Kyle Messer the Tech Genius

 

Shit, I’m late, I hate being late. Frowning, I glance over at the digital display of my Porsche 918 Spider as I round the corner on Corporate Center Drive. I gave myself plenty of time as I left my Long Beach high-rise this morning, but a crash on the freeway set me back a good thirty minutes. Leave it to some careless idiot who doesn’t know how to drive to smear his worthless brain all over his dashboard and slow L.A. traffic down to a stop. By now I’ve come to accept how inconsiderate some people are, but such carelessness still gets on my nerves.

At the moment though, I am thrilled to see the top of my company peeking through the trees. Ikuchi is nothing special, it doesn’t even stand out from the rest of the glass boxes at the heart of the Corporate Center. But she’s my baby though, and I sure am proud of her. My partner named her after a fearsome Japanese sea monster, and it fit our small tech company well. We have only been on the scene for three years and were already larger than the other two tech giants combined. Not too shabby for a couple twenty-seven-year-olds if you ask me.

The tires of my Porsche screamed as I jerked the wheel to pull into the parking garage. I could see Daisuke’s Nissan GT-R parked snuggly in its spot. He was always the modest one, ever since we met as roommates at M.I.T. Not that his slick white car wasn’t a thing of engineering beauty, but it wasn’t my style. Pulling in next to it I lean back and glance at the sign in front of me with a smirk: Reserved for Kyle Messer-CEO. Who’d have thought a small dream of two Computer Science majors would grow this big in such a short time? Yet, here the two of us are, living the dream.

Adjusting the collar of my black shirt, I grab my briefcase off the floor and climb out of the car. The alarm chirps as I smash the button on my fob, and I give my silver beauty one last glance before I set off for the elevator. Daisuke would not be happy with me, not that I blame him, but I shall make it up to him somehow. In my defense, I tried to phone in to explain why I was running late, but apparently, our secretary has forgotten how to do her job.

Brenda has been with us for a year now and was still new at her job despite the hours we spent training her. I was deadest against hiring the doe-eyed little girl with pigtails and glasses. But Daisuke had promised his aunt to give the young woman a job, her being the daughter of a family friend or something like that. Whatever the case was, Daisuke felt like he owed these leaches a favor, even if it meant hiring an incompetent bimbo to run the office for us.

Personally, I could not stand the girl, or the way she ogled me with those big brown eyes of hers. Thinking of how she would greet me with her annoying, high-pitched voice made me cringe before the elevator even came to a stop. Daisuke informed me she really liked me, and told me I should give her a chance, but I brushed him off. Women are bad enough on their own, let alone when they are immature little floozies like Brenda. Combing my hand through my jet-black hair, I shudder at the thought of some little girl putting her filthy hands on my perfect body.

Don’t get me wrong, I was not always against the company of a woman. I was even engaged once to a girl I met at college. Wasted six years of my life with her until she up and walked out on me, shattering my world in mare minutes. Bitch had the audacity to toss the ring at my face and tell me she was running off with some chiropractor because I had no ambition in life. Said I would never get anywhere with my wild dreams and that she needed stability. Bet she’s sorry now, seeing as that wild dream of mine earned me enough money to put the measly fortune of her husband to shame.

Yes, revenge is a dish best served cold. Hope the filthy gold digger regrets the day she threw our life away. At least she taught me a valuable lesson in the process; women are not to be trusted, they only have their own interests in mind. Daisuke thinks I’m crazy for avoiding relationships, but I can tell you it has been working out rather well for me. At least this way I don’t have to share my earning with anyone but myself.

The elevator jolts to an abrupt halt, forcing me to abandon my thoughts and focus on the task at hand instead. As the doors clank open, I take a deep breath to prepare me for the conversation about to follow. Stepping out onto the freshly vacuumed, beige carpet I glance down the long hallway leading to my office. Something is off. I reserved Ikuchi’s topmost floor for Daisuke and me, so it’s always peaceful up here, but today it is eerily silent. No voices, no ringing of the phone, no clicking of Branda typing on the keyboard, no rumbling of the coffee maker.

