Humans see what they want to see. In every neighbourhood, village and town, there are incidents that could have been prevented had someone else been paying attention, but a useful pair of eyes are always conveniently missing. When Mr. Colin Pocket, a wealthy property developer, had his prized golf trophy stolen from his garden, the neighbours hadn’t seen the criminal, despite the crime being committed in broad daylight. They all knew who Mr. Pocket was however, as he had built a hotel on the same site as the youth hall.
And when Sheila Cudmore fell from her Mayfair balcony and onto the tar below, the few witnesses, after the many who had driven past her bundled body in the road thinking that it was a pile of old clothes, failed to see the knobbly pair of hands that had pushed her over it. The death came as a shock to everyone in the area, for they all knew Sheila and the way she had acquired her wealth.
There are other things, bigger things, that the humans fail to spot. Like the Prime Minister’s assistant, who happens to be a mage, and the coven of witches who own the majority of the shops on Oxford Street. Or what about the Vampire’s Ball that is held in Pall Mall every year in December? They know not of the existence of warlocks, wraiths, goblins, werewolves and talking skeletons, or Sharans and magicians and High Mages. Where do all these creatures come from? Through a little tunnel in London Bridge, yet the humans are none the wiser. Only one person every four years is told this secret—The Mayor of London—and even he is a reluctant to see these things. But that is the way the human mind works.
So it was raining heavily in London Bridge one April’s afternoon. Those who had tried to predict the unpredictable British weather paid for it as they stood at bus stops in shorts, mini-skirts and flip flops. One black, dreadlocked couple, wrapped in long, dark trench coats, brushed past several scantily clad people as they made their way to the doors of their train carriage, hopped out of the doors once they reached platform thirteen, and made their way to the ticket barriers.
“These people never learn.”
“Tell me about it.”
The pair left the station platforms and down a flight of stairs in the direction of the Northern Line. They wore sun glasses despite the absence of the light, and scarves that covered the bottom half of their faces. When they got outdoors, the woman half of the pair opened her black parasol and held it over their heads. The man smiled in gratitude.
“When are we going to find him?” the man, who had spoken first, asked.
“Don’t know,” said the woman.
“Good Creepen, he’s only been around for a month and we’re in so much trouble already.”
“Never trust a warlock.”
The man gave a wry smile despite himself. They neared the bicycle shop and turned to walk under the long, dark underpass of Stainer Street.
“The boss’ll be angry, won’t he?” said the woman. The man stopped and looked at his companion with raised eyebrows.
“He’s never angry at us, Riider.”
“No, I’m talking about the deaths. He’s gonna be angry about the deaths.”
“Do you think he already knows?” said the man.
“Has to. He knows everything.”
The woman, Riider, ran her hand along the brick wall. After a moment, she paused before the darkest one and pulled at it. A set of hinges poked out from the top, along with a seam, and a lid opened from it, revealing a keyhole underneath. Riider took a small golden key from her pocket, clicked it in the lock, and a trap door released on the ground before them. She was about to go down, when the man held her back.
“When’s the last time we ate?”
“Eh?” she said, “we ate this morning-”
“No…” he said sheepishly. “Would you like to go somewhere?”
She never had time to finish before he pulled her across the road and back onto the main street.
“Forrest!” she yelled.
“What?” he called back, darting across the road. He didn’t care that they were making a scene—sometimes they were too careful, even though they looked human enough. He knew that was a silly thing to think; they looked human enough for Creep standards. When standing next to a green faced witch, or a ghost, it’s pretty much inevitable. Humans may have annoyed him at times, with their constant flaunting in the rain, but he couldn’t help but envy their freedom to show skin and still look normal.
The pair walked through Hays Galleria; it was crowded like all the other Saturdays. Hays was a beautiful place, with its indoor market and golden decor. It stood for everything Forrest loved about the city; the art that hung on the thick metal beams, the people who stood cautiously by their home made stalls, upon which sat displays of exotic and funky trinkets from countries far away. The building was like a heavenly courtyard, and the translucent roof would divide the sun into little triangular angels on a good day.
They passed a fountain that was shaped into a metal rowing boat and up a small flight of stairs. A view of the River Thames stood to their left, and the wet, soggy Londoners to their right. The rain fell towards the river like silver needles, and pierced the clear surface, sending ripples and waves to crash against the walls of the galleria.
“Are you taking me where I think you’re taking me?” asked Riider. She panted as she tried to keep up with Forrest’s long and easy strides.
“Yes,” said Forrest. “It’s been long. Too long.”
They went through Tower Bridge Plaza, passing butchers, bakeries and wine shops. People looked at the duo as they passed. Riider couldn’t understand why; sure, they were padded up to the nines, but they weren’t dressed inappropriately.
