Drawing of a cage, with a door missing, and blood pooled and spattered. Caption reads: "The cage door was gone."

Vigilante short story by Iris Carden

Five storeys below Brisbane’s Roma Street Police Station, is the headquarters for the Human Defence Unit. Its members are drawn from among the highest performing members of military, intelligence, and police forces throughout Australia, along with select highly specialised members of the civilian population. The Human Defence Unit and its elite staff are neither police, military nor intelligence. They do not exist.

The cage was in a basement room, under an otherwise ordinary house.

Senior Agent Jo Burns noticed the marks where a cutting tool had been used to remove the door. On the floor, she saw a large pool of blood, and the basement walls were sprayed with blood. On the outside of the cage, the cutting tool lay with the removed door.

“What is this place?” Trainee Agent Harry Smythe asked.

“Wolf cage,” Jo replied. “Wolves who want to be responsible people have someone lock them in their cage on the full moon, so they’re confined while they turn.”

“So what happened? Did the wolf kill someone? Or what?”

“Notice the door to the cage was removed with somethe cutting tool. Someone was actually stupid enough to break into a wolf cage, during the full moon.”

“How can you be sure the wolf was in here?”

Jo sighed. “I locked her in myself, after work yesterday. The person who normally locked her in had died. She had no-one else, so I did it for her.”

“So someone broke in and…”

“And either they killed the wolf, or the wolf killed them. Helen will tell us which.”

Pathologist Helen Thompson was at that moment doing a field test on the blood, while the HDU forensics team photographed, measured, dusted for fingerprints and performed all of the other arcane mysteries of forensics units everywhere.

Helen looked up from her test, “It’s a mix. Human and wolf, in surprisingly even amounts. I’d say they were both seriously injured, but given wolves’ propensity for healing it’s more likely than the human to still be alive.”

“How do we find the killer wolf?”

“First, we don’t jump to conclusions. Second, we check the hospitals. She’s turned back by now and must need medical attention. We talk to her and find out her story. In the meantime, Helen will run DNA, forensics will run fingerprints, and we’ll hope to find out who the human involved was.”

A check of hospitals located Tegan Morris, full-time self-employed florist, and part-time wolf. She was seriously injured, recovering from multiple stab wounds.

Morris gave a pained half-smile as Jo and Harry entered her room. “Did I kill him, Agent Burns?” she asked.

“We don’t know yet, Tegan. Can you tell me what happened.”

“Just after you left, this man just walked into the basement. I guess he must have broken into the house after you locked it. He was prepared, said he knew what I was. He had a cutting tool, an oxy torch, I think it’s called. He cut through the hinges and lock on the cage door, and came in, with a knife. It was silver, so I didn’t heal straight away when I turned. He had me cornered and was stabbing me, I was yelling, hoping you were still near enough to hear. Then I turned, and I don’t know what happened. I woke up in the park up the park across the road from my shop. I was under some bushes, I think I crawled in there. You know, how animals crawl away and hide to die? When I woke up, I was sure I was going to die. Then a woman walking her dog found me and called an ambulance.”

“You don’t know what happened between when you turned and when you woke up?”

“Just flashes. Darkness, the smell of blood. Ripping, tearing, whether it was me ripping him, or his knife stabbing me, I’m not sure. Sorry, I can’t help more than that. I hope I didn’t kill him, but if I did, it was because he attacked me.”

“That’s pretty much the story the scene told me,” Jo said. “Did you recognise him? Was he known to you?”

She shook her head.

“Get some rest. We’ll talk again.”

“She didn’t get far, so maybe her attacker didn’t either,” Jo said to Harry outside the hospital room. “We need everyone searching the park. It’s a big area, but if we get the whole unit out searching, we might find him.”

They found the knife first, in a heavily wooded area of the extensive park. As Morris had said, it was silver.

Then they found a seriously injured man up a tree. The tree had severe claw marks, and some lower branches torn off. “Well that’s some of the ripping and tearing,” Jo told Harry.

The unconscious man’s identity was confirmed by fingerprints and DNA to be the same as the intruder at Tegan Morris’ house. He also had a long history of burglary and violent offences.

When he regained consciousness, he told them he’d known Morris was a werewolf. He was a friend of her brother-in-law, who was recently convicted of killing his wife, Morris’ sister. Like the brother-in-law he was a follower of prominent misogynist who had inspired the murder, a person who was now ridiculed for his claims of being imprisoned by a werewolf.

He readily admitted to attempting to breaking into Morris’ house, and attempting to kill her, claiming that because she wasn’t human it couldn’t be a crime. The man was proud of his actions.

“What do we do?” Harry asked Jo back at the office.

“We charge him with breaking and entering and attempted murder.”

“And the wolf?”

“She used reasonable force to defend herself. So no charges. But I will recommend she stay in our cells on the night of the full moon so she’s safe from any further attackers.”

Human Defence Unit Stories

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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