Jack looked down at Owen’s autopsy table. The subject of the gruesome work was a Weevil. The cause of death was of special concern to Jack. The creature had been found dead in the undergrowth of an area where Weevils were known to hunt occasionally, just a little too close to a large housing estate for his liking. It had died from blood loss due to having its throat ripped out. Large chunks of flesh had also been gouged from the stomach, limbs and shoulders. And even at a preliminary glance the wounds looked like bites. Owen was currently busy measuring them to ascertain what creature had done it.
If it was another Weevil, then that was a serious matter. It meant that they needed to rewrite the whole book of Weevil behaviour, because although they occasionally acted ferociously towards Human beings, they didn’t usually fight like this among themselves. Not this ferociously, anyway. Not to the death.
Was it mating season or something? Was this the loser in a challenge for a female’s attentions? That was the only thing he could think of that would account for this change in behaviour.
Because Weevils, for all that they were vicious, unpleasant alien creatures with teeth that could rip a Human jugular, were not murderers. They killed for food, or sometimes out of self defence or fear of the humans that got too close. A Weevil didn’t knife a fellow Weevil because the other one had been looking at its girlfriend in the pub, or to steal its wallet or car. Weevil violence made a lot more sense, generally, than Human violence.
“Boss, come on down,” Owen called. “Take a closer look.” Jack sprinted down the stairs. Owen showed him his findings with a cool, professional air.
“The size of the bite, shape of it, is completely incompatible with a Weevil bite. The radius, even the teeth. Look at this shoulder wound. I nearly missed it because of the damage to the throat. But here… the thing that attacked bit down but didn’t take a lump of flesh out. You can see where the incisors made a deep puncture in the Weevil flesh. It’s a much bigger incisor than they have. More like a fang… like a very large dog or a wolf. Except that’s not very likely in Cardiff. We have some urban foxes, but urban wolves are another matter. And it just doesn’t seem likely that a dog… not even a really big dog….
Jack looked at the actual wound and the enlarged picture on the computer projection on the wall. Just for comparison, Owen put some wolf bites and fang sizes up alongside. He also compared some of the larger breeds of domestic dog.
“Damn,” Jack swore. “It wasn’t a German Shepherd or an Irish Wolfhound fighting back.”
“You would be happy if it was?”
“It would be normal. Even I get fed up of the universe of weird shit from time to time. A dog fighting a Weevil… that’s normal. As long as some tosser isn’t running the equivalent of a bear pit offering odds on the dogs versus the weevil…” That thought lingered in his mind until Owen reminded him that the bites didn’t match any dog large enough to tackle a Weevil.
“Then the only other explanation is that we have a new large, carnivorous, and very vicious alien in the Greater Cardiff area. And that’s not good - for us or for Cardiff.”
“I’m keeping a check on the hospitals, and the morgues, for any Human presenting the same injuries,” Owen reported. “Meanwhile, I’ll get the bite radius and fang size into that computer programme Toshiko wrote. It might be able to extrapolate what the creature looks like. It’s worth a try, anyway.”
“Yeah, you do that. If you get anything, send it to Alun and Ianto. They’re out in the Volvo looking for any more wounded Weevils.”
“That’s what I call a romantic night out,” Owen replied dryly.
“Well, you know,” Jack responded. “They’re young, newlywed, and it’s a moonlit night. I dare say they’ll find a way to enjoy themselves.”
“Fair play to them,” Owen noted. “Are you not getting any action with Garrett tonight?”
“No, he’s working. Britain’s foreign and domestic enemies need to be kept in check as well as the alien ones. He said it was just routine, but obviously he couldn’t even tell me what routine is. That’s the way of it.”
“So you’re going to be all alone in the Hub with the lights down?” Owen asked as he slid the dead Weevil into a mortuary cabinet and cleaned up after his work.
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“If you want a bit of company for a while… I’ve got nothing but an empty flat to go back to. What do you say to ordering in pizza and cracking open a couple of beers.”
Jack agreed to the idea. He wondered, though, as Owen washed his hands thoroughly and then reached for his phone to call the pizza shop, which one of them needed the manly company more. He and Garrett were not live in lovers. He slept in the Hub as often as he slept at the flat. It was how their relationship worked. Owen seemed the one at a loose end tonight. Jack thought he knew why. He waited until they were settled with the beer and pizza before opening the subject, though.
“You’re not seeing Toshiko, tonight?”
“No, she’s visiting one of her relatives,” Owen answered before he realised the significance of the question. “Er… how did you… I mean… what makes you think I’m ‘seeing’ Tosh in… in… that way.”
“It’s getting a bit obvious. The number of times you, Tosh and the baby arrive for work together in the morning. Plus the fact that you’re so much less of a grumpy bastard, lately. And Tosh looks really happy.”
