Canyonsby P. D. Cacek
Picture this: you're riding the bus home from work, with the very first newspaper article every published under your byline clutched in your hot little hand, when a coked-up idiot attempts to hold up everyone on the bus. He takes a dislike to you and is about to slice you open when a large, gorgeously hairy man attacks him and saves your life. Only your rescuer
Picture this: you're riding the bus home from work, with the very first newspaper article every published under your byline clutched in your hot little hand, when a coked-up idiot attempts to hold up everyone on the bus. He takes a dislike to you and is about to slice you open when a large, gorgeously hairy man attacks him and saves your life. Only your rescuer is not a man, but a giant wolf who leaves a bloody pawprint on your newspaper, all over your precious byline . . .
If you're an intrepid reporter, you don't panic. You run for the newsroom to get a photo of the pawprint before it disappears . . . because the paper you work for thrives on stories of alien invasions and Elvis sightings and Bigfoot's baby, and this, unlike all of those stories, this is real.
Of course, it's not that simple. The highly civilized Denver werewolves don't want anyone to know of their existence, not even beautiful young reporters who make Lucas, the leader of the pack, think lustful thoughts. But Lucas and his pack have a much bigger problem to deal with: there's another were-pack hunting in their territory--and being messy about it. If the police solve any of those brutal, apparently random, murders, Denver's more patrician lycanthropes may wind up in big trouble.
The last thing they need is an eager-beaver reporter on their trail, especially one who is falling in love with Lucas.
Canyons is a terrific novel of horror, humor, sex, and shapechanging, written by a rising star of the genre.
As in much of his short fiction, Dedman casts a charming drifter as protagonist. Michelangelo Magistrale (Mage for short) is, more or less, a professional photographer. Handsome, 23 years old, "with little ambition and less greed," Mage has "a cool head, a long reach, excellent reflexes, and the knack of anticipating his opponent by watching his eyes." He also has a way with women that provides him more than just a bed almost anywhere he travels. Naturally, it's a beautiful girl named Amanda, who generates the plot. Mage meets this somewhat distressed damsel in the bus terminal of a small Canadian town. She gives him an apartment key on a braided thong in exchange for his kindness before she disappears via Greyhound.
It soon becomes apparent that bad guys are after Amanda, Mage sets out to find and, somehow, help her. Then something really bad shows up -- a rukoro-kubi, a bakemono (Japanese evil goblin) that travels and wrecks havoc as a head and a pair of hands. Luckily, Mage's sidekick, Charlie Takumo, a modern day ninja stunt man knows something about these things. Although the two of them have no idea that the magic monster's master is a powerful financial wizard, named Takemaga, with connections to the yakuza (the Japanese mafia), they know they are up against some pretty bad dudes.
Amanda's gift turns out to be something magical, the financial wizard really is a wizard, and the girl turns up dead. Accused of her murder, Mage (assisted by Charlie) must find the real killer. They begin to learn to use the magic they find they possess, but they've crossed Takemaga who is in full possession of his powers -- both supernatural and criminal -- and the protagonists must parry quivers full of danger.
Dedman's skillful and smoothly cinematic writing builds a world in which the supernatural is more believable than the plots of any chambara, those movies with more grunts, blood, and action than authentic martial arts. With Dedman guiding us, we can believe in a rukoro-kubi or a mujina (a faceless bakemono who can assume human disguise) as easily as we believe that there are people obsessed with greed and to whom human life has little value. Tattoos that come to life become as real to us as the hot, gritty concrete of L.A. And, for all the suspenseful fun and action-packed fantasy adventure we have along the way, there is a underlying intensity to The Art of Arrow Cutting that shows Dedman is capable of depth as well as engaging entertainment.
Domo arigato gozaimasu, Dedman-san, for a great read.
An agreeable blend of oriental fantasy and noir-ish sleuthing: a polished, well-organized debut, complemented by Dedman's nice light touch on the tiller.
"Werewolves tear up Denver in what looks like the first of a series by Bram Stoker-winner Cacek. Brisk, and the constant flow of bizarre headlines lends a light heart to a dark fable."Kirkus Reviews
"Cacek doesn't pull any punches. The funny parts are very funny and the violent parts are very violent. What starts as a light-hearted romance unfolds into a deeper and darker story."The Denver Post
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The wind had come down from the high mountains with the taste of snow clutched in its teeth. An offering. From the natural canyons of ancient rock and hidden springs to the unnatural ones of steel and concrete.
