by A.S.Webster

First Chapter

Agent Callan Zolonski adjusted his suit once more, pulling the jacket straight and shifting his tie to a more comfortable location. He knew it was a nervous tick, but he did it anyway. It wasn't everyday you interviewed for a job working with monsters.

Callan had joined the Department of Homeland Security as an analyst with a talent for organizing people and operations. If his interview went well, all that experience would be needed just to keep himself, as well as others, alive. The team he was applying to work with had been in existence since before he was born. It had an astounding success rate, though it was only spoken of whispers and innuendo. Callan had heard the whispers and tracked them down to this.

A matronly looking woman stepped into the room. "She's ready for you Agent." There was no look of encouragement or a wish of good luck. Not surprising, Callan knew he wasn't the first to interview for this job. He'd been told that he'd come out with the position, or he wouldn't come out at all.

Callan nodded and followed her down a short hall and into a spacious sitting room, shockingly homey in the office building. Instead of fluorescent lights, there were clear style incandescent bulbs with the filaments clearly visible in sconces set along the walls. Dark paneling and shag carpeting made the room feel like something from over half a century ago. Windows lined one wall, but instead of clear glass, they were filled with designs of stained glass and lead, real instead of mock. The designs looked to be something salvaged from a church, scenes of angels, demons, and blood. It made the large space feel close.

He didn't notice his guide leave, his attention was focused on the young woman sitting at her ease in an over stuffed chair, one of three set around a lower table. They were upholstered in a dark brown leather with brass nails set deep and had wear patterns from years of use.

Ellen herself wore a far more contemporary black jeans and a dark crimson blazer, her brown hair was cropped short and styled off her face. She wasn't pretty, and certainly not beautiful, but there was something about her that commanded attention. Compelling was the best word he could think of. As he approached she set the book, real paper and bound in leather, down on the table. A command rang through him. "Sit." It wasn't until he was seated across from her that he realized he had no idea if she had actually spoken the word aloud or not. He looked at her closely, sucking in breath as he met her eyes. No mere mortal blue, they seemed to glow, like a static spark in a dark room. She didn't smile, just looked him over. He suddenly knew how a mouse felt being watched by an owl.

"Agent Zolonski." Her voice was low and flowed like velvet, soft and slightly abrasive. Callan forced himself to hold her gaze, he'd been warned to not show weakness. This was an interview that he either passed or the best he could hope for was that she let him leave relatively unscarred. Others had died on failing. His current boss had tried to convince him to not even try, but he hadn't listened. Part of him now wished he had. Burying that, he pushed ahead.

"You need a new handler. Agent Barrows is retiring and I want the job."

"Obviously. You're here." She gave him nothing to latch onto. There was no chance to build a connection, it was like she was not interested in him at all. He tried not to feel relieved.

Callan didn't know what else to expect. Hardly anyone had been willing to tell him anything. Robert Barrows had given him the basics of his interview but warned him every interaction was different. The determinations were based on things mere humans couldn't begin to understand.

The monsters, as they were referred to in hushed voices, had worked for the CIA and then Homeland Security for years. There were two, a mated pair. She was the one that did the most of the talking. He was better avoided. There were stories about them, unbelievable stories. Stories told by technicians or others with glancing contact. The official files, files that Callan had read over and over again, contained nothing but dry mission logs and changing names. But when you already knew something of what you were looking for, it was easier to follow the threads of their existence.

"You fear me." Not a question.

"I'd be stupid not to. You could kill me where I sit."

She nodded and gave him a tight smile. No showing of teeth. He understood that part.

"But I'm still here."

"You are. So I'll tell you how this will work. You have one question you can ask me, anything. The quality of your question will determine what happens next." She relaxed more in her chair, giving him permission to take his time.

Callan thought about his options. There were so many he wanted to ask, but most were too obvious. Was it true, what they said about how she became what she was and what the other had done to her and her family. Why here, why work for the government. What were they, really. None of those questions were worthy, they were shallow and gave him no real information that he didn't already have.

"Why only criminals? Even when you operated outside of our direction you only targeted criminals. Even now, you still target people that most anyone would consider bad. Why?"

Now she smiled, it still brought no warmth to the electric blue eyes, and there was a flash of teeth. He tried not to stare at the elongated canines. "You have paid attention to the files."

"Yes ma'am."

"So tell me, Callan. Why do you want to work in my department?"

Callan looked at her fully for the first time, she wasn't relaxed now, she was tensed, ready to spring. This was where he lived or died. "Years ago, you killed a drug dealer in Detroit. He'd threatened his staff, they got out alive because of you. My mother was there. She saw you."

He'd had a cover story all made up about resources not used to their full potential, desire for not quite fame, but certainly fortune and a degree of notoriety. It all died unspoken and the bare truth came out. He felt he owed a debt.

