Location: Inside Taylor’s Garage
With the plan set in motion, Kayla spent the time after the ‘shopping spree’ to get ready for tonight. Having donned on her Fletch outfit after being out of it for a while, she left to go to the garage to rendezvous with the rest of her group. In the safety of underneath her shirt in her cleavage, Archie remained curled up. It was about time you got out of the house, she thought, thinking back to the last time the plant-based sugar glider was with her. It had been a month since the Hounds finally fell and that was when it had been out. Since then, it remained in the side room used for her archery gear lounging on the window sill. While it did annoy her from time to time, the archer had grown fond of her ‘familiar’.
It had been a few hours since she arrived at the garage. She focused on getting ready for tonight and throwing in a last-minute practice. While it had been a month since she last shot her bow, she hadn’t lost her touch. The years of training had ingrained the muscle memory of the tension in her traps. Making sure she expanded through the shot as the click of the release aid sent another arrow into the tattered foam boss that resided in her work cabinet. Once she had finished releasing her 24th arrow, she walked up to the target and set her compound bow down. With trained deftness, she quickly began pulling out all 24 arrows from the target.
Racheli approached the garage an hour late.
It was a nice night to simply walk. Her aura seemed to ooze out a warning to anyone stupid enough to mess with her, sparing her from harassment.
She had changed into a red checkered shirt, rolled up at the elbow and open V neckline. It stopped short of her small bust giving only a hint of what was underneath. Several small, silver chains looped across her side from her leather belt. They clinked and clanged with each slander of her hips.
A wicked, mischievous smile darted across her lips. Her eyes shifted into a darker hue before it snapped back again into the green-blue color. A hand reached up to check the short, pixie hair and ensure it was in the proper place. Then she began to walk inside.
"Hope I didn't miss the party," Rach's voice rang out, shutting the door behind her.
Pulling out the last arrow and sliding it into her leg quiver, Kayla turned her head towards the door as it opened. She’s arrived then, she thought, her mind stating the obvious fact. Arriving earlier to the garage has given her time to think and to focus on what was planned. Now that the time is almost here, she appeared unusually calm. This was despite the fact her bow was now tens of feet away from her at her shooting line.
”Oh hey Racheli,” the archer responded, eyes darting to the clock on the wall. ”In fact, you’re early.”
Slowly, she walked back towards her bow on the other side of the garage. The workbench that lined the shooting line was long, but there was a gap with another that was in line with the door her friend came through. Kayla approached the gap and shot a glance at Racheli.
”Are you ready to find that murdering bastard that has been elusive for the past few months?”
Racheli turned to face Kayla, finally noticing where she was. She seemed to think a moment before she replied.
“Yeah, if you think we can. Where are we heading to first?” Her hands moved into her jeans where she let them settle. Her posture was relaxed through her mind was anything but chilled.
Kayla kept her focus partially on Racheli, still making sure she was making her way to her bow. Her body starts making it across the gap.
”I had been thinking about the immediate area around first. There are at least 3 different families that fit the profile.” The archer’s gaze turned to her friend, waiting to see what her response was.
Like a predator, Racheli’s attention zoned in on Kayla. Her eyes watched the woman’s movements and observed it closely. Her teeth chewed on her lip, but not hard enough to bleed. A thoughtful expression crossed her face. She turned her back, walking toward the rack filled with tools and stood there.
“I recalled you had found some leads. Which one do you think he’ll hit first?” Her hand reached out to touch a wrench lying on the table.
Kayla’s eyes narrowed for a second before relaxing again. Her mind was racing to think about what to say. What lie to say. At some point, they must slip up and reveal their identity. However, being as observant as she was, she noticed a possible slip: The revealing of the gender from Racheli herself. Even the archer didn’t know for certain what gender the killer was. So how did she know? Only one near-certain answer: if the suspicions of the killer being a shifter are true and took the form of Racheli.
”Funny you should ask,” she replied, stopping as soon as she reached the gap. ”I think I also recall saying that I was not 100% sure on the killer’s gender, yet you’re confident in the killer is male. And why is that?” Her facial expression turned accusatory, the latter question also morphing into that tone.
