Ash: Chapter 5

“They found Sarah.”  Magda sat down heavily next to the hospital bed.

“Not among the living, from the look on your face.”  Stephan gave a small shake of his head.  “You should have gone after her instead of carrying me back to —”

“Yours was the life I could save.”  Her voice was quiet.

“I know.  I’m not being fair, I…”  He banged his head back on the pillow.  “She shot you with my gun, and Sarah died.  I should have trusted you and just let you go do your thing.”

“You did trust me to do my thing, Stephan.  I should have been honest with you sooner.”  She swallowed.  “I knew I’d be putting you in danger by taking you with me.”

Silence fell.  Stephan took a deep breath.  “Talk to me, Mags.”

“I’m not sure how much you will believe.”  She looked away.

“I know what I saw.”  He shrugged.  “And they’ve got me on some really good drugs at the moment, so…”

“Ash was alive and at that location.  I went to his house, took a couple of this things so I’d have his scent.  He was in that vehicle with Sarah and the…”  Magda growled.  “Bitches.”

“They didn’t find him?”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.

“No.  I lost the trail at the campground.  They stole another car.  He was with them then.”

“Any chance he’s…”  Stephan frowned.  “Not sure what I’m asking here…”

“He’s not a werewolf.”  She put a hand on his arm.  “Neither are you.  The stories get that part wrong.  It’s not a contagious thing.”

“That…”  Stephan slowly nodded.  “Is one hell of a relief to know.”  He frowned.  “Then why hold onto him this long?”

“Good question.  I don’t like any of the possible answers.”  She leaned back.  “Vincent bought your story.  Thinks we were going to get the ranger and just happened upon the car.”

“And got attacked by someone’s pet bear?”  Stephan shook his head.  “That’s a terrible story.  I was in shock when I came up with that story.”

“The teeth marks in your arm kind of backed it up.”  Magda shrugged.

The silence returned.  Stephan exhaled.  “You’re a werewolf.”


“Magda.”  He looked up at her.  “You’re a werewolf.”

“Yes.”  She nodded.  “Figured that out when I turned sixteen.”  She considered for a moment, and then met his eyes.  “In 1644.”

“Yeah.”  Stephan took a deep breath.  “I’m gonna need more drugs.”



Ash: Chapter 4

Ash shivered a little in the night air.  The temperature outdoors was starting to drop a little at night.  Autumn was coming.  The notion made his stomach twist.  It had been the beginning of summer when he’d been abducted.  It wasn’t outright cold yet, just cool.  And he hadn’t been allowed to put on clothes since his had been taken from him.  Sima might have allowed it, but Carol had objected strongly to the idea of him being allowed any clothing at all.  He shivered again.

“Are you cold, Ash?”  Sima petted him.

He made a small whining noise.  The collar hadn’t been activated in a while, but the last time he’d attempted to speak had netted him another two days in the box.  She unhooked the leash from her chair, and started walking him back to the building.  He started to follow his mist…  Sima.  Her name was Sima.  He was a cop, not a dog.  She led him into her room, and patted the foot of the bed.  He climbed up and curled into a ball.  She laid down and went back to her book.

It was getting cold.  It was past July, then.  He’d missed his father’s birthday.  The big five-oh.  He felt tears prick the back of his eyes, and blinked them back.  His friends were likely going on with their lives, now.  Making plans for the upcoming semester, starting new jobs.  His father had wanted him to meet someone who worked in the filing room.  A nice girl who’d supposedly made the cookies to die for.  Not so subtle hints about settling down and starting a family.  What was his father doing now?

They hadn’t been laying there long when Sima suddenly sat up.  “Oh, I almost forgot.  I got you something in town.”  She went to her dresser and took something out of her purse.  He looked down at what she set in front of him.

A bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  Her hand ruffled his hair.  “A new toy for my good boy.  Do you like it, Ash?”

It was a bright blue plastic squeaky bone.  It was a dog toy.  Her hand tightened in his hair, pulling the strands just a little.  “Do you like it, Ash?”  There was an edge to her voice now, a small note of threat.

The toy squeaked when he bent down and picked it up in his mouth.  He squeaked it again.  Sima smiled, and her grip on his hair once again became a pet.  “I knew you’d like it.”  She settled back down with her book.

