Gore covered the alley walls. Something lay hidden in shadow, just out of reach from the light of the rising sun. Rivulets of blood ran out towards the street. They stopped just short of a man’s military boots.
“Back. Stay back!” Sgt. Logan stood at the mouth of the alley like a steel door. A crowd of townsfolk had gathered in front of him. The gawkers leaned left and right, or got up on their tiptoes, trying to peer into the alley behind. He growled, glaring at them in return. It was the only way he could communicate with them.
The crowd parted, allowing more soldiers through to the front. They carried an empty litter. Logan was about to let them through when he noticed someone was with them. The man had a lean face, sharp nose, bulging eyes, and a sickly pallor. He was hunched over, as if trying to disappear beneath his trench coat and hat.
“So, you’ve caught him already, huh boys?” Logan took an aggressive step towards the stranger.
“I’m afraid you are lost, Sergeant. The crime scene is behind you.” The scoundrel sounded like a Kraut.
“I don’t take orders from crooks, Herr?” Logan tilted his head, letting the question linger. If looks could kill, the crowd would have run for cover.
Pfc. Boyd tried and failed to push his way between the two men. He smiled sheepishly. “He’s not a German, Logan, he’s American. This is Inspector Voss. We got orders to help him, well, investigate. He’s some kinda expert.”
Logan looked at Boyd, then back to Voss. “American, sure. As American as apple strudel. So you’re a gumshoe, huh?”
“We all have our roles to play.” His smile was anything but friendly.
They stared at each other.
“We got orders, Logan. Right from the top!” whinged Boyd.
“Far be it from me to disobey General Eisenhower.” Logan stood aside, and extended his arm towards the alley. He watched suspiciously as Voss walked past him, then followed.
“I understand you are having trouble getting the town to surrender?” Inspector Voss did not turn to face them as he spoke. He strutted down the alley, looking here and there, like a tourist taking in the sights. He glided around the pool of blood–and the heap in its center–without so much as a glance.
“The town was captured by the 3rd Army a week ago. General Patton sent us here because there’s something screwy with the supply lines. Missing crates, cut fuel lines. It started small, but it’s getting worse. Probably the work of one man. Maybe a small group. Our investigation led us here. Somewhere in town, there are a bunch of crates that belong to Uncle Sam. Not to mention, the man that stole them.”
Voss strode tall down the alley, examining a wall. It was hard to make out in the shadows, but someone had smeared a bloody symbol on the bricks. Voss touched it with a gloved hand, sniffed his soiled fingertip. He turned to face Sgt. Logan. “It appears we have more than sticky fingers to worry about now, yes?”
Logan ground his teeth. He refused to let this guy get a rise out of him. The sergeant looked down at the fallen soldier they had been avoiding. “Cpl. Bower was last seen twelve hours ago. He was invaluable in our search so far. He spoke German, and the civilians liked him. This level of violence…it just doesn’t make any sense.”
The large, ragged gashes on the body were plain to see. It looked less like the scene of a murder, and more like the tragic end of an animal attack. Logan couldn’t imagine anything less than a bear inflicting so much damage on a man.
“I believe you are correct. It is…unlikely that this was a simple crime of passion.” Voss stood over the body, staring down at it dispassionately. “A lover’s quarrel, a jealous husband, even an angry son that lost his father in the war…these types of murders would have been done with a gun or a knife. The late Cpl. Bower, however, has been brutalized far beyond the limits of such weapons. It would take a man much time and effort to produce this much carnage. And of course, there is the symbol left behind on the wall over there.”
“So, someone wanted to send us a message,” said Logan. “Take out one of our best, and tell us to stop sticking our noses into the supply line problems.”
“What is that symbol supposed to be, anyway? A swastika?” In truth, the bloody symbol didn’t look much like any swastika Logan had ever seen, and by now he’d seen plenty. But maybe adrenaline, nerves, or haste had caused the murderer to do a sloppy job. Logan studied the shape. Three vertical lines, with a diagonal connecting all three, from bottom left to top right. It sort of looked like a Z with a strike through the center, and tipped on its side. But if that was what it was, the diagonal was going the wrong way.
