“He couldn’t have done any worse,” Potter said. Then turning to look at Murphy, Potter said, “Why them? Why the Lycanthrope, Sarge?”
“They owed me a favour,” Murphy said. “I was angry – hurt at how Phillips and the others murdered my precious girls, Nessa and Meren. They were my daughters and I have nothing now. The last of my family has gone.”
I wanted to tell him that wasn’t true, that we were his family, but now wasn’t the right time and I didn’t know if there ever would be one. None of us would ever be able to replace his daughters.
“But Sarge,” Luke said, as Isidor sat quietly and ate. “The Lycanthrope…”
“What’s so bad about them?” I asked.
“What’s right about them is more to the point,” Potter cut in. “They’re not like you see in the movies. They don’t stroll about bare-chested with cheesy smiles and tattoos. And they definitely don’t dodge silver bullets and howl at the moon. These werewolves are not here to play games!”
“What are they like, then?” I asked, forcing down a small piece of meat.
Sitting forward and fixing his eyes on mine through the fire, Potter started to explain the true history of the Lycanthrope.
“They’ve been around for centuries. They are what we would nowadays call serial killers – because that’s what they were. Although they were human back then, they had the power of putting you into a trance with just one stare. That’s how they overcome their victims before ripping them to pieces – leaving them butchered and half-eaten. But worse than that, they stole children.”
“Children?” I asked. “Why?”
“They believed that the purity of a child’s heart would give them unnaturally long lives, and some even believed immortality. But the spell wouldn’t work unless the children were offered to them by the mothers to take. But what mother would just hand over her child?” Potter said, still not taking his eyes from mine. “So they would creep into their homes in the dead of night, and waking the mothers and placing them into a trance with their stare, they would trick them into handing over their children. It wasn’t until one night that one of these killers was stumbled upon by chance as he fled the home of a distraught mother. She had come out of her trance too early and raised the alarm. The Lycanthrope were hunted down by the men folk of the village and murdered.
“But myth and legend has it that they were turned away in death by God because of the horrendous crimes they had committed and he cursed them with a divine punishment. He sent them back to Earth, each of them with a raging thirst as he was so angry with them, he wouldn’t give them not even one drop of water. He told them that to quench their thirsts they had to drink the rainwater from the first animal footprint that they came across. It was a wolf’s footprint swollen with rainwater that they drank from. Like they had tricked all those mothers before, they too had been deceived. For what they hadn’t been told, was that whatever animal’s footprint they drank from, they would spend the rest of eternity walking the Earth half-human and half that animal – and in their case – wolves,” Potter said.
The fire crackled before me, sending up tiny orange sparks into the overhang. Potter continued to stare at me and I didn’t know what to say. His story was unbelievable and terrifying and just six months ago I would have laughed in his face. I was so used to just believing in fact, what I could touch, smell, and see. But I was now living in a world – living a life – where monsters roamed free right under the very noses of humans. I was one of those monsters, living a life in old outhouses, derelict buildings and caves, eating wild animals cooked over a fire, and bathing in underground lakes; it was then I realised how quickly I had slipped away from a normal existence. Living on my wits and nerves and like any other animal, I was now being hunted and this had become commonplace for me – this was now my life and I doubted I could ever go back to the one I’d had before.
“I know you say you were desperate, Sarge, but serial killers, child murderers?” Luke said, and the sound of his voice snapped me from my thoughts. I looked at him, his face looked so handsome in the glow from the fire, lighting it in shades of orange, amber and gold. It was hard to believe that he was a monster. It was hard to believe that any of us were.
“They don’t live like that anymore, they haven’t murdered for hundreds of years,” Murphy said.
“Men and women that have done that kinda shit don’t change, Sarge,” Potter said. “We should know that better than anyone. We hunted down and locked up enough of the Lycanthrope to know that they are still killers.”
“Not this pack of wolves,” Murphy tried to convince him.
“But they still feed off human blood,” Luke reminded him.
“Not these wolves,” Murphy insisted.
“So how do they survive?” Luke asked.
“They dig-up freshly buried corpses and eat them,” Murphy explained.