The silence unnerves me, and I take an uneasy step toward the door. Unsure of what I will find I curse the stupid light bulb flickering above my head. I told Brenda weeks ago to call down to maintenance and have it fixed, and she was yet to do it. Grasping the polished handle, I pause momentarily, part of me knowing I do not wish to see what waits on the other side. Convinced the nerves have got the best of me I swing the door open, nauseated by what the scene reveals.

Our reception area is in disarray. Branda’s desk appears as if a bomb has gone off. Scattered papers flutter across the room, a telephone lays broken by my feet, and what’s left of an Ikuchi computer sits smoldering in a crumpled-up heap on the floor by where it fell. A sickening smell permeates the air; metallic and fresh, like a dead deer after a hunt. The source is painfully clear as a deep burgundy puddle seeps from behind the desk. Cautiously I make my way around the mess and peek to see what had happened.

“Jesus,” I mutter trying not to throw up.

Brenda’s lifeless eyes stare up at the ceiling, the expression of horror frozen on her face. Her throat is slit so hard that her head is barely left attached to the body. The white blouse she wore today has been colored red with her blood. My heart drops as I glance over at Daisuke’s door. There’s no way, he can’t be dead, he would never leave me alone like this. Stepping over the corpse of our secretary I rush to his door, flinging it open, not prepared for what I’m about to discover.

Splotches of crimson stain the cool, beige walls of our office. Trickling down to the floor they leave behind a pathway of makeshift roadways. Daisuke’s body is splayed out between our floor-to-ceiling window, and his antique oak desk. His intestines spill out as if he is a broken bowl of spaghetti, a bloody splotch covers the privacy glass behind him. Hideously deformed beings huddle over him, eating his entrails. The small, golem-like creatures stay hunched over, their pruned, hairless skin as black as coal.

One of the things pauses long enough to glance up at me, its eyes shining with a glaze-over green light as it lets out a muffled hiss. Jagged, snarled teeth fill the creature’s deformed mouth, covered in my partner's blood. The man who’s been my best friend for nine years, the only person I trusted other than myself, is dead, and these things murdered him in cold blood. Daisuke was a gentle soul, too kind for his own good, he did not deserve to become a meal for some gargoyle.

For the first time in years, emotion overcomes me. So many feelings course through my veins; the sadness of losing the person I was so close to, and the rage of some unholy being killing him. Letting out a howl, I surrender to the madness and let go of my reserved humanity. The sudden pain is exhilarating, it makes me feel aroused. I know I’m becoming more powerful than I could ever imagine. With madness in my eyes and hatred in my heart, I glance over at the six small beings cowering in terror before me.

Without giving it a second thought, I grab the foul creature closest to me by its tiny head. It squirms and squeals as I sink my claws into its skull and effortlessly pull him apart as if he’s a rag doll. The rest of them shriek and scatter, but I will not let them get away with what they did to Daisuke. One by one I grab hold of the monsters, ripping them to shreds with ease, their bodies disintegrating before they hit the ground. Both the hunt and the revenge feel intoxicating, I can do this all day long.

By the time I get done, the room looks like a horrifying canvas painted by a madman. Everything’s covered with smudges of red and black, the gray dust from the creatures is all over the floor. Then there’s poor Daisuke, displayed like an unfortunate animal on the floor, partially eaten intestines sit tangled up beside him. His dark brown eyes glance towards the window, not a hint of fear on his face. The sight of my friend brings me back to reality as the intensity leaves me. Whatever has briefly come over me has now abandoned me, and I find myself back to normal.

Kneeling by my partner's body I wait for the tears to come flooding in, but they never do, such deep emotions still escape this stone-cold heart of mine. I’ll have to report this, I need to call the cops, but first, I have to figure out what I will say to them. As I ponder my predicament, something catches my attention out of the corner of my eye. The morning sun streaming through the window grabs hold of something in Daisuke’s clenched hand, making it sparkle ever so slightly.

Gently I pry open his hand and pull out the silver chain with a pendant on it. Something made of jade, with a familiar symbol on it. A tomoe, Daisuke has them displayed all around his house, but this one is different. Instead of three intertwining tadpoles, this one has three coiled up serpents. This must be related to Daisuke’s death, why else would he have it? If I find who this necklace belongs to, I will locate the monster behind the murder of my friend, and make them pay.

