It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to die in bed, of old age. Constable John Scott gasped in agony as he tried to push his guts back through the savage tears in his stomach. The pain threatened to overwhelm him, and with a half-sob, half-retch, he vomited green bile. His scream was lost amongst the sounds of the melee raging around him.
To say that the world had changed after the aether-gates opened, was an understatement, but there was still a level of normality to be expected in towns far away from the Curtain. Especially when that town was Exeter. Aside from the hullabaloo caused by the activities of a cult, handily put down by members of the Sanction, Exeter was almost pre-Horde normal. The most that the Exeter Police Constabulary had to deal with was the odd drunken lout, and the usual thieving.
Well, that was until bloody tonight, he cringed as a body slammed into the ground next to him. The man gasped for breath, blowing bloody spit bubbles out of his mouth as he did so. Scott’s eyes locked with his, wide, panicked, pleading for the help that he couldn’t give. Slowly, Scott watched the life leech from him in an ever-expanding pool of blood. With a sudden cough, the man vomited blood, twitched and lay still. Scott couldn’t take his eyes way from the fresh corpse next to him, that’s going to be me soon if I don’t get help.
A sudden pulse of pain threw his mind back to thirty minutes in the past, anything was better than having to concentrate on the present.
His shift had started nice a slowly, a hot cup of tea and a couple of buttered crumpets. Nothing fancy, but two pleasures of life that were more than enough for a man of simple tastes. There was the usual handover, talk of which criminal was supposedly going to be out robbing, a new poacher had been seen down at the wear on the river Exe, trying to get the salmon.
Considering his beat went as far as the Double Locks, this was of particular interest to Scott. It would be an easy collar that also helped with his chances of promotion. It never harmed a man to be ambitious, especially if head his heart set on marrying a lady who would normally be considered out of his social circle, but who appeared to have set her heart on marrying him as well. Her father however, was less than happy with the prospect of his precious daughter “marrying a flat-footed plod”. As a result, Scott was feeling the pressure to succeed. A poacher was small fish, but it was a start.
Should have bloody well stayed at my box. He had walked from the quay, slowly ambling along the canal, making sure that there were no barges trying to make their way into the city at night. Cutting across the flood plain he had then started to cross over to the river.
As quietly as he could, and with much muttered cursing he had worked his way slowly along the bank, cutting any night lines that he came across, praying that he would get a good collar. It seemed that the almighty wasn’t going to see fit to grant him that wish as he had gone along the river as far as he could on his beat.
Turning around he backtracked to where he had started, just in case he had missed any lines and in the vain hope that he would catch a poacher returning to see what they had hooked.
Wishing that he had brought his vacuum flask with him, he started back down the canal, walking slowly along the tow path. He was nearing the Double Locks hotel when he heard e faint sound of water lapping against wood, and a muffled voice.
Heart pounding, he crouched down do as to not skyline himself, as the moon had finally decided to come out in full after hiding behind some particularly large clouds. Where the bloody hell were you when I needed you back at the river.
The pale light cast shadows. Waiting patiently, he let his eyes adjust, and finally saw a man slowly leading a horse as it towed a barge up the river. There was a slight splash and he saw that there was another couple of stood at the sides of the deck, helping to push the barge along with their poles. The splash that he had heard had been one of the poles entering the water quicker than necessary.
Mouth dry with excitement he drew the service revolver that all police were issued, stood, and shouted the top of his voice.
“Police. Stop right there. Don’t make a bloody move.” the horse, naturally spooked by the shouting and the sudden appearance of a man virtually at its feet, squealed and rose onto its hind less, forelegs flailing. There was a soft crunch that made his stomach turn, as one of the forelegs smashed into its handler’s head. The man fell bonelessly off the path and into the water.
More splashes followed as the men dropped their poles and ducked down, reaching for God knew what.
“I said don’t move!” with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, John realised that he had completely lost control of the situation. A flash, a bang, and a whiz confirmed that as one of the men started firing at him.
Lying as flat as he could on the path, he fired a couple of rounds back, more in the hope that he would keep their heads down, rather actually hit anything.
“Stop shooting you stupid bastards. You were only going to get a fucking fine.” this was the fist time that he had ever fired his weapon in anger and, to his great surprise, he was actually enjoying it. Never before had he felt the thrill of so much adrenalin coursing through his body, and he revelled in the clarity of thought it gave him. His eyesight and hearing seemed to have greatly improved as well and he could hear the men whispering to each other.
Even though he couldn’t make out the words, he could tell that they weren’t speaking the Queen’s English. What the bloody hell is going on here?
