Jenny kissed Tom in the truck passionately, and their heated passion filled the cramped space, steaming up the windows. She made little noises as they kissed, until finally Tom started to put his hand up her shirt and she pulled back, falling back against the passenger door.
“What are you doing?” she protested, staring at him in the darkness.
“Aww, come on,” Tom said. “Don’t be a prude.”
“What? Do you really think we came up here just to look at the moon?” She glowered at him. “Fine, be that way. Might as well not just sit here in silence.”
Tom lit a cigarette and turned on the radio. There was the sound of a man talking, hurriedly but trying to maintain a calm tone and sound matter-of-fact:
“We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you this important announcement. Police have just learned that a patient has escaped from the institution for the criminally insane on Black Briar Hill and is heading down the mountain toward the city. The fugitive is described as 6 foot 3, with long black hair, and should be considered extremely dangerous. The police commissioner is advising everyone to stay, lock doors and windows, and be on the lookout for any suspicious characters in their neighborhood.”
And then the broadcast was over, and The Eagles were in the truck with the two high-schoolers, singing about the hotel you could check out of any time you’d like but never leave.
“Oh my God!” cried Jenny, flicking one of her long curly blonde locks at Tom. “That’s terrifying! That’s not far from here, just a ways up the mountain. We should get out of here Tommy! Just to be safe! I’m so scared!”
“s’okay baby.” Tom blew smoke from his Malboro into the cab. “I’ll protect you.” He pitched the cigarette out the window and leaned in to kiss the innocent young girl.
The two necked passionately, as the smouldering cigarette lit the scrub brush it had landed in. The flames spread, engulfing all the vegetation on the hill. Just as Tom started to round second base Jenny pushed him aside and looked out the windshield to see the inferno spreading before them.
“Oh my god, Tom! Look! What did you do? What did you do!?”
The teenagers jumped out of the truck, slamming the doors behind them, not knowing why.
“What do we do, Tom, what do we do?” Jenny screamed.
“Shut up!” Tom said, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. “Just shut up!”
The fire raged on beneath the light of the nearly-full moon. The two turned to look down the hill into the raging blaze, and saw within it a dark shape emerging, flames leaping off of it; the dark figure of a man with long black hair and holding something down at his side, something bouncing against his knee as he climbed the burning slope.
It was a human head.
They turned and ran, and the burning man followed.
Do you remember the first day of your life? I do.
I was 32. I woke up on the street. There were police cars and firefighters and EMTs and blood and broken glass everywhere. I was lying on the tarmac. The first words I heard weren’t those of a doctor. They weren’t the cooing sounds of my overjoyed mother, having just gone through the ordeal of childbirth and basking in the beauty of her newborn son. They were of a fireman, buried beneath his brown suit and helmet and bulky equipment, standing overtop of me.
“Sir?” he was saying, as my vision blurred into focus. “Sir, can you hear me? Sir, are you alright?” He was waving his hand above my face, above my line of sight.
I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know how I’d gotten there. I didn’t remember anything.
Do you know what it’s like to be truly alone? To never really be able to connect with someone? I do. Because every conversation I have is disposable. Because no one remembers anything I say to them. And all the things they remember haven’t happened yet, so I stumble through life, confused and disoriented.
The first day is coming, the one day, in the future, of my birth. Or unbirth. I’m not sure what will happen. But I know now it’s true what they say – that every living creature is born and dies alone. I just wish it wasn’t that way for me all in between.
I know the day exactly. I just wonder if there’s any point in holding on until then.
“That’s quite a rarity these days,” Dr. Stihlman said, as I picked it up. “What with the trade being outlawed now and all.”
It was a beautiful dagger, long and flowing and curved. The blade was spotless, with nigh a sign of rust nor a notch, but the handle was what intrigued me, and to what the Professor referred: it was carved ivory in a luxurious shade of creamy yellow-white. It fit snugly into my hand, the hilt ending just at the edges of my palm, and the intricate flowing curves and mystical-looking symbols carved into it gave it a strange textured feel beneath my skin.
“Yes, I’ll treasure that blade for as long as I live,” he said. “Got it when I was on the big expedition in Africa, just after Mildred died… God rest her soul.”
It wasn’t until years later when Stihlman himself passed away that I realized why the carved handle had felt so strange in my hand.
For when the executors of the Professor’s estate cleared out his belongings, they found buried beneath a trapdoor in the cellar a skeleton identified as none other than Mrs. Mildred Stilhman’s. The cause of death was uncertain, but even the newspaper noted one strange detail found in autopsy which could not be explained: a three-inch length of bone missing from the right femur.