The darn cops take forever to respond, but in an hour, they are swarming my office building like ants to a picnic. I’ve never felt so violated in my entire life. Between the endless questioning and them covering everything inside my office with that nasty black dust. Cringing I look at the mess they’re making. All this is giving me a headache. Not only has my best friend died, but now I’ll have to pay a buttload of money to get this place cleaned up.

This whole thing would not be as bad if not for this damned police dog sitting next to me. Everything else I can deal with, except the way the German Shepherd keeps looking at me. His biddy brown eyes seem to follow my every move. And to top it all off, I think the stupid mutt keeps trying to talk to me. Sounds insane, but as I’m sitting in a chair with my head hung between my knees trying to ignore the boys in blue tearing up everything in sight someone speaks to me.

“You know more than you’re letting on.”

 I lift my head to see who it is, but the only thing I can spot is a black muzzle staring at me. Spinning my head from side to side, I attempt to see which officer is talking to me, but the only living soul around me is Duke the dog, as his vest proudly suggests. By this point, I must conclude I’m losing my mind. Finding my friend murdered and not having eaten since breakfast must be getting to me, causing me to hallucinate.

Exhausted, Duke and I continue to glare at one another as if sizing each other up. Eventually the lead detective walks over to where I sit, placing a large hand on my shoulder. The officer gives me a tap and tells me I’m free to go. He says he'll call me if they find anything, except I know they won’t. Thanking the officer, I get up to leave. Halfway through the door the same gruff voice comes from behind me.

“Don’t go far, chump. And don’t do anything you will regret.”

Frozen, I slowly twist my head to look in the speaker's direction only to be met with the same darkened muzzle again. Duke’s sitting right behind me, his head tilted to the side, licking his chops. I knew there was a reason I hate dogs so much. Aside from the fact that they shed, they seem to have an uncanny understanding of what’s going on around them, a six sense of sorts. Paranoia must be kicking in, I’m starting think I can understand animals.

Standing in the doorway, I scowl at the dog who continues to study me. Letting out an odd whimpering noise he turns around and walks back to his handler. Satisfied with what I consider a win, I straighten the collar of my shirt as I walk out of the room. Confined safely in the small compartment of the elevator, far from prying eyes, I reach inside the pocket of my black slacks to pull out the medallion. Tracing its details with my thumb I study it closer. It’s an ancient Asian symbol for sure. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough of Asian lore to make heads or tails of this thing, but I know someone who does.

My elevator jerks to a stop with a loud beep as the doors swoosh open. Wasting no time, I head for my car, the alarm chirps as I pushed the door button on my key fob. Getting in, I slam the door behind me. Not wasting time with the seatbelt, I throw her into reverse and peel out of my parking spot. With tires squealing, the car departs the garage to my next destination, Little Tokyo. Still early in the day the freeway will be less crowded, it should only take me about twenty-five minutes to get there.

The drive down is remarkably uneventful. By now I have almost forgotten the nightmare from earlier today. If not for the amulet shimmering on the passenger seat next to me, I could have put the death of my best friend to the back of mind, at least until I had the chance to grieve properly. Soon enough news of Daisuke’s death would be all over the televisions and papers. When that happens, I’ll no longer be invisible. I must get the answers I seek before shit hits the fan.  

Again, there’s no parking in this area suitable for my car accept the parking garage a short walk away from my destination. Driving to the top I hope to avoid any unnecessary social contact. Donning on my black trench coat and a pair of dark sunglasses I stroll down hoping to avoid getting noticed. Daisuke was the face of our company, but my face has appeared in the paper enough times to make me recognizable to a trained eye. If luck will have it, this makeshift disguise will be enough to blend into the crowd.

With a deep breath to steady my nerves I set off down San Pedro Street for the Japanese Village Plaza. A tourist trap if I’ve ever seen one, it will offer me the perfect cover to disappear for the time being. Merging with a chattering crowd of tourists I walk unnoticed down the bustling street to Little Tokyo. Red and white lanterns swinging between structures let me know I have managed to reach the plaza. Not stopping to study them any further I hurry to my destination.

