In Sheep’s Clothing

Part I

 

Damien Sills Jr. sat alone in the driver seat of his black four-door sedan. A raspy voice whispered to him the lyrics of a song that he had heard at least a hundred times before. The music rolled and curled through the interior of the vehicle like smoke from a cigar or cigarette. The volume was low, yet and still, the vibration from the bassline could still be felt in the body of any pedestrian that may happen to wander to close to the dark car. For Damien, this was not a concern. There would be no pedestrians in this part of town, not at this hour.

 

Damien’s car sat parked in an alleyway between, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, an old and abandoned church, and the Singer Plant, a dilapidated and unused warehouse that used to be a sewing machine factory. Both buildings lay on the edge of New Hampton’s Industrial district. Incidentally the industrial era of New Hampton had long passed and as a result, an entire portion of the city lay desolate and decaying. No pedestrians ever wandered here, there was no reason too; this party of the city had become useless to most of New Hampton’s residents, all except a few. Damien reached forward and cut the radio off altogether. The music, though already low, was beginning to become a distraction.

 

Damien was waiting for something, and there were few things he hated more than waiting. He checked his phone. No calls. No text. The time read 1:00 AM. He craned his neck to look through the windshield and up at the night sky to see a full moon that seemed to be sending the beams of its solar reflected light directly down onto him.

 

“Looks like God got you under the spotlight.” He mumbled to himself, and for a moment he thought about moving his car. He dismissed the thought. No, he was where he should be. There was no need to move.

 

He heard a howl. Distant but strong, full like the moon itself, primal like a howl should be. Probably an old dog. He looked back out at the moon and thought how he had never actually seen a dog howl at the moon. He had seen plenty of dogs, seen plenty of moons and heard plenty of howls but never had all three events occurred simultaneously before him. He wondered if it were true. About dogs howling at the moon, maybe dogs just howled because they were dogs. Who is to say they needed the moon. Damien checked his phone again. No calls. No text. 1:02 AM. God, He hated waiting. Damien slid his finger across the face of his phone, tapped in a four-digit code and pressed the first name listed on the speed dial. The phone rang… and rang. Damien took a deep breath both inhaling and exhaling his frustration. Someone picked up.

 

“What up doe?” said a voice on the other end of the line.

 

Where ya at?” Asked Damien impatiently.

 

“Where you at?”

 

“I’m at the spot fool! Behind the church.”

 

“Aight we down the street.”

 

“Aight.”

 

“Aight.”

 

The phone conversation ended with a beep.

 

“Bruh ain’t never on time,” Damien mumbled to himself. He found that he mumbled to himself a lot when waiting for someone or something, hence his hate for the action, or more appropriately, the inaction of waiting. He took the time to scroll through the other features on his phone. Social network accounts, email messages, voicemails. Nothing new. He looked over to the passenger seat. There was a backpack, his. He grabbed the bag and placed it into his lap, unzipped it and reached inside. Damien pulled from the backpack a wad of twenty dollar bills, rolled tightly into a small knot and secured with a rubber band that appeared to have been doubled over numerous times to keep itself and the bills neatly in place. There were 50 bills within the roll, one thousand dollars in all, and within the bag, there were forty-nine others exactly like it. Damien dropped the money roll back into the bag and reached inside once again. His hand pushed passed the bundles of cash and hit something else within the backpack. Something cold and metal. Damien pulled a .45 semi-automatic pistol from his bag. He cocked the gun revealing a bullet waiting silently in the exposed chamber. The brass shell casing shimmered in the moonlight. Damien released the slide and the gun’s barrel chamber slammed shut with the defining clicks and clinks of the firearms mechanical pieces abruptly moving back into their rightful places. He zipped the backpack closed and placed it back into the passenger seat while placing the handgun into his lap. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back on to the seat’s headrest and took another deep breath.

 

Damien felt a wave of light wash over him accompanied by the sound of gravel crunching under tires. He didn’t bother to open his eyes. The car pulled in next to him, he heard doors open, low mumblings, indistinguishable words and then doors closing. Immediately his own passenger door flung open.

 

“Wake up fool!”

 

Damien opened only his right eye and peered over to see a smiling face remove the backpack from the passenger seat and replace it with himself. It was Rell, the person he had been waiting for, at least one of the people.

 

“Bruh, I been waiting on you for damn near 45 minutes,” Damien said, both eyes closed once again. His body projecting a calm yet mildly irritated edge of impatience.

 

“My bad, that was very unprofessional of me huh?”

 

Before Damien could respond his rear passenger side door opened, and a very large man slid into the backseat.

 

“What up D?” said the large man.

 

“What up Jake!” Damien replied, reaching back with his right arm and bumping his fist against a large meaty knuckle. “Whatcha know good fool?”

 

“Man, trying to get like you.”

 

Damien smiled and said, “Stop it.” ending the ceremonial exchange of false flattery that occurred between two men of Damien and Jake’s loose affiliation. They were friends, however, they were not… brothers. Still, Damien had always liked Jake and they had known each other for quite some time, since grade school. Damien trusted Jake for tonight that was all that mattered. Damien looked over to the passenger seat to see Rell rifling through the contents of the backpack and then oddly to Damien’s surprise, the driver’s side rear door opened as well. Damien’s hand instinctively went to his lap, his fingers curled around the grip, his index finger brushing the trigger, the heavy metal gun bumped against his belt buckle and the hardly audible but decisive ‘pink’ along with Damien’s sudden jump made Rell look up from his rifling.

 

“Whoa-whoa, chill bro it’s just Du-whop,” Rell said.

 

A fourth body slid itself into Damien’s car.

 

“What up D?”

 

“Du-whop!” Damien exclaimed, completely ignoring the newest passenger’s greeting. “What the fuck is Du-whop doing here?” Damien jerked and turned hard to look in the face of the person sitting behind him. Du-whop smiled. Damien frowned and looked over at the passenger seat for his answer.

 

“What?” Said Rell shrugging his shoulders and lifting his arm in surprise, both hands filled with wads of the rolled up cash. “I figured we needed a taste tester and we could use the extra body.”

 

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?”

 

“What?! It’s Du-whop, you know Du-whop. Jake know Du-whop, he was the safest bet.”

 

The car was covered in a fog, what started out as a calm nervous anxiety had quickly turned to a thick hot tension.

 

“Are you stupid?” Damien asked.

 

“Fucker are you gon snort a line pure uncut cocaine and tell us if it meets your highly discerning taste or not.”

 

Damien was quite, he looked forward.

 

“Thought so.” Said Rell “Du-whop is fucking cool man, he gon do this shit with us make him a lil bit of money and we all gon walk away happy. Ain’t that right Du-whop?”

 

“That’s the plan,” Du-whop said and then made a short quick sniffing sound that only served to irritate Damien further. “Aye yo D, I know it was last minute but Rell said you would be cool with it man. I’m only here to help baby, whatever you say do, I do.”

 

“This dude done brought a fucking junkie to a drug transaction, what the fuck?” Damien mumbled to himself, still ignoring Du-whop in full.

 

“Bruh, relax its Du-whop he practically like an uncle to everybody in the hood anyway. It’ll be fine.”

 

“He ain’t my fucking uncle. And don’t tell me to relax.”  Damien turned back to Du-Whop addressing him for the first time since he entered the car. “Du-whop I’m so fucking serious right now, do not say or do any extra shit or I swear to God…”

 

“I gotcha D, I gotcha. I know this is your money on the line out here man, I’d never jeopardize that, come on now, you know me baby.”

 

“No this is my life on the line. These dudes are a real deal drug cartel, they won’t hesitate to kill. I don’t need any unpredictable type shit around me tonight.”

 

“Aye Du-whop listen to Damien bruh, he already almost shot yo ass when we were getting in the car.” Rell laughed as he spoke, placing the rolled up wads of money back into the backpack. “He on edge tonight fool. Aye Jake, you got that other bag bruh?”

 

Jake handed Rell a brown paper bag over the seat. Rell took it and emptied the contents into Damien’s open backpack. More rolled up wads of twenty dollar bills spilled out of one bag and into the other.

 

“I got the other twenty-five thousand dollars here  Mr. Damien Sills Jr. Sir.” Rell said mockingly. Damien ignored him. “So that’s seventy-fi-“

 

“Hold on.” Damien interrupted. “Du-whop, get out and look for these dudes to pull up. Knock on the window when you see’em coming.”

 

“Fasho big dog,” Du-whop replied hoping out of the car with the enthusiasm of a summer intern.

 

Damien did not like Du-whop. Not at the moment at least. Du-Whop was a drug addict, a dope head, a junkie. Crack cocaine was his drug of choice but the old man was known to get high on whatever he could get his hands on. Rumor has it, Du-whop, whose real name was Lou Olds, use to be quite the drug dealer himself, not much unlike Damien and Rell. He was a big and ambitious up-and-comer in New Hampton’s emerging drug culture and he had gotten the name Du-Whop from a magnanimous sense of style that made him look like a 1950’s doo-wop singer. His hair pressed into a pompadour, his brightly colored suits, a large warm smile and a wide range of access to any number of recreational drugs made Lou Olds the life of every party in the New Hampton ghettos and within the cities elite social circles, but somewhere along the line, by some cruel twist of fate he had become the very thing upon which he preyed. Du-whop went from a seller to a user to abuser and before he knew it he was buying hits from a couple of 14-year-old boys who were pushing their way into a business that had become much more ruthless and dangerous than the one that had destroyed his own life. Initially, he saw himself as a kind of a mentor to these young brothers, he would lecture them, telling them the ends and outs of the drug business during their transactions of him buying crack scores, pill hits and his bags and blunts of weed. At first, they seemed to listen, the would marvel at the stories of his glory days and laugh as he broke down the dance moves that guaranteed him a night with the woman or in some cases women of his choice. But over time Du-whop begin to suspect that the young brothers were not laughing with him nor were they in awe of his past feats, they were laughing at him. He was the drunken old fool that would dance and sing for their amusement. His stories and lessons were the ramblings of a broken old man that life had crushed under the heel of its boot. They cared for his messages, as about as much, as they cared for the message in a dog’s bark. Their laughs and their eyes and their hearts were cold, and Du-whop knew that they were better suited for the world of crime then he had ever been. For where he saw joy and mirth and merriment, they saw nothing but pain and anger. Ten years passed as Du-Whop watched Damien and Rell grow from boys to men and every year he took note as to how they seemed to grow darker and more heartless to the world around them, and though he told himself they were good boys on the inside he slowly begin to fear them. Their youth, ambition, and anger were menacing, like a hungry beast eager to consume, and like an old lion making way for the younger and more aggressive lions to lead, Du-whop submitted himself to the young drug dealers, he was a forgotten king and the laws of nature had conquered him in full.

