands of a perceived madman then allow her to roam the streets?”
Her eyes became steely. As we did, the hairs rose on my neck. She was really projecting something here.
When she spoke, it was quiet but very, VERY certain.
“You know what’s out there.”

I sat back in my chair hard. This was it. This was the steady realist Karin Masterson coming out and confirming that I knew what was out there. That the body found sticking out of the bank wall wasn’t some strange publicity prank but someone messing up a teleportation spell. This was big. This was the ostrich pulling its head out of the sand. This was the people in the cave turning and going “Oh yeah, you’re right. There IS something causing the shadows.”
Okay I might be overdoing the momentousness of the moment. But I was excited.
I nodded my acknowledgment of the moment and the fact that this conversation never happened. I was never going to get her to come out and say it in front of anyone else. I could also expect no change in the way I was treated. All work and no prize.
Such is the burden of a heroic soul such as I.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“You made her cry. Apologize.”
“I’m sorry.” I said.
She snorted.
“To her!”
“I’m sorry again.”
The glare was less intense this time.
We went back to our quiet voices.
“I want you to promise you won’t let her get hurt.”
I looked away.
“I can’t.”
I held up a hand to hold back the outburst.
“But I do promise to do everything in my power to keep her safe.”
“Thank you.” I got a small smile, a genuine smile.
The day was looking up.


When I got back to the office, it was empty. At least the ward above the door stated that no one was in. I unlocked the door and stepped inside my office.
The floor was still a mess from the previous night and there was paper on most of the surfaces.
Walking into the bathroom, I got undressed and took a good look at myself in the mirror. Sure I had been staring into one earlier but now I was rejuvenated and ready to face the day. I was also a mess of bruises. A week’s worth of smacks and bangs had taken a toll on me. I had a lovely pattern of purples running down my back and my shins were going yellow. Also I couldn’t move my right arm easily above my head.
That said I still had my left arm, thanks to my bracelet, and my face wasn’t too badly smashed. At least I could see.
I showered and then shaved. Then I began to try and fix my life.

First to try and sort things out with Cali.
I grabbed a piece of paper off my desk and made an impromptu card.
On the front I drew a doodle of a man in a long coat with a sad face.
Inside I wrote:
To Cali,
I am very sorry that I acted like an idiot.
Though under a lot of stress, it was wrong of me to take it out on you.
You have done nothing to deserve the way I treated you.
I hope that you can think about forgiving me.
Then a smiley face.
I hoped she would be charmed by its homemade magnetism.
That done I began to look through my weapon cupboard and try and think of a way to organize it.
After an hour I had a pile that needed cleaning so I began work on that with a cloth and holy water.

After forty-five minutes the phone went, so I answered it.
“Fitcher Investigations.” I said in what I hoped sounded perky and bouncy. “Sam speaking. How may I help you?”
“Um” said the voice at the other end, “I uh.”
“Is there a problem Sir?” I said still sounding as full of beans as possible.
“I want to, ergh.”
“To ergh sir?”
“I want a” he mumbled something.
“I’m sorry. I did not hear that. Could you please repeat that?” The perkiness was starting to hurt.
“I want to order a girl.”
“What?” I said as my voice dropped back into its husky setting.
“A girl. I want to hire a girl.”
“Well we don’t have any girls at the moment. You do realise this is a private detective firm don’t you?”
“I thought that was a…you know?” I could see him wave an ineffective hand in the air.
“A firm that deals with…well when I saw the advert.”
I let him dangle there. After choking for a bit he finally got to what he wanted.
“You’d have girls you’d send out to catch men in compromising positions. You know like you’d be hired by wives and catch men in bars looking at girls.”
“And you want to skip the comprise and get right to the position.”
“Is that possible? I don’t want to phone those phonelines in case my wife got suspicious but I thought that if I said I was hiring a dective for work then she’d be alright. You see?”
How do I get into these places?
“Sir” I said tired already, “we are not a” I tried to think of a nice term but eventually came up with “knocking shop.”
“I thought with a name like Fitcher,” He sounded on the brink of tears.
“What’s wrong with the name?”
“You know, the fitch is a bird.”
“It’s really a skunk but go on.”
“So are tits. I can’t help that-”
I hung up.

