Elisabeth’s alarm went off, and her eyes flew open. Her hand instantly found the stake under the pillow. In a moment of lucidity, her brain registered that it was daylight. She quickly let go of the stake and started to go for the gun that she kept in a holster attached to the nightstand instead. Something deep in her wanted to initiate the escape plan that all Blue Moon team members had in place. It was a rule that applied to their homes, the office, and Home Base.
She sleepily dismissed that urge. She struggled to place exactly where she was. Her heightened senses did not give her the feeling that she was in danger. Cautious eyes scanned the room, while her brain worked to shake off the last gentle grip that sleep had on her. Sometimes the Sandman took a while to say goodbye.
It took a few moments, but she figured out where she was; and why she woke up in fight or flight mode. She was at home. That explained why it felt so alien, and she didn’t immediately realize where she was. Her home was usually the last place one would have to look to find her, most days. She woke up wanting to run because of the dream. By now she had no idea what it had been about, and that was probably a blessing.
A quick look at her bedside calendar elicited the first annoyed groan of the day. The reason why guaranteed that there would be plenty more to follow. She was assigned to work with Jack Frost, at Blue Moon for the next three days. The werewolf bounty hunter was not her favorite person on the team to partner with on cases. In fact, he was the only person that she disliked at all.
It wasn’t because of his past failed relationship with Akiko, either. Elisabeth was adult enough to separate her friends struggles to work with her ex-boyfriend, from her ability to work with an important part of the team. It had solely to do with who he was as a person. To say That Frost was unpleasant to work, and live with, was a gross understatement.
Extreme hostility was the neutral setting for Jack. He enjoyed playing the devil’s advocate at highly inappropriate times. The talented werewolf wrangled seemed to have this deep desire to debate, and bicker. It often left him blind to how horrible his timing was. On top of that, once Jack decided to get under your skin for whatever reason, he gave it all he had. It was a wonder that none of them had killed him by now.
Akiko endured it all because Jack Frost was the best werewolf bounty hunter in the area. His kind was not as prevalent on the west coast; as they were through the Midwest and Northeast. The agency was lucky to have him. They were just unlucky in the fact that his impressive talent came with the rankest attitude.
If someone better happened to come along, then maybe Akiko would consider replacing him. Until that day they would all have to just deal with Jack and all his infuriating personality traits. That was the price they all had to pay to make sure they could stay on top of cases involving werewolves. Not only was that a large part of the business, but it was also a large problem in the Golden State.
Begrudgingly, Elisabeth dragged herself into the shower. She sat up, a scowl imprinted on her face, and she feared it might be permanent. Several cigarettes and half a pot of coffee did nothing to improve her mood. The annoyed woman hoped that a visit to her favorite food truck would do the trick. As things currently stood Frost would not survive the day if she started out the day with him, like this.
As she hoped, her favorite food truck visit lifted her spirits. The fact that there was no traffic all the way to work certainly helped. She strolled into the office. She was immediately greeted by the new secretary, Mrs. Rachel Skylark.
The last one had recently quit. The whole thing had been a prime example of why Akiko was so hesitant to hire an administrative assistant or receptionist. She stood up and started screaming that stating that the clients were crazy, but the team was far more demented. Seeing Rachel also made Elisabeth happy. She was efficient and made fantastic coffee. On top of that, she had no problem working overtime if something happened, and they were not able to close the office on time.
Rachel Skylark had come heavily recommended by her previous employers, who included several of the other reputable agencies that dealt with the supernatural. That alone was enough to make Akiko want to hire her. That meant she was steady in nature, and not easily rattled by anything that came her way. Akiko knew that Rachel would need minimal training in self-defense. She knew which end of the stake went in bloodsuckers, and what to do in case of a werewolf attack.
Mrs. Skylark was more than easy on the eyes, which made her an immediate target for the lecherous attention of Jack. There was a lot about her that drew the attention of anyone nearby. Her svelte figure stretched to an incredible five feet and nine inches. She stood eye to eye with Stetch, on days when she wore heels.
Rachel possessed this crooked smile, that was mischievous and infectious. A cute upturned nose graced her perfectly tanned face. Often, she used that very nose to push her cat-eyed glasses up her face when she did not have a hand available.
Her brown wide set eyes lit up the room and transformed her face into a luminous source of infinite beauty. She usually wore her chestnut [hued] hair up in a loose chignon. She was a proper married lady. Her apparel was always demure, but flattering. That probably fueled his desires.
