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The Beast in Me (completed)
“You look absolutely gorgeous in that dress, Sheena! Silver is your color, for sure! It makes you sparkle.”
Sheena just smiled and gave it a twirl.
“Stunning, really! - You know, the first time I saw you, I didn'teven... I mean, your eyes struck me immediately of course.”
Sheena blushed, feeling flattered and she stepped over to the window. She fit in the veela dress of her mother like a hand in a glove.
“An amazing view from up here!” She said and peered out over Baskerville, touching the cold window pane with her palms. Her breath started fogging the view, the colors and lights merged in front of her eyes. For some reason I sensed she felt happy. After all, it was Christmas Eve.
It was only five p.m. and the sky was pitch black, overcast. But that only brought out the light of the Christmas decorations that followed the streets, alleys, trees, and the fancy house facades in the little town center even more. From where she was standing, it wasn't more than two miles to the town center with its little community square that was paved with a layer of packed snow now.
That's where I was waiting for her. For them. I was surrounded by bank buildings, our town hall, and not to forget the pompously named “Grand Hotel” where the party reception was to take place in an hour from now. Actually, I was standing in the narrow alley between the hotel and the town hall to remain inconspicuous. The Cheekenovah river flowed nearby, separating the square and the hospital, located on the opposite river bank. That's where my mother was being kept for observation. When they finally had found a way to keep her vitals steady and she even could sit up and eat by herself, I convinced Sue and Horace to have them bring her back to our own hospital in Baskerville. Who knew if the pack would try to hold ransom someone else that I held dear. I wanted to know her close to me when all hell was going to break lose tonight. At the party. Besides, I had no idea how we were going to pay the mounting medical bills that had piled up already. Sue and Horace were not happy about the idea but mom was for it. We never talked about it but I knew that she also had gotten an invitation letter to the party. I had found it in the trash bin by accident. Well, aside all other issues, she was in no state to get up from her bed and confront herself with the man who had simply left her with two kids more than a decade ago, just to suddenly come crashing into our lives again.
A pair of big hands laid themselves on the bare skin of Sheena's back. She cringed, not aware that the man had stepped closer behind her.
“Yupp, Baskerville lies to our feet, young lady. To your feet, actually!” He pressed his lips on the top of her head. Jack Mansdale had let a hairdresser do Sheena's hair all afternoon and she looked every bit the beautiful veela she had become. His eyes were filled with more than admiration when he looked at what he felt was his creation. “You haven't told him about this, I suppose.” It wasn't a question. He reached out and fondled her silky hair. He was standing too close for Sheena's comfort and, when he put an arm on either side of hers and he leaned over her, she almost felt trapped with her back against the wall.
I was beginning to become squeamish now in my remote place. All I could do was listen to their conversation with my super-audio and rely on Sheena's powers. We had gone through different scenarios many times but reality had a way of being nigh unpredictable when the amount of variables were more than one. Any act of hostility wasn't planned to commence before fullmoon had risen above the horizon, had thrown its pale light on me and turned me into the lethal beast I could be. I didn't look forward to the prospect of turning into my non-human form, resisting the impulses to go for blood, having a hard time being able to distinguish between right and wrong. But at the moment, I hadn't minded having a fur to warm me a bit. I was standing and wrapping my arms around my chest in the dark alleyway off the main street, shivering in the cold. I had donned a too thin jacket as I left home in a hurry an hour ago. But going there wasn't an option now, so I tried to distract myself by peering around the corner of the hotel. The bulk of the guests wasn't expected to arrive yet, but from time to time I could glimpse how people in charge of the party preparation, the caterers, some officials, and, I think, even the mayor himself entered the Grand Hotel. The only light that was reaching me here was coming from a faint yellow street light. It was scattering from the clouds that my breath were making in the cold night air. I felt another shiver go down my spine and I heard the snow scrunching as I was stepped from one foot to the other. Winter had come to Baskerville for real now.
From here, I also had a direct look at the tall Zeus Fission headquarter building. Somewhere up there behind one of the lighted windows was Sheena in the office of my father. Right now, I wished we hadn't chosen this path. But what had been the alternative? Sheena wanted her father back alive if there was a chance.