At quarter to eleven I had moved onto reading the mail and was wondering if the office needed a remote controlled beer fridge when the sidedoor blew open wide and my landlady stepped inside. She was wearing a pink dressing gown and fluffy slippers. She quickly spun around when she realised I was sitting at her desk. Possibly because she wasn’t shielding her eyes but I’d like to think it was because that was all she appeared to be wearing.
“You’re here,” she said to the wall.
“Yes” I replied as obviously.
“I wasn’t expecting you.”
She began to walk back the way she came.
“I should get dressed.”
“I’m sorry,” I called after her.
There was a pause.
“Pardon?” floated down the corridor.
I got to my feet and leant against the wall.
“I made you a card.”
“You made me-”
“I even drew a picture.”
“I’d like to see that” The voice was soft and kind again. There was the Cali I knew and loved.
“You can once you get dressed.”
I began to head to my office.
I stopped.
I smiled and kept walking.
It’s like the comic never said. Happiness is a warm-blooded half-dressed semi-medusa. I glad it didn’t because that would make a terrible punchline and make it unlikely to be pinned on cubicle walls. But in this situation it’s fitting.


Now you might think that would be a nice way to end this with me on my way back into the good books of my friends and co-workers. But as you might remember, we had the matter of Tulip to deal with.
So it was that once Cali had got dressed, Jess had turned up, I had apologized, we had all hugged and had some tea and biscuits we got down to the case.
“Can I presume by the fact we haven’t got a police swarm that Tulip’s managed to survive the night?” Cali began.
“Or they haven’t found the body” I added. I wasn’t going to mention I had had a talking to by the force once today.
“Why did you confess to my sister?” Jess asked.
I shrugged wincing as my arm muscle tensed.
“I was in a bad mood.”
Cali shook her head.
“Bad mood, you scream into a pillow for an hour. You do not confess to a crime.”
“You say tomato,” I said cavalierly.
Jess got us back on topic.
“What’s the plan?”
“We need to find witnesses. We can presume someone witnessed a giant wolf chase a young woman across town.” Cali suggested.
“But are they going to tell us that?” I said.
Cali and I shuddered as we thought about the selective blindness of people. People who were sure that the massive glowing hole in the middle of the field was simply a broken gas pipe and no, there never was that strange tower where it always appeared to be raining. You might get the feeling I’m not a massive people person.
“We should at least try,” Jess implored.
We all contemplated the possible excuses and gave up with that old chestnut of escaped zoo wolf.
It was Cali who got in the last word.
“Use Cliché. I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to help us.”


Cali’s conclusive conclusion concluded correctly. I found this when my puppy, after a few minutes of sniffing the alleyway, lifted his heads and looked back at me with the left one giving an impression of “What are you waiting for? We’ve got people to catch!”

