2011: Creatures of the Night, Part 1
“There you go, Madison.“
The body was past the rigor mortis stage and so it was supple as Michael Carman removed it from the bag. It was a good looking corpse; young with no signs of trauma. That would make the job easier. If he were merely to add a little color to the dead flesh she would be presentable enough for viewing.
He would have to open up the mortuary’s entire public area to handle the mourners. Young corpses drew big crowds and Madison Whit would be no exception. Michael had met her years before, but he didn’t really remember the occasion. She was just a child then and she blended in with all the other noisy little screamers at the church picnic.
That child would look nothing like this corpse anyway. Madison was nearly an adult when she died. A cursory examination showed that she took good care of herself. At least the body showed no signs of substance abuse or any other bad habits. The sole indication of youthful rebellion was the tribal tattoo around her left ankle. Minor stuff. She was probably a good kid. Michael would like to think so at least.
“Well, Madison, we’d best get on with the unpleasantries,“ Michael said as he inserted a needle in a large vein in Madison’s leg.
Madison screamed, and Michael did the same. They flung themselves away from each other. Michael nearly tripped over some embalming equipment while Madison tumbled from the cold, metal table onto the floor. She scampered into a corner.
Michael’s heart raced. Morticians had always shared stories like this, but nobody took them seriously. In this age of scientific medicine nobody was ever declared dead by mistake. It just didn’t happen, well... sometimes, but it was damned rare. Besides, she looked dead when he picked her up at the hospital and again when he placed her on his table. Her pallor alone was deathly, and there was no sign of a pulse. He checked at the hospital. He always checked, and didn't the morgue attendant mention rigor? His license, he could lose his damned license.
He took a deep breath to calm himself. His concerns were real, but they were all matters that could wait. Right now there was a frightened young woman who needed help.
“Madison,” Michael said as he approached the young woman as calmly as possible given his racing heart and his jangled nerves. “My name is Michael. There’s been a mistake, but we’ll get it straightened out. You’re safe. I promise.”
Madison sat balled up and shivering in her corner. When Michael brushed the tangled hair from her face she looked up at him with dark, distant eyes. She seemed confused as if she were trying to figure out who Michael was, or possibly even what he was. The poor child.
“We'll call your parents. Would you like that?”
Madison gave Michael a sweet smile. Then her mouth opened impossibly wide and her teeth protruded impossibly far. Within a few minutes she had consumed the better part of Michael Carman's body.
- - - - -
“Stop it,” Tomas said.
“But, dat ass!”
Tomas slapped Enzo on the back of his head. “I said stop it. You sound ignorant.”
“But, dat ass!” Enzo repeated as he pointed down the darkening alley.
Tomas looked where directed, as did Ana once she uncoiled herself from Tomas. The young people saw a naked woman shuffling away from them. She had a nice figure, and her ass was impressive, but her halting lack of direction spoke of some manner of distress.
“That ain't good,” Tomas said as he jogged toward the woman. “Hey! Are you okay? Miss?”
Enzo and Ana followed. “Tomas, you stay away from that cooch. Can't you tell she crazy?”
“But, dat ass!”
“Miss?” Tomas had intercepted the naked woman, and he recoiled when he saw her. Blood covered most of her face and torso. “Oh my god. She's hurt. She's bleeding.”
Enzo's playful smile fell from his face. “Damn!”
“I don't like this,” Ana said. “We should go.”
“I don't think that's her own blood,” Enzo said.
“Come on, baby. We should go. I don't like this.”
“She needs help,” Tomas said. “We're going to help you,” he told the naked woman. “We're going to get you to a hospital. You have a name? What's your name?”
“Name?” the naked woman said as she stared straight ahead.
“Yes, what's your name?”
“I don't like this, baby. I don't like this.”
“Madison. Okay, Madison, I'm Tomas, that's Enzo and this is Ana. We're going to take care of you, okay?”