Nishimura Antiquities is a small, green pagoda style building wedged between a sushi restaurant and a trinket shop. It belongs to the family of Daisuke’s friend from middle school, Nick. Daisuke brought me here to hang out with them on many occasions, but it’s not Nick I came here to see.

A bell chimes to signify my intrusion as I push open the glass door into the smoky interior which reeks of sandalwood. A short Japanese man with gray hair looks up from behind the counter. At first, he squints his eyes at me, as if trying to figure out why some guy in black entered the shop. Appearing to realize who I am a warm smile of recognition washes over his wrinkled face and he waves me over to the counter.

“Nick!” he shouts, “Nick, Mr. Messer come see you.”

I’ve always admired the old man. He always spoke with broken English, but considering he’s only been in the country for three years it impressed me. Nick’s uncle had moved here from Kyoto to help his sister when her husband passed away. It was only supposed to be a temporary thing, but I guess he liked it here so much he decided to stay.

“Hey Mr. Hayashi.” I take my glasses off to greet him. “Actually, it’s you I came here to see.”

“Me?” Hayashi frowns. “What you need old man for?”

“I want to know what you can tell me about this.”

Pulling the jade trinket out of my pocket I place it on the counter and slide it over towards him. Upon seeing the pendant, the color drains from the old man’s face. A look of pure terror fills his eyes as they dart from the necklace and back to my face. Clutching his chest, Mr. Hiyashi backs up against the wall, staring at object as if it would jump off the counter and kill him.

“Where you get this?”

“So, you do know what it is?”

“No… no.” the man continues to stammer. “You take evil back. Out of store Mr. Messer.” He shoves the pendant into my hands while pushing me from his store. “Out.”

Confused, I stand outside clutching the small silver chain with the pendant in my hands. This is not a reaction I anticipated to get from the old man. But it affirmed my suspicions; the owner of this thing is responsible for Daisuke’s death. Frustrated at my lack of progress I’m about to leave when a firm hand grabs hold of my shoulder.

“Kyle, wait.”

Turning around I come face to face with a tall young man. With his porcelain skin and jet-black hair, he can easily pass for my Japanese twin. Nick’s known Daisuke longer than I have, and I was always a bit jealous of their relationship, but for once, I’m glad to see him. He appears sad, lost even. I wonder if the news of our friend’s death has reached him yet when he speaks up.

“I heard about Daisuke,” his face appears solemn. “I’m sorry, I know you were close.”

“Yeah.”

“Is… is there a reason you came here?”

“I wanted to ask your uncle a question.” I shrug remembering the old man’s reaction. “But he refused to answer me.”

“What did you wish to ask?”

I study the look of confusion on Nick’s face. Not that I blame him, I was bewildered myself as to why Mr. Hiyashi shoved me out of the store. Now I’m wondering if I should let Nick in on my little secret. What if he knows the significance of the necklace? Yet, I’m hesitant to ask, fearing his reaction if he does have the answers I want. Then again, what did I have to lose at this point?

“I wanted to see if he knew what this was.”

Pulling out the pendant, I dangle it in the air from my index finger. The same look of terror comes over Nick’s face as it did his uncle’s. With trembling hands, he takes hold of the circular object to study it up close. Returning the trinket, Nick glances up at me with concern in his eyes.

“Where did you get this?”

“Does it matter?”

 “I suppose not.” Nick sighs heavily. “But in Japan this is a bad sign.”

“So, what is it?”

“It’s the pendant of Lady Nakatomi. And, if you are in possession of it, something terrible is about to happen, or…” he glances up at me with a sickening realization, “… it already has.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“Nakatomi Ikuko was a noblewoman from around the seventh century. She married an unfaithful man. Growing increasingly jealous of his philandering, her jealousy got out of control, transforming her into a Namanari.”

“Say what now?”