“We’re not…” Owen looked strangely flustered. “Jack… look… I know you won’t believe it. But we’re just friends. I do stay over at her place a lot, but on the sofa. I’m making notes about Etsuko’s invisibility. We’ve been leaving off her wristband when she sleeps at night, and I’ve been seeing if REM sleep and periods of invisibility coincide. I’ve not got enough data for a hypothesis, yet, but it’s interesting. And… well, look, I don’t want you thinking I’m just screwing her. The fact is… I haven’t. And don’t draw any conclusions from that, either. I think… if I asked her… she’d let me. But I don’t… being her friend… Christ, I really am getting old. But it means more to me than sex. But don’t you dare tell anyone I said that.”
“As if I would,” Jack replied. “You carry on as you are. And if… if it gets to be anything more… then good luck to you both.”
Owen looked relieved. He had expected, at best, a ribbing for not pressing the advantage, at worst, a roasting for pursuing a workplace relationship that could screw up the team. Jack’s approval was a surprise and an encouragement to him.
Beth looked up at the full moon and gave an involuntary shiver. She was more than a little fed up. It had been a miserable night. First she had been stood up. She had dressed extra specially to meet Ray at the restaurant, and he hadn’t turned up. Then she went to the ladies and put her handbag down for two seconds while she dried her hands, and when she looked around it was gone. Purse, mobile phone, everything gone. She found enough small change in her coat pockets to get her halfway home on the bus, but she still had to cross The Triangle.
In daytime, The Triangle was a pleasant enough place. It was the point where the dual carriageway and the road into her estate diverged, forming a triangle of land that had been landscaped and made into a children’s playground and a duck pond. Trees and bushes were planted around it, and the path through it was a nice short cut.
At night, it was a place where her footsteps echoed ominously and there was no street lighting and she actually felt a little scared. She told herself not to be so daft. There was nothing that could hurt her. Then she remembered some of the things she had seen in the Torchwood vaults and knew there were any number of things that could hurt her, and the flowering cherries and blackberry bushes at the side of the path could hide most of those things.
She froze. There was a noise. There actually was. It wasn’t just her imagination. She looked around warily, trying to penetrate the gloom of the undergrowth beside her.
She almost hoped it was a classic pervert in a dirty raincoat. Apart from the amusing thought of what the blackberry bushes might do if he wasn’t careful, she knew how to deal with that kind of threat. She was only the receptionist at Torchwood, but Jack had spent a bit of time teaching her how to defend herself against ordinary sorts of trouble. She knew how to most efficiently kick a man where it hurts. She had done it to Jack when he was teaching her. When he could stand up straight again, he congratulated her on her technique – in only a slightly higher voice than usual. His boyfriend may not be congratulating her, he added. But he smiled reassuringly as he said it.
Yes, she could handle any ordinary kind of trouble that might jump out of those bushes.
But if it was a Weevil, or something even weirder than that….
She walked slowly, hardly daring to breathe, listening. As she walked, something moved in the bushes, keeping pace with her. She stopped. It stopped. She walked on again and the sounds continued - a rustling of the bushes, twigs breaking underfoot, branches pushed aside and springing back.
She stifled a sob. She knew she had been daft to try to get home on her own. She should have used the bit of money she found to call Jack, or maybe Ianto and Alun, or Owen. Any one of the Torchwood men would have come and picked her up, looked after her. But a little stubborn streak inside had made her try to look after herself. She always had before she knew them. When it was just her and Celyn, they had looked out for each other. Afterwards, she had taken care of herself. Asking for help just seemed weak.
But right now she really wished she had swallowed her pride. She wished somebody she knew was around. She wished ANYONE not wearing a dirty raincoat was around.
The end of the triangle was only about forty yards away. She could see a streetlamp. A bus went by. About fifty yards further on down that road was a stop. Somebody might have got off there. She wasn’t completely alone.
She quickened her pace. The thing in the bushes did, too. She wondered what would happen when she reached the end of the path. What would come out into the open to confront her? She could run across the road. There was an all night garage there, with a little shop. She would be safe there. But what if she wasn’t fast enough?
She kept moving. She kept her eyes fixed on the patch of lamplight ahead and tried not to listen to the noises at her side.
Then the road at the end of the path was blocked by a black vehicle. At first she was too terrified even to recognise it. It was only when the passenger got out and called her name that her brain registered it as Ianto’s car.
“Beth! Are you ok?” Alun asked. “Come on, sweetheart. Get in the back.” He opened the door. She sprinted the last few steps and dived into the car, breathing so hard she could barely express her relief at their deus ex machina arrival.
“You look like you could use a cup of tea, Beth, love,” Ianto said as Alun buckled up in the front seat and he looked around to make sure she was secure before putting the car into forward gear.
