After a few hours sleep, the pack rose shortly after 7am and started making their preparations for the ‘patient transfer’.
Denton Vines took a 10 minute walk (with a few twists & turns to satisfy his caution/paranoia) to the Victoria Embankment near the Blackfriars Bridge. Using one the many mobile internet dongles that he habitually carries, he connected to the net and hacked into the the hospital records, and then altered them to indicate that Duncan Strick was to be moved to the Warwick Royal Infirmary to be treated by a diseases specialist.
Just as he was finishing the hack, the camera that he had secretly set up to watch the entrance to the offices registered movement. The video feed showed a woman in her late twenties, smartly dressed with a hat and coat to ward off the chill of the spring morning. Denton began running facial matching software to try and identify the caller.
Back at the office in Aldwych, Lewis answered the door buzzer and was met by a somewhat agitated woman, who introduced herself as Kelly Lloyd and explained that she had come to the building hoping to speak to the Private Investigators of the firm ‘Hunter and Lictor’ (which was the cover business that the pack had been given along, with Aldwych premises, by the Venatori).
Lewis invited her in and led her to his office/room, when she explained that she was desperately seeking to discover what had happened to her boyfriend Ryan Burnstien, a freelance journalist who was last seen on Tuesday the 13th (five days ago).
Ms Lloyd elaborated that she had last seen Ryan on the morning of the day he disappeared. He had been investigating on a story involving the homeless population of London, and his plans for that day had been to speak to some contacts in central London.
The next time she heard from him was shortly before 9pm that day, when she received a garbled call that registered as originating from Ryan’s mobile phone. The line was terrible, but above the interference she could just make out Ryan’s voice. He sounded disorientated and panicked, but the signal dropped out completely after about twenty seconds, before she was able to make out any coherent phrases.
No one had seen or heard from him since.
She contacted the police late on Wednesday having grown worried from not hearing from him all day. With nothing to go on, the police had unsurprisingly not managed to turn up any leads so far.
Kelly had grown increasingly desperate and concerned over the following days, resulting in her decision to hire a PI. Hunter and Lictor had apparently been recommended to her by Malcolm Ravenscar, the proprietor of Bond & Bind, a bookstore/antique-shop/coffeehouse.
She gave Lewis a £100 retainer, and a memory stick containing the entire contents of Ryan’s My Documents folder from the desktop PC that they shared. After promoting from Lewis, she also bluetoothed him a photo of Ryan, and gave him a list on known contacts (which included Mary Alder, Rose Price, …and Duncan Strick).
Denton returned to the office shortly after the pack’s first investigation client had left, having chewed up the SIM card and disposed of the internet dongle into the Thames. At the same time, Summer returned to the office.
Lewis then explained Kelly’s situation, and confirmed what Denton had discovered from scouring the internet- that Ms Lloyd was a junior executive at a merchant banking firm in the city, and that her story checked out.
The problem of the missing journalist would have to wait however, as the pack had more pressing concerns. They swiftly set about making their final preparations for the retrieval of Strick from the hospital, doing their uniforms and fake IDs, and rehearsing the plan.
Vellum, a talented if unconventional alchemist, went out to glare the rust off of the van (the iron de-oxogenising out of embarrassment); than than pack were ready to go.
Ever cautious, Denton drove from the underground garage to the hospital via a circuitous route. Once they arrived they masqueraded superbly as legitimate staff, barely raising an eyebrow.
They perhaps blended in too well, as when Lewis paused for a moment to glance at a wall map confirming that they were heading to the correct ward, he was seconded by an imperious and harassed doctor to help transfer a critically injured man (who looked like he had been in a car crash) to a different ward. The doctor’s pager beeped and he headed off on another urgent errand, but Lewis continued with his task, not wanting to break cover.
He was surprised when the apparently unconscious man, started sniffing the air and demanded to know who Lewis was. Now that that he was aware that there was something odd about the man, Lewis tuned his full attention to him. He was middle aged, probably in his 50s, had a robustly muscled and athletic build, and looked healthy apart from his collection of cuts and wounds; furthermore, now that he was looking for it, Lewis picked up the subtle but distinctive scent of werewolf.
Presented with the imminent problem of the potential breech of Uratha secrecy that would occur when the doctors saw a man who had been heavily wounded an hour before getting up and leaving the premises with nothing but bloodstains and a few scratches, Lewis made a snap decision and took a lift downwards, flipping the sheet over the head of the man on the trolley (who was making gristly noises and slipping in and out of consciousness as his regeneration continued to re-set bones and knit flesh).
