The search was invariably fruitless.
The path was cluttered with the debris of the past.
The parade of childhood humiliations always led him down blind alleys.
Religion and psychoanalysis failed.
Rationalism was but a damp squib.
Travel to foreign lands yielded nothing but more sores to scratch.
Satiation, indulgence, rather than healing his scars, only lacerated him more.
And then a chance encounter in a snow-smothered car park, as the night creaked into morning, brought a flash of anger.
The slash of a knife.
For a time.
Until the scars slowly returned.
And he killed again.
Another long hot summer had cast dark, elongated shadows that smothered The City’s pitch black secrets. As the sweltering, hazy days stretched out to snapping point, those secrets were jolted into the glare of light.
At times like these, being a private eye, especially a werewolf private eye, could take its toll. Which is why the womb of Duffy’s Bar was always so comforting.
“ The Professor’ss back,” I said to Duffy, who was clearing up the previous night’s debris.
I sipped a shot of Dark Valentine, rubbed my tired, red eyes. I ached for sleep.
I ached from the previous night’s prowl, too. I’d had a scuffle with Brother Cage, the leader of one of the many crackpot religions that were infecting The City. I’d managed to take out a few of his henchmen before ripping him to shreds, but they’d got in a few good shots themselves.
Duffy stopped mopping the beer and bloodstained floor. Leaned the mop against the bar.
“You sure?” he said. He scratched his acne-scarred face.
“Oh, yes. It’s him. Unless there’s a copycat killer. But according to Ivan, six corpses have been found with the brains scooped out. Presumably eaten by the killer,” I said.
Detective Ivan Walker was my former partner. Back in the days before I’d been afflicted by full moon fever.
“All rich old men between the ages of seventy-five and eighty?” said Duffy.
“Yep. They fit The Professor’s MO, alright. The only difference is that these guys had been ripped to shreds first.”
Duffy slammed a heavy fist against the side of the Wurlitzer jukebox. Stepped back behind the bar. Poured himself a shot of Dark Valentine.
Knocked it back. Poured another. A Julie London song about black coffee oozed through the room.
“How long is it since he went AWOL?” said Duffy, as he looked up at the plasma television screen that he’d recently installed in an attempt to bring in new customers.
An attempt that had pretty much failed.
Apart from me, the only other customer was a thick-set old man in a double-breasted pinstripe suit. He’d been nursing a pint of Guinness for over an hour and didn’t seem in any hurry to finish it. A typical Monday afternoon, then.
The flickering TV showed an old black and white Tarzan film that had been colourised. I growled in disapproval.
“The Prof hasn’t been seen for five years. Same time as The Brain Salad Murders stopped,” I said.
The press had given the murders a typically colourful name, as if they weren’t lurid enough. Murders were ten a penny in The City, of course, but these caused a stir like no other.
The fact that the victims were all powerful, rich, old blokes probably had a lot to do with that. Every one was a big shot. Bankers, judges, media moguls. Even Police Commissioner O’ Neil. Every cop in The City had been told to make it a priority. And let every other one of The City’s crime victims help themselves.
Professor Galimova – a nutjob that had been fired from The City University for “an undisclosed matter” – sent a letter to The City Gazette confessing to the crimes and saying that he was on a mission to harvest The City’s corrupt souls. But, shortly afterwards, the murders suddenly stopped and it was assumed that Galimova had been killed. Until now.
I rubbed my eyes again. Yawned.
The beast roared and shards and slivers of pain sliced through his flesh.
The slivers became a throb. And the throb faded to silence.
A stillness consumed him.
A calming darkness.
And the sea of sleep enfolded him.
Until the chill night, when bathed in the milk of the moon, he raged.
And he roared.
“Duffy, can I have the key to the back room? I’ll be canoodling with Morpheus any minute,” I said.
“Sure.” He handed me the big brass key.
Duffy’s spare room was Spartan, to say the least. A simple single bed. A table. A chair. And a bottle of Dark Valentine. I opened the bottle and took a swig, switched off the light and plonked down onto the bed.
I could hear an Al Green tune playing in the bar and was heading into the void when I heard a voice.
“Perhaps you would like a bedtime story, Detective Dalton.”
I wrenched my eyes open. Let them adjust to the dark.
Sat at the table was the old guy from the bar. He poured a shot of DV into a tumbler and sipped.
“My name is Professor Galimova. I believe that you are aware of my reputation?”
“Yeah, and you look kinda familiar,” I said, sitting up.
I held out my hand and he passed me the bottle of booze.
“Well, that’s nice to know. I’m sure you have infected many since your transformation. I assumed we’d all blurred into one.”
I took a swig of DV.
“Oh,” I said, twigging what the Prof was talking about.
“Yes, ‘oh’,” said The Professor, with a smirk.
“Six months ago, of course. I was about to harvest your old friend Ton Ton Philippe, in fact, when I was set upon by a wild beast. You.”
“So that’s why you stopped …”
“And now you’re back?”
“Indeed. I tried to cleanse myself of your disease, but to no avail. So I accepted that the affliction is, in fact, a gift and decided to return to The City to continue my work. But with an added strength when the moon is full, of course.”
“So, cheers to you, Detective Dalton,” he said. He finished off his drink.
“Na zdrowia,” I said.
I took another mouthful of DV.
The Professor grinned, stood and walked out the door.
So, the worst serial killer in The City’s history was back. Stronger and more powerful than ever. And I was responsible.
I shuffled my stiff body off the bed and prepared to follow Galimova, but then I thought of the particular demographic of The Professor’s victims.
The crème de la crème here in The City. They’d be sitting ducks for a werewolf serial killer, for sure.
And then I lay back down and went to sleep.
The City’s neon-drenched, sin-soaked streets and alleyways called to him.
The silver moon sang a seductive refrain.
And The Professor was again consumed with a hunger.
A hunger for the corrupt.
(c) Paul D. Brazill