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Chapter One: "Fool Me Once, Fool Me Twice..."

Detective Smith's funeral was planned for the Saturday following his death at sea on the preceding Tuesday. Pierce County personnel fetched his remains from Coast Guard possession Tuesday evening, and the late Washington state police homicide detective lay in interim repose at the Pierce County Coroner's Office, presided over by his law enforcement colleague Rick Thompson's ex-wife, the Pierce County Coroner Dixie Thompson. Detective Smith shared his big sleep with a morgue full of apparently demised and much-less peaceful creatures — otherworldly, underwordly kinfolk of the weird, furry thing that had killed Smith.

Also Tuesday night, the physically exhausted and mentally fatigued Detective Rick Thompson sat in his flat, licking his wounds with old black-and-white movies, and steadily becoming steadier as he dried out. He was keenly aware of the metastasizing cliché that a mid-career on-the-wagon cop represents, but his time out on the water aboard the Blint Mary had brought him nearer to a purity of the elements, which he had not been seeing enough in his day-to-day trappings. He grew slowly more rested, higher and drier so to speak, as the characters in the films he was patronizing made mortal mistakes and committed dubious acts of their very own. He had made a conscious decision upon Smith's death that he would get on a wagon instead of a bender.

Later that night this recuperative solitude of his was disturbed by Sandy and Kitty Roller of the local Tacoma Davey Jones Lickers women's banked track roller derby squad. The girls and Detective Thompson had merged as fast friends during the past few weeks in the unfolding of a local murder investigation that had turned out to be far broader and far, far odder than anyone had initially supposed. First, some out-of-state derbier had had her head smushed like a volleyball in a hydraulic press during a barfight down at some roadhouse in San Diego. It was initially thought to have been an isolated event, but a few days later on the night of October 11, dozens of dancers and strippers from various working-girl castes were killed nearly simultaneously at nightclubs up and down the North American West Coast. And THAT was STILL before, in retrospective comparison, things had actually become bona fide squirrelly. During the course of Thompson's investigation of the local October 11 edition of murdered nightclub nightlife in Tacoma, the reports about werewolf ladies had started surfacing, and of course, regarding these reports, initially all privy ears were skeptical. But it wasn't going to be that easy. There was an undeniable body of evidence. Bodies rather. First down in the Bay area and eventually right inside places like gas stations right here in Tacoma.

Anyway, during the course of this investigation and its cascading and entropic and bizarro subsequent developments, the detective had befriended some of the local derby girls. And here they were bringing their condolences about Smith's untimely and violent death that afternoon. With them they also brought two of their circuit associates — Veronica and Becca Roller of the Phoenix Bloody Rollers women's banked-track roller derby squad, visiting from out of state.

Thompson initially had a little flame with Sandy, but had more or less migrated over to the (relatively) more calm and grounded Kitty. Sandy was a bit too predatory even for his delicate tastes. When the girls left Thompson's apartment that night of Smith's funeral, they left Kitty there, and he appreciated this. It was nice to have visitors to break up the silence on such a night.

Since the dark dogwomen had begun to terrorize the western United States, members of both the Lickers and the Rollers had transformed into light, good-witch creatures for the seeming purpose of providing a supernatural counter-balance to the evil transmorphed creatures who were on the loose and killing people. Their kinds were as different as night and day.

Lieutenant MacKinney knocked on Thompson's apartment door about 11 o'clock, and though most of the quazi-minor she-gods had already left the building, his supervisor finally had the pleasure of meeting Kitty Licker. He had brought with him a six pack of lagers, and was surprised at Thompson's polite no thank you to the offering.

“I've heard so much about you,” said the lieutenant, always a gentleman, to Kitty. “You break him, you buy him.” It was obvious to the woman that he had immense personal respect for Thompson.

The lieutenant said California state troopers had succeeded in delivering the bad news to Smith's next of kin. Beyond that, he did not say much about the late Scott Smith. There was not useful much to say out loud anyway. He sat with Thompson and Kitty for a while, enjoying Kitty's legs, and watching the black-and-white T.V. All this went well with the ongoing Northwestern rain. There had been better days but Thompson felt lucky in a number of ways, not the least of which being that he hadn't been the guy who was axed to pieces by a seaborne she-wolf.

Smith's most salient casework (aside from the obvious wolf women issue) at the time of his death had involved the axe murder of the local jazz saxophonist Tina Santos. Categorically similar and presumed to be forensically related was the subsequent Katherine Wells axe murder-slash-rape that had occurred down in Olympia. Both the Santos and the Wells cases had evolved, or devolved, or become conflated with, or otherwise had segued into the ongoing and nascent, wantonly spiraling shark-wolf-monster murder spree phenomenon. Both Smith's and Olympia Detective David Wallace's investigation had begun heading down the same mythological nightmare fairy tale rat hole as had Thompson's before them. There had been a time when there was only the abject fun-house terrorscape of werewolves without the killer land-going sharks, but now even those Halcyon days were done. Because now landsharking was occurring too. The first signs of shark problems had surfaced in tenuous correlation to the Wells homicide, insofar as the first weird shark thing happened at the same place where Wells' body had been found at the Port of Olympia Marine Terminal. By the time of his own death at the hands of a bipedal death-wielding dog woman, Smith's casework had worked its way up to the same levels of weirdness as his colleague Thompson's. And Thompson perceived Smith's end as a cautionary tale of the stoutest gravity, but the dose of reality stopped at that. A due caveat. Because there was still work to do.

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