I’m honored to hit another landmark this month! Last time, when I reached 500 followers on Twitter and 100 on Facebook, I unlocked the prologue and first chapter of my novel A Fallen Hero here. Those numbers have doubled! Now, to celebrate 1,000 followers on Twitter and 200 on Facebook, I’m thrilled to present the deleted chapter “Phantom and the Werewolf.”
This chapter was included in the original first draft, but it was cut during a round of edits completed by February 23, 2014. Re-reading it has been a fun experience for me, not just to revisit a forgotten piece of the story, but also to see how the rules of this fantasy universe have changed throughout many edits and revisions. The current rendition of the character Wesly Cooper has more restrictions with his abilities. He won’t be phasing through any walls in A Fallen Hero.
The version presented here On The Cobblestone Road is a lightly edited copy of the original chapter. Certain parts were removed to prevent spoilers, as this chapter occurs later in the War of the Realms storyline beyond the current ending of A Fallen Hero.
So, without further ado, here is “Phantom and the Werewolf.”
My cloak flapped behind me, carried on the wind as my boots pounded the asphalt beneath the mid-morning sun. The hood was low over my eyes, and I glanced behind to see that my three hunters were still in pursuit, but they were losing ground. I rounded the street corner and ducked as violet ectoplasm whistled past my left ear. I took an unplanned detour, becoming intangible and disappearing through a wall.
I emerged inside an apartment and released the power to prevent it from draining me. Without breaking stride, I dashed through a furnished living room and into the kitchen when I heard the door crash open behind me. “You damned lab rat!” a man shouted. “You won’t be able to run when we break your legs!”
Lab rat, I mused to myself. How original.
I led them through the maze of apartments, dodging the occasional blasts of ectoplasm that shattered plates and doorframes and left burn marks on the walls of families who were going to be very surprised when they returned home. Our chase startled more than one unsuspecting human before I phased through one last wall and emerged into the blinding sunlight. Here, I paused for a moment, trying to gain my bearings when I was tackled from behind.
I rolled with the momentum, kicked away, and leapt to my feet again just in time to spin away from the next attacker. “Too slow,” I taunted, sprinting down the street again.
My destination was ahead and to the right—an old building that hadn’t been renovated yet. My pursuers were beginning to grow frustrated with me, so I shortened my stride and slowed down just enough to let them believe they had a chance of catching me. We passed in front of the building. I took a sharp turn, calling on my intangibility as I dove through the locked front door and shouted, “Now!”
Ash was crouched just inside the doorway, staff clutched in her hands. I ducked beneath her, sprinted past, and whirled to a stop just in time to see the first ghost appear through the door.
The staff smashed into his head, and he crumpled without even knowing what hit him. The second ghost lumbered obliviously through the wall, tripped over the first man, and was subjected to the staff coming down on the back of his skull as he fell forward.
The third entered more cautiously, halting when he spotted his fallen accomplices. I threw out my hands, releasing the power from my palms in the form of glowing green ectoplasm that exploded against his chest. Stunned, he stumbled back and crashed into the closed door under the force of my blow. Ash wasted no time downing him with her metal staff.
I doubled over, setting my hands on my knees to catch my breath. “Good teamwork,” I panted, grinning as I tugged the mask down. Ash’s smoldering red eyes flicked to me, and her eyes crinkled under the force of a mirrored smile hidden beneath the mask covering the lower half of her face.
I studied our victims and froze. “Hey,” I murmured, creeping forward with curiosity, “what’s this?” I seized the corner of a paper protruding from one of the ghost’s pockets. Gently, I pulled it free and opened it.
“What is it?” Ash asked, peering over my shoulder.
I slowly read aloud, “Reward for the live capture of the Alpha fugitives: one hundred gold pieces per kálos and a full pardon to any outstanding crimes. No reward if dead. All prisoners must be brought to directly to Azar, Warden of the Prison, to claim the reward.”
I lowered the paper to stare at Ash, who met my gaze with concern. “There’s a bounty on us?” she said. She took the flyer to read for herself. Like me, she struggled with the words we’d learned as children, so I waited patiently for her to finish. “Creepy,” she finally muttered.
I crossed my arms and leaned against the wall. “I don’t understand why Azar wants us. We aren’t even in his Realm.”
Grim, Ash folded the paper twice and shoved it into her pocket. “Jay isn’t going to be happy about this,” she predicted. My breathing now under control, I replaced the half-mask over my nose and mouth before we strolled outside. Everywhere we turned, someone else wanted us. Them. Azar. Even the people of Phantom Heights. We just couldn’t escape from the shadow of the brewing war. We’d unwillingly played our role already…why couldn’t we just be left alone to enjoy our freedom?
