A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 17: What Little Girls Are Made Of

Chapter 17: What Little Girls Are Made Of

The ball room was as quiet as a tomb when Leah awoke sometime the next day. She knew it would be. As usual, the oil lamps and candles were left burning for her to see by.

At some point, Dwayne had gone back to his usual place to sleep, leaving the couch all to Leah. Though she missed his presence, she was glad. It made what she was going to have to do that much easier.

No way was anybody going to leave her alone in a room with that stupid dog for even 5 seconds. There was something wrong with him. He hated her, and would probably eat her alive the first moment he had a chance to. Somehow, between now and tonight, she was going to have to find a way to slip out past him, and instinctively, she knew there way to do it. If she didn’t find it, it would find her.

True to form, the moment she slid off the couch, Thorn stuck his head down the shaft and started barking and growling at her, but this time, Leah paid him no mind. She was used to his antics by now. Also, she knew that Dwayne had told Thorn that he was never to come down here and put the bite on her. She didn’t know how he talked to him and made him understand, but so far, the dog had obeyed his master. Then again, Leah had seen Dwayne’s face shift in his sleep last night. She supposed she’d obey him too, even if she was just a dog…

Even still, vampire or not, she hadn’t been afraid of him. She didn’t know who she’d miss more, Paul or Dwayne. She’d miss them all; really, even David and Marko, but she’d miss Paul and Dwayne the most. Tears misted up her eyes as she thought about it. This dark ballroom had been her home for nearly a month now. She’d spent Christmas here. With each day that passed, thoughts of her true home grew more distant. Why was that? Of course, she still missed her mother, her father, her grandmother, and even her crazy old great grandfather…

But thoughts of missing them weren’t making her cry right now. She knew she couldn’t go to them right now. Especially now that those course, light brown hairs were poking out on her arms….

Suddenly, Thorn’s barking grew more insistent. Then, his snarls and growls became downright ferocious. Leah’s clothing felt tight and restricting, and with a vicious yank, she tore them away from her body, which was now completely covered in a tawny, brownish pelt. No sooner had she tossed her clothes on the floor, her hands and feet painfully warped into paws. She gazed up at Thorn with two, glinting silver eyes and whimpered, licking her elongated chops. Then, she sniffed around the ballroom for a bit, looking for an easy breakfast. Marko’s Cheeto’s were easy access, so she clawed open the bag and ate the entire contents. Then, she settled down on the rug with one of David’s boots and chewed on it for a bit to ease her aching gums. Thorn watched her the entire time.

Finally, her internal clock urged her on. She rose from her snug spot and met Thorn’s gaze unwaveringly. Even though she was not fully grown yet, she was about the same size as the hellhound, and instinctively, she knew they were about evenly matched for strength. For the first time since she’d come to the hideout, she was not afraid. Gathering up all of her power into her haunches, she made a gigantic leap into the shaft, straight at Thorn. Suddenly, two balls of fur were rolling on the floor of the upper chamber, fangs bared, teeth gnashing. No silver charm would protect Leah from fate today, but no vampiric plasma would protect Thorn, either. She felt his jaws clamp around one of her forelegs; she heard the bone crunch before she felt the pain. In those moments beforehand, she was able to drag the sharpened claws of her free paw across his eyes. Blood spurted from his face, and she knew she had succeeded in ruining the sight in at least one of his eyes, if not both.

From that moment forward, it was difficult to know who had the advantage. Thorn was blinded, Leah was crippled. Neither was willing to give up the fight. Thorn was forced to let go of Leah’s leg, but he snapped again, trying for her neck. He missed by mere inches. Leah wriggled out from under the white shepherd and made a lunge of her own. Just as her jaws closed around his throat, the dog collapsed in a limp heap on the floor of the cavern. She hadn’t even applied the killing pressure…

An image of Dwayne passed through her battle emboldened mind. He would be so upset to find his dog lying dead up here…

Perhaps Leah hated him with every cell in her body, but Dwayne loved him, and she still loved Dwayne, wolf or not. She felt a new loyalty to him now that was hard to describe in human terms. Her opponent was down, and she had won the fight. Leah let go of Thorn’s throat and slowly limped out of the cavern.

^..^

Hellhounds were supposed to be practically immortal. But, fear demons couldn’t change the biological breeding in which hellhounds were designed to behave. So, when Thorn had engaged the werewolf into a fight, the fear demon had no choice but to fight, even if fights with werewolves weren’t a fear demon’s cup of tea.

Damn it all if the stupid hellhound hadn’t lost, too!

