Wolf To Go
By T. P. Keating
London! I arrived in the early morning, after a smooth flight from JFK. The Piccadilly
Line tube (the dark blue one on the enclosed map) runs right out to Heathrow Airport. With only my usual single item of hand
luggage, I made my own way into Central London and the arranged rendezvous. Glad I did too, as I later heard on the TV that
the motorway to the airport had been closed. Some sort of truck accident. But you know my motto. If you wait for others, you'll
still be waiting. You'll tell me if my radiators get fixed while I'm in London, won't you? The sooner I get rid of that Palisades
apartment and move across to Manhattan, the better. So, there I was, exiting Green Park tube station, when a man tugged on
the sleeve of this season's pink, faux-fur jacket and insisted, politely, “Good morning, Miss Duncan, I'm here to escort
you to the company flat.”
“Please, call me Kimberly,” I'd replied, before taking a look at him
and wondering if I'd spoken to the wrong man. Such a narrow, furtive face. I placed him at well over fifty. He wore a long
black coat and scarf against the mid-December chill, and leant on a furled up, black umbrella. “I'm Malcolm Fairfax,”
he continued, extending his free hand. Again, the reflexes took over and I shook it. Put it down to too many meet and great
sessions for the top CEO, of an aggressively expanding coffeehouse chain. It's my burden to carry, I realize. “This
way, if you please.” I followed, not least as I had a few questions. We past the Ritz Hotel almost immediately. Gee,
I was sightseeing from the word go!
“Whatever happened to Simon Meredith?”
“He sends his apologies,” came the clipped reply.
We crossed over Piccadilly and headed into a side street. I'll confess, I was lost
“This is a short cut?”
“It avoids some of the crowds, although we can't avoid them all.” That
was true, there were still plenty of people around.
“This looks familiar,” I observed, when we entered a wide, curved road,
thronging with Christmas shoppers.
“Regent Street,” he answered.
Christmas decorations ran from side to side at regular intervals, switched off
and sad in the daylight. The theme was The Twelve Days of Christmas. We crossed again, close to five gold rings, and took
still more quiet ways.
“Were you ever a taxi driver?”
He smiled, surprisingly warmly. “No, Kimberly. Don't worry, you won't have
to tip me.”
I smiled too. The sheer jostling density of the crowds in front of us told me that
we had hit Oxford Street, if I remembered my guidebook well. Once more, we didn't stray too far along before crossing and
following his singular route.
“Here we are, Marylebone Passage,” he announced, indicating the road
sign with his furled umbrella. We turned left into a frankly narrow, gloomy street, with no shops, where the bricks of the
high buildings stood blackened by time and neglect. “One of my favorite streets,” he continued, “full of
“And now it's full of two more.”
He chuckled. As you know, Jo-Beth, I find it hard to dislike anyone who enjoys
one of my quips. Call it a weakness if you will, I won't deny it. Not very far down the short street, it turns sharp right.
Just before the turn, on the right-hand side, we halted before a large wooden door. Not surprisingly, it was painted black,
and several years ago at that. The panels of stained glass in the door showed snood wearing, peasant-looking figures, bent
almost double beneath burdens of what appeared to be straw. A glass sun lit their world. I understood the large birds in the
sky to be transparently waiting for stragglers to feed off.
“Nice, is it not?” he suggested.
“Don't tell me, it's one of your favorite oppressive doorways.”
“Then I won't. Tell you, that is.” He smiled once more. “When
you're ready, Kimberly, I'll give you the tour of the London head office. We walked by it, on Regent Street.” He handed
over a set of keys.
“A pity, I would've liked to see it straight away. How long til the moon
He glanced at his watch. “5 minutes.”
With a nod I opened the door, scurried inside and pounded up the stairs to the
Now I know exactly what you're thinking, Jo-Beth. Kimberly is worrying unnecessarily.
Because Kimberly overcame her issues with the lunar cycle all of 7 calendar months ago. Let me say, my specialist worked absolute
wonders, so no need to get concerned on my behalf. No, it's the residual headaches that made me hurry. During the full moon,
and for a day either side, I get the most brain-toasting pain. That is, they begin the very instant that the moon rises locally,
and recede the instant it sets on the 3rd day. I must've mentioned this? I'm sure I did. At Doctor Abraham's son's birthday
party. Remember? You drank too much Tequila and woke up in the Doc's padded cell? How we laughed! Guess that's why you wouldn't
Inside the flat, I first cracked open the herbal painkillers and put the howl-suppressing
silver talisman around my neck, before settling in front of the TV. That's when I heard about the motorway closure outside
Heathrow. The next 36 hours went by in a blur of poor quality sleep, poor quality TV (I'll never complain about ours again)
and my raiding the well-stocked kitchen. I couldn't face cooking, so I survived on sandwiches and cans of soda. Which is not
a diet I will be extolling in a book any day soon.
