I remember the first time I saw Renley's picture on the front page of the Globe. He and the “Wolf” had been trading headlines for some time. One week it was Renley Dumont, the sharp tongued prosecutor with no regard for standard court tact, getting found in contempt yet again. The next, it was the latest kill by the bloodthirsty “Wolf of Hyde Park”, so named because of the neighborhood where the killer liked to dispose of the savagely slain victims. There was no clear connection to be made by the average reader at that point, but I knew something was amiss. I didn't know it then, but the day I finally met Renley in person, would be the day I discovered the truth. For Boston, it was a scorcher, one of the rare days that got over 90 degrees, and Renley had just finished fighting a fire namong the press...
“Once again, I do not advocate going above the law, even if it is ineffectual at times.” Renley adjusted a pair of coke bottle glasses which rested upon his hawkish nose and magnified his eyes ridiculously. “The statement I made yesterday was a temporary error in judgment. The laws we have in place are there for a reason, they serve us more often than not. The occasional individual that slips through the cracks is no reason to demolish the entire structure.”
The lack of conviction in his voice was obvious. I knew, along with probably everyone else gathered, that he was simply covering his ass, nothing more.
“So you think today's judgment was one of those occasions?” A reporter said, thrusting a microphone ntowards him. p>
“It's not for me to make that judgment. The jury found for the defendant, Mr. Simms, and I accept that.”
“But you believe they found in error?” Another reporter shouted. It was a silly question. He was just fishing for an angry response.
“I'm the prosecutor. Are you really going to ask me that? The jury is made up of human beings, so it is susceptible to error. We can only hope to honor justice more times than we fail. Thank you very much.”
Renley ignored the rest of the questions as he made his way through the press gang, to a cab waiting for him on the curb.
He did a double take when he sat down and found me already seated within.
“Who are you?” Renley made it sound like an accusation.
“Allen Derby,” I said, holding out my hand. “I was told I could interview for the assistant's job personally.”
Renley quickly nodded his head. He held his own hand up, not to shake, but to stop me from talking.
“Yeah, now I remember. You're the young hotshot from Iowa or wherever. I hope you realize, Allen, that whatever favor you cashed in will only get you so far. I don't let just anyone join my team. I don't care who you know.”
“I am confident I will be a—”
“Save it. Words only count in court, kid.” He clicked open his briefcase and npulled out some choice papers. “Have you been following this trial?”
“Well then, you must be at least partially aware of what we're up against. These mob men have a lot of money, and they can buy some pretty convincing friends.”
He wasn't physically impressive, his small frame and angular features coupled with pale skin and greasy black hair, made him appear frail and sickly. His quick, precise movements told another story, however. The more I watched him, the more I realized that he had an uncanny awareness of the world around him, regardless of where he was looking. The thick lenses of his glasses must have hampered his peripheral vision. Nevertheless, he was never caught off balance by a sharp turn from the driver, even when his head was buried in files. There was something nelse, too. He possessed a rare natural confidence and determination that was hard to miss and always present in the way he moved and spoke. I couldn't help but admire the strange little man.
I decided to push my luck. “In my three years with the Des Moines County attorney's office, I had a ninety percent conviction—”
“I don't care about your resume either,” Renley interrupted. “Right now, you have a clean slate. Don't screw up and you'll be fine. Honestly though, I don't expect you to make it through the weekend.”
Renley triumphantly lifted a piece of notepaper with a bunch of scribbled writing nand numbers. He told the cab driver to stop at the corner. “Wait here.” He got out and secured himself inside a phone booth. Me and the driver looked at each other, not knowing who he was talking to. We settled back, silently agreeing he meant both of us.
Whoever was on the receiving end of Renley's call was getting verbally brutalized. His face reddened and caused his features to appear almost demonic, hinting at the depths of the man's temper. I thought it was amusing that he dressed like a used car salesman; with a pink shirt and red bow tie peeking out of a cheap light brown suit that didn't fit quite right. A pissed off used car salesman. Was there ever such a thing?
He turned his back to the cab, and I took the opportunity to thumb through the day's court papers in his unlocked briefcase, just in case he decided to ask me some surprise questions later.
I slid the papers back while pretending to stretch, as he ended his phone call and made his way back to the car. When he got in, I saw veins bulging on his forehead and I could only assume he was calculating someone's murder as his eyes furiously studied the back of the driver's seat. I decided not to ask what was wrong.