"Mary, the chemist. You're her son." Her nostrils widened like she was scenting him. "I thought there was something, familiar, about you. She saw me as I can be, and she still thanked me. She had a calm about her, it saved her life that day. So Mary's son, Callan, you can have your chance at a job with us. But be warned, you still need to get past Jason."

Now she did bare her teeth in something that wasn't quite a smile and exposed those canines fully. Callan watched her carefully, unsure what would happen next. He didn't believe that his interview with her could be that simple.

It wasn't. Another door opened and he, Jason, flowed into the room. Where she was compelling, Jason was frightening. Before he was completely aware Jason was next to him. Callan froze as Jason stalked around the chair he was in. He tried not to flinch when he realized that Jason was smelling him. Keeping perfectly still, he let the monster inspect him. He remained frozen even when Jason brought his face close to his and, eyes closed, inhaled deeply.

Then those impossible eyes opened and Callan felt a stab of fear. Blue, lit from inside and flecked with gold streaks. Jason had fed, recently. In a split second his situation became real. The gold only showed when they fed on human life. Callan was seeing the last meaningful bits of the person that applied for this job before him.

Callan knew he smelled of terror, a cold sweat broke out and he fought between the urges to shiver and take off his suit jacket. He did neither, doing his best to breathe through his hammering heart. His hands and then legs started to shake, he kept his heels pressed firmly to the floor to still all movement. Just when he though he was going to bolt, screaming, from the room, Jason finally moved away and perched on the edge of the chair with his wife.

With distance, Callan could see Jason. He was dressed in jeans, slightly ratty, and a dark teal sweatshirt completed with sneakers, some type of generic cross-trainer with velcro closures. Dark blonde hair, slightly longer than his wife's and less styled, was brushed casually from his face. There was a serious, almost innocent, look on his face. He pushed the sleeves of his sweatshirt up, exposing well muscled arms, unscarred and pale.

"He fears me Elle." His voice, when he spoke, had the same velvet quality as his wife's. It was a light tenor with an undefinable accent.

"Of course. He fears us both."

"Not equally. He wants to save you from me, he doesn't believe."

"They generally don't." Now she turned her attention back to Callan. "But he might be different."

"You like him."

"He asked a good question. He pays attention. And he didn't lie to me." She paused and stroked Jason's arm, a caress that caused him to close his eyes in brief pleasure. Callan had a vision of two giant cats laying in the sun. "Remember Mary?"

Jason sighed. "Ahh. She was memorable. I smelled her on him. Mother. Not all the kills were clean that day."

"Drugs involved, they never are. The prey is tainted."

"At least those were known substances. Now, now we are never sure."

"So Callan." She brought the subject back to the person sitting in the room. Callan wasn't relieved, though the brief interlude had allowed his heart to slow down and the shivering had subsided. It threatened to start again as Jason turned his full attention back on him.

"I can smell your perceived debt. Know this Callan, Mary's son, the debt is only in your mind. You owe us nothing. I offer you a chance now to walk away from us, from this."

Every muscle in Callan's body screamed to take the monster up on his offer. Leave the room and this mad thought of debt and honor behind. Instead he looked from one to the other. "I owe you my mother's life. She could have died that day, either by Ross or by you. She didn't. I have skills you can use and I know you." As he spoke, his heart rate slowed to normal and the shaking stopped. There was a calm that overtook him. He met Jason's gaze squarely. He could die now, debt paid.

Jason turned to Ellen, his hand resting on her shoulder. "Maybe you are right, he does in fact understand." With that same inhuman speed Jason was up and out the door. Nothing left in the room of him but a feeling of release, almost a let down that he hadn't given a gift of death.

Callan took a deep breath, he knew the danger wasn't over. Ellen hadn't moved. She looked at him with something akin to an expression of sadness. "There is one more test Callan." She waved her hand and Callan followed it to a door set next to one of the ornate windows. "Now you need to run."

There was something in her tone that alerted him this wasn't a joke. Nerves reacted before conscious thought and he was up and headed to the subtle door. An ornate brass knob beckoned and he reached for it. His fingers touched it briefly and then he was yanked backwards away. He expected to see her, teeth bared. But it was Jason and those golden flecks that held him.

"I am sorry." He exposed those fangs, his lower jaw opening farther than anything human could do. Saliva dripped from the ends. Callan felt a second wrenching terror, his second today, as Jason ripped his shirt and jacket to expose a stretch of shoulder. He felt his bladder relax and smelled the acrid tang of urine as those fangs sank deeply into the exposed muscles. Burning fire in two points and a tearing sensation. Callan had a second to contemplate his life as darkness closed in.