Part 34 – The Questing Beast.

Henry Blake stared into the darkness of the alley, squinting to make out any sign of movement. He turned back to a scared looking young police officer who stood next to him. The lad was young, barely out of basic training. Blake sighed to himself, he wished the Department was better funded sometimes. If he had some people of his own he wouldn’t have to deal with whichever no-hopers the police threw up for him to work with.

“Are you sure it was here that the report came from?” He muttered, “Because this particular alleyway seems pretty deserted.”

The officer, who hadn’t been able to meet Blake’s eyes since they’d met, peered into the alley and nodded his head fervently.

“Absolutely sir,” he said loudly, making Blake wince, “Mr Shelton said he’d heard weird noises from this very place.”

Holding his finger up for silence, Blake motioned for the officer to follow him. Fine. He was fairly sure that ‘Mr Shelton’ was just one of the many people frightened to hysteria by the message instructing them to keep their eyes open, but you never knew.

They stepped into the dark, slowly and cautiously, one foot at a time.

“Shouldn’t we get a lantern?” The boy quavered. Blake shot him an irritated look.

“And ruin our night vision?” He returned curtly, “No. Just keep moving.”

The alley was a long one, the houses on either side imposing and impressive, stretching back a considerable distance. The darkness covered it completely, an oily coating of night, the opening only just illuminated by a streetlamp. As Blake moved further and further into the inky depths, however, a pair of tiny points of light flared into being at the very end of the alley.

Blake froze. His hand came from his side, holding his gun, and he pointed it towards those gleaming little flames.

“Go and get backup,” he hissed to the officer behind him, “quietly!”

There was the sound of hastily scuffling feet. For a second, Blake thought the creature at the end of the alley might hear, might react. An image of the man with the claw-print burned into his skin flashed across his mind. He waited, the air tight inside his chest. The lights didn’t flicker. Then, out of the shadows, there came a growl.

Blake cursed and fired, again and again loosing bullets into the dark. The growl became a howl, a gurgling roar. The half seen shape of something large came rapidly towards him, smashing into Henry with the force of what felt like a horse and carriage. He was thrown backwards and smashed into the cobbles with a crunch, his arm going up to his shoulder with a moan of agony. He looked up. Something stalked out of the end of the alley.

It was huge. Four times the size it had been in the house only a few days before. Its glowing white eyes like twin burning suns. It sniffed the air, opened its mouth and roared once more. Hot spittle spurted from between its lips, its curved fang sticking out as it distended its jaw. Seeing the prone Bruce it raised a massive paw and brought it down. He rolled out of the way, pointed his gun at the creature and shot it point blank in the chest.

It threw back its head and howled. There was a hissing and crackling noise as it lowered its head, a yellowish glare of light forming in its mouth. Lying on the ground, Henry’s eyes widened. He scrabbled to his feet just in time. Opening its mouth the creature unleashed a burst of energy that scorched the ground in front of him, just where he’d been only moments before. Smoke hissed from a circular indent burned into the the cobbles. Henry grimaced.

Ducking under the swing of one of the massive arms he moved into a roll underneath the shoulder, holstering his gun with a fluid motion. Coming up on the other side he grabbed the creature’s neck and hoisted himself up onto its gigantic back, curling his legs around its sides. It tried to reach back and grab him, but its arms were too short to get a hold of him in the middle of its broad back. Growling with frustration it arched its spine, and suddenly its short, bristling fur was buzzing with crackling lightning. Henry gritted his teeth, his eyes widening as pain coursed through him, but he kept his grip.

There was a shout from the end of the alley, and three police officers were running towards the creature, firing at it wildly. Henry tried to shout a warning to them but his voice was lost underneath the bellow of the monster. Lowering its head it charged at the officers, its long arms swatting them and sending them crashing to the ground. The creature stood over them, flexing its fingers. As it did so its claws started to lengthen, curling into talons.

Before it could jab at the prone forms there was more noise as another wave of officers came into the alley, all shooting wildly. The creature raised its arm, shielding its face from the bullets. This time its moan was more agonised.

Stumbling away from the police the creature began to shake uncontrollably. Henry, still holding on to its back, felt two points pressing against the skin, pushing up out from the monster’s shoulder-blades. Wings. The damn thing was growing wings. How the hell was it doing this? Realising this was his last chance to do something, he hauled himself further up the creature’s back. Removing one hand from around the neck he reached down, took out his gun. He’d been counting, he had one bullet left. It would have to do.

The muscles of his other arm were giving out. With considerable effort he swung the other hand up, pressed the barrel of the gun into the back of the creature’s head and fired.

There was no noise. The thing merely fell forward. Smashing into the ground. Henry rolled off it and got to his feet. He was covered in dust, scratched, bruised and bleeding from a cut to his forehead. He grinned. So this was why the job paid so well.

Looking down at the body of the creature he saw that it had shrunk, reverting down to its previous small size. He grunted, bent down and hoisted it over his shoulder before turning to go.

“Thanks lads,” he said to the officers as he passed, “I think I’ll take this thing in for study.”

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