Breaking news tonight out of West Michigan–Commander Joseph Nann was found dead in his home this evening by police. Early reports indicate that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Commander Nann served on the first government sanctioned Werewolf Control Unit (WCU) in the United States known as CHASR. He later transitioned from CHASR to USSW, and ended his career as a consultant for Silver Guard. He was awarded the Waning Moon in 1997 for his work in weapons development. Commander Joseph Nann was seventy-three years old.
Chapter 26: Perigee
Gator caressed Char’s shoulder as she slept peacefully on the couch. Her skin was cool, finally, after turning on both oscillating fans in his mother’s living room. The hum of the fans also helped Char rest, even if the obnoxious motors kept Gator in a half-awake daze. He was conscious enough to notice he was kneeling in front of her for the second time that day, only this time the ring was on her finger instead of his sweaty palm. The thought made him smile.
Just a few more days until the apartment is ready, thought Gator. Then we can start phase two…
“I know what you’re planning,” said Frida in a low accusing tone. She stood in the kitchen with her arms folded. Her white bathrobe seemed to glow in the late night darkness. “It would be a colossal mistake.”
“I was just checking on her,” mumbled Gator as he stood. He wiped whatever sleep remained in his eyes before passing his mother on his way to the bathroom.
“You’re thinking about turning for her,” said Frida. “The Army won’t take infected.”
“Maybe I’m done with the Army,” said Gator.
“Maybe he’s done with the Army,” muttered Frida under her breath as she turned to go back to her bedroom. “Ain’t nobody found a cure for what that girl’s got. You get yourself sick and there’s no coming back.”
“Char knows I don’t want to turn,” said Gator. “And stop calling her that girl. She’s gonna be the mother of your grandkids.”
Frida chuckled to herself as she adjusted her robe.
“What’s so damn funny?”
“She’s got you good,” said Frida. “How in the hell are you two supposed to have kids? You’re two different species. You both gotta match to make it happen…or did she leave that detail out?”
“Who told you that?” said Gator.
“It was in the newsletter. I’ll sign you up for it.”
“That newsletter is written by fucking kooks,” said Gator. “When Char and I come around here a year from now with a baby, what will you do?”
“I’d love my grandbaby, obviously, but…well, a lot could happen in a year.”
With any luck we’ll never have to step foot in this house again. “Can I take a piss now?”
“Fine. I’ll try to get some sleep tonight. One last thing…do you remember when you were little and you’d bring injured animals into the house? There was a chipmunk, a mouse, a bird…what else was there?”
“A frog,” said Gator, “and a squirrel.”
“It was so sweet how you tried to take care of them. Didn’t always work out. Sometimes your father had to throw away the dead ones while you were asleep. You’ve always had such a loving way about you–taking care of strays. I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
The frigid axeblade had been planted in Gator’s skull eschew—widening the distance between his eyes. His vision blurred under sundering misery. Gator’s teeth clenched as hot blood dribbled down the bridge of his nose.
His body went limp as the pain was replaced by a numbness he had never experienced. Gator’s hands twitched as his body collapsed backwards into a chair. He sat there paralzed–unable to navigate through the fog.
“The Lord favors the just,” said Jake.
Gator’s mother had spoken of a light when people passed–a beacon that most agreed was the safe passage to the afterlife, but Frida warned her son of its glow. “Light needs a fire,” said Frida, “and fire needs something to burn.”
Gator closed his eyes and sought comfort in the blackness. Strength returned to his limbs. The feeling coursed into his shoulders, then his elbows, and finally his hands and fingers. He gripped the axe handle that protruded from his skull like a horn. The slightest touch caused parts of his body to spasm. A final wrench of his wrists freed the axe, unleashing a geyser of blood. Gator stood as vision returned to one eye.
Blood painted the floorboards in front of him as he hobbled forward. He turned his head to see better out of his right eye and watched his blood rain on Jake’s back.
As Jake began to turn around, Gator swung the axe like a baseball bat –severing a chunk from Jake’s throat. Jake stood in shock, letting the blood fill the front of his uniform.
Gator let the axe fall to his feet. He clasped his hands around his fragmented skull and pressed his head back to one piece. The blood ceased as his body regenerated from its wounds. Gator had killed countless people in his life, but Jake marked his first kill as a wolf. He admired his work before Char and Danny came into focus. Char was trapped beneath the caved-in roof while Danny rested on one knee.
