Author Topic: Chapter 1  (Read 8818 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 1
« on: August 25, 2022, 04:41:23 AM »
Chapter 1

It had been an ordinary day at work, for the most part. Most 112 calls had been about respiratory problems as usual, but there'd been a slightly higher rate of abdominal pains and chest pains in the mix. Gil had years of experience at it by now, but he still felt that twinge of sympathetic suffering when he was tending to them.

Lisbon was a beautiful city, even this late in the year. It was far south enough to avoid most of the cold from winter, and it was right on the Atlantic, which served as a temperature moderator. It had rained more this year than usual, washing away the first snows very quickly.

Gil was nearing the end of his shift today, and it was almost ten pm. They got a call that took them down to the waterfront, near the shores of the Tagus. It was a bad one, too. Even as his partner Martim pulled them up next to the scene, Gil could see blood on the street outside the coffee shop. Near the bloodstains was a man clutching at his belly, and next to him a woman already clearly dead. Her eyes were staring sightlessly up at the night sky, and she was still as a stone.

Letting his training guide him, Gil went through emergency procedures as calmly as he could. He'd seen DOA patients before, but this was no ordinary accident.

A terrible snarling noise jolted him up from trying to help the man, as something smashed right into Martim! The figure bowled the other EMT right over, and then Martim's head hit the pavement. His hands, previously trying to push back against this... thing, went disturbingly still and limp. Then, the creature stood up from Martim and turned to face Gil.

Even compared to the violence that had just happened, what Gil saw was shocking. It had the shape of a man, but its head was more akin to a slavering dog or wolf. Bristling black fur ran the length of its arms under the shirt, which ended with claws instead of hands. Red eyes shone over an open maw and fangs dripping with blood. Martim's blood.

Gil felt like he'd just been dragged into some kind of nightmare. He scrambled to his feet- the unfortunate man next to him forgotten- and backed away as this thing approached. Its snarling grew louder, and a guttural tone came from beneath. "Sinistro!" It growled at him.

Abruptly the creature charged at him, and Gil scrambled backwards in terror. He tripped on the curb and fell painfully on his rear, but a yell sounded out to his left and someone slammed into this creature in turn! It was a woman, black-haired and slender, but she'd managed to knock it off course enough to miss him.

The two of them immediately rolled apart and came to their feet again. The creature snarled again, this time at her, and its clawed hands raised in anticipation. By contrast, the slender woman pulled out a pair of sharp knives from sheaths on her legs. Gil had no idea what was going on, but his only thought was to get help. He backed away from the two combatants, who were still circling each other, and tried to run around to his vehicle. From there he could radio emergency services and get the Lisbon police involved.

Their standoff didn't last long. The creature let out a weird kind of howl, before both of them charged in at each other. A cacophony of noise erupted as they stabbed and clawed at each other in close quarters! Gil had just reached the radio when the snarling cut off with a sick, gurgling noise. He stared back almost unwillingly, as the woman was withdrawing a dagger from that thing's neck. It twitched horribly on the ground, blood spurting from the wound for a few moments, and then both the bleeding and the twitching stopped.

Unlike the woman. She ran over to both the victims and searched through their pockets. The man was still alive, but probably going into shock as this happened. The black-haired woman, whoever she was, paused a moment to look at him with sympathy, but then pulled out his wallet.

She didn't go for his money, though. Instead she opened it up and looked at his ID. She did the same for the woman, and then checked Martim's badge as well.

Gil, barely able to focus, called for police backup on the radio, and then ran over to the dying man. Whoever this deadly woman was, she wasn't trying to kill him, so he only skirted her slightly on the way. She grabbed his arm on the way. "Uh, qual o... seu nome?" She asked in mangled Portuguese, looking down at his badge.

It was clear she wasn't a native speaker. "I speak English," Gil assured her, raising the man's feet and trying to stem the bleeding. "My name is Guillaume Hartkins. What... what the hell was that thing?" He stared over at the dead creature.

And nearly jumped out of his skin, all over again. As he stared at it, the creature's face changed. The fur retracted into the skin, disappearing entirely, as did the fangs. The red in its eyes, which were still open, faded until they were normal. Only the blood on its mouth remained, as well as the gaping hole in its neck. "Good God!"