Jack took one look at her, and went for it so quickly; he missed the wedding ring. Rachel must have brutally shut him down. No one was witness to it, but they all knew something had happened. One day he was typical Jack Frost. Then suddenly de did not act himself in her presence. He was a schoolboy, and she was the principal.
“Good morning, Ms. Darling,” the happy woman chirped sweetly at the psychic.
Elisabeth smiled. The former bounty hunter turned secretary, also happened to be a former beauty queen. She was always pleasant and polite.
“Good morning to you too, Mrs. Skylark. Do I have any messages today?”
The secretary smiled while standing up. “Yes, you do as a matter of fact. Settle in, and I will bring them over with your coffee.”
Elisabeth thanked her and headed over to her desk. Typical of Jack, he was late and had not called her.
He was most likely trying to dislodge last night’s bar score from his bed. Elisabeth hoped that not only was there a girl in his bed that refused to leave, but that she was also a level ten clinger. That would serve him right. He deserved at least that much for being so inconsiderate as not to call.
Rachel soon showed up with her coffee and messages.
Elisabeth didn’t see any messages from him in her pile, which means he didn’t call the office to let Rachel know. He had not called Akiko, either. Elisabeth bit back another groan. Instead, she smiled at Rachel and asked her to call Jack. There was no resistance. Just a sweet smile.
Something about that woman was pure magic. Everything Rachel touched turned to gold. The way she managed the office wasn’t just a matter of being highly organized, task oriented, and skilled at coffee making. Every case that she brought in turned into a massive pile of cash for the agency.
Leafing through her messages, she put them in order of urgency, and priority. She was halfway through the stack of pink slips when her head snapped up. Elisabeth struggled to keep her face neutral, and her stomach acids where they belonged. Doing so was no easy task, as that feeling was telling her that Frost had just pulled into the parking lot. An [intense] feeling of dread settled in her innards.
She could feel his frenetic energy. It rolled away from him, in massive, and angry waves. Today was going to be a real rodeo. Elisabeth was now thankful that she had decided to be responsible last night.
Even though Layla had insisted she come down to the bar and hang out, Elisabeth had been stern in her decision to stay home. That was no easy feat. A night of drinking with the belted werewolf was always more fun than should be legal. On occasion, she was sure it was. The problem is that they could not usually remember large chunks of their time together.
Elisabeth was mid thought when Jack came storming through the front door. He swung it open with such force that she thought it would slam into the window behind it, and shatter both. His face twisted into a nasty sneer that frightened both women. When the door flew, open Rachel let go with a surprised gasp; it caught her off guard.
Rachel was unable to get out her usual greeting, as Jack stormed right past her desk, ripping the stack of notes off that sat on the edge. She started to let him know he took Akiko’s messages when he noticed and turned around. Stalking angrily back to Rachel’s desk, he slammed the papers down. Without a word, he shoved his hand out and waited until she managed to fumble his messages into his waiting palm.
As he passed Elisabeth on his way to her desk, she became aware of a smell she that was very familiar. Every single drinker had a story about that one liquor that they would never drink again, because of that one time they almost died. For Elisabeth that was gin. Just her luck, Jack smelled like a distillery full of it. Today was going to be fantastic.
Rachel decided to bury herself in her work and pretend as if none of that had just happened. Elisabeth decided to do the same. She had never seen him like this before. The next hour was pretty calm, with Jack falling asleep as his desk; leaving the two startled women to breathe a little easier. Letting him sleep just seemed like a wise decision based on how he had entered.
The phone ringing pierced the quiet of the office. Elisabeth tried to listen, but she was unable to hear anything. After she had hung up the phone, she threw a few nervous glances at them, as she placed a phone call. Afterward, Rachel waved them both over to her desk. All of Elisabeth’s fears about how the day was going to go were confirmed when the secretary announced what type of case it was.
“Well you two are not going to believe this, but I just got a chupacabra call.”
Jack rolled his eyes and huffed gin-tinged breath onto both women. “Are you serious,” he asked in a tone that was more than slightly annoyed.
The team had all been out on at least one chupacabra call each. A few of the team, like Jack, had gone out on several. They always ended up being dogs, or coyotes, with mange.
The person who called always pays, of course. And the team member who catches that call is compensated for gas and other travel expenses. The annoying part was that these calls always came out from ranches out on the other side of creation. Elisabeth was equally annoyed. She just hid it better.
Elisabeth took a deep breath. “How far out is this call?”
From the look on Rachel’s face, she knew it was bad. The secretary nearly whispered the answer to them. “It's out in San Bernardino County, in Newberry Springs.”
