The name Lycan arrived on the front pages thanks to the killer’s total evisceration of his victims and obsession with the lunar cycle, always striking at a full moon. One which would be clear to see on August 19th at 18:54, 1986. Dr. Bethany Lomax decoded the taunting letters bringing herself and Inspector Hunter Roanoke to the Ottawa fair. They readied themselves for another child’s abduction.
The letters frustrated Lomax. Sure, they were good shortcuts to getting to the answers, but that was just what she hated so much. Lomax didn’t want shortcuts or easy ways out. She wanted to do things properly through her own hard work. Not by the aid of the killer’s cockiness. It was insulting. The killer was mocking her, getting under Lomax’s skin like festering botfly larvae burrowing in the flesh.
Often her peers would joke that Lomax had autism. The way the letters antagonized her was something akin to playground teasing. Evidence was evidence at the end of the day, but Lomax’s ego and pride would never be silenced. Perhaps it was the taunting that left a nasty taste in her mouth. As if Lomax felt even more of a reason to prove herself without the aid of the man she tried so desperately to catch.
Arriving an hour early, several officers accompanied Inspectors Lomax and Roanoke, half in uniform and the rest incognito, like the inspectors. Lomax wore her pride and joy, a pristine Maple Leafs jersey that swamped her petite stature. It also raised confusion when Lomax spoke, being Quebecois. The unsettling carnival music screeched in their ears, while the hustle and bustle of children scrambled at their shins.
Roanoke prompted Lomax with a can of diet Pepsi.
“Aw, bless you,” she said.
“How’s it going so far, Manhunter? Got another soul added to your tally?”
“Nothing of note. And, please, don’t call me that.”
“It’s bad enough that the officers do it.”
“It’s a compliment, people are recognizing your track record.”
Roanoke asked, “You reckon this is Ontario’s St. Lawrence Strangler?”
“Nobody calls him that anymore.”
“Then you’re alone on that one, Red.”
She gave him a low energy sigh of a smile.
“It’s funny seeing you out of your usual busy suits, eh,” said Roanoke.
“Yeah. Didn’t take you for a Leafs fan.”
“Ah, the accent is all a disguise. Shall we go on the prowl?” Lomax asked.
Roanoke nodded, heading off beside her, budding shoulders. The pair walked under the Ferris wheel in the centre of the grounds, marshalled by waist-high metal fences. From there they had a good view of the funhouse, helter-skelter and the renowned trampoline kingdom, but it was the swings that caught Lomax’s eyes. She gazed off emotionally, watching them sway through the air, dangling above a small river over yonder.
Oblivious to his partner’s staring, the missing person specialist checked over the notes of the criminal profiler. The description seemed to be forever changing. Each week there was an extra detail, or another struck off. Lomax was perpetually refining her art.
On the list, there were a hundred unique items, but only around five that were of any significance. Lomax loved to over-explain herself and go into minuscule details about blissful nothings. To her, it was everything. The three or four lines extra about how the killer twisted the little boys’ fingers back to touch their wrists told her exactly what she needed to know about his shoe size. Unfortunately, the rest of the RCMP didn’t possess her high-powered perception. Those who didn’t commend the Manhunter went for nicknames such as space cadet, thanks to that constant empty-eyed staring.
Noticing the puzzled look Roanoke gave the scribbles as he became entwined with the fascinating assumptions, Lomax gave him the short of it.
“White, beard, long hair, tall frame, friendly face, big hands, dark eyes as dark as night. With the usual over keenness towards children. At first glance, he will appear like any other man, but the longer you look at him, the less human he'll become. The best thing we can start doing is talking to people. It's most likely the Lycan will fold when confronted by an adult. And as per his namesake, he will be in awe of the moon.”
“And you just happen to know that?” he asked.
“It is my job,” she said, adjusting her oversized glasses with a pinch around the lens.
He sighed, “To hunt pedophiles… glamorous.”
“That’s not the word that I would have used. But I’ll take it. It makes me quirky.”
“Your dress sense makes you bold, and I suppose, quirky if you like. Not the fact that you choose to spend your evenings chasing kiddy fiddlers.”
“What would you rather I did?”
“Something… anything, even,” he said.
“I have a life outside of work.”
“Only you could sound so defensive saying that. Which you spend doing?”
“Revising case notes for the Ripper.” said Lomax.
