By Willow Taylor
with Jenny Dickinson
Late at night,
crossing the marshland,
Late at night, a figure walked slowly along the road, obviously pacing himself. The wind whipped his long leather trench coat against his legs. He looked up across the fields of the highland, and saw a white figure dressed in long flowing, bloody white scraps. He stared as it walked along the horizon, deciding it was definitely female. He reached into his pouch and pulled out a pair of binoculars. With that magnification, he confirmed his guess as to gender, taking in the ethereal woman in her tattered raiment, which was practically bathed in blood. Frowning, he replaced his binoculars, pulling a pack of cigarettes, then lit one. He stared across the moor till the white figure disappeared. He then pinched out the cig and tossed the butt away. Shaking his head, he began striding down the dirt road once more.
The next morning he was found sitting on the porch of the town inn at Sunsweet Rest, smoking a cigarette.
"How did you get here?" asked the innkeeper.
"I walked," the man said. "Obviously, because there isn't a horse with me."
"But..." the innkeeper said, blinking.
"SWEET ALICE WAS HERE!!" came a shriek. A pretty young woman in a t-shirt and jeans came rushing towards the inn. She had thick dark brown hair that shone silvery in the early morning light. Her eyes were gray-blue and she had pale skin with a sprinkling of freckles.
"Where?" asked the innkeeper.
"By the old well," swallowed the pretty girl. "I think it was James MacGullen."
"You think," asked a man, who came out from behind the innkeeper. He wore a full beard, and an authoritative manner.
"There wasn't much to go on," she gulped. The traveler looked down and saw blood splashed on her white sneakers. He lit another cigarette. The bearded man, who turned out to be the sheriff, had the young woman bring him to the body. The traveler followed them out of morbid curiosity. Also, it was obvious he wasn't going to be able to get a meal till this was dealt with.
"Oh gees...." the sheriff said, as they rounded the well house. The remains of a man's body lay sprawled out on the ground in a puddle of blood. "Shale, how did you find this?"
"I was going the back way to the inn, and you know, that runs right by here."
The sheriff nodded, then suddenly turned and looked at the traveler, who was leaning against the well house, and locked eyes. The traveler's cool brown eyes looked back out at the sheriff from beneath the shag of midnight-dark hair. "And who are you?"
"My name is Victor Shelly," said the man.
"Well Mr. Shelly, what are you doing here?"
"Hoping to get breakfast."
"At a murder scene?"
"No, sir, at an inn." Victor frowned and took a draw in his cigarette. "But the inn won't be doing diddily, 'till this is cleared up, so I thought I'd watch."
"I'm a supernatural investigator. I enjoy it," Victor said, blowing smoke out.
Sometime later, Victor finally got his breakfast, while he did, he saw the girl, Shale, who apparently worked there. "Who or what," Victor said pointedly a her, "is 'sweet Alice'?"
"She's this thing," Shale said. "Alice is this monster, she's been killing people in this area for years, as far back as I can remember, anyway." Shale sat down across from Victor. "It used to happen a lot less, once every oh... four to eight years, but in the past three years, it's been monthly, and now it's moving towards weekly."
"What is she? Is she alive or dead?"
"Some people say she's this chickie who got jilted, and died pregnant." She paused. "And some people think she's a wer."
"Hmm....." said Victor, finishing his milk.
"What's your name?" Shale asked.
He almost smiled. "Call me Angel."
"Your name is what?" she giggled.
"I didn't say it was my name," the dark haired man said. "I said to call me that."
A horse had been pounding turf for half a day before Sweet Alice's latest victim had been found. For a decision had been made at town meeting to go to the famous guild house, "Hunter's Haven". Alice was not exactly a vampire, but perhaps they knew of what she was and could help. And so mid-afternoon, about the time Angel Shelly was hearing the story of Sweet Alice, the horse and rider wearily appeared at the front door of Hunter's Haven. John Tucker, fussed with his hat as his horse slurped down water, and two curious children, one who had, in his opinion, far too much hair, and another who was a little disturbing, came out to tend it. After knocking, a small man, in a funny hat who had a nose like a horse. He spoke with a soft almost hissing accent and asked John to wait a moment, holding up a single whiter-than-bone-finger crowned with a black talon-like fingernail, then he disappeared leavening Tucker to face the queries of the disturbing boy with his shaggy brown hair, tipped in gray. Then a handsome woman, in jeans and low boots, with a simple blouse, came out of the barn. She gave a glance at his horse, then tossed her long chocolate brown hair over her shoulder, and looked him over the same way she had the horse. She got to the door, just as the short blue-clad man opened it again.
