A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 13: Search and Seizure

Chapter 13: Search and Seizure

Erickson had no plans to abandon the investigation, unbeknownst to Lt. Chelli. He simply shifted the case into the hands of two of his best detectives; Jim Montgomery and Bob Branch. He knew these two would get to the bottom of it, and they would do it his way.

Like Erickson, Montgomery and Branch disappeared from sight during those sensitive full moon times. Otherwise, they were an excellent team. Who needed police dogs when his detectives could put their noses to the ground and sniff out the truth…or at least Erickson’s version of it?

There was still about a week until the next full moon. That would give his men plenty of time to gather enough evidence to pin the kid’s disappearance on Dwayne Runningwolf. Then, the Lt. Mayor’s brat would be off the hook, and everything would go back to normal. Montgomery and Branch were not as young as they looked. Both appeared to be men in their mid forties. Branch had salt and pepper hair, was tall, and clean shaven (for most of the month, anyways). Montgomery was even taller, very wiry, and wore a groomed mustache that matched his red-blond hair. As the month approached the full moon, both of the detectives, like Erickson and the Lt. Mayor, wore sun shades in public. Their eyes were beginning to show signs of their true ages. Silver flecks could be seen in the normal irises of their eyes if one looked carefully. This was a normal occurrence once a werewolf reached middle age; which was an age considerably older than mortals.

Montgomery and Branch could shift themselves from wolf to human form and back again with relative ease, as long as the moon was not new. This was a skill a werewolf developed with age, unless an immediate threat to life or limb was present. Then, any werewolf could, regardless of age.

“Look, I’ve gotten nowhere with the Mayor. She would be hasty to act if this was a ghoul issue, and she did confirm that she spoke with Owens, but it’s not Owens I want. Our witness fingered Runningwolf, and he’s the one that should have been questioned from the beginning. Frankly, I’m quite sure that Owens would do just about anything to cover up the tracks of any of his subordinates, including lie to Shelby. And, as much as she likes to think she runs the show with her damn old fart Uncle’s edicts, the fact is that she’s a politician, not a cop. This is a police investigation, and it’s high time I ran it my way,” Erickson stated in his meeting with the two detectives.

Branch had a copy of the report given to the Commissioner from the Lt. Mayor. It contained the testimony from his son concerning the events of the night of December 16, as told by the senior Martinez.

“Would we be allowed to question the boy ourselves?” he asked.

“If you feel the need to do so, wait until nightfall. I don’t want anyone to see detectives coming or going from the Martinez residence during broad daylight, and I don’t want to drag the kid down to the station.”

“Has Runningwolf been seen in the vicinity since the 16th?” Montgomery asked.

“Not that I’m aware of. Apparently, those boys have been keeping a low profile lately, which further makes me suspect that they’ve got something to hide. I’m sure the bastard drained the kid, but so far, the Coast Guard hasn’t found her stiff yet. So, maybe he buried her…or cremated her remains somewhere.”

“Yeah, and I’m sure those boys think they’re pretty inaccessible now that the access means across the gulf to their former hideout has been obliterated. Ten to one odds they’re still skulking around in that damn sunken hotel,” Branch muttered.

“Likely so, and of course, I’ll have you gentlemen go sniff out the area and see if you can’t pinpoint where they’re holing up. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get a whiff of where Runningwolf disposed of the kid. That’s the best case scenario. We get a body, we have a case. Even one that’s been in the ground for two weeks will have enough forensic evidence to show cause of death. And if all you find are ashes, there should still be enough DNA present to identify in bone shards or tooth fragments. Even if a cause of death can’t be established, we can still build a case on substantial evidence. But, I’m going to make one thing clear, right now. Under no circumstances are either one of you to enter the Boys’ domicile. You go there, collect your evidence, record your findings, and radio back to me. I don’t want any confrontations, or defenseless, dead vampires. It would make us look real bad, got it?”

“Suppose we find substantial evidence? What’s our next course of action?” Branch asked.

The Commissioner gave his two detectives a toothy smile and filled them in on the rest of the plan. Then, he gave them their special weapons permits and dismissed them.

