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Authors: Ray Garton

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BOOK: Bestial
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Karen clenched her teeth as she stared out at the highway. A single word rose up in her mind.

Vampires.

They had been monsters. Not
all
of them—some fought their nature and refused to prey on people for the blood they needed. Mrs. Dupassie was such a vampire, as were a few of the others they’d worked with on the investigation. Such was the case with Dr. Kincaid. The fact that he was one of them had allowed Karen to be totally honest with him about her experience and feelings—how would she have told a normal psychiatrist that she had been beaten and raped by vampires who had bitten her and sucked her blood?

Gooseflesh crawled across her shoulders and down her back and she gave a small start.

Gavin caught the movement in the corner of his eye and turned to her. “You okay?” he asked.

She lit another cigarette and nodded.

After a moment, Gavin said, “It’s a little after noon and I’m getting hungry. Didn’t eat much breakfast. You want to stop somewhere and get some lunch?”

Keeping her eyes front, Karen said, “Yeah, okay.“ She puffed on the cigarette. “Does the radio work in this crate? How about some music?”

“Sure.” He reached down and turned on the radio. “That button is the tuner. Have a party.” As Karen reached down to find a radio station, Gavin noticed the tremble in her hand. He didn’t have to ask why. He knew.

Three songs played on the radio before Karen finally spoke again. “If this is... um, I mean, if Burgess wants us to do something that’s, uh... well,
dangerous
... I’m just wondering—”

”Don’t worry, Karen,” Gavin said quietly. “It won’t happen again. I told you once before—it was a fluke. That’s all. Just a fluke.”

They said little for the rest of the drive.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

At the Esalen Institute

 

 

Martin Burgess burst into the room with a big smile and heartily shook their hands. “Good to see you again,” he said.

He reminded Karen of a big, mischievous high school kid who always looked as if he were on his way to a kegger in a hurry. He’d changed little since their first meeting—a couple of years older (he would turn fifty soon), a little heavier, maybe, his scalp a bit more visible on top where he was losing his dark hair, which was always mussed. He wore jeans and a black T-shirt that read, 667—NEIGHBOR OF THE BEAST. Burgess’s collection of slogan-bearing T-shirts and sweatshirts was legendary, and constantly grew larger as his many fans sent him more. He’d once taken Karen on a tour of his Los Angeles home and had shown her the large room that he used as a closet in which to store all of them.

Burgess was accompanied by a curvaceous brunette woman in her twenties. A brown leather satchel hung from her shoulder.

“Gavin, you’re looking good,” Burgess said. “Karen, lovely as ever. Have a nice trip?”

“The flight into San Francisco was uneventful,” she said. “Which is the best kind of flight to have.”

“This is my new personal assistant, Brandy,” he said, placing a hand against her back.

Personal assistant, huh?
Karen thought with a smirk.

“And I’d like you to meet—” Burgess glanced over his shoulder and found that no one stood behind him. “Where’d he go?”

“I thought he was right behind us,” Brandy said.

“Could you go find him?”

“Sure.” Brandy went back out the door.

They stood in a plain, large room with unadorned white walls and a teal carpet, a fireplace. Several cushioned chairs were arranged casually, and an easel holding a blank white board stood in a corner. Windows provided a view of a sloping lawn, and the shimmering blue Pacific in the distance.

The Esalen Institute was an informal collection of buildings scattered over a lush, green, hilly landscape by the sea. When they arrived, a pleasant woman in her sixties had led them to this house, where they’d waited for Burgess for a few minutes.

“They call this the Big House,” Burgess said. “Sounds like a place where they send people as a punishment, but they hold meetings and other gatherings here.”

Brandy quickly returned with a short, stubby, nervous man in tow. Karen estimated he was in his early thirties. He wore an ill-fitting short sleeve blue shirt only partially tucked into his grey slacks, which weren’t quite long enough to cover his white socks. One of his sneakers was untied. He wore thick metal-framed glasses that slightly magnified his eyes. His sandy hair was cut short and parted rigidly on the left. Carrying a scuffed black briefcase, he stumbled into the room behind Brandy and came to an abrupt halt when his eyes fell on Karen. His mouth opened a moment, then snapped shut. He quickly pushed his glasses up on his nose with a finger as he nervously averted his eyes, then cleared his throat.

