CW: Strong language, adult situations, violence, references to sex, and some gore.
Vlad’s House, Henford-on-Bagley
Vlad replayed Alice’s words a thousand times—in the shower, lying in the bed he didn’t sleep in, now while chopping vegetables. Already she’d upped the ante, looking positively gleeful whenever he visibly struggled to keep one of her concoctions down. What would she dream up next?
And how long until she brought him to his (preferably not literal) knees?
“Are you thinking about that bartender you’re obsessed with?” Latimer teased as he shuffled into the kitchen.
“I’m not obsessed.” Had he had increased their visits to the pub from weekly to almost daily? Yes, but he was merely making himself available to Miss Martin for her observation. And it paid off. “She asked me on a date, remember?” Vlad thrust his shoulders back, “Our interest is mutual.”
That tone. “What?”
“Do not get carried away. Does she think you’re cute? Yes. Does she have the same unwavering intensity you have about this spark between you? I don’t think so.” He crossed to the oven, sniffing in disapproval at the whole grain bread proving inside.
“She tells me about the creatures she hates and serves me increasingly vile cocktails.The only thing she could do to further demonstrate her interest is stabbing me.” Vlad paused, letting the fantasy play out in his mind. “Do you think she’d stab me?”
Latimer stared. “This is why you’re divorced.”
“It is not.” Vlad scooped some pepper seeds into the trash. He wasn’t an idiot. He just had a type. Gender didn’t matter. His sexuality was, as William described it: anything that could potentially kill him. “I am divorced because I married a nightmare made flesh, and we were miserable long before our stabbings went from playful to hateful.”
“There’s such a thing as a playful stabbing?” Latimer held up a hand, “Nevermind. Don’t answer that. Instead, tell me what the hell is going on with this grocery delivery.”
It was only a matter of time before this came up. “Nothing.”
“Nothin’?” Latimer was aghast. “It’s all vegetables!”
“Is that a comment on my cooking?”
“It’s a comment on how terrible it is to be deprived.”
“You’re being absurd.” Vlad returned to chopping vegetables. “You are not deprived, and your meals are not suffering.”
When the doctor mentioned a low-salt, vegetarian diet, the look on Latimer’s face had been mutinous. His friend was, in fact, wearing the same expression now. “You don’t know that! You don’t even eat!”
True. Food was not a thing Vlad could consume anymore. “You need only submit a recipe request; I’m perfectly capable of following directions.”
“But not capable of listening!” Latimer snapped his fingers, “I don’t intend to spend my final days eating like a damn rabbit because some doctor thinks it’ll give me a day. I’ll eat what I want!”
“You’ll eat what the doctor tells you!” Vlad slammed his fist down, forgetting his own strength and cracking the countertop. He turned, nostrils flaring. “If it buys you a day, an hour, a fucking second, I will see it done. And your health, Latimer Alexander Jones, will be preserved whether you are a willing participant or not.”
Decades together kept the sim from fleeing, but he still took a step back. “This is about Betty.”
“It’s not,” Vlad croaked.
“Sixty years, and you don’t think I can read you like a book? I miss her too.”
Once upon a time, the three were inseparable. Vlad had even endured decades in a Newcrest suburb just to be close to them. They held his heart, even if physically, such a thing did not exist anymore.
“Sims die,” Latimer said gently. “It’s what we do. You couldn’t have stopped Betty from dying, and you can’t stop me.”
San Myshuno Metro Police Station
Sims died. It was a universal truth. Though they didn’t usually move after they expired, as with Eliza Pancakes. The ME identified her body not long after it was brought in. She and her mysterious tooth necklace migrated far from the bubble blower where she supposedly overdosed.
“Run it again,” Bella demanded. The lab tech assigned to the case cringed.
She was being abrupt, but everything about this situation had her rattled. The press was having a field day with stories of a new sinister passionfruit flavor hitting the streets. The San Myshuno Times ran a headline that literally said:
“I thought it was always the spouse, like the first rule of murders,” Deacon remarked as he came up behind her. “Although, if I were a husband, it would be really weird if I had to kill my spouse just because the law says so.”
Bella raised her eyebrows, “That’s morbid.”
“I don’t make the rules,” he replied with mock solemnity, “I just follow them.”
