At the front door, a uniformed officer is throwing up violently into a rose bush. Detective Inspector Bennet turns to his sergeant, Cole, and raises an eyebrow.
“Bloody beginners,” he mutters as they enter, past another officer guarding the door.
“We’ve all been there though, haven’t we sir?” Cole observes.
Bennet shakes his head.
They move through the ground floor of the house towards the back, where other officers in Tyvek suits stand in a doorway. One sees the D.I. and the sergeant and breaks away from the group.
“What have we got, Tilly?” Bennet asks.
Tilly lowers her mask and pushes the hood of her suit back to reveal a face that’s whiter than normal.
She swallows hard and avoids eye contact with Bennet.
“I’ve … I’ve never seen anything quite like it, sir.”
“Let’s have a look then, shall we?”
Bennet makes to move to the back room. Tilly grabs him by the sleeve.
“I must warn you, sir, that—“
Bennet removes her hand.
“Don’t be daft, Tilly! C’mon, Cole.”
The two push their way past the forensic officers and stand at the doorway, peering in.
At first glance, it’s difficult to make out the furniture, but Bennet eventually identifies a sofa, an armchair, a table and a television. The sofa and armchair are beige, but that isn’t their predominant colour now; now they’re a glistening scarlet, as are the table and TV. The carpet and walls are splattered the same colour. Here and there, pieces of flesh sit or hang. Bennet spots a couple of fingers next to the armchair. On the sofa, the hair matted and in disarray, half the head of a woman. A coppery smell, mixed with the stench of faeces and urine, hits Bennet in the face, and he feels the bile rise from his gut.
Cole finds Bennet in the back garden, leaning over a flower bed, and lays a hand on his shoulder. The gesture seems only to trigger another convulsion.
“Don’t—” Bennet moans, before retching once more, drily this time.
Bennet straightens, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief. He takes several deep breaths and tightens his tie.
“So, tell me.”
“As far as we know,” Cole consults his notebook, “that is … was … a Mary Abbot, single, 35, lived alone.”
“I’ve got Perry looking into that.”
“Cause of death?”
Cole coughs to disguise a laugh.
“Okay,” Bennet nods, “silly question.”
“You know, sir …”
Cole pauses, wary of annoying the D.I. with what he’s about to say.
“C’mon, Cole. Spit it out, man.”
It’s Bennet who spits, though, on the ground, wiping his mouth again.
“You know what happened in London last night? That old lady—mutilated?”
Cole lets Bennet finish his thought.
“You think there might be a connection?”
“The M.O. is the same: victim ripped apart, window shattered outwards, suggesting … I don’t know. Panic? Or crazed flight?”
Bennet sets off across the lawn towards a side gate, with Cole in tow.
“Okay, they’re similar. But where does that leave us?”
“Well,” continues Cole tentatively, still afraid of the D.I.’s reaction. “I heard they’ve brought in a lycanthropologist for that case.”
“A lycan what?!”
Cole clears his throat.
“Lycanthropologist, sir. It’s a specialist in … in werewolves.”
Bennet stops and peers into Cole’s face—illuminated by the moonlight—searching for the wind-up but seeing only sincerity. He bursts into angry, sarcastic laughter.
“Don’t be a dickhead, Cole. I told you when we partnered up what I expected from you: no ‘out-there’ theories. Always follow the most sensible route. Standard procedure—that’s what gets our man.”
“I know, sir, but—”
“No ‘buts,’ sergeant. Let’s get back to the station and start doing some proper police work.”
They drive into the night, Cole at the wheel. Bennet’s annoyed with himself for his reaction to the murder scene and with his colleague’s naivety, Cole chastened by his superior’s upbraiding of him.
Driving through a wooded area, the road lined with fir trees, Bennet glances at his partner and begins to thaw. Although he knows he was just being pragmatic, perhaps he was a little harsh in his manner earlier.
“Listen, Cole,” he says. “You’re a good cop. Probably the best partner I’ve had.”
Almost visibly, Cole relaxes.
“But you know, we really do have to keep our feet on the ground. This job’s complicated enough without bringing in nonsense like—”
He doesn’t get to finish his sentence. Cole brakes and wrenches the steering wheel to avoid hitting the thing that’s leapt across the road in front of them. The car screeches, swerves and spins, overturning and sliding to a halt on the grassy verge, the headlights illuminating the nearest fir trees. Bennet, upside down, knows that his legs are broken.
“Cole! Cole! Are you all right?!”
The D.I. twists to get a look at his partner. The sergeant stares back, his head at an impossibly unnatural angle in relation to his body.
Bennet’s sobbing now. He claws desperately at his safety belt but stops at the noise: a loud snuffling close by. He glances at Cole again, at the same, staring, lifeless face; the sound isn’t coming from him. Then all at once he knows. Trembling at the realization, he turns to peer out of the side window.
On that remote stretch of road, there are no witnesses to what happens next: the smashed window, Bennet’s desperate screams, and a hunched, unnatural form feasting on its prey.