Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)
At the end of Part 75, Allin ended up face to face with his dad’s killer, the now-crippled werewolf named Verrut.
The Only City Left: Part 76
He let me go with a shove and I had to grab the bar to keep from falling backwards. I kicked my legs out to find some purchase and knocked over my stool. It fell with a clatter.
“Pick it up,” he said, and then to the wolves who had turned to watch the entertainment, he added, “On-the-job training.”
This got some laughs and then they returned to ignoring us. I righted the stool and sat down again.
“So if you’re going to turn me in, turn me in already,” I said, tired of this game. My stomach was upset, from fear or the drink or both, and behind my bold words, I was desperately trying to devise a way out of this situation.
As a human, I had no chance of escape. And even if I was able to get my coil out of my pocket, slip it on, and activate it before anyone stopped me, I would still be one werewolf against a room full of them. Maybe if Xerxes and friends showed up at this moment and drained everyone’s coils of moonlight, I could escape in the confusion, but there was no sign of my ghostly companions.
Instead I had this werewolf, the one who murdered my father, pouring me another drink.
“I didn’t say I was going to give you to Doyle. Just said I could. I don’t owe Doyle anything, and whatever reward he could give me won’t fix this,” he said, nudging his limp arm forward. “But I’m curious. What’re you doing in the Garden here and now? Last I heard, you were dead.”
“Business trip,” I said.
The werewolf grinned. “The only business you’d have here is revenge, and you didn’t expect to see me, so… Ah, you’re here for Doyle, are you? Well, good luck and I’ll drink to that.” He did. “But you haven’t a hope in hell of hurting our beloved leader. If I were you, I’d scoot on out of here while you can.”
What the hell, I thought. No point in lying anymore.
“Can’t do that. Gotta see it through. But if you want revenge, you could help me get close to him.”
He rubbed his chin and leaned in closer to me.
“You’d trust me, the man who murdered dear old dad?”
“What have I got to lose? You’ve already caught me. But if I can kill Doyle—”
“Shhhh!” he said, and nodded his head at something behind me.
I swiveled around to see another werewolf approaching the bar. No, not just any werewolf. Pogue.
“Colonel Ballister, I don’t know how we got split up, but we’re on a schedule here. And why in the world are you wearing your pink skin? It’s disgraceful.”
“Ah, but the liquor hits harder that way, doesn’t it, Colonel?” the werewolf asked, pouring me another glass.
“Yes, exactly” I said.
I took another sip to emphasize the point and to buy some time. This was getting ridiculous. Is he really helping me? I thought. Is Dad’s murderer going to help me get revenge on the one man ultimately responsible for my parents’ deaths?
“There’ll be plenty of time for drinking when we get back, Colonel,” Pogue said in an exasperated tone. “And hopefully something better to drink than this swill.”
“Awww, you’re hurting my feelings, Pogue.”
“Shut it, Verrut,” Pogue said to the bartender, and I thought, I finally have a name. To me, Pogue said, “Come on, Colonel. Suit up and let’s go.”
Verrut slammed his hand on the bar and said, “Dammit, Pogue. The colonel and I have matters to discuss. Go without him.”
“He was assigned to this mission by the Lord Commander himself. Do you want me to tell him you countermanded his orders?”
“By the Lord Commander?”
Verrut sounded confused, and well might he be. I could barely follow it myself, but that might have been due to the liquor. I looked at my hand and realized I had drained the entire glass while trying to decide what to do.
“Doyle sent you? This whole thing was a trick?”
“What? No,” I said, and then an evil thought occurred to me, which I acted on immediately. “Sergeant Pogue, this bartender here has been conspiring to assashin, ashassin, kill the Lord Commander. Arrest him at once. I’ll go summon the guards.”
“You little pink worm, I’ll gut you,” Verrut said and lunged at me.
Pogue blocked him with ease and stood between the two of us.
“What in the world is going on here, Verrut?” he asked.
“You tell me. First Doyle lies about his nephew dying and then he sends him to spy on me? That ain’t right. I don’t like being played with!”
A thought surfaced from my clouded brain: Hey, he told him who I am. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
Pogue looked at me and asked, “Doyle’s nephew? No, this is Ballister. Doyle himself promoted him.”
“Well no offense, but Doyle couldn’t smell a dump in his own lap. I’ve met the kid and this is him!”
“Is this true?”
I shrugged, glass still in hand, and then smashed it into the side of Pogue’s head as hard as I could, ready to duck away in the confusion. The glass didn’t shatter and Pogue barely flinched under the blow. Chairs scraped the floor throughout the room and Verrut chuckled behind the bar. Pogue plucked the glass from my hand and set it on the counter.
“You really shouldn’t have done that.”
I didn’t see his punch coming, either because of the weird shadows that filled the room or because he was just that fast. All I knew was that my jaw felt like it had been knocked loose and the floor was a dirty, sticky mess that I was face down in all of a sudden.
“You men help me secure him,” Pogue said. “Something funny is going on here. I’ll let the Lord Commander sort it out.”
Rough hands lifted me by my arms and legs and my head lolled backwards as they carried me horizontally out of the bar. I saw Verrut, upside-down, tsk-tsking me, and I managed to say, “I know your name now, Verrut. I’ll see you in your nightmares,” before someone knocked my head into the door frame on the way out.
And then there was nothing.
* * *
7/28/13 News: Nice try, Allin. In writing news, my editor gave me the go-ahead on my revised outline, so the rewriting has begun. Hopefully the fact that I already know what happens from start to finish this time will balance out the difficulty of trying to improve my writing style at the same time. We shall see!
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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.