CHAPTER 1

Being alone, in the middle of nowhere, at night, is for sure a scary situation. Still, the true Londoner doesn’t lose her head, but takes a deep breath, smoothes the pleats on her jacket and goes in search of a Bobby, or a black cab. Only foreigners freak out in such circumstances. Londoners, on the other hand, being the most British of all British people, never ever freak out. Still, when you are a paranormal expert who’s in a deserted area of the Docks and was supposed to heal a werewolf with the aid of a shaman who hasn’t showed up, I’m afraid the only reasonable reaction is to…

“Run!” Mr Wilson growls, getting worryingly hirsute. He has a point. A skinny girl in her twenties is no match for a werewolf, and I don’t think that telling him I’m a dog person would make much of a difference. Trouble is that he’s standing between me and my car, so my only option is to run in the opposite direction. My feet sink into the sand of the Thames’ shore, the river a creepy black ribbon, untouched by the full moon’s rays. It takes what looks like ages to cross the sand and reach the building-site, a hundred yards away. I should have never trusted that damn shaman. How could I have been so stupid? A long howl fills the air. My client has now fully transformed and in a second he will pick up my scent and hunt me down. My usual luck. I reach the building-site’s iron gate and start climbing it furiously. When I’ m nearly on the other side, my foot slips and one of the gate’s spikes tears my jeans and cuts my ankle. It gets better and better. I jump on the ground, and right before me a muscular hairy mass bangs against the gate, making it tremble. God,  he’s big, especially considering his size when human, Mr Wilson barely reaching five foot six.

“Gnaaarl!” My client growls, his yellow eyes filled with primeval ferocity, his fangs biting the gate. It will take him a while to figure out whether he can easily jump above it, so I’d better run and find a hiding place. I should have never accepted this case. I mean, curing a werewolf for good? Come on! I should have never felt pity for Mr Wilson and his thick wallet … It was all the shaman’s fault, standing me up like that, ten minutes before  moonrise. And with that pathetic excuse that there had been a misunderstanding … damn coward.

I eye a bunch of ready-made quicklime sacks leaning against a wall, on the top of a scaffolding. There are also a few tins of paint and a makeshift slide, probably made of aluminium, built to get rid of the construction debris. It doesn’t look very solid to me, but then I’m very light and have no other option. I have to jump to reach the closest iron bar of the scaffolding; luckily, my usual clumsiness abandons me when I’m in danger. It must be the adrenaline, I suppose. I barely feel the cold of the iron in my hands, my heart pounding like crazy, my blood running through my veins at Formula 1- speed. A deep growling and gnawing tells me that the beast has passed the gate. I have just the time to reach the right level of the scaffolding and hide behind the sacks. The sharp smell of the quicklime should be strong enough to cover my blood’s scent, at least for a while. To increase my chances, I rip one sack using my house keys, pouring its contents all around me. Again, being short and skinny is a benefit; thanks to that, if I brace my knees and curl-up behind the sack, I am completely out of sight. I hold my breath. A few yards away, the werewolf is sniffing the ground, searching for me. The air seems suddenly thick, coagulating in my throat. After a few seconds, the scaffolding trembles as if during an earthquake – he’s coming. He has finally picked up my scent and he is coming to get me. Well, I have climbed up here for a reason, let’s just hope my reflexes don’t betray me. I reach into my pocket for my thick winter gloves and put them both on my right hand, for  double protection. I retreat, as close to the slide as I can. I wait. Not long, as two seconds later the werewolf’s claws clench the scaffolding and his giant head comes into view. I hear an ear-splitting roar and there he is, former Mr Wilson in all his ferocity, his fangs on show, looking like they could easily chew  off one of the scaffolding’s metal bars. They probably can, I’m not that eager to check, anyway. He’s sniffing around, trying to track me, fooled by the smell of the quicklime. One point to me. I crouch behind the sack, grasping some of the quicklime with my gloved hand. He’s two yards away, one yard…

“Peekaboo!” I jump out of my hiding place and throw the quicklime on his muzzle. He roars in pain and frustration, rubbing his face with his claws to get rid of the corrosive chemical, making things worse. I grab a paint tin and smash it on his head, then I turn around and rush down the slide. Now, if I’m lucky, that blow will keep him occupied for around a minute, which means that I can’t go directly to the car, since, if I do, he will surely get me before I reach it. I have to be smarter. So, I head towards the other gate, the secondary entrance to the building site. I throw my gloves, already half-corroded by the quicklime, as far away as I can. They have my scent on them, which may make my hairy fellow go after them first, giving me a few extra seconds.  Fortunately, contrary to real wolves, werewolves are pretty obtuse. Putting another barrier between us and following a less expected path to get to my transport, should take him aback. And let me live.

