12/04/2011

Rad Munday - Case #1: Land Of The Lycans, Act I




"'The following rules in this manual apply to every Operative of the Paranormal United Law and Security Enterprise and are not limited to a specific unit, team or individual.’  My ass...”

Rad lay on the bed in his room, the first one he’d had to himself in years.  He had spent hours simply staring out of his window, surveying the light from the cites that trailed below.  It was night, but the landmasses were sparkling as if the stars themselves were reflecting off of the landscape.  After losing interest in the immortally enticing view, Rad decided to check out the manual he’d been given to make sure there weren’t any catches to his employment that would kill his interest in staying.

"Let’s see what they’ve got here,” Rad said, skimming through the jidst of its material.  "'Your Fellow Humanoid And You'...blah blah blah...'Every creature has a soul except demons', blah blah blah....'Never compromise the existence of P.U.L.S.E.  If you must refer to the organization at any time outside of the confides of the Headquarters, please address it by its alternate alias, Majestic 12.’  So that was P.U.L.S.E in disguise.  Man, they nearly got the organization leaked out to the public back in the 40’s.  That would’ve been a disaster....’We do not encourage personal relationships in the workplace.  It can lead to distractions and when the principle for investigation calls for the investigator to be alert at all times, it can prove detrimental to any form of progress.’  I beg to differ.  It says they don’t encourage personal relationships, doesn’t mean it’s not allowed.  Soon as I get my hands on Brooke...”

Unknowingly, Rad’s door had been wide open and a few minutes into his rant, Laser happened to be standing directly in the doorway.  Rad looked up from his book and jumped at the sight of him.

“Dude, what the hell?” Rad swore with a look of frustration.  “Who just stands there staring like that?”

“I-I just got here,” Laser said nervously, caught off-guard himself.  “I was coming from my dad’s office and saw the door open.  I didn’t mean to mess with you or anything.”

Rad took a breath and sat on the edge of his bed.  “No, it’s fine, I was just reading through the manual.”

“Yeah, I can tell that you like the sound of your own voice by how much you talk to yourself,” Laser said with a chuckle.  "I don't even have to read your mind."

“How much did you hear?”

“Well, I heard the part about Brooke, if that’s what you’re wondering.  But I already knew about that.”

“I bet,” Rad said with a touch of annoyance.  “How often do you read minds, really?  Because I’d kind of like it if I had just a little bit of privacy in this place.”

“Actually, that part of my mind is involuntary, I can’t really control it.  I know most of the people here better than they know themselves and I don’t even mean to.  But don’t worry, I don’t plan on sharing your thoughts with anybody.  After all these years, I’ve learned to keep secrets.”

“Is that why everybody knows that Brooke is gay?” Rad asked with a smirk, secretly hoping that Laser would disprove that rumor.

“Well, actually only Reuben knows because he badgered me about it.  Me and Brooke are really good friends and I didn't want to compromise her sexuality, but he threatened me so I told him.  I made him swear not to tell anyone because that'd screw everything up."

"Oh I see," Rad said with a touch of disappointment.  "Well, Reuben can be a dick sometimes."

"Sometimes?" Laser repeated with a raised eyebrow.

"He's really like that all the time?" Rad asked in a bit of surprise.  "He wasn't kidding when he said I'd hate him so quickly.  It's like everything he does annoys me."

"I know how you feel.  His intentions are genuine though.  He's a good guy at heart, just a little rough around the edges."

"So what about Brooke?  How is she around you?"

"Well," Laser said, thinking it over.  "She's pretty much how you saw her, only less hostile.  She's not too talkative but she's friendly to me.  One time I made a stupid joke and I actually saw her smile for the first time in my life.  I was so honored.  I felt like it was a once in a lifetime sight, like seeing a shooting star or something.  She's not too fond of you right now but then again, she's not fond of anybody in this place.  She's just here because this is the only thing she feels she excells in and it pays really well."

"Right," Rad shrugged.  "Well that sucks.  But I'm not complaining, I'm going to get to do what I love while getting a great salary.  So are you aiming for anybody right now?  Gloria, possibly?  Or anybody outside of the team?"

"Gloria?" Laser repeated with a chuckle.  "No, she's like twice my age.  I mean, she's pretty, but you've got a better chance of getting with her than I do."

"Eh, she's not my type.  I like her as a friend though."

"That's okay, she thinks the same of you.  But um....I do sort of have feelings for another girl."

Rad raised his eyebrows and nodded with a smile.  "Okay, okay, that's a good start.  Tell me about her."

"I don't think so.  You'll think I'm weird or stupid or something."

Rad stood up from his bed and walked to Laser, placing a hand on his shoulder.  "Laser.  I'm weird or stupid or something.  Trust me, I've seen it all."

"Okay," Laser said with a bit of hesitation.  "Please don't tell anyone, I'm struggling with this as it is.  The thing is, I....I think I'm in love with Turquoise."

Rad looked away for a second in thought then back at Laser.  "Turquoise....the AI?"

"Yeah, see I knew you'd think I'm weird"-

"No no," Rad said, trying to reassure him.  "I mean, I have to admit it's a little weird but it's not THAT weird."

"It's just that," Laser started, stepping away from Rad and sitting down on the bed in the spot he'd just gotten up from.  "Even though she's an A.I, she's still so illuminating to me.  She has such a beautiful voice module and if you see her in her android form, she's absolutely beautiful.  That's the way I always see her.  I think the main reason why I like her so much is because....I've been inside the minds of everyone I've ever met.  I've basically learned how the world works, how the human mind works, and how people operate because of my ESP.  I've never asked out a girl that I had a crush on, because they'd reject me mentally before I even got the chance.  But with Turquoise....since she's a machine, I can't read her mind.  It's that bit of mystery that has me so intrigued by her.  Everything else just sort of fell into place from there.  I've never had someone in my life who's mind I couldn't read; she actually makes me feel normal for the first time in my life.  And in a couple of weeks, she's going to be upgraded to Turquoise 5.0, which will endow her with a Judgment Protocol.  It's supposed to give her basic emotions in order to make moral decisions when she's providing support out in the field, instead of relying on logic.  At that point, one of those emotions might be some form of love."