When the 3 days were over, I slept superbly. In the morning, the phone rang. My
watch showed it to be shortly after 9am.
“Hi, Kimberly here.”
“Good morning, Kimberly, this is Malcolm Fairfax. I'll be there to collect
you in 30 minutes.” Before I could reply, he'd hung up. I got ready swiftly.
By the way, the one bedroom flat proved much cozier than the door downstairs had
me believe. A king-sized bed, with peach-satin sheets, a very large and comfortable mauve sofa you never want to get up from,
and a kitchen that saved my life, as I've just mentioned.
My light green eyes did not look too bloodshot, thanks to the uninterrupted sleep.
With the clock against me, I settled for a little concealer under the eyes. A yellow scrunchie would suffice on my hair. My
perm was holding up well. How's yours? I'm still not sure that black's my color. I wish I could have dyed it back to the original,
but I've been told that perm and color don't mix.
The intercom buzzed. “It's Malcolm.”
“Be right down.” Curiously, there were no other doors on the staircase.
The tapestries on the walls followed the snood wearing, hard-working peasants theme.
Well, I got the tour of the London head office, met the staff, met the executives
and so on and so forth, all very predictable stuff. Malcolm stuck with me for the day, making the introductions, which helped
enormously. The accounts looked fine, with sales of our branded coffee increasing week by week. It boded well for extra shopping
hours. Having said my goodbyes, I returned to the flat a little after 7.15 that evening. A man lay dead in the kitchen, face
up, arms flung out at angles, the stab wounds clear to see on his bloodied white shirt. I'd say that he was about twenty-five.
His auburn hair was cut short, and he also wore blue jeans and black shoes. Isn't it typical, when you plan additional shopping?
I'm no expert, so I couldn't say how long he'd been there. A search of the flat
did not yield the weapon. Nor, despite the cold weather, could I find his coat. Most strange. I rang the firm.
“Malcolm, get over to my flat ASAP.”
“Is this about your unannounced visit to one of our branches in the morning?”
“That's ASAP, mister.” Show me a soft businesswoman and I'll show you
a failing businesswoman. And I meant business too, since the loss of extra Christmas shopping did not put me in a good mood.
I mean, it's not like I was going to buy stuff for myself, it would've all been for others. Well, mostly. I buzzed Malcolm
He blanched at the sight of the body.
“Know him?” I quizzed.
He stepped closer, trying not to let disgust show on his face. “No.”
“Before we go any further, how many are aware of my, er, moon-based history?”
“Only I, with my special liaison remit.”
“Good. Then this will be our joint, secret assignment. We cannot afford to
involve the authorities.”
“May I ask why?”
I gave him a cold-as-the-moon stare. “Any strong, negative emotions may be
bad for my rehabilitation.”
“Do you? Did you read my file thoroughly? When the wolf is close to the surface,
the innocent may suffer. That innocent could well be a police officer, simply pursuing a line of questioning. Which could
do our brand real harm.” Malcolm took a few paces backwards, placing a small table between us and tightening the grip
on his umbrella. “That's a worse case scenario, of course. It's never happened, with the magi-cation I'm on.”
He frowned. “I'll double your wages.”
“And double my annual leave too?”
I laughed. “It's a deal. I appreciate a man who can drive a hard bargain.
Even at your age, you could go far. Particularly with this investigation. So, let's see what clues we can find.”
“Tally-ho,” he replied, with a wink. “For the good of the brand
and all that.”
The activity helped me forget the less than total success of my previous magic
and medication mix. I calmed my mind, to let go of the unwanted images of blood and screaming.
What was Malcolm doing? He was mumbling while he pointed the umbrella at the corpse.
When I had a moment, I'd glance at the record of his psychological profile. Or was this a manifestation of the dry, English
wit? If I didn't laugh, did I risk appearing humorless and slow on the uptake? A crackling arc of black energy leapt from
the tip of the umbrella to encase the victim. The dead man's torso raised to a sitting position, while the hairs on the back
of my neck assumed a standing position.
“Tell,” Malcolm intoned. “How came you to die?”