Jack let loose with a string of curse words that would have made a sailor blush. “Well we need to get on the road,” he spat out.
Jack let loose with a string of curse words that would have made a sailor blush. “Well we need to get on the road,” he spat out.
He stormed off leaving Elisabeth full of dread, and Rachel relieved. She would be clear of whatever nasty mood Jack had worked up. Everyone was used to the temper flares of Akiko. Supernatural bounty hunting was a high-stress industry, and she was responsible for a lot of lives.
She didn’t just count the people on her staff, and team. She also considered every single person in the greater area of Los Angeles to be her responsibility, when it came to the supernatural. Everything else was up to Seth, and the rest of the LAPD. There was also the fact that she did not deal out her anger to the undeserving. Very rarely did she unload on an unsuspecting victim. If she did, it was Jack; and they all understood.
The flustered psychic turned to the rattled secretary, “can I get the rest of the details? I will fill him in, once we get in the car.”
“The rancher who called it in says that there have been three separate incidents. Each time he finds several of his stock completely drained of blood, and partially eaten.”
She was about to ask if she had spoken with Akiko about it when Rachel cut the thought short. “Akiko said that she wants you two to go since it didn’t sound like the other cases. I did try to save you the drive.”
Elisabeth thanked her and then went to check to see if she had an overnight bag in her car. When she got back, Jack was sitting at his desk, with his shades on and his car keys jingling in his hands. Well, she mused to herself; at least the drive out there wouldn’t be boring.
As predicted, the trip to San Bernardino was full of excitement. Jack kept the pedal pushed down to 90 miles per hour, which was made worse by the fact that they had taken an SUV from the motor pool. Sudden turns, or lane changes, left Elisabeth feeling like the vehicle might tip. She tried to talk to Jack more than once. Her efforts hit a wall built of icy blank stares and half growls.
Newberry Springs turned out to be an agricultural area, which boasted its historical water supply. The temperate water was suitable for growing several crops. Elisabeth started to notice both ranches and farms.
Jack had slowed down to the point where the scenery was more than a blur that flew by. While she was not able to identify most of the trees, she was delighted with the wild variety of animals. There were ostriches, buffalos, and even turkeys.
Once she saw they were only twenty miles from the ranch she started to fill Jack in on the details of the case. The client was a man named Rob Barrett, although he was not the one who had called it in. One of his employees who ran the day to day operation in his absence had called, with Mr. Barrett’s permission. His name was Javier Martinez.
Javier had told Rachel that he suspected it was a chupacabra based on several things. The first was that the animals were all completely drained of blood. There had been things done to the corpses that did not match with a chupacabra, but there was no such thing as an expert on the subject. Not that he had been able to find.
On top of being dry, the carcasses also had the entrails pulled out. There were also gnaw marks, and chunks of flesh and skin were missing. Something had eaten parts of the dead animals. It was not like anything that he had heard of, and he knew all of the urban legends. That is all is all he had taken them for until the deaths started on the ranch.
He tried to find other explanations when he found the first set of victims. It had been an ostrich and a border collie. There were coyotes, but they had never had issues before. Llamas guarded the birds, along with several large breed guardian dogs.
While they were still zipping along, she had used the time to call Randall, to see what he could tell her about the people that they were going to see. Elisabeth, as usual, was impressed with what he had dug up on the client. He had gone as far as to dig through the man’s bank records and current business dealings. Everything was kosher, and he was up to date on all his taxes. Rob Barrett had never been arrested or sued. In fact, Randall had only been able to find one speeding ticket, from when the client was just seventeen.
Records showed he paid his staff more than fairly. If Randall were partial to manual labor and the sun, he would consider applying for the amount the handful of men and women were making. He had told Elisabeth that he had also researched Javier’s claims. A local newspaper had run a few stories on it.
When they arrived at the ranch, Elisabeth immediately fell in love with the wide-open space, fresh air, and animals. She could see herself spending the rest of her days in a place like this, far away from the things that went bump in the night. She allowed herself to fantasize about leaving the agency, to just be an average person again.
The fantasy evaporated when she realized that she had never been an ordinary person. Her life had been a play, where she put on her best mask; and pretended to be just like everyone else. Her nerves vibrated and twanged. There was something out here. Maybe not a chupacabra, but something out here was like her; not human. That part of her that would never be normal was wide awake and seeking the source of what she was feeling.
Where are you, she thought to herself. What are you? Not human, she answered in her head; getting out of the truck to stretch.