Of Wolves and (Dead)Men
“I was doing Tequila shots in preparation for this evening,” Delareux said, “A little splashed on my desk that looked just like Hoover. This could go south in any number of ways. We should be prepared for all of them and expect some wild cards.”
“Like Ehrlich?” Toli asked.
“No, his betrayal is a guarantee,” Sylvia said.
“What do you think his play is?”
“If I had to guess,” Danvers said, “He wants us and the gerrys to wear each other out and then have is goons clean us up.”
“He’s a businessman,” Toli said, “If he’s going to invest so much into something he’s going to want to maximize the return on investment. If there’s going to be an unknown variable, it’s most likely going to be any other enemies he might have made. He’ll try to take care of us all at once.”
“A battle royale,” Shelby said.
“I suggest we approach this like I approach everything,” Delareux said, tamping a cigarette, “Show up late.”
“We case the scene from a distance. See what we’re getting into,” Danvers said.
“Ruin his surprise.”
Danvers stoked the peach fuzz on the back of this head and nodded, “Palazzo, you know the area?”
“Well,” Toli replied.
“Paint me a picture.”
Toli began to explain the layout of the area, that involved a lot of hand waving and pacing back and forth. He picked up a piece of Sylvia's ritual circle drawing chalk and started to draw a map of the warehouse on the dining room table, from the streets outside to the last shelf inside. As Toli scribbled, an infernal flame spirit leaped from the chalk drawing, launching fire darts at the gang. In sketching out his crude map, Toli had created a reasonable enough facsimile to a portal sigil that opened up into a hell dimension. The demon was dispatched and some of the unnecessary details of the rendering were removed to avoid further intrusions. They all agreed, the map didn’t need a smiling sun or ‘v’s that were supposed to be birds. Danvers used salt and pepper shakers to show everyone where their teams should set up.
“We’ll split into two teams,” he said, “Our position may need to be adjusted for line of sight when we get there, but these positions should give us the best vantage point to see who else was invited to the shindig without getting made ourselves. We just need some kind of signal when it’s time to go in.”
Shelby pinched a small orb of light, like a tiny sun, between her fingers. She rolled it into her palm. She slapped her forearm with her other hand and the orb shoot in the air. She caught it between her thumb and forefinger and turned it around. It appeared as the light was sucked into a drain somewhere between her fingertips. What was left was an impenetrable black void. A prison for light.
“That’ll work,” Danvers said, “The kid’s with me. You too, Palazzo. I’ll need a good shot on this corner. We’re taking the north side. That makes Winthrop, Delareux and Le Bec on the southeast. When the kid tosses the ball, we go in.”
“What if there’s a change in plans?” Toli asked.
Danvers looked at Shelby, “What else can you do?”
Shelby stared at her hands. She made two balls and tossed them in the air.
“Good enough. One ball we go. Two balls we fall back, regroup and adjust. Clear?”
Everyone grumbled with as little enthusiasm as possible.
“That’s what I want to hear. I’m going back to the precinct to pick some things up. I’ll meet the kid and Palazzo at the spot. Everybody be where you’re supposed to be by 1900.”
Ehrlich fiddled with his fob watch, flipping it opened and closed, checking the time every 15 seconds or so.
“Do you have an appointment?” Walden said, standing over him.
Ehrlich stared at Walden. The urgency drained from his face and was replaced with an annoyed grimace, “What do you want?”
“You keep looking at your watch.”
“What difference does it make?”
“You look anxious.”
“Like you’re waiting for a bomb to go off,” Sontag added.
“It’s how I occupy myself when I am forced to sit in the same room with idiots.”
“Defensive,” Walden chucked and exchanged looks with Bach and Sontag. He stood up and walked behind Ehrlich and pulled his pistol, “The time of your usefulness is coming to an end, Herr Ehrlich. The only reason I tolerate you is that you’re still a necessary evil.”
