Chapter Two: Pest Control
The man stepped off the plane, his faded black overcoat flapping back and forth like a pair of folded wings. He shouldered a large black bag and walked down the ramp, heading straight to the baggage claim. He pulled the bag off of the conveyor and walked out through the automatic doors. Taking out a secured cell phone, he punched in a number. Anyone watching would have noticed his hobbled gait, but they would not have known it was because of his prosthetic right leg.
"Alestair? It's Dirk. I'm-" His words were cut off by a car's horn blaring. "Oh, never mind. I see you." The phone went back into his pocket, and he walked over to the classic car. The door opened, and a slender man with greying hair stepped out of the car.
"Hello," he said, his voice clipped, British, and dignified. "It's been too long." Dirk set his suitcase off to the side and embraced the man before loading his luggage in the back. Alestair turned the key in the ignition and pulled out of the space. "What are we looking at?" Dirk asked.
Alestair sighed and straightened the purple tie on his collar. "It's worse than we feared. It seems that someone's broken The Vatican Accords, and they're rubbing it in the families' faces."
"Right. So where's our headquarters at the moment?" Dirk asked.
Alestair spun the wheel, turning down a side street. "Our current base of operations is an apartment a few minutes from the airport."
"I see. Our current manpower?" His mind was already moving ahead, making a million calculations a minute. "Because from what I've seen of the news, they're well organized and clearly not messing around."
"There's you, I, and Thorvald," he replied.
Dirk nodded. "That's a good start."
The apartment was Spartan in decor, but then again, with three currently single men residing there, there was little reason to decorate. Newspaper articles lay all over the table like corpses on a battlefield and, as Dirk and Alestair walked through the door, a man sitting with his boots on the table waved in their direction.
"The hound arrives," he said. "Been a while, hunter."
Dirk waved in his direction. "And the washed up pagan sculpture model. How's it been in my absence?"
The man shrugged. "Oh, you know. The world isn't quite what it used to be. Although I'm hardly complaining; after all, the Aztec pantheon got what it deserved. I assume that bloodbath was your work?"
"You assume correctly," the other man replied, sighing. "It wasn't fun, but they don't pay me for fun. Now, what do we know?"
"Not much," Thorvald admitted.
"To be fair, that's not unusual for you," Alestair put in. Thorvald glared at him, but Alestair was too busy being fabulously British to notice. "But on a less jovial note, he's right. We've basically nothing to show for months of work."
Dirk shrugged, indifferently. "We've seen worse. Remember France? But anyway, what do we know?"
"Bare bones," sighed Thorvald, taking his muddied boots off the table.
"He means that we know basics. There's been quite a few murders, matching a variety of M.Os." Alestair held up a newspaper. "Vampires." He tossed onto the table and held up a second. "Werewolves. And more."
"I see," Dirk said, analyzing the articles simply based on the articles' headlines. "So we have multiple species, some of them bitter enemies, inexplicably working together. So then we have to assume that they're organized."
Alestair nodded, understanding enough to pick up the line of reasoning. "Which means that the culprits aren't going to know what we need to."
"The right one will," Thorvald replied. "We just have to go through them until we find the right one."
"Where am I supposed to start?" Dirk asked.
Alestair looked at his friend, concerned. "Please don't do this alone. You could use help. And you know it."
"I can make it," he said softly. "But I wouldn't mind the backup. Where do we start?"
"How does beating the crap out of some angry gangbangers sound?" Thorvald asked.
Dirk shrugged. "I wouldn't mind cracking some heads."
4 Hours Later
Dirk walked down the street, his hands shoved into his pockets. the hunter's eyes darted from side to side; though he could see no obvious signs of the gang that was supposed to operate in this area, he knew that meant nothing. Visible danger is giving you a chance to beat it to a pulp. Dirk was surprised to hear his father's voice. And so it wouldn't be danger. He shook his head, dispatching the memory. And look where that got you, old man, Dirk thought, feeling a twinge of regret tugging at his heartstrings. And then he was aware of two people behind him.
Ten steps behind, and a few to either side, he thought. Are they after me, or do they just happen to be using the sidewalk too? Despite the urge, he did not look behind him.
Then came the shot. Even if he had been faster, with vampire's reflexes or senses, even then, Dirk would not have perceived the weapon until it was far to late to do anything about it. The bullet sliced through his coat and his arm, sending a small spurt of blood into the air. He turned just in time to take the second shot into his right shoulder. The bullet would have penetrated, if not for the Kevlar weave of his overcoat. As it was, the shot still tore through some of the fabric, as a point-blank .45 round would not be fully deflected, even by the bulletproof clothing. Then his own revolver was in his hand, and the right arm was fanning the hammer.
