Terrified, Solomon watched with wide eyes as Will took on a more beastly form. Where a man had once been stood a hulking, dog-like creature, balancing carefully on two thin hind legs. The upper body resembled that of a weightlifting man, with a dense matting of fur all over the body. Will's hands were now longer, with a series of sharp, dark claws at the end of his fingertips. While his sickly yellow eyes had been a light brown before, they were now a deep maroon, glowing in the full moon's light. Standing over seven feet tall, the creature that had once been Will roared in a deep voice.
"You can leave now, Solomon," Will bellowed, stretching out his massive arms, "and nothing will happen."
"I don't have a choice, Will." Replied Solomon, raising his railroad spike. "I never did."
Accepting this for a challenge, Will charged forward at Solomon, leaping onto the smaller man and pinning him to the ground. As Solomon squirmed beneath the mighty weight, Will raised one clawed hand, preparing to strike. Seeing this, Solomon pressed against Will's weight, and managed to bring the silver railroad spike into contact with the side of Will's wrist. There came a strange sizzling sound, and Will bellowed in agony.
Inside the Garden, the show was really spicing up. Having torn into "Kashmir," Cooper pulled the microphone close to his lips and began singing in a tone equal to that of the great Robert Plant. A high, powerful voice emerged from Cooper's muscled frame, surprising much of the audience.
"Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream" Cooper sang above the charging chords being chugged out by Alex and Stephen.
Will rolled off of Solomon, clutching his burning wrist. Taking advantage of the moment, Solomon leaped to his feet and jumped atop Will's haired back, wrapping his arms about the boy's neck for support. Will began to struggle, grasping Solomon's lanky hips with both claws and tossing the diminutive man off of his back.
["I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been"]
Solomon smashed against the side of Loveless's van with a sickening crack, but managed to stay conscious. However, his determination was met with Will's claw headed right for his head. Ducking, Solomon heard Will's nails scrape along the side of the van. Solomon's duck was met with a knee to the face. His head slammed back into the tire of the van, and he yelped in pain.
["To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen"]
Solomon lay bleeding, groaning a bit in frustration. The oddly calm Will lowered his face to speak with the beaten man.
"I know what you're going through, Sol, but" said Will, before being interrupted by the bleeding Solomon.
"No, you don't understand!" Solomon roared. "I was cheated! This is my only way to make things right!"
"Getting your soul back won't bring back what you've lost," Will assured him, clutching the poor man's head with one massive hand.
"WHO I lost!" Solomon corrected, roaring back at Will. "I know it won't bring Sarah back! But I can at least save myself!"
"Your selflessness" Will pondered, holding the furious, bloody Solomon in place with one arm. "It's enough."
"Enough? No" muttered Solomon, "it was a bad means of selflessness."
"Selling your soul to save another," Will sighed, "it's selfless enough."
"It's not your place to decide," whispered Solomon, suddenly stabbing upward with the railroad spike, still clutched in his hand. Will was much too quick, however, and managed to release Solomon and leap backward just in time to avoid the silver spike headed straight for his face. Solomon scrambled to his feet, his head pounding in pain.
["Oh, I been flying... mama, there ain't no denyin'"]
Feeling pity for the bleeding hunter, Will dove out of the way of several incoming blows, but did not retaliate. As Solomon tired, Will watched his face turn from a confidant sneer to a desperate grimace. It was a horrid sight to behold; a man fighting for his own retribution.
[I've been flying, ain't no denyin', no denyin']
Finally, Solomon slowed in his attempts to stab Will, and he dropped to his knees, tears flooding his eyes. Will sighed aloud, the sound emerging as a gentle growl from his wolven lips. He stepped forward over a broken bottle on the cold concrete. Solomon, weak from his attempts, looked up at Will with defeat in his eyes. They begged for release, and Will happily obliged them. With one swift kick to the side of the head, Will put Solomon to sleep.
The hunter's head hit the pavement, bounced once, and didn't rise again. Will hadn't killed him, but simply let him rest. The desperation in Solomon's eyes had finally broken Will's patience and capability for pity. There was no need for it anymore. Will let himself fall back into a more human form, his hoodie now completely tattered; his jeans torn to shreds, barely clinging to his modest form. He sighed aloud, kneeling down next to the fallen Solomon.
"You idiot," whispered Will. The night would have been utterly silent, if not for the dying chords of "Kashmir."
Nearly falling over each other, Loveless flowed out of the Garden, guitars and amps in tow. It had been a fairly successful gig, as usual. There were the usual slip-ups, but that was to be expected with a band that only really had practice every once in a while. Bobby's sudden, explosive solo had impressed the crowd, but worried the rest of the band. He was not one to be standing in the spotlight; he usually preferred to be the strong, silent type.