 

Damien was afraid of Du-whop, not in the traditional sense of fear, but in a way that not even Damien fully understood. For Damien, Du-whop represented failure, weakness, a complete lack of self-discipline. Du-whop had been, or had, at some point, the potential to be, somebody important. However, like a fool, he chose self-indulgence and the trifles of petty pleasures over business and look where that had gotten him. To Damien Du-whop wasn’t even a man anymore; he was a zombie, a husk, a shell of what used to be a man. He wandered around the neighborhood, high and strung out, telling stories of what used to be, singing and dancing for the dealers in the hopes that he might get a slightly bigger rock, or a little bit more dope. Damien pitied Du-Whop, and in the furnace of Damien’s soul that pity turned to resentment and the resentment manifested as anger and disdain, but beneath it all, there was truly only fear. Above all else in the world, Damien feared becoming Du-whop.

 

The car door slammed shut with a defining thud.

 

“Alright,” Damien looked back from the closing door and over to Rell. “Talk.”

 

Rell shook his head with a smile. “You’re making him stand outside.”

 

Jake laughed from the backseat.

 

“He’s on lookout,” Damien said with a straight face. “And I’m not about to talk dope with a junkie in the car, the whole neighborhood will know our business before the weekend is over.”

 

Rell shrugged.  “We got seventy-five thousand dollars, that’s going to buy us three kilograms of cocaine. The normal going rate for a brick is thirty-four, we’re getting them for twenty-five. If we break down these bricks like we supposed to we can make fifty-seven thousand dollars, per kilo.” Rell looked at Damien with a very large grin. “Once we get this work, we looking to make one hundred and seventy thousand dollars.

 

And that’s just to start. We burn through these three bricks and we can get a lot more. We can see a million dollars inside of a year.”

 

“Now that’s what the fuck I’m talking about,” Jake said with a clap.

 

“But it starts tonight,” Damien said with a stern voice. “We get these three keys from Hector. We get them off fast, we show his organization that we can handle more.”

 

“We’ll be the kings of New Hampton by the summertime.” Rell fist bumped Jake, who was glad to oblige.

 

“Bruh,” Jake spoke up “Y’all put up the money and I appreciate y’all bringing me in on this, so whatever ya need done.” Jake flicked a meaty finger across his neck. “It’s done.”

 

“Speaking of.” Rell turned in his seat. “Let me get that strap from back there.” Jake handed Rell a 9mm handgun, and kept another gun, a large chrome one, for himself.

 

“D you still got that snub nose.”

 

“Glove compartment.”

 

Rell opened the glove box and pulled out a small snub nose revolver. He flicked open the chamber to find the gun fully loaded. He snapped the gun shut and handed it to Jake.

 

“Give that to Du-Whop.”

 

Damien looked up as if he had something to say but held his silence. He looked back at Jake.

 

“Jake, I’m gonna be straightforward, you are the muscle. From this moment forward if anybody crosses the team, we need you to put the fear of God in ’em.”

 

“I’m bringing down the hammer D, no questions asked.”

 

“Now I don’t expect any trouble tonight, but if this goes bad, then we have to wipe these guys out, get those bricks and prepare for war.”

 

“Hector is normally cool, but D is right, these dudes can flip at any time. If you get the signal, shoot first ask questions later. Worst case we get the dope and keep all the money.”

 

“No, worst case, we all end up dead, best case, we buy the dope and we go back home; we get paid. Let’s try and avoid anybody dying tonight.”

 

“It’s, however, you want to do it. Give the word and I put bullets in heads.” Jake said with a cold finality.

 

At that moment Du-Whop knocked on the back window.

 

“They’re here. Let’s get this done.” Said Damien.

 

Without hesitation, Jake hopped out of the car and joined Du-whop outside. He passed Lou Olds Damien’s revolver inconspicuously and Du-whop quickly jammed it into the waist of his pants. Inside the car, Damien turned to get out as well but felt an arm grip his elbow.

 

“Brother, it’s been ten years we been out here in these streets.” Rell had his signature grin painted across his face, “This has been a long time coming.”

 

“It has but at the same time, nothing has changed, like I told you, a year from now I’m leaving New Hampton and all this shit far behind.”

 

“Yeah yeah, keep telling yourself that, but when this money starts coming in you ain’t gonna want to go nowhere.”

 

“Ain’t no retirement plan for a dope boy,” Damien replied with a grin of his own. “unless you count the penitentiary, and I don’t. I’m gonna turn my fifty thousand to half a million and then you and Jake can have it all.”

 

“Young ass nigga 24, talking about he retiring.”

 

“You can come with me bruh.”

 

“Man I been a hustler so long I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself in… Where did you say you were going?”

 

“Ghana, I’m going to Ghana.”

 

“I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in Ghana fool.”

 

“We’ll think of something for you. Come on man lets handle this.”

 

Damien and Rell exited the vehicle, with the backpack slung casually around Damien’s shoulder. A large black SUV parked behind Damien’s car and in front of the old sewing machine factory. Damien stepped forward, Rell closely behind him. Four fairly large men and one average sized one poured out of the SUV and into the abandoned lot.

 

“Karell Sanders!” Said the averaged sized man, his voice was boisterous and full of enthusiasm. “Hello my friend. Sorry that we are late.”

 

“Hector, mi amigo. It’s all good. Your timing is perfect.”

 

Hector smiled a very large, slightly menacing smile. Damien shrugged it off. Hector was Rell’s contact, they had worked with him before but it had always been through the filter of Rell’s older cousin. Well now Rell’s cousin was in prison, and Hector’s organization was in need of a new contact in New Hampton, an ideal opportunity for ambitious young criminals. Coincidentally ideal opportunities made Damien very suspicious. It was not as if they hadn’t earned it, according to Rell, at least. For the past ten years, they had scrambled hand to mouth trying to build a better life for themselves. Nickel and diming their way through the drug business, selling everything from weed to crack to heroin, anything they could buy cheap enough to make a profit from. When they couldn’t afford to buy drugs cheap then they’d steal them from rival dealers. This, of course, created friction, enemies, but Damien was smart, and Rell was ruthless and this combination had kept them alive and out of prison for quite some time and now it was offering new and exciting opportunities.

 

Hector smiled with an abnormally wide grin. He stood directly in front of the SUV. A large mass of muscle, in the shape of a man, stood on either side of him, two more stood in the back. He had four henchmen, each roughly the size of Jake, if not larger.

 

“Damien.” Said Hector, looking at Damien with hungry eyes. Purely out of instinct, Damien almost reached for his gun, but instead only responded with a weary hello.

 

“Hector. Thank you for meeting with us, we really appreciate -“

 

“Ah Damien, always business. Black Frank was right about you.” Hector cut Damien off mid-sentence.

 

“Black Frank?” Damien was confused. Frank was Rell’s cousin.

 

“Yes, he says that you are a very shrewd businessman. He says that you have… potential.” With this last statement, Hector seemed to almost let out a laugh, as did the large men that accompanied him. Damien felt as if he were the butt end of an inside joke, and noted distinctly that he did not like it. “Who else is this you all have with you?”

 

Rell spoke up, “This is our man Jake, and this is Du-whop.”

 

“I see.” Hector eyed Jake and Du-whop with passive unconcerned glances. “To business then.” Hector snapped his fingers and lifted an open hand. On command one of the large men handed him a small duffle bag. “Five Kilos,” Hector said extending his arm and therefore the duffel bag full cocaine towards Damien and Rell.

 

“Umm Hector, we only agreed to three kilos. We didn’t bring enough money for-“

 

Hector cut Rell off mid-speech the same was he did Damien.

 

“Consider it a gift, an act of good faith in the spirit of our new partnership.”

 

Five kilos, with a street value of fifty-seven thousand dollars per kilo, that’s seventy-five thousand dollar investment that’ll turn a profit of two-hundred and ten thousand dollars. Two hundred and ten thousand dollars. TWO HUNDRED AND TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. It had taken Damien ten years to scrape up fifty thousand dollars, and now within 3 maybe 4 months, he was going to be holding two hundred and ten thousand dollars.

 

“Is this a loan?” Damien asked. “Are the extra kilos on credit?”

 

Hector smiled his hungry-eyed smile. “Ah Damien, no my friend, it is not a loan. They are yours. No strings attached.”

 

Damien removed the backpack from his shoulder and offered it to Hector, another of the large men quickly came forward and grabbed the bag from Damien’s hand.

 

“Its seventy-five thousand dollars, you can count it…” Damien began.

 

“There is no need,” said Hector. “I trust you.”

 

Hector’s arm bobbed, the cocaine duffle bag still in his extended hand. Rell moved forward reluctantly and took hold of the satchel like a cautious animal eating from the hand of an unfamiliar human caretaker. Hector released the bag but never took his eyes off of Damien. Not even for a moment.

 

Before Rell could step back from Hector, the same henchman that handed his boss the satchel of cocaine at the snap of a finger, flicked out an indecently large switchblade seemingly without warning. Every member of Damien’s party jumped, moving toward, however not fully reaching for, their respective firearms.  Once again Hector’s gang seemed to giggle under their breath. Damien was beginning to feel like he and his crew were in some type of drug dealer amateur hour and at that moment, more so then any moment before, Damien wanted to complete and escape this transaction as quickly as possible.

 

“For you,” Hector said gesturing to the knife all while still maintaining his ever-present eye contact. “To sample the product.”

 

“We trust you,” Damien replied. And with this Hector and each of his mean erupted in laughter, so much so that Hector eyes closed and his head flew back finally ending the staredown between him and Damien in a way that Damien felt he could at least feel dignified about.

 

“I insist,” said Hector with a straight face, and immediately Damien knew that he was not being given an option. With each passing second, the encounter was feeling less like a drug transaction and more and more like a game of cat and mouse and Damien could feel that cat’s hot breathe upon his face.

 

“Du-whop.” Damien motioned the old man forward.

 

Du-whop shambled to center stage and with a nod took the switchblade from Hector’s more active goon. Rell held the cocaine satchel open and Du-whop peered inside like a child peers inside a trick or treating bucket on Halloween. Not necessarily in salivating anticipation, but rather in the intimidating awe of being given enormous quantities of candy from strangers for doing nothing more than having the balls to show up at their doorstep. Du-whop stuck his hand into the duffle bag and pulled out a tightly wrapped brick of cocaine. He used the knife to make a small slit in the packaging and pulled the knife out balancing a small lump of flaky white powder on the blade. There was one quick strong snort and instantly his sinus cavity burned as if he had just sniffed hellfire. He winced and threw his head back. Closed eyes squeezed out tears that rolled down the side of each cheek. Du-whop felt a flash behind his eyes and felt the sensation of fireworks going off inside his brain. Tiny explosions of euphoria ignited here and there in random succession. His face went numb.

