The rouge dog, now suspected of being a werewolf, has caught the attention of the Northern Virginia Branch of the Collegium Custodius and they start their own investigation. Will they run against Thad, who is still doing his own investigations, or will they help him?
The sun had only risen twice since the Collegium meeting, before another corpse was found. The body, female, was badly mangled, as had been the other bodies. Once again her clothing was missing. Since the death had occurred in Great Falls again Jim, took charge of the investigation. One of the first things he did, after viewing the scene and the body, was to request a K-9 from a local department.
The sun was still short of its zenith when a Ford pick-up truck pulled up to the Rangers station. A large German Shepherd bound out of the bed of the truck before the engine cut off. The dog headed straight for Jim who was waiting to take them to the scene.
While Jim was escorting his friends from K-9 to the site, Winnie and her friends were preparing to enter the home of the former Mr. Frederick Jacques.
“Why the back door?” one of the men wanted to know.
“Two reasons,” Star said as she twisted her pick another fraction to catch a tumbler. “First, they didn’t re-latch the dead-bolt to this door. Second, no noisy neighbors watching us back here. Now, will you please hush up.”
“Oh.” He fell silent glanced at his brother and shrugged.
“Yes!” A moment later Star straightened triumphantly. “After you, gentlemen.” She pushed the door open and jokingly bowed.
“Care to explain where …”
“you come by that skill?” the twins asked as they stepped into the living room.
“Side hobby. You’d be surprised what a P.I.’s called on to do.” She laughed at the somewhat surprised looks she received. “What? Surely you didn’t think I chased daemons and ghosts for a living, did you?”
“No,” one of the twins shook his head. “It just never occurred, that with your apparent mind set, that you’d ever do anything even remotely illegal.”
“Ghosts, daemons, gremlins, sounds like good money to me.” The second twin flashed her a smile.
“Cool it, Jeff.” She glared at the second twin. He gave her an innocent look as he moved towards the kitchen/dining room area. She returned the look with a smile. “You made the mistake of opening your big mouth,” she told him. “James’s not known for wisecracking like that.”
“We could fool you, “James said looking over his shoulder, smiling. It was a game these two played; trying to keep people guessing who was who.
“Not that good, you can’t.” She laughed and moved into the living room.
“What I’d like to know,” James turned to face Winnie, his expression serious, “is why we are here in the first place?”
“If we are right, and the deaths in the parks are related to the murder here, this is probably the best place to start. Perhaps get some information the newspapers, and Police, missed. Since you two are the best at full-trance, retrocognition, work, I was hoping that you could give us that information. What I saw wasn’t enough to really go on. We need to know for sure what we’re dealing with.”
“You got that straight,” Jeff chortled as he returned from his stroll around the house. “Course, I think we’re the only trance team in the region.” His grin widened as he stopped next to his brother and rocked back on his heels. “By the way, this is the only room I got more than a faint twinge in.” He waved an arm expansively, indicating the living room.
“Then this would be the best place to set up.”
Jeff nodded once to his brother in agreement, found himself a relatively comfortable spot in the middle of the floor, and sat down.
Star dropped gracelessly into the easy chair near the back door. She gave the twins a half smile. “At this point we’re only here to witness what you find.”
James nodded, moved to the couch against the adjacent wall and half sat – half leaned on the far side arm. “When you’re ready,” he said to his brother.
The room grew silent as Jeff made himself comfortable and closed his eyes. The silence had stretched into long minutes before James rose from the couch arm and moved to crouch in front of Jeff.
Jeff, ‘Tell’ me what you ‘See’,” he softly directed. After a brief pause he spoke again. “Take it back farther, to before the theft, when Jacques was still alive.” He fell silent again for a few seconds then rose, giving Star and Winnie a quick glance and a nod, and moved towards the living room door.
It’s mid afternoon,” James quietly began relaying what his twin was telling him. “The doorbell rings. No one is expected. Jacques moves to answer the door.” James turned to look into the small foyer.
