Once arrived in Salem, Jamie and Marya take a room in a motel and quickly hurry up to get some information. Jamie dresses up as FBI agent while Marya looks too young for it, she just goes with him and waits outside, in the car, while he talks with the sheriff at the police station.
"Yes, it's been a big problem" tells the sheriff, a man around fifty, with a light green uniform and badge hanging on the belt. "But luckily now even FBI is working on it", Jamie smiles.
"Yeah... This case looks a bit puzzling. I read in the file that some people have been found like... devoured by some very big and furious animal"
"Yes, in fact. At first it was just animals. We found a lot of them dead, cows, horses... They had been attacked and ripped off. Someone, or better something, devoured them. We thought it was a grizzly and so organized some expeditions, that didn't actually lead anywhere. It was just a little local case, that still worried a lot people, especially farmers"
"Yeah, I can understand..."
"But the real problem started when this animal began killing people. The number of deaths increased, it kills during the night or during the day, it doesn't matter. And animals kept dying, it was just an escalation. And newspapers and media started talking about it"
"How many people died?"
"Ten people have been found dead". Jamie looks surprised at him, he didn't expect it.
"Yeah, that's a lot. We don't know what to do anymore, we tried everything but uselessly"
"Ok, so, when was the first animal killing and the first human death?"
"The first death dates back to two weeks ago, almost, and the first person died one week ago". Jamie thinks for a while.
"You found similar wounds on the corpses?"
"Yes, exactly, there were particularly perfect wounds, like caused by sharp claws" he explains, taking some pictures. Jamie takes a look at them, some are really terrible. "That's why we thought of a wolf then. But it must be a really big wolf to do all this"
"Yeah... Someone ever saw it? Even just a quick sighting..."
"And strange reports about animals in the area?"
"Just the usual things, some bear, but nothing more. You know, it happens often here and all the reports were far from here"
"I see... I see also that some bodies were really in a bad state, but some other look, somewhat better. The examination of the coroner highlighted anything strange? Missing parts or organs?". The sheriff looks at him with a confused expression.
"Agent, the only strange thing it would have been if something had actually been found inside the body". Jamie looks a bit embarrassed by the somewhat silly question.
"Ah... Alright. Yeah, it's a complicated case, and very puzzling..."
"If you find anything, agent, tell me and don't hesitate asking for help if needed"
"Yes, sure, thank you" Jamie says.
Jamie comes back to the car and gets in, while Marya observes him, waiting.
"So?" she asks. He looks at her.
"It's a strange case, Mary. I don't think it's a werewolf, because if it is, it's really strange. It must be a really hungry bear or some other creature". She looks puzzled at him.
"But the Moon..."
"The first cases are of two weeks ago. It's too early"
"Remember some werewolves attack even without full Moon"
"Yeah. Maybe it killed people only during full Moon because it needed more". Jamie reflects for a while.
"Well, let's go back to the motel and see what we can find".
They come back and get on her laptop, sitting on a bed. She reads the places where the corpses have been found while Jamie marks them on a map. She glances over his shoulder and then keeps reading on the screen. He signs the places, silent.
"They're all near" she comments, looking at the map. Jamie turns around a bit.
"Yeah... They can't be more than ten kilometres away from each other"
"It's a local thing"
"Yes. But it can mean everything."
"It also means that its refuge must be in the zone"
"It's a deserted zone, there are just few abandoned houses or farms". She stares at the map while he stares at her, trying to understand what she's thinking. "Mary?"
"What's up?". She sits better and gets closer to him.
"Try eliminating all the recent cases, the people" she points on the map. "The first ones are more concentrated in a smaller area..."
"Yeah... Then it spreads more towards north. Maybe the animal, slash creature, found a better... diet there and therefore moved"
"So, we have a better trace. We can have a look there"
"And if we find it?" he asks, looking at her.
"Do you really think we're that lucky?" she asks. He smiles and shakes his head.
The night, they check some of the abandoned houses in the suspected area. It is a fresh night but the place isn't that cheerful. They reach another one of those houses, after the previous attempts didn't reveal anything. Jamie parks the car right in front of the small gate and they get down. Jamie prepares to force the lock but surprisingly, they find the lock already open. They exchange a quick look and then grab their guns. Jamie opens the gate and they get in, quickly reaching the door of the house. This one is locked and Jamie is preparing to open it when Marya notices something. She looks around and sees the doors to an undercroft, right next to the house, beyond the porch. One is a bit open and a small blade of light is visible. She pulls Jamie's sleeve, without taking away her look. He stops and looks at her. She points at the entrance and he leans a bit on the fence to see better. Then he passes ahead and drags her after him. They get down the stairs and get close to the doors. Evidently the door is open and there's some light inside. They can also hear some noises. Jamie kneels down and slowly pulls one half of the door open. Though he moves it slowly, the door creaks a bit. Inside, it's darker than expected. There are some stairs that go down, therefore Jamie starts going down, cautiously looking around, and Marya follows him. Once down, they look around, puzzled. There are some shelves here and there, in the middle of the room, all built in wood, and a little lantern hanging lit right next to the stairs. They hear again some noises. The undercroft looks big and some parts are in the dark. So they hold their guns and slowly move a bit, getting far from the light that can reveal them. They hear the noises of something being dragged or drawn but they can't see anything. After assuring nothing is behind them, Jamie takes the flashlight and turns it on. With their guns pointed, they try to understand what they're seeing in the distance, behind the shelves. There's someone, who obviously notices the beam of light. He leaves the body he was drawing and turns around, dazed by the light and confused. Jamie and Marya look at him surprised.