No one noticed as a streak of whitish-blue light exited Thorn’s body, and another one took its place. Shortly after Leah left, Thorn weakly raised his head and whimpered. He was badly scratched on his face, couldn’t see out of his left eye, and could barely see out of his right. Worse yet, he couldn’t exactly remember just how he’d gotten in such a predicament. It all seemed like the sort of bad dream that left him twitching at his brunette haired master’s feet…

He was wishing for his master and a big juicy red meat steak, right about now.

^..^

Leah was surprised how much ground she was able to cover with only three legs to walk on. Despite her injury, she was still able to limp down the side of the gulf and back up the other side. Then, she continued on a three legged sprint for a few miles to the only place she knew to go. The place where it all began. Beneath the pier, she found refuge for the day, in a den that didn’t smell entirely unwelcoming. Something was waiting for her when she arrived. It was a stuffed kitten that smelled strongly of a pack brother she’d only met once.

He was the one that had initiated her into her wolf-hood.

If Leah had the strength, she would leave the confines of her dark den and seek him out, but her leg needed to heal. It wouldn’t until nightfall. Then, she’d need to feed, or she would shift back into human form very quickly. A wolf could not hold their changeling form when it was not the full moon without feeding very easily, but changes came easier when it was close to the full moon as it was now. Since she was not a hormonal adolescent, whatever form she affected would likely hold well enough, unlike Jake, but being young, she lacked the self control to stop sudden shifts when she got scared, angry, or hurt. The pain she felt helped to keep her in wolf form as the afternoon passed. She spent her time licking her leg, gnawing on her stuffed kitten, and napping.

^..^

David was the first to awaken, as usual, and he allowed Dwayne the luxury of sleeping in for a little while. As usual, Paul still snoozed on the bar beside him, but Marko was soon awake; almost always in tune with David’s rhythms. Paul would likely sleep for some time yet, too. He was almost always the last up, but he’d had a good draining the night before, and the feeding he’d taken to replenish it had only restored some of his blood…and it had come from a bleary eyed drunk.

David stretched and felt the bones in his back pop back into place. He felt a bit drained himself. Like Paul, he’d also been drained to the point of seeing little black dots in front of his eyes, and his nourishment had come from an inebriated bridge troll the night before. Not exactly the best meal one could ask for after nursing a Childe back to health, but better than nothing. Marko was looking a bit hung over, too, but his smile was as cheery as ever. David found himself thankful for the 40 millionth time that he didn’t have to face a time clock and a boss like Paul and Marko did.

“We should get Paul up soon or he’ll be late for work,” David said.

“He’s still got oodles of time. His shift doesn’t start ‘til midnight,’ Marko replied.

“I want him to feed well, first. And, we have to refill the bottle and get the girl and Thorn to the elementary school before he reports to duty.”

“We should give them both another hour, then?”

“That’ll do. I checked out Dwayne’s head earlier. It looks good. Not a mark.”

“He’s gonna be pissed about the bald spot,” Marko chuckled.

“He can just live with it Besides, if he wears a ponytail for awhile, no one will notice,” David answered.

They selected clean clothes for the evening, changed, and padded out to the ballroom where they’d all left their various assorted boots and shoes. Dwayne’s favorite footwear, his Converse sneakers (perfect for skateboarding), were still at the edge of the couch where he’d kicked them off the night before. Paul’s combat boots were right by his guitar. Marko and David both wore biker boots, but Marko’s were a size and a half smaller than David’s. His were right by his beanbag chair, but his Cheeto’s were missing. So was one of David’s boots.

The other one of David’s boots was where he’d left it, by his velvet parlor chair.

Scanning the room, David quickly located his other boot. It was on the throw rug, along with the mutilated remains of Marko’s bag of Cheeto’s. He bent to pick up his boot, and grimaced in disgust. It was covered in chew marks and dog slobber!

“Son of a bitch!” he swore, “Who let the dogs out! Thorn’s been down here! I’m gonna rip him a new asshole!”

“God, David, how do you know it was Thorn? Look around? Do you see Leah? Maybe the Dog Cops broke in here and stole her….” Marko said; his eyes wide with shock.

“Fat chance. He would have ripped them to shreds,” David replied. “THORN! GET YOUR DOG BUTT DOWN HERE!”

His bellow was met with a loud, pitiful whine that echoed down the tunnel. Both boys looked at each other, and then rushed up the shaft, one after the other. The sight that met them shocked and horrified them. Thorn was curled up on the floor of the upper chamber, shaking and whimpering. His face was a horror of matted fur and caked blood.