Rad sighed and shrugged as he walked over and sat down beside Laser.  "Maybe.  I mean, it's a possibility.  I'm just trying to figure out how that would work, you know....sexually."

"Oh, well I also have astral projection, which allows me, to a limited extent, to enter electrical appliances mentally.  I've only done it once and it would've went well if the computer I went into didn't have a Trojan virus that tried to kill me.  But I wouldn't have to worry about that with Turqoise.  In fact, It'd probably be the exact opposite if you know what I mean."

"Ah, I see where you're going," Rad said with a sly smile.  "I can see you've put a lot of thought into this.  It's true love when you can get past the fact that she's not human.  Except I've been with a few non-human girls.  Okay, in your case, it's probably true love.  I just hope she returns the feeling when she gets that upgrade."

"Yeah, me too," Laser said with an awkward chuckle.  After a second of thought, he stood up and headed for the door.  "Well it's getting late, man.  I'm hitting the sack.  Nice talking to you."

"Anytime, bro.  Have a good night."

--------------------------------------------------

"Good morning, everyone," Barnes said, greeting the team as they sat on the stairs of the plaza in the atrium.  Barnes stood on the stage, addressing his Unit.  Rad was lounging on the bottom step below the others, making up his mind that he would only move closer to them when he was sure there would be more assignments for him there.  He'd only made two friends since he arrived, Gloria and Laser.  The obnoxiousness of Reuben and the deadliness of Brooke were enough to make him second guess his employment.  However, he was obligated to stay for the Single Case Trial, the duration of which may give him time to change his mind about them.  Earlier, he'd asked Laser what his decision would ultimately be, due to his precognition, but Laser informed him that he wasn't allowed to share his precognitive visions unless they were something specific to their case or important to the safety of the team.  He also told him that the visions were random and often cryptic, so he probably wouldn't be able to say for sure anyway.  It was obvious that seeing the future wasn't his strongest trait as a psychic.

"Your latest case comes out of Neshoba, a small town in South Dakota that's not listed on any maps.  That's because its a reclusive town populated solely by Lycanthropes."

Barnes pressed a button on the clicker he held in his hand and the projector above him switched from the P.U.L.S.E insignia to an image of the state of South Dakota from a map, highlighting the tiny area of Neshoba.

"A murder was recently reported here.  A teenage female, 14, was found on in a warehouse near town square, leaving the town in an uproar.  It was a bullet wound to the head, a form of murder that isn't looked upon likely by the lycanthropes because of the fact that the bullet in question was made of silver.  No lycanthrope uses that form of murder against one of its own kind, especially considering the fact that silver bullets aren't the only thing that can kill a lycanthrope in today's age.  It's the latest of three murders in the last few months.  They have reason to believe that they are being targetted by human extremists that hunt them during the day, when they're most vulnerable.  They've reported this to us, asking for our assistance."

"Oh boy," Rad said, rubbing his head nervously.  "I already know where this is going."

"Yes, this is more dangerous of a mission than it sounds," Barnes continued.  "You will be investigating a murder in a town where many will believe you're on the murderer's side.  The residents WILL be hostile."

"Why's that?" Reuben spoke up.  "There are only two humans on the team.  They shouldn't be that aggressive."

"Actually, Lycans, especially ones that populate an entire town and are bound to be prejudice, are likely to be more hostile towards vampires than humans.  It will be beneficial having Brooke on your side, but there's only so much she can do.  The most important thing you must be cautious of is what you do at night.  Because of a spiritual curse put on the land by the Choctaw Native Americans that populated the area hundreds of years ago, Neshoba is the only place on Earth where clouds never cover the sky at night and the entirety of the moon is displayed in all its glory every night at dusk for the rest of eternity."

"Holy crap," Rad responded but with little reaction.

"The local sheriff of the town, Don Fleming, will provide a safe haven for you by the time the sun sets.  Just make sure you make it to the hotel on time or risk being stranded in the middle of a town full of fully-changed werewolves."

"Any possible leads?" Brooke asked curiously, but her body language contrasted as she held up her cheek with her palm apathetically.

"Someone witnessed the murderer and described him as a tall man in a black jumpsuit, black mask, and a long black coat.  His weapon was speculated to be a .44 Magnum Revolver."

"'Most powerful handgun in the world'," Rad said, imitating Harry Calahan from Dirty Harry.

"You can investigate the crime scene as well as consult locals about the events, but I cannot guarantee that all of you will come out of this unscathed.  But then again, this is what you all signed up for.  Good luck to you."

"I hope this is enough danger for you, Cliff," Reuben said, throwing a piece of paper down at Rad and hitting him on the back of his hat.

Rad gritted his teeth in annoyance and a bit of anger.  "I can never get enough danger," he muttered to himself, as he lounged back casually.

--------------------------------------------------

As the team left to prepare for their latest case, Rad headed for Barnes' office to speak with him.  He knocked on the door and waited patiently to be allowed in.  Barnes had been having a conversation with Turquoise about the current status of the unit, but turned his attention to Rad when he entered.

"Something I can help you with?" Barnes asked curiously.

"Uh yeah, I just needed to get your opinion on something."

"Okay, go ahead."

"Well uh, I had something happen when I did that Liquidation thing or whatever you call it the other day."