Constable Shivers coughed and the last bit of spittle fell from his mouth, atop the pile of vomit on the floor that had exploded from his gullet mere moments ago.
“Jesus, I’ve never see anything like this,” he said, coughing one last time and catching his breath.
“I have,” said Captain Driscoll calmly, his pipe still clenched between his teeth.
The body in the corner was recognizable as such mainly from the fact the head remained, the skin upon it slashed in jagged cuts and exposing the bloody bone of the skull. The pile of flesh beneath looked as though it’d been put through a meat grinder: bones were snapped in half, muscle had been torn asunder revealing ligaments and the marbling of fat, and what remained of the body’s entrails were ground to a pulp in a pile nearby.
“My God, such savagery! What kind of man could do this? I fear The Ripper himself has come to Dunlet!” exclaimed Shivers.
Driscoll walked over to the pile of gore and bent down. He picked something up out of the carnage and wiped the blood from it with his handkerchief. Slowly and carefully, he his removed monocle and held the curved white object up to the single gas lamp overhead to examine it.
“This is the work of no man,” he said. “This poor soul was mauled – no, devoured – by an animal.”
“And that is one of the beast’s teeth left behind? My word, it must be enormous! A timberwolf, I’d venture, roaming wild in our streets?”
“No,” Driscoll said, replacing his monocle. He folded the tooth into his handkerchief and tucked it into his pocket. “Behold the door, Shivers. A wild beast has not within in his abilities to open a portal like so.”
Shivers looked down at the long, deep claw marks gouged around the door’s handle.
“It’s been nearly twenty years… I never thought I’d see this day,” said the Captain.
“The Dunlet Howler has returned.”
“Hey Hon, just got a call and another job I’ve got to get to, so just have dinner without me… I should be home around 9. Love ya.”
At first I wanted to be a doctor. Then I started reading about criminology and wanted to become a medical examiner. But guess what? You have to be smart to get into medical school. And you have to be hard-working to become an M.E. And I was neither of those things – so now I do crime scene cleanup. Now I scrape brains and blood and bone off the floor. Think about that next time you have a shitty day at your cushy office job.
I get there and it’s that indoor mall, not far from where I live. They’ve closed down the whole place, yellow police tape everywhere. I give the cop at the front my spiel and he tells me it’s at the back. There’s blood and entrails everywhere.
“Jesus, what happened here?” I say to Carl, the M.E., who’s standing nearby. “Shotgun blast to the torso by some junkie. Fucking heartless.”
“Who was the victim?” I venture.
“A woman. Still trying to ID her as he took her wallet.”
He jerks his head over his shoulder and I look over to see his underlings with the body bag. The last thing I see before I look away is the zipper coming up over the woman’s face. Julia’s face.
Think about that the next time you have a shitty day.
“Yes?” I said, looking up from the paperwork on my desk.
“This came for you.” Jeanine was holding a large box. She handed it to me as I stood up.
“Oof! It’s heavy.” I said, setting it down on the desk. She left.
There wasn’t a packing slip, just a white envelope on which someone had scrawled my name. I opened it to find a letter on plain white paper, typed, complete with the station’s address and my full name and title in the heading.
Chief Inspector Rivers,
Find enclosed the head, lungs and liver of David L. Greenwood, of 324 Avenue des Pines Ouest. I have loathed David for as long as I have known him, and observed with disdain the foolishness, impetuousness and disregard for others with which he lived his life. That is why I killed him.
You will also find enclosed the murder weapon of said deceased individual, an unregistered Smith & Wesson Model 36, which with my gloved hand I pulled the trigger.
Though I have been informed by certified mental health professionals that I am incapable of feeling empathy, I felt it of importance to say the following for your sake: it is my hope that your department is able to locate and apprehend me in a timely manner, despite my assiduousness in taking every precaution to ensure they do not. This is because following this there will be 46 additional letters of a similar nature – I have compiled a list, Inspector Rivers, and on it your name is the 48th.
It is up to you to figure out why.
It was the usual carnival by the time I got there. The flashing lights, the mess of ambulances, firetrucks, and us, the boys in blue. The yellow tape held out the public like the velvet rope at a nightclub. Or maybe not. Maybe it was holding us in. I ducked under it and walked toward the center of the activity.
I saw Detective Eaves crouched down over the body, smoke floating slowly upward into the damp night air from the cig in his mouth. There was something about the way his body was, the way he hung has head, that even from a distance he looked scared. No, more than that – hopeless.