They both laughed. You had to in this job. It was the only thing that kept you from screaming.
“So you don’t think we missed something?” she asked as they grabbed a seat. Deacon was a strange guy. But he was good at spotting clues or considering motives that others missed.
On the outside, Bob looked like the perfect culprit. It was no secret that he and Eliza were having trouble. In fact, that was the very first thing he mentioned when he opened the door.
Bella leaned in hard, but he was adamant. “Eliza is dead, and we had problems. Lots of problems. She was a gold-digger, and I’m a bit lazy. I was divorcing, not murdering her.”
“He’s not a nice dude,” Deacon said, “But like, there are easier ways to kill your wife. And having problems isn’t proof of anything besides, like, marriage being hella hard. Which seems true because everyone complains about it.”
Bella agreed. Not only did Bob have an airtight alibi, he was also adamant that Eliza didn’t like bubble blowers or use them. Why defend her in a way that made him look more like a suspect?
“Y’all wanna see what I’ve got?” the tech asked.
Bella and Deacon nodded.
“Well, it’s not much,” he said, leading them over to the machine. “It’s canine in nature, but it doesn’t match anything in the database, and it’s partially laced with sim DNA.”
“So, what does that mean?” Bella asked, peering at the screen, trying to make some sense of the jumbled numbers, letters, and squiggles.
“You’re looking for a werewolf?” At Bella’s frown, he hid his smile. “Sorry, bad joke.”
It was a lead, a useless one, but that wasn’t the tech’s fault. “I’m gonna get some fresh air,” she said to Deacon, “Try to think of something else.”
As she passed the front desk, Marley jumped up, pretending to file paperwork, but Bella caught sight of the magazines she left on the counter.
The cover of Sims InTouch drew her attention:
Downtown San Myshuno
Penny took a sip of her coffee, “Motherfucking vanilla creme? Are you kidding me?” With an irritated grunt, she dumped the entire thing in the trashcan.
Stupid new baristas. Penny had been getting her morning fix from Jolie’s for years. They knew her order front and back: Black coffee to go, an almond croissant. And this morning, she needed her order right more than ever.
Last night, she spent the entire evening playing photographer at her aunt’s gallery opening and feeding bylines to other reporters. Apparently, Penny’s job wasn’t an embarrassment when her family could benefit from it.
Alice’s “real talk” after Anastasia’s interview was also irritating. “So she had a panic attack and you yelled at her? Penny, I tell you this because I love you. You’re being kinda harsh.”
Alice was supposed to be on Penny’s side! And she was wrong anyway. Penny was not being harsh.
No one made Anastasia leap up on the table like a sexy panther! She asked the woman some questions, that was all. Penny was a journalist…sort of. That was her job!
The morning didn’t get any better when she arrived at her office. For reasons that had to be the Universe hating her, Penny found a detective waiting by her desk.
“Bella Goth. Billie said I could wait for you here.” She stuck out her hand.
Penny shook it while inwardly cursing her ex-girlfriend. “What can I do for you?”
“That werewolf story you wrote. The photo was—”
Penny rattled off the paper’s standard response. “Not in violation of anyone’s privacy and legally obtained.”
Bella waved a hand, “No, I’m not here about that. I mean, where did you get the picture? You wrote the story. Did you see this creature?”
Penny blinked at her slowly and then burst out laughing. “Are you kidding? Werewolves are fake. People send all sorts of nonsense stuff to the magazine all the time. We’re a tabloid.”
“Let me put your mind at ease, Miss Pizzazz; I’m not a dumbass. I know werewolves aren’t real. I came about a case and thought you might be interested in being helpful, but I guess I was wrong. Thanks for your time.” Her voice was tight as she turned on her heel and stormed out.
“Wait!” Penny was so used to denigrating her work before her family had a chance that she forgot not everyone was out to get her. There were a million reasons Bella might want information about the story—maybe the person she interviewed was wanted for murder, or the werewolf costume was stolen. Either way, she was about to blow her opportunity to work on something real and not related to photoshopping pictures of aliens.
“I’m sorry.” She jogged after Bella. “My morning coffee got screwed up, and it put me in a bad mood. The woman who submitted the tip was out in the suburbs. I interviewed her and cleaned up a few blurry pictures she sent me. I have her information on file if you want to question her.”