As the group neared the van, one voice rang out above their quiet commotion.
"Oh, what the hell?" Gregg yelped, spotting the strange scratch marks in the paint on the side of the old white van. He immediately placed his bass cab on the ground and walked over to examine the scratch marks more thoroughly.
"What the--?" added Alex, dropping his guitar case next to Gregg's amp and opening the back doors of the vehicle. "Nothing taken from inside. So what's the point?"
"We got a weird grudge against us or something?" asked Cooper, running his palm over the scratches. "These are way too big to have been from someone keying the van."
"They're more animalistic," said Gregg, analyzing the marks. Everyone knew Gregg's method of examination: his eyes would droop, and he would put one finger to his left temple, lost in thought. It was an odd process, but due to his seemingly godly intelligence, he could deduce just about anything. "Like a wolf. Or a large cat."
"Coyotes are around here," announced Stephen, tossing gear up to Alex, now packing the equipment into the van. "But they're kinda rare."
"Not a coyote," Gregg corrected, tracing the arc of the chips in the paint. "It came from an upward angle. Something brought down on the car, not from below it."
"So what're you saying?" Cooper asked, opening the driver's side door and leaning inside to start up the van.
"So whoever or whatever made this scratch had to be taller than the van itself," Gregg concluded.
"A giant?" asked Alex from inside the back compartment.
"Something like that," Gregg muttered, glancing back and forth across the scar in the side of the paneling. "Something"
It was nearly 2 A.M. before Will managed to ramble back to the small apartment complex on the bad side of the tracks back in Ganton. The trek from Harmony Hill had taken quite a bit of energy from him, but he much preferred running than to actually take a car. It's not as if anyone would have given a ride to a boy wearing little more than shreds of clothing, anyway.
Leaping the plain wooden fence in one bound, Will landed gracefully on all fours. He sniffed the air tentatively, ensuring he was alone. Then, in a sickening turn of events, the boy straightened, leaping back onto two legs, his back cracking loudly in the night air, breaking the silence of the dark. He coughed awkwardly and made for the tiny window that led back into Victoria's basement apartment. From her personality, Will would have thought that Victoria would live in a lovely New England-style house, but instead, she lived in a dingy basement apartment. It was a shame.
He knocked three times, a signal the two had agreed upon beforehand. A moment later, the girl's round face appeared in the window and beckoned Will inside. Not wasting a moment, Will dropped to his knees and slid inside her bedroom. It was dark, but the room was soon illuminated by a desk light, which Victoria eagerly flicked on.
"And?" she asked, not waiting for Will to get comfortable. "Solomon came by. He's been dealt with," Will said, fibbing a bit.
"Dealt with in what way?" asked Victoria, sitting on the edge of her bed. She eyed Will up and down. Will knew immediately that she was examining him. She had an eye; some sort of strange analytical capacity. She knew every detail already.
"Knocked him unconscious. Kick to the head. Dropped him off a few towns over. He'll be wicked confused by the time he wakes up," Will reported, recalling the details of the evening vividly. Nervous, he attempted to stealthily hide his burnt wrist behind his back.
"That doesn't exactly ensure the boys' safety," Victoria sighed, resting her head on her open palm, which was placed on her right knee. "He'll find his way back."
"Trust me," Will grumbled, "he'll be taking a leave of absence."
"Because you pity him," Victoria added, as if reading Will's mind.
"yeah," Will sighed, "He's in this business for all the right reasons. He justmade some poor decisions."
"Everyone knows Solomon's story, Will. Wife got cancer; he sold his soul to make her healthy again. Wife gets hit by train."
"Mephisto knows loopholes," added Will, observing several odd items on Victoria's wall shelf: a crucifix, a jeweled necklace, a human eyeball floating in a jar of some unknown liquid. "Solomon's just fighting to fix his own life. He has kids out there, somewhere."
"We're changing the subject," said Victoria in her dreamy, lilting voice. She stared vacantly out of the basement window up at the full moon. "Even if Solomon's out of the picture, those boys aren't safe."
"My job's not ever, is it?" asked Will, a certain dread in his voice.
"Not even close," Victoria stated plainly, twirling a finger in her hair. "You'll need to keep an eye on them for me."
"Guess I should enroll in the high school sometime soon, then," Will sighed, pressing his index finger and thumb into his eye sockets, attempting to massage away a growing headache. "Why do you care about these guys so much?"