“A Namanari. In Japanese lore, they are a type of demon. But not full ones. They are caught in between; half woman, half beast. These women still look human, except for a set of small horns, and they’re capable of powerfully dark magic. Amongst them, Lady Nakatomi is the most feared as she survives on torturing and killing men.”

“And you believe these ghost stories Nick?”

“I didn’t until you showed me this Be straight with me Kyle, does this have anything to do with Daisuke’s death?”

“I think it might. But don’t worry, I will find the person responsible and make them pay.”

“Don’t do anything rash Kyle, you can’t tango with a demon.”

“No worries, I think I can handle her.”

“If you say so. Just promise me you’ll be careful… for Daisuke’s sake.”

With a nod, I turn around and walk away from him. Finally, I have a slight idea of whom to investigates next, Daisuke’s new girlfriend. I never met the gal, but from what I know she is a prominent Japanese immigrant who goes by the name of Misako. All I have to do is find the right one, then I’d hunt her down for some questioning.

There’s only one slight problem with my perfect plan; I have no idea how many women by her name live here, and Daisuke never mentioned a last name. But this is of little matter, I can quickly figure it out through some savvy tech work. After all, I am a tech genius. First thing I’ll do when I get home is try to find out more about her from Daisuke’s social media site. Then, I will figure out where she lives and confront her.

Contemplating the steps to my plan I round the corner into the parking garage when something catches my eye. Two bright amber orbs glow in the darkened corner of the cement building. Upon meeting my gaze the stalker walks out from the shadows to reveal itself. From what I can tell it appears to be a rather large dog.

It couldn’t be a domestic dog, it’s bigger, with shaggy white fur. If I didn’t not know any better I’d guess it was a wolf. But that’s ridiculous, there are no wolves in L.A. Whatever this beast is, it continues watching me from a distance as if trying to discern what my next move will be. Yup, just another reasons to hate dogs, stray ones especially. Shaking my head I turn away from the ugly mutt and continue on.

Keeping to the side as far away from the beast as possible I hurry up the steps to my car. Checking over my shoulder I make sure the dog is not following me, but the filthy beast stays where it’s at. With a deep breath I unlock the door of my Porsche and climb into the safe embrace of her leather seat. Perhaps I’m a tad irrational, but I’m thrilled to be back behind the wheel headed home to my penthouse in Long Beach, far away from Nick and the stupid dog who kept watching me.

Took me all night and most of the day to figure out who this woman was. Three hours into my research and I cursed Daisuke’s need for privacy. He only had one picture with the woman up on his page. Dainty little thing with a wicked smile. This exotic beauty was excruciatingly hard to hunt down. No less than a dozen women with the name Misako live in the greater Los Angeles area. Ten of them under the age of thirty.

Hacking into the immigration database I searched for recent transplants from Japan. This only narrowed my list down to six. From there I had to look them up individually and hope a face would pop up to confirm her identity. The search was proving futile. I began losing hope when one finally popped up in the DMV records. A twenty-one-year-old intern from Kyoto who came here on a work visa. Misako Inoue, who just happened to be the lady in Daisuke’s picture.

Sitting back in my chair, I glanced at my computer screen satisfied. I found her, and her address. This girl made no attempts to hide her identity. Either she was incredibly naïve, or she was as cunning as a fox. In any case, in a few short hours, she’d be mine. I intend to shred her to bits after she confessed to killing my best friend.

Closing my eyes, I take a quick snooze before I head out. I’m hoping for a reprieve from the last twenty-four hours, but it’s not be. Instead, my head fills with nightmares of things which transpired in the office, playing on an endless loop. I can see the goblins approaching Brenda while she’s on her phone, catching her off guard, killing her before she has a chance to scream. Once she’s dead, the creatures sneak their way into Daisuke’s office, swarming him as he attempts to fight them off.

They hold him down as he looks on in shock, betrayal fills his as he stares at his open door. A shadowy figure in a kimono approaches him. Long, flowing hair conceals her face, but I have no doubts it’s Misako. I try to call out to him, warn him, even try to get to the office in time to save him, but each attempt fails. The woman pulls out a tanto and slit his throat as a silent scream escapes me. Before he collapses to the floor, Daisuke grasps at her amulet, ripping it off her neck as he falls to the floor.