“Jesus, Marko, you’d better go get Dwayne. This doesn’t look good,” David breathed, “And bring a blanket when you come back. He’s in shock.”

Marko wordlessly did as he was told, unable to stand the sight of their protector companion suffering so horribly.

“It’s alright, buddy. We’re going to take care of you. You’re one of us,” David whispered, approaching the dog carefully. He had a limited knowledge of animals, but knew that they could act unpredictably when injured.

Thorn made a feeble attempt to lift his head and acknowledge the head vampire. David crouched down beside him and put a tentative, comforting hand on his flank. He was relieved when the dog thumped his tail against the ground three times. A few minutes later, Marko returned with Dwayne and a blanket.

“What happened to my dog?!” Dwayne cried in horror.

“We don’t know. He’s going to need another shot of plasma, and we’re going to need to refill the bottle and wash out his eyes. That should fix him up good,” David responded.

Marko handed the blanket to David, who lightly covered the shivering dog. Dwayne crouched down beside Thorn and began whispering to him softly. Thorn’s ears perked up immediately, and his shivering subsided noticeably. Then, Dwayne ran his hands up and down the dog’s body, checking for other injuries that might not be apparent to the eye. He seemed to be tender around his throat, but there were no teeth marks or blood that could be seen.

“What I’m thinking is that we’re in some deep shit,” David surmised, “I think the wolves were already here, and that Thorn tried to play hero; two against one to keep them away from Leah…but that they took our girl.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Marko replied, “I found her clothes downstairs. It looks like she…or someone else just ripped them off and tossed them away. Also, no shoes. Her sleep shirt is down there, too. You wanna tell me that they bothered to beat the crap out of Thorn, crawl down the tunnel, rip Leah’s clothes off of her, and then haul her up and take her away? They may be cops, and werewolves too, but I doubt they’re perverts…”

“So what are you suggesting?” Dwayne asked.

“I’m thinking we have a runaway wolf on our hands,” Marko answered.

“You think she did this to Thorn?”

If Thorn challenged her, she might have…”

“Yeah, and the chew marks on my boot. Puppy behavior. Thorn’s never chewed anything since we’ve had him here, but a young wolf cub might,” David stated.

“We need to find her and get her back here,” Dwayne cried.

“Oh, no. She’s better off gone. If she ever shows up here again, she’s not welcome. Hellhound mauling werewolves and vampires don’t mix. Besides, we came to a few conclusions while you were out cold last night. We’re pretty certain the fuzz will be back here with search warrants to look for her tonight. They sniffed her presence while they were here yesterday. Marko, I want you to wake Paul’s ass up. The two of you gather up every last trace of Leah, make a bonfire on the beach, and burn it. Then, you two get back here and work on refilling the bottle so we can heal up Thorn. Dwayne, get him his plasma injection,” David ordered.

The two vampires quickly set about their assigned tasks in very somber moods. No one asked David what he was assigning himself to do. Quietly, David rummaged around the two chambers until he located a large plastic bin that Marko used to store his clothes in. Not caring if his second youngest Childe would be pissed off if he borrowed it for the moment, David dumped the garments on the floor, and grabbed the bin. Then, he located the box of laundry powder, and dumped a scoopful into the bin. Next, he found a ripped up ‘kill T-shirt’ from the pile of discards that was set to be burned when time allowed, and dumped that into the bin. His final stop was to take his bin to the sea and fill it up with soapy sea water. This he used to clean up the bloody mess on the chamber of the upper cavern. It wouldn’t do for any werewolves with a search warrant to come up and smell a wolf vs. hellhound fight all over the place. He figured Thorn would need a good bath too, once he was feeling a bit better.

In order to cleanse the entire floor, David was required to dump the bin and replace the soap and water three times. He made certain to dump fresh sea water all over the front entrance of their hideout. Also, he repeated the cleaning procedure down below. When he was finished, he removed the rug and the blankets Leah had slept with, and flew them out to the bonfire Marko and Paul had built on the beach. With a grunt, he tossed them on, watching all evidence of their young visitor crackle and burn in the night air. He was a soaked mess by now and would require a change of clothes, but he was satisfied that the dogs wouldn’t find much to incriminate Dwayne when they conducted their search….if they did. Before returning to the cave to change into clean clothes, David found himself an unwitting runaway to snack on. He would now be quite able to contribute his share to the blood bottle and speed up Thorn’s healing.