“It is a heraldic symbol. A wolfsangel. Popular with the Waffen-SS. I am surprised you have not noticed it before.” Voss glanced at Logan sideways, with just a hint of a smirk.
“I’ve always been more interested in fighting, than fashion.”
“That is most clear, Sgt. Logan.”
Logan raised a finger at the spook. “Listen here. I don’t know you from Adam, but my gut tells me you’re no good. The only reason you aren’t cooling your heels in a cell right now is because Eisenhower sent you to do a job that needs doing. If you can’t do it without being respectful to me and the men, then you can slither on back to whatever rock it is you crawled out from.”
“I suspect that without me, all your men will soon be fitting beneath a rock,” said Voss as he leered at the bloody remains of the soldier.
Logan was on him as fast as you could blink. Boyd and the men who had brought the stretcher grabbed the two combatants, and separated them before they could come to serious blows.
Voss smoothed his coat, and righted his hat. “If we are done with the barbarism, then perhaps I can give you the conclusion of my analysis.”
“Yeah, and what’s that?”
“We are not looking for one man. We are looking for a pack of werewolves.”
It was past lunch by the time they got Cpl. Bower’s body squared away. Logan met with Pfc. Boyd and Inspector Voss in the lobby of the apartment building they’d occupied as a barracks.
“Find any leprechauns while we were busy, Voss?”
“You must understand, Sgt. Logan, the German airwaves contain nightly broadcasts urging the volk to rise up and waylay foreign aggression however they can. To keep the will strong, these unofficial soldiers for the Reich are called werewolves. Man by day, monster by night, yes? The wolfsangel sigil was based on a hook used to catch wolves when such creatures ruled the night. Now, the symbol has taken on a new meaning. A resistance group exists here, and is responsible for the untimely demise of your Cpl. Bower. I guarantee it.”
“Have you found them, then?”
“Not as of yet….” Voss was playing his cards close to the chest. Logan suspected he was holding something back. Though maybe he was just embarrassed he had no leads.
“Well, Bower may have been on to something before he was killed. We still have to collect his personal effects from his bunk, and I’m pretty sure he kept a journal.”
“Gosh, Logan, you want to read it? Not sure that sits right with me.”
“There could be useful information in there, Boyd. I don’t believe he was singled out at random.”
“Just doesn’t feel right, is all.”
Logan considered this for a moment. “You know, I think I saw Bower at service last Sunday. We should check if the chaplain is still in town. We can get him to take a look at the journal, and check if he even spoke to Bower one-on-one.”
“Two birds with one stone, golly!”
“What do you think, Voss?”
“Your…faith in your dead comrade is admirable, Sgt. Logan. However, I prefer to follow the physical evidence. Why don’t you and Pfc. Boyd look into the deceased’s effects, while I, how would you say, chase my wild geese?”
“Suits me just fine. C’mon, Boyd.” Logan spun on his heel, walking out the door, and away from Voss’s vile presence.
The chaplain was a busy man, and proved very difficult to track down. The sun was setting when the two soldiers finally cornered him as he sat down for dinner.
“I hope you said grace before you started on your ration, chaplain. Supply line troubles mean the food hasn’t been so good lately.”
The man nodded, chewing. He took a sip of water. “All things work together for good to them that love God, Sergeant. How can I help you boys this evening?”
“We were wondering if you could take a look at this.” Logan produced the journal. “Not the whole thing, just the last few days. We’re looking into the murder of Cpl. Bower, and we’re hoping he left some clue about what happened in his journal.”
“Didn’t feel right to read it ourselves.” Boyd gave the chaplain his sheepish grin. “He attended your service. Don’t suppose you spoke to him at all?”
“Afraid not.” The chaplain looked down at the table and shook his head. “First time I ever saw him was when I prayed over his remains this afternoon. War is a terrible business, isn’t it? That boy…”
Logan and Boyd stood silent, suddenly interested in the walls and ceiling.
