Sing, Sweet Nightingale
Sleep hung like a dreadful shroud over the room. Cheeks rested on palms; eyes hung half-lidded, sunken and shadowed from lack of sleep. The only ones in the room who seemed to be of any use were Simon, Myles and Adrian. At the head of the room Myles and Simon bantered back and forth, discussing what to do and how to go about dishing out responsibilities for the earlier-than-planned departure. Feeling her eyes growing heavier with each passing second, Calleigh began to slump onto the table before her. Only when Khota tugged on a lock of the lady’s hair to get her attention did she sit up and begin to pay what little attention she could.
“I see we are all alive and buzzing tonight,” Myles said. His happy tone made Felix and Khota groan.
“Braiiiiins,” Khota moaned.
“Or bed…” replied Felix.
Smiling, the brunette continued. “Around 2:05, we received more news from the case; news which has demanded our whole and undivided attention.”
A sudden shuffling of paperwork from the far left of the room woke the room up a little bit more. Adrian sat, with case file in hand, and was flipping through the pages.
“At midnight tonight there was another attack,” he began, his voice profound and icy. “This one in a more public location than the last. If you’ll look at the screen.”
Out went the lights and on came a slideshow of photos. They were gruesome, to say the least, and made Calleigh’s stomach churn just a little bit. Her hand crept to her mouth when the pictures moved from the mutilated corpses of adults to those of children. Temper flaring, the lass wished, for once in her life, she hadn’t been in her chosen occupation. Still she looked ahead, though, combing each photo for every detail she could find that might help.
“Moving from adults,” Adrian went on to explain, alarming the Irish lass as this is the most she had ever heard him talk. “Children now seem to be the main target of these creatures. Judging from the marks on their throats and shoulders, the unsub is most likely a wolf or of wolf descent.”
“But,” Myles cut in, “Had it just been the work of a regular old wolf, we wouldn’t be involved.”
“Close to twelve-fifteen this morning,” Adrian continued, “One of the victims began to transform and attacked the gravediggers that had been in the process of burying it. This is what remained after the creature had been killed.”
A twisted and blackened form of what the group assumed to be a woman flashed on the screen. Dark fur appeared in scattered patches across her body. Her arms and feet appeared to have been burned off and her face contorted with such agony that Felix shifted uneasily in his seat. Broken and blackened fangs jutted out of what was left of the thing’s crumbling mouth. Massive, swollen bruises shone like spotlights on the creature’s body, literally scattered all over. The corpse’s veins stood out like lines of black ink on paper and were ruptured and cauturized in some spots. Very few patches of skin were left unscathed by whatever had caused the massive burns.
“And what the hell is that?” Khota blurted. “Is someone a pyro or something?”
Myles grabbed the file from an already-irritated Adrian and flipped the page. “No, the objects used to kill it were shovels and the iron handle from an already-extinguished torch. They only annoyed the creature, though.”
Khota leaned back. “The hell?”
“According to the villagers,” Adrian continued after snatching back his file and shooting his brother a dirty look. “After subduing the creature, they were able to get it to talk. Yet, before anything could be said—”
Simon’s sudden uttering of her name made the woman jump, and Adrian looked as if he was about to snap.
“Tell us what you can see in these photos. What do you think was the cause of death and the burn?”
“Yeah,” Felix grinned. “C’mon, n00b, show us what’cha got. ‘Afore we all fall asleep.”
Mouth contorting, Calleigh looked, wondering why her Captain would put her on the spot like that. Too tired to think before she spoke, Calleigh became the victim of word-vomit. But the effects weren’t as bad as she had thought they would be. She studied the photo from corner to corner, picking up little details that stood out to her like vibrant Technicolor in a world of greyscale.
“Um, the limbs do look like they were burnt, but from the way it looks in the photo… It’s like the person was burnt from the inside out; like something had gone off and shot through the veins like water through a series of old hoses. Something inside this creature was like…like a bomb that went off at a certain time.”
“Well, that was intriguing,” Myles grinned. “Are you sure you haven’t read this file?”
Calleigh’s confusion was obvious to the brunette, and she could have sworn she actually saw a tiny smile on Adrian’s lips. Simon grinned full on.
“Very good. This next photo is a close-up of the creature’s veins. Look well because this is all the time we have left before we head out. The rest will be filled in on our flight.”
“F-flight?” Icy weights dropped into Calleigh’s stomach.
“Not afraid of heights, are we?” Khota teased. “Oh, da poor widdle baby is scared of heights!”
Calleigh’s cheeks matched her hair for color, but she didn’t deny her fear. She cursed herself for having watched dumb horror movies about plane crashes and untimely deaths and whatnot. The African Agent, meanwhile, had snaked his way over to Calleigh.
Nuzzling her cheek, he purred, “Awww, poor thing. I’ll keep you occupied while we fly.”
He was going to add something more but the sudden fist in his ribcage cut the sentence off with a nice wheeze. “Khota, ya idjit,” Felix laughed. “You’ve never thought twice about women so keep yer fag-hands to yerself!”
“I resent that, good sir!” the African cried. “I am not a cigarette nor a bundle of sticks! I’m a flaming, cock-eating, mascara-wearing homosexual! And I’m proud of my Anti-Vagina ways!”
Before that, everyone else had left so they could double check their gear and personal items. Myles tapped on the door, reminding the trio to get a move on. Calleigh, though giggling like a school girl, made haste to join her new teacher. Close behind her followed the pair, still arguing about what to call each other.
