The first chapter of the in progress Infected novel

Okay, yeah not the best series title to have right now. But I wanted everyone to know I’m still working on this, and what better way is there than to prove it in print?

But here’s the deal – this is first draft. So it’s messy as hell. As long as you don’t mind that, enjoy! (And no, I don’t have a title yet. Of course I don’t. It’s always the last thing.)

1 – Royal Pigs

Roan honestly hoped Dylan wasn’t going to kill him for this. Although he wouldn’t blame him if he did.

He was supposed to be retired from all of this, and basically he only talked Dylan into letting him do his private detective thing again if he took unambitious, not at all dangerous cases. This one was supposed to be one of those. It went off the rails really quickly.

It really did look simple to begin with. Blair Pender, a boring suburban type, hired him to find out if her husband, Hank Pender, was cheating on her. He was one of those muscly, white Vin Diesel body double bouncers for a trendy Vancouver nightclub, so of course he had the opportunity to meet other women, and possibly exploit them in a truly icky way. In fact, on his first stake out of Hank at work, Dylan went to the club with him. It was ostensibly a straight club, but modern sensibilities insisted gays could go there too.

Well, instantly, it was obvious why gays didn’t flock to the club. It was fucking terrible. It had some kind of eye melting theme, a cross between tiki and Blade Runner in a way that seemed to bring out the worst in both decors. The drinks were super overpriced and poorly mixed – Dyl contributed that last bit – and the music was modern pop remixes that made Roan want to take a knitting needle to his eardrums. Also, because his sense of smell had somehow grown even sharper, he spent a good part of the night rubbing peppermint oil under his nose, blanking out his olfactory sense and giving himself a headache. But the alternative was vapor-locking on the smell of so much cologne, deodorant, booze, body odor, bad breath, and ozone that he would be useless. Some people might think even sharper senses were a good thing, but they weren’t. And that didn’t even count the synesthesia that made the place look like a multi-color swamp. Dylan wasn’t only there as moral support, and crowd camouflage – he was there to help him leave the club without causing a scene. Places like this were just brutal for him nowadays. What they never bothered to show in any of the Wolverine movies was how hard it was to deal with modern society when you had above average senses. For Roan right now, being in a crowded public space was genuine physical torture. He didn’t want to become a shut in, but it seemed like his own senses were forcing him into that position.

Anyway, what Roan could discern through the pain was that Hank seemed like your average bouncer. A bit aggro, but no sleazier than anyone else. And yet, ever since he saw him in person, an alarm was going off in the back of Roan’s mind.

What did he call it? It was an exaggerated hunch really, but in lieu of anything better to call it, Roan called it his predator sense. The feeling that he was meeting another monster, like him but not. He couldn’t explain it if he wanted to, and oh boy, did he not want to. So Roan continued following this guy, wondering what it was that was setting off alarm bells.

He showed up at their house when Hank was at work, and Blair let him have a look at Hank’s laptop. He managed to clear out a lot of his history, but Roan still found porn links, and some really distressing search histories, all about guns. Most likely, he’d done follow up searches on his phone, which Blair couldn’t get from him, and he was getting such a danger sense from this guy that he didn’t want to risk her any further. She knew there was something wrong with her husband, but she may have misjudged what exactly that was. According to Blair, Hank didn’t own a gun. Roan didn’t find that comforting.

He’d been staking him out the last couple of nights, hoping he was wrong, and his weird hunch was simply a personal prejudice – after all, Roan did have a personal hatred for ‘roided up gym disasters, which is exactly what Hank looked like. These were his vacation days from work, and so far Hank hadn’t done anything to raise a red flag. Roan was beginning to think of himself as really out of touch with the whole detective business, when Hank went for a late night drive to the shadier side of Stanley Park.

Roan first wondered if gays still had furtive sexual congress in parks. Surely with Grindr, that had gone the way of the dinosaurs, right? Besides, Hank wasn’t gay, and straight people had never done that. Roan parked off the main street and walked in, only to find that Hank hadn’t left the parking lot.

He was standing beside a car with Washington State license plates, talking to a bearded white guy with a beer gut, who seemed to take a moment to get out of his car, and go to the trunk, which he opened. And he had to take a spare tire out, before he opened the false bottom of the trunk, and revealed guns. Lots of guns.

Roan made a hasty call to the police, sad he didn’t really have a contact in the Vancouver force, before deciding to break up the party.

He simply walked into the lot, and they were so enrapt in their haggling that they didn’t notice him at first. Roan attributed it to the fact that the gun dealer had deliberately parked away from lights, in a pool of shadow, but after a couple of seconds when Roan felt that he was honestly close enough to be noticed, he wondered if he was stalking. Was he deliberately walking quietly, with exaggerated stealth? It was weird what habits he found himself slipping into nowadays. As much as he wanted to deny the fact that the virus was causing lion effects on him … he was just fooling himself. There were mornings when he found it much easier to growl and purr than talk, and sometimes he needed to take a moment to remember how to do that. Yes, he was human, but he could hardly deny how much it had taken over his body. And since no one had lived with it as long as he had, Roan was pretty much the test case for what the virus did when it was old. No one knew, because he was the lucky son of a bitch who had lived with it the longest. The fact that he wasn’t dead yet seemed like a modern miracle. Or curse, if you were on his side of it.

