This is my latest short story.  It doesn’t have a home yet, but I am confident it will be published somewhere…someday. 

The more I write, the closer I come to finding my voice. 

Dae was near death from starvation, but had caught the scent of blood in the air. He followed it, trudging through the snow, until he discovered a van crumpled at the base of a ravine. Dae did not know how long the Suburban had been there, but the scent of death was fresh. He climbed down the ravine, his stomach rumbling in anticipation.

The van had landed on its side and there were no openings for a wolf to squeeze through. In an instant, Dae shifted from wolf to human, cursing the wind as it tore into his flesh. He climbed onto the van and opened the side door, careful to avoid the jagged pieces of metal that threatened to slice his skin. What he found excited him. A woman lay inside, her breathing shallow and labored. There would be fresh meat tonight. Meat that would keep his weary bones alive for another winter.

He worked quickly, unbuckling the woman as she cried out, “Please! Don’t leave her behind.”

Dae ignored her, grabbing the lady by her coat and dragging her screaming from the van. Once outside, the shifter threw his prey upon the hardened snow and began his change back to wolf when suddenly, he heard a child crying from the wreckage.

“Save her. Please, save my Olivia,” the lady said, pointing a bloody finger towards the van.

He stood over the woman, her body broken and shaking. She was close to death, yet there was hope in her eyes.

“I know–know what you are. I s-saw you from inside. Saw you change. Please! You can save her. I—I don’t care what you d-do to me. Just save my baby.”

He had never felt remorse for killing mortals. Yet something in this dying mother’s eyes, reminded him of his long lost wife. Reminded the shifter that he had once been human.

He was starving and half-frozen, yet the Cherokee followed the screams, crawling back through the wreckage, until he came upon a little girl strapped in her baby seat. She appeared unhurt, her long blonde hair held back with a giant white bow. When she saw him, the child stopped crying and smiled.

At that moment, Dae knew he would go hungry another night.

****

It had been weeks and Dae wanted the pain to stop, yet the faster he climbed, the more his rage burned. He charged up a hill, resting at the top to look down upon a country road. He heard the blip from an approaching motorcycle as it raced around a narrow corner and continued south. Dae had watched this rider many times before, driving his Harley on these back country roads.

The shifter reminded himself to keep moving.

Dae planned to run through the woods and cut off the white man before he reached the highway. As the Cherokee descended into the valley, the Harley sank away from sight, traveling its serpentine path. Dae picked up his pace, knowing the time to act was near. Soon, the biker would reach a secluded straight, where the road was pinned between two rock walls. There would be no escape there. Usually, hunger would drive the shifter to near insanity, his wolf instinct taking full control of his actions. But tonight was different. Tonight he did not wish to feed, only to kill. He stopped near a ridge, overlooking the abandoned strip of road. This was the only way out of the prairie, so he waited.

A deep roar echoed from the high rock walls and Dea sensed that his time had come. He had been traveling as a wolf, but now allowed his human self to emerge, until he stood, naked in the shadows. He located a sack of clothing, hidden earlier and quickly dressed. Dae checked the pockets. Within seconds the darkness around him transformed to blinding light as the motorcycle sped closer. In a flash, Dae fell to the ground, in direct path of the cycle. The smell of exhaust and rubber burned his nose as the bike come to a screeching halt. Immediately, the rider jumped off his seat and scampered towards him.

“Good Lord!” the man said, crouching over Dae and resting a hand on his shoulder. “Can you hear me son?” Dae nodded slowly. “Can you move?”

Dae rolled over onto his back, coming face to face with the man. He was older than he had thought, roundish in build with a salt and pepper crew cut. He wore a heavy leather jacket. Dea could smell the sickening sweet aroma of wine on the man’s breath. “What happened here? Do you understand me?”

“Yes I do,” Dae murmured.

“What happened here, son? Are you hurt?”

Dae shook his head, “No.”

“What the devil are you doing all the way out here, in the middle of nowhere?”

“I like to run at night.”

The man looked amused. “Run at night huh? Well son, you just came within a foot of never running again. Here, let’s try to get you up.” He reached out to Dae and grasped his arm, helping the shifter to a seated position.

