Balancing the weight of the rifle and night sight, Mickey made his way to the wooded area behind the house. He'd managed to get a look at a zone map and he was sure he would have a good view from an area of slightly higher ground there.
Not even breathing heavily after his run, he set up the low tripod for the rifle and settled himself flat on the ground. Before he got completely comfortable he took his automatic from the shoulder holster and put it on the ground between his arms. After the attack the night before he wanted it close at hand. One half of his mind told him he was crazy – how would that wolf have followed him here? – the other, more intuitive part told him something more mysterious was at work.
Through the telescopic sight he could just make out McCall and Schmes as they reached the side of the house, though flickering shadows made it harder to see them. McCall knew the score – he'd make sure he kept in sight so Mickey could cover him. Schmes might be the client but as far as Mickey was concerned, if he had to choose, McCall was the one he was going to get out of this mess alive.
Lying there, he was aware of a familiar smell. He couldn't place it for a moment but then, as his heart began to beat faster and pleasurable sensations washed over him, he recognized it as the perfume that Lamya was wearing the night before.
The moment the thought was formed, he became aware of a feeling of being watched. He rolled, grabbing at the automatic and came to a stop half lying on his back with the gun pointed squarely at the girl who had somehow materialized right behind him again.
How did I know she was there before I saw her? And why the hell didn't she even flinch when she saw the gun?
He scrambled to his feet.
With a hot blooded gaze, she moved closer. Her scent grew stronger, so strong that he could almost taste it on his tongue. He let the hand with the gun fall back limply to his side.
"Hello again," he said. It sounded lame.
She smiled and he found himself staring at sharp white teeth, gleaming between her full, red lips. With her there in front of him, standing so close, he couldn't think of anything but touching, tasting and then possessing her.
Without conscious thought, his fingers opened and the gun dropped with a barely noticeable thud. He put his hands around her waist and pulled her closer, feeling the curves of her lush body pressed against his. She lifted her face and he couldn't stop himself. Every fiber of his being demanded it, so he kissed her.
Her lips had a sweetness he'd never tasted before. She embraced him back, her longing evident by the way she entwined her arms around him.
Some segment of his mind raged at him for being so unprofessional and he tried to pull away, but she was stronger than he thought possible. Abandoning any thought of escape, he deepened the kiss, bruising her lips while his tongue plumbed the depths of her mouth. She let him do exactly as he wanted.
I could have her right now! Basic animal lusts urged him on.
The segment of his brain, the instinct for survival that had been strengthened by years of Company training and experience overrode his visceral hunger. He had to understand what was happening to him!
The effort of pulling away left him gasping. "What's going on?"
She brushed a hand over the stubble on his chin, making him shudder in reaction, "I chose you."
Regaining more control, he managed to push her a little farther away. "What do you mean, you chose me? For what?"
Her dark eyes enveloped him. "I chose you to help me."
"What do you need help for? And why me?" Something about her was calling to him and it was taking all his willpower to resist the urge to take her here and now. She came a step closer and he wanted to retreat, but didn't. He could feel the heat from her body, could sense the way her breasts rose and fell as she breathed.
"Last night, when I met you here, I saw it." Her smoky voice, with that strange accent, almost mesmerized him. "There was a wildness in you that made my heart sing. I have been so lonely for so long and I knew then that you were the one… The one to be my mate… I followed you through the city, in the darkness. And when you led me to the Nazi family, my prey, I knew it was preordained. We were meant to be together."
Her fingers crept up the back of his neck and tangled into his hair as she pulled his head back down to hers.
"I still…" He struggled to keep his mind clear, but her closeness pulled at his senses, "I don't understand…" He could barely breathe.
She released him and he stumbled back, confused.
"My family is here to take revenge for what the Nazis did to us during the war."
Mickey tried to organize his thoughts and remember what he had seen in the file on Schmes, "I know about your history. I read about the massacre."
"You read about it!" She spat the words, "I was there to watch them die and feel the bullets as they pierced my body. I woke in a bloody pit covered with the limbs of my dead family and clawed my way back the land of the living by climbing over the corpses of the people I loved! Those of us who lived through that atrocity survived due to the power of our magic, we endured and remain alive to collect our revenge."