Jacques opened the door and found one of his former students, Rodriquez, standing on the porch.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
Yeah, you can do me a big favor,” the young Hispanic man said.
“Come in,” Jacques stepped back and motioned him in. “Is it something to do with your studies?”
“In a way.” The younger man gave him a wide smile.
“Of course, Mr. Rodriquez isn’t it?” A grunt confirmed his memory. “How can I be of assistance?” He indicated that Rodriquez should take a seat as they moved into the living room. Rodriquez obligingly sat in the middle of the couch and waited for Jacques to take his seat.
“I’ve been doing some in depth research into the history of some of the deep mountain areas of eastern France and Central Europe. I’ve come across some references to a set of ancient amulets. Not just any phylactery, very special ones. These Amulets give the wearer the powers of the beast.”
“Such legends are generally regarded as myths by serious historians,” Jacques told him. “You should not be wasting your time with this nonsense.”
“Really? Well the legends go on to tell of how there were special people chosen to protect these amulets in later times, to keep them out of the ‘wrong’ hands. There is also a very concise description of some of these amulets. A description that matches the medallion you wore a couple of times.”
“I am afraid I do not know what you are talking about.”
“Don’t be coy with me, Old Man. I’ve seen the wolf head.”
“That necklace was a gift from my brother, Philip.”
“If your brother had the medallion, he was one of the chosen ones. Just like you are now.”
“Young Man, if you insist on talking such utter nonsense I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.” Jacques stood up and made to start for the door.
“I know what you are, Old Man!” Rodriquez jumped up, kicking the coffee table out of the way. The corner narrowly missed Jacques as it slammed into the chair.
“Now see here …”
“I got “proof”. If you don’t give me what I want, the “proof” will find its way to the Dean of History’s office.”
Jacques studied the younger man in silence for a few seconds. “Mr. Rodriquez, see here, you really don’t know what these, so called, amulets are.”
“Yes, I do,” Rodriquez cut him off. “I know what it is, and I want it.” He moved to block Jacques’ pathway. You know I can produce that “proof” too. I’m real good. Now, think what that would do to your precious image,” he all but purred the last line. “Give me the amulet. No one will know, besides us.”
“No! You have absolutely no idea of what you ask.”
“Yes I do.” Rodriquez repeated, lunging forward to grab Jacques’ shirt front. “I know, and I want the power.”
“I said no!” Jacques grabbed Rodriquez’s wrist and twisted it till he released the shirt. In the process, one of the buttons tore off, revealing the amulet in question hanging around Jacques’ neck. Jacques stepped to the side as Rodriquez tried to grab at it. “None of the dark children must be allowed to gain possession.”
Rodriquez raged silently, dropping back a step. A swift movement produced an old, scarred, Saturday Night Special from beneath his ragged jacket. “I said I wanted it, Old Man. Now give it to me.”
In response Jacques reached up and briefly touched the amulet, speaking a few short words in his native language of Walloon. The head glowed faintly in response. The glow faded underneath a coat of charcoal grey as a large wolf took Jacques’ place. The wolf growled low in its chest and moved one stiff legged step forward.
“Oh Fuck!” Rodriquez gasped. He took an almost instinctive step away from the wolf. “Motherfucker really is a wolf.”
The wolf growled once more, lowering its head, the ears flattened against the skull and the brush held stiffly erect. The growl became a snarl as Rodriquez pointed his pistol at the wolf’s head.
When the wolf leapt at him, Rodriquez panicked and jerked the trigger. The bullet caught the wolf in mid-leap on the left side of its chest and exited near the right hip. The bullet ended up lodged in the footrest of the easy chair Jacques had been sitting in.