Racheli turned and hid the makeshift weapon behind her. She shrugs. Her words were carefully chosen as she explains.
“I said he because the murders remind me of someone. Someone from my past and I rather forget. It’s impossible through. I was told he died, but I guess I was lied to.”
Her hand tightened about the handle of the screwdriver while she waited. Her eyebrow raised and she snickered, the tone finally dawned on her.
“Unless you think I’ve taken after him and been moonlight murdering. Cause if that’s what you think, it just means I can’t trust you to have my back and I might as well fucking go alone.”
Kayla’s eyes narrowed. The explanation does seem reasonable as to why the assumption of the gender was made as well as the information about her past. In her eye, she sees that there was something hidden in Racheli’s grasp. Seems that there is another slip, she thought, keeping her body calm for what was about to happen next.
”True, that did happen. I’ve read into it after you introduced the murders to me. It’s the reason why I helped you track the killer down. Your father.” And now, to press. I will have to thank Leila for getting me this information. ”I know that your father was executed and then interred by James MacGrath into Parker Funeral Home in Oregon. Only, there’s no James MacGrath or a facility called Parker Funeral Home in Oregon.”
A smirk begins to form.
“And you expect me to trust you after you did a background check on me?” Racheli growled.
Her eyes heated in anger as she closed them, exhaling her frustration out. It ended in a long sigh. She brought the weapon to her side before she loosened her fingers. The screwdriver dropped onto the ground. The impact rang out throughout the garage while Racheli lowered her face from Kayla’s view.
“If it helps… not everything is as it seems.”
And now I’ve got him.
The archer watched as Racheli’s arm that hid the screwdriver to her side. While she didn’t expect the improvised weapon to be dropped to the ground, it didn’t phase her one bit. As the head of what was her friend lowered, Kayla made a quick glance to where her compound bow was. This was in case an attack happened after her next statement.
”Indeed. Not everything is as it seems. And it is for 3 things. First, the way you tried to hide my screwdriver in your grasp as you talked to me kinda revealed your intentions. The Racheli I know was uneasy about these murders to begin with and I don’t even think she would kill one of her friends. Second, that meeting in the alleyway was far too suspicious for me to think that you are not who you look. And finally, the one thing that gave you away…”
She paused, her right hand hovering over the arrows on her leg quiver. Her eyes kept their focus on the person in front of her. While she appeared calm, Kayla was mentally prepped to dodge any oncoming attack after the next bit.
”Coffee. You had coffee at the cafe earlier today. Racheli does not drink any hot drinks. Especially as the virus that is in her creates illusions of itself to chastise her for drinking it. The same virus that should have appeared in that alleyway. The same virus that should be defending her now.”
Slowly, the archer physically appeared to shift to be ready for any attack.
”So yeah, everything isn’t as it fucking seems, Racheli. Or should I say… Michael Garth.”
“The little charade couldn’t last forever. I will admit, I was growing bored.” Michael answered.
Guess the cat’s out of the bag now, Fletch thought, instantly hearing the male voice coming from the form of Racheli.
Something dripped down his face and splattered onto the floor. It was flesh-colored liquid. He lifted his face, the female form ruined by several blobby lines running down the length. They ended in drips like wax off a candle’s surface. Muscle and bone peered through the ripping seams that appeared underneath. Long tendons began whip-like tentacles that flailed around the faceless head. The jaw widened into two parts with a long, slimy tongue hanging down, tipped by a curved bone hook.
Her right hand, hovering above the arrows on her leg quiver, instantly shot into the nearby pocket to grab something from it. She watched as Michael began showing his true self. The sleeping sugar glider instantly clambered out of her shirt and scrambled into the trouser pocket on her left side.
An inhuman roar erupted from the throat becoming guttural toward the end. Without warning, the tongue lashed forward followed by about six or seven smaller tentacles.
As the hooked tongue lashed out after the deafening roar, the archer instinctively dodged out of the way with her legs surging her towards her bow. One by one, the other tentacles joined in smashing into the wall on the other side of the garage, missing Fletch by inches. By this point, she pulled out a small device in her hand.