Mickey felt cold. What did she mean she was there and remained alive? "How could you be there? You're… young."
"My family is powerful and we outlived our normal lifespan through my grandfather's knowledge of the Draba, the spells and charms that have always protected my family. That wisdom has kept us alive all this time – though sometimes I am not sure that death would be so unwelcome. I am part of the instrument of our retribution. I kill the ones who hurt us and all their families."
"You? But how? More than half of them were killed by wild animals –"
"I kill those whose bloodlines were responsible for the slaughter of my family. I tried to kill the Nazis last night. But you stopped me." She took a step closer and put her hand on his chest. Fire traveled down his body. "The magic also protects those of my own blood. I cannot harm my own, and, from last night when I bit you, you have become one of us."
Mickey felt her nails rake his chest. He tore his eyes away from her face to look, but in the uncertain light, for a moment, her hand looked like a wolf's paw. Mickey felt the blood drain from his face and his insides turn to water. "Sweet Jesus!"
"I see you understand now." Her dark eyes caught his.
"Yeah, I understand." His mind was screaming at him to get away, but his body wouldn't obey.
"Then you will help me kill the family of the Nazi, the one with my grandfather? I am sure you know where they are. Tell me. Together we will go to them and take our revenge."
He tried to concentrate, to understand what she was asking of him, but what she told him fogged his mind, making it difficult to think straight.
"No! This is impossible, madness. It can't be happening, it can't be. Even if it were possible, I wouldn't do it anyway. By killing them I would be no better than the Nazis who butchered your family!"
She stared into his eyes, "You have no choice."
"I won't help you!" He dragged his gaze away from hers but instead found his eyes focused on her mouth.
"I told you, my name is Lamya; it means beautiful, dark lips. My lips are dark with blood, the blood of my enemies. But I have also tasted you and I have spared your life. And now you are mine."
Her words chilled him but he couldn't focus on anything except her mouth and the attraction he felt for her. Called by something dark and primeval he touched her lips with his fingers. Instantly she bit down, her razor sharp teeth flashed in the moonlight drawing blood. He watched as she sucked the blood away from his fingers, licking her lips and savoring the taste. He kissed her then, tasting his own blood, the essence of his life.
His self-control vanished.
They sank to their knees as he worked his hands into the fabric of her blouse, finding her skin. Her body burnt with an inhuman fire and he warmed himself with her heat, stroking her flesh. He felt her smooth skin become covered in soft fur and her female roundness become elongated, with powerful muscles covering strong bones.
She tore at his clothes, leaving him naked – but he didn't feel the cold.
A spasm of pain from his hands made him look at them. As he watched, his fingers changed shape, turning into claws, the nails lengthening and growing darker and thicker. His vision improved and he could smell the earth beneath his knees.
Unable to cope with the sensory overload he screamed at her, "What did you do to me?"
The hair on her head had become luxurious and long, and though her ears and eyes were slanted and elongated, she still looked like a human woman. She pressed herself against him, murmuring in his ear and nuzzling his neck, "I made you into a wild creature, just like me. If you do not help me kill the old man's family before he dies a natural death you will condemn yourself to be this inhuman thing during every full moon for the rest of eternity."
Pain from his hands traveled up his arms now and he watched in horror as his limbs started to change shape. Thick hair began to appear all over his body. He tried to speak but it was becoming harder to form words. "I will not save myself by killing innocents!" The words coming from his mouth were garbled, little more than a growl!
She moved away from him and in a single movement threw off what was left of her clothes. A wolf-human female crouched in front of him.
He tried to stand but ended up on all fours. "Nooooo!" His shout of disbelief ended in a howl.
Suddenly, he could smell the bonfire over by the house even though it was far away. Beyond that, he recognized the familiar scent of Robert McCall and the dank smell of Schmes's fear.
Lamya drew closer and he saw the last vestiges of the woman transform into the wolf of the night before. She licked his face and lifted her head offering her throat in a sign of deference. His human side was slipping away, overwhelmed by the instincts that made him a good agent but which he had always fought to control.
The sleek, black she-wolf lay on her back, offering her submission by exposing her tender underbelly to him. He ran his nose over her, taking the thousands of scents rising from her pelt, deep into his lungs.