"Come in," he said, and Tucker did, followed by the dusty young woman. She headed into another door, as the small man led him through a library to what appeared to be a living room.
The Leaders of Hunter's Haven appeared to be two couples. There was the dusty young woman, a blond man who was closer to beautiful than handsome. The other couple consisted of a dark skinned man with streaked silver brown hair, and a blond Asian woman in fishnet and leather.
By the time Tucker had all of the story out, it was night.
"Hmmm..." the blond man, Frances Taylor, said thoughtfully. Suddenly, they heard a great shout, the words of which were indistinguishable. Frances frowned and excused himself. A moment later, he returned with two men, holding each by an ear.
"I have some volunteers to deal with your problem," he said, releasing them. The taller tossed cream-blond hair out of his eyes defiantly. He had the same snout-nose of the smaller blue clad man. The other one bore a resemblance to the first, but his white blond hair was curly and his paler green eyes cat silted. Frances smiled reassuringly at the alarmed delegate.
"This is Domenic and this is Andre. This lady behind me is..." he glanced over his shoulder and frowned. A moment later, a woman entered the room. She wore sleek boots that went to mid-calf, rich purple leather pants and a white shirt with a open vest that matched her pants. Her face was harsh, with a scar going up the left side. Her eyes were mismatched, one purple, one blue, and the short gold-blonde hair that framed her face did little to soften it.
"This is Mary Shelly."
John Tucker swallowed dryly.
Angel sat on the front steps of the inn, smoking. Much to his annoyance, it was not allowed inside. He was so involved in his fuming he didn't notice the sun setting or the curfew bells ringing. He noticed very little till a scream split the night. His eyes opened and danced through the mist shrouded night. The scream repeated and Victor was on his feet when Shale pelted out of the night and into him.
"What's going on?" he demanded, grasping her by the upper arms.
"Sweet Alice!" she panted. "She's after me!"
"What?" was all he had time to say when a figure drifted out of the mist. Angel snarled as he recognized it as the figure he'd seen on the highland the night before. Her eyes glowed like a will-o-wisp and she reached for the pair. Shale found herself thrown against the wall of the inn on the porch. She raised her head briefly then it fell to the floor.
"Speak night-walker," Victor growled.
"No," said the figure in a sugar sweet voice, garment floating in a nonexistent wind.
"Be that way!" Victor replied, and reached for something under his coat. The white clad figure lazily slapped him, gashing through his leather coat, and throwing him into the porch support. He shook his head, and looked at his shoulder where crimson blood welled out.
"Sweet Jesus!" he exclaimed. The ragged, mist shrouded figure laughed. Victor stood, and shed his coat. On the porch, Shale lifted her head again, and forced herself to remain conscious as she saw Angel darting at Alice with a knife. She crawled to her hands and knees, swallowing because she was dizzy. She heard a scream, but it was female. Sweet Alice's eyes flashed, and she struck out, knocking Angel into the same porch support. The support splinted. He got back up and for a few moments they looked at each other. Blood dripped down the black haired man's side and arm. Shale crawled to her feet then pounded on the door.
"SOMEBODY!!! HELP! WE NEED HELP!!!" No one answered, but Alice turned, lips and hands bloody to Shale. Angel tackled her.
"Deal with me, night-walker." Alice turned and dealt him another blow across the shoulder. Victor's teeth gritted, and he drove his knife into her right thigh. Alice wailed like a banshee, and threw the small man across the street. She then advanced on him as he started to stand back up.
"Good night..." she whispered sweetly, picking Angel up by the face.
"HEY! CHICKIE!!!" yelped a voice. Sweet Alice turned into the hunt of firewood Shale was swinging. The supernatural dropped Victor and fell to her knees. Victor was on his feet again almost immediately.
"MOVE," he growled, forcing Shale back onto the porch. He turned, pulling a gun from its holster, but Sweet Alice was gone. The inn door cracked open, and Shale and Victor were dragged inside.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Sweet Alice © 2001 by Willow Taylor and Jenny Dickinson
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