"Lucidation?"

"Yeah that, um....I saw the scarecrow, that's apparently normal.  But I saw something else that made me - I don't know - worried to some extent."

"And what was that?"

"Well uh....Fifteen years ago, at the Passion Massacre, I passed out and woke up around the dead bodies of the victims  that you're already aware of.  I ran away, trying to get out of the woods and on my way out....I ran into this guy.  He said his name was Robin Goodfellow.  He wore these dark clothes and had a....a demeanor about him that made me uncomfortable.  Like a stranger that you know you can't trust.  He kept asking me to be his friend.  Then he mentioned my mother and when I left him and went home, she was dead, murdered by my father.  So when I witnessed the vision from the Lucidation, I saw him again and this time he tried to kill me in it.  I don't know what it means, but I thought I should mention it to you."

Barnes looked away in thought.  "It seems to me that something tried to intercept your mind and your subconcious fought it off.  Either that or some part of your mind released some past demons into the vision, it being so vivid and all.  It's hard to tell at this point.  Either way, come back and see me if something like this persists and we can work it out.  It's too early to tell at this point."

"Okay.  Do you know....exactly who Robin Goodfellow is?"

Barnes looked away and paused in thought.  When he spoke finally, it was deprived of confidence and reassurance.  "No."

"Okay," Rad said awkwardly, sensing the tension in his voice.  "Well....see you later."

------------------------------------------------------------

Rad twittled his dice between his fingers as he sat in the backseat of the same flying aircraft that was flown by Gloria when they arrived at the W.H.A.L.E.  Now they were accompanied by the entire team; Laser, who sat beside Rad, Brooke, who sat by herself in the seat in front of him, and Reuben, who sat beside Gloria in the front seats by the windshield as she piloted the aircraft.  Gloria dressed professionally in a suit and tie as she pilotted the ship.  Reuben was sporting his usual attire of spikey wristbands and chain wallets, but with a black tanktop, a single chain around his neck, and a pair of skinny jeans.  Brooke was sporting a tight blue blazer, a mini-skirt, and a pair of skimpy stockings that led down to a pair of multi-strapped boots.  Laser, who sat next to Rad, was suited in a flannel shirt with folded sleeves, baggy jeans, and black sneakers.  Rad, as usual, was clad in his original attire: His black t-shirt with his short black peacoat over his shoulders, skinny khakis, fingerless gloves, and combat boots, along with his signature beanie hat.  He couldn't help but notice that for a paranormal investigation unit, they happened to be quite stylish.

Everyone was relatively quiet, keeping their minds on the task at hand until Rad decided to make conversation.  He leaned forward and peeked past the seat in front of him to get a look at Brooke, who was putting on make-up with the help of a handheld mirror.

"Uh," he started awkwardly as she continued, showing him no attention.  "I, uh, like your highlights."

"They aren't highlights.  I have low pigmination in my scalp, so my hair is naturally two different colors."

"Ah," Rad said, nodding his head.  "Well it's nice."

Brooke closed her mirror and looked back at Rad with a raised eyebrow before turning back.  I guess that's her version of "thank you," he thought.  He sat back once again and rubbed his hands on his thighs as he waited for something to happen.  Suddenly, a female voice could be heard from speakers set up around the cockpit.

"You are an hour from your destination," Turquoise stated.  "It's advised that you gather your equipment for departure."

Reuben and Brooke got up and walked to the back of the aircraft.  Rad started after them, turning to Laser as he followed the two to the back.

"How long is this case going to last?" he asked as Laser joined him in the back.

"Well, I'm having the feeling of it lasting like a day or two."

"That fast?" Rad asked in surprise.

"Why, are you thinking about bailing out halfway through, Pretty Boy?" Reuben asked, opening a drawer at the back wall, revealing an arsenal bracket.  "Knew you couldn't handle the lifestyle."

"I didn't say anything about bailing out, Reuben, so don't flatter yourself.  I'm seeing this one out until the end.  What I do after that point is my business."

"Hey, nobody's stopping you, Cliff," Reuben said, brandishing a .9mm pistol expertly as he grabbed it from the set.  He tossed it at Rad.  "That'll work better than that light of yours.  It's got composite bullets.  That means its lethal to-"

"-majority of supernatural creatures, yeah, I know what composite bullets are, okay?" Rad said with agitation, tossing the gun back at Reuben.  "And I don't need it.  I've got composite bolts with the Fat Lady, plus other gadgets that'll work fine."

Reuben snorted with laughter.  "What do you call that thing?  'The Fat Lady'?  Very cute, my friend."

Rad wanted to take that moment to put a bolt in the back of Reuben's head, especially knowing that he would regenerate from it.  Then he quickly realized that he wouldn't, as he'd just mentioned that the bolt were composite and would kill him, as well as everyone else in the room on impact.  He decided to keep the Fat Lady in the comfort of his jacket.  For now.

"Well, I'm sure your Morbidly Obese Woman can't do what this can," Reuben said, tossing a small coin-shaped object at him.

Rad caught it and examined it, discovering that it was a single-lensed eyeglass with a thick gold rim.  "A monocle?"

"Outfitted with an Augmented Reality Lense.  Prime for detecting evidence that can often be overlooked by the naked eye."

"I hope you have some futuristic top hat to go with it," Rad joked, trying to fit it onto his eye.  It slid off immediately and fell to the floor.  He picked it up and tried to fit it again but it slipped out once more.  Brooke walked over and picked it up, fitting it on her own face.

"Like this," she said, lodging it in perfectly.  "You have to pinch your socket slightly to keep it in."

