Darius moved swiftly and silently over the roofs of central Glasgow. There was still an hour until dawn and he was making the most of every minute.
The city was quiet. The only crimes being committed were the ordinary sort. Nobody was being hurt in any unnatural way.
Then he felt something that drove away his contentment. It was like a wave of pure evil that washed right over him, overwhelming his every senses and filling him with dread. If he actually had a beating heart it would have frozen for the several seconds that passed before he recovered from the shock.
He looked around carefully. He was still standing on the apex of the glass roof of the Enoch Square shopping centre. He had an unsurpassed view across the city. But whatever caused that sensation of pure horror wasn't within visual range even of a vampire.
He closed his eyes and let other senses take over. If he chose he could fly blind using the same kind of echo sounding that a bat used. Standing still he could visualise the topography of the city the same way. He could reach out and touch the minds of those creatures of the night and see through their mental image.
He could reach deeper and read the dreams of a mostly sleeping city. Humans were easy to read when they were asleep, and if any of them had been given nightmares by the same wave of pure evil he would sense it easily enough.
None of them had. This was something too subtle for the Human mind to grasp.
He reached out to a different kind of mind - mostly awake. Other vampires reported immediately that they had felt something, but scattered around the city none of them had been as strongly affected as he had been.
That meant that he was closest to the source.
But what was it?
The sky was lightening to the east. He was running out of time. He looked once again through his vampire eyes and turned towards Jamaica Street and the safety of Torchwood’s underground home. If there was anything more to this than an impending thunderstorm perhaps there was something in their collection of alien technology that could shed light on it.
Owen Harper and Toshiko Sato got into the Hub at eight o’clock. Their first thought was coffee, but Munroe intercepted them with a message that had come in first thing that morning.
“It’s from Captain Harkness,” he said. “It may be important.”
“Or not,” Owen remarked dryly. He glanced at the printout of the email while putting milk and sugar into his coffee cup.
Then he abandoned the spoon and read more thoroughly.
“Jack thinks this thing just came onto our radar. He was going to investigate but the Cardiff event was cancelled. He’s sending us the data he gathered from other sources.”
“What’s it about?” Tosh asked.
“Some sort of weird freak show fair that’s been travelling up and down the country for a couple of weeks. He thinks it might be linked with some suspicious deaths – bodies found with really inexplicable injuries.”
“A fair?” Tosh questioned.
“Not the sort we’d take the kids to, apparently.”
“Do you know anything about it, Munroe?” Owen asked. “You're usually the one with local knowledge.”
“I think it must mean this,” he answered. He showed Owen a highly-coloured flyer for something called the ‘Nighte Faere’. The poster boy for the event looked like he was out-vamping Darius with a severely pinched, pale face framed with black velvet and blood-red satin. He was surrounded by garish artistic impressions of some kind of celebration of all things Gothic.
The small print at the bottom declared that the ‘Faere’ was running for three nights on Glasgow Green.
“That’s not what I call a fair,” Toshiko remarked. “I like carousels and a Wurlitzer, and shooting ranges with wonky sites on the rifles so that you can’t win anything unless you’ve learnt advanced sharp-shooting from Jack Harkness.”
“Me too,” Owen agreed with a nostalgic smile as he remembered learning to shoot under the Captain’s tutelage as well as the last time the two of them went to a ‘traditional’ kind of fair. “This sort of thing is usually just bullshit… arty-farty dancing to spooky music with black curtains and dry ice. I wouldn’t even look at it twice if Jack hadn’t given us a heads up.”
“But since he has….”
“You should be heading home,” he told Munroe. “Or to your three-breasted girlfriend’s boudoir – whichever works for you. When Dougal gets in he can come with me for a snoop.”
“We considered a flat over there when we first moved here,” Owen commented as he and Dougal approached the public space that had been known as Glasgow Green since shortly after the Union with England. “This would be the view from our bedroom window!”
The largest section of meadow within the pleasant parkland was looking rather less pleasant just now. A huddle of caravans and motor homes were just the start. Added to that were a collection of temporary structures forming various sideshows and booths, all with their noisy generators and snaking miles of cables.
It wasn’t at all like any fair either of the Torchwood people had ever seen. It didn’t smell like one. There were no hotdog stands, no candy floss or warm popcorn scents. Mostly it smelt of manure and engine oil.