^..^

Detectives in human form would have had a difficult time crossing the gorge separating the site of the old sunken hotel from the mainland. In wolf form, however, the two investigators were able to climb down the steep embankment, swim across the sea water channel, and climb back up the other side with little trouble. They would have even been able to jump across, but making the swim had an advantage. The briny water would cling to their coats, and though they shook themselves thoroughly to keep from leaving any sort of a trail, the salt water would help disguise the overpowering scent of wolf.

They left their unmarked squad car on the other side of the bluff, and their plain clothes were left inside the car. This sort investigation was best conducted in lupine form. It was broad daylight, so care was taken to park the vehicle as far off the road as possible. Still, Branch and Montgomery weren’t particularly concerned with being seen. Hudson’s Bluff was not exactly in the middle of town. The worst possible scenario they could encounter were the vampires; which wasn’t likely. That was one advantage werewolves had over bloodsuckers.

True to their dog instincts, they searched with their noses to the ground, sniffing for evidence. Already, they had familiarized themselves with Leah Emerson’s scent from the evidence gathered from Lt. Chelli’s investigation the night she disappeared. Even though the shoe had been washed over in sea water, it still had enough of the girl’s scent left behind to be of value. Before long, the duo found the sunken hotel, but they quickly ascertained that it was vacant. Perhaps it hadn’t been vacant for long; they could detect the scents of vampires, mortals, and oddly, they also picked up the scent of a dog. But, the dog leavings were several months old, at least, and none of the mortal scents was Leah Emerson’s.

Vampires were territorial creatures every bit as much as werewolves were, and the investigators were well aware of this. They knew that the vampires had to still be in the area. This was ‘their turf’. So, they pressed on, glancing up every so often at the sun overhead. After two and a half hours of sniffing and pawing, the large grey and white wolf that was Montgomery made a sharp growling noise to the mottled tan and black wolf that was Branch. Branch snapped his head up from a suspicious looking indentation in the ground he’d been sniffing at and acknowledged his partner. Then, he trotted over to where Montgomery stood before a limestone cliff. Up overhead, there looked to be an entrance to a cavern, but it was difficult to make out visually. There was no mistaking what was hidden overhead by scent, though. Montgomery had found the vampire’s lair.

The cavern’s entrance was some six feet off the ground at least, and it would not be an easy task for a mortal or a wolf to access, as the limestone cliff face that the cavern was embedded in was slippery as hell. However, access was not what the wolves were interested in. It was Montgomery that found the vampire’s lair, and it was Branch that picked up the scent of Leah Emerson.

What disturbed him was that her scent wasn’t coming from the ground below. It came from the air up above. He communicated this to his partner in a series of soft growls. Then, they both decided to scale the rocks and sniff the exterior of the cavern without actually going inside. It was the only way they would know for certain.

It took them the better part of twenty minutes to scrabble up the slippery cliff and climb the whole way to the top. Their silvery eyes quickly adjusted from the brightness of the outdoor light to the dimness inside the anteroom of the cavern. They could smell the presence of the child quite clearly, as well as the vampires, and other presences, as well. They could faintly smell another mortal, and also one was what the vampires liked to call a ‘half vampire’, or an ‘altered mortal’. Then, they smelled the dog. They smelled him before they saw him. Just as their eyes were acclimating from light to dark, a furious white form charged out of the anteroom, snarling and gnashing its teeth at them.

It wasn’t just any dog. It was an ‘altered dog’!

It was a mad dash for their lives. The two detectives scrambled back down the face of the cliff as fast as their four legs would carry them. The hellhound pursued them, snarling and barking; nearly matching their strides. There was no time to ford the gorge on the way back; the only option they had was to blindly jump. Even still, the white dog followed suit. The detectives barely made it to their car, transforming as they went. Once inside the vehicle, the hellhound jumped and clawed against the door, leaving a trail of slaver on the window.

“Floor it!” Branch cried in horror.

Montgomery didn’t have to be told twice. It looked as though the dog just might have enough strength to break the window if allowed any more time. He pulled away from the shoulder and onto the road, and the dog pursued them for at least a quarter of a mile before giving up the chase. Only after the white shepherd vanished from the sight of the rear view mirror did both detectives realize they were traveling in the vehicle buck naked! Their garments were still waiting for them to change back into in the back seat…..