“Strangler…” said Roanoke.
Roanoke rolled his eyes. “You’re not even on that case. It’s too high profile for you.”
That comment hurt Lomax. Her bottom lip crumbled, but she quickly recovered. “I’m doing what I can to help.”
“Bethany, I promise you it won’t be appreciated. You’re overworked here as it is.”
“That’s your opinion.”
“I’m not arguing.”
Lomax smiled to break the awkward tension. Roanoke tried not to reciprocate, eventually breaking with a small snicker. The pair kept on their walk, trailing past the dodgems. The bumping cars raised their excitement, deterring the focus for a moment.
“Have you found a match yet?” Roanoke asked her under his breath as they parted between a crowd.
“No. I keep getting distracted by the not-so-subtle police presence. The same as the Lycan will.”
Roanoke reached into his coat for a radio. “Think they’ll scare him off?”
“No. He’s in too deep now. It’s become a ritual. They won’t stop him. Especially after the notes too, it’ll be embarrassing for him.”
“I’ll tell them to back off. Come over here.” Roanoke took Lomax to the ‘Down a Clown’ booths beside the public restrooms. Lomax lent against the wall as he spoke into his jacket.
“The more nonchalantly you do that, the better. Start curling yourself up in the corner and it becomes rather suspect,” she said through gritted teeth.
“You want the radio?”
“I don’t have any pockets.”
“Then shush.” He chuckled, poking Lomax with the radio antenna.
The clown’s gaunt, gaping mouths were uneasy to look at. That was half the reason all the children along the aisle were missing. Tossing balls aimlessly to the back walls with a thud. Rocking the fragile frame, Lomax slumped against the booth with the once pleasant stench of cotton candy, now more pungent than cyanide. A sudden snapping hit put Lomax on alert. The machine howled excitedly at success. Lights flickered in her dazed eyes, spouting visions of slit wrists for only a flash.
Lomax screwed her face up like a ball of paper, shuddering. The funhouse doorway flickered, darkness surrounded it, and the howling clown game turned to a screeching train track. Under the bridge stood a dark figure glaring back at her. When she blinked, it was gone.
A hand was placed on her shoulder.
“Steady on. You all right, Red?” Roanoke’s voice was soothing.
“Sorry? Yes, fine. Got a little lost, is all.”
“Stay sharp.” Roanoke tapped his watch. It was nearly time. The full moon was only a couple of minutes away. It was make or break. The Deputy Commissioner had made it clear one more failed bust and the pair of them were out. For once, the pressure wasn’t all in Lomax’s head.
As per Lomax’s plan, the inspectors moved to a spot of elevation with several officers in and out of uniform. If the Lycan was to live up to his reputation and namesake, then Lomax anticipated he’d be craving for the moonlight. Her position on the mound gave an excellent view of the clearings along from the funhouse, dodgems and down a clown.
A thousand faces rocked by. Bouncing footsteps and joyous skips made it hard to track. Families pushed together and split apart in different quantities, racing back and forth like penguins on the march.
“I hope you’re right about this,” said Roanoke, appreciating the devastating glare of their superintendent officers lurking behind them.
“Just keep looking,” she said, not breaking her gaze. “The Lycan wants to find a straggler. Look for larger families or ones with disproportionate child-to-adult ratios and anyone looking at the moon.”
The grey clouds floating above their heads parted way at precisely 18:52 Lomax checked her Casio watch. She adjusted her glasses, focusing on her stare.
There, one boy held tightly in a man’s grip, sobbing. Lomax placed her hand over her jacket, feeling the cold steel of her pistol. The man dragged the sobbing boy, hearing him groan, “I’ll get you another balloon, for crying out loud. Look, there’s mama now.” He said, lighting the child’s face.
Across the way, there was another man with his back to her. He was crouched, baiting a little girl. Somehow amongst the commotion Lomax could hear him say, “Come on, that’s it. Smile for me.” Then, flash, went his camera.
“Ahhhh!” whimpered a baby boy.
Startled, Lomax’s piercing eyes nearly shot through her glasses, pinning down the scream. A child lay with grazed knees and a spilt ice cream cone was quickly scooped up into his mother’s arms.
Faces ran by in every direction, like a maze of caterpillars, bouncing bodies, stomping feet. A bombardment of ifs and maybes surrounded her. Voices became shallow, muffled under the thunderous blood pounding inside her skull. Then a potent whistle deafened her. A bead of sweat trickled over her desaturated skin.