There was a sudden flurry of movement and he snapped a shot off at a moving shadow. With a scream, the man fell heavily to the deck of the barge, bouncing his head on the hard wooden planks,before slowly rolling off into the water.
Good God, I shot him. Suddenly things weren’t quite as fun. He spat as saliva suddenly flooded into his mouth, and gulped as his stomach threatened to empty itself.
The other man loosed off a flurry of shots, screaming what he could only take to be curses at him. Ducking down as he was sprayed with much and stones sent flying by near misses, he heard a loud clunk, followed by what could only be the sound of a heavy door opening.
There was a loud roar. The sort of roar that rattles the very marrow of your bones. The sort of roar that makes sweat prickle on to your forehead in an instant. The sort of roar that makes you piss yourself.
He thought he was going to puke he felt so scared. His whole body shook as if a giant had picked him up and was jarring him back and forth. If he could have run then, he would. It was all he could do to remember to keep breathing, even though it felt as though someone had their fist around his heart.
“Probably best if you stay there constable.” the voice was right next to his ear, cultured, and scared what he thought were the final living day lights out of him. That was until he turned to look at the man beside him. A ghastly visage greeted his eyes. Hideous teeth shone in the moonlight, and it looked as of the man-thing had bats ears.
“Who … Who are you?” he was surprised that he even managed the hoarse whisper that barely escaped his mouth.
“Ah, very remiss of me. Jack. Must go.” with that the creature was gone.
To his left he heard footsteps coming towards him, with more foreign words being shouted. With a supreme effort of will he forced his legs to work, cursing and striking them for their weakness, finally managing to totter to his feet.
As soon as he thought he had a shot he took it, blazing away at where he thought the men were, trying desperately to block out the sounds of the combat on the barge.
Screams and shouts of anger came from the men he was shooting at. There was a click and he realised that he had runout of shots. Fumbling in his pockets he desperately tried to reload his pistol, hands shaking so much that he felt like a virgin trying to get his cock into the woman unfortunate enough to be lying with him.
He could see movement now, the men were still running towards him. He snapped the cylinder back into his revolver, raised the pistol and pulled the trigger as fast as he could, the muzzle flash robbing him of what little night sight he had.
Someone slammed into him. He screamed in fear and hammered the butt of his pistol grip into his attacker’s rib, smashing it down again and again. The man screamed back at him and he gagged at the foul, hot, garlic-rich breath that asked over his face.
Bucking and arching, he managed to roll over onto his front. There was a sudden burning sensation in his stomach, that slowly spread across from right to left. A punch smashed into his face, which he returned as best he could, struggling to fight though the pain in his stomach.
There was a other burning sensation. Risking a look down, his eyes caught the glint of moonlight on metal, and how his attacker was making a sawing motion. Oh God, he’s stabbed me! The realisation that his stomach was being slit open as if he were a freshly caught fish lent him the strength to smash his pistol down onto the man’s face once, twice, thrice. He could feel the crunch as the man’s facial bones gave way under the pressure, hot blood flicking up into his face. He summoned the strength for one last Herculean effort, driving the butt down as hard as he could, surprised by the way the skull broke as if it was an eggshell, his hand plunging into and through the brain.
It was as if he had poured all of his remaining strength into that last blow. His whole body felt as heavy as lead, struggling to roll onto his side he toppled off the corpse, gasping for breath as if the air was suddenly thicker.
A shadow flitted over him, a man screamed, and a body slammed into the ground. With that his consciousness crashed back to the present.
“My, my, my constable. You look positively terrible. Not too worry we’ll,” Jack broke off mid-sentence, spun on his toes, and slammed a foot into the stomach of a man who had loomed out of the darkness. Folded over, his attacker was completely defenceless as Jack tapped the heel of his right boot on the ground and then drove a front kick into his face in one smooth motion. As Jack dropped his foot back down, Scott saw the moonlight glint off a serrated blade jutting out from the sole under the toe.
“That should be the last of them. God knows where the Pumajaq ran off too.” Jack knelt down beside him and gently held his hand, “You put up a bloody good fight, your family should be proud.”
Scott tried to speak, but he found his mouth was as dry as cotton. He squinted, trying to see Jack’s face as he continued to extoll Scott’s virtues. He realised that he couldn’t see anything. Strange, must be a cloud blocking the moon. His thoughts started to wander, whilst Jack continued to hold his hand and witter on. Why the bloody hell is he whispering. Pain radiated from his stomach and then suddenly stopped.
Thank God the pain has gone. He felt Jack squeeze his hand, and then silence descended.