“Who the fuck are you?” demanded a man in rough working clothes. “This is a restricted area until tonight!”
“Restricted area?” Dougal questioned.
“We’re not open to the public,” the man amended.
“We’re not public,” Owen assured him, pulling out a card identifying himself as an inspector for Glasgow City Council. “Before the public come anywhere near this farrago we need to inspect EVERYTHING for health and safety issues. I’m looking at unguarded machinery, power conduits running everywhere and unless I’m very much mistaken there are live animals somewhere around here. I’m going to have to see veterinary certificates for every last stick insect in your circus.”
“Does that include my friend, here?” asked a voice so like Darius’s Lithuanian accent that Owen was taken aback for a second. He turned to see the poster vamp dressed in the same black and red that his flyer picture had depicted.
Owen turned from vamp man to his ‘friend’ and did his best not to be surprised to see a centaur.
Well, not a REAL centaur, obviously. The man – who had quite a lot of curly grey-brown chest hair – was naked to the waist where tan leather trousers took over. The trousers melded at the rear into a horse shaped appendage complete with back legs and tail. There may have been some kind of wheels or rollers under the legs to aid movement.
“We’ll make do with proof of his last tetanus shot,” Owen replied. “You are….”
“I am Vladimar ?epe?,” replied the vamp poster boy with a showy kind of bow. “I am manager of the Faere and I am perfectly happy to satisfy any representative of the city council that our show represents no danger to the public.”
“Vladimar ?epe??” Dougal queried. “As in Vlad the Impaler, three times Voivode of Wallachia, inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula?”
“Night shifts with Darius are educational,” he whispered to Owen.
“I am a descendent of the great prince himself,” Vladimir replied. “A noble and brave soldier and leader of men, much misunderstood thanks to certain scurrilous fiction.”
“You’re descended from a prince… and now you run a travelling circus?” Dougal’s tone was scathing.
“A Faere,” Vlad corrected him.
“Whatever.” Dougal met the pale-faced man with a steely gaze. For a long time it looked as if it was going to be a challenge. Who would look away first?
“We are getting off the point here,” Owen cut in before either conceded. “Mr ?epe?. I suggest we get on with the inspection.”
Toshiko wasn’t idle while Owen and Dougal were out. She opened the files Jack Harkness had sent her and studied the evidence that spates of mutilated bodies in London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle coincided with the visits of the Nighte Faere. She looked at graphic images of the bodies and shuddered. Even Weevils didn’t mangle flesh that badly. Nor did werewolves or any other man-eating creature Torchwood was aware of.
She reached for her desk phone and rang the Cardiff office.
“Jack,” she said when the number connected. “I’m just looking at this stuff. Do you really think this what we should expect up here?”
“I’m certain,” Jack answered. “The pattern is unmistakeable. Everywhere this bunch of freaks go, people die.”
“Then why isn’t anyone doing anything?” Toshiko asked. “Why can’t the ordinary police shut them down?”
“The ordinary police haven’t made the connection,” Jack replied. “U.N.I.T. have said it isn’t in their purview. As far as they can tell it has nothing to do with aliens. The only person who paid any attention was a very nice lady in Ealing with a surprisingly high code clearance. She compiled these images and statistics.”
“A nice lady?” Toshiko queried.
“The way I know she’s nice is she doesn’t like me all that much,” Jack noted. “Anyway, the point is she sent them to me because the Faere was meant to come to Cardiff and she thought I ought to know. Their date here was cancelled because local animal rights objected to some kind of ‘zoo’ that is part of the show and the council revoked permission to set up on Roath Park. They extended their stay in Newcastle instead and then headed to Glasgow. There’s something in it, Tosh. At the very least they have some kind of animal that likes Human flesh - at the worst, something that doesn’t come from planet Earth and likes Human flesh.”
“They’re practically on our doorstep,” Toshiko pointed out. “My kids went to a nursery school down the road from the park where they’re setting up camp.”
“That’s why you have to deal with it. If you need extra hands, Ianto and Alun are ready to catch a train.”
“It takes nearly nine hours to get here by train,” Toshiko pointed out. “We’ll all be eaten by the time they get here. We’ll try to manage.”