“Yes… I…” Beth screamed as she saw what neither of the men in the front had seen because they were both looking at her. Something broke out of the bushes and ran into the path of the Volvo. They were only moving slowly, but even so they all felt the thump as they hit it. Or did it hit them? They saw a snarling face, mad eyes, jaw, teeth, before it fell backwards. There was an ominous bump as the left front wheel ran over something.
“Shit!” Ianto swore as he jammed on the brake. “We killed it. Whatever it was.” He started to unfasten his seatbelt, but Alun put a restraining hand on him.
“It’s not dead,” he said. “Listen.”
Beth whimpered. Neither of the men blamed her as they all heard and felt the movement under the chassis, as if something was crawling towards the back.
“But there’s hardly any ground clearance under there,” Alun said, incredulously. “And it must be wounded. How can it possibly….”
Then they felt a vibration as something banged against the silencer, and a judder as the rear spoiler was hit repeatedly. Then Beth screamed again as something lurched against the side of the car before dashing into the undergrowth again.
“But it had to be injured,” Ianto insisted. “We ran over it. There’s no way it could have stood up. Its back should have been broken. And… anyway…”
“Do we want to chase it?” Alun asked, his hand reaching into the glove compartment that opened up into a repository for two automatic handguns and magazine clips.
“I’m not sure I WANT to chase it,” Ianto answered. “But I suppose we better had.”
“No, please don’t leave me alone,” Beth cried. “Please, don’t.”
“I’ll take a quick look,” Alun said. “Ianto, keep the engine running and be ready to move if I come running.”
“If you come running, I’ll be fine,” he answered. “What worries me is if you come limping and bleeding… or not at all. Be careful, cariad.”
Alun got out of the car. He kept his gun in his raised hand with the safety catch off. He disappeared up the path and was quickly lost from view in the dark. Ianto and Beth both waited, hearts in mouth, for a full ten minutes before he came back, blissfully unscathed.
“No sign of the creature at all. But I scared a little old lady walking her Yorkshire terrier,” he said. “I told her I was the police, looking for a flasher. She told me I looked too young to be a policeman, and then hurried home. I saw a lot of trampled undergrowth and there are some traces that might be blood. But we can’t do much about it this time of night.”
“We should have plenty of blood samples on the underside of the car, anyway,” Ianto replied. “I’ll check it out back at the Hub.”
“We’re going to the Hub?” Beth asked.
“Yes,” Alun answered. He was already on the phone making sure their medic was still on duty. “Owen wants to make sure you’re ok, sweetheart. Besides, we all need to make a statement while it’s fresh in our heads. Are we all in agreement about what we saw out there, by the way?”
“A werewolf,” Beth answered. “Wolfman?”
“Yeah, that’s what I saw, too,” Ianto agreed. “Jack will love this.”
“Wolfman?” Jack sat on the comfy sofa in the boardroom with Beth and listened to her description of her experience carefully. She was calmer now that she was in the safe confines of the Hub. She had stopped shaking, anyway. But she clung to a coffee cup for dear life.
“Are such things possible?” Beth asked. “Have you seen one before?”
“Possible, yes. Seen, no. But Ianto could show you some old case notes. And there’s a beautifully written account of the werewolf that tried to get Queen Victoria at Torchwood House in Scotland - the event that led to her creating our charter to operate in the first place.”
“So it has happened before?”
“Have people been killed by them? Is it like the films… werewolves…”
Jack hesitated. He wondered what was the best response given that she had been playing tag with one of them that was hanging around not far from her home.
“They have, haven’t they?” she said as he searched for a reply. “I was lucky. If Alun and Ianto hadn’t been there....”
“I’m sorry,” Jack admitted. “I feel responsible. I sent them there because we found a Weevil corpse there already. I should have remembered that you live up that way and told you to be careful.”
“You couldn’t have known I was going to be wandering around on my own at night. I wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for Ray letting me down and then my bag going missing…”
“Well, I’m sorry anyway. And as for Ray, whoever he is, he’s an idiot. And he doesn’t deserve you. And if I ever see him, I’ll tell him so.”
“Ianto, Alun, you… the three nicest men I’ve ever worked with and you’re all gay. And Owen, who only has eyes for Toshiko. I’m stuck with the likes of Ray while all the best men are taken.”
“You can do better, don’t you worry,” Jack reassured her. “As for Owen and Tosh… you noticed, too? Is it that obvious?”
“Yes. I’ve noticed…”
“Try not to notice. I like them both too much for them to be office gossip. Let them work this through on their own time, whichever way it goes. Meanwhile, you go and have a lie down on the sofa here and rest up. I’m going down to the garage to see how the boys are getting along. And they can run you home and see you tucked up in bed before they clock off tonight.”
“Thanks, Jack,” she said with a smile as she kicked off her shoes and lay down. Jack closed the door behind him, knowing that the soundproof boardroom would be a haven of peace for her and sprinted down the corridor to the garage.
“What have you got?” he asked Alun as he watched him pass a sample in a sealed bag to Owen.
