Part 44 - Monster

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Lumley's accomplice honked the truck's horn again. The ruse annoyed Huntsman no less for its transparency. He had requested intel the previous night and, that morning, a baggy-eyed intern had knocked on the door to Room 4 with the new file on Byron Wong: Lodge had previously overlooked the petty criminal, mediocre student, and two-time chlamydia sufferer. He lacked armaments, combat training, finances, or connections, and nothing suggested supernatural ability or contact with, much less allegiance to, the enemy. The preliminary psych eval—likely conducted by the intern's barista, given the time constraints—indicated that Wong was motivated by friendship for the primary target. He was a useful idiot, minus the 'useful,' and Huntsman could have overlooked him as well, were it not for the damned honking.

He drew his pistol.

"You want to gun down a Forest Ranger in front of everybody?" Frazer whispered, pointing to his employees, who had been lured to the field unit's windows by the horn.

Huntsman holstered the pistol. "Flush out Lumley. I'll handle this one."

"You don't need to kill him," Frazer said. "Byron can come to an arrangement with Tallahassee. Everyone has a price, right?"

Wong stepped out of his truck and beckoned Huntsman.

Huntsman sighed contentedly. "Not everyone."

"I can't be a part of this." Frazer entered the field unit.


Ray crouched beneath the windowsill in Carol's office. Frazer's windows were warded, and Frazer himself paced in the Field Unit's common area. Huntsman stood between Ray's only exit and Byron's truck.

"Guys, come here," Karen said on the other side of Carol's door. "Byron's going to get busted."

Their coworkers rolled their office chairs towards the windows.

Carol's doorknob rattled.

Ray froze.

Something tickled his finger. An ant had crawled onto his palm.

"I don't know if you can hear me," Ray whispered. "But we could use some help."

The doorknob rattled again.

Nearby, a dog barked.


The parked cars formed a corridor; Byron stood at one end and Huntsman stood at the other, resting his hand on his hip holster.

"Be cool, okay?" Byron said. "I'm unarmed."

"Take off your shirt, Byron!" Karen shouted from a window.

"You don't need—" Huntsman said.

Byron stripped to the waist and ran through a sequence of bodybuilding poses, ending with rear double biceps. "See, nothing duct-taped to my back or anything."

"Show me what's in your hands," Huntsman said.

Byron revealed a joint and a lighter. "Oops. Where did that come from?"

He lit the joint and smoked it, to the delight of his coworkers.

Huntsman turned away, scanning the parking lot.

"I get it, you're a cool cop," Byron said, blowing a wobbly smoke ring. "Personal use ain't no thing. But what if I told you there's a gallon bag in my truck?"

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