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HomeSupernatural StoriesBlack Dog - Chapter 8

Black Dog - Chapter 8

Events begin to spiral out of Imogen's control.

It all happened so fast. Eli grabbed the dog by the scruff of the neck and the animal wilted into submission at once, whimpering. Olivia lay in the grass, still and silent.

Imogen hung back, not daring to look. "Is she -" her voice wavered. Without touch, taste or smell, events were passing unstoppably before her, like a nightmare she couldn't wake from. She couldn't hold back the tide of dread over-topping her composure. "She is, isn't she? She's -"

"Dead?" said Eli, pushing the subdued dog's lead into Verity's hands before bending to examine Olivia's unmoving body. "Close to it. We should get her into the house." He picked Olivia up as if she weighed next to nothing, and headed towards the little iron gate.

"Shouldn't we call an ambulance?" asked Imogen tremulously, drifting behind him.

"Don't see why," he said.

"He's a," Verity regarded the dog cowering and shivering at her heels, then turned to Eli, "what would you call Giles, anyway? A werewolf? No, you used a different word before: one I hadn't heard before."

"Call him what you want."

"The dog," said Verity to Imogen, "is a sort of werewolf."

"What?" Imogen, in an effort to stave off hysteria, had been trying to remind herself to breathe, and in her altered state found it not as effective as she'd hoped.

Eli put Olivia down, and started to search under the doormat and inside flower pots for a spare key.

"Not exactly a werewolf," said Verity. "But the word will have to do. There's a good chance he's infected Olivia."

"But that's awful!" The word 'werewolf' had passed Imogen by as unreal, but infected was a word to fear in anybody's book. "Oh, for God's sake - her keys are in her purse!" she snarled at Eli. "Try to use some common sense!"

"It's not so bad," said Verity. "I think it's quite exciting. It's certainly her best chance of surviving this."

Having found the keys, Eli carried Olivia into the house and dumped her on the kitchen floor.

"I don't know a great deal about werewolves," said Verity, "but I must admit I've always been curious. Hmm." She frowned at the alleged werewolf cowering behind her, then went to the sink to wet a tea towel. With it, she gingerly wiped the blood from the creature's muzzle. It whined and tried to pull away, but all the wild rage had gone out of it after those few terrible moments in the graveyard.

Imogen paced back and forth like a prisoner in a cell. "What should we do, then?" If not the emergency services, surely somebody could help. Something must be done. "Eli?"

Eli was searching the kitchen cupboards. "Don't look at me."

"It was your dog that did this!" Imogen shouted, stabbing a finger in the direction of the werewolf cringing in the corner. "It's your fault! She's lying there dying, and what are you going to do about it?"

"Dead. Not dying."

Imogen, shocked and frightened and furious all at once, burst into tears.

"Died just before we got her indoors," he added.

"Oh, shut up!"

Verity glanced worriedly from one to the other. "She's right, though. I mean, I don't think I know what to do now. Do you?" She bit her lip. "There's nothing for it: we're going to have to get Grace in, aren't we?"

Eli paused in getting himself a cup of tea - he didn't look any happier than Verity did at that suggestion. "The blonde bitch?"

"Language!" Imogen scolded, her eyes fierce through the tears.

"No, 'bitch' is the correct term," said Verity. "However, the moon being full, she won't be available until morning." She glanced at the clock: not even midnight yet; not even close. She crouched and delicately turned Olivia's head to assess the full extent of the damage. There really was far too much blood on the floor and not enough in the girl. Her eyes were open but unfocused, and she didn't appear to be breathing. Verity laid her head against Olivia's chest and listened. "No heartbeat," she confirmed. "Well, it doesn't seem right to leave her lying on the floor all night. Eli? I can't lift her by myself."

Picking up the body again, Eli laid it less than reverently across the kitchen table, and the back of Olivia's head hit the tabletop with a thud that made Verity wince in sympathy.

"Oh! Be more careful with her!"

"What's the point?"

Verity glared. "You might show some respect for Imogen's sake, if nothing else. And when I suggested moving her, I was thinking of the sofa, or a bed. She's not dinner, is she?"

Eli, however, seemed to feel that he'd done enough for one day. He took his cup of tea and disappeared into the drawing room.

Verity wiped her hands anxiously down her skirt. "I have to clean up all this blood," she said, to nobody in particular. "I certainly can't just sit and do nothing while we wait, unlike some people. Oh, not you, dear," she added hastily to Imogen. "Of course I didn't mean you."

Imogen flitted around the body like a moth around a candle flame, hurt and frustrated that she couldn't so much as hold poor Olivia's hand. "Is she really going to be all right?"

"I'm sure she'll be fine," said Verity, lifting Olivia's arm and scrubbing determinedly at the bloodied tabletop underneath. She scowled. "Grace will help us. "She will."