“Never a dull moment is there,” the lass asked. Myles shook his head. “Huh. I thought this place would be…”
“More professional? Dark and mysterious? All seriousness and paperwork?”
“Well, yes. It’s a big shock.”
“Trust me,” he assured her. “This place will seem like an everyday thing once you get used to it. To be honest, Khota was our greenhorn before you. He’s only been on three cases prior to this one. Charming fellow. Full of life, cunning, humor. And a wonderful mind the likes of which I haven’t seen since Adolf Hitler.”
That statement threw Calleigh for a whirl. What was so wonderful about Hitler’s mind? How he killed thousands of people? How he used dirty tactics to outwit those around him? The girl didn’t waste time berating her superior so she just out and spoke her mind.
“That’s a stupid thing to say.”
“Oh?” Those green eyes darkened with what Calleigh took to be humiliation. But, it wasn’t that; she realized that with his smile. “Why would you say that?”
“Isnt it obvious?” Calleigh wrinkled her nose. “He was a madman, and he murdered thousands of people.”
Biting the tip of his tongue, the brunette made a confirmatory noise. “Well, yes, but he was also a brilliant painter with a beautifully imaginative mind. Before he went schizo, that is,” he added with a laugh.
Though the explanation made sense, the lass still felt a little unnerved by Myles’ comparison. She kept quiet.
“All I’m saying,” Myles went on, “Is that Khota has a brilliant and imaginative mind.”
“I know, I know. It just sounded strange to hear something like that come out of your mouth.”
Grinning from ear to ear, the man replied, “Never know what I’m going to do next!”
A door blocked their way at the end of the long hallway. It looked imposing, its numerous cables connecting to its keypad and card reader making Calleigh feel like she was inside some high-tech prison ward or a mad scientist’s secret lab. Sliding his personal card, the reader beeped and allowed Myles and his companion access. The new hallway was even more daunting than the last. A few feet in, the door closed. And there was no sign of Felix and Khota.
“Um, where are the others at?”
“Stop worrying, love. They have extra tasks to complete before boarding the plane. They’ll be with us in due time. Look, there she is.”
Out the massive windows farther down the hall, Calleigh could see a private jet. Sitting in the spotlight, the InDOS logo emblazoned across its tail stood out in stark relief. The young woman’s stomach did a few flips. Calleigh immediately felt sick, losing her balance. Under her nose, Myles’ hand appeared with two small tablets. They smelled like ginger and peppermint.
“Take them before you board and you’ll feel better at take-off,” he instructed. “I have some more on me if you need them.”
“A-alright,” Calleigh dry-heaved.
The pills were quickly swallowed and the pair continued down the hall to the boarding ramp. Calleigh couldn’t help but glance at Myles every so often. Once, she was sure Myles caught her looking and gave a mischievous grin.
“Is there something on your mind, dear?”
“Mm, no. Nothing important.”
To be honest, Calleigh lied. What went through her mind was important—though even if only to her. From the perspective of an onlooker, Calleigh would have the look of a girl with a crush. But, no. Such was not the case. She was just grateful for Myles being near her—not because he was genuinely kind nor because of something so vain as his handsome looks. No, it was because he reminded her alot of her late father. His smile, his eyes, even the way he joked around. It made the girl feel all the more comfortable in the strange, new environment in which she now lived and worked.
“I’m sorry,” he said out of the blue.
They had arrived at the docking gate. A chill ran through Calleigh as they crossed the threshold and began the death-march towards the plane.
“Your thoughts are so…open to me,” Myles admitted. “I did not mean to pry. Forgive me. But, I am glad to be held in such a high standard in your heart.”
“O-oh.” Red painted Calleigh’s face, burning out her hair by miles. “You’re welcome.”
“Oy! ‘Bout time you got here! I got gray hair waiting for you! Look! Poor Felix died!”
Myles laughed as he spotted the Scotsman. He was passed out on the extended seat, his beret covering his face. Calleigh, meanwhile, limped over to the nearest seat and collapsed. The medicine Myles had given her was fading, and fast.
“Like hell I did,” Felix grumbled from under the hat. He sounded sleepy. “Ye poisoned me damn tea!”
“Whoops, did I put that in yours?” Khota innocently replied. “I meant to put it in Simon’s.”
“I’d like to see you try,” Simon replied.
The Captain sat near the front of the plane, one leg over the other and a paper open, partially covering his face. Opposite him sat Adrian with his usual demeanor: a spaced out, solemn expression and an air of detachment from reality.
“Well, all is good and well. Buckle up, children! We’re taking off.”
“Yes, dad.” Khota stuck his tongue out at Myles. When his seat belt fastened by itself—a little too tightly—he regretted his childish action. He rolled his eyes to the grinning dhampir as he loosened his restraint.
The plane jerked. Outside the window, the scenery began to roll by; at first slow, speeding up little by little until barely a blur could be made out. A crackling over the intercom brought a quick announcement: the flight would take about three hours and was going to end at a small German hamlet near Simonswald, deep in the Black Forest. The Agents’ destination was a secluded village within the bowels of the forest itself, some ten miles within the lightless woods.
While that was all well and good, Calleigh just wished her stomach would hold until they arrived. She didn’t want to embarrass herself in front of her new coworkers.
© Copyright 2016 JD Ledger. All rights reserved.