His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.  The box was cramped, and dark, and painful.  He just had to pretend, so she didn’t put him back in the box.  He settled back down on the bed and began chewing on the corner of the bone.  His name was Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  He was not her pet.  He was a cop.  He was not a dog.


Ash : Chapter 3

There was a scent on the wind.  The same as the car.  Magda started to follow, then got whiff of a more familiar scent.  She stopped in her tracks.  “What are you doing here?”

Stephan shrugged.  “You left the station.”

“It’s the weekend.”  She turned toward him.

“We’ve got a missing cop, and you decide to actually take a weekend?”  He shook his head.  “What’s going on, Magda?”

“Needed to clear my head.”  She twitched a shoulder.

“So, you pick the jogging trail that was the recent site of a couple joggers getting mauled by a bear?”  Stephan raised an eyebrow.  “What, are you planning on challenging it to a fistfight or something?”

“Mood I’m in, I could take a bear.”  She hesitated.  The scent was on the wind, but with Stephan here…  If it was what she thought it was, it was more danger than her partner could handle.

“Talk to me, Magda.”  He gave her a concerned look.

And if she didn’t follow the trail now, she risked losing it.  “Walk with me.”

“If you want.”  He nodded.

He didn’t say anything when after a while she led him off the trail, following her nose.  The scent cut across paths, taking shortcuts.  Didn’t comment on how weird she was acting, or why they were going through the woods in the middle of the night.  He just followed, trusting that she knew what she was doing.  And he kept his eyes peeled, watching her back as she followed the scent.

They came out at a parking lot.  Despite the hour, there were two or three cars still there.  She followed the scent to one space, and then nothing.  Whoever it was had gotten in the car and driven away.  She crouched, but the treads all overlapped, rendering any pattern too indistinct to be useful.  With so many vehicles, there was no way to tell for certain which scent was the right car.

There was a wolf hunting in her territory.  She took a deep breath, and looked up at Stephan.  He was just watching her.  “At the warehouse —”

“The woman looked like she’d been torn apart by wild animals.”  Stephan nodded.  “You think it’s like one of those weird cartels where they’ve got a pet jaguar or something?”

Relief filled her.  He’d made the connection on his own.  Wrong, but it gave her something to build on.  “The thought crossed my mind, I mean…”  She shrugged.  “When was the last time anyone saw a bear out here?”

“Where’d you learn to track?”  He looked around, frowning as he observed the lot.

“My dad used to take me hunting.”  It was close enough to the truth.  “Not sure I picked up enough of a trail to go on, but…”  She slowly nodded.  “I think the cases are related.”

“Let’s go have a word with the rangers, see if any of them spotted anything odd.”


Ash: Chapter 2

They led him into a different room.  Ash took a quick look around, but once again so no windows or other means of egress than the door itself.  There was a bed in the room.  It was starting to become obvious what they intended, but what he once would have thought of as a pleasant fantasy was quickly unraveling in the face of reality.  Carol pulled him toward the bed.  He started to balk, and felt Sima place the prongs of the prod in the small of his back.  “Be a good boy, Ash.”

He followed Carol, then laid face down as Sima directed.  The prod was handed to Carol, who kept it pressed against him as Sima walked to the foot of the bed.  She unfastened the ankle restraints.  He fought the urge to whimper as she spread his legs across the queen-sized bed, securing his ankles to the posts.  She removed his left wrist from the cuffs and secured it to the bedpost, then secured his right wrist to the remaining post.

Then she started tightening the ropes.  A few moments later he was racked across the bed, the ropes tight enough to strain his joints.  He could barely move.  “Are you comfortable, Ash?”  Sima petted his hair.


Ash : Chapter 1

Lisa smiled as the man on the tattered mattress moved slightly.  She rose, and walked over to look down at her prize.  He shifted again just a little, and then his eyes flew open and he began thrashing at the restraints.  His hands were cuffed behind his back, and a second pair of cuffs secured his ankles.  The third set had been used to fasten the other two sets together.  “You’re going to hurt yourself it you keep that up.”

He shifted to glare angrily in her direction.  Whatever he tried to say was muffled by the rag she’d stuffed into his mouth.  She smirked, then removed his ID from her pocket.  “Bernard Rudolf Achterberg.  That’s quite a moniker.”  She ran her thumb over the badge.  “You don’t really look like a Bernie.”  He had a muscular, athletic build from what she could see.  Definitely not the type she’d expect from such a frankly nerdy name.