“So what have you done to him?!” Sheena asked in a challenging tone. I gasped as the sound waves hit my ears out of the distance. This was way too early to start a confrontation, I thought. Did she see no other way? She was supposed to lull him and make him forget his inner beast for just long enough for me to attack.
“To your father?” He asked as if it were unclear. “He was starting to get in my way, asking questions. Second guessing. But don't fret. He'll be fine. I bet you'll see him smile again before the night is over. If he behaves, he will be good as new.”
Sheena gasped. I felt how relief washed over her.
“But tonight I want to enjoy myself first...”
“Time to go, boss, huh?” That sounded like his secretary who just had marched into the office, “We don't want Mayor Taylor having to wait for his little Christmas present, do we?”
“Perfect timing, as always, Zany!” There was a hint of disappointment and dismay in his voice. That didn't seem to put Zany off and she asked happily,
“How's young missy comporting herself? Succumbed to your corporate charm yet?”
I bit my underlip. This wasn't turning out the way we had hoped it to, I feared. Seduction was a two-edged sword. Just as I flexed the muscles in my thighs to start running, I picked up a call for help. I froze in my motion again (the cold night air wasn't making that very difficult anyway). I cocked my ears.
“He... help! Anybody!”
It was gut-wrenching but I couldn't just abandon Sheena who was in the lion's den. I redirected my attention to check how Sheena was doing, holding my breath.
“Now it's party time... Baskerville is about to learn about my grand plans for its future! Now I'm in charge. Finally!” I heard my dad's voice say.
“Where is my father?!” Sheena demanded.
“Not so impatient! He'll meet us at the reception! I promise! -- Don't look at me like that! We'll be done in no time... and having dinner together in the presidential suite at the Grand Hotel.” He said and patted her arm.
“Right. Dinner.” Sheena said tensely brushing his hand off again.
“The best you ever got!”
“OK, let's go then!” I heard Sheena's steps move towards the door. I exhaled.
“Help! I'm... drowning!” The unknown caller's second cry for help came to my ears. I gasped. The river, I thought. I hesitated another second but then I heard a weak,
At least for the moment, it seemed as though Sheena had things under control. So I whirled around and dashed towards the direction of the faint voice that my super-audio was relaying. I sprinted out of the dark alley into the light, bursting into the openness of the square. I wasn't paying attention to anything but trying to locate the origin of the distress call, negotiating my strides over the slick ground, jumping over the low broad stone handrail, and sliding and slithering down the broad entrance stairs of the Grand Hotel behind which I had popped up. I couldn't avoid grazing and bring out of balance some of the early bird folks who already had started showing up for the circus and were carefully walking up the steps.
“Whoa! What's the big idea! Watch where you're going!”
I didn't even turn to apologize. My legs were taking me to the bridge across the Cheekenovah River. From the sound of his call I guessed he had fallen from the bridge into the water. I heard another faint call for help just before I reached it. I slammed into the metal railing of the bridge, coming to a sudden stop. I bent my neck over the top of the railing. Frantically, I looked down into the blackness of the ice cold water.
At first, I only saw how my rapid breathing was making large white cloud puffs that dispersed in the air. I blinked but still couldn't see anyone, just the edge of the river bank. Then I saw a movement. Somebody's arm was trying to pull themself up out of the water. Without thinking, I gripped a pole of the high railing of the bridge with both my hands, pivoted and swung up on top of the bar. In one fluid motion I made it up there and balanced on my feet, swaying a bit and looking down into the black depth. Though it must have been at least 15 feet, oddly, I felt no fear. I let myself drop straight down to avoid accidentally falling onto him. My stomach flipped as I sailed through the air for longer than expected. I easily caught the fall with my powerful thigh muscles and, with a soft thud in the untouched two inches of snow that were lying on the ground, landed gracefully. I quickly rose from my bent knees again and carefully stepped closer to the steep embankment. The current wasn't very strong here but the water must have been nearly freezing cold. I looked for the arm that I had seen reaching out from the water before. I was afraid he had lost grip by now and had been carried away by the river. But then I saw fingers desperately digging into the muddied snow to get a last grasp. Instinctively, I flopped onto my stomach onto the cover of snow and reached out as long as I could. I got hold of his wrist. Then I pulled.
