I was having a good day. They were rare enough in my line of work, so I didn’t overthink it. It was a bright, crisp day, the air just between uncomfortably warm and chilly, and smelling of leaves and frost. Leaves on the trees were just beginning to turn, from greens to golds and reds. They scuttled down the empty streets of the Lot, making a sound like a dog’s claws on concrete.
I was in the back yard with Cora, my live-in assistant. She’d talked me into tilling up a corner of the yard and buying her some seeds so she could have a vegetable garden. She claimed I’d had too many waffles and Cokes. I claimed she was trying to kill me with roughage.
Brother Shaun (on loan from the Church of the Monstrum) was in the front yard, clipping the long grass. The trick was, he said, to keep it long enough that no one noticed you lived there, but short enough that things couldn’t hide in it. He said ‘things’ just like that, with a slight emphasis that made me think maybe he believed there really were tigers in the long grass.
Cora was on her knees in the dirt, ripping weeds out by the roots. With the ferocity that she went after them, I almost felt sorry for the little green bastards as they went flying over her shoulder. I sidestepped one as it came at me, and took a sip of my drink.
“Working out some issues?”
She blew a hair out of her face and leaned back onto her heels, and wiped an arm across her forehead.
“City’s giving me grief about our office. Says we’re in a private zone, and we should be in a commercial. Plus, there’s property taxes coming u-”
She was cut off by Brother Shaun calling from the front.
“Hey! Wolf! Cora!”
“Yeah?” I called up. I wasn’t feeling super motivated. The weather was making me feel lazy.
“You should come up.” Shaun called. “There’s a- there’s a guy here.”
Cora and I looked at each other. I set my drink down, and she got up and dusted her knees. We walked around the house, the tall grass whispering at our shins. Brother Shaun was standing in front, a pair of clippers dangling from one hand. He saw us and pointed to a figure in the street. It was just standing there, swaying slightly back and forth. I could smell rotted meat and fresh soil. It opened its mouth, and a groan escaped, drifting toward us on the breeze.
“Is that -?” Cora asked.
“Nah, couldn’t be.” I said.
Brother Shaun was already halfway to the man. I could see he was dressed in dirty clothes, and wondered if he was one of the Brothers. Maybe one who’d fallen on harder times. The man seemed to be suddenly aware of Shaun, and began to shuffle toward him, as though his limbs were stiff.
“Shaun!” I called out.
The brother looked over his shoulder and waved to us. “It’s fine. I know what to do.”
He closed the distance to the man, and in a second, had stabbed his clippers into his chest. Black goo ran from the wound, though the man didn’t seem to notice. I wondered if I’d just seen a monk stab someone to death. Shaun nodded once to himself, tugged the clippers free, and jammed them into the man’s eye socket. I cringed. I felt Cora do the same next to me. The man, whoever he had been, fell to the ground, unmoving. Shaun looked up and back at us, giving the thumbs-up.
“Oh shit.” Cora said beside me.