From the outset, it looked like a small plastic tube with plastic taped over cut out holes. Each end is capped off by a stopper, with one stopper having a string tied to a very short strike-everywhere match. Pinching the match head between her index finger and thumb, Fletch flicked the match alight and threw the improvised device at Michael.
As each tentacle came back empty, it retracted back into him with a slurping noise. Michael spotted the incoming device and lifted his arm. It flattened out and became a shield, using the interior bone and extending it through the flesh. The device exploded into a blinding light temporarily blinding him.
Continuing her run forward, she turned her head. A second later, a loud bang erupted in the garage followed by an intense light. As the last tentacle lunged at her, she leaped forward into a roll. Getting back up, her left hand grabbed the resting compound bow. She knocked an arrow she grabbed from her leg quiver. With precision she turned and let loose the string, snapping the arrow towards her target.
The arrow deflected off Michael’s new form.
Any remaining features of Racheli were gone. Bones crunched and muscles stretched, all of them had contorted into something new. Muscles had swallowed whatever remained of his human form into the larger mass before it hardened into a jagged shell. Two long, three-fingered hands whipped about on jointless arms at the top of it. On the lower part, an eyeless face peered out with feelers darting around. Needle teeth dripped with an unknown substance that hissed when the droplets hit the garage floor. He was now about the size of a school bus. Four crustacean legs bore the weight of the alien creature as its two pincers snapped.
“I will enjoy your screams nearly as much as I did hers.” He hissed then rushed forward.
He moved surprisingly fast for his size as he closed in on Kayla, his right pincer stretched out to snag her waist.
Kayla had to admit, she didn’t take into account what a monstrous form Michael would take when she confronted him. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me, she thought, tensing up as he charged forward. The workbenches between them were easily thrown aside by the large beast. ”Not how I imagined things would happen, but it’ll happen regardless."
The archer expected Michael to arrive early. It’s why she managed to spend some time after that coffee break in the garage setting up boobytraps. As the charge began, several of the near-invisible fishing lines snap apart from the abrupt force. Several snapping explosions occurred from underneath the benches, launching broken pieces of exhaust pipes, iron bars and anything sharp that Kayla could get her hands on.
With a set of 5 traps released aimed in different directions in the garage, the archer managed to dodge out of the way of one at the same time as the outstretched claw, her body going underneath. Grabbing one of the seeds in the pocket she pulled the flashbang from, she tried to stash the seed in the nook between the wrist and the claw. At the same time, she used the momentum of the claw going into the garage door and her fall to flip up onto Michael’s outstretched arm.
”Well, you’ve got to catch me first,” she retorted. As her cowl wasn’t on, she used the opportunity to raise her left arm to bring down her lower left eyelid and stick her tongue.
Michael was unable to turn on a dime. His body kept going and plowed into the doors. The thin metal warped outward on the impact leaving a gaping hole behind. Through the deafening sound, his body stumbled onto the street. Several cars veered off into the side to avoid the hulking monster slipping along the road. Their drivers stared in awe or escaping their vehicles and fleeing from the scene.
The monster came to a stop in the middle of the road, the momentum finally died. He shook his head as he noticed the weight on his pincer. Instinctively, his legs wheeled about and the pincer slammed into the ground.
Along his surface, rebar and other metal stuck out at various angles. Few of the arrows had managed to find purchase through the thick hide. Their remains were scattered along the path from the building.
Fletch hung on for dear life as the momentum dragged the monster through the garage door onto the street outside. At the moment, she only thought about hanging onto him to not make her prone to another attack. The momentum and speed through the garage door were enough to set off the other trap she had, though her eyes didn’t catch any glimpses of any engine valves shooting out in the direction of the doorway.
Once Michael’s body had stopped skidding into the middle of the street, the archer took the moment to try and grab her cowl to cover her face, but the sudden jerk forced her hand to cling onto the shell once again as she kept her position on his claw. Finally, with the claw on the ground, she pulled the cowl up with her right hand as she began running up his arm onto his back. With her left hand sorting out the finger sling on her glove, her right pressed the button set into the glove. Her back quiver whirred as the arrows appear to spin in place.