“Genuine werewolf tissue samples of various sorts, Captain,” Alun replied. Owen held up the prize specimen – a plastic bag with the Torchwood ‘T’ printed on it containing a large, yellowing fang.
“If this doesn’t match the bite marks on our dead Weevil then I’m a monkey’s uncle,” Owen said. “And we’ve got this, too.” Another bag contained something that was either a broken fingernail or a claw – it seemed to fulfil both definitions at once. “Found behind the front registration plate. Black paint flakes on it.” He nodded towards the Volvo’s bonnet which had a long scratch mark on it. Jack’s teeth set on edge just thinking about it. “We’ve also got blood and hair traces from the front grill and bumper, the rear bumper and the chassis.”
Jack nodded. He could see the underside of the Volvo. It was up on a hoist over the inspection pit. Ianto, with overalls over his suit, was checking for damage. He invited Jack to take a look.
“We ran it down feet first,” he said. “The front wheel must have run over it – a limb at least. But somehow or other it turned over and round and pushed its way out, sliding on its back, feet against the chassis – see these prints… mud and blood… a nearly Human foot, but with long toes, claws that left scratches on the steel. And then it pushed itself upright at the back.”
“But…” Jack ran his hand over the car’s underside. “What’s the ground clearance on this?”
“Eight point two inches,” Ianto replied. Jack took his word for it. Eight inches wasn’t bad. Ianto had bought the Volvo XC90 with the intention that it would serve as a back up to the SUV, with nearly the same offroad capability and plenty of storage for special equipment. To the naked eye it looked like it had a lot of space underneath. But when he picked up a steel ruler and looked at eight point two inches it didn’t seem a lot. Well, not on a car, anyway.
“The creature you all described – Beth said it was at least my size, maybe even a bit bigger around the chest. I couldn’t crawl into an eight inch space. Certainly not injured. What the hell are we dealing with?”
“Something that can dislocate its own joints and flatten itself out that low, so that it can turn in almost no space at all, and then put itself back together again fast enough to run away,” Ianto said.
“Does that ring any bells with anyone?” Owen asked. “Have we dealt with anything like this before?”
He looked first at Jack, who had been up close and personal with more weird shit than anyone else. Then at Ianto, who knew the case notes on them practically by heart. Both shook their heads. This was a new creature, never before seen by Torchwood.
“I really think I should have looked harder,” Ianto said. “Beth had a near miss. But we have the dead Weevil. We know what it’s capable of. Also… I didn’t think it was relevant until now… but the police have reports of at least fifteen missing cats and dogs in that area. I’m thinking Werewolf snacks.”
“It’s been keeping a low profile up to now, taking animals, not humans?”
“Got to be. It knows it can’t grab people without a hue and cry. A wolfman with plenty of man still in him, who knows the score. But we can’t overlook the possibility that he wants a bigger meal, now.” Jack thought about the evidence carefully. There were some things that didn’t make sense. But quite a bit that did.
“I’d really like to see the results of the blood analysis, Owen,” he added. “Especially your guess at species.”
“I’m on it, boss,” Owen promised. He gathered the collection of samples and turned to go back to his lab and get on with the job. Jack watched as Ianto and Alun finished checking out the Volvo and put it back down on the garage floor.
“I think you’re right about keeping a look out for it,” Jack said to them. “You two run Beth home. I’ll take the SUV for a spin around the block and see if I can spot anything.”
“On your own, boss?” Alun asked. “Are you sure? You don’t want any help?”
“I’m sure,” he answered. “You look after our girl.”
The SUV tailed the Volvo part of the way back to the housing estate where Beth lived. At The Triangle Jack flashed the headlights to say goodnight to them and turned off into the dark area where the creature was last seen. He drove slowly around the whole place before parking the SUV in practically the same place where the boys had picked Beth up. He checked his revolver was loaded before he got out of the SUV and walked up the footpath. It was nearly midnight by now and he knew he was probably the most suspicious looking character around, in his overcoat and carrying a gun. He wouldn’t have been surprised if the police had arrived to question him about his movements. But he had his Torchwood ID on him. Above the law, he reminded himself. Licensed to wear an overcoat at night in dark, lonely spots when decent folk should be in their beds.
He was slightly surprised to find a few of those ‘decent folk’ not in their beds. A jogger on a late night run passed him as he walked back down the path for a second time. Jack kept an eye on him until he reached the safety of the well-lit road. He wondered idly if jogging was a good cover for a burglar. Nobody questioned a man in running shoes and tracksuit at any time of the day or night.
At the other end of the path he met a German Shepherd dog on a long, extendable lead and its owner. Another section of the community who had innocent reasons to be out and about at any time of night. He stroked the dog, enjoying the feel of its sleek, well-groomed fur and the strong muscles that rippled beneath. It was the sort of dog he would have liked to own if he actually had a home of his own to keep one in.