We scampered off down the road and eventually ended in a field by the railway tracks. Forty feet away was a rusted lean-to shack.
“Wolf?” I whispered.
Two nods. The right head looked worried. So I got to watch a dog argue with itself. Two heads yapping and one shaking.
“Guys,” I whispered. “Do you mind keeping it down? We’re-”
What we were was drowned out by a yowling and a crash.
I spun to see a charging wolf come barrelling at us.
“Go get Cali” I yelled.
But Cliché ran in front of me and began to snarl at the charging beast.
Great, I thought, my dog is going to get slaughtered.
I didn’t have time for using the rod. So I’d have to use my hands.
This was going to sting in the morning.
Bracing myself I pointed myself at the wolf, threw my shoulders back, flinging my hands forward and screamed.
Okay I was running on adrenaline and the shouting is more of a focus thing then a vital spell component. So sue me if I don’t make a stupid pop culture reference every time I want something to go boom.
Anyway, the spell worked alright. Flames shot from my hands, scorching my flesh. It flew across and smashed into the charging wolf. The creature fell back with the blow, giving Cliché and me a chance to make it back to the traintracks.
Yes, we were running away from a faster predator. A case of ‘he turns and runs away will live to be gutted another day’.
As we sprinted I tried to scream “get Cali” again, but I was kind of busy with the fleeing. In fact the only thing that stopped me was the sound of a gunshot from behind me.
Spinning round I saw the beast fall down. Then I saw Tulip holding the revolver.
I blinked not quite sure where she had come from.
“Surprised to see me?” she smirked.
Frankly I had been kind of expecting her to be the wolf but there you are.
She blew the smoke away from the muzzle. Yes actual smoke. It was that old. And silver. Ah.
I turned to Cliché.
This time the heads all agreed and he ran off. Smart dog that one.
“Is he dead?” I asked.
“Silver bullet,” Tulip murmured looking down at the body.
That didn’t answer my question but I took it.
“Why was he looking for you?”
She looked me over. People seem to be doing that lot recently. It was becoming slightly annoying. She finally spoke.
“What do you know about Rasputian?”
Okay, I thought, I’ll run with it.
“Russia’s greatest love machine. He took control of the court through seducing the Queen. The people rebelled him and tried to kill him. Gave him poison, he got better. Shot him, he survived. Then they raped him and threw him in the river. He died a few days later of pneumonia.”
“He was a werewolf,” she stated.
“That I didn’t know.”
She gestured at the prostrate form.
“That’s one of his pack. Antion Falconé aka Ace. My granddad killed his bitch. He almost lost his jaw doing it but he did. Ace swore his revenge on my family. My dad took his eye before,” she stopped and took a breath. Shakily releasing it she continued. “He’s been hunting me for the last two years. Followed me to England. It’s really annoying. I didn’t want to get involved in this supernatural crap. Now it’s all over. ”
So it wasn’t her who removed Wolfie’s face. Glory hallelujah! My faith in woman can remain muddled. Whoop!

I stuck my hand into my pockets and looked at the scene. Wolf dead. Girl safe.
“Well I guess that solves that case.”
Tulip looked at me.
I thought back over our brief meeting.
“Oh yeah. I’m a detective.”
“Yeah,” I said not sure if I liked the way she said that.
She snorted, “Okay then.”
She shook her head.
“No. It’s nothing” and snorted again.

I looked back at the corpse. Something seemed wrong.
“Shouldn’t he still be bleeding?”
She had been walking away. Great, leave me with the furball.
“He’s not bleeding.”
She walked back towards the corpse.
“That shouldn’t be-”
It was at this point Ace pounced and slashed up with one massive claw across Tulip’s stomach. There was a tearing and a screaming. Then a fine mist of red.
Once again, there was no time for weapons. Blackthorne, my mentor would be so impressed with me and all the unarmed combat I was doing.
“You never know when a beastie’s going to go for you” he’d say “so ya better be ready to fight it off with a coat hanger if needs be.” Then he’d throw us in a pit with a gremlin and a freshly cleaned suit and just hope for the best.
As Ace threw Tulip to the side, I threw a little more fire. This time he was ready and leapt for me. Ducking, I could feel him nearly part my hair.
As he flew past, I drew the dagger from its sheath and slashed. There was a pleasant sizzle as it cut its burning path across his stomach.
I rolled as he came crashing down. On my feet I started to head towards the wolf.
It appears that the lycanthropic healing doesn’t work on silver weapons wounds. The bullet wound and my slash had been neatly cauterised. How bloody useful. Didn’t help Tulip though.
I looked. She was still alive! How the hell did that happen?
But I didn’t have time for that line of thinking. It might not be a good idea but I reached down and tried to drag her with me. If she was alive there might be something I could do. I couldn’t do anything if I just left her in the field to be trampled.
I grabbed the revolver off the floor and stuck it in my pocket. Well more I stuffed the muzzle in. My pockets weren’t big enough to fit a…I think it was a Colt but then I don’t know guns.
Then knife in my mouth, I slipped Tulip into a fireman’s lift and began to head for the hut.
We had about twelve feet to go when I slipped on the icy grass. I tried to roll the best I could. Tulip hit the ground with a thump. Scuttling over I checked her pulse. My hand came away wet, yet she was breathing.
I drew the gun, aimed and fired.
It shattered his front leg.
He smashed jaw first into the grass.
I drew the gun round to aim between his eyes.
The last thing I saw before I pulled the trigger was the fear in that one eye.