Muffled grunts were all that answered her as he continued testing the cuffs.  She shrugged.  “Or a Rudy, for that matter.”  His eyes narrowed.  She licked her lips.

“He looks a bit confused.”  Carol chuckled.  The man on the mattress squirmed, trying to look over his shoulder at her.  Carol was leaning near the door, watching with some amusement.  “I’ll bet he’s a Berg.”

“What about it?”  Lisa walked over to crouch near the mattress.  “You a Berg?”  She reached out to touch the collar of his uniform and he managed to pull away.  The sounds he was making were most likely curses, and he was openly glaring at her now.

“So, tell me, what did he pull you over for?”  Carol raised an eyebrow.

“I was doing five over.”  Lisa smirked.  “Couldn’t risk them running my ID and his trainer was going to do it ‘by the book’ instead of just telling me to slow down and go on my way.”

The man on the mattress started making cursing noises and pulling at the cuffs again.  “Hey, now.”  Carol’s voice was sharp.  She sat down on the mattress and grabbed his forearm.  “Knock it off, you’re already bleeding.”  She shook her head and looked up at Lisa.  “You’re going to need better restraints.”

“Wasn’t exactly planning on taking a prisoner.”  Lisa shrugged.  She reached forward to brush her fingers through the man’s dark blond hair.  He immediately pulled away and growled something from behind the gag.  “He was just a bit too pretty to pass up.”

“What happened to the other one?”  Carol examined the prisoner’s abraded wrist.  The prisoner managed to pull his arm away.

“Double tap.”  Lisa shrugged.  “Once I had this one in the trunk the old man had outlived his usefulness.”

More sounds came from the captive.  Carol reached up, grabbed his hair, and yanked his head back.  “I suggest you start considering how to preserve your own life.”

“So, which is it?  Berg, Rudy, or Bernie?”  Lisa leaned forward and yanked the gag out of his mouth.

“Fuck you.”  He spat the words at her.  “You murderous bitch, I —” He struggled, but with Carol holding him by the hair Lisa had no problem shoving the gage back into his mouth.

“He’s not very cooperative.”  Carol made a tsking sound.

“That can be changed.”  Lisa smiled.


Wren and Adam: Chapter 7

Wren glanced at where Adam sat in the corner of the room.  He was human for now.  Renee had been very clear about what would happen if he shifted without permission.  Not that it mattered.  With a single spell, Renee could teleport Adam back into the vicinity of the talisman.  He wasn’t going anywhere, and it was clear he knew it.

The talisman was more powerful than she’d initially realized.  It had apparently jumped up Adam’s own magical ability.  Whatever gift he’d had initially had been replaced as he’d adapted to the shape-changing.  Renee had dangled the talisman between her fingers as she’d discussed its power.  Then, almost casually, she’d held it over a flame.

Adam’s scream had been so intense he’d damaged his throat.  For nearly two days, he’d been all but unable to speak even after she’d healed him.  He was bound to the glimmering stone.  Unless it was kept by a witch, it’s magic would begin to decay.  Within a few days, it would be rendered inert.  And Adam would die.  Adam himself couldn’t touch the thing without blacking out, and the tiniest trickle of magic through it was enough that he could not disobey a direct order against the one holding it.  He was trapped.

Renee had made such talismans before.  Adam was the first to have not been rendered a drooling wreck by the process.  Wren was certain it was his own gift, the magic that had allowed him to adapt to animal forms, that made the difference more than her own assistance during the process.

She looked down at the talisman in her hand, then back up at Adam.  He stared up at her, his face devoid of expression.  “Focus, girl.”  Renee’s voice came from behind her.

Her will concentrated behind the talisman.  She closed her eyes, and felt Adam’s presence.  Despite his empty expression, she could feel the emotions beneath the surface.  Anger and despair were waring with each other.  Hatred for Renee and…  She swallowed when she realized that while she could sense his love for her, there was hatred now as well.  And fear.  Adam was scared of her.  You don’t have to be afraid.

A moment of confusion in his mind, and then a response. I wish I could believe that.

“Shift him.”  Renee ordered.