“Hey, you!” a woman’s voice shouted. A woman’s voice I recognized all too well.
“Run!” I cried, taking off. Ash kept pace at my side, though a glance over my shoulder showed Madison Tarrow in pursuit, gun in hand. “Scout, she’s hunting us?” I muttered. “What the hell?” I could stand bravely before any ghost trying to kill me, and yet the sight of the ghost hunter chasing me had my body jittery with panic.
Behind us, Madison yelled, “Stop! That’s an order, you hear me?”
Yeah, right. “Split up,” I decided when Ash and I reached an intersection. I shoved her away from me and broke off to the right while she veered left. My muscles still burned, unrecovered from my last chase. It was hard to regulate my breathing knowing that my bitterest enemy was barreling down the street just behind me. I had to keep my head clear. I was faster, fitter, sure to outrun her as long as I didn’t falter. I whipped into the first alley I came upon and paused to peer around the corner.
But I hadn’t been followed. Madison was running in the other direction after my lab-sister.
“Damn it,” I breathed. Though there’d been no way to guarantee it, I’d been counting on the ghost hunter to chase me instead so Ash could escape.
I sprinted deeper into the alley until I turned on the next road parallel to Ash and Madison and pursued them. I didn’t really have a plan yet, but I had to catch up to Ash first.
I glanced down each intersection I crossed, finally seeing the ghost hunter pass just in front of me. I kept going, sure to intercept them at the next crossing. When I reached it, I took a left and slowed down, muscles taut and ready, waiting for one or both of them to enter my sight.
One second. Two, three, come on, four, this isn’t right, five, where are they? Our paths should have crossed by now.
I peered around the corner to find a street deserted both ways. No sign of either Ash or Madison.
Numb with constrained panic, I wandered into the middle of the street and just stood there, drawing in ragged gasps through the damp cloth over my mouth. I squinted down the street in one direction, then whirled and did the same the other way, then repeated as though that might change the results. “Shit,” I whispered. They must have turned off somewhere. I spun in a circle, unsure which way to go. I hadn’t meant for Ash to deal with the ghost hunter by herself.
I decided to run down the street in the opposite direction they were traveling and hope to find them down a perpendicular side street or alley. My footsteps were practically silent as I ran down the street, peering down any crossway I passed. Gray clouds had veiled the sun, and a cool breeze had begun to pick up. I shivered, sensing a ghost.
Ash, I thought, relieved, a smile parting my lips.
I slowed to a stop as my eyes settled on a giant creature farther ahead of me, his great paws padding silently on the concrete and his nose to the ground. I was downwind, so he couldn’t smell me. I didn’t know if this was a coincidence or if for some reason Wes and Madison were both after us, but my eyes narrowed as I studied the beast. A memory bubbled to the surface. I remembered the day I first met Wes.
It was nighttime. I was on a rooftop, my eyes searching for trouble but my mind elsewhere. I was experimenting with my ability to generate ectoplasm, creating a glowing green orb of energy above my open palm and then focusing on dissipating it, and the simple exercise took great concentration. My powers were still new, still alien to me, and I was still learning to control them.
The strangest sight caught my attention below, and my ectoplasm fizzled to nothing in the air. I leaned over the edge for a closer look.
People were screaming, sprinting away from a giant gray wolf galloping down the street. The creature turned down an alley, nose to the ground as it headed for a neighborhood.
I secured the black neoprene mask over the lower half of my face, then focused on becoming intangible, insubstantial, ghost-like. I closed my eyes. I needed to tap into the reservoir of power inside me. First to find it deep in my core. Ectoplasm was easier to summon; intangibility had to fill my whole body with warm nothingness, and first I had to find that light and make it grow. It was dormant, but still there, like a dim ember that would flare up once I blew on it.
There! I found it. I grasped at the light and willed it to life. A pleasant burn spread through my blood. Jubilant at my success, my eyes flew open. I was so excited that I nearly lost my hold on the elusive power. I had to draw a deep breath and re-secure control before I was able to make the power blossom.
My body tingled as I sank into the roof. I swallowed back the panic as I was enveloped in darkness, drifting through the floors of the building. I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if my body became solid again in the middle of passing through an object.
By the time I reached the ground story, I was drained. My entrance was clumsy as I stumbled into the alley just behind the wolf. It froze, sensing my presence and whirling, upper lip curling back over its sharp white teeth.
I clenched my fists, wondering if perhaps I had handled this wrong. The wolf was larger than I expected. From above, I thought I was about to confront a big dog. This thing was as massive as a Clydesdale. I wasn’t exactly the best fighter, nor were my powers completely under my control.
