How would I prove it? How would I snare him? I’d have to catch him with a dead child dangling from his filthy jaws. But he would only be brave enough to do that if he knew where I was, if he had me in sight. That’s how he had gotten away with it so far. He had known that I was in my room that night and it would only have taken him seconds to creep downstairs, snatch up the chair, and take it outside. He knew that I was sitting up all night in the living room with my eye on the chair, refusing to move until I caught the killer. He could have easily climbed from his bedroom window and raced away into the night. Madison had said herself how fast the Lycanthrope could run as wolves. He could have reached the town of Little Hope in minutes and been back again. On finding me asleep, he crept in on his paws and placed the little boy in the chair. It was him I chased into the woods, and that’s how he was there at hand when I collapsed, posing as a Good Samaritan.
Drake said himself that he came looking for me and Madison tonight. Finding us in the woods together making love, he seized the moment to go find himself the little girl, murder her, then bring her back to the house. Once she was in place, he raised the alarm.
It all fitted together so perfectly, but how would I catch him? Turning away from the hole that I’d dug, I shook the mud and earth from my claws. I didn’t want any dirt on my hands when I laid that little girl into her grave. Wiping my claws against my trousers, I made my way over to the child. Kneeling down, I plucked two flowers from a nearby bush, and crossing her arms over her chest, I placed the flowers in her hands.
Picking her up in my arms, I carried her slowly towards the hole and lowered her into it. Then closing my eyes, I lent down into the grave and kissed her gently on the cheek.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered with silent tears running down my face. “I’ll catch him for you, I promise.” I filled in the hole.
I smoothed over the mud with my hands and stood up, and it was then I knew how I would catch Drake. I knew how I would get him to believe I was somewhere I wasn’t. I had a plan.
I didn’t sleep well for the rest of that night. It wasn’t the uncomfortable camp bed or the cuts across my chest that kept me from sleeping too deeply, it was my guilt. How had I let my friends and those children down so badly? What had I done?
But I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep. Just before dawn, the door to my bedroom creaked open and Madison came in. She was dressed in a loose-fitting nightdress that seemed to shimmer against her body.
“Are you awake?” she whispered.
“I am now,” I grumbled, rolling over onto my side.
I heard her kneel beside my bed and brush my shoulder with her fingertips. “Room for one more in there?” she whispered.
“What do you want?” I barked.
“I can’t sleep,” she explained.
“Well go back to bed and try,” I snapped at her.
“But it’s more than that,” she whispered.
Rolling over so I could look into her face, her eyes gleamed out of the darkness at me. “What’s keeping you awake?” I asked her.
“You are,” she said, stroking the bandage that covered my chest.
“Sorry, I didn’t know my snoring was that loud,” I said. She didn’t smile, she just looked at me and again I saw that glimmer of sadness in her eyes. “Okay, what’s wrong? What have I done now?”
“Tomorrow night it will all be over,” she hushed. “If we catch the killer or we don’t, either way, we will never see each other again.”
“I think that will probably be for the best,” I said flatly.
“Do you really mean that?” she almost seemed to gasp.
“I don’t think we make a good mix.”
“You admit, then, that there is something between us?”
“Whatever it is, it isn’t right,” I told her gently. “We are not meant to be.”
“But earlier…” she started.
“Was a mistake,” I told her. Again she looked sad by what I said, so I quickly added, “What I mean is, it was a mistake there and then. We took our eye off the ball and a child lost her life because of it. We should have stayed focused.”
“But I couldn’t help my feelings,” she said. “Neither of us could.”
“We should have tried harder, Madison,” I whispered as she came close.
“And what about now?” she asked me. “The wolf has done his killing for tonight. The sun will soon be up and he won’t come back in the light.”
“And what if I say no?” I asked. “Are you going to pull that crazy shit with your eyes again?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she half-smiled at me.