Her musky scent was too much for him to resist and as the last of his humanity slipped beyond his reach, he gave into his instincts.
Still reeling from the devastating sight of his family murdered, even if was in a hallucination, Robert could not do anything but listen to Banga's angry words.
He flushed with shame. He had brushed the horror that the Banga clan felt away with a wave of his hand. How could he have been so nonchalant about dismissing feelings of revenge against the murderers of a family?
How could he have been so unfeeling?
"Does our Brigaki djilia, our sorrow song bring the Mulo, the spirits of the dead, to speak to you, sir?" Banga asked, his dark eyes staring at Robert.
His mouth bone dry, all Robert could do was attempt to swallow.
Suddenly the night was filled with the sound of a wolf's howl.
Banga's face lit up with a smile. "So, Private Schmes, you brought your family with you here to ask for our mercy?"
Schmes shook his head violently. "No, No," He looked at Robert. "They are not here are they?"
"No," Robert reassured him. "Your family is nowhere near here, I assure you."
The Roma people held on to each other and looked upward to the full moon.
"Wherever the Nazis passed," Banga intoned, "Roma were arrested, deported, and murdered. We heard that executions of Roma people began in October 1941, in the forests of Yugoslavia. To this day, the peasants who lived through it still remember the cries of children being driven in trucks to the places of their execution."
The old woman wept, leaning onto one of the men on the porch.
"From 1941, with the first news of the Nazi filth moving into my country, we called upon our Mulo, our Ancestor Spirits to help my family hide and survive the Nazi sickness that infected the land. We heard that at Simviropol, eight hundred men, women and children were shot on the night of December 24th 1941. On Christmas Eve, they killed my people!
Schmes shuddered next to Robert.
"If not for our Draba, the spells and charms that my family had learned from Kesali, the Forest Spirit and from Martiya, the Spirit of the Night, my clan would have vanished early on in the war, like so many others of my people. But with their powerful help in our ancient forest, we were able to cheat them from spilling our blood for years."
The men on the porch all glared and muttered at Robert and Schmes. Banga waved his hand at them to calm them down. "Some evil broke our Draba that fateful day. The Nazis caught sight of us and cheered for our deaths."
"No," Schmes cried, "I am sorry, I was too weak to do anything. I was too young to stop it."
The wolf howled long and mournful again.
Banga sneered at Schmes. "Hear you, how the song of our revenge is being sung by my granddaughter, whose blood you murderers spilt, but whose life our spells and magic brought back from the threshold of death! Our magic has given her the gift and the powers of the werewolf."
"Madness," Robert muttered to Schmes. But the powerful wolf's voice rang out again, chilling Robert, making the hairs on his body stand on end.
"My Lamya sings for the blood of your children, Nazi." Banga's expression was solemn, intent on Schmes. "She sings with the joy of revenge as she hunts them down. Soon you will see and smell their blood as I did, when you tried to shoot and then bury me alive with my family!"
"No!" Schmes cried and he grabbed on to Robert's arm. "Mr. McCall, are they here, are they in danger?"
Glaring at Banga, Robert said, "Schmes's family is not here, they are safe, far away from this place. The innocents are not anywhere near here Vaida Banga. They are safe and will remain that way."
"They must be near," Banga frowned, "Why else would Lamya call out with such joy?" The other members of his clan looked to each other in alarm. He turned back to Robert and Schmes. "How do you call them innocent, when it is the blood of their murdering father that runs through their veins? They are related with those who slaughtered our people and are therefore tainted by their evil."
The howl of the wolf sounded again, but this time it was joined by the sound of a second wolf's cry.
All of the Roma people gasped and looked at each other in shock.
"Lamya?" Banga asked the full moon.
"Lashav!" the old woman cried and ran to Banga's arms, "The shame!"
"No!" the Roma chieftain roared, throwing the old woman to the side, "it is forbidden, I forbade her to take a mate and to give in to the darkness in the heart of the werewolf. I forbade her in the name of the purity of our mission, to avenge the souls of our dead!"
"What?" Robert hadn't a full idea as to what they were talking about, but in the back of his mind, pieces of an unimaginable puzzle were beginning to fit together.