“Give me the diary,” said the chaplain, rubbing some dust out of one eye. “If there’s anything unsavory, we’ll call it a final confession.”
“All we need to know is if Bower was on to something.”
It only took a few moments for the chaplain to flip through the book far enough to hit blank pages. “All too soon….” He started reading backward, stopping once to tear out a blank page and jot something down with the pencil tucked in the spine. “This is the best I can do.”
The two soldiers looked at the piece of paper. “A butcher?”
“He doesn’t go into detail, unfortunately, but if there is a clue to be found in these pages, that is it. He doesn’t mention the exact address.”
“We’ll find it. Thank you, chaplain.”
The holy man nodded, and patted the journal. “I will see this gets to the right place. You two boys, be careful, and go with God.”
The night air chilled Sgt. Logan as he ran with Boyd and a few other men through narrow streets and dark alleys. The butcher’s shop Bower had named in his journal turned out to be close to the alley in which he’d been found. There was no way that was a coincidence. The men were armed, and moved with purpose as they closed in on their target.
Candlelight shone from the second story windows. The men slowed; drew their weapons. The shop itself–on the first floor–was dark. Logan frowned at a goose that hung in the window. The door was locked, so they kicked it in. They cleared the first floor, then Boyd and another man covered the stairs as Logan took the lead.
“Hands up!” Logan charged up the stairs and into a bedroom. A chill breeze whispered in through an open window. Flickering candlelight caused shadows to seethe over a familiar scene. In the middle of the room, a man lay dead. His throat had been ripped out.
A bone whirled through the air in a lazy arc. Logan caught it, and passed it back and forth between his hands. It was a drumstick from the goose in the butcher shop window. The raid had gone all wrong. After they found the body, the soldiers had swept the place for clues, but came up empty. The butcher had no family, but the neighbors–all who swore to have no useful info about what had happened–promised to take care of the interment. Boyd had decided the goose would make a good, later dinner for the men. In the end, their efforts had taken most of the night, and it turned out to be an early breakfast.
It was late afternoon the next day, and the two soldiers were loitering outside the barracks. Logan held the bone up high, causing the stray dog that often lurked nearby to jump and nip at it, before he tossed it back to Boyd. “We have to be missing something. The trail can’t be cold yet.”
“Well, the way I see it, there are two options: either the butcher was the killer, and one of his accomplices did him in, or he was the accomplice and the killer is still out there.” Boyd tossed the bone over the dog’s head, back to Logan. They continued throwing the bone back and forth as they spoke.
“I could maybe see a butcher being the killer. He’d have the tools and the know-how to do that kind of damage. But he seemed too old to be up to the task. If I had to pick, I’d say this is a second hit by the same killer, but even that doesn’t seem quite right to me.”
“How so? Torn throat was an awful sight. Sure reminded me of Cpl. Bower. Golly.”
“Me too. At least, at first. The problem is the blood. With Bower there was blood everywhere. But with the butcher, there was almost none. How do you tear a man’s throat out and not get blood everywhere?”
Boyd shrugged. “Maybe the killer cleaned up after?”
“But why would they do that? If they wanted to leave another message, why not draw another wolfsangel? And why was the door locked? If you were trying to hide the murder instead, why would you rip the guy’s throat out? If you’re his buddy, why not just get him to leave town and drop him in a ditch somewhere? No, I think this was someone else.”
“A second killer? But who would want to kill the butcher? Who even knew we were headed there? Surely you don’t mean to suggest that the chaplain did it?”
“No, not the chaplain. There is someone whom we haven’t accounted for yet–”
Logan was interrupted by a soldier jogging up and saluting. “Sgt. Logan, a lot of heat is coming down the chain of command. It has been requested that we deliver an update on the situation.”