 

“Product’s good.” Du-whop grunted and with a sniffling swipe of his nose, he placed the cocaine back into the bag before slapping  Rell on the shoulder and going back to his previous post on the outskirts of the conversation. His head still swimming from the effects of the drug.

 

Hector laughed out loud once again. “I really like you guys, you really know how to do business.”

 

Rell dropped down to one knee and begin to zip the duffle bag closed. Time to go, Damien thought. This deal is done. We can get out of here now before anything goes wrong. They have the money we have the dope everything is g—

 

“One more thing.” Hector said with a smile, “Damien. My employer is always in need of new young talent and we um, we think you fit the bill.”

 

Damien’s mind twisted. What was he talking about?

 

“We’d like you to come work for us.”

 

“Work for you?”

 

“Yes, our organization could use a man like you.”

 

“I don’t understand.”`

 

“What is there to understand, we want you to come with us. It’s quite simple my friend.”

 

“Now?” Damien asked, confused surprised and becoming very very anxious.

 

“Right now.” Said Hector with no hesitation.

 

Rell stood up immediately, he looked just as bewildered as Damien was. They read the confusion on each other’s face. This was going all wrong.

 

“Hector, mi compadre, thanks for the offer but I don’t think we are really interested in any full-time positions, at least not right now I mean. Maybe once we get this—”

 

Hector silenced Rell with a single raised hand. He pointed and the goon holding the backpack full of money threw it into Rell’s arms.

 

Mr. Sanders, we have no interest in you. We only want Damien. You can have your money back, you can keep the drugs and you can get out of here. Damien, we would like you, to come with us.”

 

Damien dared not take his eyes off of Hector but from the side of his vision, he could see Rell’s movements and even before Rell moved a muscle Damien knew where this was heading. Karell did not respond well to intimidation.

 

Rell dropped the bag of cocaine behind him and almost as if on cue Jake picked it up and handed it off to Du-Whop. Rell put the backpack on, a strap over each shoulder, and then he pulled the 9mm handgun from the small of his back.

 

“My brother is not for sale. And I don’t know where you think you are but in New Hampton, we don’t turn our back on our own. So we will take our money and we will take your drugs and you can take yo ass and get the fuck outta here. Your night is done.”

 

Damien saw Jake pull his gun as well. He put his hand under his shirt, palming the grip of his own piece. This was really about to happen.

 

Hector let out a sigh. “Ahhh Mr. Sanders, your tenacity is almost admirable.” Hector looked at one of his henchmen. “Kill him.”

 

The man closest to Hector’s left began to walk toward Rell with a smirk across his face. Rell raised his gun.

 

“My man, If you take another step I’m going to shoot that ugly ass smile right off of your face,” Rell said, his gun drawn and being held with both hands. At his current range, it would have been impossible for him to miss. Damien was left with no other choice, he pulled his gun too. He held it with both hands, still pointed at the ground, ready to turn it on any of the other henchmen or even Hector himself if need be. Damien had never shot anyone, and definitely not this close before. He hated the idea of the first person he shot and killed being a member of a drug cartel, but as things appeared, he would not have many options.

 

The henchman turned his glance back to Hector who gave him an approving nod to continue his march.

 

“I said DON’T MOVE!”

 

The goon took another step.

 

There was a loud pop, pop, pop in quick succession. Damien heard the shell casing make a melodic bell-like sound as they bounced onto the worn concrete asphalt of the abandoned parking lot. Rell had pulled the trigger. Three shots had hit the advancing henchmen square in the chest. The man stood frozen, his head slumped over and his right hand clenching his wounded chest. He teetered as if he was about to fall forward but then slowly leaned back into his standing position. His right hand dropped to his side, it was covered in blood that dripped from his fingertips. He stood in perfect stillness for what must have been three whole seconds, an impossibly long time to have taken three gunshot wounds to the chest. For a moment Damien had thought the man had died on his feet, but then he heard it, a terrible unnerving sound that made his soul shudder upon impact. It was laughing. The man was laughing. The wounded man, bleeding from the chest, shot at damn near point blank range, was laughing. It was a strong and heady laugh as if he had been holding it in all night. And as he began the other started laughing too. As if being shot in the chest was some type of hilariously sick joke. Damien looked up at Hector who was not laughing but who was grinning. That hungry-eyed, wide mouth grin and he was pointing it directly at Damien.

 

Damien raised his gun, shakily aiming for Hector.

 

“What is this, what the fuck is going on?”

 

“Ahhh Damien, ” Hector ran his fingers through his slick black hair, and as he spoke the laughs begin to turn to growls “It is simple… For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” Hector twitched,  “but against principalities, against powers,” His face contorted in pain, “against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Hector seemed to be growing taller “against spiritual wickedness in HIGH PLACES”

 

Hector’s voice changed as it tapered off on his final words. It had become deeper and more splintered, almost as if he was clearing his throat while talking. His neck twisted and for some reason, Damien could hear bones cracking, breaking and resetting themselves. Hector’s face began to change, his cheekbones popped, caved into his face and then violently jutted forward, dragging his top jaw and nose along with it. Teeth, at first perfect and white, grew jagged, long and menacingly sharper, his hair started to turn a dark shade of brown and sprouted from every exposed pore on his body, his face neck and arms begin to vanish underneath a mat of this dark amber colored fur. Damien froze. He couldn’t wrap his mind around what his eyes were seeing. Hector was changing; getting bigger, wider, taller. His clothes begin to rip and tear as they grew too small for his frame. He was turning into a monster, astounding and terrifying. He now stood at over seven feet, covered in fur and still staring out of those same hungry eyes. His arms and legs were as thick as tree limbs and flexed tightly wrapped in lean muscle. His mouth had been replaced with a muzzle; black lips curled back and a sickening white foam oozed through the spacing of new teeth. Teeth made for tearing and ripping.

 

“Are you fucking shitting me?” Damien mumbled, not even fully aware that he was speaking.

 

The monster looked down at him with something that resembled a smile. “I shit you not.” It replied in a voice that in no way could be mistaken for human. It let out a terrible laugh.

 

Damien heard more gunshots. He looked to Rell to see another beastman walking toward him, this one black and advancing in slow methodical steps. Rell was unloading round after round into the things chest. It didn’t seem to notice in the slightest. With a powerful swipe of its huge paw, the monster slapped Rell gun from his hand. Damien’s friend let out a yelp of pain and grabbed for his wrist but before he could even stumble backward, the animal grabbed him by the throat lifting him off the ground like he was stuffed with hay as opposed to flesh and bones.

 

“Nooooo!” Damien advanced toward the monster firing his weapon with every step. The gun barked and spat fire at the command of the trigger. It bucked under the force of the exploding barrel and Damien’s shot flew rapidly and with vicious momentum but with no concentrated accuracy. Bullets whizzed pass the monster miss after miss. One hit, pelting the beast in the arm. It was ignored just as the others to the chest were, and then, one skitted past its muzzle, grazing only but finally getting its attention. The things head turned toward Damien, and in a motion, it slammed Rell’s body into the concrete and then placed a paw-like foot on the crumpled heap. It snarled in Damien’s direction, its ears rolled back and its teeth fully bared, it was a challenge.

 

Damien began to run towards the thing, challenge accepted, he didn’t know what he would do, he didn’t know how to fight this thing that absorbed bullets but he had to do –

 

Damien was hit hard from his left side, his body hit the ground and an immovable weigh kept him pinned to it. He had been tackled, snatched out of the air mid-stride and slammed onto his back. The animal-like thing that use to be Hector was on top of him, its gargantuan body pressed down upon Damien’s chest. He was trapped and getting up an impossibility. Somehow between being swept off of his feet and put on to his back Damien had managed to get his elbow and forearm between himself and the animal’s throat, it was by this stroke of luck alone that auburn beast that use to be Hector was not currently eating Damien’s face. The thing snapped and snarled dripping foam and salvia onto Damien’s forehead as it tried quite tenaciously to get Damien’s skull within the reach of its jaws. Its large long mouth slammed shut repeatedly inches from Damien’s nose. Its hot breath stank of blood and raw meat and the only thing keeping Damien alive was the desperation laced strength he managed to muster and maintain to keep this savage and feral creature from getting any closer. He pushed with everything he had and knew immediately that it was not enough. His strength waned and all his life’s aspiration and dreams were reduced to simply hoping to stay alive for a few more seconds. Damien continued to push, an action that he was so preoccupied with that he hadn’t noticed that as he lay under the monstrous creature that he had begun to scream, a scream not born of fear or panic but of something much more instinctual. The scream was raucous and visceral, it was more of a reaction than an intention. It was the sound that escaped desperate men in a last-ditch, adrenaline filled effort to prolong their lives, and by some miracle, it seemed to work. Damien felt the pressure and weight of Hector’s bestial body lift from his chest. Slow and deliberate at first, as if was Damien was bench pressing the world, and then there was a fast and hard release of pressure and with a violent jerk he was free. Damien scrambled to roll over and found himself on his hand and knees, his eyes darted in every direction, what had happen, how was he— and then he saw it. It was Jake. He had bum-rushed the transformed Hector performing a tackle of his own. Jake’s massive size and his running start apparently gave him the momentum to topple the monster off of Damien, but now he was stuck in a wrestling match with the thing.

 

“Go D!” Jake screamed trying desperately to hold the thing down. It seemed to be still genuinely surprised by Jake initial action and that confusion was Jake’s current advantage. “Get Rell out of here.”

 

Jake still had his gun in his hand, he tried to bring it and place it directly against the creature’s skull, but before he could do so, the thing that use to be Hector seemed to recover from his initial surprise and with a twist and slip freed itself from Jake’s grasp and bit down hard on his arm. Damien swore that he could hear bones crunch as Jake screamed in agony. Even as Hector was freeing himself and preparing his counterattack the other monsters had begun to converge on Jake at once. By the time of the bite, three other monsters were closing in on Jake and Hector with an unnerving ferocity. A hand grabbed Damien shoulder, he spun with a jerk attempting to aim a gun that he no longer gripped in his hands. He turned to see Du-whop standing over him, pulling him up to his feet.