“Thank you, father.”

The man in black stood up, his head cocked to the side. “What did you say?”

“Forgive me, but your collar gave you away.”

The man laughed, touching his throat where the white collar sat. “Sometimes, I forget that I have this thing on.”

“I didn’t know there was a church out in these parts.”

“Oh, I’m afraid we’re everywhere,” the man said with a sigh. “Technically, I’m a deacon, not a priest. You see, we have a retreat center not far from here. Hey, let’s get you out of the road before we both get killed.”

“How long have you been a deacon?”

The man in black began to pace, his eyes still searching. “It will be two years, this December. I really think we need to get you off the road.”

Dae whistled. “Two years, that’s quite an accomplishment. Think of all the lives you have touched.”

“Too many. Do you think you can stand?”

“So many lost souls in need of direction, compassion…hope. I admire you deacon. It’s not everyday that I meet a person who has helped so many people.”

“I try. Look I don’t mean to be rude, but if you are not in any pain, why don’t we get you up and moving.”

“Oh, I’m perfectly fine,” Dae said, standing up on his own power.

“That was quite a recovery,” said the deacon, as he stumbled backwards.

“It must be an act of God.”

Dae saw fear in the man’s eyes as he towered over him. “Well if you’re not hurt, I’ll be on my way then.” He continued to back pedal.

Dae flew past the deacon and sat atop his Harley.

The deacon gasped, his voice wavering as he spoke. “What’s this about? Do I know you?”

“Actually, I was wondering if I could hear your confession.”

The deacon’s face was ashen. “That’s not how it works son.”

“Why not? Don’t you have anything to confess?”

“Please, remove yourself from my motorcycle.”

“Olivia.”

“What?”

“OLIVIA! OLIVIA! OLIVIA!” Dae roared at the deacon.

The man was silent, the look of a dumb animal, caught in the snare of a hunter’s steel trap.

“I stumbled across an accident,” Dae began. “I found her alive in the back seat. Her mother died shortly after, but this little one survived.”

“My duties usually do not involve children.”

“I promised her mother that I would help her, but what could I do? Our worlds were so different.” Dae shook his head and wiped his eyes.

“I don’t know any Olivia. Now, please remove yourself from my bike, before I call the police!”

Dae spat a large green chunk of phlegm, splattering across the deacon’s collar.

The deacon cried out in disgust, wiping his collar. “Go to hell!”

“You first.”

The deacon jabbed his hands into his pockets and pulled out a hunting knife. He pointed the trembling blade at Dae. “Move away or I’ll cut your throat.”

“Like you did to her?”

“SHUT UP!” he cried, his voice cracking in fright. “I never touched her.” He was shaking now, his thin blade flashing from the light of the cycle. The shifter slid off the motorcycle and raised his hands in mock gesture, taking a few steps away.

Dae continued his story. “I dropped Olivia off at the nearest hospital. I walked right into their emergency room and gave her to the receptionist. I knew there would be questions, so I left before security or anyone else arrived. Still, I kept an eye on her from a distance. I had made a promise and was going to keep it.”

The deacon made his move, lunging for the motorcycle. Dae overtook him easily, grabbing his prey by the coat and thrashing him to the ground. The blow knocked off the deacon’s glasses and jarred his knife loose, sending it flying into the brush. Dae dove onto his prey, then mounted him, sitting his full weight on the man’s chest. Breathless, the deacon flailed helplessly trying desperately to knock his attacker off, yet Dae held him fast. The Cherokee glared down at his prey and continued his story.

“When Olivia left the hospital, I followed her. She went to many places after that, but I knew her scent, so tracking her was easy. I watched over Olivia until she finally was placed in a good home. Or so I thought.”

The deacon lashed out, swinging his arms wildly, until Dae caught them in his crushing grasp.

“You’re breaking my arms!” the deacon screamed as Dae took one arm and hooked it beneath his leg, pinning it to the gravel. He then returned to the other arm and grasped it with two hands.

“When I heard she had went missing, I came back for her. The cops couldn’t find her, but I could. Her scent was still strong. It lead me back to the house where a man and his family had taken her in.”

“Y-y-y-your killing me..”