“Oh son of a bitchwhore” I swore.
I threw the gun at him and missed.
I threw my knife at him.
It would have taken off his cheek if it had still been there.
Slowly he got to his feet.
That eye was looking so smug now with his bloody teeth glinting in the dimming light. If I ran, he’d just track me in the dark. Stupid predators.
I reached into my pocket for my pentacle. Wincing, as I heard a tear I soon had it dangling from my hand. I should be wearing it but the tape kept falling off the shattered part. It worked just fine stuffed next to the old receipts and spent matches.
Sure it didn’t have that much meaning to me. More memories of my other necklace that the Wicians destroyed to show off. As a physical example of my continued existence and my vow to help those who needed it, I could have picked worse.
If I threw my necklace away, I wouldn’t have a focus object left. A lack of words hindered but having no focus object mean no supernatural fuse. You were fine if you were doing little bits of magic such as cooking or healing grazed knees. You go into battle without something to suck up the excess power and you’d probably blow yourself up after a good twenty minutes. That said I guess there are worse ways to go then fighting evil.
No. I was going to stay here and hope for the best.
Not caring if it cut me I slipped the pentacle over my head. Of course the broken bit found some skin and cut me. Stupid Wicians.
Focusing I stuck my left hand out and threw the bracelet forward.
It was slightly damaged but I used it anyway. Last resort. It shot off my hand and created a dome above the Tulip and me.
I stood panting behind the crackling barrier radiating from my bracelet. My wonderful shield bracelet. My silver bracelet.
I’m an idiot.
When I was training for the Ein, Peacekeepers for the wizardly world, we were forced to make our own weapons. I made the bracelet and my blast rod. If I hadn’t been kicked out I would have my own magic sword. But that’s beside the point.
After we made it, we tested it while under fire. We’d be forced to survive a battle to see how they stood up in battle. This one girl Roseate had made these really elaborate things. She wanted to study Metalmancy so had made this really beautiful shieldbracelet that looked like roses and the blast rod was covered in small thorns and vines.
People did that. One guy looked up heraldry and shield design, sketched out his own personal shield with lions and fleur de whatevers. He put a lot of work into the spell and the bracelet carving so that when he used the spell he actually had a giant shield with his design hovering in front of him. Very impressive.
I just got eight pieces of silver sheet and scratched my name on seven and a pentacle on the piece I used as a clasp. Basic workmanship results in a basic dome shape. Not flashy but it did what it had to.
Anyway, Roseate got in the pit with a goblin. Started up her spell, drew her rod and got ready. The shield was a large flower slowly spinning. Offensive as well as defensive. Quite impressive. The goblin swung its blade and hit the bracelet.
It exploded. The bracelet. The goblin as well but the rosebracelet was the first to go boom. Roseate was very nearly killed and was deafened in her left ear. She could have gone and had that fixed but the problem with healing is that you can’t point and have it mend. It would have taken a lot of time. Time she didn’t have if she wanted to be in the Clan.
She moved to the forge where you didn’t really need to hear.
I hope she’s happy.
The point was that I leant that the bracelet needed to be surrounded by a solid and sturdy spell otherwise it explodes.
If I could do this right it would be over. If I got away I could try and make a new bracelet.That or I could stay here until I passed out or Tulip died. Her breathing didn’t sound too good.

The point was that I leant that the bracelet needed to be surrounded by a solid and sturdy spell otherwise it explodes.
If I could do this right it would be over. If I got away I could try and make a new bracelet.
That or I could stay here until I passed out or Tulip died. Her breathing didn’t sound too good.
I drew the rod from my belt, took a big breath and prayed silently to whoever would listen.
“Yippe-ki-ay Mister Falcon,” I screamed as I forced the bracelet towards the wolf. The shield streamed away from me. I felt the jolt as it moved through my body and hit Ace. As it hit him, I shut the spell down while I screamed.
“ACK-DAC” I closed my eyes as electricity hit my bracelet. The shield and the bracelet exploded with a blast of heat and a stink of ozone and burnt flesh. The air was full of the sound of burning flesh and Ace’s yowling of pain. The skin of my already burnt hands cracked as the rod got scorching hot. I dropped it with a yelp and I smelt the burning grass.
I opened my eyes.
His fur was nearly completely gone on his back. One of the links had neatly severed his left ear completely. Yet he was still standing.
I was answered from behind me with a low growling.
I swung around to look at a sleek black panther.
“Oh this is ridiculous. I’ve got a giant dog and a giant cat. All I need is a giant mouse and this bloody thing would complete.”
The cat then did something I wasn’t expecting. It tilted its head to the side and looked confused.
Something clicked and I looked around. Tulip was gone.
The cat tensed its back.
“Do you know what’s happened?”
It shook its head.
I glanced at Ace. He had stopped and appeared to be waiting to see if I was going to get torn to shreds by the new predator.
“I’m afraid you appear to be a werecat.”
Of all the weird things I have seen, a panther re-evaluating its world is one of strangest. There is a lot of blinking involved.
“PHAUCK” she yowled after a while.
This provoked Ace who yet again charged as best as he could.