Dead guy swiveled his head my way. He lifted a hand and pointed at me. Damn, but
his eyes actually moved to look at me too.
“You. I must speak with you, Kimberly.”
“Then speak away.” I endeavored to keep my body language open and friendly,
though all my limbs felt suddenly stiffer than the murder victim.
“Know you this, my murderer has you in his sights.” He shook and began
to slump to the floor. Malcolm hit him with another ebony burst, which halted the decline and eased the trembling. “Coffee...
danger... same branch...” He convulsed violently. A roar, like that of the wind on a cliff top, filled my ears.
“I'm sorry,” Malcolm shouted, “the effect is short term.”
The seizure became so intense that the dead guy literally fell to pieces. The roaring
stopped. I stood transfixed for a minute, while the trembling in the countless individual parts, scattered over the tiled
floor, came to an end. I continued trembling, even after Malcolm had thoughtfully poured each of us a stiff gin from the kitchen
supplies. We sat on stools at the kitchen counter. With the second gin, we started to feel better. Malcolm spoke first.
“The main down side of that spell is the total dissipation of the deceased.”
I glanced over at the remains. None remained. “Which sadly prevents scientific enquiry.”
“Could the murderer be working at one of our coffeeshops?”
“That appears the most likely option. The spell does not involve seeing the
future. Which means that his warning must be connected to his killer. Your would-be killer, as well.” I looked away.
“If you like, I can stay here tonight. I suggest that we take turns keeping watch. I'll sleep on the couch.”
“You're the person who stocked the kitchen, aren't you?”
“All part of the job. There are some very good shops around here. The West
End isn't all branded coffee, you know.”
I grinned weakly in response. I don't mind telling you, Jo-Beth, I slept badly
I woke up much worse. The bedside clock said 7am and the sun had not yet risen.
I switched on the bedside light. “What it is it, Malcolm?”
“Malcolm's sleeping,” the stranger at the bedroom door replied. It
wasn't just the long hair and cheap highlights of the squat man that scared me. He wore a red top with the hood down and grey
trousers. Rather, it was the kitchen knife pointed at me, and the dull eyes behind it.
“How can I help you?” I weighed my options. He blocked the path to
the door. The window led to a high, sheer drop to the pavement, and it was closed anyway. I decided to keep him talking until
Malcolm could intervene. My options weighed far too little.
“I'm sorry about the body. Daniel Parkes had to die.”
“We'd got drunk in a pub after work. We both worked at a recently opened
branch of New Emperor Coffee. Started on the same day. He rambled on about his family being driven out of the coffee business
by unscrupulous newcomers.”
“That's why he wanted to kill you. Then word got around of your visit. He
had no right. Your life is mine to take.”
“After you'd killed Daniel, why didn't you wait for me to arrive?”
“Hey lady, I've got a life.” With his brightening eyes and growing
agitation, that life could soon be mine.
“Excuse me. Do continue,” I tried to soothe.
“You're the wolf. I know you. They had me working in Head Office. I read
your file. You're the wolf. You must die.”
“I fully understand.” I always slept with a gun, the current one supplied
by the company, as requested. The impact of the bullet smacked him against the wall, where he lay with blood seeping through
his white T-shirt.
Malcolm entered dramatically, umbrella-first in his out-stretched arm, like a swordsman
of old. His face fell when he realized that he'd missed the action. “Jolly good show, Miss Duncan. You're an excellent
shot, if I might say so.”
Then it happened. Exactly as I'd warned Malcolm. The anger I'd suppressed during
the incident fought its way to the surface, dragging the wolf with it.
In a bound I'd crossed the bedroom, snarling in my pink satin pajamas, to land
howling on him. The next few minutes became a blur of blood and frenzy. Goring and biting. Bone splitting and ligament ripping.
Eventually I registered Malcolm's cautious voice. “I said, Miss Duncan, should you put your talisman back on? I could
make you a cup of my special malted milk, it's very soothing.”
To his credit, he hardly reacted when I lifted my now-hairy face from dead boy's
ruined torso to address him. “No need. Dispose of the body, would you? I'll be taking a bath.” A long soak never
failed to cage the beast. And a bit of a shave too.
There you are, Jo-Beth. That was my first week in London. I must hurry, to catch
the last post before Christmas and renew my stock of bath salts. What do you know? This town isn't so dull after all. I might
even extend my stay. More soon. Love to the “cubs”.
Copyright T. P. Keating 2005
This is T. P. Keating's first werewolf tale. Check out his vampire fiction at: www.bloodlust-UK.com