"Jeremy!" exclaims Jamie. He reaches them, a bit surprised too and covering his eyes a bit from the strong light. He is a tall guy, strong, with brown short hair and dressed in the same style of his brother. He's 32 years old now, and holds a machete in his hand.
"Little brother! I did see correctly then!" says Jeremy. Then takes a look at Marya. "Marya! Hi, since when you two hunt together?"
"Ah, well, not much... What are you doing here?" asks his brother, still a bit puzzled.
"First of all, you don't need these" he says, taking down their guns. Jamie and Marya didn't actually realize they were still holding guns. "Those are useless. And I'm hunting, just like you two, I guess"
"Yeah... We found an article on a newspaper..."
"Ah, yes, it got famous now. But don't worry, I'm dealing with it. But let me take a look at you, we don't see each other since a lot of time!"
"Yeah, well, it's because of you" replies Jamie.
"Oh come on Jamie, don't take it personally". He doesn't actually, he just suddenly hugs him. Marya smiles at seeing them so close. Jeremy messes a bit with Jamie's hair.
"My little Golden Curls..." Jeremy comments. Jamie leaves him.
"I didn't hear that nickname since I was 13". Jeremy chuckles and Marya smiles. He turns to her.
"Wow, Marya, you grew up!" he tells, squaring her and caressing her arm. She smiles.
"Yeah... But aren't you trying to avoid talking about the case?" she asks.
"Oh, there's no problem, I'm almost done with it"
"But the killings actually increased..." tells Jamie.
"Yeah, because these things move in a herd. I killed the mother and now all the others are doing what they want. I'm killing all of them now"
"But we can help. If it was a full herd, they must have been a lot" tells Marya.
"That's why it's been a long job, I'm here since two weeks" he explains, with a bored expression. "But now the big job is done"
"Come on, stop it, Jeremy. Let us help you" says Jamie. Jeremy sighs, he's not much convinced but they're pressing on him.
So, later, they come back to their motel room. Marya sits on her bed and Jamie on the chair at the table. Jeremy stands in front of them, folded arms, telling them of his case.
"Yes, I was finishing a case near Washington when I read something on a local journal. You know, that kind of small articles that quickly attract our attention" he explains, looking at his brother. "So I came here to have a look, and I was right. It was a case. I thought of a werewolf at first because of the modus operandi but soon I realized the deaths didn't fit into the lunar phases" he carries on, glancing from one to the other.
"What are they then?" asks Marya.
"Licaons. They are like the cousins of werewolves. A kind of evolution or metamorphosis. They are bigger, stronger and hungrier. And they don't act according to the lunar phases". Jamie looks down, thoughtful. "They are rare actually. Luckily. They move in herd and the main, first aim should be killing the mother, that brings food to the others. That's what I did, it's been complicated but I managed. So, the herd was destabilised and they started killing whoever or whatever was at their hand"
"It's not been a lucky move" intervenes Jamie.
"Mmm, yeah, it had its cons. I obviously couldn't expect this. There isn't much about them, exactly because they are rare. But now I'm hunting every single licaon of the herd"
"How do you kill one?" asks Marya.
"Silver bullets are useless, not like with werewolves. You have to get closer enough, and that's the difficult and dangerous part, and then kill it with a firm cut on the stomach. First you thrust it, then you pull it up. And obviously it must be a silver blade, like the one I used" he says, pointing at the machete on the table.
"What were you doing down there though?" asks Jamie.
"That was their first nest. You discovered it again tonight. I went there to see if there was something that I didn't see, something that could have been useful. And exactly there, I found another one of those. I don't know why it was there but I simply killed it. They had abandoned that nest, after I killed the mother. So I'm still trying to trace the new nest"
"They get out of control when you kill the mother?"
"Yeah. The mother keeps them still and acts somewhat more silently. She kills just animals, doesn't leave traces... I don't think these monsters have an intelligence or conscience, but clearly she's smarter than the others. In fact, they spread everywhere when she died and started killing whoever they could find, animals, people... Just because they were hungry. But this helps us finding them, though..."
"You have any idea of where the new nest can be?" asks Marya.
"Ahm, not precisely, but I have some possibilities. They usually hide underground, wherever they can find caves or galleries"
"You don't wanna tell us, right?"
"Look Marya, this is a dangerous case. These creatures are dangerous. I don't want you to risk. I know them, I fought them, I have experience"
"But we're hunters too!" says Jamie.
"I can't risk. Licaons are really big and they get stronger after they feed. Once they do that, it's better running away than trying to fight them. They are twice your weight Jamie and twice your height, Marya"
"We're trained just like you. And don't you think you're much taller than me" says Jamie, frowning. Jeremy and Marya smile.
"I am, little brother" replies Jeremy. "They attack at any moment, night, day... They kill when they're hungry. Simple. But they're really strong, trust me"
"We fought strong creatures too. Did you ever kill a Sasabonsam?". Jeremy looks confused at him.
"See? We can do this. Why are you so harsh?"