In her mind, she formed the picture of a dog.  No, not a dog.  She shifted the picture to that of a wolf.  Then she exerted her will.  Connected to Adam’s mind, she could feel pain course through him, though it was slightly disconnected.  The sensation of it was a heady rush that sent a shiver through her.  When she opened her eyes again, a gray wolf sat where he’d been a moment before.  “Done.”

“Good girl.”  Renee smiled.  “Now turn him back.”


Wren and Adam : Chapter 6

Adam shivered in the cage.  The hag had taken Wren to her bed again.  The frightening thing was that it seemed Wren now went willingly, eager for the chance to learn some new spell.  The old witch hadn’t beaten Wren in weeks.

These days, when Wren messed up a lesson, the hag simply dragged him out, changed him back into a human, and ordered Wren to torture him.  It was starting to almost be a relief to be changed back into some form of animal.  At first, Wren had begged not to be made to hurt him.  Now it seemed she just did what she was told, getting it over with to move on with her training.

He’d almost forgotten what it was like to be human and not in pain.  Or at the mercy of another.  He was given to Wren as a reward as well.  Last night she’d held him down while she’d ridden him.  After what had happened at the bar, he’d had no interest in being taken to Wren’s bed.  But his body had responded to her so eagerly he suspected she’d used one of her spells.  He wondered if the hag used such spells on Wren, considering how often the creature fucked his girlfriend.

His girlfriend.  It was difficult thinking of Wren in such terms anymore.  At first she’d tried finding a way to make the shifting not hurt.  Then, at some point, it was like she’d stopped caring and just been concerned herself with finding the limitations of the spell and his own responses to the spell.  Eventually, he’d become so inured to it he just stopped screaming despite the agony.  His mind tried to go back to the events of the previous week, and he pushed the thoughts away.

There was something under the agony when the magic surrounded him.  Something he could almost focus on, touch.  At times he could almost feel it when he wasn’t being changed.  He sought for it, the strange sort of hum inside him.  They’d forgotten to feed him again.  A rabbit was too big to get out of the cage, and…  Adam frowned, and concentrated.

Agony filled him as his bones twisted and bent into other shapes.  He made no sound as his body shifted and…  And as a serpent, he slithered through the bars.  If snakes could have, he’d have laughed.  Immediately, he headed for the door, slipping beneath it.  A snake wasn’t fast enough.  He touched the hum again, concentrating.

Instinct guided as much as anything.  Rather than assume a human form, he found himself on all four paws.  A dog.  And then he started to run.  He went north, toward freedom.  He almost lost himself in the joy of it, the canine urge to just run and run.  After having been a prisoner so many months, stretching his legs even to flee was an almost indescribable pleasure.

The road was in view when the world around him suddenly spun.  He howled.


Wren and Adam: Chapter 5

Wren was going on about how exciting it must have been to fly.  Adam sighed and shook his head.  “What’s wrong?”  Wren put her hand on his leg.

“Imagine having your body put through a damn woodchipper, Wren.”  Adam met her eyes.  “That’s what it feels like every time she…”

“Oh.”  Wren’s voice was small.  “That’s…”  She looked away.  “That’s why you screamed.”

“Yeah, Wren.  That’s why I screamed.”  He leaned back.  “I’d almost rather she leave me a rabbit than keep…”  He shuddered.

“I figured out how to make the wax stop hurting you.  Maybe I could find a way to…”

“Find a way to get us out of here, Wren.  Please.”  He caught her hand.

“I am, Adam.”  She smiled.

He wished he could believe her, but half the time Renee entered the room Wren looked more excited than afraid.  Adam rubbed his arms.  Since most of the time he was left in animal form, Renee hadn’t bothered to provide him with any clothes.  Half the time it seemed he was lucky if either woman remembered to provide him with food.

“I think I could do it.”

“Wren?”  He looked up at her.

“I was watching, when she was shifting you.  I think I could do it.  It would have to be a dog or a cat, those are the only animals I’ve really been around long enough to be sure of getting it right, but I think I can do it.”

Adam stared at her.  He’d told her how bad it hurt and…  “Wren.”

“I’m going to try a cat, okay?”  She stood up, shaking out her arms.

“Please, don’t…”  He started shaking his head.

She took a deep breath before half closing her eyes and putting a hand on his shoulder.

