Straddling his bike, Marcus tightened his grip on the vials of holy water, indecision weighing on him not for the first time that night. If there was one of those beasts left alive it was his duty to find it and kill it. The hairs on the back of his neck told him that at least one was still out there watching him hungrily. He should deal with it.
The problem was that his mind was full of thoughts of Xennie. As much as he tried to push them away there was little he could do. He saw her lying on the ground, pale, blood soaking her shirt and the muscle between neck and shoulder looking like raw, bloody meat. Saw her on the hospital gurney being wheeled away from him as doctors and nurses swarmed around her like ants. It was his fault. He should have protected her.
He should have killed her.
Marcus' hands shook as rage shivered up his spine. This was not how it was supposed to happen. Leaving was supposed to have saved her. The beasts were after him, not her. They should have followed him.
The sound of bone crunching and wet sucking noises like skin being turned inside out came from the shadows further on in the alley, bringing him back to himself. Werewolf. Looking at his trembling hands he tried to pray for strength, for control, but all he felt was the slipping away of his calm. He wanted to tear this beast limb from limb and dance on its corpse for what they had done to Xennie.
Hearing a growl he shifted his weight on the bike, sent it roaring to life. It was only then that he realized the growl had come from his own throat.
It was far past time to get out of there. This was no shape in which to fight. Marcus knew he would make yet another dumb mistake and get himself killed. That would serve no purpose at all. With the sound of squealing tires he accelerated the bike, heading to the mouth of the alley, heading home or at least to the place that now served him as a temporary domicile. It wasn't home, it couldn't be. No one was waiting for him.
The momentary distraction that yet another thought of Xennie caused was all that it took. Just one moment, and the sound of splashing pursuit came from behind him, too fast, then the bike spun out from beneath him. The wall came up in front of him and he felt the impact, felt it shatter one of the vials he had still been holding. Bricks had won and he felt stunned. Shaking his head, trying to get to his feet, he realized that the stink of wet fur was all around him, the smell of blood and musky animal.
Turning his head slowly he saw the beast, the incarnation of evil that he was supposed to eradicate. For one second he hoped it would simply tear his head off. One second of weakness, contemplating the end of it all as penance.
That one second stretched into two, then four as he panted as pain began to follow the paths the rage had taken earlier. Marcus' ribs caught when he sucked in a breath; broken probably, at least one. The beast too was panting as it stood over him.
It looked nothing like a dog, barely anything like a wolf. He knew, because he had seen, that they could look nearly exactly like wolves if they chose, only much bigger. This one, however, was a grotesque mixture of man and beast. Far bigger than any human, it stood on hind legs, a tail visible as it twitched. The musculature was impressive, although Marcus had seen others who would outweigh this one. Heavy chest, brawny shoulders, all of it covered in fur. The face was the worst, a snout where there should be nose and mouth, eyes glinting golden yet holding a hint of humanity. He noticed that the edges of one ear were pierced and that one observation nearly made him laugh. It seemed so incongruous on such a beast, so out of place. Obviously not silver or they would be smoking.
Marcus shook his head, trying to gather his thoughts to attack or run. His bike he could see a few yards away. It was mangled, of no use to him in getting away. The thing must have hit the bike with some decent force because it looked like an elephant stomped on it.
"You will stay and you will listen," the growl came from a face that should not form human words. Marcus' head snapped up and his eyes narrowed as he looked up at the beast. 7 feet of solid body blocking his view, hovering over him. It was enough to let him push to his feet, back scraping against the wall behind him.
"I don't think so," he ground out, teeth gritted against the pain and the anger he felt, the anger he could not suppress. "You have nothing to say worth hearing, so why don't I just put you out of your misery."
The beast laughed, a gravelly sound that was almost more rumble than human laughter. It grated on Marcus' nerves and he shifted his grip on the vial he still held. There was a knife in his left boot, but other than that he had nothing. Only one vial and a knife that seemed far too small against this massive monster before him. It didn't matter though. He would rip this thing apart with his bare hands and rid the world of one more minion of darkness. What he wouldn't give for a good shotgun, though.
"I have plenty to say worth hearing if you were not so corrupted by those so-called holy men that you were incapable of hearing it." The words sounded wrong coming from the monster before him. He had never heard one talk like that, like it actually thought. Like maybe it had studied. Sure, it could have been anyone before it was infected, but he had been told they lost much of that once they were turned. They became beasts, regardless of whether they looked human or not.
"You have been told lies, Marcus. Yes, I know your name. I know more about you than you think." Something smug about that statement and it grated on Marcus.
"What you do or don't know doesn't matter to me." Ready, set... lunge, his hand reaching for the knife. The world had taken on a red tinge, and he jabbed with the knife, aiming for the creature's belly. If he could do some damage he could get out of the alley. Once he was out he could call for backup. If his cell was still in his pocket. If anyone was close enough.
The blow to his jaw was a surprise. He was not used to any of these monstrosities reacting that quickly, not used to them getting the drop on him. He wasn't thinking clearly and he needed to get out of there. Or die honourably, make amends for his failure.
"The girl was a mistake. We thought she knew. Some of my more.. hot-headed friends sought to make her an object lesson for you. She will be cared for. It was a... surprise to learn you had not killed her. Is that not what you are trained to do, kill any who might turn?" Pain filled Marcus at this reminder of his failure, of the conflict that had waged within him as he looked down at Xennie.
"Leave. Her. Alone," he bit off, glaring up at the wolf-man before him.
Laughter again, indulgent as though Marcus was a foolish child. "What will you do if we do not? Will you kill her? We will watch her, guide her. If she turns we will protect her from your brethren." The beast spat the last word as though it was an obscenity, as though it offended him.
"She will not turn." Marcus had meant it to sound certain, but it did not. His voice shook at the thought of Xennie becoming one of these abominations. He should have killed her, if only to save her from such a fate. But he couldn't. He had been unable to slit her throat, not even to protect her. He would live with his failure.
"We shall see. In the meantime, I have something for you to consider. What did your precious brothers tell you about your parents? I know you feel the rage within you, something caged within your body, too big for your skin. You should think about that rage. Think about your strength. Think about your ability to heal." The words were cruel, although all Marcus could hear in the beast's voice was seriousness. Yet how did the monster know about that? No one outside the Fraternity was to know of what had been done to him, of why he was special. It had been a well-kept secret as far as he knew, and until now no monsters had escaped him to tell any tales.
Now everything was changing.
"You know nothing," Marcus ground out. The next moment he slumped to the ground after a quick blow to the head. The beast bent over him, carefully turning his head with a clawed hand, ensuring that the man would live. He even left the knife as he stalked down the alley.
Wet sounds of tearing flesh mingled with the crunch and grind of bone on bone. Moments later, a man stepped out into the light, tugging on a t-shirt, loose jeans already covering his lower half. His hair was damp although no rain was falling, and earrings pierced one of his ears. It took little time before he disappeared down the alley in the opposite direction from the one Marcus had tried to take to escape.