This weapon, however, was not a .45 pistol. Rather, it was a customized 9-millimeter revolver, loaded with silver bullets soaked in essence of white oak and clover leaf, with a little holy water thrown in for good measure. Both shots tore from the barrel in crimson streaks, both aimed at the men behind him. They barely grazed the men, but both of them howled in agony as the wounds started to smolder.
Something in the bullets hurt them, He realized. The smoke doesn't happen because of the silver. They're not vampires or werewolves. That sent alarm bells ringing in his head. Monsters unaffected by silver shouldn't be here. The one looked at him, his eyes flaring yellow.
"You made a big mistake," the man/thing growled, his voice accented. Spanish. Maybe South American. His mind started to race.
"I highly doubt that," Dirk said, with more confidence in his voice than he felt. "I think you're out of your league." The other creature's eyes flashed pale blue. Kitsune, the hunter thought. That means that the only thing I have that can...The gears in his brain locked in place, crafting a decent plan.
The kitsune closed first. It had the gun, but Dirk easily yanked it from his hands. Before the beast could blink, the hunter's hand came up, knocking him backward. His eyes cleared momentarily, and he saw the man dropped back into a fighting stance. He could not help but laugh.
"Really?" The monster said. "You really think you can match me in a fight? I'm a monster, and far stronger than you'll ever be, human."
Dirk grinned causally. "Well, maybe that would be true, if I were human." The kitsune rushed him, changing shape as it did so. Tattooed human flesh changed into fur-covered hide. Normal, rather chiseled features changed into an elongated, snarling face. The monster launched itself at the hunter, and the two clashed.
Any bystander, had they been able to see anything in the lightning exchange of blows, would have said that there was no science behind either of them. True, the hunter was clearly the more trained combatant, but his attacker's brute force and speed left little room for fancy footwork or clever maneuvers. Instead, the kitsune relied on the strength and speed its abilities granted him, while the hunter relied on his arsenal and evading its claws. Two silver daggers flew from his hands, striking the creature in both its arms. It howled, but kept on coming. Then, as it closed to close combat range, came the hunter's hand-to-hand fighting skills.
The first clue the monster had that his opponent was trained was that Dirk impaled one of its limbs against a wall with a knife. Having isolated one threat, and pinned it down, Dirk went about his grim work. Bones broke and ligaments tore beneath the barrage of precise blows, and soon the creature was little more than a bleeding, howling mess. As the monster writhed, Dirk drew a long, straight knife and buried it in the kitsune's chest up to the hilt. Not, however and importantly, in the monster's heart.
The beast screamed, staggering back. Blood trickled down his lips, and he kept howling like a wounded dog.
"That blade won't kill you." Dirk's voice sounded hollow in his ears, but steadier than he felt at the moment. He could feel the rush of blood through his veins and it pounding in his ears. "You know that. I missed the heart on purpose. I don't believe that either of you are murderers. Criminals, sure, but unless you want to add a murder rap to the sheet, stop and listen. I need information, and I'll bet you have some."
The other man's yellowed eyes narrowed. "And why would we share with you? You're a hunter, obviously, and a good one, what's more. No human can fight a kitsune and live."
"Or a coatl?" He asked. The other man flinched.
"You know what I am?" Even for all of his years of experience, the man could not hide the surprise in his voice. "How? No hunter has seen a coatl for...well, for a long time."
Dirk grinned. "I've seen more than most. Now, do you want to get to the lethal stuff, or can we talk like civilized creatures?"
The kitsune hesitated. "Well, my family is expecting me home for dinner..." Dirk sighed.
"And yet you jumped me. Why?"
"We thought you might be one of the new ones," the coatl said. "There have been new ones coming in. Monsters we've never seen. Aggressive and brutal. So brutal that the Sobeks won't go near them."
Dirk's eyes actually widened. "New monsters? What are they like?" The Kitsune shook his head.
"We don't know. We've only ever seen their handiwork." The kitsune shivered. "And it isn't pretty."
"They're killing other monsters?" Dirk asked, surprised.
The coatl nodded, noting the hunter's concern. "Why do you care? Aren't we just monsters to you?" Dirk looked down, pondering the question.
"It's a bit more complicated than that," he replied finally. "But no. I'm here to stop these-whatever they are." Dirk got up to go, but stopped. "Oh yeah. My knives. I want them back." The kitsune sighed, painfully yanking them from the wounds.