A scream tore from him as his bones began to break and shift.


Wren and Adam : Chapter 4

She concentrated, trying to focus the strange stirring inside her.  Adam’s face was contorted with pain.  His wrists had been bound behind his back, then fastened to a length of chain.  Renee had then tossed the other end of the chain over a tree branch and used it to lift Adam up.  He stood on tiptoes, his entire body taut as he tried to keep his balance and prevent even more strain to his shoulders.

The candle failed to light.  Renee brought the whip down across Adam again.  His scream was muffled by the gag in his mouth as he struggled to regain his balance.  Blood ran down his sides and legs from where the lash had bitten into him.  “Try again.”  Renee narrowed her eyes.  “I don’t stop hurting him until the candle lights.”

Wren took a deep breath, and imagined that the wick was Renee’s head.  The candle lit with enough heat to melt away the first half inch of wax.  “It’s lit.”  She turned toward Renee.  “Let him down.”

Renee hit the lever to release the chain.  Adam fell to his knees, and Wren rushed toward him.  She put her arms around him as she focused the healing magic.  “Adam, are you alright?”


Wren and Adam : Chapter 3

She’d held the focus.  He’d screamed anyway, and now he was just lying there.  “What did you do to him?”  Wren looked up at Renee.

Renee was fitting the gemstone into a ring.  “I tore his soul in half, child.”  She slipped the ring onto her finger, then held up her hand.  It sparkled.  “Pretty, isn’t it?”

“Adam?”  She put her hand on the side of his face.  “Oh god, Adam…”  She made a sobbing sound.  “Why?”

“You held your focus.”  Renee smiled.  “I thought for certain it would take you at least two attempts.”  She lowered her hand.  “A small reward, then.”  She touched a finger to the gemstone, and there was a small flash of light.

Adam’s body jerked, and his dark brown eyes opened.  He blinked up at her.  “Wren?”

“Adam.”  She pulled him into her arms, holding him tightly.

“Take him back to your room.”  Renee shrugged.  “You have one hour, then he goes back into the cage.”


Wren and Adam : Chapter 2

Figuring out how to move was difficult.  Every sound in the room seemed to echo loudly, and the various smells assaulted his senses.  The world even looked different, like watching television with the color on the fritz.  The hag was walking in a circle around Wren.  Hearing what the hag intended for her had terrified him.  If he had a voice, he’d have screamed again for Wren just to leave him and run.

Anger filled him, along with dismay at just how helpless he was at the moment.  Bound, he’d at least have had the opportunity to cut himself free or do something.  He looked down at his… paws.  He couldn’t even clench his fists.


Wren and Adam : Chapter 1

“You are such a pig.”  Wren shoved Mark away from her and zipped her top back up.  Wearing the thing had clearly been a mistake.  But it had set her back fifty bucks and she wanted to look good for Adam.

“Your girlfriend’s a prude.”  Mark snickered as he looked over her head at Adam.

“Stop being such an ass.”  Adam glared at him.  When Mark reached toward Wren again, Adam caught his wrist.  “I said knock it off.”

“We’re out tonight to have fun.”  Mark rolled his eyes, then sighed and looked up at the driver.  “Why’d you invite the stick in the mud?”

“He’s my brother, jackass.”  James shrugged.

“You’re the one who didn’t want to sit in the back.”  Vince laughed.  He had his arms draped over both Meg and Susan, and they were giggling.

Mark put his hand on Wren’s knee and Adam grabbed it and shoved it back at him.  “James, pull over.”

“What?”  James glanced back at him.

“I’m changing seats with Wren.”  Adam shrugged.  “Hopefully, Mark can keep his hands off me.”

“I’m going to kick your ass.”  Mark flipped him off.

“We’re never going to get there at this rate.”  James growled, but pulled off to the side.

Adam opened the door and slid out.  He turned and offered Wren a hand.  Mark smacked her on the ass as she started climbing out of the van.  “Fuck off, Mark.”  Adam glared as he caught Wren to keep her from falling.

“That fucking hurt, you…”  Wren shook her head.

Mark rolled his eyes, then leaned over and shut the door.  Wren heard it lock and banged on the window.  “Don’t you…”  Adam started cussing as James hit the gas pedal at Mark’s urging.  “Oh, you fucking…”  He ran a hand through his black hair.  “Do you have your cell phone?”

