The guy sitting at the other end of the bar thought he was pretty suave. I knew he was a werewolf. It wasn’t the long, black shaggy hair that tipped me off either. I just have a sense for these things and that’s why I was there in the first place.
My name is Cassidy Winters but everyone knows me as Cass. Most kids are told early on how different and special they are from everyone else. For me it couldn’t be truer. I was born into a family business just like many other people, except mine is hunting down fugitives. Of the occult kind. We call them ‘Unnaturals’ and in a very uninspiring way we call ourselves ‘Specials.’ That’s because of the extra abilities passed down the family line. We punch in when we hit a lead and clock out when the job’s done. In all the games in life and the undead, someone always keeps score. This is what I do.
The guy takes another swig of his beer (many Weres prefer this drink as it has the connotation of a manly man’s liquor) and through the haze of cigarette smoke that permeates everything here in the dim lighting, nods his head in time to the outrageously loud music. What are people thinking when it comes to the ritual of dating or marriage? I thought it was ass-backwards of anyone to think the best place to find their life partner, when they couldn’t be heard or seen well, was supposed to be a bar. I know, I know. I’m twenty-eight, and I’ve been around. I know it’s the animalistic attraction to mate, which is just about the same attraction for hunting. It’s why I’m spending hours of my Thursday evening here staring at this creature who is obviously looking for a dinner companion.
He has made eye contact with me a few times while I’ve sipped my seltzer and lime. There’s a light deep inside his eyes that only I can see and it’s creepy. I try to avoid it. It’s disconcerting because I know it’s there and it’s a mark of what he is. His gaze flits away as a perplexed look crosses his face. He knows something’s up. His gut feeling must be jabbing him, but that urge he has keeps returning, intrigued. The Weres especially, are into chicks that can give them a carnal run for their money but I’m not into that. I don’t sleep with any of the clientele I watch out for.
What I do give them, though, is a challenge. My senses are very acute, way beyond what they should be, and my instincts are dead on. I’m not sure why that is when I look like a regular human female, brown eyed, five-five and a buck and a quarter with my heavy clothes on. Just like Weres pass on the gene to their offspring, my dad gave me this as did his father before him. In fact, I believe we’ve been doing this in my family since my grandfather’s father was a Special. I’ve been doing it on my own since I graduated from college. Well, in between the paper pushing job I hold down with a family run company as a normal person. Just don’t ask me details of why I do it. I’m compelled, there’s a need and I’m good at it. I’ve never really gone much beyond that.
I sneeze for the umpteenth time from all the pollutants and Harry (for lack of a better name) has shifted away from the bar. His sights are locked on a couple of young girls who just giggled in. They make their way to one of the tiny, round tables illuminated by a stubby candle in a filthy hurricane glass and sit down. They are well dressed and clearly not bar-flies as each are having difficulty ordering. The petite blond girl with a bob has no clue what to drink and has actually asked for a menu. Her enhanced blond friend, who is stick thin with prominent cheekbones and wavy hair, is trying to order wine better suited to a high-end restaurant.
Harry waits rather impatiently before getting up and strolling over. His Rolling Stones tee and worn, ripped jeans may appear young and inviting. I see it as bait. He isn’t a newbie, those I can literally smell a mile away. This guy is a few years in, cocky and arrogant. I shift my stance casually to keep an eye on him and the full-on body adrenaline hits me. His pheromones (I call them weremones) are pumping and he’s in hunting mode now. I’m pretty sure he won’t give me a second look. I pull out my cell and hit the preprogrammed number to a colleague of mine, a brute named Bronco. He and I have a tenuous relationship, one that has a better professional code of conduct than personal. Despite our occasional lack of civility towards each other, I can trust him when it comes to taking out a threat.