Roan cleared his throat, and both men jumped. Geniuses they were not.

The seller made an attempt to lower the trunk, but at this point it was ridiculous. “Exactly what are you planning to do, Hank?”

The seller looked at Hank horrified. “Look, I don’t -“

Roan raised a single finger towards the seller, holding it up in a one moment gesture, and for some reason it worked. The seller actually clammed up.

Hank glared at Roan like he’d never seen him before, which was fair, but hadn’t he been at his club a couple of nights ago? Was he that forgettable? “Who the fuck are you?” Hank asked.

“I’m Roan McKichan, I’m a private detective, and I was hired to follow you. And there’s no way in hell I’m letting you purchase illegal firearms.”

Hank’s barrel chest puffed up, like a territorial ruff grouse. Roan almost laughed at how funny that was. Yes, he had a few inches on him, and a hundred pounds of muscle, but if he thought he was physically in Roan’s league, it was only because the virus didn’t really show that part. Except when it did, but if it went that far, there was a good chance Hank wouldn’t live through the next ten minutes. “Who the fuck are you to follow me? Who hired you?”

“Client confidentiality keeps me from -“

“It was my fucking wife, wasn’t it? She can’t leave well fucking enough alone, the fucking bitch.”

Did he correct his grammar? Roan knew something so petty would cause Hank to really lose his shit, but some part of Roan was itching for a fight. He wanted to show Hank what a predator truly was. He could easily imagine sinking his teeth into Hank’s ridiculously thick throat, and the rush of blood that would come with it. He’d probably die never sure what happened.

Nope. Couldn’t let the lion out. He promised Dylan he wasn’t risking his health like that. But it really wanted to come out and play.

“You know, I’ve got nothing to do with this, so why don’t I -” the seller said, attempting to close the trunk.

Roan sidled up to it and caught it before it could latch. “No, you’re staying here too.”

The man glared at him. “You’re not a cop, I can leave if I want.”

Roan nodded, stepping back until he was parallel to rear tire. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a folding knife, flicked it open, and stabbed the tire. “Hey!”

“Bill me,” he said, pocketing the knife. Actually, if the guy did bill him somehow, there was no way in hell Roan was going to pay it. He sold illegal weapons – fuck him to death.

Hank loomed over him, or at least attempted to, chest puffed out and big veiny arms bulging. He looked ridiculous, and Roan really couldn’t suppress the smirk. “You can fuck off outta here now, or feet first later. I don’t give a damn which.”

“I know you think you sound cool, but you really don’t. I mean, I know I don’t look like much, but you are nowhere near my level, no matter how much you bench press. It’s all kinds of sad.”

Hank threw a punch at him, which Roan had already anticipated. He dodged to the side, feeling the wind of Hank’s passing ham hock sized fist, and aimed a single hard kick on the side of Hank’s knee, which was more like a stomp than anything else. Roan heard a very clear pop before Hank crumpled to the ground with a shout of pain. The seller jumped back, and exclaimed “Holy fucking shit!”

Hank grabbed his leg, and snarled, “I’m gonna kill you, motherfucker! You broke my leg!”

“No, I dislocated your kneecap. Quite violently, to be honest. You may need as much healing time. Knee injuries are a bitch.”

The seller was pointing at Roan, and then pointed at Hank, before he remembered to use his words, and repeated the action. “How the fuck did you do that?”

Why was he reacting like he’d done something amazing? Roan was sure he hadn’t … right? The problem with the virus being so integrated into him was sometimes it came out in ways he didn’t anticipate or recall. He knew it didn’t make him super fast, but his reaction time could be honestly frightening. Was that it? He wanted to ask, but knew he couldn’t. “You don’t even wanna know how old I am, or how many fights I’ve been in. Safe to say, all the posturing and banter are for young people. I got shit to do and absolutely nothing to prove.”

Hank looked like he was going to give standing up a try, but he hardly even shifted on the ground before giving up. Trying to stand up on a dislocated limb was impossible without help. It didn’t matter how much pain you could take, you were going precisely nowhere. Roan knew that from experience. “Still gonna fucking murder you,” Hank grumbled, grabbing his leg again. Tears of pain were trickling from his eyes, no matter how much he tried to force them away.

“Get in line.”

A car pulled into the lot, headlights flaring across the scene like transient spotlights, and of course it was a cop car. You generally got decent response times around here, because it was pretty white. Roan started raising his hands, and looked at the seller, who seemed gobsmacked by their arrival. “I mean, we’re not people of color, and they’re not American cops, so they probably won’t gun us down, but why take the chance? One of them may have decided he wants to be famous.”

The gun seller’s eyes widened, and raised his hands like he was attempting to hold up a collapsing ceiling.

Yeah, Dylan was going to kill him.

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