The minutes dragged by as Imogen awaited sunrise - it couldn't be far away now - and the arrival of the mysterious Grace. Did it have to come so quickly to what she could only ascertain was the last resort? Eli and his horrible dog had disappeared. Imogen had insisted he take it away. Horrible animal, slinking about and looking at her with those unnatural jade-green eyes. Some peculiar foreign breed, or a freak of nature. Imogen had always much preferred cats. In the days immediately following her death, when the other ghosts belonging to the house had been wary of the new arrival in their midst, Imogen had recognised almost every one of the several dozen ghost cats that prowled the corridors of the old house. They'd been the first to make contact with their newly-deceased mistress. Old friends she'd thought long gone had come running up with happy chirp to rub their noses against her outstretched hands. She'd just swept the ghost of a much-missed Siamese into her arms, when she looked up to see her own eldest sister Lizzy, who'd died young before Imogen had been born. Most of the ghosts were Lockwoods, but Imogen was relieved to find that Mother didn't appear to be amongst them. She wondered aloud if that made her a bad daughter.

Something about this amused Verity. She'd promised to wait with Imogen until morning, but had spent most of the night fretting and trying to telephone the elusive Grace. "Parental ghosts would put a damper on things, wouldn't they?" she said, smiling impishly. She seemed to have passed the point of tiredness.

"But shouldn't I be disappointed that Mother isn't here?"

"I don't know. Did you get along with her?"

Imogen stared at the ceiling while she deliberated her answer. "Well..."

"That sounds like a 'no'," Verity interrupted. "And when did she die?"

"Nearly forty years ago now. But -"

"So you've had decades to come to terms with the death of somebody you didn't especially like when she was alive? Is that about right?" Verity persisted.

"But I should -"

"Should what? Wish she was here so you could fight with her again? So that even in death - which is supposed to be restful, by the way - she can go on reminding you how much she disapproves of everything you've ever done?"

Verity's guess might be uncomfortably close to the mark, but she didn't need to be so pushy. Familial love ought to be deep and unconditional. One didn't simply tolerate one's own mother for lack of anywhere else to go. Never mind how awful it would be to think that Mother had been haunting her, watching her every move even years after her death. Imogen could easily think of half a dozen things she'd done which she'd never want Mother to know about.

The creak of the back door opening made Imogen jump guiltily, but it was only Eli returning, this time without the dog.

"Did I miss her?" He sounded hopeful.

Verity shook her head. "She did answer the phone - finally! - and said she'd come over right away, but," she glanced out the window at the garden just getting light, "it's early yet. She probably won't be here for hours."

At that moment, the doorbell rang.

Verity stared suspiciously down the hallway, eyes narrowing peevishly. "Oh, she just has to prove me wrong, doesn't she?"

The three of them approached the front door with trepidation.

The blonde girl waiting there, bundled up against the cold, looked bright and alert - she'd even taken the time to apply bright red lipstick that matched her coat. On the other hand, the sandy-haired youth trailing behind her looked positively hungover: pale and queasy, and his watery green eyes had the heavily bruised and hopeless look of an incurable insomniac.

Grace smiled at Imogen. "Don't look so worried, Mrs Lockwood," she said, stamping mud off her shoes at the door and unwinding her long scarf, "You've done the right thing in calling me. Now, where -" she choked off mid-sentence, her sparkling dark eyes suddenly filled with anger. "You!" she snarled at Eli, who'd been watching her from the shadows at the bottom of the stairs. "I ought to have known I'd find you here!"

Eli stared back at her in sullen silence.

"Giles!" Grace snapped at her miserable companion, "Get back to the car. Lock the doors and stay there 'til I come back."

The boy didn't need telling twice. He was halfway to the gate before Grace drew breath to speak again, her furious eyes still fixed on Eli. "I've told you before, stay away from us!" Who she meant by 'us' Imogen couldn't be sure - her and the sandy-haired boy, perhaps - but Eli looked as if he knew exactly what she meant. Grace glared at Verity. "You could have warned me he was here."

Verity's expression was iceberg cool as she faced the blonde werewolf down. "He wasn't. Not when I called you."

Grace shook her head. "I shouldn't do this. I shouldn't even have come back to the village. I just knew something bad was going to happen, as soon as I heard about the funeral. But that poor girl…"

"She's family," said Eli.

"Yes, my family," said Grace. "Where is she, then?"

In the kitchen, Grace looked the body over thoroughly. Her face and figure might be youthful, but something about the way she moved suggested an experienced nurse, to Imogen's mind.

"You're in luck," said Grace, finally. "You know it's three nights a month the curse lasts, don't you? Not just the full moon but one night either side, too? Well obviously you know," she spat at Eli, and Imogen saw the spark of curiosity catch and brighten in Verity's eyes. "Lucky for Olivia, this coming night is the third night of the curse. There's work to be done, though," she warned. "I can stay and supervise tonight, but I won't be able to speak past moonrise."

"We don't need you to stay here," said Verity hastily. "Just tell us what to do, we'll manage."

"It would be better if I stayed," said Grace, but her gaze flickered across to Eli, and she looked doubtful. "The first time is always frightening. But never mind that now: there's work to be done before moonrise."




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