About a minute later, I had carefully hauled the man in from what was threatening to become his wet grave. I couldn't tell if he was still alive and breathing but I was certain, if he was, it was only a matter of minutes, if not seconds that he needed to get warmed up again. I tore off his wet clothes and rolled him in the snow, then I wrapped him into my coat. At this stage I didn't feel the cold myself, anymore. I paused for a second and looked across the river - it wasn't very wide here in the middle of the town - and my gaze followed the ubiquitous Christmas lighting until I recognized the hospital building. I scooped him up with my arms like one would to cradle a baby, barely feeling his weight in my arms. I noticed that he was breathing, though; weakly, but that meant he was still alive. Then I scrambled up the bank and doubled back up to cross the bridge. The bridge was now peppered with people who were streaming toward the town hall and the Grand Hotel to attend the reception and the “Surprise Party” event. I knew that Sheena would be expecting me there but first I needed to do what I could to save this man's life. I only hoped that she cope with my father on her own until I could return. A few people actually turned to look for a second what I was up to as I sped past them but, under the shroud of darkness, probably no one imagined I was carrying a full grown man in my arms.
I arrived at the hospital entrance door that I knew so well by now and took a little breather. I wasn't overly exhausted but I finally got a glimpse of the man's face and made a double take,
“Mr. de Veela?! Miles, you?!”
He was in a bad state. Cold as a fish, of course, but what's more, his face was hollow as though he had been held under starvation for a longer period. My thoughts went immediately to Sheena who was worried senseless about her father and had taken desperate measures to save him from my father. She was supposed to set him up to be as defenseless as possible when I was to appear on the scene. That's why Sheena had agreed to have that dinner at the hotel with him.
But now, considering he no longer had Miles in his claws, there was no need for her to endanger herself. I needed to let her to know. Somehow. Just as I was taking a breath to call out her name into the dark night, the door was opened and Dr. Winsley helped us in,
“What happened?!” He asked perplexed when he saw who I was holding. I explained quickly while they took care of Sheena's father inside. We were standing in the reception area, talking, when I saw a familiar face. I was surprised to see Horace here, too. I craned my neck, but couldn't spot Sue.
“I asked him to help out.” Dr. Winsley filled in. “Things are getting out of hand. He told me he was a doctor before. That's what I call a lucky coincidence.”
Horace gave me a tired smile but still didn't say a word and then he followed the nurse who pushed Miles down the hall on a stretcher.
“Out of hand?” I wondered what he meant by that and asked, “How's my mom?!”
“She's fine, don't worry! - No, it's just... we're currently overloaded with patients. And on top of all: somebody has been stealing blood supplies.”
A heat wave struck me from the inside. That was my fault... I shouldn't have done it. I cursed myself internally. Dr. Winsley shook his head,
“Must've happened yesterday... all gone! Who would steal blood?!”
“All gone?!” I echoed. “That's impossible!” Yes, I had taken one bag and Zeus' pack had been responsible for the A-negative shelf. But all gone since yesterday?! Had the pack come here for more? Sweat beads started to form on my forehead as I was trying to put the pieces together in my head.
“Ron! Don't tell me you have anything to do with this! I mean, this is a serious issue.” He looked at me intently and I assumed he recalled our little conversation about my blood desire antics some time ago. “This isn't a funny game, you know. People's lives could depend on it. Just say, there were to be a major accident at the dam construction site...”
I listened up,
“What?! Isn't the dam area shut down now, pending government clearance?!”
Before Dr. Winsley could reply a sonorous voice boomed through the hall,
“Like that would stop Jack Mansdale from going through with his evil plans!”
“Mr. Sawatzky?!” I blurted out, completely confused to see another face out of place. He had just walked through the doors and was stomping off the snow from his boots in the entrance area. I looked back at Dr. Winsley who simply shrugged his shoulders,
“Nevermind! What's more important is to get back the blood supplies or whatever's left of it. So if you...”