“Send word that things are in motion here, and that at least one conspirator is dead. The saboteurs are desperate and we’re on the verge of rooting them out.” He dismissed the soldier, and turned to Boyd. “That’s enough lollygagging for us. Let’s check in with Voss.”
Boyd whistled for the dog, then threw the bone down an alley. The dog chased after it, and disappeared into the dark.
They found the inspector in his room on the top floor of the barracks. Logan listened closely when they knocked, straining to hear the telltale sounds of any notes or evidence being hidden, but Voss disappointed him by promptly answering the door.
“How is your investigation going? Any boogeymen under your bed, Voss?”
The spook made a face approximating a smile. “Not as fruitful as yours, I hear, Sgt. Logan. I have determined that our little pack of troublemakers consisted of only two members. Now, one. Alas, it seems you were a bit too late, and dead men tell no tales.”
“We’re going back to the butcher shop. Would you like to join us? Maybe the physical evidence can tell us what the dead can’t?” A quick glance over the inspector’s shoulder showed his room to be clean and tidy. The curtains were drawn, but shivered slightly with the breeze.
“I admit, I would like a chance to give the scene a close inspection. A shame I did not get to do so before your men stomped all over, but we must take what we can get. Yes?”
Logan stood aside and extended his arm down the hallway. “Well then, after you.”
They followed Voss through the streets and alleys. He walked with his characteristic hunch, pulling the collar of his coat high around his neck, though the wind wasn’t particularly bad.
A soldier was standing by the door, and Logan relieved him to get an early dinner while they looked the place over. Voss listened intently as they described the anti-climatic events of their raid the night prior. They inspected the bedroom, but could find no clues. The front of the shop, likewise, seemed perfectly ordinary. Finally, then stood in the back, searching for anything out of place as the sun went down.
“Gosh, that’s a lot of knives. Any one of these could be the murder weapon, don’cha think, Logan?”
“Very doubtful,” interrupted Voss. “They would cut much too cleanly. Perhaps a meat hook of some sort?”
Logan glanced at a side of beef hanging from the ceiling. The exposed ribs gave the room a grisly feeling. There were a few other meat hooks here and there, but even if they were the murder weapon, it didn’t do them much good. “Have either of you ever worked in a butcher shop before? Where do they keep all the meat? This is where he carved it, but surely he wasn’t just piling it up on the floor?”
Voss glanced around. He took a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of his pocket. Logan watched him light up, and felt certain that the spook was suppressing a smile. “Have you not inspected the cellar?”
“Didn’t think this place had one…” muttered Boyd.
“I will leave the heavy lifting to the big, strong soldiers. The stench in here sickens me, and I’d like to take in the evening air.” Voss took a puff, stretched his back, and walked out the front.
Now that they had an idea what to look for, it didn’t take long for Logan and Boyd to find the seams of a trapdoor. It lay in the shadow beneath a long table, which was covered in two huge, weathered panels that looked like they were used as cutting boards.
Logan spoke in a low whisper as they cleared the floor. “Ready your weapon before we open this up.”
“You think the killer has been hiding here the whole time? Golly, it’s a real locked-room murder mystery.”
“Maybe, but I’m worried about Voss too. Did you notice he already knew the way here? Where was he last night, and why wasn’t he out searching today?”
They leaned the old cutting boards against a wall, then moved the table aside. Boyd readied his pistol. Logan, his rifle.
“One, two, th–”
The trapdoor burst open, and a huge, dark shape sprang forth. Logan was knocked back. A massive, hairy weight bore down on him, and for a moment he thought he had been right at the start; that a bear had been trapped down below. He struggled, using his rifle as a shield against snapping teeth. He locked eyes with the creature, and that’s when it hit him.
It was a living, breathing werewolf.
The thing snapped at him, and he heard his rifle bending under the power of its mighty jaws.
Boyd had been knocked back into the cutting boards, and sat dazed on the floor among their shattered remains. His pistol had been lost somewhere in the scuffle. Logan called out to him, and he rose unsteadily to his feet.
“I need something, Boyd! A knife, a club, anything! That beef thigh, to your right!”