Tulip sped past me before I could stop her. With a smack, she leapt on Ace’s back and begin ripping into him. She yowled as the silver embedded in his body burnt her. Taking this opportunity, he tossed her to the ground and began to try and bite her neck. He appeared to be going through the last of his strength, yet that last part was more then I had.
Oh well. Fortune favours the brave and all that. I hurtled at the wolf.
“Sam. Down.”
Before I could turn to face behind me, a hand pushed me down. I hit the floor with a thump.
“Keep your eyes closed!” Cali shouted.

I did. I heard running of feet then, over the sound of the fighting, the sound of a gun and an animal howl turning to a human cry of anger. Cali shouting “Up here!” Then Ace screaming in pain. It was barely understandable. I guess due to the fact we’d all ruined his face.
Then quiet. I could hear Cali pant and also Tulip whining.
“A cat?” Cali sounded amused.
“Don’t kill her. Don’t kill her” I called as I got to my feet. Opening my eyes I took in the scene.
Cali had her back to me and to her left lay a naked Tulip, blood smeared and scared. She was shaking slightly. But what really took my notice was Ace.
His back was arched back as if to pounce. His body seemed more like the two legged werewolves of Hollywood then the beast I’d been fighting. All bulging legs and extended jaws. His body looked ready to fight but his eyes were terrified. Part man, part wolf.
One giant stone statue.
Cali had removed her sunglasses while he was changing back.
He was trapped in there. A living statue trapped forever with the pain of changing.
Cali turned around now. She’d put her sunglasses back on. A gun hung from her hand. She began to walk/run towards me.
I felt something bump my leg. I reached my hands down and Cliché gave the burns a good licking. Clever puppy.

Cali reached me and put a hand on my shoulder.
“You okay?”
“Thank you Deus Ex Machina” I murmured, then fell over.

Night had fallen and we were all sitting in Cali’s sitting room. I had been bandaged up and could feel morphine working through my body.
I do not know why Cali has morphine but I wasn’t complaining.
Tulip was wearing the clothes that had survived the change. It was lucky leather figured so highly in her fashion plan. She was nursing a hot chocolate and looking exhausted.
Jess was also enjoying the chocolate and was shivering a little too much to look authentic. She hadn’t been happy that she had been left by herself in the cold while we were battling away. That said, she had managed to find out that an old man was convinced a pooka was eating from his fridge. So that was one more job then we had before.
Cliché was sitting on the other side of the room glaring at her. He looked up at me and his look broadcasted his feelings.
“Cat. Bad. Eat!”
I shook my head and he humphed as if to say “on your inadequate one head be it,” then went to sleep.
Cali. Cali just sat back and watched us all.
I cleared my throat.
“Tulip, I’m-”
“Why do you keep calling me that?” She looked drained. A red scar had narrowly missed her left eye. Maybe it was retribution or just chance.
“It’s what Ace called you.” I said softly.
This gave her pause.
“My dad called me his little Tulip. I thought the wolf picked it up from him when he killed him.”
“I could be wrong completely. I mean I’m highly drugged but I think Ace really was saying Chew-lip.”
She looked baffled. Poor girl. She was going to have a fun time going through a full moon change at her age.
I decided to try bluffing my way through this. I wasn’t really the one who should be doing this.
“The little I know of these things, weres have their own werenames. You know Ripclaw or Skullcruncher. Your granddad lose his lip fighting?”
Tulip shuddered slightly at the memory.
“Yeah. Most of his mouth. It was horrible. I could always see his gums.”“Must have got his lip ripped off. He got the name Chewlip from that I guess. Then it must have been passed down. It’s how these things work.”
Tulip shook her head.
“Why didn’t I know all this before? Why now?”
“You’ve always healed quickly?” Cali asked making us all jump.
“Yeah but-”
A simple shrug.
“I guess the cat part varies when it manifests. For you, you had to be in so much pain it kind of slipped.”
Tuplip looked around the room then threw her arms up.
“That’s ridiculous.”
“That’s weres,” Cali deadpanned.
She smiled a small smirk.
“Of course I’m just guessing here. You could have been bitten by a kitten for all I know.”No one laughed, but we all acknowledged the humour with grunts.
Tulip sunk back into the chair.
“There are so many questions.”
What could I say that would help? No there aren’t? Just go with it and it’ll sort itself out? If I had been in the Ein, I could have handed her over to a “proper authority” and be done with it. Would that have helped her?
She continued talking and I sat and listened, hoping that would help. “I mean did my grandfather fight him because they were enemies or was it just her nature? Is that why my father got involved? I mean I’ve always liked my own space. Is that me or have I got to be that way? Why did my father keep this quiet all this time? Did he know? Was he laughing at me every time he called me Tulip? I don’t know!”
I couldn’t help but feel I’d made things worse. I put my hand out and touched her shoulder.
She slapped me across the face. No, not slap. Scratched without claws.
“Don’t touch me, you son of bitch. You did this to me. If you hadn’t got me killed I’d have been alright. I wouldn’t have been talking to you and noticed I hadn’t killed him. This is your fault.”
With that she got to her feet and stormed out of the room.