“The boy's innocent, Brian. I took the blood! Yesterday evening when I pretended I needed more of my pills.”
Dr. Winsley looked incredulously at him, thinking he was joking.
“Look, you don't need to vouch for...”
But Sawatzky had already zipped open the rucksack he had been carrying, grabbed inside and, to our shock, produced a plastic bag with the dark red liquid. The pack was full with them. My mouth fell open an inch and my eyes became round. The doctor narrowed his eyes and stared at him,
“But why would you...”
“To stop ME from taking it, of course!” Another voice ripped through the hall. Sawatzky looked up and nodded grimly. The doctor and I whirled our heads around to face the one who had spoken. There, Horace was standing, grinning shamelessly at us all. But the look in his eyes weren't matching the smile.
“Hello, Zeus! Long time, no see!” Sawatzky greeted him.
I couldn't believe my ears,
“Horace is Zeus?! I thought...”
“Step back, cub! This is between the two of us only!” Horace growled at me.
“How do you know about all this?!” I addressed Mr. Sawatzky who wasn't taking his eyes from Horace; or Zeus, for that matter. The prospects had changed completely now, and I was confused. Sheena and I had gotten it all wrong. But I had only myself to blame. I had wanted to take revenge on my father who had abandoned us and I hadn't seen the signs.
“You promised you'd never return!” Sawatzky growled at Horace. Dr. Winsley and I were standing right in the middle of this verbal crossfire, about fifteen feet away from either of them.
“And you promised you'd never use your powers!” He gave back.
I glanced out of the window and with a shock I registered that the clouds were soon going to make way for the rays of the full moon, its light already creating a back-illuminating glow. A cold shiver went down my spine.
“Well, then I suppose we both will fail at keeping our promises...” Sawatzky said ominously.
“I'm here to fulfill my plans, tonight. You are welcome to have your share. Just don't get in my way!” Horace said.
“All I want is get my son back.” Sawatzky said with urgency in his voice. He looked at me, “Do you have any idea where Frank could be hiding, son?”
The rate of my breathing was increasing rapidly now. This was too much to take in all at once for me to stay calm,
“Frank?! How would I...”
“He's with me, Gene! Or would you rather be called Atlas? The name you acquired when you slayed your first victim... our own father.”
“In contrast to you, I never kill for amusement, Zeus!”
“Right, I assume you would call it `protection of greater interests'. Your interests!”
“He was dangerous...” Sawatzky said quietly.
“He could always control his impulses, his nature... he tried to teach us to do the same!” Horace pointed out.
“... and mad.” Sawatzky tone had sharpened.
“No, it was you! You just couldn't swallow your pride when he tried to contain your dissolute lifestyle.”
“Don't go down that alley, Zeus! Yes, I was young and foolish... but he was unscrupulous and blood thirsty.” Sawatzky raised his voice ever so slightly, “Look what has become of you! Changing appearances...”
“I tried, brother. God knows I did. But temptations... thirst for fresh, warm blood and a chance at vengeance... it became all too much for me to resist.” Horace's voice had become hoarse and he sounded almost desperate.
“So the plan being a doctor, having access to regular blood supplies has, sadly enough, proved not inadequate to quench your thirst.” Sawatzky shook his head pitifully.
“Who are you to judge me, brother?”
“I didn't come to judge. What I am concerned about is my son, Frank. By some miracle he never turned into a werewolf on his sixteenth birthday, as I feared he would. That gives me hope that the spell is broken, that the bloodline has somehow been disrupted. But if you have harmed him in any way...”
“Don't fret, brother, he is unscathed... and, so far, oblivious of the family secrets that we are keeping.” Horace said with a chuckle. But his calmness appeared forced. I noticed how he kept glancing at the plump backpack in Sawatzky's hands more eagerly by the second. But he kept his composure, “Actually, tonight he is planning to do us all a favor. Perhaps, even as we speak. But he has no idea which side he is fighting for. He is simply a young man who is looking for recognition that his father has deprived him of. I can relate to that, you know...”