“She takes a lot of walking,” said the owner conversationally. “I’ve been busy all day and this is the first chance I’ve had to take her out. Still, it’s a warm night. Full moon, too.”
“Yes, indeed,” Jack answered. “Go carefully, all the same, sir.” He stroked the dog again and walked on by. He smiled at that brief contact with normality. A man and his dog out for a late night walk. He almost wished he wasn’t one of those people who dealt with everything that was abnormal. Innocent moments like that were spoilt by the knowledge of what lurked in the shadows on a warm, moonlit night.
Then he heard the dog growling and the owner calling out to her. Jack turned and headed back up the path. He reached the dog owner as he reeled in the extendable lead and was alarmed to discover that it had been bitten through. Somewhere in the dark his dog was still growling and barking, though. And something else was growling and snarling in return.
“Siann, come here, girl,” the dog owner called out again with increasing desperation. He was startled when Jack stepped in front of him with a gun raised.
“Stay behind me,” he ordered. “Keep quiet and still. Don’t worry. I’m one of the good guys.” He clicked off the safety catch and got ready to shoot at what came out of the bushes.
The first thing that emerged was the German Shepherd called Siann. Jack held his fire and reached with his free hand to steady her. He saw blood on her muzzle and a streak across her side but she didn’t seem to be hurt, herself.
“Good girl,” he said to her as he pressed his hand lightly on her back. She obediently lay down, giving him a clean shot at the creature as it lumbered towards him. It was exactly what Ianto, Alun and Beth had all described. It was a Wolfman – a wolf head with a row of deadly teeth in its jaw, torso that rippled with muscles, standing on two legs, though they were bent like a dog’s. It was covered in coarse hair like an animal. The concept of a wolfman in bits of ripped shirt and a pair of ragged pants covering its genitalia was strictly for comic books that had to get their artwork past a censor.
It had a deep wound on the upper arm or front leg where it had been bitten by the brave dog, protecting her owner instinctively.
Jack’s instinct was to protect, too. He opened fire, not to kill, because he knew there were some answers he needed, yet, but to wound and disable the creature. Two bullets went into the left shoulder, another into the arm on the other side. He aimed lower and put two more bullets into the creature’s right thigh. He held onto the last bullet in his six shooter in case he did need to finish it off with a head shot. He watched as it slowly fell backwards into the undergrowth. He turned and looked at the dog owner. The man was scared, to say the very least.
“Get on home, sir,” he said. “You and your dog. Run home and lock your door. I’ll sort this out. Don’t you worry.”
The dog owner looked at him and nodded. He tied the broken lead around his dog’s collar and led her away down the path. Jack watched until he reached the relative safety of the street then turned back to look for the wounded creature.
It was gone. But it was bleeding badly. It had left streaks of blood on the undergrowth as it crawled away. Jack held his torch and his gun in a double handed grip as he followed the trail, glad of his thick greatcoat that protected him from scratches and stings and the thwack of branches that snapped back into place as he pushed past. He jarred his ankle badly when his foot got caught in a thick trailing bramble. He noted that the creature had been caught there, too. There was a lot of hair and blood. But it had kept on going.
The trail came around to the road again. He emerged about fifty or sixty yards away from the SUV. There was no sign of the creature, though. The blood trail ran out at the kerb.
It hadn’t taken a car. He was sure of that. He had heard no engines starting up as he followed it through the bushes.
He bent to look closer. The blood spatters were concentrated around a grating. It was an ordinary drain cover, leading down into the pipe that ran along under the edge of the kerb, draining rainwater that ran off the cambered road. He shone the torch down into it. There hadn’t been rain for four or five days. There was only residual water in the sump where litter and rubbish accumulated. The brickwork inside and the opening into the pipe had blood glistening on them.
Jack looked at the SUV again – a purpose built off road vehicle - remembered what Ianto had said about the ground clearance on the Volvo, how the creature must have been able to dislocate its bones and flatten itself to turn around in the eight inches of clearance between the chassis and the road.
There was even less than that in the drainage pipe down there. He tried to work out how tight it would be. Despite a few subterranean activities with Weevils, he wasn’t a great expert on drains. But he knew that these roadside ones weren’t particularly big. If that really was where it went, it was one incredible creature.
He reached for his wristlet and pressed some buttons. Yes, there was a lifesign of some sort registering. And it was moving. Moving fast. Jack sprinted after it, one eye on the wristlet, the other on the SUV as he worked out that the next drain opening was directly under where he had parked.
He knelt and peered under the SUV cautiously. His torchlight caught the sight of the drain grating being slid across and a long, clawlike hand, followed by a hairy arm, reaching out.
Jack watched as a second arm reached up from the drain and then a head, followed by a long, thin, peculiarly stretched body. The hair was matted with blood and with slime from the drain as it crawled out. Then Jack saw its eyes glitter as it fixed on him.
