Authors: Robert J. Crane
THE GIRL IN THE BOX
Robert J. Crane
THE GIRL IN THE BOX
Copyright © 2013 Reikonos Press
All Rights Reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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To my kids:
No matter how many books I write, rest assured that the stories I most care about are yours.
Forest of Dean, England
Wolfe was on the hunt, sniffing for blood. He could smell prey in the distance, through the trees. The dirt was fresh after a light rain, and he loped along on all fours, following his nose. The chill of early fall was upon him, the low-lying gullies covered in a light mist. The smell of humans was all the same to him, all stink and filth, but under it was the blood.
Glorious blood, delicious meat,
Serving one purpose and one alone—to feed me.
The pressure on the pads of his feet and hands was subtle as he went springing along, the way he was meant to. His clothes flapped in the breeze, making him long to tear them off.
Tear off all this civilization, the stink of the city, leave it all behind. This is how it was meant to be—in the woods, in the wilds, running them down one by one. Though slaughtering a whole houseful at once has its advantages ...
There was only ambient sound around him, the noise of the forest. He heard a faint whistling ahead of him, some farmer’s tune.
Yes, tell the Wolfe where you are.
He slowed, felt his muscles slacken as he started to creep. He listened, straining his ears to hear.
There. Prey. Food. Taste.
He ran his tongue over his jagged teeth, letting the points poke at him, savoring the sharp sensation on the sensitive skin of his tongue.
Soon we’ll tear the flesh from bones, soon we’ll rip the screams from a mouth.
He could smell only one, a man, or possibly a boy.
Either would be sweet, but young, soft, supple skin is better than old and rangy, worn down from life. If there were an entourage, then I might have a lordling. They’re always so plump and delicious and scream in all the right ways, releasing the Wolfe’s tension before they die.
He felt the throbbing, lower, the excitement of a short hunt about to reach its conclusion and of the relief that would bring.
The tension will subside with the thrills of the flesh. And it’s been a long day since the last one ...
He slowed further, now choosing his footing carefully as he made his way through the brush. His clothing no longer whipped in the breeze; his motions were controlled. The surprise was part of the thrill, starting things off right with a good scream. Then more screams, fueled by the anticipation, really—the fear, an opening tease of what would be coming. By the time he was finished, his clothes would be dripping red unless he removed them first. He took his shirt off carefully, listening over the rustle of the cloth to make certain that his prey didn’t escape. The whistling continued, now only a hundred feet away through the brush, unceasing.
Wolfe undressed completely, leaving the clothes he’d taken from a shopkeeper’s window in a small pile on a knotty tree stump. He felt the air coarse over his naked flesh and thrilled to it, felt the smile split his face. Sometimes, in these moments before the torment, he became so excited he could hardly control himself when it began. This time would be different, though. The forest was so large yet so sparsely inhabited everything had to be savored because he didn’t know when he’d meet his next prey. He started forward again, listening to the whistling.
He padded over rough ground, closing the distance. There was a path ahead, and the whistling seemed to be come from it. He came over a short rise covered with new growth, saplings and heavy brush, and caught a glimpse through the branches. There was a man, indeed, hair long and around his shoulders. He wasn’t plump but neither was he rangy, Wolfe could see from the back. A cloak protected him from the chill and the low, mournful tune which he whistled was almost like a dirge; it made Wolfe’s smile dim. It was always sweeter when they were happy before the surprise came. It tasted better, somehow.
Wolfe crept over the rise, careful not to disturb the branches as he passed. He was whisper quiet, not a sound made as he slipped down the slope. His toes landed on the muddy path and he felt the sensation of it oozing around his feet. It made him think of blood, of how he sometimes tracked it after a kill. It heightened his anticipation, made him throb again.
He was only ten feet away, one good leap, when the man in the cloak turned, head cocked curiously. Wolfe froze, and the smile he’d felt building seeped away. There was no surprise on the fellow’s face, but he smiled in greeting until he took in Wolfe’s nakedness.
“Hello, there,” the man said. “You’re a bit underdressed.” Wolfe looked down at his nakedness, his excitement plainly beginning to dissolve. “I say, walking naked in the woods in this weather would seem a bit of an odd choice.”
Wolfe looked up, felt what had been his smile only a moment before turn into a sneer, a snarl. He looked at the man—medium height, brownish hair navy cloak that covered his clothing. He was tanned and had plainly spent his fair share of time out of doors. Not a tender lordling, that much was certain. The disappointment was palpable. Wolfe let out a little hiss.