“Bad coffee is a dangerous thing,” Bella smiled. “You don’t want to protect your source? I know journalists are serious about that sort of thing.”
Penny resisted the urge to laugh. “Like I said. This is a tabloid. And I wouldn’t call myself a journalist.”
“Why? It was a well-written story. Crazy but well-written.”
Penny sucked in a breath. If there was anytime to shoot her shot, it was while the detective was questioning her. “Hey, any chance I could tag along when you question her?”
Community Garden, Evergreen Harbor
Caleb watched Akira bouncing on his toes, eyes eager and bright like they were going to a buffet and not to question the known associates of a suspect.
“Could you try to look less enthused?” Caleb grumbled.
“No, because I’m very fucking enthused. One of these assholes is going to try something, and then we are gonna fight.”
Caleb shook his head. For Akira, fighting was almost an endearment. “We need answers. Not a brawl. So take it down a notch.”
They’d gotten a tip from Mikel, a werewolf in the MIU who mentioned that Shiloh was a “drifter shifter,” a wolf that ran without a pack. If their fellow agent was to be believed, drifter shifters were a real menace and always spoiling for a fight. The MIU was tracking a dangerous one out in San Myshuno right this moment.
“Actually, take it down ten notches,” Caleb added as they made their way into the Community Garden.
It was a strange place to find werewolves, but then again, this group didn’t run with the packs of old. Elbowing Akira to keep him in line, he cleared his throat as they entered the rooftop picnic area.
The wolves took their time turning around, probably to prove a point.
“Rest assured, I’ll notch one of these fucking arrows in your neck whether or not you’re looking at me.” Akira barked.
“We’re not here to fight,” Caleb said at the same time.
“Oh?” In a green mini dress and black heels that Morgyn would have killed for, one of the werewolves leaned back on the bench. She had a wild glint in her eye that Caleb recognized. He’d seen his sister wear that look, and it never meant anything good.
“I think we should fight,” she purred, “And if you’re still standing in the end, we’ll think about answering your questions.”
San Myshuno Suburbs
“What is your problem?” Penny asked.
It had taken a few hours to track the woman down—her home address turned out to be fake—and the sun was now low in the sky.
“I’m just wondering what I’m doing here,” Bella sighed, “I can’t see how these two women might be connected, and I feel like I’m doing something stupid.”
Penny winced, and Bella rushed to reassure her. “No, I don’t mean you’re stupid. I just mean, unless these two women secretly attended the same cosplay conventions, I’m afraid that I’m tilting at windmills, and I brought you along for the ride.”
“I didn’t take offense,” she mumbled.
Bella gave her a sharp look. The two women had bonded over lunch at Burger Burger and were already at the stage of calling each other on their bullshit.
“Fine, I did take offense but mostly because I have familial trauma that I’m unwilling to work out in therapy.” Penny bent down to examine the lock on the fence, “And you’re thinking too linear. The world is weird. Sims are weird.”
“Do you believe in werewolves?” Bella joked as she did a quick search through the woman’s trash.
“Hell no. But I believe in crackpots. You said Eliza was obsessed with getting rich.”
“Yes,” Bella hesitated. She never knew how it sounded for her—a rich sim—to comment on how badly other sims wanted wealth. “Simoleons matter,” she said finally.
“Uh, duh, but look,” Penny motioned Bella over and pulled out her cellphone, “Eliza’s FaveReads list. She wasn’t just obsessed with getting rich; she had a mystical dedication to it. The Law of Wealth Attraction, Money Candles and You, How to Grow a Money Tree. She and my werewolf-spotting contact aren’t so far apart on the spectrum. Maybe one of these books told her a tooth like that would bring her good financial luck.”
Bella looked up, “You would have made an excellent detective.”
She laughed, “Maybe. But then who would pick the lock on a suspect’s fence so that you could have plausible deniability?”
Community Garden, Evergreen Harbor
Akira shot a single arrow.
Which split into many.
And then the fae warrior was everywhere, arrows whirling in multiple directions, glancing off him like magic.
Because, of course, it was magic.
The stories, which Titania did not correct, said that the Fae descended from gods, that once upon a time the Fae were gods.