He didn’t move fast enough. He never expected the creature to be that nimble. The hand gripped his shoulder, the claws digging into his flesh even through the greatcoat and shirt beneath. Vicelike grip was a cliché, but an accurate one. Jack felt himself yanked forward. His head hit the side of the SUV and he slid to the ground, dazed. As a galaxy of stars span in front of his eyes he felt himself being dragged under the car. He felt the creature’s breath on his face as he struggled to get away from it. His gun was smashed out of his hand by the creature’s free arm before he saw the jaw bearing down on his neck to rip out his throat.
It must have been at least half an hour later when Jack woke with the usual shocked realisation that he was alive again. He raised his head and hit it against the underside of the SUV. Again stars danced in front of his eyes. When his vision cleared he slowly crawled out from under the vehicle. Cool night air blew across his face soothingly. He reached and picked up his gun from the gutter and forced himself to stand up, holding onto the SUV for support. He reached and felt his throat. That was one of the more unusual deaths he had survived. It hadn’t hurt for very long, but the few moments he recalled before it went black would rate among the worst in his recent memory.
His shirt and coat bore the evidence of his jugular being severed, but his throat was whole again. His shoulder ached, though. It was one of the peculiarities of his resurrection that non-lethal injuries didn’t get instantly healed. There was a wide bruise over his clavicle and some deep cuts where the claws had gone into his flesh. They were bleeding a little, but he ignored them as he climbed into the driver’s seat of the SUV and fastened his seatbelt.
He didn’t drive back to the Hub. The creature was out there, somewhere. And it could still attack and kill some innocent person tonight. Or even some not so innocent person. Even a house burglar didn’t deserve to have his throat ripped out. He drove slowly, around and around the area called The Triangle. He drove down the footpath, the proximity alarm buzzing constantly as he brushed past the brambles and trees either side. He drove around the estate, looking at the drain covers. He was tired, and he was hurting. His unattended shoulder was slowly bleeding and if it wasn’t for power steering he would never have managed to keep driving. But he felt it was his duty to keep going until morning, protecting the people of this neighbourhood from the fiend that stalked it.
The sky was a pale azure to the east, a little past dawn when he was forced to brake.
Ianto was standing in the middle of the road.
“Owen called and said you hadn’t reported in, and that the SUV was being joy-ridden around the estate,” Ianto said as he opened the driver’s door and unbuckled Jack’s seatbelt. He pulled him out of the front and pushed him into the back seat. He fastened Jack’s seatbelt for him and then got into the front and drove off quickly, but carefully. “What were you thinking of, Jack?”
“Protecting the innocent.”
“You daft muppet,” Ianto replied as he noted just how much the milometer had clocked since he filled in the daily log several hours ago. He glanced in the rear view mirror and saw how completely exhausted Jack looked. “Who’s going to protect you?”
“Fucking hell!” That was Owen’s reaction when Ianto helped Jack through the door into the Hub. He was ready and waiting with his medical kit, having been forewarned that Jack was in a bit of a state. But ‘a bit of a state’ didn’t begin to describe it.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Jack said as Owen and Ianto between them peeled off his coat and shirt to examine his wounds.
“Only because it’s you,” Owen responded. “The creature killed you, didn’t it?”
“Only the once.”
“Fucking hell,” Owen said again. “Jack, for Christ sake, how do you manage it? Coming back to life, cold and alone, in the dark, covered in your own blood. It would freak me out.”
“I’m used to it,” Jack answered. “Anyway, I managed to get up close and personal with the creature. Found out a bit about it. Like it can take five bullets and still have strength to take me on.”
“Shit,” Owen said, just for a change of swearword.
“You found the Wolfman?” Ianto asked.
“Not just Wolfman,” Jack answered him. “Wolf-snake-man. It can crawl through storm drains. The skeleton must be like nothing we’ve ever encountered before. If I hadn’t seen it… I don’t know what planet it’s from…”
“According to its DNA,” Owen replied. “At least part of it is from planet Earth. There’s about fifty percent genuine Human being in there as well as the rest. I’m guessing shape-shifter. Might even actually be affected by the moon like a traditional werewolf. Which means its Human now. Or else hidden somewhere.”
“Fuck!” Ianto swore. “At least with Weevils we know what they look like all the time.”
“I’ll know what this one looks like. Even as a Human, it’s got five bullet holes, a missing tooth and a dog bite as souvenirs of last night. I’ll find the bastard.”
“Not yet, you won’t,” Owen told him. “I’m ordering you to your bed – medical necessity. Ianto, take him to his office. After you’ve slept you can call in whatever favours U.N.I.T. might owe you and evacuate the neighbourhood… use the old WWII UXB excuse – and dig up all the drains till you uncover chummy. But first you sleep. Or else.”