As an equal, the wind brushed against ice-flecked muzzles and ruffled winter-thick coats; joining them briefly as claws tapped soft sounds against the rutted blacktop and bellies grumbled in anticipation.
They ran. Slow. Steady. Ears forward, bodies tensed. This place was new, unfamiliar except for the smell and feel of the wind, so they stopped only for a moment or two to scent the cold newness of the place with familiar musk. To mark this new place, this territory as their own.
They ran. Silent. And kept to the deeper shadows between the towering buildings. Avoided the places and yellow-tinted avenues where MAN walked.
In the real world, the world of predator and prey, the prey animals would already have found safe hidey-holes for the night.
But not here.
The moon had almost set, but still MANthe preywalked his artificial canyons. Or drove through them. Or huddled against the wind's snapping bite in the hollows and tunnels and alleys that dotted the cityscape.
MAN didn't understand his true place on the food chain. Never had. And with luck, never would.
And so they ranbellies tight, tongues lolled, noses high and glazed with ice as each sorted through the known and unknown, familiar and unfamiliar scents that washed over them. Garbage and human waste, exhaust and gasoline. The smell of hunter and prey.
At the mouth of a narrow brick gully, they stopped and lifted their heads. Snuffled at the wind's breath and felt drool begin to fill the hollow places beneath their tongues. food
Heads lowered and lips curled back, they entered the alley. One by one. Each according to its rank.
The boy shifted his weight in the nest he'd made for himself from the half-filled garbage bags and cardboard boxes he'd found behind the brew-pub and groaned. He just couldn't get comfortable, and that was pissing him off. Shoulda been able to get comfortable with all the shit he had in him, unless ... unless ...
The thought took a moment to rise through the haze behind his eyeballs, but once it did it flared up like a fuckin' bottle rocket.
Pockets had screwed him. Screwed him like he was virgin pussy on a first date and after swearin' on his fuckin' Mama's life that the stuff was prime. Ninety-nine and nine-fuckin' -tenths pure muthafuckin' Primo that would take away all the cold and pain and hard and hurt.
"Shit," the boy mumbled as he looked down at the needle sticking out of his arm and felt the rocket fizzle out in his brain. Fuckin' stuff wasn't any more Primo than any of the other junk he'd gotten off Pockets in the last fifteen months. "Gotta get me a new supplier. Shit ain't workin'."
'Cause he could still feel. Dammit. Could still feel fuckin' everything that he fuckin' felt before.
Dammit dammit dammit.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't fuckin' fair. Not that he expected fair ... even from Pockets. Like his mama told him when she kicked him: Ain't nothin' in life fair so don't make believe it is.
Yeah. Right, nothin' fair. But who woulda thought Pockets woulda screwed him over like that?
The boy stopped looking at the needle since it didn't seem to be doing any good and squirmed deeper into the bags and 'board, and groaned again when something hard goosed him through the seat of his jeans. God, he hated winter. At least in summer the garbage got all warm and squishy and felt just like a nice, soft bed ... if you ignored the smell. And he could. Shit, he was used to it. His whole world, for as long as he could remember, smelled like garbage, inside and out.
But in winter. Shit, in winter everything got as hard and stiff as old bones. Even the smell.
He hated winter.
And he hated Pockets (fuckin' little piece of shit) for selling him stuff he claimed was Primo but wouldn't even make his kid sister high. If his kid sister was still around and not in some foster home somewhere probably getting it up the butt from her legally appointed guardian.
For some reason the idea made him laugh until the snot was loose in his nose. The thought of his little sister taking it up the butt was just too damn funny. Little Miss fuckin' Prissy ... all the time walking around with her fuckin' nose in the air like she was too good for them ... like someone made a mistake somewhere and given her to the wrong family.
"Too friggin' damned funny," the boy said, and wiped off the slime from under his nose. The needle in his arm danced a little two-step with the bulging vein. And flopping ends of the rubber tubing. Which he'd forgotten to untie once he got the needle in. It took him a minute to recognize what he'ddone. Then another minute to remember how to fix it. And when he did all the laughter went away.