Even if gods didn’t exist—which they didn’t—it was clear to everyone that they were only standing because Akira chose to let them live.
Caleb winced as she pulled a dagger out of his gut. “I didn’t know werewolves were fond of weapons.” He tossed it on the ground where the wolf in the green dress picked it up.
She tapped the weapon with her fingers and then shrugged. “It’s not a rule.”
If he were talking to his mother, he’d introduce the two. This werewolf was definitely her type. Vicious, quick, and not afraid to break with tradition.
“How’s your ankle?” he smirked.
“I’ve had worse.”
Caleb shook his head, willing himself not to smile.Try as he might purge his family from his system, he still had moments like this. If he and this werewolf met under different circumstances, they’d probably be friends.
“Hey, we’re still standing,” Akira interrupted, “So how about those answers? Tell us about drifter shifters.”
“What’s there to tell,” the blonde werewolf retorted. “We aren’t trouble. We just don’t follow the old ways. Alpha wolves are a myth, everyone knows that. Why would we sign on to follow some pretend system grounded in patriarchy?”
She had a point. But werewolves and their politics weren’t Caleb’s business. “And Shiloh?”
“Shiloh’s pack was awful,” she growled, “They were abusive and controlling, completely toxic. He couldn’t stay with them.”
“A lot of us come from toxic packs. And we won’t go back,” the werewolf in the brown blazer added.
“You can’t tell me that running on your own keeps you from giving in to your hunger,” Akira said.
“You think packs don’t give in to their hunger?” the werewolf in the green dress laughed, arms spread wide, “Packs are just better at covering it up. But that doesn’t break any carefully worded supernatural law, so you assholes don’t care.”
Shame prickled across Caleb’s neck. He knew the Sages and the MIU weren’t perfect, but the alternative was chaos. “Somebody did this crime,” he pleaded. “Against wolves who weren’t doing anything wrong. They were slaughtered, their teeth were snatched out, and the only other presence detected was another wolf. If Shiloh didn’t do it, then he needs to give us an alibi so we can move on and find out who did.”
He didn’t think his plea did any good, but then the werewolf in the brown blazer spoke. “You should look into Matilda. That’s who they mean when they say toxic. I used to be…I used to be part of that pack. They were all the things Giselle said and worse.” He swallowed nervously, “Matilda hated those other packs, and her punishments if you stepped out of line…”
Caleb approached him like a skittish cat, deliberately slowing his movements. He drew the creature away from the others, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “What about the teeth?” he asked gently, “What do they mean?”
The werewolf gulped, his voice barely audible. “Don’t share secrets.”
San Myshuno Suburbs
Tall bushes hid the windows, but now that they were inside the gate, Bella could see that they were boarded up.
“Well, that was a bust,” Penny said. “I’m sorry. Most of the looneys I deal with don’t hesitate to leave their real information. Maybe if we got here earlier—”
“No,” Bella pointed to a pile of mail by the front door, “I don’t think anyone’s been here for a long time.” It wasn’t strictly legal, but the door was unlocked. “Let’s go investigate.
Inside, the place was in bad shape. They poked around, trying to understand why the sim fled.
“The fuck are these scratches?” Penny asked, peering at the wall.
“Shh!” Bella glanced around. She thought she heard some muffled squeaks but—
A cry of distress sounded loud enough that she had no doubts it was real. Immediately, she drew her weapon, motioning for Penny to run, but the reporter just picked up a baseball bat and stood her ground.
The cries were growing louder, undercut with growls. Maybe it wasn’t a bad thing for Penny to be armed. “Stay here,” Bella whispered. “I’m going to check it out.”
“Are you okay?” Bella panted.
“You know what?” Penny declared, “I’d feel a lot better if we were having a shared delusion.”
Bella pressed a hand to her chest, trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. “Why?”
“Because the alternative is that we just saw a werewolf.”
POSES & ANIMATIONS
Song is “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers
Werewolf Animation by Cicada Game
Werewolf Costume by Natalia-Auditore
Sims 4 Megapack Zombie Apocalypse by Steven Studios
Gun Action Animation Pack by Steven Studios
Women Quarrel by Cicada Game
Action Fight Package by FlowerSimsFactory
Expressive Idles by Steven Studios