Even spelling it in some kind of pseudo old English this was what Owen mentally filed as a rum sort of set up. The ‘centaur’ was weird enough, but on the way to inspect the animal pens they encountered a pair of male Siamese twins, joined at the waist, with only one pair of hands between them. They were wearing an extra wide version of a sort of red and black tabard with vaguely medieval symbols appliquéd on the fabric. The legs were covered in ‘hose’ – again in the medieval costume sense. There were four legs in total. Owen tried not to wonder whether it was two individual pairs of ‘hose’ or one four-legged garment.
He was just over the shock of that when he nearly fell over a one-eyed dwarf. The eye was just slightly off centre with the nose pushed to the left of the socket. A misshapen indentation in the skull showed where the missing eye should have gone if there was room for it.
In contrast to the dwarf there were a pair of giants – at least seven feet tall and each nearly as wide as the proverbial ‘shithouse’. The two men lumbered towards Vlad like the ultimate pair of club bouncers but he waved them away.
Siamese twins were a rare occurrence in the field of obstetrics. Dwarfism and giantism were both extreme examples of the Human form. But a dwarf Cyclops couldn’t go without comment.
“He’s from the Ukraine,” Vlad explained. For a moment that didn’t answer the question, then Dougal gave an understanding sigh.
“From near Chernobyl?” he queried.
Owen wanted to say something about using such an unfortunate victim of Human folly as an exhibit in a freak show, but he couldn’t find words with the right mix of outrage and civility to get his point across without the pair of giants throwing them off the site.
“I presume his work visa is up to date,” he managed to say. “For that matter, what about you, Mr ?epe?? The Voivodeship of Wallachia isn’t in the EU, yet.”
“All our credentials are up to date,” Vlad replied testily. “Every member of the troupe has the right to live and work in the United Kingdom.”
“Don’t think I won’t be checking,” Owen told him. “Now let’s see those animals.”
If the Human exhibits of the ‘faere’ weren’t bad enough, the ‘zoo’ was a horror story in its own right. Dougal and Owen stared in amazement at various birth anomalies, including a snake, a goat and a horse each with two heads, a rhinoceros with six legs – two of them, granted, not fully formed and unable to bear its weight, but definitely extra limbs.
Even worse was the bear with only half a skull, one half of its face and head sunken and misshapen.
The monkey with fused legs was the final straw. Neither of the visitors wanted to see any more. Owen challenged Vlad about the pitiful collection.
“All of the animals are kept in fully inspected humane conditions,” Vlad insisted. “They are vaccinated and free from disease.”
“Disease is the last thing that poor brute has to contend with,” Owen responded, looking at a pig with four eyes squeezed into two sockets. “I’m only surprised you haven’t got a couple of headless chickens running around.”
“Or a unicorn!” Dougal added. “To go with your friend the centaur.”
“They DO,” Owen groaned as he looked into a stall and found a grey horse with a horn protruding from its head. “Is that natural or has somebody done some disgusting cosmetic surgery on that poor bugger?” he demanded.
“It is natural, and it causes the beautiful creature no harm at all. It is a miracle – a creature from mythology born into this cynical modern world.”
“It’s a pitiful aberration, as are all of your ‘stock’, Owen responded. “These creatures ought to have been quietly euthanized when they were born. God knows what sort of inbreeding or miscegenation led to their existence, but it is an unnatural obscenity.”
“Who is to say what is natural?” Vlad asked. “Cattle, sheep, even dogs and cats have been bred for different physical characteristics for millennia. Do you suppose cows produce more milk than their young need by natural selection? Is the thick wool of a sheep not designed to be shorn by men? Who is to say that my specimens are not natural compared to a dachshund with its legs to small and too far apart to properly support its body.”
“I do,” Owen snarled. “This is a disgusting freak show and if it was in my power I’d have it shut down right now. As it is, I’m going to be looking very closely at all your paperwork and if there is a comma out of place on a single form you’ll be packing your traps and getting out of town.”
“You are a very efficient council official,” Vlad commented. “You shall have the paperwork. Please come with me to my office and you shall see everything you need to see.”
Owen had probably bitten off more than he could chew. He was NOT a council inspector and he usually avoided paperwork like the plague. He didn’t know what the proper vaccination records ought to be for a two-headed cow or a unicorn.