 

“Let’s grab Rell, we gotta get outta here!” Du-shop screamed over the growls and snarls. Damien followed Du-whop a few yards over to where Rell lay. There was a large and lifeless hairy body lying next to his. It was one of the creatures, it was dead. “Jake shot it square in the head when it wasn’t looking when it was focused on you. It dropped like a ton of bricks.” Du-whop explained as if heard the thoughts racing through Damien’s head.

 

Damien looked back at Jake. Hector still had a mouth full of his arm and was now shaking his head viciously like a wild dog locking down on a piece of meat. The other creatures had reached them now and Damien watched helplessly as each animal clamped on to a section of available flesh. Jake screamed out again. There were four of these massive nightmares on him. Hector on his left forearm another behind him biting into his right shoulder, the third latching on his right leg and the fourth clambered over the others desperate to sink its teeth into the side of Jake’s rib cage. It was hopeless. There was no way for Jake to escape the four of them. Through sheer willpower Jake still gripped his gun, he forced his right arm to bend at the elbow and bring the barrel to the direction of his head. He was losing consciousness. Damien could see it, he took a step towards them but felt a hand grab his shirt to stop him from going any further. Jake had moved the gun closer to his head, it pointed straight into the air now and due to the things constraining his movement it would go no further. Jake bent his arm hard at the wrist and with a final yell, Jake set the gun against the head of the monster gnawing at his shoulder and pulled the trigger. The chrome desert eagle erupted and launched a .50 caliber ammunition round directly through the skull of the beast. The thing released its grip and fell to the ground in a slump. The other creatures seemed unperturbed by this and continued their ferocious attack with impunity. Jake went limp and his gun fell to the ground with the clatter of metal on concrete. Damien looked away as the beast men chewed on his friend’s lifeless body.

 

Du-whop was shaking Damien’s shoulder hard. “Damien we have to go, we gotta run.”

 

Damien looked Du-whop in the face, “Where’s Rell?” he asked. The question vocalized far more calmly then he intended.

 

Du-whop shook his head. “He’s gon D, they killed him.”

 

Damien looked pass Du-whop and at the ground where Rell lay. What was happening? Rell was dead? Dead? And he was expected to leave him? To just leave his body lying there? With these, these… monsters?

 

Damien felt a cold sting bite him hard on the right cheek, and with the pain, the entire world around him came back into focus. Du-whop had just slapped him. “Put this on.” Du-whop put Damien’s arms through the loops of the backpack. “Now move it, we’re gonna try and make a run for the church.”

 

“But the car is right here.” Damien protested, finally somewhat back in his right mind, or as right at present conditions would allow.

 

“Then go!” Du-whop broke into a sprint and Damien followed closely behind him. They dashed toward the car hoping to dive in and peel off with their lives and limbs intact. Damien moved toward his own car and before he could reach the door handle a heavy body seemed to fall from the sky landing on the roof of the car shattering the windows and caving in the roof. Damien looked up to see the beast form of Hector snarling down at him blood dripping from his maw, his huge fur covered body crushing Damien’s car. Hector rose, standing to his full height atop the destroyed vehicle, the beast man leaned back his snarl a primitive hybrid between a wolfish sneer and the same menacing grin Hector had paraded all evening. The beast took in a big breath and with the full moon shimmering behind him, released a blood-curdling howl that Damien felt ring deep in his chest. On cue, the other beast men took a momentary respite from their feeding and released howls in concert with Hector.

 

The howling crushed something inside Damien, he dropped down to one knee, hands covering his ears and his eyes shut tight. He imagined he was feeling, at this moment, the way a rabbit felt when staring into the gaping jaws of a wolf preparing to devour it. Death is imminent and life has no meaning. 24 years on the streets of New Hampton all to die in an alley ripped apart by a man-beast after a bad coke deal. If it wasn’t so horrifically terrifying it could almost be funny. Damien felt a sharp tug at this arm, and then heard the screaming of a familiar voice which sliced through the noise and confusion of Hector’s howling.

 

“DAMIEN! MOVE!” Du-Whop screamed, pulling Damien’s arm lifting him off of his knees and back onto his feet. With his other hand, Du-Whop squeezed the trigger on the snub-nosed revolver he had been given earlier. Three loud pops rang in Damien’s ears. The monster Hector took two bullets in the chest and a third skidded across his beastly face.

 

Damien didn’t give himself a chance to see the monster’s reaction; he took Du-Whop’s advice and immediately started running. His feet belted across the pavement carrying him towards the front side of the abandoned church building. He looked back only long enough to see Du-Whop was still behind him, gun in one hand and the drug-filled duffle bag still slung across his shoulder. Further behind Du-Whop, Damien heard yelling.

 

“Do you think you can run from me, Damien? Do you REALLY THINK YOU CAN ESCAPE!!!” It was the voice of a demon, deep and guttural, filled with more malice and rage then Damien had ever heard. His stomach turned and he felt his knees wobble under him. He willed himself to run faster. He and Du-Whop made it to the front of the church and Damien instinctively reached out for the door, half expecting them to be locked but in a life or death situation, the laws of self-preservation deemed it necessary to at least try. Much to Damien’s surprise, the doors swung open.

 

“Du-Whop, inside!” Damien screamed over his shoulder. Du-Whop pushed his way inside the church, slamming the doors closed behind him. Damien reached down and grabbed a heavy iron candlestick holder knocked off the still burning candles and jammed it between the door handles.

 

“Here, help me put this in front of it.” Du-Whop was attempting to lift a pew, Damien hoisted up the other end and they managed to drag it in front of the door.

 

“Another,” Damien said as they dropped the first one into place and together the two heaved a second pew on top of the first thoroughly blocking the only entryway into the church. Damien and Du-Whop slowly backed away from the doors of the church entryway both of their eyes glued to the makeshift blockade, waiting intently for the banging and scratching to begin.

 

“Wha… what is going on?” Damien muttered, as if afraid to speak. “What are those things?”

 

“They’re exactly what they look like D….” Du-Whop reached into his shirt pocket and pulled a cigarette from a half-empty pack. His hand shook with tremors of either an abundance of adrenaline or from a lack of a myriad of other drugs his body now felt were necessities for its proper function, Damien could not tell which, not that it mattered much at the moment. Damien looked down at his own hands, he was shaking as well. “They’re werewolves… Lycanthropes.” On the final word, Du-Whop lighter struck perfect, lighting the end of his cigarette.

 

“Were-Werewolves, how is this? Why is this… they killed Jake, they killed Rell.”

 

“No,” Du-Whop cut in, “Rell is still alive”

 

“What!?”

 

“Rell isn’t dead, He’s hurt but not dead.” Du-Whop took another drag of his cigarette, but before he could exhale the smoke Damien had grabbed him by the collar of his cruddy green army jacket.

 

“Nigga you told me he was dead, I left him behind because you told me he was dead!”

 

“We had too” Du-Whop didn’t bother trying to push Damien off of him.  “His leg was crushed when that big wolf either slammed down or fell on him. I tried to get him up after Jake shot the damn thing. He couldn’t move. I told him to just stay put, play dead. “

 

“Play dead? Are you crazy this ain’t the fucking boy scouts those things ATE Jake, they’ll…”

 

“The Wolves were after you D. They didn’t want Rell. I told him I’d get you out of there and they’d follow us and once he was sure they’d gone he could get away. I told him to stay put and stay quiet. He’s hurt but he’s alive.”

 

“Well we have to go back out there, we gotta go get him.” Damien released Du-Whop and began moving toward the door but a surprisingly strong grip on his shoulder stopped him.

 

“That’s not possible, we barely made it here alive and we can’t even be sure how long this will last. We have to get you out of here and to someplace safe.”

 

“SAFE?! Fool there are fucking werewolves outside. Fucking man-eating werewolves… Wha-what in the hell happening??” Damien began to pace back and forth in the aisle between the pews.

 

“Damien, I know you’re confused and I-“

 

“Confused!? I’m not confused I’m fucking scared shitless, this… this is…”

 

“Kid listen, I know what you’re going through, I can help you, I have answers but you gotta calm down.”

 

“Answers? You got answers? Yo, in case you ain’t noticed, you’a fucking junkie Whop. A dope head, life in itself has proven that you ain’t got NO fucking answers nigga, you ain’t got shit. You probably still high on that coke you hit outside so what in the fuck could you possibly understand huh, what could you possibly tell me?” Even as Damien spoke the words he immediately regretted them, from the moment things had begun to go awry Du-Whop had become inexplicably reliable. In fact, the old man had saved his life at least three times already and had he not been there Damien would have surely been dead long ago. He didn’t deserve to be talked to like this, but Damien was angry and afraid and had since he had nowhere else to focus his fear and rage, insults spewed from his mouth like angry word vomit. “D-Du-Whop, I’m sorry man, I-I didn’t mean that.”

 

“It’s fine.” Du-Whop took another long drag of his cigarette. “You know, I get it youngblood. My time is over, been over for a long time now, and you boys… you boys are the future. Ain’t no denying that. I know what y’all say about me, Old man Du-Whop, crack fiend, sherm head, dancing for a hit, singing for a joint. You think I don’t know I’m the laughing stock of the south side. But you check this here baby boy, everything ain’t always what it seems, and it’s a lot more to this here world then what you see on the surface.”

 

“Noooooo.” Damien threw his head back covering his face with his hands. “This cannot be happening… Wait, that’s it. This can’t be happening, it’s impossible. I must be dreaming.”

 

Damien took another step backward, stepping on something and crushing it under the heel of his shoe, almost simultaneously he heard a faint bang and a knock from the back of the church. He spun around, eyes scanning the room. He made note of the ornate carving of the wooden trim that decorated the raised dais on which the pulpit stood. His eyes focused in on the doors at the back of the room expecting at any moment for a fur-covered man-beast to come rushing out. The moment passed and no beast came. Damien looked down at his feet and picked up the broken candle he had stepped on by mistake. The candle was long and white with the exception of the blackened wick that smoldered at one end of the candle a thin wisp of smoke slipped from its previously lit tip and dissipated into the nothing right before Damien’s eyes.

 

“Someone’s here,” Damien said aloud.

 

“What?” Du-Whop responded busy wrestling another cigarette from its pack and now struggling to light it.

 

“I thought this place was abandoned, but there’s someone here. These candles were lit when we came in and I think I just heard someone.”