^..^

“We’re not so sure she’s dead. Or, if she is, they disposed of her remains inside the cavern somewhere,” Branch reported to Erickson an hour later. By now, they were dressed, cleaned up and composed. They hadn’t had time to make a written field report, but a verbal follow up was necessary considering the circumstances. The detectives were now enjoying a cup of coffee at the Sea Shanty on the pier, and Branch was making his report by cell phone.

“They have themselves a hellhound, eh? Figures. It’s just as well that you didn’t engage it this time around, and avoid doing so if at all possible, but I won’t lose any sleep over a dead hellhound and neither should you. Rip its fucking head off if it becomes a problem. Now, I’ve got the reports here on where our boys have been popping up lately. Not all of them are confirmed, but, in the immortal words of Rhett Butler, Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. You two are going to stake out the hidey hole. They’ll be expecting trouble tonight, so you’ll begin your post two nights from now. Meanwhile, you can conduct your interview with Jake Martinez and write up your field report.”

“Yes, sir,” Branch said.

“Then, I’ll have Lerner and Johnson patrol the boardwalk, Donato and Carroll will take Front Street, Jeffries and Ayers will watch the downtown mall and the bus depot, and then, I’ve called in a favor to a buddy of mine in Capitola. Seems like one of those fang faces might be tending bar at the Seafarer, so I’m sending Grist over there to check on that lead. With any luck, it’ll be Runningwolf. If not, it’s a safe bet they all hang out over there for the Bloodsucker’s Happy Hour if one of them is serving up Bloody Mary’s over there….”

^..^

Leah had been napping when she heard Thorn start snarling and barking. The sound was so horrid, it was almost enough to make her pee her pants. Her heart was hammering in her chest, and her blood was throbbing in her ears. At least Thorn wasn’t barking at her for once!

Who was he barking at?

The Boys were asleep. They always slept during the day, and Leah knew why, now. They had told her; even if she kind of didn’t believe it. She wasn’t sure if she believed in vampires. She believed in ghosts, but she knew closet monsters were a bunch of baloney because Grandma said so. But vampires?

Scary dogs were real, though. She still had nightmares about that dog that tried to eat her. In fact, she’d been having a dream about that stupid dog when Thorn had started barking. Leah could even smell that scary dog….

It was so close. So close, in fact, that when she woke up, she could still smell it.

Suddenly, Leah noticed that Thorn’s barking sounded like it was becoming far away. Had he left the cavern? The scent came to her again; very strong. Only this time, it wasn’t so scary, it was just…unwanted. It wasn’t the scent she desired, and she didn’t understand. Her skin began to itch and she scratched at it; noticing that she had some red welts breaking out on her arms. In the middle of the welts were some coarse, light brown hairs. She couldn’t see her eyes shift from blue to silver. Her anxiety grew and she began to pace. A tiny whimper escaped her throat. Finally, she couldn’t stand it. She had to see if Thorn was still there or not. What was that smell? Who was there? Who? Who? Who?

Her mind was barely a child’s anymore by the time she crawled up into the upper chamber, even though her body still largely resembled one. Her suspicions were confirmed. Thorn was no longer there, but she smelled his marking, very strongly. He was defending his territory. Whoever had come was not clan. Instinctively, Leah found a spot at the front of the cavern and let her own water loose. Then, she crawled back down to the safety of the ballroom, curled back up on the couch, and fell back into a fitful doze. By the time Thorn returned, she had no memory of what had happened.

^..^

“Someone’s been here,” David growled, pacing around the ballroom later that night. He was, of course, stating the obvious, because all four vampires could smell the reek of werewolf despite the precautions the detectives had taken earlier that day.

“Did anyone come inside, Leah?” Paul asked. For once, his tone held no hint of humor whatsoever.

She shook her head emphatically.

“No, no one. But I think Thorn left for awhile, but I’m not sure,” she replied.

Dwayne whistled for Thorn. The dog took his dear sweet time answering his master’s call, but eventually he padded into the ballroom.

“I don’t see any bite marks,” he stated after he gave him a good once over.

David sighed and finally took a seat in his chair. He then leveled a gaze at Dwayne.

“Sketch us a picture of that damn dog. We’re going on a mutt hunt,” he said.

“How’s that going to help. There were at least two of them here today,” Marko leveled.