"I'm not harsh, James, I'm just trying to protect you"
"We can protect ourselves, we grew up like this. You can't pull out this excuse now. No one ever worried for our being protected, while they were teaching us how to hunt". Jeremy shakes his head.
"You don't understand... You can hunt how much you want, but not these. Not with me"
"No, this never ends up well, someone can get hurt and I don't want to". Marya observes him as he talks. She knows Jeremy cares a lot about his brother, they grew up basically alone and they're really close, but at the end she can't understand his refusal. They risk their lives every time they go hunting and together they can just be stronger. Jamie doesn't want to leave, but it seems he can't move his brother. When Jeremy decides for one thing, so it must be. He takes his machete again.
"Guys, I have to go, maybe I can still find something. It's been beautiful to see you again, but I have everything under control here, you can go" he says, turning and leaving the room. Jamie shakes his head, resigned and Marya observes, puzzled.
The next morning, Jamie goes out to take breakfast and stops for a second in front of a newsstand. There's a pile of newspapers with the article on the first page that says "Another animal attack in the night. Two people found dead". He quickly understands it's another one of their case and swiftly takes a copy and runs away. In a few minutes, he's at his brother room, at another motel. He impatiently knocks at his door. Jeremy goes to open, not expecting his brother, and a bit annoyed. Instead, he finds Jamie in front of him, staring at him serious and showing the newspaper.
"Hello..." says Jeremy, a bit confused. Jamie doesn't say anything and simply gets in. "Good morning to you too" comments Jeremy, irritated.
"Have you seen the news?" asks Jamie.
"It's happening every day now..." he says. Jamie looks at him angry. "Yes, I know, Jamie, I have to work harder on it, but it's complicated"
"No, you just have to accept our help" remarks Jamie.
"Brother, we already talked about it..."
"No, you didn't. You just tried to tell excuses. Why don't you want us to join you?"
"I can do this alone"
"And how many people have to die for it? Come on! Be sensible!"
"I am. That's why I don't want you to come"
"Our lives are not more valuable than those of the victims. And we can defend ourselves"
"I know, but..."
"What then? We are good hunters!"
"Hunting together it's not a good thing. It always gets bad. Even you and Marya should stop"
"How can you know it? We never hunted together! And Mary and I are hunting since few months together and everything goes well. We see what the other doesn't see, we help each other, we protect each other. Mary is a really good hunter too"
"Yes, I'm not doubting it"
"And why then? We've always been true to each other, why don't you wanna tell me? I can't see that! I feel like you're hiding something, there must be a reason for your refusal-"
"As I said Jamie, don't take it personally, don't get mad. It's not because of you. Or Marya. I care about you both-"
"-I always told you everything... And what is it then?"
"-She should have never become a hunter"
"What? Why? It's a family tradition, someone has to do it and it happened to us. She grew up like us"
"In fact. She shouldn't have, her parents quit"
"But then they started again, until that happened..." he says, lowering his tone. "But why are you bringing this back?"
"Yeah, that happened... Ha, they never told you how it actually went"
"Who? What? Why, what happened?"
"Yeah, in fact. Doesn't matter Jamie, it's an old story. But I don't wanna hunt together"
"No, now you have to tell me" says Jamie, holding him by the shoulders. "What is that I should know?"
"You should know nothing that you don't already know"
"Stop it Jeremy! Enough with the riddles! You don't trust me?"
"I do, but I also know you. And your bond with Marya. You'd tell her"
"I won't, I promise. But I wanna know the truth now". Jeremy is a bit undecided, but Jamie keeps staring at him, waiting for an explanation.
"Her parents were hunting when the thing they were searching for killed them?" asks Jamie.
"They weren't hunting alone" says Jeremy, looking at Jamie with a resigned expression. "They were hunting with mum and dad". Jamie reflects for a while but he's confused.
"Mom and dad asked them to join them, because they needed more force. They had quit actually, because Marya was born and they wanted a normal life for her. But they accepted, because we're family, because they wanted to help. And see how it ended? The Wendigo caught them instead of our parents, and they didn't even go back to help them!" he tells, bitterly and a bit angry. Jamie listens to him, puzzled and surprised. "They took her with us, but she actually should have grown up with her parents, it wasn't an accident, it was a mistake. We should have been orphans, not her"
"I'm..." Jamie tries to say, but he actually doesn't know what to say.
"Speechless? Well,... Don't say anything to Marya, she must not know"
"Ok... And this is the reason why you don't wanna hunt together?"
"This is why I went away from home at 18 and why I've always been polemic towards them. And it's a proof of how these things don't end up well"
"But we're not them. Nothing of the kind is going to happen. We're stronger together, we protect each other. And many lives will be saved. Come on Jay, you must see it" begs Jamie. "This can't carry on forever. We will just work on this case, to end it soon. And then... Everyone on their way". Jeremy is not much convinced, but he can't say no to his brother, even if he still thinks it's not a good idea.
Few minutes later, Jamie and Jeremy come back to Jamie and Marya's room. Jamie is holding their cups of coffee and they both look a bit down. Marya is brushing her teeth and she comes out the bathroom when she hears the door.
"Ah, finally! I was starting to think you got lost..." she says, with the brush in her mouth, when she sees there's Jeremy too. "Oh, Jeremy, hi... Give me a minute" she adds and goes back to the bathroom. Jamie smiles at her sometimes awkward moments. Later, Marya is drinking her coffee on the bed while Jeremy and Jamie work on the laptop. Jamie's cup of coffee is still untouched on the table. Marya observes them.