 

Du-Whop lifted his head with a newly lit cigarette between his lips. He allowed his eyes to quickly survey the interior of the cathedral. The inside of what should have been a broken down and dilapidated building, filled with cobwebs, shattered windows and random graffiti was instead immaculately clean and well kept. The church’s high ceilings, stained glass windows, and brass chandeliers all sparkled under a layer of freshly applied polish. Heavy wooden pews filled the room organized in tight precise rows facing and leading up to a largely raised pulpit which sat on the far end of the room. The Pulpit jutted out from the back wall of the cathedral with large ornate doors positioned on either side offset by confessional booths.

 

“I’m more worried about the things on the outside than any person on the inside,” Du-Whop said, but as he spoke he began to slowly walk toward the far end of the church, making his way closer and closer to the pulpit and the doors that sat to either side of it. Damien looked back at the blocked door and begin to follow Du-Whop through the church. Realizing that he had lost his gun, Damien reached down and picked up a heavy silver looking candlestick holder. He gripped and re-gripped it in his right hand, attempting to quickly become used to its weight and convincing himself it would make a good weapon against things that were unfazed by bullets.

 

By now Du-Whop was halfway to the back of the church and before he could take another step the large ornate doors to the left of the pulpit swung open.

 

“I’ll tolerate no thieves or vandals in this house of the Lord, drop you’re weapons or so help me God I’ll send ye all to meet yer maker right bloody now!”

 

From between the ornate doors stepped a priest, dressed in black and wearing the signature white collar, only this priest was moving fast and aggressively and holding in his hands the biggest shotgun Damien had ever seen. The priest had the barrel of the gun pointed directly at him and Du-Whop and from the way, the man moved he seemed surprisingly comfortable and assumingly proficient with the weapon. Damien instinctively rose his candlestick holder in defense, and for a moment he thought of throwing it at the man in the hopes of either distracting or disarming the holy gunman, at least long enough to give him and Du-Whop some sort of edge over the extremely deadly looking shotgun. At the same time, Du-Whop had raised his gun. He was still holding the snub-nosed revolver that Jake had given him earlier and if Damien remembered correctly, he still had at least three shots in it.

 

“Whoa whoa whoa!” Du-Whop screamed out. “We’re not thieves, we need help”

 

“Not thieves, well aren’t you holding a gun, haven’t you already ransacked the front of my church and isn’t your bloody accomplice holding one of me candlestick holders!”

 

Du-Whop looked back to see Damien standing with the raised candlestick holder “Put that down D….”

 

“What?” Damien responded, “He’s holding a fucking shotgun.”

 

“Exactly, what is that candlestick holder gonna do against a shotgun. Just put it down.”

 

Damien, acquiesced and lowered the candlestick holder down to his side, but did not drop it. Du Whop turned back to the priest and placed his own hands in the air, leaving the revolver dangling from his finger.

 

“See,” Du-Whop said calmly, “We don’t want any trouble, we just need some help.”

 

There was a familiar sound of mechanical parts moving, only much louder and much more menacing than it had been when Damien had made the sound himself earlier. The Priest had cocked the shotgun.

 

“Start talking laddie.”

 

At the sound of the shotgun cocking Damien’s heart dropped, he should have thrown the damned candlestick holder when he had the chance. Now they were dead for sure. From killer werewolves to a killer priest. Out of the frying pan and into the fryer.

 

“My man, hold on one minute if you’ll just listen to me, outside there are these things-“

 

“Hold on a bloody second…. Lou? Lou Olds is that you.”

 

Du-Whop paused in the middle of his explanation, and for a moment he seemed confused and then,

 

“Art?” Du-Whop’s head turned in the way that heads do when the mind starts making a connection that it previously thought impossible. “Arthur Bright”

 

At that, the priest lowered the shotgun and then moved in with the same speed and aggressiveness and threw his free arm around Du-Whop. The two men hugged like old friends reuniting under the oddest of circumstances. The priest let Du-Whop go only to reach back out and grab hold to his head and neck.

 

“Bloody hell mate, I thought you were dead! Where have you been all these years and what in God’s name have ye been doing?” It was only now that the threat of immediate death had waned did Damien notice how strong the priest accent was, Irish, or Scottish he assumed, but in actuality had no way of knowing.

 

“I’ve been here in New Hampton for the past 10 years, leaving off the grid… under the radar.”

 

“Jesus mate, you barely look like yourself, I’ almost blasted you into next Sunday!”

 

“Nevermind me, what are you doing here?” Du-Whop asked the priest.

 

“Charles sent me here a couple of years ago, I’m supposed to be watching the area, keeping an eye out for threats and potentials and the like.”

 

Du-Whop sniffed looked back at Damien and then looked back at the priest, “Well looks like today is your lucky day.”

 

Part II

 

“Does anybody wanna tell me what’s going on?” Damien asked, the candlestick holder still in his hand.

 

“Who’s the boy?” the priest asked Du-Whop, completely ignoring Damien’s question.

 

“He’s my tyro, stumbled upon him and another boy back in my old neighborhood, been watching over them since I got back.”

 

“And did you find them the same way Charles found you?”

 

“Pretty much,” Du-Whop answered, “They were on a less than desirable path, but I think this one had the right of it, was looking to make his escape, but they found him first.”

 

“What’s the situation?”

 

“Lycanthropes, Strykers, all very strong.”

 

“Shite… and what do they want?”

 

“They’re after the boy, they hurt one of his friends pretty bad, killed another… but not before he managed to kill two of them.”

 

“He must have been one tough bastard.”

 

“He was a good kid, just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.” Du-Whop paused for a moment. “There are still three left.”

 

“What do you want to do?”

 

“I can’t let them have the boy, I have to get him out of here… no matter the cost.” Du-Whop looked back at Damien once again. Damien was looking back at him, his eyebrows raised in both frustration and confusion.

 

“Are you ready to tell me what the hell you two are talking about? Why are werewolves outside and why are they after me? And more importantly, how are we going to get past them, grab Rell and get the fuck out of here without them eating us.”

 

“Lou, I thought you said this was your tyro? He’s bloody clueless!” the priest remarked.

 

“He is,” Du-Whop responded, “But it has not been the typical relationship.”

 

“What the hell is a tyro?” Damien asked getting more and more frustrated with the lack of answers he was receiving.

 

“A Tyro is like a student or a pupil, but often times, as obviously in your case it means Lou here has been playing the role of your guardian angel. Protecting ye and watching your back and judging by the number of Lycanthropes on yer arse you’ve been lucky to have him up to this point.”

 

“Guardian angel? Du-Whop?” He’s not…” Damien was about to continue, but thought better of it, instead he looked to Du-Whop. “Whop what’s going on man?”

 

Du-Whop sat down and let out a long and heavy sigh, then reached in his pocket for another cigarette.

 

“There are Werewolves outside right? But see, they’re not like they are in the movies. They can change back and forth at will, they’re smart and they are more than ruthless. One of them still has the ability to talk even when he is transformed. That means he’s old… strong.”

 

Du-Whop took a drag of what Damien took note to be at least his third cigarette, as he exhaled the cigarette smoke Damien couldn’t help but breath it in and as he did he could feel the second-hand smoke work its calming magic on his fried nerve endings, suddenly he understood why nicotine could seem so appealing. He then also realized what horrible shape he was in. His throat locked up, making it nearly impossible to swallow, his body ached all over, and a cold wet sticky feeling followed by sharp stinging pain on his elbow, knees and the left side of his rib cage let him know that he was bleeding, more than likely from scrapes incurred in his scuffle with Hector. He had half a mind to bum a cigarette from Du-Whop, and then remembered that he didn’t smoke cigarettes.

 

“They’re tough too. Unlike the movies they don’t give a shit about silver and guns like these won’t even slow them down” Du-Whop held up his small revolver. Well, it was actually Damien’s revolver. A .38, snub nose Smith & Wesson, Model 64 to be exact. Stainless steel with a woodgrain handle. It was ugly and stumpy and just so happened to be Damien’s first and therefore favorite gun, and according to Du-Whop, it was useless. “It’s not strong enough to do any real damage to those things, the only way to kill a werewolf is to destroy the brain, and a .38 is not strong enough to penetrate the skull. You’d need something bigger .50 caliber at least and even then you’d need to be close, very close. Like your friend…. Jake.”

 

Damien stood solemnly at the mention of Jake’s name and quietly hoped that what had happened to him was not currently happening to Rell. He couldn’t bear the thought.

 

“I don’t have a .50 Cal, but I do have this.” Said the priest. Holding up the shotgun, “And Lizzie here has enough stopping power to flatten a charging grizzly. She’ll make short work of any one of those slobbering bastard that gets to close.”

 

“Thanks, Art, but I can’t ask you to do that.”

 

“Ask me hell, this is my job! It’s why I’m here!”

 

“Thanks my man…” said Du-Whop but still with a look of regret in his eyes.

 

“Wait wait, hold on a minute, what do you mean it’s your job? And Du-Whop how in the hell do you know all this shit about werewolves.”

 

“Jesus Laddie, watch your language, have some respect for this holy place ye little bastard!”

 

Damien cut his eyes at the priest, who had used more foul language then either he or Du-Whop combined.

 

“Damien, this is Arthur Bright, priest and former colleague of mine.”

 

“Yeah, nice to meet you Reverend,” Damien said dismissively. “Whop, how in the hell are you a Werewolf expert?”

 

“I started off in New Hampton like you, hustling, dealing. Along the way, I got into the wrong side of it with some very bad guys. Thought I had it all under control but I was in much deeper than I knew. Then someone stepped in and helped me, offered me a way out.”

 

“You mean like as in an informant?” Even with the threat of being eaten by werewolves looming overhead, Damien cringed at the thought of Du-Whop being a confidential informant… a snitch.

 

“No.” Du-Whop scoffed. “This was a little bit bigger than government agents and jail time. Hell, I would have given my left arm to go to prison. But no, I wasn’t an informant. I was someone with potential, and the people I was dealing with then, just like the people we are dealing with now, they really like people with potential.”

 

“What does that mean ‘Potential’ everyone has potential, that doesn’t explain why in the fuck Werewolves are trying to eat me!”

 

“They are not trying to eat you, they are trying to turn you!”

 

“What?” Damien now felt even more confused.

 

“If they wanted you dead they would have killed you already. They want to make you one of them.”

 

“Wh-why me?”

 

“Not everyone can survive being afflicted with Lycanthropy, if the average person is bitten by a werewolf they just die, painfully and horribly, but then there are a few people have the propensity to survive the conversion process. And that’s who these people are looking for. I don’t know how else to explain it other than to just say that you have something that most people don’t. There is something inside you, an energy, or a power, something imperceptible, but there. Whatever it is, these people can sense it, they can smell it, and they want it…” He took another long drag from his cigarette, “baby boy they want it bad.”