“The looks like one of the krauts is threatening Ehrlich,” Danvers said, peering through binoculars, “Maybe we can just wait this one out,” Toli said.
“What happens to the zombies if Ehrlich dies?” Shelby asked.
“What makes you think I’d know?”
“I don’t know. You’re a grown-up.”
Several cars pulled up the warehouse. Large, armed men step from their vehicles. Pulcinella waddled to the front of the growing crowd of angry muscle. Winston Cross opened up his car door and stretched out into a white ribbon and reformed by the window of the warehouse.
“A bunch of mobsters just showed up. Cross is with them. This must the new boss he was talking about,” Danvers said.
“Well, this is...how many mobsters?” Toli asked.
“There’s probably 40 of ‘em.”
“40 gangsters and Cross, three Nazis, and a necromancer with an army. That’s a number two, Shelby.”
Danvers grunted in approval, “Send it, kid.”
Shelby launched two glowing orbs into the air.
Walden bent over and whispered, “To the bone.”
“Tell me, is it meant as a compliment when a Nazi calls you evil?”
“The Nazis are stepping stones. I don’t care a wit about their philosophy or methods. What you’re creating for us goes well beyond Nazi mayflies,” Walden pulled on the hem of his coat, “It’s a shame you won’t be around to see it. Necromancers are simply too untrustworthy.”
A loud clanging echoed through the warehouse as if someone was dragging an empty metal can across the shelves the freight was stacked on.
“We are a capricious lot,” Ehrlich said.
Walden pulled back the hammer on his pistol and began raising it to Ehrlich’s head.
“Eh? Signore Gerrys,” a sandpaper voice shouted, “They tell me you turn into dogs, I’d like to see that. I’m hiring guard dogs.”
Walden, Bach, and Sontag exited the office and found their obnoxious guest, banging a waste paper basket against the racks. Pulcinella ceased his racket and cast his empty eyes at the three men in SS uniforms. He dropped the wastebasket on the floor.
“It pays well. You get free reign of my leftovers,” he grinned.
The three sorcerers stared him down.
“The joke is,” he shook his belly, “There are never leftovers,” he barked out an open-mouthed cackle.
“Did Ehrlich summon you here?”
“No, he called me on the phone.”
Walden wound up and his hands swirled with red light. He shot it at Pulcinella. Pulcinella waved his arm like he was swatting at a mosquito. The red light wrapped around his hand. He shook it off as if he had just washed his hand and it fell to the floor, dissipating in a crackle.
“Kill Ehrlich,” Walden yelled to Sontag and Bach, “I’ll take care of this one.
As Ehrlich walked toward Pulcinella his hair grew and spread. His fingers became long and bony, as his nails seem to roll into themselves, becoming tapered and sharp. He nose and mouth merged into a fanged maw. He left at Pulcinella, who stood, gazing as if he was an audience member watching a performance. Walden raked his claw across his face. Pulcinella was knocked back by the blow, but otherwise unscratched. He wound up and struck Walden across the muzzle. Walden balled his claw and it ignited once again in the red light. He punched at Pulcinella, who grabbed his fist and headbutted Walden on the nose.
“Dogs are easy to train,” Pulcinella said, “You just need to show them who the alpha is.”
Sontag and Bach entered the office and grabbed Ehrlich by his cloak.
“I know what Walden told you to do,” Ehrlich said, hanging from his collar by the neck, “But you shouldn’t.”
Bach pulled a black dagger.
“If I die the zombies will avenge me,” Ehrlich gasped, “It’s like a necromancer’s deadman’s switch.
“I think he’s lying,” Sontag said and held the blade to his throat.
Bach could see the zombie workers outside the office windows. As Sontag put his blade to Ehrlich’s throat, they lurched from their duties and shambled toward the office.
“Sontag,” Bach said, holding Sontag’s wrist and pointing out the window.
“Make them stop,” Sontag said to Ehrlich.
Ehrlich waved and they returned to their tasks. Sidestepping the brawling Walden and Pulcinella as they worked.