This gate is lower and easier to climb than the previous one; in a heartbeat I land on the other side. I’m on a narrow road, badly illuminated. In front of me there’s a row of grey, one-floor buildings, probably warehouses.  I take a deep breath and run down the street; once past this block and  the next, if I’m not mistaken, I should reach my car, parked on the second road behind the building site. I run as fast as I can, without looking behind me. I turn right, and that is when my feet slip on something wet on the floor and I stumble. I put my hands out in front of me to break the fall, cut half a caper, rolling on my side, and land against one of the warehouses’ walls. Great. If there was still an inch of my body free of bruises, now it has been covered (and they say consistency is a virtue). Aching all over, I stand back on my feet, having no time to rest. Still a little stunned by the fall, I look around to see which way to go. And then I see it. The thing I hit. Only, it’s not a thing, it’s a dead body. He is, was, Chinese, I would say in his thirties, although death   usually tends to make you look older. The pale luminescence of a solitary street light illuminates his face, all twisted in a grimace of indescribable pain. His open mouth is filled with dark, coagulated blood, but the most horrifying part is the giant gash in the victim’s chest. Someone, something, ripped it open and stole his heart, tearing apart his ribs, lungs and part of his guts. The wetness I slipped on was his own blood, gallons of which are spilled all over the place, including on my jeans and part of my jacket; my tennis shoes are literally soaking in it. This cannot be the work of a human being, but it can’t have been Mr Wilson, either. The blood is still fresh, which means this guy has been killed recently. Mr. Wilson was  with me before and, unfortunately, after his transformation, so it couldn’t be him. Besides, a werewolf wouldn’t be capable of such a precise, almost surgical job, and would have devoured the entire bod…

“Growwl …” Speaking of the devil. I have been here for no more than forty seconds. Too long, by a werewolf’s standards. In this short time span, he’d got rid of the quicklime and reached the bottom of the narrow road leading to my car, blocking the way. Clearly the beast has been drawn here by the fresh corpse’ s smell.  He’s not chasing me yet, probably taken aback by the scent of fresh blood, and undecided about whether he’s gonna go after me or the easier prey to my right. I have maybe three seconds, since I know he will come for me; werewolves aren’t scavengers and they much prefer live prey to dead, no matter if the latter has been killed recently. One option could be running back to the building site; if I am lucky enough to reach it in one piece, I might lock myself up somewhere and manage to hold my ground until dawn, when Mr. Wilson will be himself again. Another option would be … Shit. I don’t have another option. I glance at the pavement, trying to spot the bits not inundated with blood. I cannot afford to slip again, thank God there’s the light of this street lamp and… I look down and see something shiny dangling from my neck. It’s my necklace. Of course, my necklace! How could I have been so stupid? I mean, I know that being an idiot is a sort of inalienable right, but one should never overuse it! My necklace, the one grandpa gave me for my eighteenth birthday, has got a one-carat diamond and is made of platinum and silver.

The werewolf lets out a roar so loud that it makes the walls around me tremble. Another roar and he’s running towards me, his fangs glittering under the moonlight, saliva dripping copiously from his obscene mouth. Perfect timing. I rip my necklace off my neck and wait, holding my ground, in spite of my wobbly legs. I must be very, VERY careful and precise. I have only one shot, I have to calculate every single movement or I’m doomed. Here he comes, I must wait until the last possible moment, until I see the redness of his eyes… Three … Two… One! Everything happens so fast that I don’t even have the time to be scared. In an instant the ex-Mr. Wilson jumps at me, his fangs clearly aimed at my throat. I don’t know how, but in less than a second I throw the necklace into his open jaws and jump aside, hoping with all my heart it will work and… it does! When I finally turn around again, the beast is laying on the ground, his powerful body shaking with pain, white foam pouring out of his monstrous mouth. I retreat cautiously, never turning my back on him. Then, once I reach the corner at the bottom of the road, I turn around and run as fast as I can towards my car, which is only a few yards away. I get inside, slam the door and start the engine. Mr Wilson will be fine; the amount of silver he has ingested has just knocked him out for the time being and won’t cause him any real damage. Tomorrow he will just wake up naked in the middle of nowhere with the symptoms of a massive hangover. And first thing tomorrow I’m going to the shaman to ask him for an explanation. No, I’m not going to ask him anything, I’m going to shout at him. For sure. I mean, if it wasn’t for my grandpa’s present I would be werewolf supper by now, how can anyone with a conscience and a twinge of common sense leave a twenty five year old alone with a werewolf on a full moon night? How could he have not thought about the risks? I’ve been a paranormal consultant for over three years now, and this is the first time something like this has happened to me.

The moon still hangs in the sky, mocking me with its big, yellow face, “Don’t you get it?” it seems to say.

When I enter the A2016, I finally get it. My epiphany hits me like a truck a little kitten; the shaman didn’t behave that way because he is an unprofessional coward. It was all a set up. He wanted me dead.

 

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