“Yeah you do,” I said, pulling open the sleeping bag for her to climb in next to me. Pulling her nightdress from over her head, I watched as the silver cross lay flat against her breasts. Madison lay next to me, and I folded her in my arms as she rested her head against me. Her hair fanned out across my chest and it felt soft like feathers. But this time it was different. It wasn’t like what had happened between us in the woods. We didn’t make love; we just lay in each other’s arms and held each other. Eventually I did drift into sleep and as I closed my eyes, I was sure that I could hear the gentle sound of her weeping. I wondered what had made her feel so sad.
When I woke, Madison had gone. I’d slept most of the day away again. Knowing I only had a few hours to put my plan into action, I climbed out of bed and got dressed. My stomach rumbled and I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually eaten a proper meal.
I went downstairs and both Madison and Drake were sitting silently in the living room. I looked at Madison and she smiled. Drake sat stone-faced, staring at the little chair. The wind outside had picked up and it blew hard about the eaves.
“Is there any food in this place?” I asked Madison.
“There are some cans of corned beef and some crackers we brought with us in the kitchen. It’s not much,” she said.
“It’s something, I guess,” I said back.
“Should have packed your own,” Drake mumbled as I headed for the kitchen. I ignored him. I wasn’t in the mood for a fight right now. That would come later.
In the kitchen I found half a can of corned beef and a few crackers on a plate. With a knife, I dug inside the can and pulled out a lump of the meat. It looked pinkish and was covered in a white layer of fat. Beggars can’t be choosers, I said to myself as I pulled the lump of beef from the knife and wolfed it down. It tasted salty, but it would do. Taking two of the crackers, I broke them in half and munched on them. The food left me feeling thirsty and I spotted a bottle of water on the table. Unscrewing the cap, I gulped some down and it was cold and refreshing. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I placed the bottle back on the table and left the kitchen.
Madison and Drake were still sitting where I had left them. Dropping down onto the sofa next to Madison, I asked, “So what’s the plan?”
“What plan?” Drake scowled at me.
“Well it’s do or die time tonight – well for me and my friends at least,” I smiled at him. “I need to catch this killer or my sergeant dies and my buddy Luke and I do ten to twenty in the pen.”
“I don’t have a plan,” Drake said. “That’s why Harker got you on board, isn’t it?”
I glanced sideways at Madison and said, “Any ideas?”
Madison shook her head and said, “Nope.”
Sitting forward, I looked at them and said, “The way I see it is like this. This wolf is a cunning bastard. He seems to know where we are and what we get up to. Tonight we don’t leave this house. We lock the doors and keep that chair exactly where it is – no one is to touch it. Madison, you keep watch at the back of the house and Drake, you stay down here and guard that chair.”
“And what will you be doing?” Drake asked me.
“I have an excellent view of the woods from my window and the path leading up to the front door. I’m going to sit by that window all night long. We know he comes through the front door as there’s no other way in or out, except for the windows, but from what I saw of this wolf the other night, he’s huge and would never fit through them. So I will see him approach as he sneaks out from the woods. When I do, I will give three taps with my boot on the floor. As soon as you hear my signal, Drake, you go and stand behind the door. Madison, you come from your room and we’ll both head downstairs. And as soon as that son-of-a-bitch puts a paw over the threshold, we kill him.”
“But what about if he approaches from the back?” Madison asked.
“Then you give the signal,” I said. “He will still have to come to the front of the house to get in, so as soon as he gets round the front, I’ll make my way downstairs.”
“It seems like we should have the whole house covered,” Madison said thoughtfully.
“Hang on, how do I know that you’ll stay in your room?” Drake asked me.
“Why would I leave?” I asked him, with my best look of confusion.
“We still don’t know it wasn’t you who moved the chair,” Drake said. And then looking at Madison, he added, “And no offence, but I only have your word that you two were in the woods together at the time of the murder.”
“And we only have your word that you were out looking for us,” Madison shot back.
Hoping that this would come up, I said, “How about we lock the doors to our rooms. That way, you would hear the doors unlock, I mean those doors creak enough as it is – hang on!” I smiled. “I have an even better idea, why don’t you lock us in and keep the keys, that way we could only get out if you let us out. But as soon as Madison and I give the signal, you better be up those stairs in a flash to let us out, okay?”
“Okay,” Drake said as I watched him mentally weigh the idea in his head. “You could climb out of the window!”