There was a sudden, awkward pause as Victoria's gaze slowly shifted from the full moon over to Will's eyes. There was a moment of pure loss; Will could see that Victoria was searching for an answer. This was very much unlike her; she usually had an answer for everything. Usually, she was unflappable. But this time, there was something else in her gaze. Something fragile.
"They sold their souls," Victoria said in the dim light, her porcelain face taut with an internal struggle, "that's good enough reason for me."
"Okay" Will muttered, treading lightly. "I'll look into getting into school."
"You do that," Victoria whispered, her voice cracking as Will slipped out of the window and into the night. As he leapt the fence, he could barely make out the sound of Victoria's gentle sobs.
"Gregg?" called Selina as she descended the stairs into Gregg's basement. The rest of the house had been dark and empty, and she could only assume the basement would be the same. But it was certainly worth a try. Gregg's car was still in the driveway. He couldn't have gone far.
The feeling of her feet on the stairs was odd. She had decided that getting back into walking as opposed to flying would make her appear more human. It was well worth the effort if she was going to be hanging around for a while. Best not to attract any unwanted attention, she figured. But with the transition back to walking, she had discovered that, having hovered for such a long time, the muscles in her legs had atrophied a bit, and she was weak in the knees. Every time she took a step, she had to ensure she didn't lose balance.
"Gregg?" she asked again, her voice echoing in the darkness below. "Yes?" came a bored reply.
"Oh, good," Selina gave a sigh of relief, "you're down here."
"Where else would I be?" asked Gregg's disembodied voice rhetorically.
"I dunno," rambled Selina, flicking the basement light switch on. The basement was suddenly flooded in light, revealing the clutter around the edges of the room. A single beam, holding up the ceiling stood between Selina and Gregg, who sat cross-legged facing one barren stone wall, his eyes locked upon it. "Maybe upstairs where it's warm and cozy?"
"Warmth is overrated," said Gregg, not looking away from the wall. Selina began circling him, and soon realized exactly what it was he was looking at. Before him lay the letters "S.N.M." crudely carved into the stone wall.
"I found your proof of your ownership of the house," said Gregg, running his hand over the carving. "S.N.M. , Sala'ill Naig Mannchum."
"You remembered my real name!" Selina exclaimed, her hand folding over her mouth.
"I only remember important things," Gregg replied somberly, his mind racing. "The scratches on the van got me thinking. A large animal, taller than a van with claws. Which led me down here. Which led to thinking of you."
He glanced up at Selina with one eyebrow raised in curiosity. She had only known Gregg for about two weeks now, but he had left his impression upon her. She could already tell what he was thinking.
"Not someone like me," she muttered aloud, looking over her own carving she had made in 1921. She bit her thumbnail nervously, scouring her brain for an answer she already knew. She was just too hesitant to really admit it. "Somethingdifferent."
"A lycanthrope," Gregg concluded, answering his own inquiry. He smiled grimly. "Grand. Another supernatural issue to deal with."
"Come on, that's all purely a guess," Selina scoffed, turning her back to Gregg and looking back toward the stairs, suddenly very nervous. "Let's not jump into suchtheories."
"I know the nightwalkers and the lycanthropes aren't on good terms," Gregg admitted, shrugging emotionlessly. "But I'm going to need you to help me out on this one."
"The nightwalkers haven't been organized for decades," Selina corrected, still staring out at the stairs. "And the lycanthropes"
"Don't care," Gregg finished.
"Hey, uh" Selina began, looking slowly back toward Gregg. "Where's the annoying Euro girl? Whatsernameuh, Rebekkah?"
"Gone," replied Gregg plainly, not moving an inch.
"Gone," Gregg assured her, then began listing synonyms: "left. Ousted. Vacant. Removed from my existence."
"Wait, you broke up with her?" Selina asked, her vibrant blue eyes growing large.
"You were right, Selina," Gregg sighed, crawling to his feet. "It was wrong to have her love me without her own consent. So I made it right. I ended it. Because it's right."
"Gregg, do you know what this could mean?" Selina asked, gasping slightly with every word.
Gregg opened his mouth to respond, but the sudden vibration from his pocket interrupted what he was about to say. Without a word, he glanced to Selina and slowly withdrew his phone from his pocket. Flipping it open, he read the text message to himself, then tossed the phone to Selina. Taking in a deep breath, she looked down at the screen.
"FROM: CLARISSA - TO: ALEX; STEPHEN; COOPER; GREGG; BOBBY - MESSAGE: There's been a change! Meet me in the park in fifteen!"
Gregg smiled back at Selina as she glanced back up at him. There was a sad sort of relief in his dark eyes.