His Human medical qualifications gave him only a vague idea of what he ought to be looking for. As far as he could tell, however, everything was up to date for all of the animals. The Siamese twins, the one-eyed dwarf, the ‘centaur’, a woman billed as the last living mermaid, and Vlad himself, all had valid passports and visas allowing them to work as ‘performing artists’ in the UK.
“If the referendum had gone the other way we could have had them on THAT,” Dougal remarked dryly. “Seriously, a living mermaid?”
“I’m tempted to ask for her RSPCA inspection certificate,” Owen responded. “But I think we’ve pushed Vlad the Impaler as far as we dare. I don’t think we’re going to get anything else out of him.”
“I agree. Shall we get the fuck out of here?”
“Yes. But I’m sending Darius and Shona in after dark. We’ll see what they find when the show opens to the public.”
Owen closed the file in which Vlad kept his faere’s documentation and stood up. As he did so, he wobbled unsteadily. He looked at Dougal. There seemed to be two of him.
“What the fu….fu…fu..ck?” he slurred as Dougal fell backwards like a felled tree, banging his head on Vlad’s office filing cabinet. The clank of skull against metal was the last thing Owen heard for a long time as he, too, passed out, unconscious.
Toshiko was starting to wonder if Owen and Dougal had gone for an intimate lunch together when she got a phone call from her common law husband.
“Come and get us, and bring a change of clothes,” he pleaded. “Warm clothes. I’m bloody perishing.”
“Why, where ARE you?” Toshiko asked, not unreasonably.
“We’re in some trees by a motorway bridge over a river that runs past Glasgow Airport,” Owen responded. “And we’re only in our underpants.”
“Sounds like the White Cart viaduct,” Shona Stewart told Toshiko when she asked. “How did they get THERE?”
“I’ll ask them later,” Toshiko decided. She turned back to the phone and asked them an obvious question.
“If you’re in your underpants, how are you calling me? You’re not in a public phone box, are you?”
“We found two guys with a blanket and their clothes in a neat pile,” Owen answered. Toshiko and Shona both grinned as they pictured the scene. “They were… very generous to us. They had a couple of spare blankets. But… for fuck sake come and get us. There’s a sort of football ground not far away. There’s a road next to it that you can take to drive down to us. But there’s a bunch of women training on there. We’re not going to try walking past THEM.”
“Give me half an hour,” Toshiko said before cutting the call.
“I’m coming with you!” Shona decided. “I could use a laugh.”
“I just hope their story is a good one,” Toshiko responded.
It wasn’t. Neither Owen nor Dougal had any idea how they had ended up unconscious for nearly three hours, nor who had undressed them and transported them to the place where they had woken up in an embarrassing and possibly illegal situation.
“We didn’t eat or drink anything,” Owen insisted. “We weren’t even offered so much as a cup of tea. Vlad wasn’t exactly accommodating in that way.”
“You didn’t feel a prick of any sort?” Toshiko asked. “No smutty jokes from either of you. This is serious. They must have used something to knock you both unconscious. Maybe some sort of gas. When we get back to the Hub I’ll check your bloods, see if there’s a trace. I hope there is. I can retro engineer it. We could use a knock-out gas that nobody notices until it’s too late to do anything about it.”
Owen and Dougal could have said something about the detached way that Toshiko was talking about knock-out gas, but they were feeling vulnerable, still. The only clothes Toshiko could find at short notice were a couple of paper overalls from the forensic stores. They lacked the will to protest.
What burned the most was that they could do nothing about it. They were at the Faere under false pretences as any police officer would say if they made a formal complaint. Without some kind of evidence they couldn’t make a charge of kidnapping.
“I want to close that bloody freakshow down,” Owen growled as he sat in his own medical room submitting to blood tests from Toshiko. “I want them GONE.”
“Preferably before any people DIE,” Toshiko added. “Have you seen the pictures Jack sent?”
“He doesn’t have to see the pictures,” said Darius, coming unnervingly quietly into the medical room. “There’s a body heading to us. The injuries sound the same as those reported in other cities where the Faere has been before us. And when you do the autopsy, I think you’ll find the time of death about five o’clock this morning.”
Owen looked at Darius curiously.
“I filed a report, but it must have been buried by all this other stuff. About five… when I was out on the rooftops… I felt the presence of evil.”