Brooke took it off and pushed it onto Rad's chest aggressively before walking back to the arsenal bracket at the back of the ship.  His eyebrows were raised in a bit of surprise but he decided to dismiss it.  "The guys in those old pictures make it look easy."

"Why'd you tell him?" Reuben said to her with a bit of offense.  "He could've figured it out on his own."

"So do we have designations on this team?" Rad asked, putting the monocle in his pocket.  "Or are the four of us just going into this with our heads in the guillottine?"

"No, we have designations," Reuben said, closing the drawer and turning to him with his equipment ready.  "I'm the Scout, which means I provide reconaissance, due to my inheirited prowling skills.  Brooke is the Artillery, meaning she carries the most dangerous weapons and provides the most support, should we get into a bind.  Laser here is the Intelligence, since he has the least trouble getting information for the team on our cases.  And finally, Turquoise provides additional support and when she gets involved in a case in her android form, she becomes the "Secret Weapon", if you will."

"So where does that leave me?"

"Well you," Reuben said, walking toward Rad slowly.  "You're the wild card."

Rad stood in front of Reuben, blinking awkwardly.  "Is that a nice way of saying I don't do anything?"

"No, you do stuff.  You watch our asses when we're in deep, make sure we don't make mistakes, cover our tracks; you know, the works."

"So....I'm insurance?"

Reuben looked up in thought.  "Yeah....I guess you are insurance, mate!  I never thought of it that way.  Good thinking."

He tapped Rad on the shoulder and gave Laser a look that made him roll his eyes and smile.

"What time is it, Gloria?" Rad asked, making his way back to his seat.

"7:34am," she said, her eyes still on the path in the midst of the clouds.

"An hour left, huh?  Gives me time to get some shut-eye before we land.  Laser, wake me up when we get there."

--------------------------------------------------

The ship landed at the back of an empty baseball field.  Laser had spent the last few minutes trying to shake Rad awake, but he wouldn't budge until Gloria, remembering what was said by him earlier, suggested that they slap him back to conciousness.  Laser was hesistant so Brooke did the honors, pulling Rad out of his dream-like state and back into reality.  He didn't appreciate it much, but it got the job done and he gathered his supplies as the side-door to the ship slid down into a ramp, which kicked up dirt as it touched the surface.  Rad walked down it, hands in his pockets as he took in the fresh air and the gentle breeze that blew by.

"Man, it feels good out here," Rad said to himself, looking up at the clear blue sky above him with a squinted expression beneath his smile.

"Reuben, did you give Rad the communicator and the badge?" Gloria asked, turning around to him as he began to follow the others out of the ship.

"Damn it," Reuben swore as he shook his head and walked to the arsenal bracket to grab the communicator and PULSE badge that had been assigned to Rad.  He pouted to himself as he picked up the Watch Communicator and the rectangular ID card with Rad's picture and the PULSE symbol engraved on a small silver badge positioned beside it.

"Reuben," Gloria called out as he began to exit the vehicle behind the others.  He turned and gave her an impatient look.  "Stop being a hard ass and let the man do his job."

Reuben scoffed with a sarcastic smile.  "Right."  He started to walk out again when Gloria called his name out again.  He turned once more.

"You never pulled any of that sabotage crap with me, why are you being so hard on him?" she asked, sincerely looking for an answer.

Reuben shrugged.  "I knew you were a gem from the start.  And you know its not just him, I've done that with every recruit you've brought to the Unit.  He just hasn't broken.  'Yet."

Gloria rolled her eyes and turned back to the dashboard, preparing to close the hatch of the ship as soon as Reuben stepped off.  Outside, Reuben walked up to Rad and slapped him on the back of the head to get his attention as he handed him his Watch Communicator and Identification Badge.  Rad was two seconds away from hitting him in the face before his God-given self-control kicked in.

"Here," Reuben said impatiently as Rad took them one at a time, attaching the Watch to his wrist and putting the badge in his pocket.  "Just press the button on the side and speak into it to communicate with us between long distances.  When its attached to you, it can send a radio frequency through your nervous system and into your brain so you can receive messages from us.  Just make sure you don't get hurt or feel pain while you use it; it can disrupt the system.  Flash that badge at any time, it has Majestic 12 engraved on it.  Its your do-whatever-you-want pass, so  go crazy with it."

"Don't listen to him, Rad," Laser said, stepping up to him.  "If you abuse it, you can get fired."

"Gosh!" Reuben erupted in frustration.  "Nobody can let me have any fun around here."

Rad rolled his eyes and turned to the others with the same look he displayed any time he switched himself into working mode.  "So, where are we headed right now?   Where is the crime scene?"

"Reportedly at the warehouse in the middle of town," Brooke said simply, looking off into the town square just beyond the field's fences, a few yards ahead of them.  "We need to get moving, we're burning daylight."

The four of them followed each other across the dust-covered field, which seemed so desolate at first glance that Rad almost expected to come across a tumbleweed blowing in the breeze.  At least it was a nice day, he thought to himself.  As the ship lifted off into the sky and out of sight, Rad felt the same uneasy feeling he'd felt creeping upon him when he walked into the warehouse of Camden, New Jersey.  Now it was washing over him once again as the group exitted the vacant baseball lot and traveled across the sidewalk down the strip of old but useable buildings that ran on either side.  Same shit, different case.

The town wasn't completely isolated, which was obvious.  It was just unusually dreary for this time of day.  It was mid-afternoon and the only inhabitants that occupied the area were stiff old men that sat in rocking chairs in front of each store, as well as several rural-appropriate onlookers, glaring malignantly at the newcomers.  It was apparent that they were already not welcome here.

"Should've known Barnes would send us out here to some redneck village," Reuben muttered to himself, but loud enough for the others to hear.  "The sooner this is out of the way, the better.  Laser, how long did you predict this case would take?"