 

“Du-Whop what the hell are you talking about?” Damien’s voice cracked under the strain of stress and desperation. “Ain’t nothing special about me. I’m a drug dealer. You’re a drug addict, and outside there are werewolves… WEREWOLVES! Let’s forget about the fairy tales and deal with the issue at hand. We need to get Rell and get out of here?”

 

“Drug Addict?!” Said Art from the left of the conversation. “So that’s it yeah? You’ve been using those drugs to hide, burying yourself and your spirit energy underneath a smog. It’s no wonder I didn’t notice you sitting here right under my nose.”

 

Du-whop took another hit of his cigarette, he didn’t bother responding or even looking at Art as he spoke.

 

There was a bang, hard and loud, almost as if a medieval battering ram had been slammed against the large wooden doors of the church entrance. All three men turned toward the source of the noise, frozen in a sudden panic. There was another bang, this one just as loud as the first. Damien could have sworn he felt the entire church building shudder, and the slight tingling of chandelier crystals overhead let him know that it was not completely his imagination. A third bang, and this time there was no question as to if the building shook or not. This time every lit candle in the church flickered as if blow upon by a gentle wind while at the same time dust fell from the rafters, knocked loose by the same force that Damien could feel reverberating through him like the bass line from his car radio speakers used too.

 

“Little pig, little pig let me in…” A grizzled and growling voice cut through the walls of the church building and hit Damien in the chest like a bullet, his stomach folded in upon itself and for a moment he thought he might throw up. It was Hector, speaking in his wolf form, it was unmistakable and for the first time since entering the church, Damien was reminded of how terrified he really was.

 

“They’re here!” Damien said without really trying to speak.

 

Du-Whop stood to his feet; the cigarette dropping from his lips and extinguishing itself on the church floor. Art pointed the shotgun barrel toward, the church doors, not really aiming but more so, subconsciously placing the business end of the shotgun between himself and the thing on the other side of the doors.

 

“Art, does this place have a back door? This may be our only chance. We can sneak out of the back and grab Rell in the process if we’re lucky we’ll only have one wolf to fight off.” Du-Whop ran through his plan quickly, the entire time his voice calm and steady. The term ‘Grace under fire’ popped into Damien’s mind.

 

“Yes, we can cut through my office and – “

 

“Little piggies! I have one of your friends out here, shall I make him squeal to prove it?”

 

There was a brief moment of silence and then there was a scream, a human scream, loud and full of agony and to Damien very very distinct. Damien’s eyes grew wide, it was unmistakable.

 

“It’s Rell! HE HAS RELL!”

 

“Daaaaaaaamien,” Hector taunted.” I have your friend and if you do not come out of that church, I’ll rip his throat out!”

 

“No, no, no, no nononono…” Damien began quickly making his way to the church doors mumbling and muttering to himself with every step. Before he got too far a sturdy hand gripped his shoulder.

 

“Damien you cannot go out there!” Said Du-whop.

 

“He has my brother, I have to go!”

 

“It’s a trap son!”

 

“You think I don’t know that!” Damien snapped. “I don’t care if it’s a trap, I’m not going to leave him out there to die while I sneak out of the back door!”

 

“Damien if you just wait a damn minute! I have a plan.” Du-Whop spoke with a sincerity Damien had never heard. The priest’s words suddenly sprang back to mind. A guardian angel huh? Shit, what else did Damien have to lose?

 

“Alright, what do we do.”

 

PART III

 

The doors of the church creaked open slowly. The cool night air rushed in along with the smell of blood and pain. There was a clear path to the street from the entrance of the church, not a single sign of the wolves anywhere, and for a moment Damien hoped that maybe that he had imagined it all, like some type of horrible living nightmare. Art stepped out of the doorway first, the shotgun gripped tightly in his hands. Damien was close behind him, armed with the snub nose. Du-Whop was supposed to bring up the rear. At least that was the plan. The idea was for both Du-Whop and Art to sandwich Damien in between them. Art and would carry his shotgun and Damien the snub nose, if any of the werewolves got to close Art would fire first hoping to score a hit at point blank range, which they were hoping would translate into a dead werewolf. Whenever Art had to stop and reload Damien would fend the wolves off with the snub nose, aiming for the head. They knew the smaller gun couldn’t kill a wolf, even up close but they really only needed it to buy a little time, get the wolves to hesitate a little so that Art could reload, and if everything went right, kill another wolf. And for the most part that was the plan, at least as far as Damien understood it. Apparently, as they killed two of the werewolves Du-Whop had one last ace in the hole to deal with the last wolf, he didn’t seem to think it was necessary to tell Damien the details though. Simply once they got down to one wolf, Art and Damien could grab Rell and run for the cars still parked in the back of the church. Damien didn’t argue, one suicide plan worked just as good as the next as far as he was concerned, as long as the words “Grab Rell” were included, he figured he could make the rest work. As a result, he admittedly didn’t focus to closely on the details, they didn’t matter. That is until he stepped outside of the church into the cold night air and practically into the jaws of man-eating wolf monsters, and suddenly, suddenly the details became very important.

 

Damien followed closely behind Art, with the expectation that Du-Whop was following closely behind him. He wasn’t. Damien’s back was bare and he looked back to see the old addict closing the church doors leaving both him and Art literally to the wolves.

 

“Du-Whop you fucking junkie bastard?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Damien had half a mind to bolt back to the church doors. But a sharp elbow from Art stopped him.

 

“Ay there boyo, stick to the plan!”

 

“Plan?! There is no plan Du-whop sent us out here as dog food!” Damien continued to look back over his shoulder as the church doors slammed shut before they closed he could see small motes of light dancing behind the head of Du-Whop, lights independent of the lights that illuminated the church. Damien found himself even more confused then he thought possible, right up until.

 

“HAHAHAHAHA!” A grizzled and merciless laugh cut into his train of thought. “It is so pathetic how the sheep scramble in the face of death.” Hector’s voice seemed to speak from everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. Damien looked in every direction but still could not find the source. “Damien, the more you struggle the more painful this will be.”

 

Without warning one of the werewolves appeared to the left of both Damien and Art. Damien spotted it first, he aimed the small revolver at it, pointing at its head. His finger curled around the trigger and right before he could fire Art’s shotgun exploded with a resounding boom. Damien watched as the left side of the wolf’s face was sheared from its skull. The gigantic animal fell to the ground writhing in agony, it didn’t appear to be dead, but it was down, it was wounded and now they could move in and finish it off quickly.

 

“One down.” Damien thought and for a moment he had a small glimmer of hope, a solitary thought that they may actually be able to survive the ordeal, and almost as quickly as the thought arrives it runs away in sheer terror as Damien can feel the hot breath of what he can only assume to be another of the werewolves breathing on the back of his neck. Damien turned to find himself staring directly into the maw of the large humanoid wolf, its mouth pulled back into a blood-curdling snarl, white foam and sharp teeth displayed between thin black lips. The werewolf pushed out a harsh snort through its shimmering canine nose and hot wet breath sprayed onto Damien’s face. Any thoughts he had of surviving died in that moment and slowly he felt himself rising out of his own body as if his soul had already begun the departure process in anticipation of the gruesome and painful end that was undoubtedly about to ensue. Before he could drift too far away, he felt a hard tug on the collar of his shirt and Art’s voice screamed to him “Get Down.” and in his peripheral vision, he saw the barrel of the shotgun move toward the growling werewolf. He rushed to cover his ears and head before the gun barrel boomed in the direction of the monster. The gunshot jolted him back to life. He looked back in the direction of the wolf hoping to find another carcass missing half ahead but instead found nothing. The wolf had not only dodged the shot it had vanished altogether.

 

“Damien, I have lost two men, you have only lost one… You see, that’s what I like about you, you are a survivor.” Hector’s voice spoke directly from behind them now, Damien and Art turned with both guns aimed out in front of them. Damien expected to find more empty space again and was rather surprised to See the Wolf version of Hector standing there with Rell gripped between his claws. “Well more like one and a half. the wolf said “But what do you say? Shall we even the odds?”

 

Art cocked the shotgun and took aim, and in one fluid motion, Hector heaved Rell’s body directly into the priest. And no sooner then the wounded Rell left his grip, Hector had once again vanished from sight. Rell crashed into Art who was knocked down on to his by the force and weight of the half-unconscious Rell. Damien attempted to dash out of the way of the collision taking place in front of him and stumbled backward and began flailing toward the face of the church trying desperately not to fall. As if on cue the other werewolf skid into view. It bounded on all fours toward Damien with inhuman speed closing the distance between the two of them faster then Damien could think. He raised his gun and squeezed the trigger hard, it fired but missed its mark. Damien watched the bullet strike the ground a few feet passed the wolf which had become airborne as it leaped forward to pounce on its prey. Damien knew that he could fire the gun a hundred more times and hit the werewolf dead center mass and it would be enough to stop its momentum at this point. For what he tallied to be at least the fifth time that night, he was sure he was about to die.

 

Damien lifted the gun in futility and fired every round available, the monster seemed to absorb the bullets more so than be struck by them and its huge body moved in what felt like slow motion as it fell upon Damien. Before the werewolf could crush him under its massive weight, it was snatched out of the air by something of a similar form. A larger wolf with spotty grey and black fur tackled the bounding wolf in mid-air. The two animals rolled through the air and hit the ground with a welp. The scrambled to their feet, the wolf that Damien shot moving only slightly faster than the newcomer, not that it did much good. The werewolf reared back to attack the patchy black and grey only to be smacked downward with a ferocious paw that sent the thing face first into the pavement, and with a savagery that could only belong to a creature of human intelligence the patchy grey and black werewolf begin to mercilessly pound and smash the head of the younger looking monster, until its limp body lay motionless and lifeless in the shadow of the church entrance.

 

Damien froze, the large wolfman raised to its hind legs. Its movements much more human then the other wolves they had encountered that night. Its fur was matted and mangy, its dull black coat was blotched with large swaths of grey, signs of age. An observation Damien would have noted had he been functioning within his right mind. However, he was not. He was now in a mental state of confusion that surpassed all levels of confusion previously ever known. He was being hunted by werewolves, yet somehow he had just been saved by a werewolf. Hunted by werewolves, saved by a werewolf. Damien’s mind imploded within itself. He looked at the large spotty wolf, then looked back to Art. The priest was wrestling himself from underneath Rell and seemed completely unfazed by the arrival of a new and apparently werewolf. He laid down the hostage that had just been thrown at him like a rag doll. Jumped up with the shotgun in hand and took aim at the wolf he had wounded earlier. Damien looked down at his target expecting to see a half dead werewolf, but instead saw a half-dead werewolf that was very quickly regrowing its missing face and very rapidly becoming once again a very live werewolf. The werewolf was regenerating and at the same time it was slowly crawling toward Rell and Art, still stalking its prey with half of its skull exposed. Art stood over the wounded werewolf and right as it’s regenerating muscle wrapped itself around its exposed skull, Art pulled the shotgun trigger and werewolf’s head exploded.

