Grave Voices Part 1: Monsters

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The resulting racket was impressive. Men and women shouted their assent, and some waved fists in the air for good measure. Ear-splitting whistles echoed down Grant Street along with thunderous applause. The monster hunter stood silently, hands clasped in front of him, just the hint of a satisfied smile touching his lips.

He did not seem to notice the three people watching his rally from across the street. Mitch Storm, Jacob Drangosavich, and Della Kennedy stood where they could hear what the monster hunter was shouting to the crowd, and observe both him and his audience.

"That's him," Mitch said. "Edmund Luss, aka Edward Lustig. Con man, snake oil salesman, huckster extraordinaire."

"Do we nab him?" Jacob raised an eyebrow.

Mitch shook his head. "He hasn't done anything illegal—yet. Although I'd bet anything that 'monster' pelt is just a dyed goat skin, or maybe monkey fur."

"Interesting timing for his little rally," Della said. "Nice way to let the Council know he's got supporters—and make it uncomfortable for them to turn him down, no matter what fee he's charging."

Mitch nodded. "Lucky for them, we're here." He turned to go. "We've seen enough. Time to plan a little 'monster hunt' of our own."

A few blocks down Grant Street, a street preacher stood on an overturned fruit crate. "The end of the world is nigh!" he proclaimed with fevered passion. "Monsters roam among us. Surely that is a sign of the end of the world!" The preacher had gathered almost as large a crowd as the monster hunter, and more people continued to join the group as the man's voice rose. He was dressed better than the monster hunter, with a vest over slacks and a starched white shirt, and he waved a worn Bible in one hand as he shouted to the crowd.

"Monsters! Demons! Abominations! Right here in New Pittsburgh, come to kill our children and taint our souls!" He had worked up a sweat, and mopped his brow with a handkerchief. "But we can fight that evil! Yes, we can. Do you believe that we can fight the evil?"

The solemn crowd nodded, and a few 'amens' sounded from the gathering. Mitch, Della, and Jacob drifted closer, and Mitch's eyes narrowed. Jacob bet his partner was thinking the same thing: that the two speakers were very likely working together. That suspicion grew stronger when he saw the table of patent medicine bottles and protective medallions next to the street preacher's make-shift stage. The name painted on to the suitcase displaying the items for sale read 'Reverend Joe Sherril'.

"The Lord can save your soul, and I can save your life," the preacher continued. "The Lord has sent us a warrior, sent us Edmund Luss, a fearless man who can hunt down the abominations and drive them from our city. But he has also given me a vision, a vision that may save your lives." He turned toward the bottles and medallions on the table.

"The Good Lord helps them who help themselves," Sherril continued. "Now we're not all called to fight monsters. But you can protect yourself, your loved ones, even your horses and pets with these fine items." He lifted one of the bottles, and the liquid inside was the color of pond scum.

"I received a message in a dream to protect the good people of New Pittsburgh with these potions and medals," Sherril continued, eyes alight. "These medals have been blessed by every type of church in this city. They are inscribed with a prayer in Latin that drives away monsters. If you wear one of these, no monster will come within five feet of you," he promised.

"What do the potions do?" someone called from the crowd.

"I'm glad you asked!" Sherril said. "These fine potions and elixirs let you protect your house, your chicken coop, your garden, and carriage shed from the unholy monsters terrorizing our city."

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