"Well I was thinking a day or two, but now I'm feeling we might be able to knock it out by tonight if we're lucky."

"Best news I've heard all day," Rad said to himself, staring back at the ragged but simplified townspeople, all of which looked as human as they possibly could.  During the day.  And Rad knew better than to make assumptions based on appearances.

They continued along the sidewalk, past each store, each of which seemed identical, whether it was a dollar store, a general mart, or a thrift shop.  If Rad had never felt what it was like to be an outsider, he'd feel it here.  It was void of any feeling of general hospitality.  As they continued on, a young boy, approximately fourteen years of age, but nearly as tall as Rad, stepped by.  He was pale white with spikey blonde hair and an unkempt dirty t-shirt, jeans, and work boots.  As he passed the group, the teenager bumped against Rad aggressively.  When no apology was spoken, Rad reached his arm back without a second glance and pulled the teenager forward, knocking and pinning him to the ground.  Nearly everyone around them became vigilant and hostile, as if they weren't already, preparing to strike from the sudden offense on their visitors' part.

Rad held the teenager down forcefully as he struggled through his grip.  "Whats that in your hand, huh?" Rad said tauntingly, reaching down and prying his purple dice out of the boy's fingers.  He pulled it up and held it in front of his face.  "You should know better than to take what's not yours, you little pickpocketing bitch."

Rad got off of the teenager and watched him scurry away angrily as the glares of the residents that witnessed the action turned a shade of murderous.  However, none of them spoke or made any gesture to assault them.  Brooke, Reuben, and Laser looked indifferent about his choice to make a scene over it, if at all impressed by the alacrity he'd shown to retrieve what was rightfully his.  As soon as he nodded in their direction they continued on their way through the town, although the atmosphere had turned from antagonistic to utterly virulent.

As they turned the corner down the strip, a group of individuals were standing outside of what looked to be a warehouse, which stood across the street from a large church.  The individuals were gathered around the entrance of the warehouse, holding lit candles and singing hymns from a selection chosen by one woman who led the congregation in song.  It was apparent that she was the head of the operation and was most likely the leader of the church choir from across the street.

"Why are they having a candle light vigil during the day?" Laser asked curiously as they approached the scene.

"Because," Rad said, turning to him.  "They don't have the chance to do it at night."

As the group approached the crowd, a man in police uniform who stood just outside of the warehouse spotted them, noticing by their demeanor and wardrobe that they weren't locals.  His eyebrow rose and he headed over toward them.

"I apologize, but this is a restricted area," the officer stated with a country accent.  He had a young face with a thick moustache and a thin pair of glasses.  "I'm sure you're not from around here, so I'm going to ask you nicely to leave."

"Actually, we were called here," Reuben said, pulling out his identification badge and flashing it in the officer's face proudly.  "Majestic 12, Supernatural Law and Security."

"Can we announce ourselves with that description?" Rad whispered to Laser discreetly.

"Yeah, as long as we're not dealing with humans."

"Ah, so you're the team they sent," the officer said with a touch of relief, tipping his hat off in their direction.  "Glad you could make it.  My name is Donnelly Fleming.  I'm Head Sheriff of Neshoba."

"Nice to meet you," Reuben said warmly, holding out a hand to shake.  The Sheriff looked down at it suspiciously and then leaned in quickly, taking in a large whiff of Reuben's aroma.  Reuben backed up a bit as his personal space was slightly violated.  The Sheriff backed off and gave Reuben a look of resentment.

"You're a vampire, aren't you?" he said with a long midwestern drawl.

"Um, yeah, is there a problem?" Reuben said, cocking his head to his side with a bit of offense.

"Well, unlike the rest of the people in this great town, I'm not particularly prejudice against humans.  I actually think you might be here to help us.  But vampires...thats an entirely different story."

"What've you got against vampires, you"-

Rad reached forward and pulled Reuben back as he began to step towards the Sheriff adversely.  Reuben calmed down slightly at the touch and Brooke stepped up to cool the tension.

"Look, Mr. Fleming," she said calmly, reaching up and pulling back her blazer sleeve, revealing a pair of large healed bite marks on the top of her forearm.  "I'm one of you.  And I trust these men with my life, vampire or no vampire."

The Sheriff stared at the wounds intently before looking back up at Brooke and swallowing his pride.  "Alright," he said, turning back to Reuben.  He held out a hand to shake in an offer of peace.  "No offense there, bud.  I haven't exactly had the best run-ins with vampires in my time, so you'll have to forgive me."

Reuben stared at his hand just as the Sheriff had done a moment ago.  He then snorted and gave him a pathetic look.  "I don't have to do anything.  I'm afraid you missed your chance, Sheriff."

Reuben took a step past the Sheriff, bumping into his shoulder as he continued on through the crowd of people, pushing past them aggressively until he was through the entrance of the warehouse.  The Sheriff sighed awkwardly and Rad simply looked off into the empty space in front of him that Reuben had left behind.

"Wow," he said with much sarcasm.  "Way to start off the case, Reuben.  That was highly professional."

The Sheriff flashed them a quick but awkward smile before leading the way through the crowd and into the warehouse.  As Rad passed the individuals, they all sized up the troupe disparagingly, as if to mentally crucify them for even stepping foot on their sacred land.  By their scents, all of them could tell which of the members of the group were not one of them, and the perks of having Brooke on their side had yet to kick in, as most of them believed that she was simply a sell-out, forcing herself at the whim of her human superiors.

As the trio followed the Sheriff and Reuben into the empty warehouse, the familiar smell of death filled the air as they noticed several state troopers and a man in a black suit standing in front of what was apparently the body of the victim.