"Well, shit." The encrusted needle jumped and kept getting in the way when he tried to find the release end of the tubing. "Hold still, asshole. Gotta start the fuckin' engine 'fore I can fly."
The tubing started playing the same game as the needle, playing hard to get, but finally he managed to snag a loose end and yank. The tubing stretched out fine and thin, just like a rubber band aimed at some fuckin' substitute teacher's fat ass, but nothing else.
Tonight was definitely not his night.
His throat made a growling whine sound when he ducked his head and grabbed the tubing's other end between his teeth. And pulled. Jaw clamped and head reared back like he was some kind of friggin' wild stallion trying to fight a lasso. Stretching that motherfucker until his neck felt like it was going to snap before the rubber did.
But it didn't.
The tubing let go of his arm in a rush of fire that cooked away all the cold and hard and hurt and pain and smell.
The boy sighed and let the warmth ooze through him as he settled back against the cardboard and garbage bags. Life wasn't so bad after all, he decided just as the shadows started moving in on him. Big fuckin' shadows that slip-slided along the alley like black water.
"Cool," he said, and smiled when the shadows condensed and stepped up to say howdy.
Dogs. Big fuckin' dogs. Dogs and a half. Biggest damned dogs he'd ever seen in all his fourteen years of life. And not city dogs either ... that he could tell just by looking at them, although they looked skinny enough to be. These looked like the kind of dogs that should be pulling a fuckin' sled across the North Pole. Or bringin' down a moose. Or ... or ...
The boy blinked eyes that suddenly (finally) felt too heavy to stay open, as the biggest of the big dogs moved closer and sniffed the air. Shit it was big! Bigger-n big. The fuckin' Hercules of dogs.
But it didn't seem mean. Just big. Fuckin' big.
"Nice puppy," the boy said, and stuck out his hand, friendly-like, the way the PBS Afterschool Specials said you were supposed to when you meet a strange animal. The needle in his arm waved its own howdy-do.
"Got yourself a gang, huh, puppy?" he asked, as the other shadows surged forward and jelled into animal shapes. "Good. 'Cause you need a gang in this fuckin' world, right? Yeah. I got me a gang, too. Real fresh ... don't take shit off nobody. Right. Never take no shit but dish plenty of it out. Yeah."
The big dog lowered its head and whined, soft and low in the back of its throat.
"Yeah, good ol' puppy. C'mer, puppy. It's okay. I won't hurt you."
The dog glanced back at its gang, and the boy could have sworn it nodded its head before it turned and trotted straight up to him; tongue hanging out and prancing, happy-like.
He'd never had a dogpets weren't allowed in any of the busted-down roach motels he'd lived in with his mother and sister ... before his sister got outted by the Feds and his mother kicked his ass into the streetsbut he'd always wanted one.
Still wanted one"Good puppy. Nice puppy. C'mer, puppy."right up until the fuckin' big puppy snapped off two fingers on his outstretched hand and gobbled them down like they were candy.
The stumps were running red, spurting like fire hoses, but for the moment the pain hadn't reached his brain, and that was good. Damn good.
Proof positive that Pockets hadn't been lying about the shit. It was Primo. He'd have to thank the dude next time he saw
A wet growl made him look up. Eyes the color of piss glared at him above a muzzle stained with blood. Pain and reality hit him like a double-barreled shotgun blast to the belly.
He wasn't going to be able to thank Pockets for nothin'.Or complain about the cold and hard and pain. Or worry about the garbage smell of his life or if his kid sister was getting it up the ass or if he'd live to see his fifteenth birthday.
Or even if he'd live to see the morning.
Because he probably wasn't going to live to see the next hour.
The boy's mouth stretched almost as far as he'd stretched the rubber tubing when the big fuckin' dog tore away what was left of his hand.
The scream rolled down the sides of the narrow alley like thunder. It was a familiar soundone that wet the mouth and pricked the hackles into spikes, and one that had been sorely missed in the months and miles that stretched between their old hunting ground and this new one.