The wolf took a step toward me. I went rigid, suddenly terrified out of my mind. I needed my power to defend myself, but the panic was preventing me from concentrating.
The creature darted forward, alarmingly nimble despite its size. Adrenaline surged through me, triggering my power in self-defense. My body grew warm again, charged with energy, and as the wolf lunged, I closed my eyes, turned my head away, and threw my hands out. Green light brightened my eyelids. I heard a yelp.
Surprised that I’d actually injured the wolf, I cracked open one eye just in time to see the creature leap, fangs bared, eyes glowing yellow. I cringed, squeezing my eyes tight and concentrating with all my strength on becoming intangible. As the giant paws landed on me, they passed through my body.
My power level was decreasing at an alarming rate. I threw myself to the ground and became solid again, staring up at the wolf’s exposed underbelly.
I summoned the dwindling power again, letting the inner green light manifest around me in the form of transparent green energy. The wolf growled and slammed its head against my domed shield, trying to break it. I gritted my teeth; the beast was strong. I couldn’t sustain the barrier much longer before it broke.
With a growl of my own, I threw my hands out, and the shield exploded in a blast and a flash of green light. The wolf was thrown backward, the thud of its body hitting the wall punctuated with a sharp yelp. I scrambled to my feet.
“Phantom!” an angry voice seethed.
I froze; I knew that familiar voice all too well. Slowly, I turned to face Madison, who was standing in the mouth of the alley with her gun drawn. The barrel was aimed right between my eyes.
But surely she saw that I was fighting a dangerous monster? I glanced over my shoulder to find that the wolf I’d been dueling was gone; lying on the ground was a man in a business suit. His lip was split, and his cheek was bruised as he lay unconscious.
My brain locked as I stood there, staring stupidly at the stranger. Swallowing, I looked at Madison again. All she saw was me standing over an unarmed human, whom I had seemingly beaten half to death. “I always knew you were no hero,” she growled.
What could I say to defend myself? There was no proof a wolf had ever been here, and I looked extremely guilty standing by this battered stranger.
The man stirred and moaned. “Sir, are you injured?” she asked, never taking her eyes off me.
He sat up slowly, rubbing his head. “Yes, actually, I’m pretty banged up. I was just minding my own business when out of nowhere, I was attacked by this ghost.” I stared at him in disbelief, shaking my head. What just happened?
He met my eyes and winked. Madison released the safety on her weapon. “I’ve been lenient so far,” she hissed, “but attacking humans? You’re done, Phantom.”
Somehow, I summoned enough power to become intangible one last time. The effort drained me, but I succeeded in tapping it just in time to fall through the pavement and escape Madison’s wrath.
My power failed me just as I emerged into a cavern. I fell, landing with a splash in a storm drain. I sat in the water, completely stunned. Staring at my reflection, I realized that my eyes were no longer glowing. I was human now, completely burned out.
I sighed and undid the Velcro so I could peel off the soaking mask. I didn’t understand what had happened; one minute I was fighting a snarling, vicious wolf, and the next, Madison caught me standing over a beaten, unarmed human. But how?
The wind shifted, rustling my cloak as it blew from the opposite direction. The werewolf paused, raising his great head to sniff the air. His golden eyes found me, and he perked his ears up in interest.
I gasped, hurriedly pressing my palm against my green right eye. I took a step back, watching him. Had I been too late in concealing my eye? But the wolf acted cautiously interested in me, and I didn’t see any recognition in his eyes. He started trotting toward me.
I pivoted and sprinted away. I didn’t think he recognized my scent—I reeked of the rain and the outdoors, of sweat and blood—but if he drew closer, he might realize that I smelled familiar. And that would be a disaster. Wes, as best as I could remember, was not my enemy Before. But he was working with my enemy now, so I had to consider him potentially hostile and definitely not an Outsider I wanted recognizing me.
As fast as I was, the giant wolf’s long strides outmatched mine. I could hear him panting softly, his claws clicking the pavement. I dashed through an alley, becoming intangible and phasing effortlessly through the wall, emerging inside a storage room.
I wrinkled my nose at the smell of cleaning chemicals, then I realized if the smell bothered me, it would really mess with Wes’s sensitive nose. I remembered how Axel had easily fooled the dogs’ sense of smell when they were tracking us, and a wolf was just like a big dog, right? Wes could only follow me for as long as he had my scent.
I seized a bottle of the cleaning solution and unscrewed the lid, waiting. As soon as the massive wolf appeared through the wall, I threw the liquid in his face.