The troopers looked up with hesitation but the reassuring look on the Sheriff's face made them relax.  "These are the Suits we called in up top for."

"Majestic 12, Supernatural Law and Security," Brooke said, stepping up to speak for them, seeing as she would be the most trustworthy of the team to represent themselves to the lycan population.  "My name is Agent West.  This is Agent Howell, Agent Barnes, and Agent Munday."

"Agent Munday," Rad chuckled to himself.  "I like the sound of that."

"They sent a vampire down here to do the human's dirty work?" one of the troopers asked coldly, sizing Reuben up.  "What happened to being all high and mighty above everybody, Fang?  Your daddy finally kick your ass out of the castle until you got a job."

Reuben chuckled humorlessly over the laughter of the other troopers and walked towards him slowly.  "I'm not sure what vampire lot you're blabbering about, wolf, but we're not the rich prissy little faggots your tiny brain probably struggles to comprehend us as.  My father's been dead for almost 90 years."

"Aw, you should have told him to lay off the garlic bread," the trooper joked, as his colleagues chortled loudly.  In the blink of an eye, the trooper's laughter was stiffled as was his breathing when Reuben dashed forward, putting pressure on his neck with one hand.

"You pussy wolves are nothing when there's no moon, aren't you?" Reuben whispered menacingly as he tightened his grip on the trooper.

"Reuben!" Rad shouted, flipping the Fat Lady out from his coat and switching it to its crossbow function.  "Let him go now."

Reuben turned in his direction lazily and chuckled, still holding on to the struggling trooper tightly.  "You turn your weapon on me?"

"Just let him go now, so we can finish with the investigation," Rad said, pointing the Fat Lady securely at Reuben's head.

"You don't understand, do you?" Reuben asked with a humorless smile, tossing the trooper aside into the arms of his colleagues, who held him with dumbfound and terrified expressions.  "You humans don't know what its like to be put down by people who think they're better than you.  You think you're so high and mighty, you don't even know what the rest of us creatures go through."

"What?" Rad shouted, lowering the Fat Lady with an offended look.  "Humans invented that, Reuben.  And perfected it on each other.  I'm black, I've been told I'm nothing by other humans many times and so have the rest of my people.  Hell, I've been harassed by others my entire life and guess what, I'm still alive and I'm happy.  So here's your lesson for today: Get over it and move on because we're here to work, not fuck around and waste time teasing each other like children.  This girl is dead, we owe it to her to find out what happened and put our petty race rivalries aside for one fucking day so we can get the job done.  Now all of you, shut the hell up and do what you're getting paid to do."

The warehouse was completely quiet after Rad's address, with the exception of the muffled singing of the candle light vigil outside the entrance.  The Sheriff, troopers, and the man in the black suit stared at Rad curiously, as if to analyze his humanity as he wasn't quite what they'd expected from a human.

"Well alright then," Reuben said with a smile, calming himself down as Rad took charge.

"Now," Rad said with authority, pointing at the man in the black suit, an older gentlemen who was slightly balding.  "Who are you?"

"Uh," he said nervously, taken off-guard by Rad's sudden interest.  "I'm the coroner."

"Show me the body."

The coroner nodded and led Rad and the team farther into the warehouse where the body came into view.  She was a very young brunette, her clothes torn viciously across her body as it lay in pale rigor mortis.  The blood from the bullet inside of her head that dripped off to the side of her forehead was dry and her eyes and mouth were closed peacefully, as if she were only sleeping.  Rad kneeled down beside her and examined the body.

"Time of death?" he asked securely.

"Approximately 7:35am.  About 30 minutes after everyone turns back to normal."

"That explains the torn clothing."  Rad moved her head back gently to examine the bullet wound.  It was rather large, the exact size of a .44 Magnum Round.  "Silver bullet shot, right?"

"Yep.  Her name was Katherine Mars, 14 years old.  Attended Neshoba Middle School, just around the block.   One potential witness was on the scene.  She's outside."

"And you said you think the killer was human?"

"Definitely," the Sheriff said, speaking up.  "No lycan would use a silver bullet against another lycan; its unconventional and degrading to our own race.  Its like a negro lynching another negro.  Its a shame; we're the only sentient creatures on God's Green Earth that are still being hunted down like animals."

"Well, you've got a point there," Rad said, standing up to address him.  "But in this case, I think you might be wrong.  You said this is the third case like this in the last few months?  Same details and everything?"

"Exact same, yeah," The Sheriff said worriedly.  "What are you talking about? You don't think the killer was human?  You heard what I was saying before, right?"

"I did, but I am human and I know humans.  I've known humans that do hunt and kill beings like you for the sport, but this was not done by a human.  See, humans are stupid.  They act purely on stereotype and the stereotype for you is that the only thing that can kill a werewolf is a silver bullet to the heart.  If it were a human that did this, they would have shot her through the heart, not the forehead."

The Sheriff shrugged.  "Maybe they did it in the spur of the moment."

Rad shook his head.  "No human would shoot a human-looking creature in the head, not in a spur of the moment and not to a little girl, even if they were a psychopath.  A Psychopathic human would take their time and manipulate her, not murder her at first sight in cold blood.  This murder was committed after she turned human again.  The murderer knew she'd be at her most vulnerable and attacked her at her weakest moment.  Any human that knows that much about lycans would know better than to target a town full of them for sport, myself included.  This was done by another lycan."

The Sheriff exchanged looks of worry and diappointment with the troopers.  He turned back to Rad with a bit of frustration.  "But if it were another lycan, wouldn't they just be coming out of their werewolf state themselves like the rest of us?"