Drenched in sweat, I startle myself awake, nearly falling out of my chair. Clutching on to my chest, panting I attempt to still my beating heart which is threatening to pound its way out of my chest. The digital clock on my wall reads out 7:00 in bright red digits. Finally, the time of judgment has arrived. Staggering up off the floor I head for the door. Soon, I’ll be confronting the woman who murdered my friend.

Eagerly, I make the long drive from Long Beach to Beverly Hills where she lives. Her small Tuscan Vineyard will, unfortunately, be inaccessible from the road. My best bet will be to park at Franklin Canyon Park and walk through her grape field to the mansion. I suppose it’ a good thing no one knows how much I hate hiking. Otherwise, they’d be questioning my presence by the small trail leading south.

Donning my black trench coat, I slink behind the trees off the beaten path and start briskly making my way to the house. The shadows of the evening shroud me in their presence as I crouch in the grapes. Climbing down the steep embankment I try not alert security to my intrusion, but no guards are patrolling the grounds. Staying close to the ground I dash across a small section of the driveway into a thicket of trees overlooking the estate.

From my vantage point I spot a small fountain gurgling at the center of the primary drive. Lights hiding out in the flower beds illuminate the mansion’s beige stucco façade. I’m in awe of the magnificence of the enormous structure before me, but my attention quickly turns to the only source of light coming from the building. Out of all the windows on the two-story structure, only five are lit.

Daisuke’s killer is inside, I can feel her sinister presence all the way out here. I need to catch her off guard, but I know I can’t do it going in through the front doors. Looking about I spot an odd balcony by the garage. Appearing to be between the two floors this metal terrace is low enough for me to reach it. Creeping along the side of the garage I make my way across the sea of concrete to the bushes below my mark.

Scaling the balcony is simple for someone a hair over six feet tall. I stumble into a grandiose marble room which is this woman’s bathroom. Gazing about the oversized room I’m in shock at how much space a woman needs for her daily primping. A garden jacuzzi tub large enough for three people, a steam shower the size of my walk-in closet, large vanity with two sinks, and a crystal chandelier. From this space alone I can tell this woman is high maintenance, so what Daisuke saw in her remains a mystery to me.

Shaking my head in disgust I look around for a door, or any other way out. I don’t search long as immediately to my left sits a staircase leading up. I quickly scale the six steps into her bedroom tastefully decorated with Japanese antiquities. Admiring her tastes, I think could have grown to like her if it wasn’t for the whole killing my best friend part.

I wonder where to go when a faint, sweet, sensual scent of night blooming jasmine wafts past my nose. Such a delicate, seductive smell of a wicked woman. Now I’m starting to understand how Daisuke got bewitched by this creature. But if I follow her scent, it would guide me right to her. Taking my chance, I push the door open into the long, dark hallway.

Satisfied I’m alone, I step out into the intersection of halls and sniff the surrounding air. At first, it’s difficult to pinpoint where the scent is wafting from, but eventually, I’m able to detect its location. Taking the hall straight before me I walk as quietly as I can to maintain my element of surprise. I pause before a landing with a double staircase leading down to a marbled hall below. Two arms wind down, wrapping themselves around a statue of a black dragon. To the right of the stairs, a fading light spills across the white marble, bathing it in a warm golden glow.

From below my vantage point, the scent of jasmine is overwhelming, making my head spin. Not daring to take the steps I slide down the banister, quickly hoping down between the stairs before she noticed. Holding my breath, I wait for her to come, but she doesn’t move from the room she’s hiding in. Tired of waiting I press myself close to the wall and make my way to the light.

I find myself in a darkened room made from ebony and decorated with the same Japanese antiquity covering the bedroom. Tall shelves filled with books line three of the four walls. Directly in front of the windows, facing away from me, in a plush velvet chair sits Misako. Her long, silky smooth, black hair flows down behind her. She has her face transfixed in a book, as her body emits a deep purple glow. Before I regain my composure, she slams the book shut and stands up to face me.

“Good evening Mr. Messer, I was expecting you.”

