Sally sat up and wrung water, or whatever it was, out of her hair. 'Do this often?'
Hood shrugged out of his coat. 'Varies,' he said. 'Sometimes I get to do the chasing.' He shook water and mud from the jacket and passed it to the t-shirted girl, who tried not to grimace as she pulled the wet sleeves over her bare arms.
'I still need your help.' Hood pulled her to her feet and together they began the walk back into town, drawing unnoticed glances from the people they passed.
'I'll help,' she said after a bit. 'If....'
He turned to her.
'....I can write about it afterwards.'
'You said you weren't a journalist.'
'I'm not. I write the fiction column. I'm Sally Carter.'
'Huh.' Then, 'You run out of other ideas?'
'You try coming up with something new and original every week.'
Hood smiled, 'Don't have to. It comes to me. Most weeks.'
On a plain street at the other end of town from everything else, between two plain, empty shops, was a door where a plain door used to be. It was of dark wood, shiny with varnish, and opened onto a thick, green carpet. Hood made a funny, disparaging sort of noise and left a trail of muddy boot-prints down the hall. Sally removed her shoes and matched her steps to his. At the end of the hall he opened another door, of light wood this time, leading into his office.
There were shelves with files piled on them, and a couple of books. A desk stood off to one side catching the overflow from a wall of miscellaneous objects, including a fishbowl full of paperclips, translucent candles, a mug of cutlery, and a hideous jagged dagger. Against the next wall, amid a heap of cardboard boxes, were three towers of filing cabinets. Hood opened one of the draws and brought forth a towel, which he tossed to Sally.
'Don't get too clean,' he said as she collected it from the floor. 'The stuff will mask your smell. Scent.'
He untaped one of the boxes, labelled 'NOT HOOD'S', and withdrew a couple of bags. These he filled from another of the cabinet's draws, flinging one over his shoulder and passing the other to Sally.
'I need you to go to Baker's Ridge,' he said, kicking open the back door. It was new as well, with multiple boot prints in the lower left corner. From a metal bin outside he extracted a damp sack, dripping and pungent. He passed it to her, gingerly. It sloshed.
'Yuck,' said Sally.
'Not to the beastie. When you get there set the bits in the bag along the edge of the ridge. Then just hold the sack in the middle, wait, a little over to the,' he pondered, 'left. And toss it over when the time comes.'
'When the time comes or when the beast comes?'
'It'll follow the meat.'
[Follow the story at sallycarter.blogspot.com]
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