"How did you convince him, Jamie?" she asks, smiling at Jeremy. Jamie doesn't smile though, he's not in the mood.
"I didn't, this did" he invents, tossing her the newspaper. She reads the title, concerned.
"Damn..." she comments. Jamie focuses again on the laptop, where he and his brother are searching for more specific information about the new deaths.
"We have to find them all quickly" she reflects, with her eyes still on the paper. Jeremy looks at her.
"There shouldn't be many now. And the attacks are all in the same area" he tells. She looks up. "We should be able to find the new nest, that could be a great thing"
"Yeah..." she says. Jamie is still focused and doesn't listen to them. Marya notices his cup on the table. "You don't drink your coffee, Jamie?". He glances at it and then looks at the screen again.
"Mmm... Maybe later, I'm not hungry now" he says. Marya didn't expect this answer, he hardly ever isn't hungry. Jeremy looks at him, suspecting something of what he told him can have upset him.
"I can't find anything, it's too early" says Jamie, giving up on the laptop research. "We have to go to the sheriff again. Will you come with me?" he turns to his brother.
"Yeah, ok" replies Jeremy, standing up. Jamie gets up too, Marya looks at them. When Jeremy goes away, Marya calls Jamie.
"So, you can tell me now, how did you convince him?" she whispers.
"No, really, he just realized it was better this way" replies Jamie. "We'll be on touch" he adds, then goes out. He doesn't like keeping this secret from her though, but he promised it. Marya looks at him, while drinking her coffee, a bit confused by his mood, not joyful as usual.
A bit later, they reach the police station, all dressed up in suits, like two serious and good looking agents. Jamie searches for the sheriff with whom he talked and then takes his brother after him.
"Agent Livgren, good morning..." says the sheriff as he sees them.
"Good day. This is my colleague, agent Welsh" says Jamie, introducing his brother. "We heard there have been two other deaths tonight..."
"Yes, agent. This situation is really getting out of control."
"Where did this happen?" asks Jeremy.
"Along the highway outside town. The two victims were driving back to town when they've been assaulted by this animal"
"Are there any witnesses?" asks Jamie.
"Yes, a group of friends, they were leaving the town. They said they suddenly saw this big animal, walking on two legs, like a bear but much similar to a wolf in the features. It jumped out of the forest next to the road and blocked the car. They quickly came back, but I wouldn't give much weight to their words, they admitted they drank a bit too much, and even their tale...". Jamie and Jeremy exchange a look, pretending to be surprised and not much convinced by the story.
"What about the bodies?" asks Jeremy.
"They were disembowelled, we found some parts on the ground and along the road. We took pictures, wait a second, I'll take them" he says, going away for a while. Jamie turns to Jeremy.
"Yes, it's clearly a Licaon" says Jeremy. "The fact that it didn't eat everything can mean it wasn't much hungry, or that it simply went hunting for its herd"
"You mean they're organizing again?"
"It can be. But it also means the group is compacting again, they should be all close in the same zone and won't spread around"
"So, you see it as a good thing..." he tells, a bit puzzled.
"Well, nothing in our job is good, but if something is at our advantage, then it's good". The sheriff comes again with a yellow folder.
"Here it is, agents" he says, giving the folder to Jamie. "I'm sure you have already seen crude pictures, but I must warn you these are really bad" he adds.
"Thank you..." comments Jamie, posing the folder on the reception next to him. The sheriff goes away and Jamie starts browsing the papers. Jeremy looks around.
"Give me a minute..." he tells to his brother in the ear. Jamie quickly glances at him.
"Yeah, ok..." he says and starts looking at the pictures. The sheriff was right, those are really bad. How strong, big and hungry must these creatures be to do such a thing?
Few instants later, Jeremy is back to his brother. He poses a hand on his shoulder.
"Found something useful?" he asks. Jamie looks at him.
"Those creatures... This is awful" he says.
"Yeah... I told you. They're dangerous". Jamie doesn't answer, he's thoughtful. "Can we go now?"
"Yeah, yeah..." replies Jamie. They leave the folder there and walk out.
"How much does it take to the herd to form again?" asks Jamie, walking and looking down.
"I have no idea, I'm no expert. Actually no one is because we don't know much about them. But don't worry, we'll arrive in time" Jeremy says, observing him. "Are you ok?"
"Yes, why?" asks Jamie, looking at him surprised.
"You look upset. Does it have anything to do with what I told you?"
"No no... I'm fine" he says, looking down again.
"Well, in any case, I don't want it to take you down. And you didn't even have breakfast this morning"
"I was just focused on the case and lost hunger"
"Good" he says, patting him in the chest with a little snack in his hand. Jamie looks confused at him.
"Come on, you have to eat something, and you always loved chocolate bars" says Jeremy. Jamie smiles.
"I remember I had to hide all the chocolate in the upper closets because I didn't want you to get fat", Jamie laughs.
"Haha, well, I love chocolate. But many times I used a chair to get there. And then shared my chocolate with Mary"
"Ha, really?" exclaims Jeremy incredulous. "You two... Anyway, I knew you couldn't resist to those" he adds, while Jamie opens the envelope and bites the chocolate, smiling.
They return to the motel, where Marya is waiting for them.
