A Spotter’s Guide to Werewolves (Lupine Howl III) is out and available to buy from Amazon. It’s the usual price of 99 cents, which is the lowest price I can set. The next Lupine Howl book, Carnival of Wolves, is coming in a week or so. Anyway, to set the scene, here’s the first chapter (hope you like it!):
Another Thursday night. But this one starts slightly differently. As I pull the bolt and open the front door of the strip club to paying customers, I hear a loud bang in the distance. Peering out the door into the dark Soho night, I see what looks like smoke rising in the distance. What the hell was that?
“Terrorists,” says Tom Rossiter, my boss, who is sitting at the front desk, reading a paper. The man is so fat, even hsi double chin has a double chin. “Hopefully”.
I use a fire extinguisher to prop the door open. “You want terrorists to attack?” I ask.
He shrugs, not looking up from his paper. “Good for business. Don’t ask me why, I’m not a fucking mind-reader”.
I head down to the bowels of the club, where tonight’s DJ is preparing to start his sound-check. It’s weird being down here when the customers aren’t here yet. In a few hours, the club will be heaving with sweaty men leering at topless dancers, but for now it’s a sad, dull space that smells of last night’s lager.
There’s another boom in the distance. I look up and exchange a worried glance with Davide, the hot French bartender.
“Probably just the end of the world,” he says, smiling nervously. “Relax, Jess. We’ll survive like cockroaches”.
I nod and head over to the cash register to add the float. What is it with people who work in the sex industry in London? Fatalists and pessimists, all of them. Still, two loud explosions within a couple of minutes, that can’t be good.
I look up as I hear the stairs start to creak. Tom Rossiter is heading down, his obese weight almost too much for the club to handle.
“Electricity sub-station malfunctioned,” he says with an air of dis-interest. “It was just on the news. Half of Battersea’s out of power”.
“What about the second one?” I ask.
Tom sniffs as he reaches the bar. “I don’t fucking know,” he says. “Davide, usual”.
As Davide fixes Tom a drink, I finish setting up the float and then I grab the trash bags, carrying them out to the dumpsters behind the club. Of course, the damn dumpsters are packed already and I have to really force the latest bag inside. Fuck, this is glamorous work.
“We need to talk,” says a voice behind me.
I spin around to find Duncan watching me from across the little courtyard. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last saw him, but he’s barely left my thoughts. After all, when you meet a genuine, honest-to-God werewolf, you kind of remember.
“I’m at work,” I say cautiously. “You want to come in and grab a drink?”
Although he clearly doesn’t want to come inside, I leave him no choice once I turn and go back in. Reluctantly, he follows me, looking completely out of place with his long black coat and his intense, intelligent eyes.
“You like beer?” I ask as I reach the bar. I grab a beer glass and pour Duncan a pint, passing it over to him. “You like it, right?”
“Yeah,” he says, and he takes a big gulp. There’s a pause, and then he spews it out all over the floor. “God,” he says. “No. I don’t like it. Damn it, I could’ve sworn I’d tried bear before”. He wipes his mouth. “No, wait, that was something else”. He puts the rest of the pint on the bar as Davide comes around and thrusts a towel into Duncan’s arms.
“Clean it up,” Davide says, going back around the bar.
Duncan looks at the towel, as if he’s not sure what to do, so I grab it from him, get on my knees and soak up the beer from the linoleum floor.
Somewhere in the distance, there’s a third loud boom.
“Three,” says Duncan. “Then it’s confirmed”.
I stand up. “What’s confirmed?” I ask.
Duncan looks suspiciously at Davide, who is wiping down part of the bar.
“It’s okay,” I say.
“Wait,” Duncan says. He walks behind the bar, puts a hand on Davide’s neck and squeezes. Davide drops to the floor.
“What the fuck?” I shout, rushing around.
“Relax,” says Duncan. “He’s just unconscious, he’ll wait up in ten minutes. What I have to tell you can’t wait”.
“What?” I ask, casting a glance down at Davide.
Duncan looks at me, and it’s clear from his expression that he’s worried. “There are three Greystone bases in London. One to the north, one to the south, and one to the west. It’s not a coincidence that that’s exactly where those three explosions just happened”.
I’m not sure I understand what he means, at least not at first. “Why would they be blowing stuff up?” I ask.
“They wouldn’t,” Duncan says. “Do you have a mobile phone?”
I nod, pulling it from my pocket.
“Check the news,” Duncan says.
I pull up the BBC homepage and look at the top story. “Early reports say a power surge,” I say, reading from the screen. “Transformers at three power stations had small explosions. Nothing to worry about, apparently. That’s what my boss said”. I look up at Duncan. “Do you think that’s true?”
“No,” he replies. “Someone just took out Greystone. And there’s only one organisation with the power and will to carry out a strike like that”.
I wait for him to tell me. “Who?” I ask eventually.
There’s silence for a moment. “I could be wrong,” he says. “And hopefully I am. But if I’m not, you need to be very careful, do you understand? If they think you know anything at all about Greystone, they’ll…” His voice trails off.
“What?” I ask.
“Just be careful,” he continues. “If there’s anything suspicious, you run, got it? Anything at all”.
“Why would they give a shit about me?” I ask.
“Because you know about Greystone,” he says. “You’ve been to one of their bases, you know what they do, you’ve met some of them. And if they’re setting out to eradicate all traces of Greystone, then that’s going to include anyone who knows anything about the organisation at all. Do you understand now?”
I nod. “So you’re in danger too?”
“I can look after myself,” he says. “So can you, but you have to take the threat seriously”.
“I will,” I say. “I do”.
He turns to leave.
“What about you?” I ask.
He stops at the door and looks back at me. “It’s best if we stay apart for now,” he says. “They certainly know that I’ve encountered Greystone, but you might be safe. There’s no point both of us being in the firing line”.
And with that, he’s gone. I’m left standing in the bar, just as there’s a groan from the floor and Davide starts to wake up. I go over and help him to his feet.
“What the fuck happened?” he asks.
“I think you fainted,” I say, keeping one eye on the door. “Listen, I just have to go and speak to someone. Back in a second”.
I rush out, trying to catch Duncan, but he’s already long gone when I get out into the back courtyard. Once he’s in his wolf form, he’s fast and agile; he’s probably far away by now. I look up at the night sky. There’s still some smoke coming from a couple of spots on the horizon. The news channels are all reporting a fault at a series of power stations, but things look more serious than that.
There’s a noise behind me. I turn. It sounded like someone kicking a can. I step towards the door, but a figure looms out of the darkness and pushes his hand towards me. It takes a moment before I realise he’s holding a large knife, and by then it’s too late: the blade slices straight into my belly, and then he pulls it out and stabs me again in the chest. I try to hold onto him, but he pushes me away and I slam to the ground. As I try to get up, he kicks me to the ground, rolls me over and stabs me five or six more times in the chest.
I feel the blade pierce my heart, and everything goes black.