Lifting his head, the Alpha Male added an undulating counterbeat to the scream and tasted the boy's blood on the back of his tongue. That was familiar, too. The blood. And the taste of carrion it held. Even without their help, their blessing, the boy would be dead before the hunger moon rose.
When the voices of hunter and hunted faded, swallowed by the night, the big Silverback lowered his head back toward the prey and felt the crush of the pack behind him. They were growing bold in their eagerness. A growl quieted them.
The HUNT would begin when he decided and not a moment before.
The boy had clutched the mutilated hand to his chest, blood soaking the front of his faded Rockies jacket, the forgotten needle quivering in the crook of one arm. A waste. Drugs and alcohol soured the meat.
But the pack had gotten used to it over the years.
The Leader took a step forward, stiff-legged, and snapped at the air just in front of the boy's fear-rimmed eyes.
"Go away! Leave me alone! Bad dog. Get!"
Commands. Demands. If he'd still had the mobility of flesh, the Alpha Male would have smiled at such nonsense. But since he didn't, he tensed his haunches and lunged.
The HUNT had begun.
The boy didn't want to believe what was happening. Couldn't believe because if he did, that would have made it real ... and it couldn't be real. 'Cause dogs didn't do this kinda shit. They didn't attack people. Dogs were cool and nice and even the nasty-lookin' ones you saw noisin' around the junkyards could be scared off with a rock and shout.
Dogs just weren't supposed to eat people like this.
Unless they weren't. Unless the shit he got off Pockets really was Primo, and he was just stuck inside the baddest bad-ass drug nightmare he'd ever had.
Yeah. That coulda been what was happenin' ... if his goddamned hand didn't hurt so much and there hadn't been so much blood spurtin' out of him and that big ol' dog wasn't still chompin' up his arm like it was a fuckin' breadstick and his head was a fuckin' plate of spaghetti.
When the dog crushed the bones in his elbow the boy knew it wasn't any kind of nightmare. It was real. And he was going to die.
"No! Go away!"
He swung with his good arm (the only one he had left) and caught the dog upside the head. It wasn't much ... shit it wasn't practically anything ... but the dog let go just enough for him to pull the shreds of meat and bone that'd been his arm for fourteen years out of the animal's jaws. The boy stared at the broken head of the needle, still stuck in the tattered remains of his flesh, when the dog lunged forward and ripped out his throat.
The boy felt his face slip to join the stinking hot puke that barreled up from his belly to spill out of the gaping hole just below his chin.
The attack had pushed him back into the hard, sharp pile of frozen garbage, but he still tried to fight; punched andkicked and felt his K-Mart specials caught and held and then felt the cheap canvas go all hot and gushy inside.
After that his arms and legs didn't work right and all he could do was lie there and continue the fight inside his head.
For as long as he could.
While the dogs chowed down. crunch chunck snap crackle pop Like they were eating fuckin' breakfast cereal.
It wasn't supposed to happen this way ... Pockets 'n' him 'n' maybe T-Job were supposed to go down fighting with some other gangbangers or maybe get caught by mistake by a stray bullet while waitin' for the bus or take one hit too many from a dirty needle and waste away or ... or ...
The boy only got to another dozen "better" ways to die before he remembered that better still meant dead.
And dead was what he was.
Not like this not like this notlikethisnotlikethis The boy clutched at a stiff plastic bag with his remaining hand and screamedloud and long and frightened. But only inside his head. The real sound that came out the ragged hole in his throat was as soft and puny as a baby's fart.
The blood was hot and succulent despite the taint of drugs.
Animal flesh, the Silverback had discovered years before, was tolerable. Mediocre at best. Unpredictable at worst. A constant diet of beef, dog, and cat made the pack irritable ... constantly challenging one anotheror himfor power.
In the last six months, he'd had to kill three promising members. All because they had tried to break the cycle that had driven their kind over countless generations. He'd tried. And failed.
And the pack had suffered for it.
That wouldn't happen again.
Lips curled back in a grimace and hackles raised, he placed a forepaw over the boy's chest and turned back toward the remaining members. Despite their hunger and bloodlust, none, not even the Beta Male challenged his right to the kill.
He snorted through his nose, acknowledging their submission, before returning his attention to the night's meal.