"That man she met," the old lady wept at Banga, "The one she met here yesterday and then again at the Nazi's house, I knew she wanted him, I knew that her life of loneliness was destroying her! Oh shame, oh lashav! She bit him, tasted of his blood and spared his life, making him into a wolf!"
"God in Heaven! Kostmayer!" Schmes gasped.
The howling started again, but this time the two voices intertwined, making a song of primitive longing, of animal emotions. Now Robert fully understood what was happening. He could hardly believe it, but the baying at the moon of two souls made him acknowledge the unthinkable.
Without hesitation he worked out what had happened to Mickey last night. He suddenly understood the strange things his friend seemed to go through: the rapid healing after being mauled by the wolf, the sudden appearance of glowing vitality and a five o'clock shadow on a man who never had to bother shaving more than once a day and Mickey's overwhelming appetite for meat, the rarer the better. The sight of Mickey grunting over the raw beef, the bloody, toothy smile as he consumed the uncooked flesh flashed in front of Robert's eyes.
The duet of wolf howls made understanding the impossible a simple task.
"My God!" Robert gasped.
"Kovachi!" Banga shouted, "get me the gun, and the special bullets I had you make."
A large, brawny man stepped forward and rushed into the house. Wolf howls and barks, yelping and growling filled the air. Dogs from miles around were answering the sounds of the wolves.
"Get to the car, Hermann!" Robert snapped as he pulled his weapon from his coat. He pointed it at Banga. "This man came to you to talk, to beg for the lives of his family. I will not permit you to use your gun on him!"
Banga looked towards Robert as if he had forgotten he was there.
"I do not intend to use the gun on the Nazi. I must go to my granddaughter and save her from her dark side. That male must be stopped from defiling my poor child."
"Is he talking about our Kostmayer?" Schmes asked from behind Robert. He had not gone back to the car.
"Her life has been dedicated to the pure calling for revenge," Banga said, "she only remained alive to help the souls of our family rest in peace. She must not give in to the animal in her. It would be a sin to do so."
The large man emerged from the house and handed a gun to Banga.
Robert aimed at his head. "I warn you."
Turning his back on Robert, the gypsy moved towards the side of the house. "Leave here, Nazi," Banga said, "Be with your family, for it is the last night you will spend with them. I have more pressing business."
Schmes shot forward. His movement surprised Robert so that he didn't quite catch him as he sprinted across the grass.
"Please, no, not that young man!" Schmes yelled out as he ran onto the porch, "Your granddaughter attacked him. I heard it! The young man is a fine person!" Schmes grabbed at Banga's arm. "Kill me instead! I am at fault not that fine fellow. Kill me! Stop this madness!"
Spinning around, Banga roared with anger. "Don't touch me, filthy Nazi!" He spat at him, "You speak to me of madness? You so called civilized men took women and children, babies at heir mother's breast and butchered them as you smiled. It was recreation for you! My family has lived only to wipe your evil from this planet!" He turned and stormed into the woods.
By then Robert had caught up to Schmes. He took him by the arm and pulled him back. "Get to the car, Hermann. Get to safety. I will deal with these men."
Robert held his automatic up to the light. Banga was the only one armed and he couldn't in clear conscience shoot at anyone who was not threatening him. The gypsies were now running with their backs to Robert, towards the sounds of the wolves yelping and growling.
Hermann tore himself out of Robert's hold once again. His face was distorted by pain. "Don't you see Mr. McCall. If I do not stop them, then your colleague will be the next to lose his life because of my crime! I must try to stop the killing – this time."
Robert saw how determined Hermann was and, resigned, let go of him.
"Thank you, Mr. McCall." Hermann turned and ran in the same direction as the Gypsies.
Robert's adrenalin spiked, but he controlled himself. Using his sense of hearing to ascertain the best direction to go that would get him closest to the wolves' noises, he followed his ears and headed down a side path. He tried running with the gun out, but within seconds he realized that he needed both hands to negotiate through the wooded area. After slipping the automatic into his pocket, he increased his speed.
