My name is Paul Connor and as a member of the Darquewatch, I’ve spent the last thirty or so years fighting the darkest, most gruesome beings a body can imagine: Demons, werewolves, zombies, vampires and poltergeists. My knowledge of the paranormal is pretty extensive.
“What’s happening to him?” Caitlin, my sister, asked.
With all of that otherworldly experience under my belt, a man writhing on the ground engulfed in flames was a small thing. The way his body was flowing into different animal shapes and the flames were shaped like a large bird, said this definitely wasn’t a “normal” paranormal thing.
“Hell, if I know,” I answered.
“Well, you’re the big shot Former Response Team Leader…”
“Doesn’t mean I know everything.”
“Could’ve fooled me, the way you carry on sometimes.”
Did I mention that she’s my younger sister and can be very annoying on occasion?
Caitlin Connor-Rassmusen is a tall, vibrant woman with dark red hair and a great smile. She never joined a response team, it just wasn’t her balliwick, but Caitlin is great with animals, you see. Always has been. She seems to have a real rapport with them that borders on telepathy. This is why she runs the Corral, a sanctuary for the various mystical animals any members of the Darquewatch happen upon in our work. It’s located outside of
in the bayou where neighbors are few and far between. St. Alisdaire, Louisiana
“Okay, guys…,” Kenneth Djange, a current member of Response Team Alpha interjected. “…Not to interrupt, but we’ve got a shapeshifting guy wrapped in living flame thrashing around in front of us. Time to focus, wouldn’t you say?”
“Right,” I said. “Cate, is there a water hose or pump out here? We don’t want the barn to go up in flames.”
“Over there behind burning guy,” She pointed to a corner right behind him. Unfortunately, the stables bracketed the burning guy and didn’t give us a clear avenue to get past him. The animals were already spooked and looked like they were ready to stampede. To add to this, the flames started to catch the straw lying around.
“Cate, find a way to get to the hose from outside.”
“What about the animals?” she asked.
“If we get that fire out, that’ll pretty much save the animals.”
“No,” Paolo Angelo said. “Get the animals out and we stop the guy from shapeshifting. Make him easier to handle.”
“How do you know that?”
“Listen to him,” Kenneth added. “Knowing how things work and finding a weakness in it is his thing.”
“Okay,” I muttered to myself. “Cate, get the animals out, we’ll get to the hose somehow.”
“I’ll do it.” I turned to the other woman present. Daria Munoz was a member of RT Alpha along with Paolo and Kenneth. With her dark brown eyes and Latina movie star looks, it was easy to think that she wouldn’t want to get her hands dirty, but, like the rest of her family, she’s ready to jump into the fray if necessary. I grinned at her.
“Go. And make it quick,” She threw a grin back and ran outside.
I turned to Kenneth. “I need you to put a shield around him while I help Cate with the animals.” He nodded and started casting a shield spell.
“Mr. Paolo…,” I began. “…can you give me a rain spell to take care of the fire until Daria gets here with the hose?”
“Sure.” He responded and walked past Cate and stood next to Kenneth and began to cast the rain spell. Caitlin’s eyes tracked Paolo as he did this, promptly forgetting about the horse she was leading to safety. He’s Italian and inherited his father’s piercing brown eyes and his mother’s thick, dark hair. It’s all well and good that Cate found him attractive, but things needed to get done. I ran up and grabbed the reins out of her hands.
“Come on, Libido-girl, eyes to yourself and mind on the job.”
“Sorry,” Cate said as she stole another quick glance at Paolo.
“He’s young enough to be your son,” I added with a grin.
“Not really. And he’s nineteen. Sam is only twelve.”
“Same difference, Cate. C’mon. I need you to get these animals moving.” Caitlin closed her eyes and slowly, the animals moved of their volition towards the open barn door behind us.
The air grew thick and damp as clouds materialized above the Burning Man and rain began to fall. He tried to move, but he ran into Kenneth’s shield and fell to the ground. He lay there quietly. The wild half-shifting stopped since the animals were out of the barn. He was still wrapped in flame, but he looked more human. I thanked God that this was going to be wrapped up quickly with as little fuss as possible.
I should’ve known it wasn’t going to be that easy.
Ken dispersed the shield and walked towards me. I was about to tell Paolo to stop the rain spell, when something made me look at the Burning Man. He looked at me and smiled a very dangerous, predatory smile. A warning was on my lips when the world went bright and hot like someone opened a blast furnace door or a portal to Hell. Take your pick.
When I opened my eyes, the inside of the barn was awash in flames. Kenneth and Paolo were on the ground and something, an animal we missed, wailed and keened in pain and fear. The Burning Man stood, wrapped and surrounded by flames, and raised his hands, his voice to the heavens.
“Burn, burn, all will burn,” He said.
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