“Whatever you say, boss. You’re the boss, boss,” Drake said.
“See, there you go again!” I snapped at him.
“I’m not sure I know what you mean, boss,” Drake said.
“You even say boss like a wise arse,” I shot back at him.
“I don’t know what you mean b-” Drake started again.
“Did I say you had to call me boss?”
“It’s just that I thought…”
“Don’t think!” I barked. “Just do as I say and we’ll get along just fine.”
“Whatever you say,” Drake said.
I glanced at Madison and she was smiling. “What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she smiled back.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t realise that I was some sort of freaking comedian. Let’s see if you think it’s so funny when another one of those dead kids shows up. Jesus, no wonder you amateurs haven’t caught this piece of scum yet – you’re probably all too busy sitting round cracking jokes and taking the piss to do any real police work.”
“You are funny though,” she half-laughed. “It’s just that when you get angry, your jaw goes all tense and your nostrils flare out at the sides.”
“Oh yeah, how very amusing,” I remarked. “I think you two clowns are funny – not ha-ha funny – but fucked-in-the-head funny! Now, if you two have quite finished doing your Laurel and Hardy impersonations, we’ve got a killer to catch!”
Without waiting for a reply from either of them, I walked away from the car.
“Wait up!” Madison called after me.
“For what?” I shouted back, pausing to light a cigarette.
“We need to get changed out of our uniforms,” Madison said.
“Why?” I asked, turning to look at her.
“We’re wearing fluorescent police jackets,” Drake cut in. “They’d stick out a mile on our stake -”
“You’ve got five minutes,” I said, blowing smoke into the night.
I’d smoked another two cigarettes by the time Madison and Drake finished screwing about with their kit. Climbing from a nearby police van, I could see they were both now dressed in all black and each had a rucksack thrown over their backs.
It was only now that they were out of their uniforms that I could see how tall Madison was. She strode towards me on legs that seemed to go on forever. She was as tall as me at six-foot-two and I wondered if, in fact, she was an inch or so taller. It was as if she had grown a few inches – they both had – in the short space of time that I’d been waiting for them. Without his police helmet on, I could see Drake had his hair in a crew cut, something a Marine would have. His black jacket and the way he had his combat trousers stuffed into his black military style-boots made him look like some Steven Segal wannabe. Although Madison was dressed identically, I couldn’t help but notice, despite the fact that she was a Lycanthrope, how fit she looked. Without her police cap, a fountain of long, blond hair spilled onto her shoulders and down her back. Now that the bulky yellow police coat had gone, I could see that she had a hot figure and legs long enough to wrap all the way around me. Even though I knew she was a werewolf, I couldn’t help but notice how incredibly beautiful she was.
I buried any feelings that might be twitching inside me and reminded myself that she had once been a child killer just like the Lycanthrope we were heading off to hunt down and kill. And even if she hadn’t have been a killer, she had a hairy tongue for crying out loud, and that was enough to put any man off.
They strode towards me. Madison asked, “Ready?” then fixed me with that stare and that smile of hers.
“I’ve been ready for the last half an hour” I snapped, throwing my half-smoked cigarette away.
“Then let’s get going,” Drake said, striding away into the night.Madison and I set off after him as he led us away from the railway station and onto a road that twisted away into the dark.
“Wouldn’t it be quicker to fly?” I asked Madison. “I do have wings, you know.”
“We don’t,” she said back as she walked along beside me.
“How about wolfing-out or whatever it is you do? I mean you can run fast, right?” I asked her.
“Oh, yeah, I’m fast,” she smiled at me. “But it doesn’t work like that. I’ve got to be worked-up – angry or excited - before I change,” she said, her eyes twinkling as she glanced at me.
Was she flirting with me? I wasn’t sure – but either way I was going to play along. So I asked, “Like ‘The Hulk’?”
“The what?” she asked, sounding bemused.
“You know, the guy who turns into the big green dude when someone pisses him off?”
“I don’t know any big green men,” she said, and again I couldn’t tell if she was trying to be funny or serious.
“It doesn’t matter,” I told her, looking ahead into the dark.