“Aww, bless em! I suppose that makes all the difference! And there I was thinking that perhaps they had redeemed themselves,” Potter scoffed, chucking the remains of the rabbit into the fire.
I could tell that Murphy was growing tired of Potter’s sarcasm and he shouted over the fire, “Do you really think I would enlist the help of child killers? Do you? Just after finding my own daughters murdered!”
Potter looked away from Murphy and stared into the fire.
“This pack of wolves are trying to live good lives,” Murphy continued, “They are trying to lift the curse that has been placed upon them.”
“So what’s the deal?” Isidor said as he loaded two bolts into his crossbow.“Sorry?” Murphy almost seemed to growl at him.
“You said that you struck up a deal with one of these wolves, so what was it?” he asked, throwing his loaded crossbow over his shoulder. I guessed he believed he might need it.
Murphy paused for a moment and looked at Luke and Potter. It was if he had some bad news to tell them. “I struck a deal with Jack Seth…”
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Potter yelled and stood up.
“Jack Seth!” Luke breathed in wonder…or was it in fear? I couldn’t tell.
“Didn’t we lock that arsehole up for twelve counts of murder?” Potter shouted over the fire at Murphy.
“That’s right, we did!” Luke said, now standing.
“The evidence was very circumstantial, if I remember rightly,” Murphy said, now he too was standing.
“Circumstantial!” Potter almost seemed to screech. “He was still eating one of the victims when we came crashing through the fucking door!”
“So how come he’s out roaming the English countryside?” Luke asked Murphy. “Didn’t the elders pass down twelve life sentences? One life sentence for each victim?”
“He says he was set up,” Murphy said.
“Set up! God give me strength!” Potter roared. Then, pointing at me, he added, “There was so much evidence that even Dana Scully over there wouldn’t have wasted her time investigating the case, it was so cut-and-dried!”
Then coming around the fire, Luke came close to Murphy and looking him straight in the eyes, he said, “Don’t tell me the deal was his early release in return for him tracking down Kayla?”
Murphy didn’t say anything, he just looked away and that was answer enough.
“Oh, Christ! This just keeps getting better and better!” Potter shouted, kicking the ground with his boot. “The guy is a freaking maniac!”
“He says he was innocent – that he was set up!” Murphy insisted.
“Yeah, and Santa Claus is gonna get me a date with Jennifer Lopez for Christmas!” Potter shouted as he lit himself a cigarette.
Standing, I looked at Murphy and then at the others and said, “You know, maybe we should listen to the sarge, he hasn’t led us wrong before.”
Blowing smoke from the corner of his mouth, Potter looked at me and said, “Do us all a favour, sweet-cheeks, and keep your nose outta this – you have no idea who we’re dealing with.”
“Maybe we should give this Jack Seth a chance if the sarge -”
But before I’d a chance to finish, Potter had lept over the fire and was standing before me. “Jack Seth is an animal – nothing but vermin,” he said. “This isn’t some kinda fairytale – the guy dates a woman with bristles under her tongue for crying-out-loud!”
“All the female Lycanthrope have hair under their tongues!” Murphy shouted. “That’s just the way they are!”
“Look,” Potter said turning on him, “I can just about forgive a girl for not shaving her armpits – but a hairy tongue! That just takes the piss!”
“Stop it!” I shouted. “Standing here arguing about hairy tongues isn’t going to solve anything. We’re meant to be searching for Kayla.”
“Yeah, and look where that got us,” Potter snapped at me. “According to you and Indiana Jones over there, that thing wasn’t even Kayla.” Then turning on Murphy, Potter spat, “It looks like your mate Jack Seth lied to you!”
Fixing on Potter with his steely-blue eyes, Murphy said, “There’s only one way of finding out.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Luke asked, stepping close to me.
“We go and ask him,” Murphy said with a grim look on his face. “And I promise you, if he did lead us into a trap back there at the monastery, those twelve life sentences will seem more like a vacation by the time I’ve finished with him!”
“You know he can’t be trusted, don’t you?” Potter said, the anger now gone from his voice as he tried to reason with Murphy.
Ignoring him, Murphy turned his back on us and disappeared into the shadows at the rear of the overhang. “Get some sleep, we get going at dusk.”