Written and Illustrated by Christopher Harvill
I was sitting at the bar with my jacket off and my old fashioned in hand when they made their entrance through the door. This had become a bit of a thing and I hadn’t wanted to miss a second of it.
Avery was in a dark blue tuxedo, hair tied back. Cassandra was… well, was Cassandra. Hair flowing as if in a breeze. Her gown trailed on the floor as if trying to keep up.
The two took to the middle of the room with every eye on them, dancers and partygoers parting like The Red Sea did before Heston. It was December, 1945. The war was won. Time to dance.
With a nod from Benny Goodman the band erupted. Avery and Cassandra moved like on a cloud. Quickstep. Left whisks. Viennese variations. Feather touches to the hand, slight tilts of the shoulder, their moves simply perfection. He had been around a zillion years and she was once a god’s girlfriend once, so what do you expect.
Avery dipped Cassandra to the floor, their lips a hairs-breath apart. I gave them a second. Let that sexual tension they had been building up these last few weeks since Los Angeles get closer to the red.
“Gimme rock and roll any day,” I said, sticking my face in between them, gesturing across the room to Avery’s door. I could hear the knocking on it from across the room. The door stood there amongst the crowd unseen to all but the three of us.
Avery seemed perplexed as we approached it. “Odd. I usually sense its arrival.”
“Distracted?” Cassandra asked, a touch to his arm.
Avery didn’t notice. He was all business now.
He took the knob in hand. Steeling himself, then making sure we were ready, he opened it.
It was night. A big clock chimed.
Then came the unmistakable smell, and I knew this was all wrong.
I threw myself in front of Avery and thrust him as hard as I could back through the door as I changed from human to lychan. Hair formed over me, my teeth and nails becoming deadly sharp.
The door slammed shut behind me as I roared in defiance. It’s a badass thing, my roar. A ‘curdle milk’, ‘wet your pants’, ‘send you home to momma’ thing.
I was met by twenty others in return. I had never heard anything like it. A pack of three, maybe, howling after a hunt. Five once. But this? This was unheard of.
They came at me, so I came at them. Time for my kind of dancing.
Travel with Avery, you learn a thing or two about fighting. A few hundred different things. Moves time had forgotten, we had taken with us from our travels through it. I had put three down before the first hit the ground, but the odds weren’t in my favor.
Claws, fangs, and muscle hammered at me and I circled backward. A brick building to my rear offered a fire escape and I took to it, hoping to get some elevation on my attackers. Meet them one on one.
The blow came without warning. A strike at my temple from behind that felt like a sledgehammer. I turned just in time, got my claw into a face that drew blood, but then another swing from a weighted staff sent me spiraling back down to earth.
I hit the cobblestone street hard, just a second before my attacker landed on my back. Grabbing my scalp, he drove me into the muck that filled the alley. Once. Twice. A third time.
“Well, let me say, you didn’t disappoint,” he said, catching his breath. Guy had an English acsent. Strong as hell. “Those blows would have ripped a normal man’s head clean off.” He cracked his back. Sounded like breaking a two by four. “But we aren’t normal, are we, pal? “
He pressed his weight into me. “Introductions. I’m Damarcus Hill.” I could hear the smile in his tone. The gloating. “We’ve been waiting.”
I spat. Gritted my teeth. Showed as much bravado as a guy whose ass was just handed to him could. “Gonna have to settle for me, buddy.” I tried to turn but he held my head fast. “Avery won’t fall for a trap like that. Not in a million years.”
The pack howled at hearing that. And this Damarcus guy? He actually laughed.
“Oh, don’t worry. We’ll get around to your Doorway Man soon enough, Mr. Crowe. But you see…” he lent in close, the point of his cane driving hard into my neck, “…this trap was set for you.”