If anyone else had felt such a thing, Owen would have laughed it off. But Darius had ‘skills’ that couldn’t be ignored.
When he examined the body that arrived from the city morgue he couldn’t argue with Darius’s time of death. He compared the ragged edges around the hole in the stomach where the body had been eviscerated with the pictures Jack’s ‘nice lady’ had supplied. The same kind of teeth had ripped into this body.
What sort of teeth? None of the animals he had seen at the Faere did this damage. Of that he WAS sure. But that didn’t put them in the clear. They might not have shown him EVERYTHING. If they had a creature that could do this they wouldn’t have shown it to an RSPCA vet, let alone a council inspector.
He wasn’t surprised. He knew from the moment he saw Vlad the Impaler and his companions that they had to be hiding something.
“It’s going to have to be you and Shona, after dark,” he told Darius as he assisted, as usual, with the autopsy. “Now that they know me and Dougal our chances of snooping are limited.”
“Maybe not,” Darius answered. “Have you seen the fine print on the flier?”
“Not particularly,” Owen replied.
“For the opening night, visitors are invited to come in costume – on a theme of gothic fantasy. You and Dougal can wear masks!”
Owen’s expression was almost impossible to gauge. He seemed torn between a desire to be personally involved in the downfall of Vlad ?epe? and his Nighte Faere and his aversion to wearing ‘disguises’ – especially ones on the theme of ‘gothic fantasy’.
Darius hardly needed a disguise, of course. He already looked both gothic and fantasy, especially when he put on his best leather coat with upturned collar. Shona had an outfit that matched his and make up that made her look as pale of face and ruddy of lips. Dougal and Sandy made an evening of it dressed as the two faces of Dorian Grey. Dougal was amazingly made up as the decrepit version that bore all of his sins on his face, while Sandy got to be the good looking one.
Munroe arrived for the evening shift ready for the field trip. Accompanied by Amanda, they were dressed as Herman and Lily Munster.
Toshiko was impressive in a deep purple wig and a Japanese gown with her face deathly pale. When Owen asked she explained she was Kana, the ghost girl from Manga culture. Owen decided not to ask any more.
He had made the least effort with his costume. He was simply wearing a t-shirt with a bloody zombie face on it and some seriously distressed jeans. He had greyed his skin and reddened his eyes and there was fake blood dripping from his mouth. Whether he would fool Vlad or anyone who had seen him during the afternoon was a moot point.
Apart from the two civilian partners, they all had weapons concealed them under their costumes. Toshiko was dubious about live ammunition in a place crowded with innocent bystanders, but Owen had insisted.
“They have SOMETHING there that eviscerated a grown man while his blood was still pumping,” he reminded them all.
“You could TELL that from the body you examined?” Sandy asked nervously as they made their way through the evening streets of Glasgow attracting some odd looks from ordinary passers-by.
“I could,” Owen replied without giving any further details. He may have been dressed as a ghoul but he didn’t feel ghoulish about his work. “The poor bastard was identified as Graham Anderson, forty-seven, from Saltmarket. He was a night-watchman at the Princes Street Arcade, heading home at the end of his shift – in other words, a man who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
As they approached Glasgow Green they looked far less conspicuous. There were plenty of gothic fantasy figures heading the same direction. It seemed as if there was a demand for this kind of entertainment despite Owen’s scepticism.
“It takes all sorts,” Munroe commented philosophically. A man who regularly spent time with an alien woman with three breasts and a tail almost certainly had the right to express such a liberal point of view. Owen was less convinced. He wondered how he was going to spot the real monsters from the humans in costumes.
“I will know when I feel that evil again,” Darius assured him. “The sensation was unmistakeable.”
Owen wasn’t entirely reassured. Apart from anything else there WERE some genuinely benign unDead residents of Glasgow at the Faere. He recognised several of Lady Moira’s clan mingling with the crowds. He spotted two of Amanda’s sister’s as well. Three breasts and a tail fitted into this place perfectly well. They were enjoying an evening out of their Human disguises for once.
There were some ordinary sideshows around the edges of the ‘Faere’. Toshiko could have tried her skill at the rifle range and a coconut shy if she had chosen, and there was a carousel of sorts – with unicorns and winged horses rather than the ordinary kind. It was possible to buy some of the usual sort of fairground food like hot dogs and burgers. There was also an ox roast with a huge carcass turned on a massive spit over an open fire pit and a stall selling ‘cats meat’.