"Yeah, but from what I know about you guys, when you're young, the transition from werewolf to human is a much more difficult process.  You experience feelings of nausea, dizziness, weakness of the muscles, and a feeling of faintness: All feelings that this girl probably felt just before she was attacked, which was why she was vulnerable.  The only thing is, when you're much older, you learn how to deal with these feelings and eventually they go away, leaving a person feeling fine after they come out of their werewolf state.  So if I was right about it being a lycan, it had to have been done by an adult lycan, one who carefully planned his actions for what he'd do after he descended from his werewolf state and then he executed his plan shortly following that."

"Impressive, Cliff," Reuben smiled with his arms crossed.  "Way to narrow it down.  You actually might not get your head bitten off during this job."

Rad leaned in closer to the girl's face and then reached over, lifting her head up.  There were a few specks of blood where her head had been lying.

"Um, Agent Monday, would you like some gloves?" Sheriff Fleming asked.  "That's kind of unsanitary."

"No, its fine," Rad said, surveying the spot before laying the girl's head back down gently.  "I just figured something else out."

"What's that?"

"There is only a little bit of blood under the girl's head.  To get shot through the head with a .44 Magnum round would cause at least a pint of blood to spill from the back of her head and there's none around here.  That means the body was moved from where the murder took place.  And by the looks of her limbs right here, they're very close together, which means the murderer brought the body here and laid her down gently, as if to preserve the innocence or something of that nature."

"So you're saying the killer had a conscience?" Brooke asked curiously.

"I don't know.  Its too early to tell but - wait a minute."  Rad reached down and noticed the girl's arm right beside where he was squating.  There was a bright red mark and several small lacerations right around her wrist.  "How could I have missed this?"

"What is it?" Laser asked, leaning over Rad to get a better look.

"There was a struggle," Rad said, lifting her wrist up with care.  "The victim tried to get away and the murderer grabbed hold of her wrist to keep her at bay.  So that means the murderer didn't immediately kill her, he probably kidnapped her first.  The small lacerations probably indicate that the killer was wearing something rough on his hands at the time, maybe some old gloves or a ring or something."

"I just realized you're doing all of this without the monocle," Laser said with a chuckle.  "That's so cool."

Rad laughed softly as he laid the girl's arm down.  "Yeah well...I've been doing this since I was 14, so I pretty much know how the game works."

Rad stood up and took a deep sigh as he gave the Sheriff a reassuring look.  "I think thats all we can get from the crime scene for now.  Laser, Brooke, you can accompany the coroner while he takes the body to the morgue and gives the official autopsy.  Me and Reuben will go speak to the witness."

"Hey, hold on a second," Reuben said loudly to stop Rad as he turned to one of the back entrances of the warehouse.  "Who all of a sudden made you the leader of the team?"

"You, of course," Rad said with a smile.  "After you gave me a bullshit position.  Thank you."

Reuben exchanged looks with Brooke, who simply raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement, while Laser smirked and followed her towards the entrance of the warehouse.  Reuben sighed and dragged his feet after Rad and the Sheriff as they led the way to the back entrance, away from the crowd in front.  The Sheriff opened the door and held it for them to walk through, where they were instantly hit with the shade of a large tree that stood behind the building.  A young blonde woman stood by it, looking back and forth across the neighborhood briskly with a look of subtle paranoia.  As the group approached her, she jumped at the sight of them but soon took a breath of relief.

"You all right, Ms. McCloud?" The Sheriff asked with concern.

"Y-yeah, I'm just..." she started hesitantly.  "This stuff keeps happening in the day time and I get scared out here all alone."

"What happened to the officer I assigned out here to keep you company just a second ago?"

"I don't know, he said he had to go handle something or whatever.  He left about five minutes ago."

"I'll have a talk with him when he gets back," the Sheriff said, sternly looking off.  "Anyway, these are Agents Munday and Howell.  They wanted to speak with you about what you witnessed this morning.  I'll leave you two at it then."

The Sheriff turned and headed back to the warehouse as Rad and Reuben gave the girl their full attention.

"Do you mind if we step out to the sidewalk for a bit," the girl asked gingerly.  "I've been over here for too long already."

"Uh, yeah sure," Rad said confusedly, but obliged as he followed the girl to the sidewalk, where the pounding sun greeted them with a warm blast of heat.

"Don't you need a pen and pad or something to write this down?" she asked with a squinted expression as the sun beat down on their faces.

"No, its fine," Rad said.  "I have good memory.  Just go ahead and tell us what you saw."

"Well, this morning I was coming down from my - you know, wolfed out state?  And for some strange reason, I didn't feel sick or anything like I normally do when the night comes, so I was happy, you know?  I felt like I was finally becoming an adult and I could handle the whole thing like everybody else.  So I was walking down the street, headed back home when I saw this man in a long black coat with the collar flipped up and long black hair past his shoulders.  He had a black mask on over his face and he held the girl in his arms like a baby or something.  I walked up to get a closer look and thats when I saw the bullet hole in her head and the blood running down the side.  I ducked to the side of the building so I couldn't be seen and then I peeked out and I saw him walk under one of the streetlights where he stopped.  Then I saw him reach up and close her eyes gently.  Then he walked out of sight and that was the last I saw of him."

"What kind of mask was he wearing?" Reuben asked intently.  "Like a ski mask?"

"No, it was actually more like a face mask.  Like Phantom of the Opera only it covered his entire face and his lips.  And it was black."

"So you didn't see the murder itself transpire?"

"No, I didn't.  I just saw the aftermath."

"Where exactly in the town did you see him?" Rad asked.

"Over near the ball park on West and Fifth-"

Reuben grunted softly as someone passed by, bumping into him aggressively.  Rad turned to see the same young boy that had bumped into him earlier walk by and slowly break into a run.  Rad snapped a look at Reuben.

"Did he get you?"

"Get what?"

