Late Sunday night...or more accurately early Monday morning...and light snow falls on the city. The 'Mobile Mandarin', a Chinese food van, is currently parked near a row of dive bars in the industrial area. The bars have just closed and the last of the hungry drunkards have bought their meals and continued staggering home. Shu was cleaning up the stove when she thought she saw something. Through the still open serving window she could see a maintenance entrance to the magic land of Fallcoast sewers; the kind you could drive a car in. She wasn't a hundred percent sure what it was but it was enough, over the objections of her great aunt, for her to call the police. A patrol car was dispatched to attend a possible mugging.
"This is badge 7420. I will be 51 to that location. 2 minutes." Allen alerts dispatch into his car radio. He doesn't bother with lights and sirens, he is close enough. He rounds the block and makes quick work of the short distance to the call. He pulls up, parks along the emptying roads and gets out if the car. He walks with a swagger, his elbow resting on his pistol butt to retain the weapon. He approaches the food truck and says, "Anyone call the police here?"
The snow as usual is something that seemingly doesn't bother Lomax... He'd been answering the call of his belly having scraped enough money together for a meal.. Shu's was his destination when the movement in the sewer entrance caught his eye... Standing in the road he dithered for a moment over answering the call of his rumbling belly, and taking a peek to see if there was an opportunity to scavenge something.. Perhaps it was a wild creature? Or perhaps another homeless was picking over some find.. Curiosity won out over hunger... (Barely), and the young man began to amble closer to the dark entrance; a lack of caution evident in the open way in which he approached.. After all if it was another homeless.. He didn't want to cause a fight by sneaking up.
"Yes, thank you, Officer" Shu smiles to Allen as she grabs a winter jacket and slides it on before hopping out of the back of the van. "Over there" she explains, pointing at the sewer entrance and realising that there is someone else there now. Someone familiar. "I thought I saw someone attacked" she explains to Allen, taking a few steps in the direction of the entrance about fifty yards away. "I think I know that person" she muses as she peers at Lomax before looking alarmed back at Allen. "We need to stop him!"
Down at the darkness of the sewer entrance the movement that Lomax noticed has ceased. The place he was sure it was is still. The only sound is the dripping of water...and then a noise like a heavy breath out.
Allen listens to Shu carefully, his stance slightly relaxed but still alert. When she indicates the sewer, he starts forward suddenly, his pace quick. "Sir, step away from the sewer grate." His brow furrows and he looks onward with careful appraisal. His radio keys up with other nearby calls and he waits to speak while approaching. He repeats himself, "Sir step away. Dispatch, this is 7420. I am on scene."
"Hello?" Lomax calls cautiously... Peering into the murk with a slight frown creasing his brow he debates whether this is truly worth his time and effort given he /is/ pretty hungry.. But then.. What if there is something worthwhile here? What if by the simple act of walking away he misses a potential chance to turn things around for himself?
With a soft sigh he decides its worth two minutes of his time before going for food. After all, a little effort may reap rich reward! Taking step after cautious step, mindful of tripping over something in the gloom, Lomax slowly approaches where he saw the movement... Preparing to crouch down and get a closer look at the ground around the Sewer entrance.. A nervous glance is cast into the darkness as snow settles on his cold skin...An observant person might note it isn't melting very quickly which must mean his own skin is quite cold right now! He's seemingly been out in the cold for sometime!
The voice of the officer has Lomax freezing in place.. But he doesn't move away from the potential prize he might find... Instead he focuses his attention on the approaching officer and... Is that Shu? Shu gets a raised hand and half wave in greeting.
It /is/ Lomax! Shu returns the wave as she does her best not to get in front of the policeman. Allen can't have people wandering around his possible crime scene so he calls for back-up and tape. I wise decision since Lomax, stealthily moving forward, has bumped into something lying on the ground. A corpse. Or at least most of one. It is missing the head.
In the darkness of the sewer a pair of glowing yellow eyes stare back at Lomax. At least fifty feet away but unblinking and intense.