“Goddamn! I thought it took silver to kill these sons-of-bitches.” He watched Jacques for a moment as the wolf resumed human form for the last time, then slowly reached down and removed the amulet. Dropping the amulet into his jacket pocket he turned and looked around the room. Pulling his handkerchief out of his rear pocket he retraced his steps to the front door. There he locked the door and threw the dead-bolt. Slowly he made his way around the house, making sure all the windows were latched and locking the back door. Turning from that door he looked at the body again, and at the hole in the footrest. Thinking for a moment, he went into the kitchen and opened the door. He laughed to himself when he saw the dog door; just the right size. He returned to the living room and picked up the damning piece of evidence and carried it out to the truck parked in the driveway. When he returned to the living room he adjusted the position of the chair to conceal the prints left in the carpet by the footrest. He turned to study the body again and thought about carrying it out also, but the lack of any type of covering in his truck bed prevented him from doing so. A body was too obvious. Instead he just laughed and put the amulet on.
“He locked the kitchen door then turned himself into a wolf and left, using Jacques’ own emergency exit.” James concluded the story and came back from the kitchen door.
“That explains the lack of finger prints. He apparently kept his hands covered, or off anything that could be printed. The guy definitely was not stupid,” Winfriede said.
“Just crazy,” Jeff added, starting to stand up. “I thought you had to use silver too,” he said, stretching the kinks out.
“Sometimes, but not always. There are records of weres being killed with farm implements,” Star told him. “Those were usually the magic transformed, not the cursed or the line weres.” She also stood up and stretched.
“You’d think it would be the other way around. Since the nuts using magic are more inclined to the dark side,” Jeff protested.
James came up behind his brother and started rubbing his shoulders. “Not always, Jeff. Remember Jacques? I wouldn’t class him as being on the dark side.”
“It actually has very little to do with thewere’s alignment. There seems to be something in the atomic structure of silver that reacts adversely with the enzyme that causes, or permits, the transformation. If that reaction is strong enough it’ll kill them.” Star smiled as she concluded and nodded towards the door. “I’ll continue the lesson later, boys. Right now we need to leave. Before the neighbors get too curious about the strange cars.”
The twins softly laughed and headed out the back door, Winnie a few steps behind. They circled around the house to cars parked on the street after making sure the door was locked.
The sun was an hour past its zenith when Jim’s group arrived at one of the park’s small parking areas. The area was only large enough to accommodate three, maybe four, vehicles. The weeds growing through the gravel attested to its limited use. This lot was not very close to any of the main trails, or prized eating areas.
The dog moved around the lot, nosing the stones periodically. A low, barely audible, rumble was all that indicated how frustrated he was. The trail had stopped where apparently a vehicle had recently been parked.
“Based on Pan’s behavior, I’d say the trail has gone cold.” The handler, Ron Mills, watched the dog for a moment then clicked his tongue and twitched the long lead to call the dog over.
The dog eyed him for a brief moment then reluctantly came over.
“Damn,” Jim muttered. “Means he probably got in a car, or something.”
“Looks that way,” Ron agreed. “Which means even Wonder Nose here couldn’t track him.”
“Not once it hit the main roadway, no.” Jim smiled and held his hand out for the dog to check him.
After nosing his hand for a second, the dog cocked his head and presented an ear for Jim to scratch. He got an unusually strong image of a beat up pick-up truck from the dog.
“I got to hand it to you, Ron. He’s everything you said,” Jim said. “And a little more,” he added quietly, eyeing the dog.
“Yep.” Ron laughed, “Pan here beats out some of our top Bloodhounds.”
“I wish he could track a vehicle,” Jim said wistfully. “Well I guess we better head back.” He stopped scratching and pointed back towards the pathway they had come from.
“Yeah, it’s getting late. Come on, Pan.” Ron signaled the German Shepherd to heel and started for that path.
Jim followed a few paces behind, lost in thought. Either this was one very strange dog, or it wasn’t a werewolf they were after.
“Death Toll Continues To Climb” the headlines screamed. It was the fourth such death in a local National park and sixth in the past few months in area parks. Authorities baffled.
Thad shook his head as he clipped the article out and put it with the others. He had noticed that this time they had tried using a dog to track the animal. But that tactic had proven useless.