“There was no sign of Olivia, yet I watched the home, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. What I saw sickened me.”

“PLEASE!”

“I saw a man desecrating his children, soiling them while his wife slept. You should have bought shades for the bedrooms dear deacon.”

“You’re making a mistake.”

“I could not go to the police, nor did I wish to harm your family. So I searched your home while you all were away. Olivia’s scent was still strong, so I thought she must be near. But all I found was a pile of her clothes under your bed. You couldn’t let her go, could you?”

“S-s-sh-she…”

“How many times?” Dae asked.

“I-I can’t breathe…my chest.”

“How many times?” he asked again, before forcing the man’s thumb into his mouth.

“No! Oh God Please!”

Dae bit down, severing the deacon’s thumb, leaving a bloody nub in its place. He chewed a few times as his captive twisted under him before spitting bloody chunks into his face.

“How many times?” he asked again.

“I don’t know what you’re asking,” the man cried, tears falling like lava from his eyes. “I told you, I never touched her. You’re making a mistake.”

Dae pulled another finger from his foe’s bloody fist, ignoring the screams for mercy. His prey was fighting under him now, thrashing around with the desperation of a condemned man. Yet Dae was too powerful, prying the finger out and snapping it off with his powerful jaws. The man spat curses as Dae allowed the finger to slide down slowly from his mouth, dropping on the deacon’s face.

“I don’t know what you want!” the man sobbed.

“Your confession. Tell me, how many times you took her. How many times you took her to your God. Not the spirit that lives in heaven, but the one that slithers between your thighs.”

Sweat poured down the captive’s pallid face. When he answered, the fight was no longer in him, his words in hushed whispers. “I–I don’t remember. I never kept track.”

Dae felt the surge of his inner beast charging through him, as he forced the deacon’s entire hand into his mouth. His captive showed surprise, then stark terror as Dae ripped the man’s hand off at the wrist. He hovered over his prey, the taste of flesh causing ripples of pleasure to flow through him. He wanted more, so much more, but did not wish to kill the deacon too quickly. Dae chewed slowly, savoring the bony morsel as blue lights flashed behind him. He did not react as the police cruiser screeched to a halt. Instead, he kept his eyes fixed on the man who lay bloodied at his feet.

Dae knew this day would come. His promise to a dying mother, had touched him in ways he could never understand.

But the deacon must still pay.

“County Police! Turn around and keep your hands where we can see them!”

Dae reacted calmly, rising like a zombie to face the flashing lights. He saw the cruiser blocking the road, with two officers crouched behind it, their guns drawn. He slowly raised his arms. The deacon came alive, moaning for help and flopping across the pavement towards the cruiser.

“Keep your hands up. Don’t move another step!”

Dae used to think he was a force of nature, indestructible, eternal like the Great Spirit. But Olivia’s mother had changed that. If only he could have saved Olivia. If only he could gaze, one last time, into those innocent blue eyes. Now that she was gone, he no longer wished to live as a beast in the woods, both hunted and feared. He dropped his arms and walked towards the cruiser.

“I said stop! Don’t be stupid. Put your god damn hands back up!”

Dae felt the force of a Taser gun, ripping through his chest, forcing him back.

“We will shoot you! Do you understand?”

The shifter saw flashes of his past. The wife he had comforted, the son he had cradled in his arms—would he see them again?

He tore off the Taser darts and stumbled forward.

“Stop or we will shoot you!”

Dae stopped for a split second before spitting out a gnarled hand, sending it skidding across the hood of the cruiser.

“Stop! It isn’t worth it son.”

“She is worth it,” Dae whispered while reaching into his back pocket.

The cops opened fire sending a stream of bullets tearing through him.

“I love you Olivia.”

Dae kept fighting, his inner animal lurching forward, shifting from man to beast until the onslaught of gunfire took its toll. In the end, he stood as a human, clutching a torn remnant of clothing in him arms. The cloth fell to the ground, as he collapsed in a dead heap.

****

Six weeks later, deacon Mike stood in the back of St Mary’s church as the congregation streamed past him. It was Saturday evening mass and most of the attendees had split after communion, hoping to salvage the rest of their weekend. An older couple approached the deacon, both smiling warmly. Out of habit, the old man stuck out his hand, then jerked it back to his side.