“My purse is still in the van.”  Wren folded her arms.  “Along with my jacket.”  She shook her head.  “Why the hell are you friends with that asshole?”

“Good question.”  Adam stripped off his windbreaker and offered it to her.

“Thank you.”  She sighed down at the strappy sandals she was wearing.  They were going to get ruined.  “Will they come back?”

“Fuck if I know.”  He took a deep breath.  “I think there is a gas station a couple miles up the road.”


Gabriel : Part 1

He was still buttoning his shirt when his eyes fell on the file sitting on his kitchen counter.  Plain, manila, and taunting him.  His cell phone sat atop it.  Gabriel walked forward, staring at the thing.  Then he reached for his phone.  It blinked to life before he touched it, open to the map application.  A place several miles out of town.

Gabriel took several deep breaths before looking at the name on the file.  “Roske.”  He sighed, then picked up the phone.  He dialed Angela’s number.  “Hey sweetie.  It’s Gabe.  Look I hate to do this, but something just came up with a case.  Can we take a rain check on tonight?  Call me.”  He stabbed the end button.

The map popped back into view.  He stared at it for several seconds before heading into the living room to find his keys.


Primitive : Chapter 1

The bars of the cell were more than just steel.  Captain Oscar Guerin glanced at the creature within.  It stared back at him with irritatingly calm green eyes.  The steel bars of the last cage had been bent, enough that the beast inside had been able to force an escape.  It had killed four good soldiers before they’d managed to hit it with enough sedative darts to drop it again.  The thing only looked human.

He’d been furious when he’d confronted those in charge of the operation.  Bad intel and insufficient preparation got people killed.  Security around the creature had been revamped to his specifications.  The titanium alloy bars of the cage were now set close enough together that the creature could not reach its arm through.  The lock was electronic with a number code.  Entering a different code would cause the floor of the cell to deliver an electric shock to disable the creature.  The floor would deliver the same shock if force were applied to the lock without the code being entered.

Guerin smiled as he crouched a little to look the thing in the eye.  “I know you can understand me.  They are going to vivisect you while you are alive and watching, take you apart to see how you work.”  The creature merely smirked at him.  He thought about activating the shock just to wipe the expression off its face.  Then he shrugged, shifted so the camera couldn’t see him, and opened the front of his trousers.  The stream of piss landed in the thing’s food and water, and it growled at him before lunging forward and knocking both to spill out of the cage.  He gave it a smirk of his own.  “What, not hungry?”


Truth and Shadows : Chapter 2

She asked for water to be brought in, then glared and requested a straw.  Mr. Viteri chuckled a little when the guard started apologizing and brought her the straw.  “You’ve got a very good ‘don’t fuck with me’ glare.”  He nodded to her.  “You practice, or did it come naturally?”

“Little of both.”  She held up the glass for him to take a sip, then set it on the table before resuming her own seat.

“My mother had the same one.”  He shrugged.  “I was still living with her at the time.  Between the record and the lack of a steady paycheck I couldn’t get a place of my own.  She was sick a lot, so maybe it was for the best.  I did the yard work and house maintenance and stuff.”

“You have a sister?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“Half-sister.  We weren’t close and uh…”  He twitched his shoulder as much as the restraints allowed.  “I’d, uh…”  He exhaled.  “She’s not really part of the story.  She’s got a life of her own, kids, and folks have…”  He trailed off, then hung his head.  “Her kids had this dog.  Little spaniel mix, with springs for legs and not a hell of a lot of brains.  Sweet thing, loved everyone, and those kids adored it.  After I got charged…”  He took a deep breath.  “Somebody lynched it from her front porch.”

“That’s…”  She swallowed past the lump that had risen in her throat.  “Oh god, that’s horrible.”

“She wrote a couple times.  Never wrote back.  Figured that tie was better cut.”  He looked up again.

“So, you and Tobias met up again after high school, decided to start over?”  She looked down at her notepad.

“Wasn’t exactly a clean slate sort of thing.  We both remembered those days.  But like I said, high school is kind of a self-discovery sort of phase.  No one really knows who they are yet.  I knew that was true of the ones at the bottom.  Turns out it’s also true of the ones at the top.”