I was starting to feel faint and dizzy. Dr. Winsley just looked plainly confused and apparently wasn't taking any of this seriously,
“Gentlemen! This is all very amusing but I must ask you to continue your Christmas pageant another time. If I may recall: we do have a very ill patient to tend to!” He turned and started going down the hall, heading toward the room where they had brought Miles. I winced at the thought that he was running right into the arms of Horace, who was Zeus as I now had learned. Going down the hall, Dr. Winsley turned his head back once more to say,
“Mr. Sawatzky! I'm glad you returned the blood supplies. Ron, if you would bring the blood bags into... What the...!?”
Dr. Winsley tore open his eyes and I turned to see what had caused his horror-filled expression. Then I saw it, too. Moonlight had started streaming into the building and falling onto Sawatzky who was transforming rapidly, now. I never actually witnessed the process from outside but it was stomach turning to watch how the face, extremities, and the rest of the body deformed and skewed into their new shapes. Horace reacted quickest and headed for the window to dip into the moonlight, too. In the act, he happened to brush past poor Dr. Winsley, roughly pushing him aside. I stood frozen to the ground, incapable of moving, as Horace crashed head first through the window and almost instantly transformed into a werewolf. Then, being on four legs, he whirled around swiftly, jumped back inside and landed behind the receptionist's counter, sending objects and papers over the edge and across the floor. Horace was now a werewolf. Not just anyone. I recognized his gray fur and yellowish eyes immediately. He was indeed Zeus.
For a moment the two beasts stood facing each other, staring each other down, baring their fangs, growling low. Still being in my human form, I couldn't understand if they were actually saying anthing. I could only watch and breathe weakly as the stand-off ate at time. I glanced down to the doctor who was still on his knees holding the side of his arm and stunned to silence. In this atmosphere of pressing suspense, ready to erupt at any second, Nurse Kate suddenly entered the reception area out of nowhere, rushing in to look what was going on. Without a warning, Zeus pounced across the room, hit her squarely in the chest and threw her to the ground. Remorselessly, he slit open her throat with his sharp fangs, lapped up a few tongue-fulls of the gushing red liquid and licked his snout.
As the life drained out of Nurse Kate, I felt nausea rising from my stomach. Dr. Winsley cried out something in despair but I held him back, knowing that he was only putting his own life at risk. I desperately needed to transform. But the way to the moonlight was blocked by the beasts. Dr. Winsley looked at me and he seemed to understand my situation. Although all this must have seemed like a nightmarish figment of his own imagination. Then with a surge, he jumped for the knob of one of the doors to a patient room and swung it open for me. It was dark inside except for a small patch of pale moonlight on the floor from the moon that was hanging low in the sky. I jumped up and past the doctor to immerse myself in the magical rays and, a second later, I felt how the cells in my body started bursting, my tendons stretching painfully. My jaws seemed to be popping out from their joints, fur grew in my face, my eyeballs stung as they expanded in their holes, and there was an almost unbearable ringing in my ears. In other words, the usual side-effects of my transformation were hitting me.
“Byron?!” I heard the weak voice of my mother as I stood beside her bed, once again deformed to the beast in me.
I growled low. That being one of the least intimidating noises I could make like this. But, weary as she was with half-opened eyes, mom obviously didn't even notice my altered state. To my surprise, she swung out her legs from under her blankets and set her bare feet on the tiles below her bed, just outside the moonlit area. Then the clouds covered that source of light and the darkness tightened. She sat there for a second, round backed and sighed,
“I've kept this inside for too long. Your father deserves to know the truth.”
The truth? What truth? I wondered. But only for a fraction of a second because outside in the hall I saw Dr. Winsley stumbling backwards, his face contorted with a mixture of horror and disbelief.
“Out of the way, brother! The doctor's next!”
Without thinking, I lept forward, out of the room and into the hall, just in time to collide into the furry side of a pouncing Zeus. The head-on crash took the air out of my lungs. His body seemed to be made of stone. But the blow proved strong enough to spare Dr. Winsley from being overrun, crushed, and becoming another one of Zeus's victims. The two of us beasts first crashed into the wall and then tumbled to the floor. The doctor was alert enough to scramble out of the line of fire and behind another door further down the hall.