I counted to twenty then followed her.

She turned, snarling and I do mean snarling. I could see it in the streetlamp. It shocked me a little. Bestial. When she saw my face, she stopped suddenly. A small sob escaped her. I reached into my coat and pulled out a card.
“As ridiculous as it sounds, this is my card. If you need to talk call me.”
She looked it over. Then turned to look across at the trains go past in the night.
“Aren’t you supposed to talk me into staying?” she said.
“Would you stay?” Would I take her in? Let her join my little group of injured souls. After a pause I realised I would do whatever I could to keep her safe. She’d hate me for caging her up but I’d try. Would that be enough? I didn’t know. It was her choice.
She chose.
She turned and looked at me for a minute. She then looked at the card, looked again at me, walked over, gave me a small kiss on the cheek and then she turned and left.
I stood there and watched her go, knowing that I might regret this when one day I get the call she’s gone feral and I’d have to stop her.
“You really have problems with women don’t you?”
I laughed a quiet humourless laugh. Cali put a comforting arm around me.
“Come on. You owe us a pizza.”

It was gone ten by the time I returned to my rooms. I hadn’t left the radiator on and it was freezing. It wasn’t until I went into the kitchen to get a drink of water and opened the fridge to get a drink I noticed there was a shapely redhead sitting at my kitchen table.
I span and drew my blast rod that was sparking slightly. I fired three times. The balls of energy were absorbed in the shield she appeared to have around her. There was a strong blast of the smell of cut grass and wild flowers. Better then the usual ozoney stink shields usually produced.
She tutted and shook her head.
“Such violence just for little old me?”
She gestured at a seat. MY chair! In MY house. With MY defensive wards up! This was bad.
I sat down and held the rod aimed at her chest.
“Parle?” she said as she placed a rapier on my table. It was a wonderful piece of blade made of shiny wood. Non metallic, bad thing number two
“Je ne parle pas francais.” I was being a jerk for the sake of it.
She raised one fine eyebrow.
She shrugged.
“English then. You’re here. I did think about talking to you in your office but I thought this was better. The personal touch and all.” She grinned and her smile was like the sun on a warm summer’s day. I disliked it. It was too…nice. Also the fact she seemed to be generating enough heat to warm the room by her presence alone. Thing three and four.
“Who are you?”
She looked surprised then laughed. You can guess how I like the fact it was a sweet relaxing laugh.
“How rude of me. I enter your home and don’t even introduce myself!”
The woman got to her feet and raised her right hand in salute.
“Mr Fitcher. I am Lady Cassandra of the House of Sibylline. I’m your lawyer.”
Another smile.
“You can call me Casey if you like.”
Sibylline. The House of the Elvish Seers.

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