“Are you quite all right?” the man asked again, head still cocked. He looked down at Wolfe’s chest. “You are a hairy fellow, aren’t you?” His hand came up to indicate Wolfe’s front. “And large, save for ... that trifling area, there. Though I suppose it’s not trifling for everyone, but a fellow as coarse and disgusting as yourself likely doesn’t allow for it to see much happy use.” The man’s curious look had turned into a wicked smile.
“It teases the Wolfe,” Wolfe whispered and felt a seething fire run through his brain. “It mocks.”
“Indeed,” the man said with a nod, apparently pleased to see the subject of his jest had gotten the joke. “Yes, I was insulting your manhood with that one, though I wondered if you’d be bright enough to catch it. You have the look of a man who’s been in the woods entirely too long. Perhaps you haven’t heard any complaints because you’ve switched to animals? Because I don’t know if you realize this or not, but running down the King’s deer for unsavory practices is a crime—”
“It shuts its mouth!” Wolfe hissed, holding off the urge to spring.
Intimidate. Make him fear us, savor that for a few minutes before we start, regain the sweetness before we start to make him scream ...
The man raised an eyebrow. “‘It’?” He looked down again. “That doesn’t look large enough to have a mouth, now does it? Rather like a caterpillar crawled up your leg, actually, then retracted—”
Wolfe sprang with a howl of rage.
Wolfe will make him pay, make him scream, make him suffer for the insult.
He watched during his long arc through the air, waiting for it to register on the man’s face that he’d made a horrible mistake. Death was coming for him now, death and so much worse—things that would make him scream and cry before it was over, beg for an end that would be slow to arrive, that would be savored ...
The fist hit Wolfe in the side of the head with enough force to interrupt his landing; he’d jumped and led face first, hands extended toward the man, but his momentum was halted with brutal force. He felt his jaw take the brunt of the punch and break—actually break! A follow-up kick sent Wolfe flying until he hit a tree and snapped the trunk with his back, bringing the whole thing down with him. He landed on his left arm, the shock of the impact making his forearm go numb, something that hadn’t happened in well over a thousand years. His head hit the ground and bounced off an exposed root, stunning him. He looked up to see the tree he’d broken lying next to him; its trunk had snapped in the middle, the jagged splinters of a section of wood two feet in diameter jutting out unevenly from the top of it.
“Manners,” the man said quietly over the ringing in Wolfe’s ears, which sounded as though an abbey’s bells were pealing in his head.
Wolfe snarled and lunged to his feet.
He felt blood run down his chin and tasted it in his mouth.
Wolfe’s own blood. Precious.
He held himself back, looking for the opening. The man stood still, regarding him, cloak opened to expose one arm and one arm only. “You ... you’re a meta,” Wolfe said, the low hiss overcoming the still-noisy humming in his ears.
“You really aren’t terribly bright, are you?” The man stood, looking down his nose at him. He wasn't any taller than Wolfe, but that was the way Wolfe saw him; imperious. “I assume in those years of working with your brothers that you were never considered the brains of the operation.”
“Who are you?” Wolfe let the snarl escape and fidgeted, his shoulders moving left and right, his toes keeping him up on the balls of his feet, ready to spring if an opening presented itself.
“Just a man,” came the reply. Wolfe watched calm brown eyes follow him, but the man was still, completely so, absolutely unconcerned about him.
Lucky. Had to be luck. Wolfe was slow, too slow, not expecting a meta, that’s all. No one is faster than Wolfe.
He clenched his fist, felt the points of his nails dig into his nearly impenetrable skin.
The suffering will be even greater for this one ... Healing will allow this to go on and on ...
“Don’t,” the man said calmly, and just the slightest hint of a smile turned up one corner of his mouth.
Wolfe leapt, the rage taking over. He came in lower this time with a perfectly aimed forward spring that was fueled by anger. He saw the stranger’s face so close, his hands extended ...
A fist met him and Wolfe flew again in a low, lazy arc. The world grew dim around him, as if he’d landed in one of the low areas and been wrapped up in the fog. He hit the ground and rolled twenty feet, his ribs slamming into a tree. He blinked his eyes and realized he’d gone unconscious for at least part of the flight and after, as there were now broken branches and leaves matted in his hair. Blood ran freely down his chest.
I ... don’t remember that happening ...
A face appeared, leering down at him, hovering just above his and almost out of reach. Wolfe’s hand came up but the man grabbed his wrist, putting pressure on it greater than anything Wolfe could recall. The sound of bones snapping filled his ears and an exquisite pain filled the rest of him.
Is this ... what it feels like ... when I ... ?