Precinct Room 14.
On the wall was a cork peg board that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a schoolroom.
Photographs and bits of paper were linked by red tape to different spots on the map.
Lieutenants Cord and Samurez were standing each side of the board.
A large group of officers both uniformed and plain clothed were sitting where ever they could.
The Captain was talking.
“In a moment you are going to hear from the Lieutenants the details of what has happened but I want to simply stress that though the victims were possible rapists, they were also human beings. The question we have to ask ourselves is will it get out of control and attack innocent people.” He looked over at the two officers before taking his seat.
“Right.” Said Cord. “The two victims were a couple of tramps called Oliver Laura and Stan Lee. They worked for their supper and a bed over in the Seaman’s Mission. Both were drunks and drug users.”
“The attack took place in Life Park. Their victim, a croupier, called Angie Lessen.” Carlos took over. “She was on her way home as usual when she was snatched by the tramps and brought to the park where they cut off her clothes. It was there that the creature attacked and killed them leaving the girl alive but in a distressed condition.”
“A minute or two later the local patrol officer found them. From the looks of it the Panther was up a tree possibly resting, possibly waiting till somebody came close enough to be its supper.”
“Are we looking for an animal or a human Lieutenant?” A uniformed sergeant asked.
“Probably both. Lieutenant Carlos and me had a brief meeting with him in the Free.” He was drowned out by laughter and good natured cat calling. “Yes I know what your thinking but you are no more surprised than we were. A heavily muscled man in a cat suit jumped out of a window ten stories up and ran around a wall and dropped on to the flat roof building next door. Now I said a heavily muscled man because the other choice is to bizarre to contemplate.”
“And that is sir?”
“That we are dealing with a hybrid of a man and Black Panther.”
Cords words hung icily in the air sucking all the bonhomie out with it.
“Now this is not the first time this creature has struck.” Carlos told them as he pointed out on the map the others. “The first was mauled to death two weeks ago. A Harvey Stott. He was a protection racket thug. A pair of loft and ladder men were killed after robbing an old peoples home of jewellery. The next two victims were small fry gangsters.”
“Do we need to do anything if its targeting the bad guys?” A pretty female officer asked.
“Yes we do. The cats owner may be thinking in his twisted mind he is doing a public service but he is not. What if the Wildcat gets out of his control and goes on a rampage. We can’t take the risk.”
“Were they all killed the same way Lieutenant?” Another officer asked.
“No. The first was ripped to shreds, the second was killed by a crushing blow to the back of the head and the third clawed and bitten, the last two died of a crushed windpipe or to be exact ripped out. They were not considered to be by the same perpetrator until now. It was if the pair of them were learning their trade. For all we know they may have been targeting lowlifes as practice before attacking someone important. No more questions? Good.” Cord looked around at the faces of the police officers around him and wondered what would happen if any of them were confronted by the beast. “Right now someone must have seen something last night. Tom head up a team and speak to the locals, streetwalkers anyone who may have been around before or after the attack.
John do the same with the hospital. I can’t believe we were the only ones who saw anything this morning. Check the buildings that surround the hospital. Mary Jane get your girls on the phones and find out from the zoos and local veterinary if any one has exotic pets. Beth you and Robert go back over the old files and see if there is anything that may be useful.
The Captain nodded and got to his feet.
“You’ve all been given your assignments. Use tact we don’t want to alarm the public. The newspapers do that on their own without any help from us. Good luck.
Keep us informed Cord?”
“Yes sir.” Cord turned to his men and women after the Captain had left. “Well what are you all sitting here for, come on chop chop.”
“And what are we going to do?” Carlos asked.
“We are going to have a coffee and bagel at the diner off 23rd and Maple and then we are going to visit our Zoo expert. Whoever has this Wildcat needs to keep it quiet during the day and that won’t be an easy task.” He picked up his raincoat and battered fedora and led his compatriot out.
In a dimly lit room a heavy man sat patiently his fingers steepled in front of him. A smoking cigar lay in the ornate glass ashtray.