'Big cat' is the thought that wanders through Lomax's mind as he catches sight of those glowing eyes in the dark... A natural assumption to make, even as he's swallowing hard repeatedly as saliva floods his mouth.. That kind of flooding that presages vomiting. A headless corpse isn't what he wanted to find... 'Don't cat's eyes only reflect light back?' Is the follow up inane though in his head as he wonders briefly if there's even enough light around the sewer entrance to bleed into the darkness.
Still swallowing, the young man starts to back slowly away from the sewer entrance.. "Um.. Body!" He croaks and then lifts a hand to point at the entrance "Something in there... I think ... I think it attacked whoever that was" The words are more or less aimed at the officer, but in a voice loud enough for Shu to hear too.. In other words urging her to stay back.. Not wanting to take his eyes off of the entrance, Lomax continues to back pedal... convinced if he turns his back on those eyes... He'll get jumped!
They may indeed be cat's eyes...but they aren't reflecting the non-existent light. And they're also about six feet off the ground. Though the cat could be sitting atop a shelf...in the middle of the sewer.
Shu gasps at the discovery of a body, hands covering her mouth as she indeed stops. This looks like a job for the policeman with her. She gestures for Lomax to move a bit quicker but he has her back to her.
Those eyes continue to stare at Lomax. The heavy breathing rasping and slow. Then a scrape along the side of the sewer. Something sharp against the stone...are those sparks?
He is somewhat mesmerized by those eyes... Instinctively he knows their owner is dangerous, and there is no way Lomax is giving his back to them... No way he's /inviting/ attack. "Er Officer.. I think you might need your gun" he says faintly, still backing up slowly; each step bringing him up the slope closer to Shu and where the tape is going up.
He can feel his heartbeat racing; under normal circumstances he'd be worried of causing some unfortunate scene with his adrenaline surging so much, but the headless corpse and those eerie eyes dominate his thoughts right now.
Shu places her hand on Lomax's shoulder...hopefully not scaring him and being turned into ice. "I am glad you are okay" she sighs with relief before watching Allen setting up the perimeter. "Come on, let us get you inside and fed" she smiles to Lomax while shivering against the cold. "The police will take care of it now" she adds, more in hope than anything else. "Did...did you see what killed him?"
"I... Let’s stay here a minute.. Ok?" Lomax says.. "There is /something/ in that sewer... A cat I think... I .... It just isn't right leaving the officer here alone.. Ok?" To his credit he didn't jump when Shu's hand touched him, but she did feel the tension running through him at what he had seen. A tension that ramped up momentarily when she laid a hand on his shoulder, but that ebbed a little when nothing untoward happened.
"You don't want to get any closer Shu... It... It isn't a pretty sight and... Honestly? I don't have any appetite anymore.." Turning his head momentarily away from the sewer entrance he gives the girl a queasy smile before returning to stare at the stygian darkness that marks the entrance to the sewer.
Allen secures the area and waves. "Take a step back." His right hand rests atop his gun still. He speaks into his radio, informing dispatch of the situation.
Shu nods to Lomax's words before withdrawing her hand. /Now/ she remembers the last time she touched him but thankfully the reaction wasn't so extreme this time. "Are other police coming?" she asks Allen as she watches him. "My great aunt has a shotgun if you think we need it." Shu peers at Lomax. "A cat? A cat killed someone? What I saw did not look like a cat but I am not sure what it looked like."
"I don't know... For sure" he says, uncertainty colouring his tone. "I don't know anything else with eyes that seem to glow yellow... And.. Hell.. no idea... I'm just assuming a big cat escaped from a circus or zoo or something. Only explanation I've got!" Lomax gives a small bemused shrug and takes that extra step back as the officer advised.
"Don't think you should go down there alone mister" he advises the cop. "I ... I think the body is fresh.. I think.. I mean.. There was a lot of blood!" Belatedly Lomax looks down and sees he's actually tracked bloody footprints up from the sewer entrance.
The sirens are beginning to be heard from responding police. Allen steps forward, still indicating for the others to make space. "Whatever is done there will be taken care of. Backup is on the way. And no one is going down there."