“Of course there was more than one. They hunt in packs. But I’m willing to bet the wolf that nabbed Leah was one of them, and he’s wants to finish the job. He obviously knows we have her now, so he’s brought back up, but if we can identify him, it won’t matter who the others are,” David responded.

“True enough. I’m just having trouble understanding what he wants with her now if biting her the first time burned his stupid mouth….”

David didn’t answer.

“Time’s running out,” Paul whispered.

Dwayne picked up the sketch pad and selected some colored pencils. After a few minutes, he began to work, and the details began to emerge. David held his breath. Relief washed over him when Dwayne produced a finished image fifteen minutes later. His memories of the night hadn’t failed him. He didn’t have to ask Dwayne if he was certain if this was what the creature looked like, because the stricken expression on Leah’s face answered any question he could have asked.

“Looks like we have our man, so now we need a plan. Paul, you’re going to stay here with Leah…”

Paul looked a bit indignant, but David gave him a stern look.

“You’ve had no experience with werewolves. And, I don’t like to point out the obvious, Paul, but if anything happens to you, it takes you longer to heal. Stay here and don’t bullshit me.”

Paul didn’t argue, but he still looked defeated. However, Leah looked happy with the arrangement.

“You two, we gotta play this smart. We’re being watched, so we can’t congregate together. It’s important that we keep in touch with each other and keep in touch with Paul. Keep to the air as much as possible, and keep your channels open. Dwayne, have Thorn on backup with the kid so that Paul can be ready to respond to us at any given moment if one of us needs immediate back up. And, we all need to be ready to respond to Paul if he sounds the alert that he needs help.” David ordered. Lastly, he looked severely at Leah.

“Under no circumstances are you to leave the cavern alone. You only leave if Paul takes you. Do you understand?” he told her.

The girl nodded her understanding and went and climbed into Paul’s lap.

^..^

Just as the werewolves were familiar with what territory the vampires called theirs, the Boys knew where the wolves primarily habituated. Most of them owned or rented homes up in the hills of Santa Carla, near the wooded areas. Others lived in nearby towns like Felton, Scotts Valley, Lompico, and Boulder Creek, which were towns situated off of Highway 17, in wooded regions. They commuted to their jobs in Santa Carla or San Jose. The territory would be entirely too large to cover in one night, they knew. Still, the vampires had the advantage of flight, and between the three of them, they could still cover a great deal of ground. Even if they didn’t spot their suspect visually, they hoped to pin his location down by scent.

Separately, they flew from the cavern and made a pass over the pier. Once they’d revisited the pier, they each knew that there were three wolves involved. Two had been at the cavern, and they were different from the one that Dwayne had encountered on the beach. They communicated this to Paul, who waited at the hideout. Then, they continued on their search.

Dwayne’s contact with the wolf on the pier was the longest, and he picked up traces of his scent on the boardwalk. They were faint but still detectable. The wolf had been here since his foray to the beach when Dwayne had encountered him, yet he hadn’t been here within the last couple of days. Dwayne was required to land and walk a short distance, milling around in the crowds of the boardwalk. The scent was the strongest closest to the stairs leading to the beach. From there, it weakened considerably, but Dwayne could still smell the trail. The scent was still the same, frightened dog scent he’d encountered before, but perhaps not as urgent. The trail led right off of the midway; and down Beach Street…

Almost the way someone in a car or on a bicycle would travel.

Once he was sure of his bearings, Dwayne heeded David’s warnings and took to the air again. He communicated his whereabouts to David and Marko, who in turn, kept him up to date on their progress. Marko was sorting out the scents of the two afternoon invaders; while David had a hunch of his own that he was following up on. Dwayne was given a mental image of the Police Commissioner, and David’s plans to spy on him.

^..^

An hour into the search, Marko finally found himself a quiet place to collect his thoughts. He sat on a memorial bench beneath the outstretched wings of a marble angel in the Dominican Hospital Cemetery. It seemed to be the only place in town where werewolves weren’t tonight….

He picked up the scent of the two intruding werewolves quickly enough, and was able to follow them clear down the road leading away from Hudson’s Bluff. It seemed that the fleabags had stopped all over town, though. Then, things had gotten confusing. Soon, Marko picked up the scents of other wolves in the vicinity…

Lots of other wolves.