Boyd blinked, turned, and found the huge, club-like femur. He tapped it twice against his hand, then looked up and whistled. Logan and the werewolf froze momentarily, both turning to look in his direction.
Boyd wagged the bone, then tossed it out of the room. “Go get it boy!”
The werewolf tilted its head slightly. Logan gaped.
Just then, Voss returned, pistol drawn and aimed at the beast–and Logan. “Excellent work, my wolfsangel. You bait the wolf, and I make the kill.”
He opened fire.
The creature roared in pain.
Logan felt something nick his shoulder. A bullet.
The werewolf pushed Logan away, and lunged at the inspector.
Logan checked his shoulder. There was blood, but the damage wasn’t too bad. That, or the adrenaline was already masking the pain. Boyd was staring wide-eyed at the monster, still obviously out to lunch. His pistol had to be somewhere. Logan got on his hands and knees, searching the floor. He found the crumpled remains of one of Voss’ bullets. It was silver.
“Logan, my gun, it’s over there!” Boyd had snapped out of it, and was pointing to the corner of the room.
Wasting no time, Logan dove for the pistol. He stood quickly and took aim. Voss was still grappling with the creature. An ache was building in Logan’s shoulder. All was fair in love and war. He opened fire, pulling the trigger over and over until the weapon was spent.
Bullets struck both the werewolf and the inspector. Strangely, neither seemed to really notice. They wrestled and turned, bullet holes clearly visible in Voss’s trench coat. For a moment, it seemed that the werewolf had the upper hand. Logan held his breath.
Then, Voss reached behind himself, groped around, and swung wildly with a meat hook.
The werewolf made a startled gurgling noise as it coughed blood onto the floor. It pawed at its throat, its fur quickly matting with blood. The creature sank to its knees.
“Now, where is my gun?” asked Voss, looking around casually. “No matter. I think first, I need a bite. I haven’t eaten since last night.”
Boyd looked frightened as the inspector walked towards him, licking too-long teeth. The spook grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him close. He opened his mouth wide, showing gleaming fangs.
Logan moved without thinking. He rushed forward, grabbing a shard of broken cutting board. With all the strength he could muster he cocked his arm, spun Voss by the shoulder, and slammed the stake into the inspector’s chest.
The pallid horror hissed, falling backward. He hit the ground and seemed to explode like an overstuffed pillow. Where his body once was, there now lay a pile of clothing and ash.
The two soldiers stared at one another in amazement. Boyd leaned forward, hands on his knees, catching his breath. Logan worked his injured shoulder, which was getting stiff.
A labored whine reminded them they weren’t alone. The werewolf lay on the ground, breathing heavily, in a large pool of blood. It looked like it was trying to gather the strength to stand.
Logan walked over to the door leading to the front of the shop. The inspector’s pistol had been knocked just a little into the next room. A quick check revealed three silver bullets remaining.
“We killed the vampire, so your pal has been avenged,” said Logan, looking down at the beast. “Of course, you and I have a score that still needs settling, since you were the one that killed Bower.”
He extended his arm, aiming right between those two yellow eyes. He saw pain there, but not fear. They stared back, unblinking.
He pulled the trigger. Then aimed for the heart, and pulled it two more times.
Boyd came up beside him, and for a moment they stood in silence. Together, they watched the body of the huge beast slowly revert to that of a blonde German.
A quick glance down the trap door revealed the cellar was stacked full of the missing crates.
“Golly. How are we going to report this?”
“Inspector was right about the wolfsangel resistance. Two werewolves were killed. We’ll keep the details vague, so no one thinks we’re loony. If any of the top brass would believe us, they’ll have to read between the lines.”
“And what do we say about what happened to the inspector?”
“Him? The truth. His goose is cooked.”
— Eor Odinson is a pseudonymous author, based in Hyperborea. His Lovecraftian short story “He Who Fights” can be found in the Passage Prize Vol 1: Exit From The Longhouse, from Passage Press.