“It’s NOT cat,” Munroe assured everyone. “It is just scraps of meat left over by the butcher, stringy bits of bacon, that sort of thing, strung onto kebab sticks and cooked over a fire. It’s a medieval thing. They sold that kind of thing in market squares and jousting competitions and the like.”
“I’ll be checking with the Cat’s Protection League,” Toshiko responded. “In case you’re wrong. Just in case, I don’t intend to eat ANYTHING they’re selling here.”
“The ox roast smells interesting,” Dougal commented. “But I’d want to know how many heads it used to have before I ate any part of it.”
The ‘freak show’ both Human and animal repulsed all of the Torchwood team. They watched with disgust as the two giants juggled with the one-eyed dwarf before holding the ‘Cyclops’ on a chair between their shoulders. After the juggling, perhaps playing on a variation of the Greek mythology that gave the one-eyed monster powers of foresight, he went on to do a blatantly staged fortune telling act, picking out obvious plants from the audience.
Elsewhere the Siamese Twins tap danced for the amusement of the crowds and the centaur moved freely around the Faere eliciting astonished comments.
“Is it me or does that look more REAL than it did this morning?” Dougal asked. “Surely his back end is an actual horse, now!”
“Then I definitely want to see his vet’s certificates,” Owen replied. He was sure Dougal was right. It really WAS a half-man, half-horse. HOW it happened he really didn’t WANT to know.
He didn’t want to know how the mermaid came about, either. The woman’s passport and visa were granted on the basis that she WAS Human, and in daylight he had seen her in a wheelchair with a blanket over her legs. Now she was swimming around in a large tank with a shimmering tail and what looked like gills behind her ears. He heard people around him saying it had to be a trick of the light, mirrors, a really GOOD costume, but he had no doubt that she had fish DNA at least from the waist down.
“It’s horrible,” Toshiko commented even before she had seen the two headed snake and the other genetic blind alleys kept in the ‘zoo’. “These people… are just SICK.”
“They’re worse than sick,” Owen insisted. “They have a man-eater here, either among the animals or the humans. I’m not sure which, and I don’t care. When I get hold of it there’s a place in the Torchwood vault it can live in for the rest of its unnatural life.”
The Torchwood team, as conspicuously as they were dressed, found ways to slip beyond the brightly lit performance areas and move in the shadows behind the sideshows and stages.
And it was in one of those dark, shadowy places that Darius found himself experiencing something like the sense of evil he had recognised before dawn. It wasn’t quite the same. There was less of the evil and more confusion and uncertainty, but he knew it when he felt it.
“In there,” he whispered to Shona. “That trailer.”
There was a guard outside the trailer in question. It wasn’t one of the giants, but definitely in the ‘beefcake’ mould.
Shona was perfectly happy to use her extensive knowledge of unarmed and silent combat to deal with the guard. She might even have been persuaded to use feminine wiles to distract him.
She was a little surprised when Darius disappeared from her side and in an eyeblink was in front of the guard, using his vampire wiles to distract the man, holding him in a hypnotic trance while Shona moved close behind him and applied a disabling karate chop to his neck. The guard slid to the floor unconscious. With him out of the way they turned to deal with the fact that the trailer door was locked.
“Do you want to do that thing where you turn to smoke and slip in through the hinge side gap?” Shona asked.
“Not especially. It gives me a stinking headache,” Darius answered, but he did it anyway. Shona waited for him to open the door from the inside. She was worried when it took him several minutes to do that.
“What’s going on?” she demanded.
“Don’t come in here,” Darius told her. “It’s too awful. Get the others.”
“Too awful?” Shona responded haughtily. “I’m NOT a squeamish girly. I can handle a bit of blood.”
Then she noticed the floor beneath Darius’s feet, the slick sheen on his shoes. There was a LOT of blood, and something moving in the gloom, something that snarled at her.
“It didn’t recognise me as food. I smell different. But you’re Human, Shona. Get the others.”
“They’re Human, too,” Shona replied. “Do you want to hand this thing more victims or something?” She pushed past him into the trailer, pulling a penlight torch from her pocket and holding it underneath her gun as she steadied her hand.