The door opened and a weasel looking man crossed over to the desk, his shoeless feet sinking into the thick pile of the carpet.
“Well?” The larger man asked.
“It’s going as planned Brimstone.” The other said.
“Me I like the niceties in life. The simple politeness of things.” Brimstone clicked his fingers and a heavily muscled thug stepped from the shadows and punched the man in the stomach winding him.
“Shall we start again Mr Douglas Lent? Or is there need for more discipline.”
“Sorry Mr Brimstone.” Douglas said quickly to avoid any more punishment. “Everything is going to plan so far sir. My dim brother is following Grant wherever he goes. He thinks he’s on a case of Grant seeing a married woman. He is so bad at surveillance Grant can’t miss him. If that isn’t enough to put him off the fight we found an old buddy he had been spotted having coffee with. A Law student by all accounts. We paid him a visit and he is alas in hospital after being badly beaten.”
“We can not be allowed to falter over this Mr Lent. We can’t afford to allow a nigger to become world champion boxer. If you make a mistake then you will have to follow this poor soul here.”
A spot light picked out a thin almost emaciated black man hanging in chains from the ceiling in the far uncarpeted corner.
The panel beneath his feet was pulled away to reveal a pit of molten Sulphur. Burning hot vapour flicked up around the mans feet making him scream. With mounting horror he watched the coloured man being lowered screaming slowly into the molten pit.
The smell of sulphur, brimstone, filled the air.
Brimstone lent forward, the light revealing his sulphur yellow hooded robe. Douglas, trying hard not to be sick, he could see the two pink eyes in the bone white cadaverous face as Brimstone watched with barely concealed relish.
“What is the world coming to Mr Lent when a good, God fearing, white man has to share the Greyhound bus with black and Asian filth.
The day is coming when the world will be wiped clean of the lower races Mr Lent. Mark my words Mr Lent.” He picked up his cigar and lit it before dismissing Douglas with a wave of it. “Remember my friend that Ted Grant must not win the fight or I will take it very remiss of you. I’d hate you to share the same fate.
Good Day Mr Lent.”
Once outside the room Douglas was blindfolded and led away.
Later he was unceremoniously dumped out of the car in his own district. He stumbled and almost fell. He grabbed a fire hydrant to steady himself before being violently sick in the gutter.
Unnoticed by the shivering Douglas two pairs of eyes watched him with professional interest from the diner opposite.
Cord stirred his coffee thoughtfully.
“I wonder what that was all about?” He said to his companion.
“He’s punching above his weight don’t you think?” Carlos said before biting into his bagel.
“Do you know I think it would be a friendly, humane, thing to do, to help our follow man.”
Carlos put a warning hand on his partners arm as another car picked up their suspect.
Both men put the registration of the vehicle in their note books.
“Did you get the registration of the first car Carlos?”
“Yes. but I don’t need it. The car belongs to Maxwell Brimstone. He’s an extremely rich man with four cruise liners taking the rich around the Caribbean or the Mediterranean and a mass of mining companies. He’s a bit of a recluse from what I gather but an active member of dozens of charitable concerns up and down the country.” Carlos explained. “There is some more worrying evidence that he is connected to a white supremacy group called legion 88. We can’t prove it of course and if we tried he’s got a battalion of top lawyers that’ll get him off.”
“If that’s the case why is he bothering with a low life like Douglas? And why do I get a feeling in my bones that he is mixed up in all this Wildcat stuff.”
They finished their bagels and coffee.
“Where too.” Carlos asked.
“To see our friendly neighbourhood Zoo keeper.”
Ted marched down the white, antiseptically clean, corridor like an icebreaker, everybody moved out of his way.
It took a few minutes to get by the officious receptionist down stairs. The woman didn’t have a chip on her shoulder she had the whole log.
Ted with Alan and Jim trailing in his wake made his way to the nursing station.
“Excuse me sister? I’ve come to see a new patient that’s been brought in. A Stretch Skinner.”
“Are you a relative? I can only let family in.” The sister replied keeping an eye out for the Matron at the other end of the ward.