It was almost as if David knew the call would be coming momentarily. For the occasion, David selected a nicer shirt; one of the few button up shirts in his wardrobe. Like almost all others he owned, it was dark; only this one was navy blue. He paired it with black jeans, and grimaced as he gazed at his boots. He could still see the damn chew marks in the left one if he looked closely, but fortunately, the tooth marks didn’t go all the way through. She’d done most of the damage to the heel. Damn her hide!

“Dwayne, are you ready?” David called to his eldest fledgling.

“Ready for what?”

“That was Shelby. You’re wanted down at the police station for questioning. This time, you get a lawyer. Meanwhile, they’re sending a couple of mutts down here with a search warrant, so Paul, Marko, look sharp. Give nothing away….answer no questions, got it?”

“No prob. We’ll have Thorn back up before they get here, too. He’ll give ‘em hell like he’s bred to do,” Marko replied.

“Dwayne, you can’t go to the police station looking like that. Put a damn shirt on,” David chided.

^..^

The same group was assembled in the questioning room that had been assembled the night before with the exception of an additional person. She was a slender woman of slightly taller than average height. Though she was actually in her mid thirties, she looked like she was more in her mid to late twenties. She also looked like she’d spent half her life staying up all day and half the night, which would not have been an understatement. In regular lighting, her makeup did wonders to hide the bags beneath her eyes and the pallor of her skin, but the fluorescent lighting in the questioning room was harsh. It did no favors for the vampires, and it did none for her, either. David remembered what Shelby had told him about Dwayne’s new attorney, Tori Finch. She was a half vampire. Without being told, Dwayne could smell it, too. So could the werewolves in the room. Suddenly, the Commissioner glared at the two women in the room with open animosity.

“What sort of trick is this, Madam Mayor?” he asked, his voice barely masking a snarl.

“No trick. The suspect is entitled to fair representation, which is certainly better than the treatment your boys afforded him last night. Now, where shall we begin?” Shelby asked, her lilting tones infuriating the Commissioner even more.

“I’d like to know how my client was identified as the prime suspect in the girl’s disappearance in the first place. Has he admitted any guilt?” Tori asked.

She passed a look to Dwayne that clearly said ‘Be quiet. Say nothing.’ Dwayne had no trouble with a suggestion of that sort. He was inclined to say nothing on a usual night anyways.

“We had an eyewitness identify him as being present the night of her disappearance,” the Commissioner replied smugly.

“And who was this alleged ‘eyewitness’?”

“Classified.”

“Bullshit. You really don’t want me going to a judge and subpoenaing the records, now do you?” Finch challenged.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t fucking try me. Now, who’s the God damned eye witness?”

“What judge would hear a case like this?”

“It might have to go out of jurisdiction, but there is night court, y’know. Ever hear of Judge Harrell? He tries cases in the City, and he’d love a veiny case like this….”

Tori Finch settled back in her chair and smiled, allowing the tip of her fangs to show just a bit.

“You bitch!” Erickson hissed.

“Name, please….”

“You’ll have a hell of a time getting this case out of the County lines…”

“I hear Hell is nice and toasty this time of year. Name, please…”

“He’s a juvenile.”

“Your point being? Look, this is a confidential questioning. The information isn’t going anywhere, so cough up the damn name already. My client only has until the fucking sun rises!”

“Jake Martinez,” Erickson muttered.

Shelby’s eyes flew open wide.

“Jake Martinez! He’s the Lt. Mayor’s son! Now this is all starting to make sense!”

“None of it makes sense. He saw the suspect with the kid in his arms, trying to drain her dry…That’s what’s in the report,” Erickson stated.

“That’s one version of the report. I’d like my client to make his statement now,” Tori said.

She turned to Dwayne, who in turn gazed at David. His eyes were beseeching. He knew what had happened that night, but he was afraid to tell. How much should he reveal?

‘Don’t tell them that you brought her to the cave. Tell them everything else’, David’s voice sounded in his head.

“I was flying over the beach on my way to Front Street. There’s always bums there, and I was hungry. I don’t know what time it was, because I never wear a watch….but I stopped dead in my tracks because I smelled something. It was…”

“It was what?” Tori urged.

“It was blood. Fresh blood. A scent like that will drive a guy like me out of my mind, so I was compelled to follow it. I-I found the source of it under the pier. That’s when I found the victim. She’d been ripped up pretty bad..”

“So you did find the girl!” the Commissioner interjected.

“Yeah, but something else found her first!” Dwayne cried, “And it started growling at me. The next thing I know, a werewolf flies out from the shadows and jumps on my back! I fling him off, and notice that his mouth is all burnt up! He can’t bite me, and he can’t finish off the girl, either…”

“So, that’s when you decide to,” Erickson concluded.

