”The Hunting of Philip Ackroyd” sees St. Cyprian and Gallowglass battling a phantasmal predator in their own sanctum sanctorum in 1922. It appears in the Chaosium anthology, Mark of the Beast: New Legends of the Werewolf, available via the publisher, as well as on Amazon.com and its international affiliates, and other online stores.
“He’s a werewolf.”
Gallowglass frowned. “Not like any werewolf I’ve ever seen.” She said, “What about that artsy bastard from a few years ago-Ernest something or other?”
“There’s more than one type of most things,” St. Cyprian said, puffing on his cigarette. “And the late, unlamented Gabriel-Ernest Smythe was one sort of lycanthrope, and Mr. Philip Ackroyd is another.” He sat in Ackroyd’s vacated chair, his expression speculative. “Carnacki mentioned a case like this once, having to do with a Canadian named Sangree. Not one of his, but he consulted on the aftermath. It ended happily, all things said and done.” He pulled his cigarette out of his mouth and examined the tip. “Then, more recently there was that thing in the States, with the Austrian, Zoberg. Pursuivant sent me a letter with the particulars on that nasty bit of business.”
Gallowglass made a rude noise. “He doesn’t look like much of a monster. He looks like a wrung out rag,” Gallowglass said.
“A peculiarity of ectoplasmic discharge,” St. Cyprian said. “And the longer it stays discharged, the weaker and smaller the physical body becomes, and the stronger the ectoplasmic or aetheric form will get.”
Gallowglass made a disgusted noise. “Ectoplasm? That stuff you use when you want to go poking around in places you ought not to?” St. Cyprian smiled. ‘The spirit-eye’ was what Carnacki had called it, back when St. Cyprian was the assistant and Thomas Carnacki was the Royal Occultist. St. Cyprian had learned how to open his spirit-eye and manipulate his ectoplasm from a Tibetan lama of his acquaintance. Aside from having what St. Cyprian considered an unhealthy fascination for the color green, the lama had been a good teacher.
“Yes,” St. Cyprian said. “It’s a common enough substance, and most people secrete it in one form or another. It’s only when an individual has either the talent or the instinct to shape it that it gets unpleasant.”
“Like that nutter we ran into in Exham, you mean,” Gallowglass said.
“Except this isn’t rats in the walls, but a wolf in the mind,” St. Cyprian said. “Spontaneous lycanthropic manifestation like this is rare, thankfully.”
“Werewolf,” St. Cyprian said. “Man reveals the beast in himself in many ways, Ms. Gallowglass.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Gallowglass said. “Question is what do we do about this particular man and his beast?”
“Whatever we do, we’ll need to do it quickly. Have you perused today’s Times?”
Gallowglass looked at him steadily. St. Cyprian sighed. “Silly question, I suppose. There was an assault in Soho last night,” he said.
“That’s not exactly unusual.”
“The man was savaged,” St. Cyprian said. “Third such savaging in as many weeks, though this one was worse. The police are on record stating that it’s a pack of dogs.”
“It’s never a pack of dogs,” Gallowglass said.
“Except when it is,” St. Cyprian said. “But this time it isn’t. This time, it’s our friend Mr. Ackroyd, being hag-ridden by an ectoplasmic predator. And unless we deal with it now, before it’s too strong, it will kill someone.”
“So what do we do about it?”
“We’re already doing it,” St. Cyprian said. “The sun is setting, and unless I miss my guess, our hairy guest should be arriving soon.”
Gallowglass’ hand dropped to her pistol. “Should we-”
“This house is the greatest spirit trap ever conceived. It’ll get in easy enough, but it won’t be able to get out.” St. Cyprian hesitated. “Not unless it goes through us.”
“Oh yes, that sounds like a wonderful plan,” Gallowglass said.
“We need to prepare,” St. Cyprian said, taking off his coat. “Get the rug shucked and get out the good braziers. We have a cage to ready.”
They worked quickly and efficiently. In the five years since St. Cyprian had assumed his duties, he and Gallowglass had learned coordination. Despite her antipathy towards the more esoteric portions of the job, she nonetheless knew them as well as he did. As she knelt on the floor drawing serpentine sigils, chalk dust on her fingers, she said, “Is he safe up there then? If that thing’s after him-”
“He’s safe enough. The thing wants to use him, not to hurt him. It’s a parasite, and its host will be the last thing that dies by its hand,” St. Cyprian said. He glanced at the window again, eyes narrowed.
“You make it sound like the damn thing’s smart,” she said.
“It is. Smart enough to listen to every word we’ve said,” St. Cyprian said and went to the window. He pulled aside the curtain and leapt back with a curse, despite the fact he’d been expecting it. Eyes the colour of molten gold glared at him from the other side of the glass as claws scraped the lintel. Teeth like knives made a shrill noise as they caressed the glass and saliva cut trails in the dirt that caked it.
“Bloody Nora,” Gallowglass snarled, shooting to her feet. The wolf’s snout flattened and its eyes bulged in an almost comical fashion as it pressed itself against the glass and then, through it. The window neither broke nor bent, but the wolf came through it all the same, its hairy shape seeping through the glass like a ripple of heat…