Finally, Robert reached the focal point of the noises and came upon a small rise. Some distance away, on the top of the hill, was a clearing and within that grassy knoll, bathed in the stark moonlight, two magnificent wolves were mating.
Robert's breath gave way as he came upon that astonishing, primeval sight. The wolves were indeed larger than normal, their teeth were long and sharp, gleaming in the light as they nipped at each other's rich coats. One wolf was dark, with dark eyes. It was the female one, chuffing in primitive joy. The larger wolf, poised on top of the female was a magnificent coppery colored wolf. Robert could see its eyes as it scanned the woods. They were hazel, the exact color of Mickey's eyes!
A chill of disbelief caught him. Whatever else might be true that night, the amazing fact was that the larger, male wolf looked very like Mickey Kostmayer!
At his right, Robert heard the sound of men running, approaching the hill. He tore his eyes from the coupled animals just in time to see Banga push aside some foliage and come upon the sight of the two wolves still joined together, heeding the directive of nature's most ancient call.
"Lamya!" Banga screamed, his voice was swallowed up by the noises around them. "No! Lamya," he was weeping now. "I told you that to give in to the animal lusts of the werewolf would bring shame upon our cause. We were not given the gift of continued life to gain anything but revenge for the deaths of the clan!"
Banga brought the gun up and pointed it.
Robert saw he was aiming at the male wolf! Without thinking of the consequences, he grabbed a piece of wood and threw it towards Banga's outstretched gun. The gun hand was battered down and Robert threw himself upon the Roma leader.
When their bodies made contact, Robert felt a coldness press against him, radiating from the man. But it was only seconds before multiple strong hands grabbed at Robert and lifted him away from the gypsy chieftain.
"No!" Robert fought the men, "No don't shoot – him!" Even then, Robert could not bring himself to call the male wolf by his friend's name.
Banga was helped up, and then again he lifted the gun to point it towards the animals. "I am sorry for your friend. I do not know his background, but his fate has brought him to this moment."
With horror, Robert saw that the gun's aim was true and Mickey would be killed.
He fought the hands that held him with all of his strength. "No!" he shouted, "He is innocent of all wrongdoing, fate brought him here and your granddaughter's desire drew him into this situation. Don't you see, killing him would be the same as the Nazis killing your people. They said you deserved it because they had their own agenda."
Banga's arm lowered for a moment, but as the wolves continued together, their interest only with their own primordial desire, Banga again took straight aim and said, "Do not worry, Gadja, Kovachi was the best blacksmith and metal worker in the forest. He made the bullets in this gun of purest silver. It will be over quickly for your friend. I am sorry, but this has to be done to regain the purity of our purpose."
Robert's anger overcame him. He struggled to stop what seemed inevitable. "Purity, Banga? Purity?" he bellowed in fury, "That's just what the Nazis said! To keep the purity of their race and cause they murdered the innocent, just as you're about to do!"
With all the sincerity he could muster, with all the heartfelt emotion he could call up from his soul, Robert pleaded again. "Please, Vaida Banga, do not kill an innocent man!"
Banga looked towards Robert for a moment as the men of the clan held Robert fast.
From the top of the hill, the female wolf yelped in pleasure, and Banga narrowed his eyes. "It must be done." He closed an eye to aim better.
"Don't!" Robert shouted, struggling against the hands holding him.
"Please, Mulo, the spirits of our dead, make my aim true," Banga shouted. He started to squeeze the trigger.
"No!" another voice echoed at the same moment as the gun fired. The body of a man flashed in front of the gun! It was Schmes. The gypsy men had been so intent on holding Robert back from their leader that they didn't see Hermann Schmes run in front of the gun.
"My God!" Robert said, and felt his legs give way.
Hermann seemed to hang in the air for a moment as his eyes searched for Banga. "Es sein rüber. Es wird beendet – It is over, it is finished," Hermann whispered, then he fell, dead.
For a moment, all the men stood silent, staring at the dead man lying at their feet.
Suddenly, there was another shriek from the woods. The old lady of the clan ran up to the group of men. "The magic is ended!" the woman screamed and stood with her arms up straight towards the men. To Robert's eyes, something was very wrong. She looked to be a hundred years old!