Jack would have argued if he had the strength. But he was more tired than he would admit to anyone. Even though his body was renewed, the fact that he had lost most of his blood down his shirt front first was still telling in every twinge of every bone in his body. He made no protest as Ianto helped him walk up to his office. His lair below was too much effort, but he laid himself down on the sofa in the corner. He felt Ianto’s hands gently tucking a blanket around him, and then his kiss on his forehead, and a whispered ‘sleep well’ before he walked away. Jack closed his eyes and let himself sleep.
It took him only a few hours to recover his strength. He sat up and looked around his office. There was a clean shirt for him on the desk. He put it on and fastened his braces over it. The crisp, pressed fabric felt like armour against the world. There was a note to say that his coat was on its way back from the one hour dry cleaners and that the coffee would be hot whenever he wanted it. Ianto, bless him, was enjoying a rare chance to look after him. He stepped out of the office and was not surprised when Ianto popped up with the promised coffee. He drank it while observing that not a lot of work was going on just now. Everyone was gathered around Toshiko’s workstation.
“What’s happening, kids?” he asked.
“The loser who stood Beth up last night is trying to make up to her,” Alun explained. “So far she hasn’t let him off the hook. Notice the flowers and chocolates dumped in the wastebin. But we’re wondering if she’s just playing hard to get.”
“There’d better not be any money taken on it,” Jack warned. “Betting on a lady is vulgar.”
“I quite agree,” Ianto said. “I’m just watching in case he needs ejecting from the premises.”
Jack looked closely at the tall, thin figure. He was doing everything but kneel in supplication as he tried to get Beth to forgive him. Terms like ‘chinless wonder’ and ‘streak of piss’ crossed Jack’s mind. Beth could definitely do better.
“We were thinking of beating the shit out of him,” Owen mentioned. “But it looks like somebody already did that.”
“And then dragged him through the proverbial hedge backwards,” Toshiko added as she zoomed the CCTV camera in on his face to see that it was badly bruised and scratched. She zoomed out again. Jack stopped her and made her focus on the upper body for a moment.
“Was he limping when he came in?” he asked.
“Yes, he was,” Gwen confirmed. “Tosh and I were watching him. Why?”
“I want a word with him. If I’m right…. Fucking hell. It’s a first. We’ve never had one come to the door before. But it will save some manpower.”
He didn’t offer any further explanation to his perplexed team before he turned and sprinted to the pavement lift. A minute or so later, though, they saw him step into the tourist office through the front door.
“Morning, Beth,” he said brightly. “Have you got the petty cash receipts?”
“Yes, right here, Mr Harkness,” she answered. “Just a minute…” She turned and spoke to her erstwhile suitor. “Ray, you’d better go now. I have work to do.”
“Please, just say you’ll give me another chance,” he begged. “Please…”
“You know it’s not a good idea to carry on personal business right in front of her boss, knowing she’ll be in trouble for it,” Jack pointed out. He had moved up close behind Ray and he saw him jump visibly at the sound of his voice.
“Jack, I’m sorry,” Beth said, thinking she really was in trouble.
“Nothing for you to be sorry about, honey,” Jack replied. He grabbed Ray in an arm lock and pushed him towards the false wall that hid the Hub entrance before spinning him round to face him. Pulling a shirt off a man while he was up against a wall was something Jack usually did for very different reasons, but practiced ease was still a good phrase to describe the move. He examined the pale flesh. There were two bullet wounds on one shoulder and one on the other, and a very deep bite mark on one arm.
“It was a well cared for dog,” Jack said, running his hand over the bite so that Ray winced at the touch on the tender area. “I’m sure she had all her shots. But this many open wounds…” He poked one of the bullet holes viciously and Ray yelped in pain. “All the muck and slime in that drain. I’d get a tetanus booster if I were you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ray protested.
“I shot you last night. Five times. The other two bullets went into your thigh – or haunch as it might be properly termed when you were in animal form. I’m theorising that when you revert to Human your wounds heal a little bit. These look older than a few hours. The shoulder wounds are through and throughs. No problem. But I bet if Owen poked about a bit down below he could recover the other bullets and do a ballistic match to my gun. That would clinch the theory.”
“What theory?” Beth asked. “Jack, he’s a jerk, and he’s messed me about. But what do you mean… you shot him?”
“This creep who stood you up, he’s more than that. He’s the thing that chased you along The Triangle. He’s the wolfman.”
“No, surely not. You must be mistaken, Jack. Honestly…”
“Honestly would be good, right now. Tell her the truth, Ray.”