There was a wooden gate ahead set into the stone wall that ran alongside this particular stretch of country road. Reaching it, Drake bounded over the gate in one leap and landed in the field on the other side. Madison and I followed. The field rose steadily higher as we made our way across it, and on the other side there was a small woods. The moon sat fat and round overhead, and the night was so clear that I could see grey mottled patches on its surface. Its pale, milky light lit our way across the field, and as we entered the woods, it shone through the trees in narrow shafts.
We walked in silence, and apart from the gentle stirring of trees in the wind, the only other sound I could hear was the occasional rustling of leaves and brush as wild animals darted back and forth amongst the undergrowth. It took about half an hour of brisk walking to reach the other side of the woods, and as we did, Drake, who was ahead, raised his hand into the air for us to stop.
Standing next to him, Drake said, catching his breath, “We’re here.”
Looking ahead, I could see a clearing, and at its centre sat a small house. Immediately, I thought of the story ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ and wondered if Grandma was at home. But the house didn’t look very welcoming. It was made from slabs of dark grey stone, and it leaned to the left, as if it were being pushed over by some giant invisible finger. The roof was thatched, but in places, the straw was non-existent, leaving holes that looked like giant, empty eye sockets.
I could see three upper windows which were smeared with grime and dirt. There were two windows on the ground level on either side of an ancient-looking wooden door. Wild ivy grew up and over the front of the house like a cancer. A cobbled path led to the front of the house, but most of it was covered with weeds and brambles. Now, I’ve never been a superstitious type, I don’t believe in ghosts, ghouls, or Father Christmas, but if there ever was a place that was going to be haunted, alive with evil spirits and demons, this was the place. It’s hard to describe, but it was like a blackness seeped from between the cracks in the stone from beneath the front door and from the holes in the roof. It was like it was reaching out for me – trying to grab my heart and turn it cold – so cold that it would stop.
“Nice place, huh?” Madison said, nudging me gently in the ribs.
“I’ve taken vacations in nicer places. Not a lot nicer, but I’ve never seen anything like this before,” I whispered.
“The place is evil,” Drake said as if talking to himself. “The devil lives here.”
“I admit that the place doesn’t look overly-inviting – but the devil?” I said. “I don’t believe in him.”
Then looking me straight in the eyes, Madison said, “You will by the time you leave this place, Potter, believe me. You’ll know the devil is real.” This time that beautiful smile of hers had vanished, and the sparkle in her eyes had been replaced with fear.
To be honest, not much scared me. But this house was different. Scared was probably the wrong word; “on edge” is probably the best way to describe how I was feeling as we made our way up the overgrown path to the rickety old front door. There was a smell too. If there was ever a smell of rot and decay, then it was here, emanating from this house in waves.
Drake led the way, and Madison and I followed close behind. As we drew near to the Wolf House, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness – a feeling that I had only ever really felt once before, and a fleeting image of a girl I had once known called Sophie passed across the front of my mind. I didn’t want to be reminded of her, so I pushed her face away along with the feeling of sadness.
Drake reached the door and looked back over his shoulder at us.
“Ready?” he asked.
“For what?” I shot back.
“I dunno. I’m just asking – are you ready?”
I glanced sideways at Madison and she shot me a quick look. “Oh for crying out loud,” I groaned. “We’re not a bunch of five-year-olds!” Brushing past him, I pushed open the front door. It seemed to make a crying noise as it opened, a sound similar to the ones I imagined the children who had died in this house had once made. If I thought the smell outside had been bad, the horrible odour that hit me as I pushed the door open was almost suffocating. It was rancid. Grimacing, I covered my nose with the back of my hand and stepped inside. Drake and Madison followed.
Moonlight crept in through the filthy windows but did nothing to light the place. Reaching into their rucksacks, Drake and Madison both produced flashlights. Switching them on, they splashed cones of white light across the floors and walls of the house.
“Don’t s’pose you’ve got a spare one of those?” I asked them.
Madison shook her head, and Drake replied, “Don’t you have one of your own? I thought you were a cop. All cops have flashlights, don’t they?”
“Not this one,” I grumbled, taking my Zippo lighter from my coat pocket.