 

Art looked up to see both Damien and the splotchy werewolf watching him, he smiled. “Lou! Good to see you’re back to your old self!”

 

Damien looked back to the wolf. “Du-Whop? You- you’re a werewolf?!”

 

Du-Whop, looked at Damien from his wolf form, then looked down at own hands, he flexed his arms, fur covered hands with long nail-like claws at the end of each finger moved at his command. He stared down at himself as if he was reacquainting himself with the movement and feel of his own body.

 

“Yes,” he said, “I am.” Du-Whop’s voice much like Hector’s was human in note but carried with it a primal and savage undertone that made Damien shudder from the mere sound of it.

 

“Explanations later! Keep your guard up there is one more bloody wolf lef…”

 

Art stopped talking mid-speech and looked down. There was a large red claw protruding from his stomach, actually upon closer inspection, there were two claws, set in opposing directions. And with a growl, the two claws ripped themselves apart severing Art into two complex halves in the process. Art’s body fell to the ground in two loud wet slumps, now much more meat than man.

 

“Art?” Damien stammered, the words barely able to escape his lips.

 

“Nooooooo!” Du-Whop growled and screamed at the same time.

 

“Tonight has simply been full of surprises” Hector spoke with a demonic chuckle in his wolf throat. The werewolf pointed one of his blood-soaked claws at the transformed Du-Whop. “I don’t know who you are or how you managed to hide your true… nature, from me. But I will have you know this, I am here under strict instructions from the Pack Lord himself. Whatever your aims, whatever orders you may be acting under, they have been overridden. The boy is to come with me, the Master demands it and what the Master commands a wolf must obey.”

 

“Unlike you,” Du-Whop growled in a harsh whisper, “I SERVE NO MASTER!” Du-Whop burst forward lunging out at Hector with claws and teeth. The two werewolves crashed into one another with the force of two titans. With the force of sheer brute strength, Du-Whop forced Hector off of his feet and slammed the monster onto his back. Hector reacted instantly and used the momentum of their fall to launch Du-Whop over his head with a monkey flip. Du-Whop flew through the air, bounced off the ground, and twisted mid bounce and right himself back up to all fours in what seemed like a flash. Hector was also back up and the two werewolves circled one another, each of them looking for the smallest opportunity to gain the advantage on the other.

 

“Why are you still here?” Du-Whop growled, his eyes still glued to Hector. “Now is your chance, grab Rell and go. Run Damien, Now!” On his last word, Du-Whop lunged at Hector once again, who had only momentarily looked away in an attempt to keep an eye on Damien before he began to flee, It was all the opening that Du-Whop needed. He was on top of Hector before he could react, biting and clawing at him ferociously. Hector bit back, and more than once swiped his large claws across Du-Whop’s canine face, large open wounds were left in their wake, wounds that begin to heal themselves almost immediately as they were created.

 

Damien awoke from the daze he was in and leaped into action. He still didn’t know what the hell was going on but this would be the best chance he had of getting Rell and himself out of this situation alive. He rushed to Rell side, who still lay where Art had left him. Damien found him slowly stirring, struggling to come back to consciousness but still very unaware of their present situation.

 

“Rell, Rell wake up.”

 

“Wha… What the fu-“

 

“Get up we have to go!” Damien helps Rell sit up, then throws an arm around his shoulder.

 

“Aye shit D, I can’t, I can’t move, my leg, its broke.”

 

“Nigga, get yo ass up, we gotta get out of here!” Damien hefted Rell to his feet to which Rell responded with a pained gasp. “Come on we just have to make it to the truck.” The two of them begin to hobble forward. they moved slowly at first then quickly begin to pick up the pace. “Yo we gon be fine yo, we can make it,” Damien whispered words of encouragement between breaths. “It’s all good, we got this, this is just like that three-legged race we won in Mrs. Tennabern class in fourth grade, remember?”

 

“Niggas shut the fuck up and let’s just get the hell out of here!” Rell forced out with a laugh. “Fuck Mrs. Tennabern!”

 

“Well bring you crippled ass on then!”

 

Rell let out exasperated laughs between wincing grunts of pain.

 

The boys’ brotherly reunion was short lived once Damien looked back over his shoulder. Hector and Du-Whop were still fighting, however, Hector now seemed to be gaining the upper hand. A heavy punch to the back of the head sent Du-whop to the ground, he moved slowly, struggling to get back to his feet. Hector delivered another kick to the head. At the sight of which, Damien urged Rell to hobble faster. Hector looked to the two retreating boys and begin bounding toward them.

 

“Rell run faster!”

 

“The mafuckin’ werewolf is on its way nigga, run faster!”

 

Rell looked back over his shoulder, cursed under his breath and tried as best he could to hobble faster.

 

Hector began to dash forward once again on all fours closing the gap between him and Damien quickly and efficiently. Damien and Rell had made it to the side of the church but they were still some 50 feet away from the nearest vehicle and at the rate they were moving, they had little to no chance of making it before being mauled and very likely eaten by the pursuing werewolf. Hector had closed maybe half the distance between himself and his prey when he once again felt the digging claws and teeth sink into his back. The old werewolf was on him once again.

 

“This damned old man is persistent.” he thought. “But how? How was he still fighting, or better yet, how was he acting independently of the pack? All lycanthropes were beholden to one master and his will was law, to disobey, to defy him meant a pain so unimaginable that death was the only reprieve. But this old man, this old man was free. Free and acting of his own volition and he was using that freedom to protect this boy. Risking his life, for this boy. The master’s request must have not been without merit. There must have been something very special about Damien Sills.” Hector decided then, he would kill the old rogue werewolf, and take this potential back to his master gift wrapped and with a bow, after all, it was his master’s will, and when the master commands, a wolf must obey. 

 

The werewolves re-collide, biting in clawing. Intertwined in one another and moving like a tornado of fur and teeth. In the midst of the melee, Hector found an opening and with great delight sunk his large teeth into the side of Du-Whops neck. Blood sprayed in all directions. In a burst of pain-laden strength, Du-Whop pulled away allowing Hector’s teeth to drag across his flesh ripping and tearing the wound even further, mounds of blood begin to spill forth from the gaping hole in Du-Whops neck.

 

Killing a werewolf was difficult, and even though Du-Whop was old it had not necessarily meant he was weaker, in fact, it was quite the opposite. Though he was not as fast, or as agile as Hector Du-Whops seniority as a lycanthrope gave him significance benefits that could not be shortchanged. His hide was tough, and while Hector could scratch it, his claws were not strong enough to punch through do any significant damage to any internal organs, Du-Whop’s bones were dense and heavy, breaking them was nearly impossible and the crushing of his skull in the same way the old wolf had done to one of Hector’s soldiers was out of the question. No, when brute strength was not on your side, the only way one werewolf could kill another was purely through a test of endurance. All werewolves even the elder ones had a finite limit to its regenerative capabilities. The longer a battle stretched and the more damage and abuse wolf’s body underwent the slower it would begin to heal until eventually, the wolf’s body would stop healing itself altogether and most often they lay there helping in pain and bleed out right there where they stood. Hector could see that the old man wolf-man was reaching his limits. Hell, even his body was beginning to feel the effects of battle fatigue. The bites and scratches on his body lingered much longer then he was comfortable with, blood trickled down from open wounds that simply refused to close, his muscle burned and ached in ways that he had not felt in years. If he was beginning to feel the signs of exhaustion the old man had to be preparing to drop at any moment.

 

Du-Whops, clawed hand gripped tightly around the wound on his neck, he squeezed and pressed as hard as he could but it seemed to do nothing to staunch the blood flow. He swayed back and forth, then took a step backward. Hector couldn’t tell if he was trying to move away from him intentionally or simply try to catch himself from falling. he assumed it was the latter, the old dog had come too far to turn tail and run now. He was either too proud or too stupid to run away from a fight. Probably both, Hector thought. He spat out a mouth full of blood in disapproval. The old fools attachment and loyalty to this boy had gotten him killed. Such a waste, a liberated lycanthrope of his rank could have gone off and started pack of his own. Or perhaps, maybe that’s what he was trying to do. Maybe the boy was being groomed for that purpose, perhaps he was fighting so hard because he was trying to protect the future of his own lycanthropic bloodline. That would explain his fervor, his absolutely unwavering determination in the face of what assuredly had to be his imminent death. Even now, barely able to stand, the old wolf bared his teeth and growled with such ferocity. He looked like he couldn’t even see straight, but still Hector dare not get to close without a clear and decisive opening, after all, it could be a feint, the old dog could be faking it hoping to lull Hector into a false sense of security, get him to let his guard down, and perform a counterattack that had Hector holding his own throat trying to will his regeneration back into full effect before it was too late. No, Hector had been around too long, had grown too strong and come too far to lose it all in a solitary act of arrogance. Besides, the night, with all its trouble and hiccups, had brought something extremely valuable Hector’s way. The old man had introduced a thought that had never even occurred to Hector before, a thing that he had never even thought possible. This old dog had brought to Hector the possibility of freedom. the idea that he could somehow free himself from the master and possibly even start his own pack, well that was easily worth the four werewolves he had lost on this damned mission. Hell, that information was worth one hundred werewolves as far as Hector was concerned.  And now that he knew it was possible, he was determined not to rest until he found out how. But between now and then he had to play the role of a good soldier and stay well within the master’s favor. And that started with retrieving this boy.

 

Du-Whop dropped to one knee, he couldn’t even stand, but he was still in his wolf form which meant he was still dangerous. Hector had to make a quick decision. Move in for the kill and do away with the rogue here and now, or leave him to bleed out and go for the boy before he got any further away. Hector stared at the old wolf, He was soaked in blood and his body heaved up and down as he struggled to pull in air. He was dying for sure. but Hector also noticed that even in his squatted position, his muscles were still clenched tight, and he knew better than anyone that a wolf backed into a corner could still lash out with desperate and deadly force. It was a mistake that he had already made once tonight but in his mind, it was the best-calculated risk he turned his back on the weathered and blood soak lycanthrope to give chase to the boy. Let the old dog bleed out, his threat was minimal at a distance, and he would be in no condition to be giving chase anytime soon. “It’s best to let dying dogs die.” Hector thought, and with that, he turned away from Du-Whop and his eyes fell upon Damien and Rell some 40 feet away, scrambling to make their way to the vehicle himself had arrived in.