It looked normal now; or as normal as a bloodstained body could. If he hadn't seen the change with his own eyes, he would have sworn this was just some ordinary dead guy!

The woman gave him another sympathetic glance. "That, uh... that's a long story." She glanced up nervously, as sirens started up off in the distance. Portugal had a fairly quick police response time, and Lisbon was on the high end of that. "I need to go. Listen, do yourself a favor and don't tell them everything of what you saw here. You'll just sound like a crazy person if you do. Just tell them you saw me fighting with some guy who was trying to bite me." She stood up and moved away abruptly.

"Wait!" He objected, but he still kept pressure on the wounds of the poor man below him. "What the hell is going on?! Who are you?"

"You're better off not knowing, believe me," she said quietly, and then around the corner past the coffee shop.

-.-

Despite Gil's efforts, the poor man died right there on the sidewalk, just after the police arrived. Gil comforted himself with the near-certainty that he would have died regardless. Martim's skull had cracked when he'd been slammed into the pavement, and he hadn't made it either. Gil was still in shock, but he could feel regret, dimly, deep down somewhere in his soul. Martim had been a know-it-all and chatterbox, every day they'd been out together. Most of what he spouted out, in Gil's opinion, was completely trivial and just meant to fill the space, but in a strange way... he would miss the chatter. For all his gregariousness, Martim had been a good guy, and a competent EMT.

Over the next few hours Gil reported everything automatically, to the police, and then to his superiors in emergency services. He described the woman as best he could remember, including her American accent and obvious combat skills. He followed her advice, claiming to have been attacked by an apparently crazy man. He still couldn't entirely process what he'd seen.

Was he going crazy himself? He had no history of mental illness, but then, there was no way of knowing if it ran in the family. Not for him, anyway.

Besides, that woman had apparently seen the same thing, and advised him to keep quiet about it. Delusions weren't usually shared. No, he may be seeing things, but he was seeing real things. As soon as he was checked out and cleared (he'd been covered with blood from the victims), he returned home in a daze. At least he lived alone, so no one had to be shocked to see him covered in blood. After a vigorous shower, he sat in his chair, staring at the black screen of his tv.

He couldn't just let this lie. Whatever was going on here was just too important to ignore. Making up his mind, Gil pulled out his phone and dialed an oft-used number. He waited for it to ring a few times- his friend was probably in a very different time zone- before finally getting an answer. "Hey Gil."

"Hey, Sanders," he said softly, smiling. She was using a voice disguiser as always. "How're you doing?"

"I'm fine for the most part," she responded easily. "You?"

"Uh, a bit overwhelmed, to tell the truth. Got a minute to talk?"

She said yes, and he proceeded to explain the events of that evening. He gave her the same story he'd told the police, but was sure to emphasize how scary the attacker had been, snarling and biting like some kind of animal. If he told her the whole thing, she might end up calling the SNS24 line, which was Portuguese mental health services.

Sanders took the whole story well, expressing concern as necessary, and amazement at the description of the black-haired woman with the knives. "She asked for your name?"

"In American English," he confirmed. "She checked the IDs for everyone there, and then just ran off. I have no idea why! I'm going to find out, though. D'you think you can find out where she went?" Gil held his breath after saying that. Sanders had impressive skills, but she might be reluctant to use them for something that was, in the end, based on nothing more than his idle curiosity.

Sanders paused for a few long moments. "The incident has already been logged with the Municipal Police in Lisbon. I don't speak Portuguese like you do, but I should be able to translate it. I could probably find her, with all the traffic cameras in the area, but are you sure you want to do this? Whatever this woman's doing, it's clearly dangerous. It might be better to just count your blessings and move on! You already lost one friend today, remember."

Martim hadn't really been a friend, but Gil did know what she meant. He wanted to tell her about the animal face, but didn't know how to put it into words. If he was crazy, he had to know for sure. And if not, he had to know what was going on. "I'm sure, Sanders. Whoever she was, she saved my life. I'd like to know why, and thank her in person if I can." It made for as good an excuse as any.

He could practically see her shaking her head, but then the sound of typing filtered through the phone line. "All right, I'll look into it. I'll call back as soon as I have something."

"Thank you, Sanders," he said meaningfully. "You're a gem as always."

