“Fancy seeing you here,” Michael said. “Must be my lucky night.”
“No such thing as luck,” Dawn responded. “Us cops have ways of finding things out, you know.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Like your favorite hangout spots.”
“Really? You found that out on one of your cop computers?”
“No. . . actually I just asked one of your co-workers. So do you mind if I take a seat?”
“Of course not. The waitress is going to be pissed she has to set out another place setting, though.”
Dawn seated herself across the table from Michael. “Don't be silly,” she said. “This dump doesn't have waitresses. I only need a coffee, anyway.”
Michael only knew Dawn via chance encounters, much like Aaron Russell, the man who had since been interred within a closed casket in pieces. Michael had been content to keep the living world at a distance since his divorce, but tonight he couldn't help but feel grateful for Dawn's presence. The world had become so strange and unfamiliar lately-- he hated to admit it, but he was starting to be afraid to be alone.
Even here, in the warmth of this late-hours restaurant, there was no true escape from the night outside. The wind blew up in a gust, rattling the windows and momentarily dimming the lights.
“Strange night outside,” Dawn said.
“Strange times,” Michael agreed.
“How are you holding up? You know, lately.”
“Well,” Michael took an extra moment to swallow his food, then shrugged. “Okay, I guess. I mean, you just keep trucking, right?”
“Sure. If you're a trucker.”
“So, I just keep on ambulancing.” It was lame. He was lame.
Dawn laughed anyway. It was brief and died away too fast, but the sound made Michael smile.
“Did you find that girl yet?” He asked.
“Oh right,” Dawn said. “You weren't on shift last night were you?”
“No.” He was worried by the question.
“There was another set of murders last night. A group of college kids this time. I shouldn't even be telling you about this, but. . . it looks like one of them was the Navarros girl's cousin. We found a hairband at the scene. Hair color is a match.”
Michael shook his head slowly. “She can't be a suspect. Unless she's been pumping iron and eating HGH, she didn't do what we saw to those people. She couldn't.”
“Either she's involved, or she's real lucky. Twice now she's the only one to survive one of these attacks. Maybe an accomplice. We got people looking out for her all over town, but these damn woods around here, people disappear.” Dawn sighed. “Strange times. You're right.”
Michael nodded. “I seen some shit. I seen some real shit lately.”
“Tell me about it.”
The waitresses brought over a hot cup of coffee and sat it down in front of Dawn.
Michael smiled at the woman and waited for her to leave before answering. “You wouldn't believe it. Not even now.”
Dawn's eyes lit up. “You were at the asylum, weren't you? You saw what went down there? Aaron?”
“I saw him,” Michael confirmed. “I saw him get torn into 3 pieces.”
“Michael, what did it?”
She'd said it. Michael's heart leaped. She said “What.” Not who, not how, she asked what did it. Before he could stop himself, it came out. “It was a beast. . .”
Dawn gripped her mug in both hands and urged him to go on with her expectant expression.
“It was a wolf man.”
He couldn't allow himself the time to ponder whether she was surprised by the revelation or his idiocy. He went on instead. “It was a wolf on two legs, man-like features and it had claws like nothing, Dawn. Like nothing on earth,” and then he stopped himself. He couldn't finish the story. He liked Dawn, but he really only knew her from a meeting here and there. He couldn't safely tell her about the gun he pocketed. Not yet.
Dawn was quiet for a time, just sipping at her coffee. She set the mug down and stared at the table.
“You're really not taking this like I thought you'd take this,” Michael said.
“I've seen some things too, Mike,” she admitted. “The last few weeks. Every couple days we get one of these. I've been to a few calls myself now, and I've gone to the city morgue to check on some of the other bodies.”
“Define 'one of these' for me.”
“A murder,” She said. “But not like any violent murder I've ever seen. Two puncture wounds.”
“In the neck. Surrounded by light bruising. Coroner doesn't think it's from the impact, though.”
“He says it's from sucking on the skin.”
“Nope.” Michael was waving his hands like an umpire trying to declare safe.
“The bodies are totally drained. Every one of them.”
“Michael! You're not allowed to do this! You don't get to not believe me after the story you just told.”
Mike sighed, leaned back in his chair and pushed his plate away. His appetite was ruined for the foreseeable future. “So what the hell is going on?” he finally asked. “We got a werewolf on the loose. We have a vampire out there, too?”
“And a madman.”
“It's been kept out of the news, but the other night at the asylum. . . after the bodies were all accounted for, someone was still unaccounted for. One patient. A John Doe with a violent background.”
“So, you have a prime suspect after all. God damn it, Dawn, what are we supposed to do?”
“Mike, don't tell anyone I said this, especially not anyone who'll let word get back to the force, but I'm scared.”
“It's scary shit,” he admitted. He was once again acutely aware of the wind rattling the windows. It was overcast outside, and light was dim. He could barely make out naked tree branches swaying.
“The way I figure it,” Dawn said, “When creatures of the night come to town, you have two choices. Either you get the hell out of town, or you stay indoors.”
“And then you got people like us,” Michael said. “People with jobs to do.”
Dawn smiled wryly. “On the graveyard shift.”