The other men in the group started to react strangely. They released Robert. Some stood rigid, some falling onto the ground but all had expressions of extreme surprise and fear on their faces.
Now free of restraint, Robert got up. Only he and Banga were still standing and in control of themselves. They looked at each other and at the horrifying sights that were taking place around them.
The gypsies were yelling in what seemed like pain, but their voices were breathy, little more than sighs. Even as he looked at them, each seemed to be aging. Their bodies getting smaller, thinner, less substantial.
All of a sudden, Robert heard the gypsy song floating on the air. It seemed to surround the men as they aged. The old woman was already nothing more than a shuddering heap of dried bones on the foggy ground.
The music was now accompanied by the voices of unseen singers. The mournful melody swelled and nearly deafened him, but Robert could make out a human female cry above everything else.
Robert looked to the hill where the wolves had been cavorting.
On it, draped in the moonlight flowing over all, were two half-human, half-wolf figures, their bodies entangled together.
Without a second thought Robert started to run the top of the hill.
His lungs burning with the effort, he made it to the summit. The sight that met him was that of a young, half human she-wolf of astonishing beauty, weeping hysterically. Her jet-black hair ran into the shining fur at her throat, which continued down to sparsely cover her naked body. She was cradled against the male's chest. Its human face was still covered by thick hair, but its features looked like Mickey. He too was naked, completely covered by that golden coat of fur, but his limbs were becoming more and more human shaped. His eyes were glazed in confusion, his expression that of bewilderment and sorrow.
The girl's cries increased as she saw Robert approach, and became hysterical when she looked toward Robert's side. Robert saw Banga approach from that direction.
Becoming more fully human with each moment, the she-wolf clung to her mate. She looked towards Banga. "Oh grandfather I am sorry. I am sorry, I didn't think that all this would happen."
Seeing the gun in Banga's hand, Robert grabbed at his own revolver still in his pocket. He aimed it at Banga, but when he saw the gypsy drop his pistol and lower himself to his knees, Robert knew that weapons were no longer needed.
"Lamya, child," Banga shook his head. Robert could see tears falling down his cheeks.
Robert looked at the couple huddled together. They were less and less covered by fur and he saw they were both shivering. He took off his coat and approached them. He knelt down and tucked it around the young woman who was weeping in Mickey's arms. Robert then removed his sweater and placed it around Mickey's shoulders.
Throughout this time, the young woman sobbed her heart out and Banga never moved from his knees.
"Forgive me Grandfather," the girl wept. "I never thought that my selfishness would bring upon us the end of our purpose. I'm so sorry!" She cried harder, and half her sobs were howls of pain.
"No, no my poor child," Banga also wept, "We knew we were at the end of our travails. Schmes was the last of his platoon alive. After his family's death and his, we knew that something was going to happen to end the magic." He held his hand out towards the last remains of the men of his family, "but I had hoped it would have been a better fate than this." They were little more than dried husks of living men. Most had already fallen to the ground to move no more.
Tears were streaming down his cheeks. "Our revenge has a terrible cost to it. The Mulo, do not share their magic without a price."
Banga sat all the way down on the ground, his eyes never leaving those of his granddaughter. "You have been paying that price for over forty years. Your life was saved so that you could be a force of revenge, but any joy of your being a living woman was taken away from you." Banga shook his head, "No lover could you take, for no Sinti people would go near us. They feared our contract with such powerful, primitive spirits. There were no men you could call your own from those left alive in our group after the massacre. All were your close family."
Robert looked at Mickey. The poor man was almost fully human again, but he was still dazed and completely concerned with protecting his mate. Mickey held the young woman and tried to reassure her by small nuzzles, licks and whimpers.
"Oh my dear child, I knew how you suffered with the yearning to have some sort of a life with love. You bravely refused your wolf's heart and desires all these years. I know how you suffered,"
"Oh, Grandfather!" Lamya put out her arm towards her grandfather, and that's when Robert noticed that she too had aged. Her hair was no longer jet black, and her limbs and face were no longer young. It was a woman of about seventy that Mickey held in his arms.
Mickey, completely human now, looked at Robert, then he looked to the woman in his arms. She was now all gray, her breathing labored, her face thin and ravaged by time.