 

“Go go go go go go go go!” Damien hobbled and muttered at the same time. He looked back over his shoulder one more time and noted it looked like they were a decent distance away. “Looks like… looks like Du-Whop bought us some time. This is our chance, we gotta go now.”

 

“Good, good we’re almost there.”

 

And they were, the boys were only some ten feet from Hector’s SUV. Damien felt a glimmer of hope inside himself, they could do it, they could survive this awful night and somehow put it all behind them. Then without warning, Rell pushed hard against Damien’s left side, slipped his grip and heaved his body on top of what used to be Jake and the werewolf that he managed to kill before dying, only now the werewolf had turned back to a human.

 

“Rell, what the hell are you doing?”

 

Rell dug around between the bodies for a brief moment, then outstretched one arm gripping something between his thumb and forefinger.

 

“Car keys,” Rell said. “This was the one how hopped out of the driver’s seat.”

 

“Well aren’t you a fucking genius” Damien reached down and pulled his friend back up to one foot. He noticed that Rell was also holding Jakes gun as well.

 

“Come on let’s get the hell out of here,” Rell said.

 

The moved quickly over to the empty SUV.  Damien yanked open the back door and with a forceful push heaved his friend into the back seat. Rell slid in, back first, propped his broken leg on to the seat and painfully pulled himself back across the seat. Damien tried to help as best he could without putting to much pressure on the broken leg, and then suddenly, Damien stopped with a jolt, and before Rell could ask “What’s wrong” Damien was yanked forcefully away from the car.

 

Hector grabbed hold to Damien’s ankle and snatched him from the door of the vehicle. He had almost gotten away. Probably would have, if he hadn’t been trying to drag his wounded friend along with him. Hector held the boy up by his leg dangling him aloft and upside down. He leaned in closer for a better look at this child that had caused him so much trouble in a single night. There was nothing to necessarily see, but Hector could feel and even smell the potential, he had raw unrefined energy swelling within him. For a haggard and exhausted werewolf, he would make a filling meal. the energy dwelling within him would send Hector’s regeneration abilities right back to their peak, but for those same reasons, Hector knew the boy would make an even better convert. Hector released the boy’s leg, but before he could hit the ground the werewolves same hand darted out like a lightning bolt and grabbed hold to the collar if Damien’s shirt. In a single motion, flipping him right-side-up and now holding him by the nape of his neck like a dog holds a puppy. Hector brought the bot close to his own face before speaking.

 

“Oh Damien, you were so close to getting away, had you left that friend of yours behind you perhaps could have made it a bit further. I’ll never understand why you people form such attachments a worthless and useless thing like friendship. Ah well, now you will be coming with me, and just to assure you that escape won’t be an option this time…” Hector used his free hand to grab hold of Damien’s right wrist, extended his arm, and then chomped down hard on the boy’s right shoulder. The werewolves massive jaws covered everything from Damien’s shoulder to his collarbone. Hector tightened his jaw just enough to feel his teeth puncture the skin and streams of blood begin to spray from beneath the teeth. Damien screamed out in pain. The boy’s warm blood hit the werewolf’s mouth and tongue and even from the mere taste of it Hector could feel a mall surge of power flow through him. A werewolf derives his power from consuming the flesh of humans and the flesh of some humans, those with potential, contained much more power and energy than others. From the small taste of blood alone Hector could tell this boy had something special, this is what the master wanted, this is what the old man was protecting. To feed on one such as this would one a waste, Damien would make an exceedingly powerful werewolf. Hector bit down a little harder, unto he felt and heard the audible pop of a shoulder being dislodged from its socket. Damien yelled out again, and at the same time, Hector’s jaws released him.

 

“…That should slow you down a bit,” he growled to the boy, releasing his shirt and letting him fall to the grown. He hit the hard pavement already clutching his arm, writhing in agony.

 

“And now, to deal with this ‘friend’ of yours.” Hector turned back toward the SUV, he wondered for a moment, perhaps he should blood test the friend as well. Potentials did tend to attract one another, and Damien seemed about as dumb for this friend of his as the old man was for him. It was worth a shot, after all, if he proved to be nothing special, Hector could always simply eat him. Hector stepped into the doorway of the open vehicle to see surprisingly enough Rell sitting upright and with a very large gun pointed directly at Hector’s face. It looked alarmingly like the gun that had killed two of his men earlier that night and at this range, it would be dangerously close to doing the same to him.

 

“He ain’t going nowhere with you, you dog-faced son of a bi-“

 

The werewolf craned his head hard to the left while at the same time swatting at the gun with his large oversized claws. He knocked the gun from Rell’s hand but not before the boy was able to fire a single shot. The gun exploded loudly and violently before it was swept away. Flames left from the barrel propelling along from it a bullet that narrowly missed going between Hector’s eyes and instead ripped up along the right side of his face, grazing over his snout, passed his eye and fully taking his right ear off the side of his head. The wolf howled in an agony of his own now, he stumbled back away from the open car door, holding his fur covered face, blood pouring from the laceration the stray bullet had cut across it.

 

“Why you little bastard, I’ll rip your throat ou-” Hector stopped, he tried looking out of his good eye but could not makes sense of what he was seeing. It was Du-Whop, he was standing over Damien, and it looked like he was licking the boys wounded shoulder, or no wait was he lapping up his blood, but how, he should have bled out, he was all but dead, there’s no way.

 

As if hearing his thought the old wolf’s head turned, all of his thick dagger-like teeth showing. He looked beyond enraged, beyond inhuman, almost feral. An animal of his size and his strength without the tempered sentience of a human was, in every way beyond terrifying.

 

A desperate wolf always has one last attack and somehow, Hector had allowed Du-Whop to become more desperate than himself. The old dog was already coiled to strike and before Hector could think to react, Du-Whop pounced, lunging out at him and clapping his jaws down on the werewolf throat. His jaws shut, clenched and locked down like a vice, crouching mangling and shredding everything between them. Hector felt his windpipe closed shut, then felt it punctured by razor sharp teeth, blood poured out feeling his lungs and mouth. He felt his esophagus collapse and it felt like he had swallowed his own tongue but he knew he hadn’t, he could still feel his tongue dangling from a mouth that he could no longer control. He felt Du-Whops jaws slam shut exactly where his throat used to be, and then he could feel the old one’s front teeth clamp together and audible crunch of his own spinal cord snapping, and then… and then he felt nothing at all, and then it all went black.

 

Du-Whop held the limp body of Hector in his jaws, then opened them and the red werewolf dropped in a heap at his feet. The old wolf sloughed forward and then he himself feel face fist a few feet away from where Damien stood.

 

“Whop!, Whop you did it you killed him. Whop get up, come on you can go now.” Damien kneeled down next to the old man in the shape of a large lupine beast. Du-Whop rolled over to his back, he was covered in bites and scratches, his fur soaked and matted with blood, a large wound on his neck pulsed in what seemed to be in rhythm with his heartbeat, blood gushed forward with each pump. Damien put a hand over it, to try and slow the flow. He could only use his left hand, his right arm had been popped back into place but it was still all but useless. “Yo Whop, heal this shit and let’s get out of here. You did it, you beat him, you saved us.”

 

Rell hopped forward from the open car, he was on one foot. “D, what are you doing? We have to leave.”

 

“Aye, no, Rell this is Du-Whop, we need to, we have to carry him, we have to get him in the truck.”

 

“That’s what?”

 

“Its Du-Whop, he a werewolf, its hard to explain. Just, help me… help me get him up.”

 

Without question, tell took another hop forward and began trying to bend down.

 

Du-Whop reached out and grabbed hold to Damien’s wrist.

 

“Nah young blood,” he spoke in a low grumbled tone, his voice still drowning with the wolf’s signature growl but still distinctly Du-Whop. “I think I’ll just lay here for a while. You boys, you boys gon and go.”

 

“Man we ain’t leaving you here!”

 

“Well fuck me, it is Du-Whop,” Rell said under his breath.

 

“You ain’t got no choice, besides you ain’t leaving me, I’m holding up the rear, watching your back as you get away. You know it ain’t no thang for me baby boy, I’m a survivor.” Du-Whop coughed and blood sprayed from his mouth.

 

“Whop you are fucking dying bro, we gotta get you out of here.” Damien sounded as if he was pleading.

 

“Whop let us help you, man you know we can’t leave you like this.”

 

“Y’all wanna know how y’all can help me… Leave, go right now. You can help me by surviving. Leave New Hampton, leave the life behind, go! This is… this is far from over, the ones that came after you tonight, there will be more. They’ll keep coming, and they won’t stop until they catch you or kill you. So for me, you boys can survive. Survive for me that will be enough. My time here is done, and as long as you two keep moving forward, I’m fine with that.”

 

 Damien stood up and took a single step back. He saw on Du-Whop’s face what he only could assume to be a smile.

 

“Dee, Rell, go to Bridgeport, and find a man named Charles Blackhill, he helped me a long time ago, and he can help y’all too, both of you. Promise me, promise me you’ll find him.”

 

“We will Whop, we’ll find him.”

 

“Good, really good now go, get out of here and remember, remember everything I said.”

 

Slowly and reluctantly the two boys hobbled over to the open SUV, loaded themselves inside and with a with a mournful look in their eyes, drove away.

 

Du-Whop still lay on his back, he had a clear unobstructed view of the night sky. the moon was full that night. He loved the moon. He heard a dog howl in the distance. He took a deep breath and noticed that he had actually turned back to his human form. He looked back up to the moon, smiled to himself and closed his eyes.

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Part IV

 

Hurried footsteps made their way to the side of the Du-Whop’s outstretched body and before long a fresh-faced and unruffled Art kneeled down by the side of his old friend.

“Bloody hell…” Art put a hand on Du-Whops arm, he was cold. “Rest easy now old friend, your work here is complete.”

Across from Art, iridescent motes of light begin to bob and dance over his shoulder. The lights moved faster and faster with each passing second until they danced so rapidly that they almost appeared to form the solid shape. The shape of a man wrapped in glowing strands of light. Then suddenly, with a piercing flash, the dancing lights faded away and in their place stood another Art.

The original Arthur didn’t bother to look up and without prompting the new Arthur spoke.

“We can’t risk falling too far behind. You go, I’ll take care of him.”

The original Art, stood up and removed the priest collar from around his neck. 

“We’ve got things from here Lou, I’ll watch over your boys for you.”

-End

 

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