It seemed that everywhere he went, he could smell them. Before long, the original scents he’d been tracking were overpowered, and he knew it wasn’t his imagination. He was being watched. Unfortunately, when the werewolves were in their human forms, it was hard to tell them from the mortals unless he was up close. The best thing he could do was get the hell out of Dodge and let the others know as soon as he felt safe.

^..^

David received the mental distress call from Marko, warning him that the werewolves were extremely active, despite the fact that the full moon was still about a week away. Marko had prowled many more places than David had, following the scent of the two wolves that had visited the hideout earlier, and apparently, he’d discovered evidence that there were more around that what the Boys originally thought. Images flashed into David’s mind. Marko was confused, but he’d detected perhaps four others, and he suspected that he was being watched. None of the wolves had made any indication to Marko that they’d noticed him, but obviously, if a confrontation was what they’d wanted, they would have ripped the Boys to shreds that afternoon while they’d slept. Or, the twosome would have called some back ups to the hideout and confronted the vampires that night at sundown…

‘Go back to the hideout,’ David told Marko.

Better safe than sorry.

His own situation wasn’t particularly precarious, but he was not having much luck finding the Commissioner, either. Erickson’s address and phone number were a matter of public record; they could be found in the white pages of the phone book. He lived in a nice, A-frame style home in the back woods area of Boulder Creek. When David went to investigate his residence, it appeared that the Commissioner was out for the evening. David’s next stop was City Hall, thinking that perhaps Erickson was attending a late evening council meeting. Once again, he bombed out. He really had no sense of the bastard’s scent, so tracking him anywhere else was unlikely. Therefore, he made contact with Dwayne, who was still on the trail of the pier wolf. Then, he decided to touch bases with Marko and get a recounting of the places he’d been when he’d felt ‘watched’. David hoped he could quietly turn the tables on the fleabags.

^..^

Branch and Montgomery finished taking the verbal statement from Jake Martinez, writing down everything he said word for word. They were both uncommonly nervous, since the entire session was supervised by the Lt. Mayor. It was almost as if the kid was being coached what to say, and what not to say, yet the two detectives were not surprised by this in the least.

The kid seemed very remorseful about attacking the kid, and he had dwelled on that quite a bit. Yet, when shown sketches of the four vampire suspects, he had conclusively identified the one he’d encountered on the night of the 16th of December as Dwayne Runningwolf. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the detectives now had enough proof to make an arrest. Of course, they would not be arresting Jake Martinez in connection with the disappearance of Leah Emerson. That’s just not how things worked….

“If you think of anything else, don’t hesitate to call us,” Montgomery told the kid, offering him his business card. The Lt. Mayor intercepted and took the card instead. He was obviously very protective of his son. Then, he offered his hand to each man in a firm, to the point handshake.

“Good evening, Gentlemen,” he told them.

“Good evening, Sir.” The detectives returned in unison. They were then shown out the door while the young man looked on with wide eyes.

A gentle breeze stirred the pine trees outside the Martinez residence, and suddenly, the detectives sniffed the air. Then, they sniffed again.

The front door of the Martinez’s house had been about to shut, but suddenly, it stopped in mid swing. The Lt. Mayor smelled it too.

Vampire.

The detectives drew their weapons. These weapons were specially issued guns that shot Holy water pellets. Only officers with special security clearance were authorized to carry these weapons.

Branch motioned for Martinez to shut his front door. Martinez obeyed mostly; shutting it all but to a tiny crack. The investigators kept to their human forms except for their eyes; which began to take on a luminescent silver glow. Lips parted and nostrils flared; all the better to take in the scent of the preternatural presence skulking in the shadows.

Then they heard a high pitched sound that would have been nearly undetectable to human ears. However, the detectives heard it quite clearly. The vampire was taking flight.

There was no choice but to transform. They tucked the weapons into their jaws and pursued on four swift legs until the vampire reached a clearing. Branch was the first to transform. He lined up a shot. It missed by a wide margin. Montgomery transformed behind him and fired. There was a hideous screeching noise. Then, the vampire plummeted to the ground.

They both knew that Holy water pellets would not kill the vampire. It would only temporarily disable him, and that was the whole idea. With their weapons drawn, they hurried over to the clearing to apprehend the suspect and bring him in. It would be the first time in Santa Carla’s history that a vampire ever went to jail.