“No, I swear, I didn’t touch her! I don’t eat little kids!” Dwayne swore.

“Well, Mr. Runningwolf, I know better. You have a bit of a record. It seems that you may have been involved in a murder as far back as 1958. Perhaps you’d mind explaining the circumstances involving the unsolved death of your brother, Daniel Craig Runningwolf, aka Craig, age 12 the night he was brutally killed on December 27th, 1958? Seems like December is a bad month for you, isn’t it?”

Suddenly, Dwayne’s face contorted into a mask of fury and fangs. He shoved himself out of his seat and lunged for the Commissioner, who was sitting across the table from him.

“FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE!” he sputtered.

Instantly, David was up out of his chair, hauling his Childe back into his seat by the belt loops on his jeans.

“Beating a dead horse is getting us nowhere, pardon the bad comparison. Mr. Runningwolf was not brought in here to be questioned about the mysterious circumstances concerning his brother’s death,” Tori leveled.

“Murder has no statute of limitations,” Erickson said.

“Then let the state of Minnesota file charges, damn it! We’re only here to concern ourselves with Leah Emerson. And, Mr. Runningwolf has clearly made a statement that implicates another in the incident. So, he says a werewolf was involved. As soon as he calms down, I have some more questions for him.”

Then, she turned to Dwayne.

“You can’t let him bait you like that. He wants to see you fly off the handle. Get a grip on yourself,” she told him.

David firmly grasped Dwayne’s face between his cool fingers.

“She’s right. Behave yourself.”

Dwayne closed his eyes and cleared his mind, and after a few moments and some steely resolve, his features shifted back to normal.

“I brought a sketch Dwayne made of the werewolf he encountered down at the pier. He’s had several dreams of the incident,” David said, shoving the drawing across past Dwayne to Tori.

Tori took the drawing and examined it closely.

“You’re an excellent artist, Mr. Runningwolf. I doubt the police artists could do this good. You might consider a job on the San Francisco police force as a sketch artist,” she told him with a smile.

“Trying to tempt my Childe away from me?” David asked. His tone was not entirely amused.

“I don’t think you’ll have much to worry about, Mr. Owens. Convicted felons typically don’t get jobs on the police force,” Erickson smirked.

“Don’t be so quick to convict. Dwayne says he encountered a werewolf the night of the 16th. It’s awfully strange that Jake Martinez is also a werewolf….What is a young werewolf doing out on the pier on a full moon night, when he should be hunting with his pack mates?” Shelby inquired. She made a steeple with her hands and was resting her chin on them thoughtfully.

“My thoughts exactly,” David smarted.

“In fact, I know for sure there was a werewolf down there that night. David, the pictures…”

Shelby and David smiled knowingly, and each of them pulled out their matching prints from Shelby’s 35 millimeter camera. In addition, Shelby pulled out the prints she’d had made from her digital. David brought his digital. The images were still on the memory card, but could be seen on the readout. He also brought the bullets and the pictures Marko had taken of them.

“As you can see, these pictures clearly correlate with what Dwayne Runningwolf has made in his statement. As far as we could surmise, there was plenty of evidence to show that a werewolf had been on the premises, including hair samples. But, there was very little or nothing to show that a vampire had been there except for an eyewitnesses’ statement. So who should be here for questioning Dwayne Runningwolf, or Jake Martinez?” Shelby summarized smugly.

“These photographs are not police sanctioned. The evidence could be tampered with,” Erickson protested.

“Well, answer me some other questions, Mr. Runningwolf. Did the arresting officers read you your Miranda rights?”

“What are Miranda rights?” Dwayne asked.

“The ‘You have the right to remain silent’ speech.”

“Uh, no…”

“Did they read the charges against you? Tell you why you were being arrested?”

“No. They just shot me in the back of the head.”

“Then I declare that the whole arrest was bogus. A judge would throw it right out of court.”

“Absolutely!” Tori agreed.

“Maybe your two star detectives will be a little smarter when they bring young Master Martinez in for questioning,” Shelby said.

She gave a stern gaze to Branch and Montgomery, who had been sitting quietly in their seats throughout the entire evening’s questioning.

“One last question. What happened with the kid? What did you do with her?” Tori asked.

“There was a cop siren that sounded over head on the pier while the wolf and I were circling around each other. He fled, and then I did. I guess neither one of us wanted to be caught with a bloody kid on our hands. I don’t know what happened to her afterwards,” Dwayne stated, “But if that wolf bit her, then my guess is, she’s wandering around the hills of Santa Carla, hungrier than hell.”