Forrest finally stopped at a green door embedded within a stone wall. It had a stained-glass window and a door handle encrusted with gems. Three knocks later, and they were welcomed into a tiny Creep café. It was cosy and warm, with round oak tables and a long bar adorned with bottles of pink, blue and green liquid. Small mirrors ran across the brick walls and another green door was at the back.
“Hello, you two,” said a scrawny man in an apron. He shook Forrest’s hand, kissed Riider’s cheek, and ushered them to a table in the shadow of the room. There were only two other couples in the café and they didn’t stare as Forrest and Riider passed.
Riider took off her sunglasses, as did Forrest, and stared into his scarlet eyes. She could see her own mirrored in them, she could even see his blood sloshing about behind his irises like the sea crashing against the circular window of an old ship.
“Not spoiling the moment or anything,” she said with a smile, brandishing her sharp, pointed teeth. “But I’m sure The Boss is waiting for us back at home.”
“He can wait.” said Forrest. His mouth tightened as it registered just how rebellious that sounded, and he fumbled around with the menu. “You know, if he wants to wait.”
“You’re silly,” said Riider. “And anyway, The Boss probably got bored and went to the fun fair or something.”
“He does like the fun fair.” agreed Forrest. He stole a glance at Riider, opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off by an ear splitting scream from outside.
They jumped up, grabbed their glasses and dashed out the café, but it was too late. A cloud of purple smoke had enveloped the entire alleyway, and there were petrified humans running about in it for a way out.
“Careful, Riider.” said Forrest as they burst through the cloud. A woman was on the floor and she had blood trickling from her ear. A teenaged boy was spinning around and around in confusion.
“Forrest, can you see him?”
“No, he’s not even in here.”
Forrest grabbed the woman, then the boy, and ran back into the café. Riider entered a second later, dragging in another young woman.
“Are they okay?” said the café owner. He helped prop the victims against the far wall. The other couples from before milled around them with towels and fans.
“Is this his doing?” asked a goblin, bald with pointed ears.
“Yeah,” said Riider. “And we’re too late.”
The three casualties jerked about against the wall. Their eyes were covered in a blue-white film, staring into a place only they could see. Their paling skin tautened, and fresh cuts ripped across their arms. They were dead a moment later.
“He can’t keep doing this,” said the café owner sadly. “I mean, our cover will be blown. Innocent people will keep getting killed.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” said Forrest. He peeked through the door of the café. The smoke was beginning to clear, and there were still a lot of people edging around it. From what he could see, a lot of the humans thought it was some sort of practical joke, if their bemused grins were anything to go by.
“Roll them back outside,” said the bald man, who was now standing behind Forrest. “Before the smoke clears.”
With the help of the café owner, he did just that, waiting for the resounding shrieks that would sound the moment of everyone’s realisation that the smoke hadn’t been a joke at all.
“Oh my god!” someone yelled, and the shadows of a confused crowd bubbled through the stained glass window.
“You think it’s time to see The Boss now?” asked Riider. Forrest gave her a grim nod.
“Let’s go.” he sighed.
They nodded to the owner and the others in the room, who called their reassurances, and rushed through the back door leading to the other side of the alleyway. They darted through it, pushing past people as they did.
“He strikes whenever we relax!” shouted Riider. She didn’t even bother to open her parasol this time.
“I know,” said Forrest. “The most annoying thing is that he’s never even there.”
By the time they crossed the main road, they were both out of breath. Forrest frowned. If only he hadn’t tried to be so romantic and just went straight home! Their whole day was ruined. Well, they were supposed to have gone to their leader in the first place; at least they had something to tell him this time.
Once again, Riider pulled the brick and the trapdoor opened. The sun struggled against the ominous grey army in the sky, won the battle, and pierced golden holes through their grey forms. The light bounced off the puddles along the road and illuminated the chute that was in the trapdoor. Bracing herself, Riider dropped onto it and slid through. Usually, she yelled as if she was on a rollercoaster, but she wasn’t in the mood for games this time.
A small light pierced the darkness, and they touched the turf of their home, the Cave. Forrest followed behind her, thinking about the terror and horror of the criminal—Tarquinius Bloodbane.
Back in Tower Bridge Plaza, the crowd milled around the dead bodies, but as time went by, the scared circle dwindled and dissipated, until only a few bystanders were left. When the police finally came to assess the situation, there was only one witness, and they had no recollection of what had happened and from where the purple cloud had come. The officers were amazed; there had been several strange happenings in the past month, and they all featured this same purple death cloud. For some reason, no one had spotted the perpetrator, and yet more deaths continued. The last witness bumbled away from the scene, leaving the officers to scratch their heads and deal with the bloody mess before them.
That useful pair of eyes: missing again.