Here is a brief preview of an older draft of part of a chapter of one of the books I am working on. Let me know what you think, although be warned it’s already slightly different. But even so, feedback is great!
It was the smell of blood that told me there was a problem. Horay for hackneyed and cliché opening lines, right? But if I’m going to put this down in writing, I’m going to do it in my own damned way, and sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason. This was one of those times.
The smell was noticeable to me from halfway to the elevator, and it only got stronger the closer I drew to Clarine’s apartment. Thus, it was not a surprise when I nudged open the broken-latched door and saw her body in a large pool of her own blood. My eyes closed for the briefest of moments, and then I stepped inside.
As I gazed down at her mangled body, a rage began to build in me the likes of which I had not experienced in such a long time I had forgotten what that kind of anger felt like. The signs were unmistakable: claws had disemboweled her, and she had nearly bled to death before a muzzle with sharp canines had torn out her throat. Either Cujo was loose downtown, or . . .
“Unnecessary,” I am uncertain if I said the word aloud, but the sentiment was the same either way: this was a waste. Even the very hungriest, near-death maran didn’t need all of the blood of a full-sized adult human, and the disemboweling thing . . . It was either a message or torture for fun.
The thought that it might actually be a message gave me pause, and I kept my position by the door as I racked my mind for who might hate me enough to do this. The idea that this abomination was directed at Clarine never even occurred to me. She was far too young to have generated this kind of enemy.
From my position by the door, I looked around carefully. Nothing was written on the walls or floor in her blood. There was nothing out of the ordinary visible other than her corpse: no items that did not belong to Clarine, no dire prophesies of doom or ‘I’m coming for you’s. And the smell that wasn’t hers was vaguely familiar, in that way that you can visually recognize a human as such without thinking about it. I crouched by down beside her, and looked at her hands. She had little bits of flesh and blood under her nails.
“Good girl,” I muttered softly to myself, and then I expressed a little bloodhound. The smell of her became four times as sharp, and I almost cried from the future knowledge of a loss that wasn’t yet ‘real’ to me. I was in shock still.
I lifted her hand and sniffed at the fingers. She had only managed to claw one of them, but the other scents in the room told me there had been three. Still, one was all I needed. When I found him, I would make him beg to tell me the names of his friends before I finally let him die. Maybe.
I went outside to my Kowasaki 650 SR, cancelling the bloodhound as left the crime scene. Mounting my baby, I woke her up and she purred in her happiness to see me. I sat there as she hummed between my legs for a moment, and I thought. In addition to the people smells, there had been faint traces of patchouli and something that it took me several minutes to dredge up the memory of: a shampoo called Kuznetsky Most. When that memory finally did surface, it took me away for several long moments as I relived a little gulag time. With a shudder, I shoved that memory back down where it belonged and wondered, not for the first time, if electroshock could be used successfully on my kind.
Since the fall of the Wall, it has been fashionable with some ex- soviets to come over to the formerly hated America and make a new life for themselves. And like any exodus, you get the bad with the good. And it gave me a place to start.
I wove my way to the western part of Hollywood, not to be confused with West Hollywood which is a couple blocks further, and hit the first bar I found. I expressed bloodhound again to try to find my killers, and just a smidge of snake to deal with the loud, throbbing music pumping out of the speakers lining every few feet of the walls inside. Zhanna Friske wasn’t really my cup of tea at the moment.
Long story short, the first place was a bust. So was the second. On the third, a rougher sort of place that catered more to the soldier-level thugs than the upper bosses, I got hit.
It was my own fault. I was sloppy. I was so wrapped up in finding Mr. Kuznetsky Most that I failed to pay as much attention to the rest of the world as I should. The signs were all there: seedy bar, lots of bikers, the smell of testosterone, dog pheromones. I just missed it until they surrounded me. Four of them, in black leather and chains. Bikers from the look, although they and I knew they were something more.
“Well well well,” the alpha said slowly in that way that is meant to seem theatrical or cinematic, and instead just comes off cliché. “What do we have here?”
I held my hands up, fingers spread so they could see there was nothing dangerous there. “Sorry guys,” I said, “I didn’t realize this was a bargast bar. My bad, I’ll just slip out, ok?” I didn’t have a huge amount of hope that it would be that easy. They were ‘country’ bargast, and probably didn’t much know or care about the rules of polite society. Also, from the fake tattoos they were wearing, these were Russian mob. This was going to be unpleasant.
Later, as I stared up at the underside of the Santa Monica pier, I had time to think while my body healed enough so that I wouldn’t lose all my intestines when I stood up. This turned out not to be the blessing one might assume such moments of quiet introspection to be, for I had nothing else to distract myself from the pain in my abdomen with than the pain of Clarine’s death. I relived our first meeting, the first time we had coffee together, the first time we sat in the back row of a summer blockbuster and whispered snarky comments about the young male lead’s wooden performance, the first time we watched a meteor shower, the wonder in her eyes the first time she saw me sin. I held the memory of her close her loss hurt more than my body. As I knew I would, I found myself growing more and more angry, until the rage overwhelmed even the pain of her loss, and when I sat up and screamed my rage at the uncaring boards of the pier, I knew I was well enough to get up.
I was already exhausted from blood loss and healing the evisceration the nice criminals at the bar had left me with, but there was no way I was going to make it anywhere safe looking like I was pretty sure I looked right now. Also, I was starving and it was better to remove temptation from my path, what with all those happy tourists just yards above my head. I removed my clothes, noting with wry amusement that the Russians had taken care of the ID issue by keeping mine, and I sinned rapidly into seagull. It was a good choice, the things are nearly as ubiquitous as pigeons in LA.
Normally, one does that slowly to control the heat exchange, but doing it fast let me dispose of my bloody clothes neatly. Also, I wasn’t sure I had the self-control to manage a slow curse. The burst of heat had another beneficial effect: the hot air blast helped me get airborn without reopening my wound.