“Yes can’t you see the family resemblance. We’re his brothers.” Alan said.
The Sister looked at each of them with a raised eyebrow.
“Same mother but different fathers.” Ted said in an attempt to explain.
Whether she believed them or not is unknown but she directed them down the corridor to room six.
Ted entered the room quietly to find Stretch in the bed surrounded by machines that monitored his life signs.
On an oscilloscope his heat rate was displayed with audible bleeps.
“Who are you?” The doctor at the bed asked.
“Ted Grant. I got a call to say Stretch was in hospital and that he was in a bad way.”
“Ah yes. I was the one that made the call. The patient was most insistent that I called you.”
Ted was by the bed now and looked down onto his friends face and flinched.
He had seen battered faces from boxing matches before but nothing on this level of damage. Stretch’s face was heavily swollen, barely recognisable.
“I’m afraid the next twenty four hours in crucial to his survival. He’s sustained multiple fractures, the worse his right arm and there’s internal organs damaged.”
Ted took a chair and plonked it beside the bed, defying anyone to move him on. He took his friends hand in his.
“Come on buddy we’re a team remember.” Ted couldn’t help but smile when he noticed that Stretch was to long for the bed and had his swathed feet propped up on a chair.
In the corner Jim was talking to a police officer while Alan spoke to the doctor. After a few minutes they joined him.
“Ted the police found him two blocks down from the gym in a side alley after a tip off. A bystander saw two men beating him up. He was on the ground being kicked.” Jim explained.
“Ted there is nothing we can do but wait. They have him heavily sedated. Come on. The hospital will let us know if anything happens.” Alan said sadly.
Ted nodded at the logic. He got up and crossed over to join the other two.
“Alan speaks sense son.” Amos immaculate as always said from his place by the nursing station. “Socko told me where you were.”
But Ted wasn’t listening he had peeked out the window and spied Alexander outside leaning on his car while he consumed a chilidog and a small bottle of root beer.
“The bastard.” Ted growl. “He’s followed us here. If he has anything to do with Stretch’s injury I’ll beat him to a pulp and see how much he likes it.”
“You’ll have to wait till I finish with him first.” Alan said his face flushed with anger.
Amos peered out of the window.
“Who is he, do we know?” He asked.
The young men said they had no idea.
“Go home all three of you and rest. I’ll stay here with ‘Stretch’ for awhile.” Amos told them. “I’ll let you know if anything happens.”
When the lads got out of the hospital Alexander was nowhere in sight.
Ted stomped over to his car in temper and drove off with a screech of tires.
“Will he be alright?” Jim asked.
“He will be. He never stays angry long.” Alan reassured him with a worried frown.
Alexander pinched the bridge of his nose to relieve his blocked and painful sinus. The car glided up the short driveway to his modest home.
The whole day had been a wash out as far as Alexander was concerned. Their was no sighting of Grants married paramour, in fact it was starting to look like he didn’t have one.
He had found out at the hospital what had happened to Grants friend and working on the likelihood of him staying there all night Alexander had taken the risk of going home to get some shut eye, after something to eat that is.
He put the key in the lock when suddenly he felt warm air on his neck. Slowly he turned round with his heartbeat thundering in his ear to find someone standing in the shadows.
His hand went round his back to where his pistol was tucked in his trousers.
“Don’t!” Snarled the stranger.
Alexander carefully lifted his hands away and brought them up to his shoulder, palms outward.
In a swift convulsive movement the Wildcats head appeared in front of him.
In horror he took a step backward.
“Leave Grant alone!!” It growled. A paw came up in front of Alexander’s face and with a click the claws appeared. “Understand, leave Grant alone?”
Alexander nodded in shear horror.
The head withdrew back into the shadows and was gone.
Alexander working on reflex pulled out his gun and fired twice into the darkness.
He then lent back against the door and tried to control his breathing.
Once indoors Alexander poured himself a large whisky with shaking hands. He downed it in one. The liquor burnt his throat as he grimaced.
Whatever it was it terrified him but at the same time he was even more intrigued about what was so special about Ted Grant. He vowed to find out.