"Oh, I know," she assured him, and hung up. He smiled and leaned back in his chair. He could always count on her, despite knowing virtually nothing about her.

He'd met Sanders about four years ago, in a chatroom for people trying to find their birth parents. He'd posted the details of what he knew, but no one had been able to help him at first. Strangely, the chatroom had glitched out afterwards, but not before Sanders had responded. They'd been conversing over the internet or phone, ever since.

She also claimed to have no idea who her real parents were, despite years of searching. She'd picked the name Sanders as an online handle, and said it was more her than her real name was. Not that she told him that, either. She was paranoid and secretive, to a fault.

At first, that had given Gil pause. His friends had advised him to leave her be, as anyone that isolated could only be trouble. Still, Gil hadn't been able to do that. Who was he to judge people for whatever eccentricities they had? For all Gil knew, Sanders was hiding from some abusive ex, or parent, and reaching out to others was how she dealt with her trauma. He knew a thing or two about trauma, both from having seen it and the results to it, in the people he tended to every day.

Something about Sanders' attitude suggested she might be lonely, too. Gil suspected she'd reached out in the first place, just so that she'd have someone to talk to. There was nothing compelling her to help him with his search, either for his birth parents or for this woman he'd just seen. Still, she did so without complaint or price tag. Just because she hadn't had any luck on the former didn't mean she wouldn't be able to find the latter.

As it turned out, she was. She called back about an hour later.

"Her name is Lauren Cole, I think," Sanders reported over the phone. "That's the ID I saw on her travel papers anyway. There's a motorcycle registered under her name- that's how she got out of the area so fast. It must have just been a block or two away from the scene. Apparently she's only been in Lisbon for a few days now, and she's leaving again in the morning. There's a flight scheduled for Cole in the morning, with connections in New York, Denver, and San Francisco. Where she's going from there, I have no idea."

Lauren Cole. It didn't sound like the kind of name that belonged to a monster hunter. But then she didn't really look like someone who routinely hunted monsters, either. "I don't have long to talk to her, then. Where's she staying?"

"At a motel on R. Luciano Cordeiro Street. I'm texting you the address."

"Do the police know about her? Are they staking out her place or something?"

"I don't think so," Sanders said after a moment. "There's no reference to her in the Municipal Police database. They might find footage of her motorcycle the same way I did, but it'll take them time. She'll be in America by then." For a moment, Gil marveled at the speed at which Sanders could look up information. Either she was a very important person in real life, or she'd hacked into some very well-defended databases.

Either way, now wasn't the time to speculate, and she wouldn't tell him anyway. "About that. Is she American? She sounded like it when we spoke."

"That's why I'm not sure it's her real name," Sanders admitted. "I looked up the info on American networks, and I can barely find anything on her, aside from a name and SSN. No place of birth, no DMV records, no education history, no medical records. She's got enough for international travel, barely, but after that, nothing. I'd bet anything that Lauren Cole is a fake ID."

"I'll add it to the list of things to ask her, then," Gil said.

"Keep me in the loop, would you? I'm curious now too, since you're not going to be smart and keep your distance."

"Will do. Thanks again, Sanders."

After she bid him luck and hung up again, Gil stretched and grabbed his coat. Cordeiro was only about ten minutes away on his bike, and there wasn't enough snow on the ground to worry him. He didn't have a car here, but he was living close enough to emergency services so that the commute was possible by bike.

He made the trip easily, despite the late hour. Lisbon had a fairly active night life, and he was far enough away from the earlier crime scene that most people hadn't heard about it yet. He waved to and greeted people on the way, and some of them were too drunk to effectively wave back.

As he approached the motel, he slowed his pace. Lauren, or whoever she was, might not appreciate an unannounced visitor, and he didn't exactly have a phone number to call. He'd best be pretty obvious about this. He parked the bike in a rack outside and checked the address on the phone. She was staying on the ground floor, in a poorly lit area. Probably on purpose, given that she'd recently killed a, uh, man.

As Gil stepped confidently out to knock on the door, he heard a faint thwip noise and felt a slight pressure against his leg. He stared down, disbelievingly, at the tiny dart sticking out of him. Then the whole world got a little bendy, and he felt himself buckle and collapse. Amazement and fear overwhelmed him, as the darkness took him.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2022, 04:53:48 AM by Daen »