Not much was said the rest of the way to Renley's office, except when he corrected the cab driver's choice of course with some very colorful language.
His building had an unimpressive, graffiti riddled sign with barely visible “Dumont & Baker, LLP” written in bright new paint about halfway down in the middle of other, more faded business names. His office was likewise less than imposing. There was a single large desk in the main room that shared space with opposing chairs. They were surrounded by mismatched drawers and bookshelves overflowing with files and documents like a jungle canopy of multicolored paper leaves. Renley hung his coat and sat down. Across from him was a portly man I knew was David Baker, a defense attorney with a patchy reputation. From what I had heard, Renley and David had been friends for years, and apparently were now going into business together. He had a red, splotchy face that was locked in a frown. It didn't seem overly warm in the small office, but he had large, dark sweat stains on his shirt around his armpits.
I looked elsewhere, trying to erase my first impression of Renley's partner up close. I was not introduced, nor was I offered a seat.
“We'll be working here?” I asked, trying not to sound disappointed.
“I know it' s not city hall,” Renley replied, & ldquo;but it's where I'm going to be from now on. Today was my last day working for the state. Why? Is there a problem?”
I shook my head.
“You're early,” said David.
“There was someone at the courthouse I didn't want to bump into,” said Renley. “You want your usual, Dave?” He started to jot down some notes on a piece of paper.
David held up a thick thumb but didn't look up from the book he held.
Renley thrust the paper an inch from my face. “Get it right, and I'll move you on to something more important.”
The note read “O'Halloran& #39;s Deli& rdquo; and had orders for lunch. We had passed the place a couple of blocks back. I wasted no time in showing off my attentiveness by quickly nodding and taking my leave.
The short walk to O'Halloran's was uneventful, except that I knew I was being followed, but it was okay, this was all part of the plan. Renley didn't know it, but he had actually helped by sending me on this little novice mission.
As I stood in line at the deli, I went over the order, while at the same time keeping close tabs on the movements of the man sneaking towards me from behind.
Pastrami on Rye, extra meat, no condiments
Just ask for an O'Halloran's Special with the works
on a sourdough roll and lots of mustard
Get yourself something too and don't forget the receipt
“He called his informant, Jason Twombly.” The male voice behind me was quiet, little more than a whisper. But I knew it was directed at me. There was a good amount of chatter in the crowded deli, and I was the only one that had any chance of hearing it.
“Twombly... wasn't he supposed to have died?” I replied with similar volume. I didn't turn around.
“Yes, how did you know that?”
“I peeked in his briefcase while he was in the phone booth. What did he call him for?”
“Apparently Renley had told Twombly to leave town, but he spotted him outside the courthouse, the one place he did not want him anywhere near. From what could be heard, Twombly was saying he wanted money. Here's his phone number and address.”
I felt the slightest brush against me near my jacket pocket.
“Well, I think I have everything I need then.” I said.
“Good, be careful. We'll be close.” The man then moved away and exited the deli altogether.
I felt a surge of adrenaline. Apparently plans had changed. I was just supposed to be gathering information, but they only said “We'll be close” when they knew things might get really ugly. That could very well happen, I had all the evidence I needed to confront Renley now and get the truth out of him. I had to be careful, otherwise all the hard work that had gone into getting me hired without suspicion would be worthless. Renley had to be caught completely by surprise if he was going to give up what he knew about the Wolf killings. A torrent of excitement rushed through me, but I had to calm my mind down enough to place my order correctly when I finally reached the counter. Afterward, it was all I could do to keep from sprinting like a man on fire to Renley's building.
By the time I was back in his office, I had mostly regained my composure. Renley and David were working diligently, poring over law books and case papers, and writing and typing notes. The office had an air of studious desperation.
Renley nodded his approval of the sandwiches, and sent me to work separating and filing a stack of papers. If he noticed anything different about me, he hid it well.
After a couple of hours, David stretched and pushed himself out of his seat. “I'm going to call it a night.” He didn't even glance in my direction. “See you in the morning.”
The thought that Renley went through his assistants so quickly that his friend didn't even care to acknowledge my existence wasn't comforting. As far as I knew, no real effort had been put into keeping track of what happened to them. I tried not to let the thought plant roots of fear.
Renley waved a hand dismissively.