Happy with the arrow choice and nocking it onto the bow, she leaped from his back and fired at his face. The resulting explosion from the arrow caused the crab to stumble in place as she was launched away. Landing somewhat precariously onto an abandoned car, she drew another explosive arrow and fired it at Michael, aiming for his left side.
Another inhuman roar erupted out, a mix of frustration and pain from the creature. The arrow that exploded on his face left a bleeding mess. Bone shattered revealing cooked muscle and a small hole in the cheek. As the hazy from his own blood cleared, his senses returned. When the next arrow shot at him, his left claw reached out and jerked up a piece of the pavement. It came away easily proving a shoddy shield from the attack.
As the arrow exploded harmlessly on the pulled up pavement, Fletch growled with disappointment. That slowly went as she noticed the three poles sticking out of its body. While the rebar from the first trap looked embedded and the exhaust pipe didn’t appear to cause any significant damage, an iron bar lodged in the body was close enough to the ground for her to do something about it. Taking the opportunity, she jumped off the car and dashed forward. Darting towards Michael’s back, Kayla launched herself into a skid between the many legs of the creature and kicked out at the bar, aiming to drive it further in.
Michael tossed away the pavement to relocate Kayla. A new pain shot through his lower half and his face twisted down, seeing his target in range. Blood gushed out. The metal went in deep enough only half a foot sticking out now. Cracks began to form along the hole causing more blood to flow out and stain the street.
His lungs inhaled as a pouch on his throat expanded. The skin thinned out and revealed a liquid being poured within before it spewed at her current location.
Kayla was pleased with the end result, seeing the cracks form from the hole. What she didn’t appreciate was the blood coming from them and covering her. Note to self, need a serious shower when this is all over. It was only a brief look as she noticed the movement to see Michael looking in her direction. She saw the sack swell with the liquid inside it. ”Oh shit,” she squeaked as she pressed the button for a grappling arrow and grabbed one from her back quiver. She nocked it onto her bow before seeing him ready to send the liquid her way. Seeing no way to avoid it with her arrow, she began rolling to her side.
For the most part, the majority of the near boiling water splashed harmlessly to where she was, the tarmac hissing with the heat. She didn’t fully escape it as she felt the fizzing on the back of her jacket. She yelped out in pain from the sudden flash of heat onto her back. Fortunately for her, her recent confrontation with the werewolf with caustic acid has allowed her to upgrade her jacket from textile to leather to afford some resistance to prevent direct exposure. But her position closer to his right legs as well as the hot water seeping onto her back meant she needed to get out of there fast to ditch the jacket.
Aiming between her legs, the archer fired off an arrow to a distant car and zipped away with her grappling mechanism on her armguard. Once at a safe distance, she quickly disposed of her drenched jacket, leaving her with her black tank top, gloves, armguard and cowl. She cursed at the thought about getting told off for getting burnt from Jai and Racheli as her shoulders feel like hot embers. Still, she had to keep him occupied.
”Is that the best you can do?” Kayla called out teasingly, nocking another arrow in the process. ”I thought you wanted me to scream? I know guys who made me scream quicker than you can!”
Michael growled, his frustration building. His mind ticked through the fight until something clicked. A low rattle of enlightenment echoed through his throat. Bones to skin began to melt, becoming a liquid blob. It slithered to the nearest storm drain and disappeared into the sewers.
Kayla smirked under her cowl as he growled at her. However, the smirk disappeared when the rattle was heard. Then, much like him shifting into the crab creature, she watched as he shifts into a slime-like creature. Just realising once it started slithering, she shot a grappling arrow at it. As it passed through harmlessly into the drain, she scowled.
"Shit!" she exclaimed, spending towards the drain. Seeing her quarry getting away, she begins running towards the nearest manhole cover. She moved the cover to one side.
"Leila, heads up," the archer said, having pulled out a communication device from her left pocket. "I've lost contact with the target and he's gone into the sewers. I'm heading down after him, but be ready for him." Putting the device back into her pocket, she began her descent into the sewers to chase after Michael Garth.