Leaning in to get a better view, I watch while I wait and at the ready to step in if needed. The weremones are powerful and they make people stupid. I’ve seen both men and women leave with these guys when their initial impressions were of hesitancy and mistrust. The girls, I’d guess that they are in the early twenties, keep smiling and giggling. One keeps adjusting her blouse and I’m thinking she might be the one that gets away, distracted and losing eye contact with this creep. The weremones can suck one in and any kind of contact, even as benign as eye contact, is enough to eradicate any kind of rational thought. It also doesn’t help that Harry foot the bill for a round of fruity flavored vodka shots, either.
“Hey, Cass. You’re looking well. That hair color suits you.” Ah, civility. I happen to change my hair color to change my moods and apparently the recent change to auburn has given him grounds to make comparisons with my temper. My eyes move to the mountain of a man beside me, a rush of dense night-time fresh air comes off him. He had been somewhere outside when I called.
“Bronco.” My mind is occupied and I don’t want to move my position and lose these girls.
“Hmm, Were I see. Level three, stage two.”
See why it’s tenuous? He needs to categorize every minute detail. His levels of werewolves are actually in levels: level one for newbie, two for a teenage comparison, three for experienced and four for elder. His stages indicate where in the hunt the Were is-stage one is what he had been doing while I observed, stage two is making his move and stage three is moving in for the kill. Literally.
You’d be surprised how many people disappear off the face of the earth without making the news feed or back of a milk carton. Even the ones you’re sure have a support system wind up without any press. That’s plenty of opportunity for Weres unless we step in. I’ve taken down almost twenty in my time, not to mention all the other oddities out there that aren’t quite human.
“What have you got?” Bronco asks. I appreciate the lead and I weigh my thoughts about the girls and decide the fidgeter is going to get off scot free.
“We need to watch the one on the left, she’s been pulled in. Look at her eyes.” Through the smoky vapor the cute blond has stopped giggling, her mouth is slack and she’s staring at the Were in a very unbecoming way. And she has stopped blinking. Her friend, on the other hand, has a crease in between her dark eyebrows (that obviously doesn’t go with her hair color) and a sour expression on her face. She’s blinking just fine as she looks around awkwardly for someone to talk to. She’s too close in proximity to him; pulled in enough not to find this very disturbing only annoying, but not far enough that he can count her as easy prey.
“Oh, Cass, really?” Bronco asks hooking his thumbs into the pockets of his black jeans that go great with the navy blue polo he’s wearing over his defined abs. He was never much into jackets even with our chilly autumns and frigid winters here in Central New York. Right now I don’t even need to say what I’d like him to do. We’ve been teaming up like this on and off for over five years now. He knows me well enough to know what I’m going to suggest. There’s also something about my kind, Bronco is one of them of course, that allows us to follow a whole train of thought, akin to mind reading, if we’re close enough in proximity.
“How else can I track this guy and protect her if her BFF is tagging along? The friend is definitely not into this threesome and is practically begging for an out.” The light catches the honey colored flecks in his short brown hair as he shifts his weight. He doesn’t answer right away, which is his norm. I sigh internally. Of course nothing in my life is ever easy.
“The guy’s kind of a slime-ball for a level three. Look at the way he’s sitting back with his arm over the back of his chair with his ankle up on his knee. He obviously doesn’t feel the need to be in her face to do this. He’s showing off his goods and how comfortable he is with himself. He could be a handful to deal with. It might be easier if you did some girl bonding and I took him down.”
I sigh. This isn’t the first time we’ve been on this merry-go-round. It also isn’t my first ride at the rodeo. Bronco’s skills are formidable except when it comes to Weres which are a hit or miss kind of thing. I think sometimes he rates the bigger clients like the Weres as more dangerous which is far from true. “You are sexist and chauvinistic and we’ve been through this before. My catch, my call and I say you take the girl home. If you were more attuned to the needs of the community, you would’ve been here yourself hours ago.”
