John kissed her on the top of the head when he came into the kitchen. He stroked her face with the backs of her fingers as he gazed at her.
‘What are you thinking about?’ she said.
John smiled as he leaned over and kissed her soft lips before he stood up.
‘I decided it was easier to show you.’ he said.
He went out the freezer and brought in more venison steaks, ran water over them and put it in the sink to thaw out. John wiped his hands on a towel and looked at her.
‘We will get out of here today. It’s safer if we go to my house.’ he said.
‘Your house?’ she said.
He nodded and poured himself a cup of coffee as he came back to the table and sat down.
‘One of them but I haven’t been to any of the others since Mom died. Also, I had to consider what would happen if I had an episode in a pressurized space.’ he said.
Kelly had not seen him have an episode. She had seen John and the wolf but not the transition.
‘What happens when you have an episode?’
He reached for his tobacco pouch and rolled a cigarette, lit it and sat back in his chair.
‘I turn into a wolf.’ he said.
Kelly asked for another cigarette and he rolled it for her.
‘You think it’s an illness? I mean, you’ve been investigating it on that basis.’ she said.
He shrugged his shoulders.
‘I don’t have a frame of reference for anything else.’ he said.
Kelly picked up the lighter and lit her cigarette. She breathed in the smoke and looked into his eyes.
‘I don’t have one either. You are self-aware and there being another one out there, without that self-awareness, it frightens the shit out of me but through all this, despite knowing you turn into a giant wolf and you’ve eaten people, I trust and feel safe with you.’ she said.
He shook his head.
‘ It’s why I work on solving the problem of myself.’ he said.
She leaned over and kissed him. He reached up and touched her cheek as her lips drew over his. It was sweet and brief before she stood back and looked at him, holding his hand across the table.
‘You saved my life. I’ll do everything I can to return the favour. Don’t feel you have to keep yourself apart from me.’ she said.
He shook his head and drank his coffee before setting it down and finishing his cigarette.
‘I won’t.’ he said.
When they had eaten and changed, John reached at the top of a cupboard and found a small black bag. When he opened it, the inside was lined with metallic padding and he picked out a small cellphone. He switched it on and stuffed it into the pocket of his jeans.
‘I must see if anyone’s asked about me.’ he said.
She had no luggage, but she had baggage and she had brought it with her
‘In case they’re trying to find out who you are.’ she said.
He locked the cabin and they walked up a hill as he took out his phone and switched it on.
‘Where is your car?’ she said.
He moved it after he had made her stable and comfortable. She asked him why and he said he was not sure if there anyone else from the plane out there. He had looked but he couldn’t assume anything and moving his vehicle dissuaded anyone from taking further advantage or even the possibility of it.
‘They still might have killed you.’ she said
He raised his eyebrows and considered it before he gave a short nod.
‘Yes, but with the exposure and no navigation, they’d be dead in hours, anyway. It was a calculated risk.’
Kelly moved closer to him.
‘Were you worried about me doing that?’
He shook his head.
‘It was a calculated risk on my part.’ he said.
It had not occurred to her to do anything like it. She wasn’t sure if it made her intuitive or a good person. She was a thief but killing wasn’t something she liked to be around. Tony kept her out of work which involved it, but even the awareness of it was a stain on her soul.
‘I’m glad it paid off.’ she said.
He grinned and took her hand.
‘Me too.’ he said.
He walked over to a tall mound of earth, strewn with leaves and John tugged the netting away with both hands until he had dragged it all off. He pointed his phone at the pick up and the lights flashed as the vehicle unlocked in a series of mechanical clicks and whirs and the engine switched on with a low, soft purr.
‘Bluetooth lock?’ Kelly said.
He beamed as he got into the drivers side and opened the passenger side door for her. She got in and put her seatbelt on.
‘It’s almost like you were a thief at some point.’ he said.
When Kelly sat down, the seat rubbed against the sore spot on her back and she winced at the contact. John glanced at her and asked if she was okay. She nodded and told him it must have been a bruise or a sprain she’d picked up. He took a deep breath and wrinkled his nose before he drove them out of the forest.
Kelly lowered her head and fell asleep, wondering if it was a bruise or a sprain after all and when she needed to let John know if not.
He emerged from the tank and towelled himself dry in the dark as his anatomy flowed beneath his skin and by the time he was finished and dressed, he looked like a tall, handsome man in his forties. He switched the light on and admired his reflection in the long mirror before he opened the doors onto the humid California evening.
His assistant was there to meet him and passed a folder detailing the operating issues and current reports on the areas of influence he had a particular interest in.
Water rights in Colorado.
Biotechnology start-ups in Silicon Valley and India.
Admiralty Law statutes
Government bids for flood defences around the world.
Military counterintelligence reports on pirates off the Somalian coast.
Satisfied with their direction, he handed the folder back to his assistant and thanked him.
The assistant, a severe but loyal young man named Miller told him his dinner was waiting in the dining room.
He smiled and thanked Miller once again as he rolled up his sleeves and walked through to the dining room.
The strain involved in remaining on dry land for this amount of time led to an increased need to process nutrients, and this was even more important when he had to spend long periods in a stable human form. He had mastered himself long ago as much due to necessity as to curiosity and his inexorable will to dominate.
He was tied to the chair with his head down and tousled blonde curls obscuring his face. Drugged, he thought, with a pang of disappointment and decided once he had eaten, to educate the team who had prepared this base of operations to meet his requirements.
Still it made for less drama and avoided the possibility of escape.
His jaw unhinged and a set of secondary needle teeth slid from recessed sheathes in his gum line. His tanned skin became translucent in spreading blotches as he lifted his head, taking a grip of his hair and stared at his sleeping face.
He hated it when they were asleep. Part of the anticipation came from seeing them accept their fate or rage against it. Either way, his belly was full, but he still enjoyed novelty in his life. He bit down into his carotid artery, each tooth injecting a drop of anticoagulant as bladders pumped, creating a vacuum as his blood squirted into his mouth and he closed a set of his eyelids as the first coppery spray hit the back of his throat. His throat distended and throbbed as he swallowed without losing his grip on the back of her neck. The exsanguination was over in minutes due to his distaste at the bitter aftertaste of the tranquilizers. Wealth meant he could afford to be selective and exclusive as chemicals affected him in ways he never enjoyed. He dreamt of spiced rum and caught fish, but in reality, he had adapted to his diet with a ruthlessness borne of deep and uncompromising need.
He stood back without a drop of blood on his shirt and let him fall forwards.
‘Thank you.’ he said.
He left him in the chair and walked out of the room.
Miller had stood outside the dining room and he straightened his posture as the door opened.
‘See to it they are unconscious by other means than whatever was used on her. If we have to get soundproofing installed then we will but I don’t like my food drugged, do you understand?’ he said.
Miller agreed and said he would see to it.
‘I would like to see Ms Nixon please. Tonight. Alone.’ he said.
Miller took his phone from the clip on his belt and dialled her number.
‘Ms Nixon, there will be a car arriving for you and bring you to meet with your employer in the next hour. Please ensure you make yourself available.’ he said.
He ended the call and replaced the phone in his pocket.
‘Thank you, Miller. I will be in my tank for a little while. Please send notice when she’s on her way.’ he said.
Everyone around him called him sir. He used several names and identities to obfuscate unwanted interest but his identity was lost. There had been a time where he had devoted resources to finding others of a similar genus but had turned his efforts in a different direction which had been the reason for the attempted theft carried out on his orders.
He undressed and slipped back into the tank. The pressured silence of the cold sea water was meditative and here, he loosed his alien, inhuman thoughts as he dreamed of the world.
The world he was creating