"So? Did you find out anything?" she asks quickly as they get in. Jamie throws the envelope in a trash can.
"Very little but these things confirmed what we were thinking" tells Jeremy. "The herd is organizing again but this can help in tracing the new nest"
"The attack has been near the highway" says Jamie. Marya turns her eyes from one to the other. "So, we can think it's near there"
"I was taking a look at the map...-" she says, pointing at the map on the table.
"There are few abandoned farms there" intervenes Jeremy. She looks up to him, a bit sad because of his interruption. "I checked them many times. Only few of them have undercrofts or places where they can hide"
"Ok, we can take a look. You said they attack indifferently during day or night?" asks Jamie.
"Alright. Do you have some others of those machetes?"
"Ha, yeah, they're in my car, I'll take them" he says, going out for a while. Marya waits for him to exit and then turns to Jamie, who noticed that and was observing her.
"Don't you have the impression he doesn't want me in?" asks Marya.
"Ahm... I don't-"
"He keeps ignoring me. Maybe he's mad at me? Did I do anything wrong? Or said something bad?"
"No, Mary, don't worry. And he's not mad at you" Jamie assures her.
"And why then? Did you notice that too?"
"You know him, he's always like this, with everyone. He had to accept our help, so maybe he's still not convinced about that"
"I don't know..." she comments, staring at the window behind him. He smiles and gets closer to her.
"Don't worry, he must be just stressed for this case" he tells, caressing her arm. She looks up to him and half smiles, still a bit thoughtful. Jeremy comes in again and poses two machetes on the table.
"Here they are" he tells. Jamie looks at them then gives Marya a quick smile. They get closer to take them. Jeremy looks a bit thoughtful. Jamie takes up his blade.
"Ok, when are we going?" he asks, looking at his brother. He reflects for a while.
"Ahm, now, but I have to refuel first. I don't remember how much gasoline is left"
"Oh, ok, I saw a gas station at the exit of the town"
"Yeah, I'll go there" he says, getting ready to go away.
"Wait, I'll take my bag" Jamie says, going to the bed.
"There's no need, I'll come back to take you". Jamie is confused.
"What? You should come back..."
"Well, doesn't matter, it's not a problem for me, so you'll have all the time to organize your things". Jamie still can't understand but he says it's ok. Jeremy gets out while Jamie and Marya collect all their things in their bags. Jamie reflects on what just happened and Marya observes him, when a sharp noise brings him back to reality. It's the noise of a key turning in the lock. Jamie quickly turns around and runs to the door. He tries to open it while Marya looks surprised. The door doesn't open and Jamie keeps pushing it.
"Jeremy! Jeremy! Come on, open it!!" yells Jamie. "Don't be stupid!!"
"I can't Jamie, I'm sorry. I can't take you with me"
"Stop with this nonsense! Open this fucking door! You can't lock us here!"
"Don't worry, I'll fix this. I did it before. I'll be back quickly"
"Jeremy! Jeremy!!" he yells loud.
"I love you, little brother. That's why I can't let you come" he ends. Jamie keeps moving the handle and calling him, hitting the door. But Jeremy doesn't answer anymore. They hear the sound of the engine starting and then the car going away. Marya stays there, speechless.
"Damn it! Damn it!" Jamie exclaims, angrily.
They spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon trying to get out of there. They try to get out from the windows but they're somewhat fastened from outside. Jamie works with his tools on the lock but Jeremy put a soft rubber inside and the tools get stuck there and don't work. They don't want to break down the door because it can be just an unnecessary further problem. So, they alternate at the door, trying to clean the lock from the rubber. It's a long and tiring job. After some hours, they're however at a good point. Jamie is sitting on the bed, holding his head and resting a bit. Marya is kneeling in front of the door, working with the tools.
"I can't understand how he could do it..." says Jamie. "I thought I convinced him, I thought he really changed his mind". Marya looks at him.
"Jeremy is Jeremy. He never changes his mind. We should have expected actually."
"He said he was ok with it, we were working together"
"I really can't understand his point of view. It doesn't make any sense"
"I'm worried... Those creatures are terrible, they turned those people to just bits of meat" he says. She doesn't answer, she's focused on her job. She works with the tools when they hear a click. Jamie quickly looks up.
"You did it? You managed?!" he asks. She gets up and smiles, opening the door.
"Yeah" she says. Jamie swiftly gets up, grabs his bag and runs out. She follows him but she at least expected a hug though.
They drive towards the exit of the town, even if they don't know in which farm they will find Jeremy, if he's still there, or if they'll find the nest. It's just 6 o' clock but it's already dark outside. Jamie drives a bit too fast and a bit too wildly, but he's in a hurry. Marya is a bit scared but doesn't dare telling him anything. They reach the highway and leave the car at the border of the lane. They take all they can need from the trunk, they take some guns too and then Jamie runs among the trees, trying to get to the closest farm in the zone. Marya follows him. They arrive near a building, surrounded by the forest, when they hear something moving among the trees. The sky behind the house is of a light violet because the sun set down there just few time before. Jamie halts behind a tree, holding Marya too. He wants to find his brother or simply end this, so he cautiously goes toward the place where the noise came from, taking Marya behind him. Everything seems calm now and they walk quietly in the forest, with the machetes in their hands. Marya grabs Jamie's wrist and holds him for a while.