Banga crossed his arms around himself, as if to hold his heart together inside his chest. His eyes were shining with tears and pain. "Oh my child, my Lamya, you were not responsible for the end of the magic that had empowered and protected us all these years. I shot Schmes myself. He was the last of the Nazis. I killed him and now I am paying my debt to the sprits. I am again watching all my family die before my eyes!"
Banga lowered his head and moaned, his body rocking back and forth. He began to sing that mournful gypsy song, but now Robert noticed, his was the only voice to be heard.
The chieftain continued to keen his song.
He heard Mickey cough and try his voice. "Robert?" he said.
Only moving his eyes, Robert looked towards his friend. Mickey was still cradling the woman in his arms, but now she was quite dead. As he watched, the woman's body dried out and tumbled apart. Mickey stayed where he was, in shock.
Before he could step towards Mickey, Robert felt a dry, cold hand touch his. Banga was still crying and his head remained bowed, but he had extended his arm to Robert.
"The magic is vanished," Banga said, his voice sounding like dry leaves rustling, "Your friend will not be burdened with the werewolf legacy. This night will be the only night that he will have lived as the werewolf. Tell him, tell him that the magic and the curse is no more!"
Robert stared at Banga, with no idea what to say to the man.
He placed his hand on Banga's shoulder, to somehow comfort him. To Robert's horror, his hand caved in the gypsy's back. Banga's whole body then collapsed onto the ground, little more than dust.
Turning, Robert saw Mickey stagger towards him. He still had Robert's jacket around his shoulders, but the rest of him was bare, covered in dirt and grass. He held Robert's coat, which had covered the body of the woman, in his hand.
There was nothing more to do, nothing else to say. Robert extended an arm to his friend and helped him into the heavy winter coat he was carrying. "Come on, Mickey. Let's get you to the car."
"Hermann?" Mickey asked, his eyes still glazed.
Robert shook his head. "Banga meant to shoot you and Hermann ran in front of the gun. He's dead, just over there." He pointed towards Herman's resting place. "I'll call this in to Control. He can take care of the body."
Mickey looked around him as they walked. "All gone? The Roma are all gone?"
"Yes, the reason for their extended life was ended when the last of the Nazis who massacred their family perished. There was no more reason for them to continue."
"Lamya?" With a puzzled expression Mickey looked at Robert. "Werewolf? Was I really…?"
"Don't think about that now. We need to get you to the car and warm. I have a change of clothing there, as usual. We'll get you dressed." Robert's felt a familiar depression set over him, "And then we have to report to what remains of the Schmes family, that I failed them."
"No, Robert, you didn't fail. What Hermann wanted was to keep his family out of harm's way. You've done that. I know that wherever he is right now, he's happy that his daughter and grandchildren are safe." Mickey shook his head, "And he gave his life for me and them – maybe he thought that would go some way towards making amends."
Sighing, Robert had to agree. "It's not the best ending, though is it?"
"Nope, " Mickey said, scratching at himself.
Passing the Banga house, they took a moment to extinguish the campfire.
Robert took one last look at the house before they continued to the car. "But I suspect that there would never be a satisfying conclusion when the facts of the matter include genocide and murder."
"Right." Scratching furiously, Mickey walked up to the Jag. "Damn it! I think I have fleas."
Robert tried not to show any amusement. "Not to worry, I have something in the car, left from my last mission to the slums of Bombay."
"Good," Mickey said as he took the spare clothes from Robert's trunk and stepped into the pants.
"If not, we can always stop at any vet's and get you a flea collar." Robert climbed into the car before his colleague could reply.
"Not funny, McCall," Mickey said, as he slipped a heavy sweater over his head and entered the car.
Suddenly a long sorrowful wolf-like howl filled the night.
It could be a dog, Robert thought. It could be… Robert glanced at his friend. He wasn't surprised that Mickey remained stock-still to listen to the mournful sound. Then, tipping his head back, Mickey opened his mouth as if to answer the call, but then he shook himself and - embarrassed - stared silently into the night.
The howl went on for a while and then slowly, heartbreakingly faded into silence in the cold, moonlit air. Without saying a word, Robert started the car and drove out into the unforgiving Halloween night.