In a moment of solace, Lomax shut her eyes with a slow, yet strong inhale. In through the nose, and hold. Lomax’s eyes opened to the broad moon, so pure and white. Soulless, yet emotional.
Her watch buzzed. 18:54.
Lomax’s eyes lowered to the centre of the crowd. Standing amongst a thousand bodies was a tall man, clutching the hand of a whimpering child, resisting his titan grip. The man’s eyes drifted down from the moon, meeting Lomax’s glasses a hundred yards away. His face was alien, devoid of human expression.
Lomax touched Roanoke’s bicep.
The man picked up the child, keeping his eyes on Lomax’s, despite screams at his shoulder.
“The big bad wolf,” she said faintly.
“Eh?” said Roanoke.
She reached for her badge.
A mother screamed, reaching for the child.
Lomax gave chase.
The officers followed Roanoke's whistle and gesture, sprawling them out across the park. The radios went haywire, screaming over the sound of rumbling, thunderous footsteps.
Down the stairs, across clown booths and racing through the dodgems, a blip of his red jumper darted past. The child whimpered in his arms, throwing his diddy fists at the man’s shoulders.
Despite her petite stature, Lomax was fast. She closed the gap as they came to the entrance barriers.
“Stop! GRC!” she cried at the top of her lungs, holding her badge out like a knight’s shield.
Officers at the turnstiles lunged for the leaping man, diving at his ankles in a cloud of dust. He kicked up his heels, then turned over a table to further their delay.
Lomax collided with the tumbling timber, rolling to the floor in a heap. Her pistol burst free of her shoulder holster. The onlookers saw the gun and screamed. Getting to her feet as Roanoke caught up. He pulled her up by the arm, not breaking stride.
Her first step was shaky, the next one even worse. Blood leaked from her nose. By ten paces, the vile throbbing in Lomax’s head acted like a mental handbrake.
Roanoke kept driving his knees, the officers soon behind him. His dexterity was the only thing keeping him in the chase. Panting like a dog, he barked into the radio, “Suspect is entering the parking lot. Get the stinger and blocks ready.”
The radio went static back before a strong, “Yes, sir.”
The corner had little grip. Roanoke’s loafers skidded around the bend, tossing him with a janky step onto the rocky, gravel parking lot.
Before him laid a labyrinth of automobiles, sprawled out in a mishmash of disaster. It was nearly impossible to decipher one car’s hood to its own trunk. But in the fading light, the red jumper glimmered like a drop of blood on an ice rink. As did the muffled crying. The man’s hand firmly sealed the lips of the little boy.
Roanoke’s pistol ignited the sky, birds parted in the gun smoke, “RCMP, stop where you are,” he shouted, dashing between cars and sliding across their hoods.
The man looked back, he held his keys between his teeth and face of desperation.
Roanoke fired twice more in the air and the man was gone.
Cautiously, Roanoke slowed as he entered the far side of the parking lot. Only two columns of vehicles remained before backing onto a field. They definitely hadn’t run that far. He made sure by stepping up a bumper for a peek. No sight. Roanoke’s experienced yet youthful eyes prowled the dimming light.
Springing down, Roanoke planted his feet into the grassy break between aisles.
The jeep’s heavy engine rumbled into life. Lights burst out in lightning strikes. Zapping the RCMP officer.
Pivoting, aiming his pistol. “Stop right there!” He growled like a drill instructor.
The mechanical mass revved. Burning rubber in a wheel spin, then lurched out like a jaguar. Diving into the aisle.
Mud splashed up around Roanoke as he rolled beside the 31-inch tires that nearly blended his skull into the earth. His pistol crunched under the mighty weight. Pulverized like a puny insect.
The car was stuck in first, the wet mud gave it little traction.
Roanoke jumped to his feet. Heart racing. Legs burning. One last push. Exploding with a fearsome drive into the dirt, Roanoke caught the driver’s side door as the titanium titan pulled away. Door locked, with his last ounce of energy, Roanoke smashed his hand through the window, shattering the glass into a million pieces across the Lycan’s face.
The uneven ground ran a pothole. The Jeep bounced up. Roanoke twisted, falling into a heap. His hand left smothered in blood, gushing kool-aid, as the jeep sprinted into the police onslaught.