Red foam bubbled up from the torn throat as the MAN-CHILD'S lungs still struggled for breath. MAN always took so long to die ... and always seemed so surprised when the actual moment arrived.
Regardless of the situation that had brought him there.
Murder, accident, or suicidethe Silverback had seen them all, and every time the look was the same, the "But this can't be happening to me! Not to ME!" wide-eyed wonder. It was almost as if, until that very moment, MAN believed he was immortal.
If his mouth hadn't been full, the Silverback would have laughed out loud, but instead he nosed the boy's cheeks and watched the MAN-child's eyes finally begin their last slow roll upward. At least the boy'd had a reason to look surprised.
Behind him, the Beta Male whimpered and snapped his jaw impatiently. Any other time that sort of behavior would have gotten the big blond male a new set of muzzle scars, but the Silverback decided to let it pass in the light of this, their first kill.
Huffing air through his cheeks, the Silverback lowered his head and gently nudged the limp arms away from the front of the blood-soaked jacket. The downy material ripped apart with only the slightest tug from his canines. As did the stained sweatshirt.
And the flesh beneath it all.
Steam and the stench of emptying bowels and bladder rose in the air from the opening as the Silverback sank his teeth into a succulent coil of intestine and pulled.
The rest of the pack moved in, tails and heads lowered in deference, when he trotted off down the alley, tethered to the kill by its umbilical of uncoiled gut. When he found a suitably protected position between the back wall of a storage company and its oversize metal trash bin, the Silverback dropped his length of prize and glanced back at the killing place.
The Beta had eaten his fill and retreated a small way offto gnaw contentedly on a lower leg bone; leaving the three other mature males and twin Juveniles to challenge one another for the rights of the remaining limbs.
But not one so much as toed the quivering, blue-gray entrails that spilled from the denuded corpse. The Silverback growled and snapped the air the way his second-in-command had done earliera warning, but also a promise that he might leave some of the delicacybefore lowering his head and slicing open a section of intestinal wall with an incisor.
The partially digested pizza was still warm, and the Silverback slurped it into his mouth with greedy delight.
Pepperoni and black olives.
As he ate he listened to the pack sounds echoing through the alley. There were grumbles and growls, the occasional yelp from the adolescent, and once or twice a duet of snarls that lifted the hair along his spine. He would stop then and listen, his meal momentarily forgotten, trapped between tongue and palate.
Once, he'd encouraged combat between the lesser males as sport and diversion, and to cull the weak, but now he shuddered each time a "discussion" escalated to the point of physical attack. It was never any more than a glancing snap to the muzzle or flank, just enough to draw blood, but still his belly would grow cold and his muscle tense.
They had lost too many to the months and miles that stretched from their beginning to this new hunting ground of concrete and glass. The females had gone first, and finding suitable mates in the MAN canyons was not as simple a task as it once had been.
Not simple at all.
The pack sounds changed from growls and threats to a series of yipping whines as the Juveniles begged scraps from their betters.
Satisfied that all was well, at least for the moment, the Silverback swallowed the mushy lump at the back of his throat and smacked his lips.
McDonald's apple pie.
Dessert. He'd always been a sucker for sweets.
He was about to search out another bite when a siren's lamenting howl raced through the alley and one of the Juveniles forgot himself, his place, and theirs, and lifted his head to give answer.
Less then a heartbeat later, that voice was stilled between the Beta Male's fangs.
"stop." One step forward, ears flat, lips curled back, fangs bared, the Silverback tensed his body and made ready to lunge if the Beta's fangs parted more than just the coarse off-white fur at the youngster's throat. "i think he got the message."
The Beta didn't seem convinced. He growled and shook his head, taking the hapless Juvenile along for the ride.
"you're too soft. they have to learn the ways."
The Silverback took another step forward, the apple pie forgotten. He didn't want to fight the Beta Male ... they were almost equal in strength, and the big blond was five years younger; but he couldn't let this challenge go unanswered.
"yes, they do." The Silverback deepened his growl to Alpha strength and lifted the hackles at the back of his neck. "but how much will he learn if he's dead? let him go. now."