"Anything on you?"

Reuben felt his person delicately and then looked up at the boy who was currently fleeing.  "My badge..." he said slowly.

"You'd better go get it," the young girl mutteredslyly with a devious smirk.  Rad quickly realized what was going on and why the girl had requested that they move onto the sidewalk.  They'd been set up.

"Go!" Rad shouted, sprinting after the boy as Reuben followed them closely.  The boy had crossed the street at the end of the block and headed towards a fence that led to a dirt road covered and obscurred by trees.  He was slow compared to Rad and especially Reuben, as they began to gang up on him.  The only reason why they hadn't caught him yet was because he had gotten a rather large headstart.

Rad slipped off his coat as he ran, which caught in the wind around him and stiffled his gathering speed.  He folded it over one of his arms and continued onward as the boy struggled to hop the fence in front of the dirt road.  Rad jumped onto it and vaulted over with relative ease before dropping on the other side and continuing the chase.  Reuben followed behind closely and simply hurtled over the fence in a single bound, landing on the other side without a loss of momentum and actually passed Rad in the chase with the help of his vampiric traits.

The dirt road's path winded into an empty junkyard culdesac, where the boy continued through.  Across from where Rad and Reuben were arriving, there was a single run-down trailer, surrounded by abandoned work equipment and construction vehicles that were corroding and dilapidated.  The entire culdesac was surrounded by forestation and out of the woodworks in between the rusted vehicles and equipment, emerged several rough-looking battered middle-aged men, covered in worn-out rags of clothing that were barely hanging from their bodies.  Their skin was smeared with dirt and oil while their hair, or what little they had on their heads, was unkempt and greasy.  They climbed over the construction, staring at the two with murderous eyes and broken, snaggled smiles.  The boy who'd led them into the trap turned with a smirk as he headed up the steps of the trailer and tapped on it lightly.

Suddenly, the door smashed open, sending the boy flying off of the steps and slamming onto the dirt and weeds that were slithered out from under the ground.  Out from the trailer stood a tall poorly-postured man, who held tightly to a large crowbar resting on his shoulder.  His hair was tall and curled, leading down to a pair of thick sideburns that wrapped into a bushy beard around his jaw.  His eyes were bloodshot red and he too was covered with dirt in only a wifebeater, heavily stained jeans, combat boots, and a confederate flag belt buckle.

"What I tell you about knockin' on my door, boy?" he growled with yellow rotting teeth, nodding his head toward the young boy that struggled to his feet.  "You knock like a pussy, you get knocked around like a pussy."

"I-I'm sorry, Horace," the boy muttered softly.  Horace gave the boy a quick glare as he took his time down the steps of the shoddy trailer behind him.  When he reached the boy, Horace quickly grabbed the crowbar with both hands and reared back to strike him.  The boy flinched in terror to which Horace responded by quickly kicking him square in the chest.  The boy flew forward and hit the ground hard as Horace chuckled pathetically, giving him a belittling look.

As the boy was now out of view, Horace looked up to see Rad and Reuben, standing vigilantly in the middle of his very own pack of malicious lycans.  Horace smiled playfully, surveying the two from afar.

"Well, well, what've you dragged in today, Markus?" Horace muttered as he walked towards the duo, taking a step on the boy's abdomen as he went by.  Markus wailed in pain but his screams were stiffled by the pressure put on his lungs.  Horace lifted his foot from his stomach and moved up to his face.  Markus turned his cheek and Horace nearly crushed his skull under the weight of his boot.  Horace didn't even look down at him as he walked by, but instead kept his eyes glued to his new unwelcome visitors.  "Welcome to the heap of civilization, boys."

Rad chuckled to himself.  "This wouldn't have happened if you had been on your toes," he murmured to Reuben.

"Shut up!" Reuben said loudly, pointing his finger in Rad's face, Rad snickering back at him.

"See, the rest of the people in this God-forsaken place will only give you them looks to let you know you're not welcome.  That's all they can do, really.  But uh, me and the Pack here....we like to get our message across in a more....direct way."

Rad smirked at them.  "I enjoy the subtlety, but I find it hypocritical for a person to say they do things in a direct way and then can't directly do it, thinking that mincing words makes them more bad ass.  If you're preparing to fuck us up, there's no need to alleviate the point.  Oh wait, I'm sorry.  By the look on your face, it seems I lost you back at 'alleviate'.  And 'hypocritical'.  And probably at 'subtlety'."

The smirk disappeared from Horace's face, as he gave Rad a bitter glare.  "What you tryin' to say to me, boy?" he asked coldly.

"We're investigating the murder of a girl," Reuben interjected.  "We're trying to make it safe around here for you and your cousins to fuck and produce more retarded wolves to plague this sacred land for another day."

Horace's eyes grew absent as he lifted his head back with a smirk.  It was apparent to Rad that their comments had easily caused him to switch into his primal side.

"You boys don't care about us.  You don't care about that girl.  You just care about gettin' ya dollas in.  Cashin' them checks.  But what happens when its not worth it no more.  Not worth the trouble, the pain, the suffering, the torture-"

"I think we get the point," Rad said bravely, reaching into his coat pocket and sheathing the Fat Lady from it before throwing his jacket aside.  He held it as firmly and readily in his hands as his enemies held their weapons.

"You can fight, can't you?" Reuben asked with a touch of worry, entering an offensive stance.

Rad smirked.  "Did you forget the part where I said I'm black."  Spontaneously, Rad whipped around and cracked the Fat Lady's edge across the temple of an enemy that had crept up from behind.  The man hit the ground firmly, blood oozing from his cranium.  As first blood was drawn, the pack of lycans filled the air with a symphony of animalistic howls before converging inward for the kill.

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