I waited until the big man's heavy footsteps down the stairs could no longer be heard, and then I leaned my hip against a desk near Renley. “Mr. Dumont?”
“Renley will do just fine, and I'm busy.” He didn't so much as slow a single keystroke on his typewriter.
“I apologize, but it's sort of important.”
“More important than our next case? Need I remind you that if I don't get a lot of uninterrupted time in on my work, then I don't win cases, and if I don't win cases, then I can't pay you.”
“I understand, but I think you'll agree, once you hear what I have to say.& rdquo;
Renley sighed and spun in his chair to give me a bored look. I could almost feel the skepticism.
The adrenaline returned. I took a deep breath, because there was no going back from here. If we were right about Renley, it wasn't likely to be a pleasant experience getting him to spill what he knew.
“So, Renley,” I took a seat by a chair close to the door, “why did you tell Jason Twombly to leave town?”
“What?” Renley seemed to be genuinely surprised. That was good.
“Jason Twombly, he would have been your star witness. Why did you tell him to—”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Sharpness edged his words. “Jason Twombly is dead.”
“Yes! Otherwise I would have put that bastard John Simms away for life.”
“Isn't death really what you were after?” My own words came as a shock. I knew I had to be aggressive, but it almost seemed like an attack.
“I couldn't have gotten the death sentence, with or without Twombly's testimony. Now why are you—”
“And that wasn't going to fly.” It was my turn to interrupt. “You decided to take matters into your own hands, isn't that true?”
“Look, you snot-nosed little shit,” Renley angrily stood at this point, and I rose with him. “Go check the coroner's report. Jason Twom—”
“The coroner? You mean your partner David Baker's nephew? I'm sure his report can be slightly... elastic, when it suits your needs.” My confidence was building. It was exhilarating to be getting the upper hand. The many hours I spent studying every aspect of Renley's activities were paying off. I wasn't going to let him out of this easily. If I could just get him to confess something, anything. This is what I was here for.
“I don't know who the hell you think you are, but I want you out of this office, NOW.” Renley's face was as red as when he had been yelling at Jason Twombly in the phone booth. The veins in his forehead looked like they were about to burst. His intense, magnified eyes were promising I would receive more than words if I didn't listen, but I had to continue.
“People are dead because of you Renley. Not Twombly, but many others.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Renley took a step toward me, and I knew this wasn't going to end pleasantly. Most people, guilty or not, would have taken a step back when accused of being involved in murder, even if just out of shock. There was a bit of a beast in Renley, and it was a fierce one.
“Why don't we give Mr. Twombly a call?” I matched Renley by taking a step towards him as well. “Or better yet, why not drop by for a visit?” I reached into my pocket and pulled the note I had received at the deli. “I believe he's staying at the Marigold Hotel isn't he, room 213?”
Then something unexpected happened. All the anger disappeared from Renley's expression. From one breath to the next, his face became a mask. I kept still, I didn't want to give him any hint as to my next move. I could sense the tension building in the silence between us, but Renley was the first to break it.
“Who are you?” He said evenly.
Something was wrong. He was acting strangely. Why wasn't he arguing and trying to get out of it? Where was his fear of being caught? My gut told me to try something else. I pulled an amulet hanging from a silver chain around my neck under my shirt collar, and held it up.
Renley's lip curled in disgust and his shoulders slumped slightly. He couldn't hide it. He recognized the symbol on my amulet and he knew who I was working for. More importantly, I now knew the connection between Renley and the Wolf.
“Damn. Good Martini!”
No one had noticed Colin sit down at the bar. Even Jack jumped a little when he was roused out of his memories. Tom slid Colin's gold card over to him, but kept most of his attention on Jack.
“So what was the symbol he saw on the amulet?” Tom drummed the bar with his fingers impatiently.
“Was it a cross?” Amy offered.
Jack tugged on a silver chain around his neck until a worn, circular black amulet with a red diamond shaped symbol in the middle could be seen. Tom and Amy looked at each other, but there was no recognition.
“I'll get to what this is later,” said Jack, tucking the amulet back into his shirt. “Should I continue?”
“Don't mind me.” Colin said. He turned back to his drink.
“Please.” Tom and Amy said together.
“I wondered if you guys would ever come after me.” It was eerie how calm Renley& #39;s voice was now. He removed his glasses, placed them on the table, then kneaded his eyes with his knuckles like a man waking from sleep.