“I’d like you to meet Harvey Altman,” Burgess said. “Harvey, these are the investigators I told you about—Karen Moffett from Los Angeles, Gavin Keoph from San Francisco.” He turned to them again. “Would you like anything? Something to drink or eat?”

“We stopped for lunch on the road,” Gavin said. “I’m fine. Karen?”

“Nothing for me.”

“Then let’s get comfortable,” Burgess said. “Have a seat.” He pulled five of the chairs into a circle and they each took a seat. Harvey put his briefcase on the floor beside his chair, and Brandy did the same with her bulging satchel. Burgess checked his watch. “We have plenty of time before your jet is ready to take off, so we don’t have to rush.”

“Our jet?” Gavin said.

“I’ll explain in a minute.” He reached over and put a hand on Harvey’s shoulder. “I’ve known Harvey for about six years now. He’s brilliant, a hard worker. He’s done a lot of research for me, and he keeps me up to date on events in the, uh... well, you two know the kind of things I’m interested in. Harvey has his finger on the pulse of the paranormal community. He’s a computer wiz, and when it comes to researching a subject, he’s like a bloodhound, he can find anything and everything. He’s only one of the network of sources who help me out in my work and in my own personal interests, but he’s the best. He’s honest and trustworthy, and I want you to take what he has to say very seriously. Harvey is incredibly devoted to his work, so he doesn’t get out much, and he’s uncomfortable in groups of strangers, so bear with him.” Burgess turned to the younger man. “Okay, Harvey. You’re among friends. Don’t be embarrassed. Fill them in on this whole thing.”

“Uh, okay, well... “ Harvey pushed his glasses up on his nose again. As he spoke, his nervous eyes flitted only now and then at Karen and Gavin. “My, uh... associates and I have been tracking a man named Daniel Fargo for a few years now. We stumbled onto something called the FRC—the Fargo Research Center—which had been set up more than a decade before. Completely funded by Daniel Fargo. He was an English professor at Harvard, married to the heiress of a glue fortune. His wife and pregnant daughter and her husband were murdered on Thanksgiving Day in 1992 when a group of intruders burst into their home and brutally attacked them. Fargo was badly beaten and almost died, spent a lot of time in the hospital. After recovering, he disappeared. Just seemed to vanish. He used his wife’s fortune to fund this research center, but the field of research was very hard to determine. The whole thing was shrouded in secrecy. But we kept digging. It seems that the FRC focuses all its time and money on one thing only—a virus. Lupus venerus. Venerus meaning that it’s, um... “ He cleared his throat abruptly as his embarrassed eyes glanced at Karen. “Meaning it’s, uh, sexually transmitted. Lupus meaning, um... well,
wolf
.”

Karen glanced at Gavin to find that he was glancing at her. The look they exchanged was familiar—they seemed to exchange it at least once whenever they were being briefed by Burgess. They said nothing and returned their attention to Harvey.

“There is no other research available on this virus,” he said. “No literature exists on it, no papers, no articles. It doesn’t even seem to exist—except in Fargo’s lab. As far as we can tell, lupus venerus is known only to those who work at FRC, who are required to sign legally binding nondisclosure forms. And to Daniel Fargo himself. A little more digging revealed the fact that Fargo has been funding the manufacture of silver bullets. He has a little place in rural Massachusetts that—”

”Excuse me,” Gavin said. “
Silver
bullets?”

“That’s right. Silver bullets.”

Karen said, “Silver bullets and a sexually transmitted wolf virus.”

Harvey looked at Karen for a moment, seemed to force himself to hold her gaze, then quickly looked away, blushing. “Yes, that’s right. I-I know how it sounds, but, um... well, it took some time, but we finally tracked down Fargo himself. He was on the move, heading west and apparently making an effort to cover his tracks and not be noticed.” He reached down and picked up the briefcase beside his chair, put it on his lap and opened it. He removed a grainy, slightly blurred photograph and handed it to Burgess, who passed it to Karen and Gavin, who looked at it together. “That’s the best picture we have of him.”