“Beth…” Ray stammered. “I’m sorry. He’s right. It was me. I didn’t… I didn’t know it was you. I couldn’t know. When the creature takes me… I was stupid, making a date with you during full moon. I thought I could control it. I thought if I stayed out of the moonlight… I thought if I really concentrated – mind over matter, you know… But it took me over while I was getting ready to meet you. I couldn’t…. the beast wouldn’t let me… the beast within me…”
“I really am sorry, Beth,” he continued. “I really like you. I wish I could see you again, as a normal, ordinary person. Most of the time, I can, you know. It’s only on full moon…”
“What?” Jack laughed. “Are you seriously asking Beth to accept you as a boyfriend, knowing that she has to avoid you when it’s your ‘time of the month’? She wasn’t interested when she thought you were just a pathetic streak of humanity. Why would she bother with you now?”
“It’s not my fault. I didn’t ask to be like this. I was bitten by something. I was on holiday in Hungary, camping… and this thing… in the night… And the first full moon after that, I blacked out. Came around with all the meat in the fridge – steaks, sausages, bacon… all gnawed to bits and a taste in my mouth… Then it got stronger. I set up a camera and videoed myself turning into that – thing. Getting out of the house through a tiny little window, coming back with…. With…. half a cat… I was horrified. I tried to take precautions. Tried to will myself not to… I really thought I could… Beth…. Please say something. Please forgive me.”
“Beth,” Jack said to her. “You don’t owe this creep anything. He hurt you, twice. You don’t need to give him a second thought.”
“I know. But… is it true, Jack? What he said about being bitten? Could that happen?”
“In Eastern Europe, yes,” Jack answered. “One of the hazards of travel not in any rough guide.”
“Then… is there a cure for him?”
“You mean apart from a bullet in the head?”
“Yes, apart from that,” Beth replied as Ray yelped in fear and Jack increased the pressure of his hand on his shoulder. “Is there something Torchwood could do to help him? Because… He is an idiot, and I hate him. But… He killed a Weevil, and some animals… people’s pets… and that’s horrible. But he hasn’t hurt any people…”
“He killed me,” Jack pointed out. “He has it in him.”
“All right…” Beth conceded. “But… Jack, you still can’t just execute him. You have to help him.”
“Please,” Ray begged. “If you can do that… please… please help me.”
“You, shut up,” Jack told him. He turned him around to face the wall again. It slid open. Alun and Ianto waited behind it. He pushed Ray towards them. “Take him to the interrogation room. Fasten him to the chair, tight. He might be lying about being fully Human now.” Ianto and Alun obeyed silently. Jack turned back and locked the front door, putting up the closed sign, then he took Beth into the back room behind the cheesy bead curtain and made her coffee. He sat with her for a very long time, answering all the important questions she had to ask about Wolfmen and their nature and he asking her some important ones, too. Then he headed back down to the Hub. He walked straight into the interrogation room and sat down. Ray, opposite him, was manacled to the desk. Alun and Ianto flanked him, holding stun guns. Owen waited with a large syringe. Jack asked and was told it was the strongest sedative in the known galaxy.
“If it was up to me, I’d put a bullet in your head right here and now, end it. This planet has enough problems without you. But Beth has asked me to be kind to you. She’s a nice girl. The sort that would look after a lost puppy or a wounded bird. You’re a lost puppy in her eyes. To me, you’re something much less cute. But I like Beth, and I want to make her happy.”
“You mean you will help me?”
“Here’s the deal. There are two more nights of full moon, yet. You’re going to spend them here in the very secure cells we have, deep underground where you can’t even sniff the night air. We’re going to observe you. Owen is going to take blood samples, run ECT tests, X-rays, anal probes if he’s in the mood. Whatever he needs to find out what exactly got into you when you were bitten, whether it has permanently changed your DNA, or if it can be changed back. If we feel you’re safe to be let out after the full moon, then we will. You can go back to your miserable life. Next month, you report back here and we lock you up again. If you don’t come voluntarily, my boys here will come for you, and they won’t be gentle. Don’t let their sweet faces fool you. If you try to leave town, I will hunt you down and it will be the bullet in the brain. You got that?”
“No, she doesn’t want to date you. She feels sorry for you. But that’s not a basis for any relationship except with the aforementioned puppy. If you’re lucky, she might bring herself to be friendly to you. But don’t you dare mistake that for anything else while I have bullets in my gun.”
Ray looked disappointed.
“Come on, this isn’t a fairy tale. You don’t get the girl. As happy endings go, this is the best you get. Is it a deal, or do I shoot you, now?”
“It’s… it’s a deal.”
“Fine. Boys, you know what to do. Put him in a cell well away from the Weevils. They don’t deserve him for company.”
Ianto and Alun did as he said. Jack walked away back up to the Hub. Owen followed him.
“Do you really expect me to find a cure for a werewolf?”
“I expect you to give it your best shot, Owen,” he answered. “Not so much for his sake, as for the public – and for anyone else who goes camping in Hungary and comes back with funny eating habits.”
“I’d better get on with it, then. What about you?”
“I’m the boss, here,” Jack replied. “Just for once I’m going to take advantage of that, and take Beth out for lunch. It might just cheer her up a bit.”