"What?" he asks, turning to her.
"Do you remember what you have to do, if we find it?"
"Yes, don't worry"
"We have to be cautious, if they're really so strong..."
"Yeah, we have to surprise them. Come on, let's go" he ends and carries on. Looking down to the ground, Jamie notices some footprints that make him think they're on the right way at least. Still, they can find nothing, it's all quiet. They walk for a while until they get to a larger point and a crossroad. There, they find a notice: to the left for the farms and to the right for the mine. Jamie looks at Marya, incredulous.
"A mine? Is there a mine here?!" he asks. She's surprised too.
"It wasn't indicated in the map... I couldn't find anything" she says. He doesn't think twice and he hurries to the right. They proceed for some other minutes and the place gets even darker, with the thick forest worsening the conditions. Then they hear some groans. They stop and listen, staring at each other.
"This is not a bear..." Jamie whispers. The groans get louder and clearer, more like angry complaints. Jamie makes some steps ahead and hides behind a large tree. Marya reaches him and they look ahead, in the darkness, trying to see the animal they're expecting. And it comes out: a big, giant creature, walking on two legs, similar to a bear but with the head of a giant wolf. Marya looks at it shocked and shakes Jamie's arm. He tries to hold her, because he saw that too. The Licaon is walking back and forth, sometimes moving on four legs. Jamie looks around, trying to understand what it's doing. He sees a gate behind the Licaon, it probably takes to the entrance of the mine. Then, still looking around, he sees something else: at the other side, hidden behind some bushes and trees, there's his brother, waiting for the right moment to attack. Jamie starts as he sees him and Marya notices it, managing in that way to identify Jeremy. Jamie tries to reach him, but Marya holds him.
"Mary, I have to go there" he whispers.
"It's too dangerous, the Licaon will see you. We have to wait here"
"No! What? I can't!"
"You'll put everyone in danger like this! Don't move" she says, when they hear a terrible and loud scream. They soon look at the Licaon but what they see it's different: the animal is holding Jeremy to the ground, with its claws sank on his stomach and the other hand holding some pieces of meat. Its mouth is already dirt with Jeremy's blood. He tried an attack while the Licaon was turned, but it somehow heard him and turned around in time to catch him and attack him. He loses senses very quickly and his abdomen is ripped off, with blood flowing everywhere. Marya stares at the horrible scene, shocked and terrified, incredulous. Jamie is petrified, he can't believe in his eyes. He starts screaming and yelling, not caring if the Licaon will see them.
"Jeremy!! Jeremyyy!!!" he yells, crying and running to him, but very likely Jeremy is already dead. The Licaon quickly raises up its head to look at them. Marya, terrified and scared by Jamie's reaction, runs and overcomes him, holding and pushing him back toward the trees.
"Noooo!!! Nooooooo!!! You bastard!!" he screams and cries. "Leave me, let me go!!"
"Jamie, Jamie! Noo! We can't do anything now! Listen to me!" she says, pushing him back. She tries to stay cold because he can't control himself now, but it's shocking and difficult for her too. He doesn't listen to her, his eyes are fixed on his brother on the ground and the whole scene is blurred by his tears in the eyes. The Licaon stays there, studying them, Marya glances back, shaken and destroyed. Jamie tries to get free from her grip but she blocks him against a tree.
"Jamie, it fed now, we can't do this!!" she repeats, crying lowly. He turns his eyes to her, desperate. It all seems impossible but with that stare, she gets she's got his attention now. She drags him away, holding his arm and taking him away among the trees.
"Run! Ruun!" she yells, as the Licaon jumps ahead and starts chasing them. She stays ahead and drags him, who keeps crying desperate. Once they get far enough, the Licaon loses their traces and lets them go. They reach the car and Jamie leans on it, on the ceiling, holding his face and crying. Marya can't withhold the tears either anymore and goes to him, caressing his back and trying to comfort him.
"Jamie..." she whispers, softly. "I'm sorry...", he doesn't reply, he keeps crying. "Come on, get in the car..." she tells, taking him and leading him in.
Later, they're back to the motel, Jamie is still crying, more silently, sitting on his bed and looking down. He's starting to realize more rationally what happened. Marya observes him, sad for what happened and worried for what he's going through now. She goes to him with a glass of water and sits next to him. He looks up to her as she gives him the glass.
"Thanks..." he mutters and drinks a bit, sobbing.
"I'm sorry... I don't know what to say, it's terrible" says Marya. Jamie shakes his head.
"I should have listened to him..." he tells lowly.
"What?" she says, softly. "No, Jamie, it's not true"
"We didn't even help him..." he tells, sobbing.
"We couldn't. It's not our fault, the Licaon fed, it would have been impossible, it could have been worse, remember?", he nods.
"But at the end, he was right. We started working together and someone got hurt"
"But that's not because of that. It's the contrary, it's because he didn't listen to us, he refused our help"
"I don't understand... Why? It wasn't meant to end up like this again, we could have won this". She listens though she doesn't get that 'again'. He looks at her. "Do you think he was lying all the time? That he knew where the nest was?"
"I don't know... But it seemed he was ok with taking you with him. I didn't expect that either"
"Damn..." he says, head down and crying again. "How can you be so calm?". She looks down.