“Glad to be the one to give you some closure on that.” Some disturbing thoughts were taking shape in my head. I knew things had suddenly become very dangerous for me, but I tried not to look at the door. So far, he didn't seem to know I wasn't here to take him out. He had to keep thinking that, or I was a dead man. I clenched every muscle that threatened to tremble.
“So, Allen Derby,” said Renley. “You going to tell me your real name?”
“Jack,” I said. “And despite our discussion here, I'm actually an admirer of yours. I do however, have a job to do.”
“ Been itching to get your claws bloody, eh?” Renley arched his back in a stretch.
“Interesting choice of words, counselor.”
“So, what was it that drew your attention?” He seemed only half interested in the reply. He held his hands together, fingers entwined, then stretched them out so his knuckles would crack. It seemed like he was readying for a fight.
This wasn't good at all. I needed to buy as much time as possible, so I kept talking. “For a long time, we had no idea where to start looking. Then we noticed that nearly all the victims found in Hyde Park had won a case with a technicality, loophole, or some other kind of mysteriously lucky break. Still, all the criminals had different arresting officers, different lawyers, different judges. We dug a little deeper, and noticed that the only thing that was changing was an increase in victims, and an increase of lost cases when you led the prosecution. You got greedy, you began losing cases on purpose, even ones you could have easily won, like today's. You told Twombly to disappear because his testimony would have put John Simms away for a very long time, and you got mad when he nearly blew his cover by showing up at court. Instead, you wanted to lose so you could take care of Simms your own way, by tearing him to pieces on the street.”
I was thinking on my feet. A minute ago I didn't think Renley was the Wolf. I simply thought he knew who the killer was, and maybe even have been working with him. I don't think anyone would have suspected this ungainly little man of being capable of the Wolf's ferocity.
“Son of a bitch deserves it. ” A chill went up my spine as Renley smiled for the first time. “I could have landed Simms behind bars for the rest of his years with the evidence I had, but he has committed far worse crimes. Did you know about Los Angeles? Before he climbed the ladder to homicide, he was helping run a slave brothel there. You'd put a knife in him yourself if you knew how young some of the girls were.”
“What about your own past?” I almost stuttered. My eyes, ignoring my better sense, began to dart around the room in search of a weapon. “There was a time when the two of you would have been hitting the pub together to celebrate after a night's action.”
“You're talking about a different person, Jack. That was a long time ago. As for Simms, the old me would have sliced him open too.” p>
There are times in your life when you can actually feel the blood draining from your face. The moment Renley said sliced him open was one of mine. “Don't take this personally. Like I told you, I'm a fan. I doubt anyone would shed a tear for the last few dozen people you've killed. However, that's not the point here, or why I have to take you down.” Even though my life depended on him believing I was a fellow predator, the hollow words became increasingly hard to force out.
“What is it then?” he asked.
“You've got that taste for blood again. What happens when you run out of serious criminals? Will you start killing people for littering? Should the Brotherhood just wait until innocents start showing up on the body count?”
“I can move to another city. The world will never see the end of crime, let alone America. I could even go back to Europe. You don't have to make this mistake.”
“I know what happened in Europe. That's one reason I can't risk letting you go. I know how difficult you are to uproot once you've become familiar with your hunting grounds. Your kind is too territorial.”
“Is that a dog joke?” Renley's voice was underlined with a menacing growl. His irises faded to milky white, and the muscles of his face were flexing so rapidly it was as if his very skin was boiling. My lungs froze. I couldn't draw in a breath to speak further. My efforts to keep from shaking finally failed.
“You, and your self righteous Order, believe yourselves to be so damn high and mighty.” His voice became deeper and more inhuman with every word. I almost fainted as his face contorted. His cheekbones jutted out, and his nose twisted and turned black. The sound of flesh tearing and tendons snapping could be heard all over his body. He came closer to me until I could feel the warmth of his breath on my face. “I'd wager your kind has killed more than mine, Jack.” His muscles thickened and bulged and black hair began to grow until every inch of exposed skin was completely covered. He tore away the red bow tie that was now too small for his neck, and removed his suit jacket.
I couldn't move. I wanted desperately to bolt from the room, to run into the street and call for help, but I would be dead the instant I turned my back. I would not be able to outrun what Renley was becoming. Then again, not much was keeping me alive now face to face except for his curiosity, and that wasn't going to last forever.
