“The Artist as Wolf” sees Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass confront a lycanthropic artist at a Kensington garden party in the Fall of 1920. It appears in the Emby Press anthology, Both Barrels, available via the publisher, as well as on Amazon.com and its international affiliates, and other online stores.
St. Cyprian hesitated a moment before turning, his eyes narrowing. A young man stood behind them, hands clasped behind his back. He had narrow, handsome features and dark, longish hair that curled over the edges of his collar. Eyes like dark, polished stones fastened on them. “Gabriel-Ernest Smythe, at your service,” he said, flashing a mouth full of startlingly white teeth. It wasn’t a smile. Not quite. “And you are…?”
“St. Cyprian. Charles St. Cyprian,” St. Cyprian said. He didn’t offer to shake hands.
“Ah,” Smythe said. He flashed his teeth again. “How fortuitous. I have so wanted to meet you.”
“It’s all he’s been talking about,” Bobbie said, taking Smythe’s arm.
“Have you?” St. Cyprian said.
“Simply ravenous for the opportunity,” Smythe said.
“Oh Gee,” Bobbie said, giggling. He patted her hand.
“Bobbie, be a dear and go get me a drink, would you? I’m simply parched.”
They watched Bobbie move off through the crowd. Smythe turned back to St. Cyprian. “I’m quite fond of Bobbie. It’s the hair color, I think.”
“You can’t help it, can you?” St. Cyprian said. “Ravenous? Really?”
Smythe shrugged elegantly. “I am what I am.” There was an ever so-slight lilt to his words, a ghost of a memory of an accent. Gaelic perhaps.
“How philosophical,” Gallowglass said. While the two men had been talking, she had sidled around behind Smythe and was now pressed close to him. Or, rather, the small pepperbox pistol she had retrieved from her garter was pressed close to him. She cocked it with a thumb and Smythe twitched. “And what are you then?” she asked. “It’s loaded with silver shot, by the by. Just so you know.”
“An artist,” Smythe said, not taking his eyes off of St. Cyprian. The latter snorted.
“Depends on how you define art, I suppose.”
“That’s a rather narrow view,” Smythe said.
“Practically panoramic, actually,” St. Cyprian said. “1904, Cavan, Ireland. Thirty sheep were killed by a nocturnal predator, resembling a largish black dog. Five weeks later, near Limerick, a similar occurrence.”
“Dogs kill sheep often enough. Beastly creatures,” Smythe said, shivering slightly. “Can’t stand them myself.”
“1905. Near Badminton in Gloucestershire, a large black dog was shot as it worried at the carcasses of two sheep. The dog wasn’t found.”
“Farmers are notoriously bad shots. Common knowledge,” Smythe said.
“I didn’t say it was a farmer. A month later, near Hinton, the same again,” St. Cyprian continued, his voice pitched low. “Near Windsor Castle a year later, a sentry fired at what he described as a ‘lean black shape’. A few days after that, a dozen of the King’s sheep were slaughtered in their field. A month after that, further south, fifty-one sheep were ripped apart and scattered the length and breadth of a field. Petulance, perhaps?” St. Cyprian said.
“Maybe the creature was only minding its business,” Smythe said. “If I have to guess.”
“In Llanelly, Wales in 1910, a large black animal broke the spines of over a hundred rabbits in every hutch in the village. It was shot, but escaped.”
“I’ve never found rabbits to be more than a mouthful, myself,” Smythe said.
“Derbyshire, one month ago. Just before you arrived in London. Something black in color and of enormous size began killing sheep. It mutilated the remains in a particularly sadistic fashion, and even set upon a shepherd.”
“I trust the poor man wasn’t injured,” Smythe said.
“He’s dead,” St. Cyprian said flatly. “Mauled. As were Sally Floyd and Anna Benson earlier this month.”
“Mm, yes, I believe I heard something about that. The scandal sheets made as if it were Saucy Jack come again,” Smythe said, smiling.
“Maybe he has,” St. Cyprian said.
“Ha! Yes,” Smythe said, his features changing abruptly from polite bafflement to cunning amusement.”There’s no need for the peppy, you know. I’m happy to talk.”
“Call it insurance,” Gallowglass said. “Can’t have you getting temperamental, can we?”
Smythe made a face. “As if I would do so here. This is my big night, after all.”
“Yes, your premier showing. You’ve been making quite a ruckus in the scene lately,” St. Cyprian said. “Powerful and vivid are the commonly applied adjectives.”
“You sound as if you don’t share that opinion.”
“Oh they’re vivid, I’ll give you that. Evocative, even.” St. Cyprian turned. “I do happen to like that one there. What is it called?” He gestured to a nearby canvas. On it, two shapes seemed to pulse and push against one another, causing the eye to see first a man, then…something else.
Smythe grinned now, displaying his impressive teeth. “’The Artist as Wolf’.”
“It is subtlety like that which renders art inaccessible to the common man,” Gallowglass said…