Surprised by her remark I back up against the wall as she approaches me. Her porcelain skin’s accentuated by her onyx hair. Chocolate eyes glisten in the dim light as a smile forms on her bright red lips. She looks like the Japanese girls in old paintings Daisuke had around his place. Now I have no doubts why Daisuke fell for her. A flowery, powder blue kimono swishes behind her as she stops right before me. Running her long, blood-red nail under my chin she bites down on her lip.

“I believe you broke into my house for a reason puppy.” She smirks as her fingers trail down my chest “Or am I wrong?”

Her alluring voice is sensuous and seductive. The way she speaks and conducts herself makes the blood drain from my head. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I’m beginning to feel attracted to her myself. But she killed my best friend, I can’t in good conscience fall for such a vile creature. Sensing my discomfort, she presses her slender body against mine.

“What’s the matter puppy?” Whispering sweetly in my ear, Misako runs her long fingers through my hair. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Stop calling me puppy.” I push her away briskly, causing her to stumble back.

“My, my. You sure got a temper to you… pup. Don’t worry, I know exactly what you are, I’ve known even before you did.”

“Oh yeah? So, what am I? Enlighten me.”

“You’re saying you don’t know?” She chuckles at my confusion. “Why, you’re a werewolf, my dear boy. A cursed creature just like me.” A wicked smirk plays on her lips as she studies me closer. “Except you know, I’m a demon, so that sort of makes us mortal enemies.”

“You killed my best friend you filth witch,” I glare at her in disgust, all feelings of lust finally liberating my mind, “didn’t you?”

“First off, I’m not a witch, I’m a demon. We are completely different entities. Second, yes, I killed Daisuke, and that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

“Why? What did he ever do to you to warrant such a fate?” I step closer to her, pinning her against the wall with my body. “He was the nicest person anyone could meet. He wouldn’t even hurt a fly?”

“Because he betrayed me.”

“What are you going on about? Daisuke would never do such a thing… to anyone, let alone someone he cared about.”

“Yes, maybe not the man you know, but he was someone else many years ago before he was Daisuke. Back when I was still a mortal woman, I knew him as Reiichi, my philandering husband. For years I had overlooked his… indigestions. Well, until he had the nerve to leave me for some geisha girl. The pain and shame he inflicted upon me, coupled with the jealousy and betrayal turned me into the monster you see before you today.

“Centuries ago, I did the only thing a woman in my position could do, I took my revenge upon him and his harlot of a new wife. But that did not lift my curse, I was doomed to spend the rest of eternity as a demon. Unlike you dear, I cannot die by natural means. I was forced to flee my village before my secret was exposed. Forced to live in the shadows while I adapted to immortal life.

 “At first, the hatred flowed through me freely. I sought revenge on all men. But with each one I killed, I’ve lost a little more of my humanity, getting closer to a full demon with every drop of blood I shed. Realizing it was no way to live, I abandoned my hatred. Joining a temple, I reinvented myself. I’ve done so well for years. I’ve made something out of my life again while trying to redeem myself… until your friend came along.

“I would have recognized his face anywhere, at any point in time. He was still my Reiichi. That bastard got himself reincarnated and was now living a life as some famous billionaire while I had spent centuries just trying to scrape by. I could not take seeing his face again. It brought back so many painful memories. That’s why I did the only rational thing I could think of, I got close to him, I made him fall in love with me, and I killed him.”

“You heartless bitch.” I wrap my hand around her throat, hoisting her off the floor. Slamming her head on the bookshelf with a loud thud, rage surges through my veins. I’m aroused once more, but this time only my hand transforms. I dig my claws into her neck, and a crimson stream trickles down her pale skin. “He didn’t have to die! He was not the same man you knew. He was different.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Her voices cracks as a crystal tear falls down her delicate cheekbone. “Truth is, I was falling in love with the man he had become, but I couldn’t allow myself to get hurt again. I was afraid this time he might destroy me. So, if you wish to kill me Mr. Messer, I understand. After all these years I welcome it.”

