Almost missed it this week. But here we go, a scene from my novella, Monsters of Pittsburgh: Humans.
The pile on his desk had shrunk to half its size when a knock broke Matty’s concentration. A shiver raced down his spine.
A gruff voice spoke through the door. “It’s me. I brought you some food.”
“Come in, Sam. It’s unlocked.”
Mina’s Speaker carried in a tray piled high with rolls, cold cuts, cheeses, and vegetable matter. “Since when do you leave the door unlocked?”
Matty froze as a lump filled his throat. He swallowed it and hoped to the gods that Sam didn’t notice the hesitation. “I’m safe in the house. I don’t need to lock my bedroom door.”
“Safe? Is that why I came in here the other day and you were feeling up the bed?”
“So, I had some disorientation. Is that a fucking crime?” Fear put a snarl in his voice. He’d been reading that damn file and suddenly not known where he was. All he could do was cling to his bed and wait for it to pass. He hadn’t even known Sam was in the room. The realization made sweat pop on his forehead as his fear ratcheted up a notch towards terror.
The other man traced the scars that crisscrossed his face. “And when did that start up again?”
Matty wiped his forehead and folded his arms over his chest. He didn’t want to wait until his hands started to shake. “Have you told Mina and Rick?”
“When they didn’t ask me about it, I figured you weren’t talking. I’m not going to spill to either of them… as long as you answer my questions.”
“So it’s blackmail?” Matty found himself smiling at the old Speaker.
Sam grinned back at him. “Such an ugly word. I like it. Yeah, it’s blackmail. Either you tell me the truth, or I sic those two on you. Which might distract them from each other.”
“You playing matchmaker, now?”
Matty shrugged. “I just want to smooth the way. Those two… like a rusty handsaw through bone.”
Sam’s eyebrows rose and then he shook his head. “Nope. I don’t even want to know this time. When did the disorientation start again?”
“When do you think?” Matty turned back to his cork-board, but he didn’t see any of the pictures.
“Son, I want real answers. If you keep playing the vague game, I will call your sister. Do you want her yelling at you after a few drinks?”
Matty sighed and turned back to Sam. He stared at the gray and brown striped carpet. “The first time was the day I decided to leave the door unlocked. I thought I heard someone on the stairs, and I panicked. Next thing I knew I was under my desk, but I had no idea what a desk was.”
Sam nodded. “How many?”
“Yesterday was the fourth one.” Defeat weighed down his eyelids.
“Why are you doing this to yourself?” Sam’s voice was curious, with no trace of disappointment.
The sound of it eased Matty, and he opened his eyes. “I want to be normal.”
“I see.” Sam nodded and leaned against the door. “Well, maybe it’s time to bring this up again. Have you given any more thought to having me or Rick use the Voice to counter Dzubenko’s commands? One Voice may counter the other and let you go out in public without a panic attack.”
“What?” Matty blinked twice as unfamiliar anger welled up. “Are you fucking serious? I can’t risk any more damage to those neural pathways. I’m just lucky the command to change into a wolf doesn’t run through that part of the brain. What the hell are you thinking?”
“Well, if you’re willing to suffer psychological damage to be normal why not take the physical risk to your brain, as well? Just put it all on the line, Matty.”
“Aren’t you part of the constant chorus to leave my room and go outside?” The words hissed out from behind his bared teeth.
Sam rolled his eyes. “Moderation, jackass. It’s not healthy to stay locked up down here all the time, but that doesn’t mean you should be torturing yourself either.”
Anger flashed to defeat, and Matty slumped into his chair. “Fuck you and your valid points.”
“When did you start leaving your door unlocked?”
Matty lifted his middle finger at Sam. “The day after Dean left.”
Sam sat on the bed and began making sandwiches. “Is that why you won’t take his calls? You going to make yourself ‘normal’ before you talk to him again?”
Matty didn’t bother to answer.
“And how long did you think that was going to take, son? You’re on week two, how normal do you feel?”
“As a pep talk, this leaves much to be desired.”
Sam handed him a chipped ham sandwich. “We put that lock on your door for a reason. This is where you would know in your soul you’re safe. This is where you can actually relax. You can’t live in constant fear.”
Matty placed the sandwich on the tray. “I fucked up, Sam.”