“Touché,” he concedes without argument. There’s a pause before he decides on more. “I hate hanging out in bars,” he admits sullenly as he rakes his large hand across the scruff on his face. It makes a bristle sound that I usually find attractive if it’s on anyone else. His full bottom lip manages to pout out just a tiny bit showing me a glimpse of what he looked like as a little kid. He’s thirty for God’s sake! How he could possibly look younger than me when he opens up like this blows my mind. I know how he feels, though. It isn’t either of our scenes; however, it is the most popular with the Weres and other ‘clients’ we seek out. We both do a lot of bar stool warming in our line of work.
“It’s been a while too,” he adds switching back into the man I know better. I make a noise in agreement as I pick up my drink, although it can’t be heard by anyone but Bronco.
“A few months at least but November has two jeopardizes; a full moon and a blue moon. We’ll be busy for awhile with two full moon cycles. I started to get uneasy when I got home from work. I’ve put my time in for this one.”
It’s a good thing my kind doesn’t need a full night’s sleep because sometimes while we’re on a lead we can go a day or two with little to none.
“Fine,” he mutters under his breath. I pull up my sandstone canvas knapsack from under the bar with my feet without taking my eyes off the girls and take out a short knife tipped and inlaid in silver and covertly put it in the pocket of my olive drab, leather bomber jacket. It’s sheathed now but easily drawn. Yeah, the legends are mostly true as stereotypical as they sometimes are.
“Monkey feet are a wonderful quality to have. Do be sure you advertise those as assets whenever you start dating again,” he teases dryly. His honey colored eyes twinkle in amusement reminding me of the actor that plays, ironically, a shape shifter of a Were on cable’s True Blood. Lovely comment. For someone like me who is physically gifted and intuitive, the art of relationships have been a bitch to figure out. It’s a sore subject and right now I don’t bite.
The pounding bass of the music is like an encompassing heartbeat that’s getting faster with the song. The fogginess has a dreamlike quality to it which is why most clients use this as their venue. The timing is perfect as Harry and the girl get up and she allows him to help her with her fleece sweater. His forearms are full of black curly hair and his hands are covered in a fine down as well that could be dismissed as a Mediterranean trait. She is glazed over now and probably doing whatever Harry suggests without thinking about it. Fidgety stands as well and tugs at her skirt, looking around the room. ‘What am I going to do now?’ is clearly etched upon her face.
Without hesitation, Bronco walks over and smiles his winning smile. I will give him that much. He’s handsome in a rugged, movie star sort of way with deep set eyes, mischievous grin and perfect teeth. He gives off an air of comfortable casualness as he gestures with his hands and the girl releases the tension she had been holding in her shoulders so much that it’s visible. I can practically hear her thoughts of how non-threatening, normal and cute he is. Well, non-threatening to her anyway. I know him well enough to know his pickups, too. ‘I’m sorry to see you by yourself, I can drive you home if you’d like, or you can drive my car if it would make you feel safer with a stranger like me. I can let you look over my license so you know who I am. I’ll even turn my pockets out to show I’m unarmed…’
“She’s in late phase B. It shouldn’t take long to get her safe and I’ll follow you if you need backup,” he says under his breath once he moves ahead of the girl.
I roll my eyes to myself and nod as if I’m listening to the music. Again, as if I couldn’t make that assessment myself he has to throw in another category. Phase A is casual contact, B is impaired, C is influenced and D is pretty much remaining minutes of your life ticking down, while you hold your throat out voluntarily. If she was in phase A he wouldn’t have been able to persuade her to leave so easily, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with his winning smile or personality, whatever he might think.
I turn my attention back to the job at hand and mull over my modus operandi. The sleaze ball has taken out his car keys and places one arm around the girl’s shoulders. Damn, his nails are nasty! He trails his long talon-like finger under her jaw. She doesn’t flinch, nor did she wish her friend any goodbyes. Oh yeah, this is a successful attack waiting to happen. I push my glass up on the counter towards Ben the bartender. Waving my thanks I leave my stool and sling my knapsack over one shoulder. Not knowing what I was in for tonight, I packed thoroughly.
to be continued..