Our gaze meets. Her dark eyes sparkle under the light of the pendant chandelier, filled with remorse. As much as I want to kill this woman to get my revenge, I can’t, I know Daisuke wouldn’t want me to. The rage building inside me flows into my free hand as I tighten my fist, slamming it against the wall above her head. Releasing my grip from her neck I collapse on my knees with a howl. Burying my face in my hands I sob uncontrollably.

“I have to hand it to you, Mr. Messer,” a deep male voice comes from the doorway “I did not peg you for the forgiving type.”

Lifting my head up, I investigate the once empty doorway. Two men stand inside it, overlooking the scene. A refined gentleman with long, white hair stands next to an Italian man with a buzz cut. The olive-skinned fellow is staring right at me with his piercing gaze. Both men exchange looks before the man in a gray suit comes closer to me, extending his hand down.

“Don’t mind Duke. Years of police work left him a tad bitter. If it’s any consolation, I always knew you would not kill her.”

I take the man’s hand, and he helps me get back up on my feet. Shooting a glance back at the Italian, all I can think of is the German Shepherd from the other day. The dog’s name was Duke too if I recalled correctly. But that’s preposterous, they can’t be one and the same. Yet this man bares a strange resemblance to the beast. They had the same dark eyes which could probe deep inside your mind.

“Something wrong boy?”

“Sorry. There was just a police dog the other day. He had the same name as you.”

“Yes. Well. You see that would be because I am that dog. If I recall, I tried questioning you that day, but you would not respond.”

“Impossible.”

“Can you believe this Colton?” Duke chuckles as he looks at his partner. “This boy transformed into a werewolf, confronted a demon, and yet he has a hard time believing my natural form is a dog.”

“It’s been a rough few days for him my friend. And he knows very little of our world.”

“Our world?”

“Yes, my lad. You are part of our world now, and if you come with me, I will introduce you to it. Not to mention there is an assignment I can use you for.”

“Personally, I still say the kid is too green for such an important job, but…” Duke picks the woman up off the floor and cuffs her. “I’ll be far too busy dealing with this lady to be of any help.”

“Mmm.” Colton nods his head. “And I cannot get involved due to my position within the Order. So, what do you say Kyle, will you help us?”

“Depends. What’s the job?”

“I need your help escorting a wolf across Colorado. She is a remarkable creature with a rare pedigree. She’s the only one left capable of crossing the boundary to stop the Worm, and now we require her services. Nothing major, just the fate of the world sort of thing.”

“You want me to pet sit for you?”

“Not just you. You’ll have company. And I wouldn’t call her a pet, she can shape-shift much like you. I assure you, she will spend most of her time as a human girl.”

“I think you should take the job, Mr. Messer.” Misako speaks up as Duke leads her away. “I have a feeling this doggie will change your life.”

I glance over at her as she gives me a gentle smile before I look back over at Colten. He’s peering at me intently as if waiting for my answer. For a while, I have no clue what to say. I’m not much for road trips, or company, but maybe a change of scenery is what I need to get my mind off Daisuke. Also, I have not taken a vacation in over six years, and it’s not like I couldn’t run my company from the road. Wanting answers about myself and the world I now find myself in I can’t refuse his offer.

“Fine. I’ll do it.”

“Excellent. Follow me, I have a car waiting for us up front.”

He leads me through the French doors to a limo waiting outside. I’m amazed I didn’t see or hear it pull up, or the Crown Vic behind it. I guess it’s best I got discovered by these two and not a police officer summoned by the security company. Climbing into the back seat of the limo, I promise myself to be more careful in the future. Jumping in next to me Colton shuts the door behind him, instead opening a window to glance out at Duke.

“Give my regards to detective Keeton, will you? Been a while since we all worked together.”

“Yes, been a good eighty years.” He looks fondly at his friend. “Will do, but we all need to get together for coffee sometimes.”

“Indeed. Perhaps when all this is finally over.”

The two men nod at one another smiling. Once Duke leaves, Colton closed the window, effectively shutting me off from the outside world. We sit there in silence as I dare not question where we are going from here on out. Not that I want to know. Colton taps gently on the darkened glass which separates us from the driver. With that, the limo sets off into the darkness, carrying me further down the road to my next adventure.