"I'm not. I'm... But I have to stay strong. For me and for you too" she replies, a bit moved. He looks up to her, surprised and hurt. He forgot that she's been through a similar situation, if not even worst, when she was even younger. And he realizes that she probably learnt exactly in that situation. She caresses his hair and smiles a bit.
"It's been awful to see, I know. It will be difficult"
"He was... My brother. He always took care of me, he helped me and supported me. He knew everything of me... I have that scene printed in my mind, I won't be able to forget it, I still see it in front of my eyes..." he looks down.
"He's been close to me too, when I needed. He's always been great"
"I'm sorry, I'm putting all my things on you, when you already have all yours. We all lived like brothers. And you've already been through worst things...". She looks down, sad.
"Hey, Jamie, don't worry. I'm here for you, you can tell me everything, you know" she surrounds him with an arm and shakes him a bit, he smiles a bit but his smile quickly fades away. She looks down because she knows the question she's going to ask will hurt him.
"How will you tell it to aunt and uncle?". He takes a deep breath.
"I don't know... We have to kill those awful beasts" he tells, looking straight at her.
"Yes, don't worry. We'll end this. We have to organize perfectly everything, because we saw they are terrible-"
"Please, Mary, tell me you won't ever go away" he interrupts her, leaving her a bit surprised by his words. "Please, you won't leave me... You two are my closest people, I can't lose you too"
"Hey, hey, Jamie... Don't think about it. And I'm here and not going anywhere" she says, shaken, caressing his hair. Then she pulls him to her and hugs him, he holds up to her. She searches for some comfort too in his hug, Jeremy has always been a good big brother.
The next morning, Jamie is still sleeping, Marya didn't want to wake him up but now it's 9 a.m. already. She opens the curtains of the windows and some light filters inside. Jamie slowly wakes up and rubs his eyes.
"Hi..." he tells. She goes to him.
"Hello. How are you feeling?". He thinks for a while and looks down.
"Sad, I want to end this and take revenge", she nods. "Will it ever pass? The sadness?" he asks, looking at her.
"No, sorry. It won't. You can just get habit and live with it" she tells, getting up.
Later, they check on the laptop where is the exact location of the mine they found the night before. They look on a map.
"It's some kilometres away from the highway, accessible from a secondary road from there" she says, observing it. He glances at it.
"It was an old coal mine. It's been abandoned in the early '80s" he tells, reading on the web. "Since then, no one ever took care of it, it was a secondary mine, that's why many maps don't show it". She reflects.
"So, the nest can be there. No one would notice and it's near enough to the town or the highway"
"Yeah. If the entrance is at the other side, probably yesterday we reached the back end" he tells, thoughtful and with a sad mood. "The Licaons were there, so maybe we can surprise them if we get from the other side".
They get ready and few hours later they drive back to the mine. They run along the highway, Jamie silently drive and looking at him, Marya can perceive the heavy weight of this fight. They find the secondary road that leads to the mine and turn there. When Jamie can see the entrance to the mine in the distance, he precautionary stops some meters back. Turns off the engine and waits for some instants.
"Are you ok? Are you ready?" asks Marya. He looks at her.
"Yeah. Be cautious, ok? And always be careful. This hunt... is really dangerous" he tells, taking his machete and getting out. Marya looks down and follows him. They silently and quietly reach the entrance of the mine. Jamie takes a look inside, it doesn't seem to see anyone. They get in, with their machetes in their hands. There actually isn't anyone there, but their passage is visible: there are pieces of corpses and meat all around, piled up against the walls. There are clothes, dirtied with blood and blood all in the earth on the ground. Jamie looks down at where he puts his feet and waits for Marya to reach him. He takes her hand and points at the remains on the ground. They don't speak but with this gesture he tells her to be careful because they're in the right place. They carry on and halt before a turn of the gallery. Jamie peeps on the other side, with Marya who, holding to him, leans out to see. There are some of those creatures, Licaons, sleeping on the ground. They are really big but while asleep they have a better chance to win. Still, one can wake up the others and that can turn into a problem. Jamie turns to Marya, as to ask her if she still wants to do this. He wouldn't have anything to say if she wanted to go back. She nods, she's ready and so they slowly walk ahead. They walk making no sound, side by side, looking around. There's a mixture of bad smells, those of the corpses and those of the animals. They can even look like natural creatures, if not for their huge dimensions and the features of a wolf. They have long fur and Jamie notices the sharp claws on their feet. They reach the first one of them, they're next to it and the following is few meters away. Jamie takes a look around then pushes Marya far back. She looks a bit confused. He takes a deep breath, hoping everything will go well, because now they're starting a hunt that can cost their lives, more than ever. Then, Jamie holds better his machete and thrusts it into the stomach of the Licaon. Avoiding it to scream as he wakes up, Jamie quickly pulls it up, disembowelling it. The Licaon emits just a subdued groan, that luckily is not loud enough to wake up the others. Jamie was a bit tense but now that everything went well, he's calmer. He turns to Marya and makes her a gesture to carry on. The more they go ahead, the more Licaons they find. There is a couple. Jamie and Marya, back to back, exchange a last quick look, before they contemporarily kill the two beasts. They go ahead and kill some other of them, sometimes he does it, sometimes she, according to the side where the Licaons are. They kill other two of them, when another one which was near there, evidently had a light sleep. As the killed Licaon screams, it wakes up and quickly jumps