Shu rubs her arms with her hands as she watches. A glance down to see bloody footprints makes her gasp in shock. This is not in her wheelhouse and she has no intention of heading into that sewer. The sounds of sirens make her glance in that direction. "Do I need to move the van?"
Speaking into his radio, Allen mutters low under his breath. "Responding deputies, I have a white van. Markings. Near scene. Tag unknown. Make contact to question for possible witnesses. Also requesting a shotgun on scene, possible wild animal. I am 10-6 securing the scene."
The rapidly approaching sirens are a reassuring sound and Lomax relaxes knowing the cavalry is on its way. "Hopefully they can get whatever is in that sewer out and safely contained... The thought of being jumped by that while I'm trying to find somewhere to sleep is not a pretty one." The casual remark thrown at Shu even as he squints down the street at the parked van..
"Looks like they've got the right idea whoever they are" He up nods toward the van... "Warm and dry and safe from wild animals!" Unhappily Lomax knows he'll be having plenty of nightmares about that damn corpse and those eyes... The curse of eidetics.
Turning to look at Shu he asks, "Your aunt OK in your van alone?"
Shu nods to Lomax. "She has the shotgun. She will be fine." Shu follows Lomax's gaze to the van. "Why are they just sitting there?" she asks softly and as if on cue the white van's engine starts up. The vehicle swings out into the road, high beams flicking on and pointed at the watchers, before it does a three point turn to head down the road away from them. Whatever word is on the side of the van starts with 'G'. "And now they are going home" Shu shrugs before looking back to Lomas and Allen. "If you need somewhere to sleep, Lomax, there are shelters in town and I can put you up in the back of the van for a night."
Allen begins to jog forward quickly but to no avail, hoping to get one last look at the retreating van for any sign or clue. "Dispatch, white van. Markings. Leaving scene. Westbound." He stops, sighing and watching the taillights fade.
Giving Shu a small smile Lomax says softly, "It’s a nice offer thank you Shu... But I'm better off alone.. It means less accidents" He doesn't elaborate his gaze watching the departing van with its two mysterious occupants.. "It’s almost as if they didn't want to be observed" he remarks dryly.
Squinting suspiciously after the retreating vehicle he adds, "Maybe they released the cat here?" Still firmly of the opinion it /is/ a big cat.
"I understand" Shu nods to Lomax's declining of her offer...though her voice is sad as she says it. "But I do not think anyone is better off alone" she adds before moving from the subject. "Why would they release a cat here? To watch it kill someone? They couldn't see much from over there."
The van disappears into the falling snow, taking a back street rather than the main roads the approaching police are using. Shu watches the disappointed policeman for a moment. "Would anyone like a fresh hot coffee?" she offers before glancing over at the dark sewer where monsters lurk.
Allen shakes his head, moving over towards the sewer entrance. He crouches down and looks into the darkness for a suitable subject for his frustration. "What did you think you saw? Just the eyes?" He speaks over his shoulder, still looking to the darkness.
Hunching his shoulders against the increasing snow fall Lomax says.. "I think I might manage a coffee.. If you don't mind?" He gives Shu a grateful smile.. Turning to stare at the street the van vanished down he adds, "I think they're clearly up to no good whoever they were... Why take that route? Avoiding the police?"
Peering down at the darkness again he says, "Whatever is in there isn't coming out... I reckon we're probably safe up here... Whatever it is, its smart enough to stay hidden. Or maybe it's not happy being outnumbered?"
A moment of hesitation and Lomax says quietly to Allen.. "Eyes and.. I think there was some sparks. I.. I'm not sure.. It was breathing heavily too.. Like maybe it'd exerted itself?"
Allen looks over his shoulder, his brow furrowed. He rises and moves from the darkness. He removes a notepad and begins to take notes, names, and times.
Smiling that she is useful at last, Shu makes to run up the slope to her van. "I will be right back, Officer!" she assures Allen. And she is...after about five minutes. A cardboard tray of steaming coffee is delivered to anyone who wants it. She tells Allen all she knows as the other police arrive.
There is no sign of the creature in the sewer when other police shine their torches into the darkness and advance to secure the area. CI show up, one of them joking to the other, "Do you think it was sewercide?"