Madison looked at Tomas with dark, distant eyes. Then she gave him a sweet smile.
Seconds later, Enzo ran wild eyed from the alley as he tried to put the screams behind him.
- - - - -
“I like your hat,” Bethany Kale said.
The large man in the foyer of the Magus Mansion said nothing. He just stood cross armed and scowling.
“It's called a fez,” Bethany said, “but you probably knew that... that it's called a fez.”
The large man stared.
“I'll take things from here, Magog,” a feminine voice said from behind the large man. He stepped aside to reveal a small woman of about sixty years of age. She was in a wheelchair, and she smiled when she saw Bethany.
“So good to see you again, Bethany.”
“Hi Mrs. Allyn!”
“I'm not your teacher anymore,” Mrs. Allyn said. “You may call me Peggy.”
“Sure. Peggy. Mrs. Allyn. Madame Zephyr. Whatever you want.”
“Peggy will do just fine. Now come, let's go chat.” She turned and wheeled toward the parlor. Bethany followed.
“Nice to meet you, Magog,” Bethany said.
Magog stared and then resumed his post.
“Does he ever talk?” Bethany whispered to Peggy.
“Not so far.”
“We don't know. He won't say.”
They sat and took a few minutes to catch up. It had been a few years since Bethany was a student at the Beaumont Academy (formerly the Justice Patrol School for Superhuman Youth) Since then Bethany had joined Justice Patrol as Tigrrl and Peggy had left the academy to concentrate full time on managing Magus Mansion, the semi-secret headquarters of the hero team Night Watch.
“We should probably discuss business,” Peggy said once the conversation began to lag.
“Yep, business. Bloody, bloody business.”
“Yes, I hear the mortuary crime scene was grisly.”
“Hells yeah! I threw up.”
“It was the smell. The stink from the body combined with all the chemicals in the room were too much for my superhuman sniffer.”
“What was the condition of the body?”
“Two legs attached to the lower half of a torso. His left arm was separate. Everything else was a big, ugly puddle.”
“Yeah, the NYPD wasted no time pawning the case off on us.”
“Tomas Garcia's corpse was in similar condition,” Peggy said.
“Is the girl still missing?”
“Ana Rios? Yes, no sign of her.”
“How did Night Watch get on the case?”
“Night Hag stumbled upon the scene while she was on patrol.”
“Night Hag? Wow! A-list!”
“Well,” Peggy said with a laugh, “I'm surprised you're so star struck. You're Justice Patrol now. You've met your share of heroes.”
“Yeah, but not like Night Hag.”
“You've worked with Augur. He doesn't impress you?”
“Well, yeah, of course. Augur's cool, but he's so much like my dad. You know, if my dad was psychic... and gay. Oh shit, you knew he was gay,right?”
“I'm pretty sure everybody knows by now. Not that it was ever much of a secret. Even when we were classmates I think I suspected. Come along now. We should talk to Night Hag before she disappears on us. She's known for that.”
“She's here? Night Hag is here?”
“Yes, she's down in the crime lab.”
“I'm going to meet Night Hag? How do I look? Do I look okay? I shouldn't have worn civvies. Should I transform? My tiger form is more impressive. I should transform.”
Bethany did a back flip. By the time she nailed the landing she had changed to her Tigrrl form.
“What do you think?”
“Either form will do nicely. Calm down, Bethany. Behind that mask she's just a person. You should know that.”
“I know, I know, and I'm sure she's not even the original Night Hag, but she's definitely one of the best. I mean, what a legacy to take on.”
“Are you ready to meet her now? Perhaps you should pee first to avoid an accident.”
“Damn, Peggy! I'm fine. I'm cool. Let's do this”
Peggy waved a hand and sparkles traveled across the room to a bookcase that opened revealing a secret passage. “Right this way.”
Peggy rolled her chair toward the bookcase. Tigrrl followed.
“Do you think she'll like me?”
“Well, dear, there's a first time for everything.”