Meanwhile, the rest to the pack successfully make it to the quarantine room where Duncan Strick was located. Upon entering the room, they discovered that Strick’s condition seems to have worsened, and he was now deeply unconscious with waxy skin, sunken eyes and ragged breathing. Summer Tabbee whispered a spell to call up her spirit vision, while Denton watched the corridor and Vellum began transferring the patient on the the gurney. Moments later the air vent near to Denton’s head burst open, and a rat the size of a dog sprang out onto Strick, hissing and spitting ferociously and glaring at Vellum with murderous golden eyes.
Summer instantly swung into action, letting her instincts guide her. She shifted into Dalu form and leapt at the Beshilu, lashing its sides but not quite managing to dislodge the agile rodent from its intended victim. Thinking quickly, Denton grapped the sheets of the bed and threw them over the creature, tangling it in a cocoon of bedding. Vellum then proceeded to beat the creature to death with the drip stand, efficiently mashing it and the rats that it discorporated into to broken and lifeless meat while his pack-mates held it down (Summer licking her lips and watching the writhing bundle hungrily, as her supernatural metabolism called out to devour it to recharge her essence).
Once the threat had been subdued, they transferred the critically ill Strick onto the top of the trolley and stashed the bundle containing the Beshilu underneath, before calmly wheeling out the trolley out (accompanied by the now wobbling and squeaky drip stand).
When they opened the van doors, they were surprised to find Lewis already inside with a different patient on a trolley. The werewolf, now mostly healed, sat up and introduced himself as Tony Williams, a member of the Guardians of the Lychgate pack. Acknowledging his debt to Lewis and the others as they drove away from the hospital, Tony explained that he had been injured in a fight with something in Soho, a creature that he had initially taken to be a vampire. The fight had been confusing, and the werewolf had found himself staggering, feeling disorientated and drunk. He gave as good as he got, but the mysterious figure has escaped into the night, just before the light of dawn had began to spill across the city. Williams had heard approaching footsteps and had passed out, only to awake a few hours later on a hospital trolley.
The pack dropped their new acquaintance off in alley in Covent Garden, having earned his thanks (and a favour for later, if he is as good as his word). They then proceeded back to Denton’s underground garage, and on the way Summer feasted on the remains of the Beshilu, replenishing her Essence reserves (the rest of the pack were not yet desperate/hungry enough to eat such a meal, or were not yet comfortable enough with their werewolf natures to try it).
Meanwhile, the rest off the pack scanned through the contacts and text messages on Strick’s phone (which was amongst his personal effects from the hospital), and turned up the names Ryan Burnstien and Mary Alder, as well as frequent (somewhat cryptic) communications with Jean-Paul Carrab, Peter Hall, Vilmos Hessig, and Kyoko Takada)
As soon as they arrived, the pack quickly set about preparing for the ritual that they were about to attempt, which they hoped would exorcise the Beshilu essence from Strick’s body.
Once the magic circle had been drawn and the runes inscribed, Lewis, the ritemaster of the group, took the lead role in the complex ceremony, and initiated the spell.
Denton called upon subtle mind magic to keep human consciousness separate from that of the rat-host, and Vellum wove life energy in Strick’s pattern, helping to drive out the supernatural infection. Summer bought her spirit arcanum to bear, calling the invading spirit out of its victim and binding it within the circles of the spell; and finally, Lewis pitted his will directly against the power of the Beshilu essence at the climax of the ritual.
The ritual circle and glyphs began to glow and smoke from the pressure of the contained energies, and Strick’s fever peaked as the half-formed spirit of the Beashilu fought for possession. Finally, following a colossal effort of will, the pack’s ritual successfully sweated the corrupted essence out of Strick, binding and containing it in place, when the fierce and entropic energies of the completed spell evaporated it.
After recovering their breath and composure from the exertion of the spell, the pack members congratulated each other on having achieved what the lore-books had deemed impossible. Though his essence pattern had been permanently scarred by the attack, they had successfully saved this man from a dark and unnatural fate. Vellum promptly began recording their observations and the details of the rite (longhand as he had a deep distrust for computers), while the rest of the pack tidied up and contacted Sebastian Lowe.
Lowe was suitably impressed by their achievements, and promised that he would arrange for Strick to be given into the care of his contacts in the Lorekeepers pack, who had the facilities and expertise to provide secrecy and medical care for the human.
Once Strick had been collected and taken off of their hands (by Benedict Walker, alpha of the Lore Keepers, the pack decided to head back to their offices in Aldwych and consider their next move.
However, whilst riding back in Denton’s lexus, they discovered that the life of a Venatori werewolf is seldom simple or easy, as the crack of a gunshot rang out through the city air…