A man in a dark coat stood on a street corner with his hat in one hand, the other hand moving back through his hair. His face was terribly distorted by what appeared to be long scars.

“Did that happen to him when he and his family were attacked?” Gavin said.

Harvey nodded. “We believe so, yes.”

“Were they caught? The people who did it?”

“No. But we think that’s what he was doing,” Harvey said. “Tracking them down.”

“Has he found them?” Gavin said, handing the picture back to Harvey.

“We’re, um, not sure. But we suspect he found...
something
. Or, uh, something... found him.” He put the photograph back in the briefcase. “His trail ends in Big Rock, a little town up the coast from here, near Eureka. He got there seven months ago. A little while after that, it seems he... well, he just disappeared. Again. We’ve been unable to pick up his trail ever since. It ends there in Big Rock. Permanently, we think.”

Karen felt a knot tightening in her stomach, felt the muscles across the top of her back begin to tense. She took a slow, deep breath, let it out slowly, then turned to Burgess. “You want us to find this guy?”

He shook his head. “No. We don’t think there’s anything to find. Go on, Harvey.”

Harvey pushed the glasses up, cleared his throat again. “Something, um, strange is going on in Big Rock.” He took a folder from the briefcase and passed it down to Karen and Gavin. “That’s a file of autopsy reports and newspaper articles and some other documents.”

Gavin opened the folder and handed some of the papers to Karen, who frowned as she looked them over quickly. The knot grew tighter, her muscles became more tense, and her mouth began to dry. She licked her lips and turned to Harvey. “What’s the something strange that’s going on in Big Rock?”

“Animal attacks,” Harvey said. “At least, that’s what they’re being called. A lot of people have been killed. Pretty, uh, brutally. Killed and in many cases partly, um... eaten.”


Eaten
?” Gavin said.

Harvey nodded.

Karen saw that Burgess was watching them as they absorbed what Harvey had said and looked over the contents of the file. The right corner of his mouth curled ever so slightly upward. It made her a little angry. In light of everything that had happened during their first investigation for him, how could he find amusement in this? A hot rush of anger moved through her, but she held it down, absorbed it, kept it inside.

Finally, Burgess spoke. “I’m sure you’ve already made the connection. Fargo... lupus venerus... silver bullets... animal atta—”

”Werewolves?” Karen said.

Burgess grinned, widened his eyes, and spread his arms like a gameshow host. “You win the dinette set and the trip to Fiji!”

Gavin said, “You’re saying there are werewolves in this town—what’s it called again?”

“Big Rock,” Burgess said. “Population eleven thousand and forty-one. Well... less than that now, thanks to a number of
animal attacks
.” He spoke the last two words emphatically and made invisible quotation marks in the air with the first two fingers of each hand. “I’ve never been there, although I’ve spent some time in the area. By all accounts, a nice little town... where people are being killed and eaten, and where a man hunting werewolves vanished into thin air.”

Karen’s mind flashed with vivid memories of what had happened during that first investigation two years earlier. “Do we know anything about his disappearance?” she said, trying but failing to keep the slightest tremble out of her voice.

“Not yet,” Burgess said. “He was staying at the—where did you say he was staying, Harvey?”

Harvey cleared his throat. “The Beachcomber Motor Lodge.”

“That’s right,” Burgess said, nodding. He smiled at Karen and Gavin. “That’s where you’ll be staying.”

Gavin’s eyebrows rose slowly. “Oh?”

Karen felt a chill that seemed to run through her very bones.

“Fargo was staying in one of the outside rooms,” Harvey said. “Not in the motel’s main building. And then, um... he wasn’t. All of a sudden.”

“So, he just disappeared,” Gavin said. “Didn’t anyone go look for him? Any employees, business associates?”

BOOK: Bestial
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