The gang gathered around a blindside of the warehouse. They huddled discussing their options. Delareux insisted on going home and drinking. As they debated the merits of going home and getting drunk, a bright strand of glowing smoke shot in the center of their circle. Out of the static formed a man in a white suit, holding a rifle. Winston Cross put his hands up.
“I just want to talk,” he said.
“This is fun,” Pulicella said, “But why are the puppies hiding,” he pointed at the office.
Walden didn’t reply, only huffing in rage.
“I thought this was going to be a big fight. Come si come sa, I can’t let the few men I have left go home disappointed.”
Pulcinella bellowed at the top of his lungs and a gang of armed mobsters flooded the warehouse floor. The zombies navigated around them.
“Don’t kill any of the dead ones,” Pulcinella shouted, “Or the one that looks like a mushroom. The rest are yours.”
The mobsters opened fire at nothing in particular, as Walden created a transparent, red wall of energy in front of him, sizzling the few stray bullets that impacted with it, into vapor. Sontag and Walden leaped from the office as men but landed as six-foot wolves. They dove into the mobster slicing and tearing.
Ehrlich roused his zombies to action and they began to attack both mobster and Nazi alike.
Sontag blew a horn and several more werewolves joined the fray, jumping down from the rafters.
Walden grabbed Pulcinella and began punching his head into the wall. He bit Pulcinella on the shoulder, but his teeth couldn’t penetrate. It was like biting a tire. Pulcinella grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and flipped him over his shoulder, slamming him to the ground. Walden reached into his now too tight jacket and pulled a black dagger. He jabbed Pulcinella in the thigh. The blade sunk and dark blood streamed out.
“I knew I’d find your heel,” Walden said and leaped to his feet.
He took another swing and cut Pulcinella on the cheek. Pulcinella stumbled backward and Walden pounced, grabbing him around the neck and pressing the dagger to his throat.
“My compliments to the Strega that blessed you, but no spell is impenetrable,” Walden hissed.
Walden felt something tighten around his waist and he was lifted up off the ground. He saw he was being held aloft by a tree branch wrapped in vines and hanging with lichen. He was dangling inches from Sylvia’s face. She extended another twisting mass of branch and vine and wrapped it around Walden’s neck. She slammed him down on his back, on the wooden knee of her plant suit. He left out a yelp and rolled lifeless to the floor. Sylvia grimaced at Pulcinella.
“Now we’re even, eh, La Strega?” Pulcinella grinned a yellow grin.
“Even?” Sylvia said, “I saved your life.”
“And I saved yours. I was going to kill you, now I’m not. Life saved, eh?” he wobbled as he stared at Sylvia, his grin making a subtle slide from amusement to disgust, “More like I save it for later, eh?” his laugh crackled from his lungs as he leaned forward, his mouth wide and cackling. He stood up straight, his face fell limp and his eyes went dead, “Cross,” he bellowed, “We go.”
Sylvia saw Cross standing atop a rack that stretched to the ceiling.
“You owe me,” she mimed at him.
He beamed down to meet Pulcinella.
“We can’t go,” he said, “We’re surrounded by Ehrlich’s zombies.”
“So what? I’ll walk right through them,” Pulcinella said, “And you just pfft pfft pfft around, what are you worried about?”
“I made an agreement,” Cross paused, “On your behalf.”
Pulcinella looked over his shoulder at Sylvia and chuckled, “No you didn’t,” he shook his head and barreled his way through the angry undead.
Cross walked toward Sylvia and stood silent.
“You’re staying?” she said,
“I made an agreement,” he stood with his hands clasped in front of him, looking at the floor.
“I suppose if we are to get out of this alive,” said Sontag.
Sylvia turned to face him, “This is rich,” she laughed.
“It’s practical,” Bach growled, “I estimate our combined forces should be able to overcome these things.”
Cross stepped toward Sylvia and whispered, “Where’s the rest of you?”
“Carrying out the plan.”