The Beta's lips trembled, but he released the Juvenile, who instantly scurried away to a position of safetybelly fur scraping the blood-splattered asphalt, head low, haunches pressed tightly together. If their kind had tails, the Silverback had no doubt that the Juvenile's would, at that moment, be tucked firmly into the crack of his ass.
The Beta Male was still glaring at him.
"cool it, bro," he huffed, "the kid's learned enough for one night."
Then just to add a little insult to the Beta's already injured pride, the Silverback Alpha Male lifted his head and looked up into the blue-black sky beyond the alley. The moon was almost set. He could feel it even if he couldn't see it. The night was almost over.
But it had been a good night. A good start.
His own howl was soft and melodious, a lullaby from a forgotten past to a promising future.
life was getting better.
He was half out of bed before he remembered to wake up.
But even then, the nightmare still sang in his ears. A song that refused to fade even when he knew he was fully conscious and standing in the shadows of a recognizable but unfamiliar room.
He turned back toward the bed and saw the outline of the womanrecognizable but unfamiliar as wellher bare skin tinted blue from the moonlight seeping in through the open windows at the far end of the room.
The woman was beautiful in her way, long-boned and slender ... perhaps a little too narrow in the hips and small of breast, but appetizing enough in looks and more than enthusiastic in their lovemaking.
He knew her from the pub. A regularevery Tuesday and Thursday after an aerobics class at one of the trendier loft/ gyms off Larimer. Always alone. Always finding reason to sit at the bar directly in front of his station. Always ordering the same thingtonic laced with bitters and a twist.
He'd grimaced the first time she'd ordered it, imagining the taste on his own tongue, and then laughing when she quipped a variation on Cold hands, Warm heart.
"Nasty drink, sweet disposition," she'd said, and the microbrewery's hops-and-grain-scented air was suddenly overpowered by the aroma of her musk.
He'd doubted if anyone else at the long mahogany-and-brass bar had even noticed the change, but he had ... and some part of him knew that she knew it, as well.
That was a little over three months agotwo months, three weeks and five days exactly before they became lovers up in her tenth-floor, security-patrolled, roof tennis court, one-and-one plus view condo apartment on Tremont.
After which he'd struggled down a tonic and bitters. With a twist. And then treated her to an inch-thick blood-rare steak at the Buffalo Company.
He thought it was only fair that they sample each other's tastes as early in the relationship as possible.
Even though he knew from the very beginning they would never get to the " ... And They Lived Happily Ever After."
He touched her shoulder to see if she'd be receptive and watched her roll over, pale hair whispering across the pillow as her semiconscious fumbling found the sheets and wrapped them around herself. Childlike. Innocent. She didn't want sex. She was cold.
He tiptoed to the foot of the bed and picked the quilt up from the floor. She'd kicked it off them, complainingas he thrust up inside herof the heat. Now she was cold.
But Christ, she was beautiful. Too bad.
The quilt settled over her without a sound, covering the yellow sheets and winter white flesh with a new layer of midnight blue shadow. He watched, standing naked in the cold, while the warmth trickled down and she stretched out, muttering something soft and incomprehensible into the pillow. A song.
For the first time since leaving her bed, he felt the cold and trembled. Another kind of song had woken him up. An ancient lullaby that terrified him.
"Only a dream," he whispered to the dark, then quickly inhaled as if he could suck the words back into himself when the woman stirred. The last thing he wanted to do was wake her up to tell her it was over between them.
Three months and a couple of days and it was over. A repeat performance of the dozens of other "relationships" he'd had since reaching maturity. A given number of daysmore or less, depending on the situationbut always ending the same way: standing in the dark of the familiar room, ready to sneak out in the middle of the night instead of waiting until morning to tell her, whichever her it was. It was over.
He'd known from the very beginning how it would end, but only felt the tug to escape for a week, maybe two. Not that he'd let it stop him from going to bed with her. One last time. Or from sneaking out afterward, while she slept, childlike, without so much as a note.
The coward's way out. No note. No regrets ... once he took care of things.
Smiling, he touched the heavy squash-blossom necklace that encircled his throat. Three months and change ... almost a record. For him.
A shadow within a shadow, he crossed the room, sorting through the scattered piles of discarded clothing. Somehow, in their haste to consummate, her panties had gotten tucked into his jeans. They were damp at the crotch and rich with her scent. Honey and musk.