As more warm bodies show up, they're shuffled further and further back from the crime scene... Until with a heavy sigh and a nod Lomax ambles closer to Shu's van nursing his coffee cup as he walk.. "I'd say it’s probably best you relocated." Another up this time directed at the sewer.. "Whatever was... or is in there.. It might get attracted by the smell of the food."
Glancing around he adds, "And besides I think most of your customers have staggered off home now!"
"You might be right" Shu nods. "Though it was a good spot. I could help a lot of homeless people too. There used to be a dozen down there, I thought they were fighting at first, but they just disappeared almost overnight. Very odd..." Her warm coffee is cradled in her hands even if it has cooled down substantially. "But now I am worried about you."
Blinking in surprise Lomax asks, "A dozen? All down there?... Maybe they got scared off? I mean.. There was only one body there and.. " His voice trailing off he has to admit he couldn't /see/ much down there... There was no telling how many blood stains new and old could be there.
Giving himself a little shake and trying to ignore the short hairs rising on the back of his neck he says quietly.. "Don't worry Shu, I've no intention of sleeping anywhere near a sewer entrance.. I'll be ok!"
"There were a dozen of them two days ago" Shu confirms, glancing down at the sewer entrance where the police swarm and investigate. "I hope that they all ran away. I do not think a big cat would have got them all." A sip of her coffee. "Can I at least drop you off somewhere? Far away from ere."
"I need to get my sleeping bag and drawings" Lomax says idly while sipping his own coffee. "I stashed them when I was on my way here to get food." In a reflective tone he adds, "Maybe I should draw those eyes.. Pass it on to the police? It isn't much but.. I guess anything is better than nothing."
Glancing at Shu's van he says, "Wouldn't your aunt get grumpy if you started driving folk about. I can imagine you'd get told off for acting like a taxi service." A mercurial grin flits across Lomax's features.. A slight attempt to lighten the somewhat somber mood.
"You can just say you don't want my help" Shu smiles sweetly before glancing up at her van. "My aunty gets grumpy about anything. Do you think she will be happy about spending all this time here instead of selling food?" She nods "I think you should do that drawing for the police. They will be thankful, I think. I guess I had better be going. Goodnight, Lomax. I am glad that you are alright."
Flushing slightly he mutters "It isn't I don't want or appreciate your help I.. Look, thank you.. I do appreciate it.. I'm just too damn independent I guess." Lomax sups form his cup and gives Shu a nod.. "Ok look, just promise me you'll move ok? I'll stop by in a day or two so you know I'm still breathing. Deal?"
Nodding thoughtfully, he adds, "I'll drop a picture off at the precinct when I'm next in the area... Or if I see that cop again."
Amanda receives an e-mail from Zero - 'Funny Cat Videos' is the title - and there is an attachment of videos. The first couple are, indeed, funny cat videos but then there is a video at the end. Dark. Unfocused. Grainy. Shaky-cam. It is a sewer entrance and peering out are a number of yellow hued eyes - large and round...and about six feet off the ground. Barely discernible shapes can be seen moving, the eyes evidently belonging to them.
Amanda happily saves the regular cat videos for future viewing, then watches the last video several times for whatever details she can pick out. She runs screencaps of the shapes with eyes to try and get clearer images of what they actually are. While her programs work, she sends an email in reply with several image macros.
They look humanoid. Long arms end in long fingers...and are those claws? It is the construction that looks more familiar. 'Fallcoast Sewers Section 6' can be picked out. An entrance in the industrial area. The creatures seem to be milling around the entrance, unable or unwilling to emerge into the light. Then another figure; someone in a yellow hazmat suit. He approaches the entrance, taking readings with some kind of machine, before he looks to be talking to someone offscreen.
Amanda googles the location of the sewer section, hoping to get a map location. She also tries to zoom in on the machine used to measure the monsters.
It does not take much to find the location but the zooming in reveals not much more than a box with a measurement screen. Geiger counter? Temperature? It is hard to tell but the dial does flicker when it is pointed at one of the creatures.