“You want to kill me for killing murderers?” Renley bared his teeth, which were now a row of long, sharp fangs. “What gives you the right to choose who lives and dies, and not me?” His elongating, dog-like head was lower than his shoulders, yet he was still taller than before. I hadn't noticed when, but his socks and shoes had fallen off, and he now stood upon black paws. His legs bent backward at the knee. Long, sharp, dark yellow claws grew from his fingertips.
“Your masters preach about the natural order of things, yet you stand by and watch while your own kind consumes the world and vomits sewage upon it.”
I could find nothing human remaining in Renley's face. The monstrous evolution was complete.
“Your ways encourage weakness, and burden the strong.” He grasped my throat with a rough, padded hand. His claws dug into the back of my neck as he held me at arm's length. “Why should I bend to your flawed laws, and ignore my own nature? What makes you better?”
My throat was so constricted, I couldn't say anything even if I wanted to. I could feel my Adam's apple trembling as I tried to swallow. Renley noticed it too, and I knew the end was close when his eyes passed over my jugular. The Wolf's victims were all killed by horrible wounds to the neck, the rest of the brutality came afterward.
“We were here first,” a familiar voice said from the doorway behind me.
An instant later, there was a gunshot, and Renley fell to the floor, writhing in pain. He growled and clutched at a bleeding wound in his chest.
I desperately sucked in air, and felt the damage on my neck with shaking hands.
A man came through the doorway and stood beside me, aiming a shining, silvery Colt Peacemaker at the prone beast. It was my shadow, the man who followed me earlier. He had been watching my back my entire life.
Renley looked up at his killer and snarled defiantly with his last breaths.
“Damn shame Renley and the Wolf are one and the same,” the man said through a thick, gray handlebar mustache, “I kind of liked the weird little guy.”
“M-me too.” My voice was little more than a squeak.
“Hah. You did good, boy.” He knelt next to Renley, placed the revolver close to his chest wound, and shot him again. The snarling ceased, and the beast twitched a few times before becoming still. “It's not easy to get them to stand still in that form, but that's all the proof a Brother needs to justify shooting them. Speaking of which, I guess you'll be needing one of these from now on.”
He tossed a revolver up and, although I fumbled it for a second, I managed to catch it. He liked to do that; something a little dangerous to keep my head in the game. I could imagine the look on my face was anything but focused.
“Dad, I was scared stiff.” My hands were bloody from touching my wounds. “I may not be cut out for the Order. I thought I might be, but I don't know if I can do this.”
“Son, you handled yourself like a pro, believe me.” p>
“You bet. You stood your ground when things started to get hairy.” He chuckled at himself. “I didn't. Hell, my first time, I just threw my britches away afterwards. There was no point in trying to clean them.”
I looked down at Renley and shook my head.
“This is what you do in the big leagues, boy,” he said. “Sneak in, get em to show their naughty side, and take em out.”
What had happened was starting to sink in. This was only the beginning.
“I tell you what.” My father dropped a broad arm around my shoulder, and nudged me towards the door. “Just be glad your first werewolf wasn't a female. I'm not even going to begin to tell you why.”
“My father and I took a little vacation after that.” Jack took a last look at the torn red bow tie on the wall, then started to refill everyone's drinks. “The Order handled the body and took care of the other details. Renley Dumont and the Wolf of Hyde Park just faded from memory.”
Tom and Amy both had their hands together at their open mouths, as if frozen in prayer. Their expressions didn't change until a few moments later, when it became obvious Jack was finished with the tale.
Jack's grin could be seen even under his thick mustache. “You're not going to tell me you don't believe my story, are you Colin?”
“No, I am not,” said Colin. “That would be like stating that I thought you were serious, which would be crazy, and I wouldn't want to offend.”
Amy scolded Colin with narrowed eyes.
“I have to admit,” said Tom, “you had me going up until the whole werewolf thing. I've actually heard of David Baker before. He wound up at a nuthouse if I recall correctly.”
Jack nodded somberly. “Yep, poor guy. It happens.”
Tom and Amy thanked Jack for the story and the drinks. Colin requested he call them a cab.
When they were about to leave, Amy turned back at the door, and looked at the wall of novelties. “Does each of these little things come with a spooky story?”
“They sure do. If it's not one of mine, then it's a story I've heard enough to tell myself.”
Amy flashed a smile. “Maybe we'll be back some time to hear another one.”
“I look forward to it.”