“Don’t fret Bob,” deacon Mike said, raising his nub wrapped in an ace bandage. “I’m still getting used to it myself.” The group laughed, their voices echoing through the stone and glass of the church. After Bob and his wife said their peace, the deacon escorted them out through the back doorway to St Mary’s parking lot. The lot was empty, except for a van and white sedan. A man, tall with dark sunglasses, leaned against the sedan, his arms crossed as though he was waiting for someone. Deacon Mike gave the man a nod, then began to walk back towards St Mary’s. But before he could return, he heard the man calling.

“Deacon Mike? Excuse me deacon!”

The deacon paused before entering the safe confines of his church and turned, to see a badge flashed in his face.

“Detective Cardin…can we talk?”

“Certainly, but can’t we do this somewhere else?”

“This won’t take long deacon.”

“What is it about?”

The detective wore a constant frown and gazed at the deacon with the intensity of a Pit Bull.

Deacon Mike chuckled nervously. “I’m guessing it’s about the maniac who took my hand. Did you ever find out who he was?”

Cardin shook his head. “He’s a ghost. His prints don’t show up in any of our systems. We’re thinking he came in illegally and never had any records to begin with, but so far, nobody is claiming him.”

“Pardon me for being so blunt, but it’s been over a month. You would think with today’s technology, something would have turned up.”

“This isn’t a CSI episode, deacon. Things take time. Besides, I didn’t come here to discuss our John Doe.”

Deacon Mike’s stomach dropped and the base of his scrotum began to ache.

“Do you know why your attacker was shot?”

“I assumed it was because he was trying to kill me.”

“Well, yes and no. You see when our boys rolled up on you that night, they had no idea what was going on. It was…”

“Horrible.”

“Bizarre to say the least. It isn’t everyday you pull up on a man chewing on a human hand.”

The deacon instinctively clutched his nub. “You need not remind me of that evening. I have an eternal reminder right here.”

“Yes. I’ll get to my point. You see deacon, the attacker reached for something in his back pocket. This was after they tased the shit out of him, without it doing a damn bit of good. Well, our boys thought he had a weapon, so they took him down. A shame really.”

“A shame? The man was insane!” the deacon said, holding his injured arm. “He bit my hand off! What kind of man does that?”

“Interesting. Tell me deacon, why do you think the man went so far as to bite your hand off? That’s not normal behavior, so why would he do such a thing?”

“All I can say is that he was sick and deserved what he got.”

“Sick? Maybe. But I think there was more to it than that. Do you want to know what he was reaching for?”

“I would guess, it was a knife or gun.”

The detective had been speaking with a face of granite, but now his words awoke his hardened features. “A dress. A torn dress, worn by a girl no older than three. You can imagine what a stink that caused. Our boys had a lot to answer for.”

The deacon swallowed, his throat felt like glass. “But why would he–?”

“Of course we did a full DNA analysis on the thing. Funny that you mentioned technology before. We got that hot little dress analyzed in less than two months. Must have been a record.”

Deacon Mike’s head was spinning now, the walls of St Mary’s tumbling down around him. His heart-felt as though it would jump from his chest.

“Strange thing about that dress though. They found three separate strands of DNA evidence on it. Three! One was blood matching an unsolved murder victim named Olivia Daniels. You heard of her?”

The deacon didn’t answer, his mind was far away now.

“Deacon?”

“Yes, I knew her.”

“Of course you did. She had been in your foster care when she disappeared. Isn’t that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Well, another sample was blood from the big Indian. That didn’t surprise anyone, since the poor bastard was shot over fifteen times at close range. Should have been a slam dunk case, right? The nut confessing his guilt. Case closed. Except…”

“Except?” the deacon whispered, his breathing choppy.

“I said three DNA hits. Well the third one was strange, because it wasn’t blood at all. Want to guess what it was deacon?”

“I need to make a call.”

“It was semen deacon. Semen all over the dress. Guess whose DNA came back to us on that one?”

“Please, I think I need to make a call to my lawyer.”

“You have that right. You also have the right to remain silent…”