up. It stands in front of them, groaning. Jamie and Marya look at him, scared and they step back. That's exactly what they feared. More Licaons arrive behind it, it calls them and wakes them up. Jamie and Marya exchange a look, they can't absolutely give up now, it would be a complete defeat, they have to fight. So, even if terrified, they jump ahead and attack. Some of their strikes end up well, Marya kills one of them, Jamie wounds one. Meanwhile more Licaons are coming and the situation is ever more confused. Jamie and Marya are disadvantaged in number but they go ahead pretty well, even if they get hit many times. The Licaons grab them and throw them against the walls of the tunnel. Marya falls down on the ground and a Licaon tries to catch her. She creeps ahead and manages to escape under the legs of another one. Jamie glances at her, worried, but she takes back her machete and kills both Licaons. As he sees that, Jamie realizes he should better look out for himself, when a Licaon grabs him by the shoulders and pushes him against the wall, but at its level, that means up from the ground. The Licaon sinks its claws into his arm and he screams in pain. But he can't let it win, he can't either distract Marya with his screams. The wound hurts and the Licaon insists. It's painful but even if with tears down his face, Jamie fights back. He can't give up, these are the creatures which killed his brother, they ripped him off and now he must carry on and get habit to his absence, his brother that always helped him and raised him up more than his parents. He has to fight back and take revenge if he doesn't want to get killed like him, he still has someone to fight for. With all these thoughts in his mind, he quickly thrusts his machete into the Licaon's stomach and pulls it up, killing it. The Licaon leaves him and he falls down, holding his arm. Marya, hearing his screams, searches for him and finds him down on the ground. He quickly gets up again, as to show her he's ok, and keeps fighting. Marya gets thrown down from behind, she rolls on her back to find a Licaon that on four legs is going to jump on her. Terrified, she sticks her machete up and thrusts it as it lands down. Then she kills him, getting all dirty with its blood, and moves aside for under it. Jamie and Marya keep killing like it were the easiest and most normal thing. Then, Jamie kills another one of them, when he gets pushed down. He loses his machete but gets up soon. He looks around for it and sees a Licaon is walking next to it. He can't bend down to take it, it's too dangerous, and the Licaon is coming to him. He stares at it, worried, he can't see anything else and he steps back. Suddenly a machete passes through it and Jamie, looking at it surprised, can see it sticking out on the other side. Marya hit it from behind, just to distract it and give Jamie enough time to take his one back. The Licaon groans loudly and screams, turning its head back to Marya, who pulls back the knife and steps back. Jamie grabs back his one and thrusts it into the animal, pulls it up and kills it. The Licaon groans another time, lower and falls down dead. Jamie and Marya can finally again see each other, standing in front of each other. They killed everyone and now they're all dead on the ground. As they relax a bit, Jamie remembers of his wound and complains a bit. He holds up his arm, his chequered shirt is covered with his blood. She has some bruises and little wounds from the falls. She quickly reaches him and holds him.
"Are you ok?" she asks worried and panting. He nods.
"Yeah, it's just a scratch" he replies, looking down at it. Then they look ahead: there's the light, the end of the gallery, they reached the other side and killed everyone, ending this. She leads him toward the exit, to be sure there isn't anyone else: there isn't. They come out, back to the light and look around, dazed. Jamie looks down: on the ground, among earth and dry grass, there's a big dark stain of blood, the only thing that remains of his brother. Who knows if some parts of the corpses they found inside was his. He closes his eyes, hurt and a tear comes down his cheek. Marya, observing him, reads his thoughts on his mind and hugs him even tighter, sharing his sadness.
They come back to the motel, sad, exhausted and tired by everything. Jamie lays down on the bed, thoughtful, while Marya searches for a clean shirt in her bag. She finds a handkerchief and throws it to Jamie, to stop his bloodletting. The kerchief hits him in the face, he takes it up and looks at it confused.
"Thank you..." he says, she smiles. But he's still thoughtful. He looks up to the ceiling, he looks around. Then he sits on the bed, with crossed legs. He glances around and his eyes fall on the can of rubbish next to the door. Inside that, there still is the envelope of the chocolate bars his brother bought for him the previous day. He sadly looks at it.
"Jamie?" Marya recalls him to reality. He looks at her.
"Do you want to stay here? Or you want to go?". He thinks for a while.
"It's better if we go, maybe we'll find some case to work on"
"Ok, perfect". But he feels like he has to share with her his thoughts.
"You know," he starts "Jeremy bought me some chocolate yesterday because he was concerned about me, not having had my breakfast". She smiles.
"He was always very caring with you. Doesn't matter if you grew up, you've always been his little brother"
"Yeah..." he comments, looking down but smiling. "I will miss him. It's really awful that this happened. We managed at the end. If he listened to us, he would have still been alive"
"Don't stress yourself over it. We can't change what happened" she tells, preparing her bags.
"No, but I can't help it. We could have done it together and avoided this. This has not been an accident, it's been a mistake", she looks down too. "Anyway, I saw you fought pretty well" he tells, smiling at her.
"You're really good, you managed it well. You have talent for this"
"Thanks, even if I don't know if it's good to have talent for killing things"
"We don't just kill things, we save people" he tells, getting up. "And at the end, you were meant to do this. Just like me. Just like Jay" he ends, smiling bitterly at her and taking off his shirt to medicate the wound. Marya smiles sadly too.
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