The sight of the creature chained to the wall almost unsteadied it again. In the dim light her eyes were already wide, but her expression froze as she gazed at something like a dragon with a Human face or a Human with a dragon body. The mouth full of sharp teeth dripped blood from the innards of a sheep it had ripped apart while the blood was still warm.
Her finger squeezed the trigger on her pistol just as an arm locked around her neck and yanked her backwards. The round slammed into the ceiling of the trailer, the sound echoing loudly in the confined space and making the creature in chains howl with rage.
Shona fired wildly twice more before the pressure on her neck was released. She ducked and turned to see Darius pushing Vlad against the door. His eyes glowed and she could see his thin lips drawing back to reveal his sharp incisors.
“You like to dress up as a vampire,” he snarled. “You think it’s a ‘cool’ look – something that plays well on the posters.”
Vlad murmured something incomprehensible.
“Give me one reason not to give you a taste of the real thing!” Darius added.
“Don’t!” Vlad pleaded. “Please… don’t. I’d rather die than be turned!”
“I’d rather kill you any time,” Darius told him. “I don’t want slime like you in MY world.”
He pushed Vlad out of the trailer altogether, knocking him to the ground and setting on him, not with his fangs, but with his burning anger and fists that felt no pain when they cracked against a Human jaw. Vlad fought back, but the unDead had strength beyond that of mortals and he couldn’t hold out for long.
“Look out!” Shona yelled. Her warning was unnecessary. The sound of the chains being ripped from the wall of the trailer and the howl from the half-Human-half-mythological creature almost drowned her voice. She threw herself out of its way as it burst out through the door and flew at Darius.
Shona again steadied her hand and shot at the creature. She was surprised when several other shots rang out at the same time. She looked past the bleeding body and Darius dragging an unconscious Vlad out from under it and saw Dougal, Owen, Toshiko and Munroe all holstering their weapons.
“Thanks for the back up,” she called out. “Look out behind you.” Deeper shadows resolved into some of the strangely shaped people who were part of the Faere company. The two giants looked as if they might come to the aide of their boss until Shona levelled her gun at them. The Siamese twins and the Cyclops hovered uncertainly.
“Close this freak show, now,” Owen said to them. “Get the public out of the way. Then I want statements from everybody. I want to know how involved you ALL were in concealing a man-eating animal.”
“It… wasn’t an animal,” said one of the twins. “It was his sister.”
The twin had pointed at the still unconscious Vlad lying in a crumpled heap on the churned up grass.
“How?” Owen Dougal asked. “What species are they?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Toshiko said, intervening in the discussion. “Owen is right. Get the civilians out of here. Somebody cover the body and get him an ice pack, and THEN we can discuss how many of you lot are going to jail - and how many are going to an animal welfare home.”
The Faere people probably outnumbered the Torchwood crew by ten to one, but the sight of their boss out cold and their best kept secret lying in a rapidly spreading pool of blood took the fight out of them. They did exactly as they had been told.
An hour later the man-eating hybrid’s body was packed in ice ready to be taken back to Torchwood for a very interesting autopsy that would involve examining the genetic admixture very carefully. The members of the Faere were gathered together in the midst of the now dark sideshows and stages looking worried and uncertain about their future.
“This whole set up ought to be reported to the authorities,” Owen told them all. “I’m just not sure WHICH authorities. It looks as if a lot of you were working for Vlad under the sort of conditions we call slavery and Human trafficking in this country. There ought to be an investigation into THAT for a start. I’m still not happy about the fact that Vlad collected ‘freaks’, Human and animal, to cover up the fact that he was hiding the most dangerous freak of all. That’s why he’s going to be answering questions for a long time and then I’m going to hand him over to immigration. They’ll probably ask a lot more questions before putting him on a plane back to Romania. The rest of you… I think you should pack up and leave town before morning. If you think there’s still a market for your kind of weird shit, then fair enough, but stay out of Torchwood’s hinterland if you know what’s good for you.”
With that, Owen left the people of the Nighte Faere to decide their immediate future for themselves. If they did as he said, by sun up there should be no trace of them apart from some discarded burger wrappings and some churned up grass.
And hopefully the next fair to set up on Glasgow Green would be the sort he could take the kids to.