Sam nodded to him.
“I didn’t tell Dean… anything.” The words didn’t flow. They stumbled and jerked. “I just… How the hell do I even begin? I spent my life outsmarting people who made me and my sister slaves because we’re werewolves. Dean grew up twenty minutes from the beach and went to public school. The farthest he ever traveled was from L.A. to Pittsburgh. I went to six continents before I was fifteen, killing monsters along the way, and being beaten every time I mouthed off.”
Sam smiled. “And yet you still do it.”
Matty laughed in spite of himself, but the humor left him in a flash. “I didn’t want him to pity me.”
“Pity isn’t dirty, Matty. It’s an attempt at empathy. Besides, you’re hard to pity, you sarcastic, little shit.”
He didn’t rise to the bait. “What if I never get better?”
Sam shrugged. “Then you stay with me, Rick, and your sister forever. Or you and Dean get back together, but this time you let him help you. Or maybe, you just get to the point you can live on your own, but still have a few problems. Regardless, torturing yourself now isn’t going to help you in the long run.”
Matty buried his face in his folded arms. “I miss him.”
Sam’s hand gripped his neck. “I know. Maybe you should call him.”
Matty sat up. A ham sandwich hung in front of his face. He glanced up at Sam.
“Son, your sister is one phone call and thirty minutes away.”
“Food was not part of our deal.”
“And I’m altering the deal. If you eat that, I won’t alter it any further.”
There was a strange satisfaction in ripping the sandwich apart before eating slivers of bread and ham.
Sam wandered over to the cork-board. “Why did I hang your big, creepy murder board anyway?”
A bit of bun dropped from Matty fingers. “Seven main Tribes: Psiris, Grekov, de Wit, Okonkwo, Sun, Quinn, and Basara. Each has scores of families attached to it.”
“Yeah, I may not have been born to the Tribes, but I know how they’re arranged.”
Matty ignored him and he walked over to the board. “Each Tribe has its feuds, and its agitators. They’re held together with marriage, blackmail, and a common fear of being found out. It doesn’t take a silver bullet to kill a werewolf. Lots of regular ones will do the trick. And who’s going to believe that they aren’t all werewolves?” He touched a picture under the de Wit section.
“I know him. He…” Sam trailed off.
Matty turned back to him. “He was with Katya and Giorgios when we fought the Tribes last October. Pieter de Wit. His corpse was left in Katya’s yard. They were close.”
“No indications that I could find. Their mothers went to the same university. They used to get together in the summer and always brought the kids. Katya and Pieter were good friends, called each other cousin.”
Sam snorted. “Aren’t all of you related?”
“Distantly.” Matty shrugged. “That’s why the main families tend to marry associated families of other Tribes. But anyway, Katya and Pieter were loud and open in support of werewolf rights. Pieter ended up tortured and killed. Katya disappeared after that; she’s presumed dead.”
“All this is in that file I got from Rita?”
He nodded and turned towards Sam. He loved the older man. Sam was a better father than the one who had given Matty up, but he was lying about that damn file. Everything about it was just off.
“Sam, I have to know. Where did this file come from?”
Sam shrugged. “Rita said it came from a demon hunter.”
Is this where I remind him that no one from the Tribes would answer a demon hunter’s questions? Or do I ask him why said hunter gave the file to Rita and not us?
“Son, I don’t have any answers.”
I don’t believe you.
Matty nodded again and turned back to the board. “There’s problems, inconsistencies in the files. Surnames are wrong, more than I buy for how well researched that whole thing is. Murder, poisoning, kidnapping, and torture, and people are lying about their Tribe.”
“Why do that? You’ve noticed it, and you’ve been outside the fold for almost six years. I can’t imagine whoever’s investigating for the Tribes didn’t see it.”
Matty blinked and his mind flashed into overdrive. He’d gotten so hung up on finding out who had done the research, he’d missed Sam’s point entirely. The Tribes would be looking into these strange deaths, as well. They were looking into them. Some of those files read like Tribal paperwork. The wrong names would have jumped out to them faster than anybody.
The only way that slides is if…
Matty took a step back. “Tribal in-fighting, and the official investigators are in on it. These changes…” He settled himself on the floor and stared at the pictures.