Jake made a gurgled retort as he yanked the pins from his grenades.
Danny’s eyes grew wide before he tackled Jake at his waist. Both men fell from the third floor railing into the pit of shattered boards and bone. The eruptions shook the mansion, covering the walls with flame and filling the air with rot powder.
Gator freed Char from the fallen rafter and cradled her as he climbed the stairway to the lab. He kicked the door closed behind him in the hope of stifling the spread of the powder. He placed Char on a cleared table.
“I’m going to get you out of here,” said Gator. “Why are you still bleeding?” He examined Char’s body for the source of the blood. He felt her abdomen and realized the babies were missing.
“Where…where are they?” said Gator as he frantically searched her.
Char didn’t respond. Tears welled in her eyes as she turned her head away.
“It’s not your fault,” said Gator. “I’ll get you out of here and we can start over again. Just you and me.”
“I don’t want you anywhere near me,” said Char in a pained wheeze. “You left us to be experimented on by the Warg. Do you have any idea how many times I needed you?”
“You’re not thinking straight,” said Gator. “You have to tell me where they took our kids.”
“They’re not yours!” screamed Char. “Their father is at the bottom on the stairway. Danny deserved better than this. After everything he went through he still managed to find us and get them someplace safe.”
But I came back for you! You’re still my wife!! “Char, where did Danny take them?” He seized her by her shoulders. “Where!?”
Char stared up into his eyes and shook her head. “Where you can never find them…” Her eyes glazed-over and her breath vanished.
Gator tore the lab apart searching in vain for some way to bring her back. It can’t end like this! thought Gator. He rummaged through the contents of the medical cabinets and workstations finding only scientific notations and words he did not comprehend. His hunt led him to a small office at the back of the lab.
A corpse riddled with bullet wounds laid strewn across the linoleum floor. It appeared to be reaching for a silver briefcase placed near the leg of a desk. Upon closer inspection, Gator identified the corpse as the Warg. “We trusted you,” muttered Gator as he took hold of the briefcase. “What was it all for!? MONEY!? DRUGS!?” He slammed the case down on the Warg’s head repeatedly until pieces of skull were imbedded into the floor. When Gator finished he hurled the case out the window. Can’t take it with you, motherfucker.
Gator stood near the window and turned to see Char one last time. She lay peacefully with her hands placed over her heart. The fire had spread to the walls of the lab, igniting the chemicals that soaked the floors and workstations.
You deserved better than this, thought Gator.
He leapt down into the snowbank below. The numbness returned with no way to navigate back to life. He trekked aimlessly through Leek Denaa, thinking about how he ruined everything.
“Gator!!” called Judith.
Gator realized he was back at the marketplace courtyard.
“Gator, what happened in there?”
Gator continued his walk.
“Did you hear me?” said Judith. “What happened!?”
Gator turned around and watched as the mansion incinerated in the distance. “They’re dead” said Gator. “Charlene, Jake, Danny…they’re all gone.”
Judith was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry, Gator. You’re sure…about Jake?”
“I cut out his jugular,” said Gator.
Judith closed her eyes and took a deep breath followed by a long exhale. “Howard Fettel is dead, too. I found his remains near the cathedral. Maybe if we bring what’s left to Allred…”
“No,” said Gator. “Allred wanted Fettel’s secrets. Those are gone forever.”
“What about your mom?”
“She’s all I have left,” said Gator. “I’ll answer for what happened here today. Go spend what time you have left with your son.”
Judith gazed about the ruins of Leek Denaa before checking her watch. “If we drive all night we can reach Fairbanks by dawn,” said Judith.
“I just…I just want to stay here a little longer,” said Gator. “Go on without me.”
“If you’re sure that’s what you want–.”
“It is,” interrupted Gator. “Goodbye, Judith.”
Gator never saw Judith again after Leek Denaa. He spent the days leading up to the full moon searching every inch of the crater without rest for Charlene’s children. When he found nothing, he returned to the mansion to pay his last respects. That morning he spotted a bright reflection emanating from a nearby forest. The silver briefcase jutted out of the snow. It’s lock had come unlatched, revealing its contents.
Maybe I have something for Allred after all, thought Gator.