He let them fall from his fingers as he slipped into his jeans.
No matter how many times he'd succumbed to the urge, leaving them was always hard.
He almost to the door when the woman, his soon-to-be ex-lover, moaned deep in her throat. It was a sound he'd heard a great deal over the last three months, especially in this room, but tonight it caused the hairs at the back of his neck to lift.
Tonight, it carried the memory of the sound ... the ululating song that woke him. In the nightmare.
He touched the necklace again, drew the heavy silver blossom into the hollow of his palm and changed directions in mid-step until he came to the window. Despite the night chill and shadows that had gathered in the room while he slept, the necklace radiated a heat that made his hand tremble and glowed in the reflected city lights.
The night was dark, the moon set or about to beyond the high-rise offices and condo/apartment complexes, and quiet. Few sounds made it up into the rarified air of upward mobility.
He pressed his forehead against the cold glass and looked down at the "view" that had probably cost her an extra $400 a monthbuilding and the street; a few cars crawling along, a few clutches of tourists and clubbers traveling in tight packs for protection, the occasional lone figure pushing a shopping cart ... the glare from the U.S. Mint a half block away.
Not much else.
Actually rather empty for just past midnight on a Wednesday. No, he corrected himself, Saturdaythe day she, who would wake to find him gone, had planned a picnic lunch for them in Morrison Canyon.
Maybe he'd leave a note, try to explain the unexplainable.
The womanfor he'd already begun to think of her as just that, as just a woman he once knewturned over and muttered again. He'd never heard her say anything in her sleep before. It was almost as if she'd also been frightened of the sound from his nightmare.
He stood up, back and shoulders going rigid. He hadn't been frightened of the sound. Had he? If anything it had made him want to ... Want to ...
He took a deep breath and tightened the grip on the necklace. Felt his heart pound against the back of his fingers. What had he heard? Even though part of him could still hear it, feel it, the actual memory of what he'd heard and felt was fading. An old song. A lullaby some grand or great-grand family member had sung to him over the edge of his cradle.
Or maybe he'd been less asleep than he thought and a siren had simply triggered some half-assed illusion. Like hearing a plane overhead and instantly picturing yourself becoming the pilot.
Except that he was afraid to fly. And, living deep within the urban sprawl, he barely noticed sirens anymore.
Then, from ten stories down, another siren suddenly wailed through the narrow valleys below and made him a liar. He started, and small flashes of lightred/green, yellow /lavenderburst behind his eyelids as his forehead smacked the window.
He grunted, softly. She, the woman, wasamazinglysilent.
He turned and looked at her, all cuddled up and warm, peaceful and happy and blissfully unaware of the direction her life was about to take. Until morning.
And by morning, he'd be gone. But not forgotten. And she'd suffer. Even when she finally convinced herself, over bagels and espresso with a covey of tsk-tsking gal-pals, thatshe really was better off without him. They all did. But until then, she would hurt and wonder if it'd been something she'd done that made him leave.
In the middle of the night.
Like a thief.
He'd promised himself the last time he left a woman (five weeks, three days) that the next time would be different, straightforward, without tricks. The next time ... this time.
The best-laid plans of mice and men. And others.
Letting go of the necklace, he walked back across the room and carefully sat down on the edge of the bed closest to her. She was so beautiful. Dammit.
And she'd been so trusting. Just like all the others.
And just like all the others, she deserved to be spared this one humiliation.
He pushed back the covers until her hand, fisted like a child's, appeared. He lifted it into his and kissed the curved knuckles softly. Though still asleep, she smiled as he lowered her hand to brush fingertips against her throat, her cheek, and finally her forehead. He stopped there and spread his fingers widemiddle finger lost in the tangle of her hair, thumb and small finger closing the circuit at each temple.
Her smile faltered as he squeezed, tiny worry lines furrowing beneath his hand.
"Shhh," he whispered, "it's all right. You're still asleep." The lines of worry deepened. Her breath quickened, tickled the hairs on the underside of his arm. "No, don't be afraid, you're only dreaming ... and the dream is about why you decided to break up with me because"
He frowned, creating and rejecting a hundred different reasons that a woman might pick before deciding on the smallest, but most plausible.