He stood up as I reached him and my earlier observation was confirmed. I’d never seen Eaves this shaken. Not like this.
“Christ Ted, look at this shit. Look at it. When was the last time we saw something like this?” He gestured down toward the body.
There was little blood, except around the low “V” collar of t-shirt, and at the neck. The head was gone, the neck ending in jagged cuts. Zig-zags. Dirty work. Looked like the guy had decapitated the poor sap with a fucking straight razor.
“22 years ago,” I said, lighting a cigarette of my own. Back in my first week on homicide. What a week that had been.
“I don’t like it,” Eaves said. “I don’t mind telling you I’m spooked.”
“Yes, it is a little unnerving isn’t it?” I said coolly. “The nature of this crime isn’t what worries me.” A cyclist sped by down the boulevard, rubbernecking at the scene.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean as usual, Detective, you’re looking in the wrong place. I’m more worried that whoever – or whatever – took off the head of our young friend here was also capable of that.”
I pointed, up and over the rows of emergency vehicles, toward the top of the closest streetlight pole, those unnaturally tall, unnaturally straight steel pillars that the city had made whatever artist so many years ago, and dotted the Ocean Boulevard at regular intervals. At the top of the pole, staked on the point like it was on display on the ramparts of a medieval castle, was the head of the body.
“He’s bragging,” I said, staring up through the fog. “This is a warning. There’s going to be more.”
Anton Krisanov. The press called him The Grinder.
We were finally able to track him down when he got sloppy. His last victim managed to cut him with a kitchen knife before she met her grisly end. The weapon didn’t fit his usual MO. We ran the DNA of the blood on the knife and bing-bang-boom – there he was – two counts of sexual assault in 1997. Then it was simply a matter of knocking on that Russian bastard’s door and paying him a visit.
Graves and I headed right to his place in the East End as soon as we found out.
Knock, knock, Anton.
“Anton Krisanov? This is the police! Open up!”
Bang bang, two shots through the door. One right into Graves’ neck. One a leaving a burning trail of exploding pain left of center in my chest, and me flat on my back.
I fought to remain conscious. The ceiling tiles blurred and melded into each other above me.
Then I heard the door creak open, and his footsteps, and a terrifying sound, the sound of an engine, of a machine with a spinning blade.
The sound grew louder and I heard Anton’s voice singing in a Russian accent:
I smell the blood of an Englishman
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread
I am the wolfman.
The full moon rises to its apex in the night sky and I feel its power overtake me, consume me, engulf me, making me change. My human mind is overtaken by that of the animal. As my bones crack and grow and my skeleton reshapes itself, I feel the monster inside taking over. Taking control. The coarse dark hair of the wolf sprouts from my skin and grows longer and thicker. The pain is excruiciating as the bones in my face crack and sever, then elongate, and my human visage stretches out into a snout. My muscles thicken and stretch. My body contorts into a hunched form. The nails on my fingers and toes sprout into long claws.
I feel the carnal instinct inside overtake me completely. The full moon instills the want to gorge on human flesh. The craving to eat. The need to hunt.
I am the wolfman.
I run from the alley into the street and spot prey: a woman, walking alone beneath the faint orange umbrella of streetlamp light.
“What the hell? Hey, stay back! I’ve got mace!” In seconds I am upon her. I pounce and slash at her face with my razor-sharp claws. She collapses beneath my lupine muscle and I plunge my teeth into her neck. Oh, the kill! The wolfman feeds!
“Somebody! Help! Get this psycho off me! Help! Help!”
I am uncontrollable. I am savage. Enraptured in the glory of the kill, I am in a frenzy. I bite her again and again and she screams out. Then slowly her cries become weaker as the strength leaves her. I tear into her with my yellow fangs and devour her flesh. My nose is wet now with her warm blood. I drag my kill into the darkness of the alleyway to feast.
Hunched over her lifeless body in the gloom, I hear another sound from behind me. A shrill sound. Sirens. Suddenly light floods the alleyway. A car stopping. Doors slamming.
“Sir, put your hands in the air and step away. We have drawn our weapons and will not hesitate to fire.”
I turn and am illuminated. The blood in my mouth runs down my canine jaw. Crouching over my kill, I ready myself to pounce. I growl.
“Sir, put your hands in the air and get down on the ground. We will not hesitate…”
My growl rises and I spring. Explosions. Hot stabbing trails of pain tearing through me. I let out a howl, one long last high-pitched howl, the aroooooooooo of the victorious hunting wolf. I fall backwards to the ground and the last sight I see is the beautiful full moon hanging in the sky.
I am the wolfman.