Zeus and I got up simultaneously and I realized that Atlas had come from behind and was now joining forces with me. Standing at the other end of the hall and facing us again, Zeus displayed a werewolfish grin,
“Not bad, cub. You're quick, I'll give you that!”
“Don't do this, Horace!”
“It's `Zeus' now, cub. And you still haven't made a name for yourself.”
“I don't regret that!”
“Why? You could've had that beautiful girl for a mate if you had transformed her!”
“Yeah, but it's too late now! She joined us.”
“No!” I howled.
“Yes. And she's willing to destroy you. And she's not the only one, I can tell you.” Zeus relayed. “That storm that the veela evoked last fullmoon proved to be such an excellent cover for us!”
“It was the veela girl who was controlling the storm?! Impossible!” Atlas cried out. “Unless she is... but Michelle never let me...”
I didn't know what Atlas was getting at. I adressed Zeus and I retorted,
“At least, she took down two of your pack!”
“Two for twenty isn't so bad, right?” Zeus said slyly. I choked. Who had he been able to transform?
“What did you do to my sister?!” I gasped when I realized the implication. Zeus didn't answer directly but growled deeply.
“Keep out of our way. Now that the veela soon will be vanquished, the town belongs to us! You have been warned!”
Then, with a mighty leap, he split and passed us, jumped through the broken window and disappeared into the darkness.
After a second of recovering, I looked at Atlas, almost begging him,
“He must be stopped! He's gone mad!”
He looked back at me,
“He's a werewolf... who's tried to fight his nature for a long time... in vain.”
“...and you?” I took a more defensive stance. He looked every bit the terrible beast that Zeus was. I wasn't quite certain where Atlas stood in the scheme of things.
“I've had my weak moments... but as I said: I don't kill for pleasure.”
“Your father...” I recalled.
“He had it coming. Nothing had ever been holy to him.” I sensed a deep pain as he spoke; or rather growled. “But you're right. My brother needs to be stopped as well. He's using my son for his purposes. I can't let that happen. He's an innocent kid.”
Not so innocent, I thought. But I just added,
“He's got my sister as well!” I was desperately hanging on to believing that there was still hope for her sake. “Zeus will attack and transform everyone he can in Baskerville!”
“No.” He said with sudden determination, “This is still my town. Neither humans, such as Jack Mansdale, nor beasts have the right to intrude!”
Before I could react, he lept out of the shattered window and dissappeared into the dark and, once again, moonless night. Immediately, my thoughts went to Sheena. As I turned to look down the hall where they had brought her father, Dr. Winsley re-emerged, carefully approaching me,
“That's you, Ron, isn't it?”
I nodded to confirm. It felt strange to find that he had accepted the fact that the werewolf world was real.
“Look, I think that Sheena's father is out of immediate danger.” He looked out the window where the other two beast had gone through. “Sawatzky... he wants to chase Horace down, right?”
I nodded again. He came closer, feeling safe with me. I saw how he winced when he saw poor Nurse Kate lying in her blood.
“You must help him. Make sure that he can't do this to anyone... whoa!” He stopped in his tracks and stared into one of the rooms. Its door was wide open. The next second he rushed in and switched on the light. With two large strides I was at his side. It was my mom's room, I realized. When I looked inside, I could only see her empty bed. Dr. Winsley whimpered,
“Oh my God! Was she taken by...?”
But there was no sign of a fight or blood. I recalled that she had sat up and mumbled something amounting to that my father needed to know the truth. Then the doctor slapped his forehead,
“Wait, I know! She was talking all day about having to go to the Dinner Reception tonight. I thought I finally had talked her out of it. Said she had to set things straight with your father.” He looked at me. I don't know if he recognized my fazed expression. “Ron, she's much too weak, still. You are aware of that her surgery had encountered complications. Any amount of overstraining may lead to artery rupture and inner bleeding. You have to get her back immediately!”
I nodded once more and dashed off, leaving the building the same way as the others had done before me.
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