"because I thought the idea of having a picnic in Morrison Canyon was stupid."
She sighed, her breath quivering.
"Shh, it's all right. I'm not the romantic you thought I was. I'm not even close to what you want in a man."
Her breathing steadied, softened.
"If you see me again, you'll remember letting me downeasy ... with no regrets or harsh words. But you can tell all your friends how you broke my heart."
Her forehead was smooth when he lifted his hand away. She slept. She'd remember it as he'd told it. A wonderful fairy tale.
If only he could be so lucky.
Her scent on his skin and the fading hum of nightmare sound kept him company while he dressed and, after making sure the apartment door locked behind him, trotted down the ten flights of stairs to the street.
The elevator would have been easier, quicker, but he needed the hard hammer of steel against shoe to keep himself focused.
He was so focused by the time he reached the cold night beyond the building's security door, that he'd forgotten he left his car in the parking lot behind the microbrewery.
He turned north and squinted as if he could actually see the distance between himself and his car. All seventeen blocks and God only knew how many panhandlers and/or muggers and/or gang-bangers and/or ...
He wasn't afraid of the night or anything that might lurk within it, but he wasn't in the mood for any more "social confrontations." His skin itched as if it'd suddenly grown too small for his body and he could still hear/feel the song that had jerked him awake. That, on top of the way he'd just left ...
... just left ...
What was her name?
The wind ruffled the few strands of hair that had come loose from the leather tie at the back of his neck and snapped at the hem of his coat as he walked to the edge of the curb and looked up at the tower of glass and wrought-iron balconies. Despite the late hour, there were still a few windows, curtains drawn against the night, flickering blue. Insomnia. Or the Playboy Channel. But the window on the tenth floor, west corner, was dark.
She was still asleep. The woman he'd just left. His mostcurrent ex-lover. And he could no more remember her name at that moment than he could remember the final score of his first Little League game.
But he did remember that he'd felt better about how the game had ended.
No. He was definitely not in the mood to face anyonegood, bad, or indifferent.
The wind caught him again and whipped the coat out behind him as he hunched his shoulders and headed down Tremont toward Thirteenth. One short block and he'd catch the bus on Colfax and then ride it until the itch went away.
Or until morning.
Whichever came first.
At the corner of Thirteenth, he kicked an empty Coors bottle someone had stood up next to the signal post and watched it explode across the intersection in a shower of piss yellow glass.
He crossed against the red and offered the verbally irritated driver he'd stepped in front of a single-digit wish for all his future endeavors.
Copyright © 2000 by P. D. Cacek
Meet the Author
P. D. Cacek, author of Canyons, Night Prayers, and numerous short stories, was born in Hollywood, lived for many years in Colorado, and now lives in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Cacek won the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction for her story, "Metalica," which was later included in her short fiction collection, Leavings. Cacek has served as an officer of the Horror Writers Association.
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If it looks and acts like a wolf pack hunting humans, it can only be a werewolf brood settling near Denver. Already residing in the Mile High City is the leader of another werewolf pack Lucius. He tries to act as human as possible. He lives in an apartment, works as a bartender, and dates a female Homo sapiens. He hides his heritage in order to protect his pack. However, his identity is in danger of exposure when he saves a woman¿s life from a gangbanger. He picks the worse person to save at least from a werewolf perspective as Cathy ¿Cat¿ Mosell works for the Quest, a tabloid so sleazy that its peers avoid it. She saw his transformation from man to wolf and reports her close and personal observation to her editor. He runs a front-page expose claiming a dangerous werewolf runs loose in the city. The newly arrived werewolves are vermin challenging Lucius¿ more civilized crowd. With half the city already after them and now a deadly rival wanting supremacy, Lucius seems to have too much to deal with yet still wants Cat as his own. This horror story looks deeply inside the heart, mind, and soul of a werewolf in such an in depth manner that readers will believe that this novel is a character study. The audience learns how the lycanthrope think and feel especially about their own species and their natural enemy humanity. In this wonderfully written fiction, P.D Cacek brings credence to the existence of lycanthropic creatures by making CANYONS a howling successful look at ¿reality¿. Harriet Klausner