"Here," he growled. "Next time, just ask for information. We're not all bad, you know." Dirk rubbed his shoulder absently.
"No, just a little trigger happy," he replied, smiling despite himself. "Now go home. Also. What is your family having for dinner?"
The kitsune glared at him. "Caesar salad. We're vegetarian." Dirk blinked.
"Wow. I've been out of the game for a while if kitsune are going hippie," he muttered, turning away. His coat snapped behind him like a cape, and the hunter vanished into the murky night.
He walked into the bar a little before ten. Alestair was there, his formal outfit dirty and torn. As Dirk sat down, Thorvald sat down right beside them.
"You're looking about how I feel," Thorvald's voice was a lot softer than Dirk had expected. "Rough night?"
The vampire held up his glass for the bartender to fill. The werewolf behind the counter looked at him a little leerily, but he obliged. "You could say that. I somehow got into it with a Ruursa and an Ennedi."
"I met a kitsune and a coatl." Dirk sighed, looking at the wolf. "Whiskey. Strongest you got."
"Beer," Thorvald said. The wolf poured each of them a glass, and they drank. After several drinks, Dirk spoke.
"They're scared," he told the others, putting the glass down with more force than he had meant to. "And that surprises me. I mean, a wendigo, afraid? Sure, this one said his family isn't violent, but they aren't exactly pushovers even if they're a bunch of hippie pacifists."
Alestair sighed, biting his lip in agitation. "But we can't figure out what they're afraid of. So what good does that do us?"
"Plenty." Thorvald took a long drink and then ordered another round.
"How?" Alestair asked, his voice angry. In truth, this irritated him in more ways than one. He liked his work simple, easy in and out. This, however, had not been one of the easy ones, and it irritated him to realize that it would be the most work he had ever put into something.
"We know that it's something strong," Dirk pointed out, his voice soft. "And we know to go in eyes open. They're scared, which means they're not used to it." He took a heavy drink of whiskey, his face twisting in pained delight as he did. "I mean, I usually go around armed, but now you know you should, too. I mean, I have no idea what we're looking at, but being able to decapitate them shouldn't hurt any."
Alestair sighed. "You know we can't just walk around with machetes in our pants. What happens when we get stopped by the police?"
"We'll cross that bridge and all that," Thorvald suggested. "Seems better than worrying about it, don't you agree?"
"I'm not worrying," Alestair snapped back.
Thorvald drained his glass and scowled. "Then what would you call it? You can't plan around what you don't know, and we can't learn unless we work at it."
"I know," the vampire replied. "But if working at it is going to get one or more of us killed, then is it a good idea?"
"Sounds like an excellent idea," Dirk growled rather sarcastically. "No, we're not going to get killed. And no, we're not going in without a plan. What we are going to do is be decent folk about it and not lose our heads. Metaphorically or literally. That clear?" He sighed. "Look, I know it's been awhile since the trenches, but you two have to get along, okay? We've been through a lot together, and the last thing I want is for you two to rip each other's throats before we get this job underway." Thorvald nodded.
"Sounds like a plan."
Alestair grinned casually, baring his fangs in anticipation. "I can drink to that, I suppose."
"I found a connection." Lucas Freyton pounded the desk. "Between the victims. I found one!"
The police chief looked up, interested. "Oh? And what's that?"
"Gang members. They're all members of gangs, but..." the agent paused for dramatic effect before continuing. "Get this, they're not members of the same gang."
"So someone's just offing gangbangers for the fun of it?" The chief made no effort to hide the sarcasm and derision in his voice, which upset Lucas to no end.
"That's exactly what's happening," The police chief said. "Unless you can find a better explanation, which I significantly doubt you can."
The agent sighed. "Well, got any gangsters in lockup we can talk to?"
"I do," the chief said, catching the reasoning. "And I have one or two who could be made to talk given the right circumstances."
"Then let's get started," he said, getting up from the table.
"Not so fast," Douglas said softly. "See, I can interrogate him, but he's a slippery jerk. So try if you want, but I can't honestly promise you'll get what you want. Or that you'll like the answers he gives you. Because if I'm honest, I wish I didn't even have to go to the sleazebag, but if you really want an answer, you have no choice."
Lucas swore. "Well, that's great. Relying on a pathological liar doesn't really sit well with me."
"Well, either we go to him or go on nothing," Douglas said. "Unless you find another talkative gangbanger."
"Fair point." And Lucas left the room.