He yelped, shaking his head violently to clear it of the sharp odor that burned his nose. Unable to cope with the overwhelming smell, he was forced to change back into his human form.
I dropped the bottle, watching his body shrink as the fur receded into skin and he shifted between his human and his limbo forms. He rubbed at his face, uncomfortable, but the smell wasn’t as strong to his human nose. “Wait,” he said, rising to his feet, eyes still watering. “I just want to talk to you.”
I pivoted and sprinted into the hallway.
He cursed softly and chased after me. I reached into my core and let the power rush through me, making me invisible. Wes growled and tried to change back, but the smell was all over him, coated in his fur, and he howled in frustration and pain, forced to revert to human form again. He stopped running and stood in the middle of the hallway, glaring around angrily, seeking me in vain. Without his sense of smell, he had nothing with which to track me.
I whipped around the corner into a dark, empty room. Here, I felt safe enough to let the power retreat back to the Origin. I needed to recuperate or I’d burn out soon. I closed my eyes, trying to contain my panting. I strained to listen for the sound of footsteps in the hallway.
The sun was bright. I trailed the man, keeping my coat closed around my torso to conceal Phantom’s black jacket. The mask was bundled up in my pocket, and the dark lens of my sunglasses shielded my bicolor eyes.
The man turned a corner, and I jogged to keep him in sight. I rounded the corner just in time to see him enter an office building. I followed, pushing open the glass doors.
I’d never been inside this building before. A dozen or so people milled around a lobby. My mark was talking to the secretary, who handed him a clipboard to sign. I kept my head down and went straight to the men’s restroom to ditch my coat and sunglasses. I fastened the mask over my face and glanced at myself in the mirror. Phantom gazed back.
I closed my eyes, gripping the edge of the sink as I searched inside myself for that elusive store of power. Someday, with practice, summoning it would surely be easier, but the efforts made jewels of sweat bead on my forehead.
When I found it, I focused on making myself invisible, and when I opened my eyes, I saw only an unoccupied bathroom reflected in the mirror.
Satisfied, I snuck back to the lobby, scanning the scene for the man. I needed to get him in the bathroom where I could question him alone, and I’d decided the best way to achieve that was by Shadowing him.
Shadowing was a tricky business, and I had attempted it only once by accident. To Shadow, I’d have to become intangible and enter another’s body. I should be able control the body as though it were my own. In theory, it sounded easy. Shadowing a human would be fairly simple because they couldn’t fight back, but Shadowing another ghost was where it became complicated. The success or failure of Shadowing a ghost relied on two factors: the element of surprise and the difference in power levels. If I tried to Shadow someone who was more powerful than me (and most were), my victim could potentially retain control and expel me from its body, then turn around and attack or Shadow me.
The problem was, I had no idea what exactly this man was, so there was no way to predict the outcome. I couldn’t even wager a guess as to which of the two of us would be more powerful, and I wasn’t sure if he would be able to sense me. I’d sensed the wolf but not the man, so did that mean the man could not sense me but the wolf could? A blind Shadowing like this, especially with my inexperience, was a huge risk.
I spotted him near the elevator and rushed forward, aware that my power was draining the longer I remained invisible. In my haste, I accidentally brushed against a man carrying a briefcase; the case fell to the floor. “Sorry,” I whispered in passing. The man frowned and blinked, turning around in absolute confusion. It would have been comical if I wasn’t so focused.
I came upon my target from behind and willed myself to become intangible. His lack of a reaction convinced me that he hadn’t sensed me approach, and I didn’t feel that eerie slithering sensation down my spine like when I was in the range of other ghosts, which led me to believe that he was, indeed, human. But I knew he’d been the wolf. There had to be an explanation.
I experimented to see if I was intangible by setting my invisible hand on his back. I felt nothing, and my hand passed straight through. Exhaling nervously, I stepped forward to perform the second Shadowing of my lifetime.
My perspective changed immediately as his vision replaced mine. I swayed, unaccustomed to his tall body. A woman paused to ask if I was alright. I muttered, “Yes,” but my voice was not mine—it was his. This was too disorienting.
I gazed around, searching for the door to the bathroom, and when I…he… we located it, we staggered in that direction. I was so focused on that door that I tripped over the man kneeling down to pick up the briefcase I’d knocked out of his hands earlier. “Sorry,” I muttered again. He grumbled under his breath.
The distance to the bathroom seemed much farther than it actually was; I was clumsy, tripping over the man’s bigger feet, unsteady on his longer legs, uncoordinated from the change in height and perspective. Finally, I pushed his hand against the door, and we were safe in the solitude of the bathroom.
I locked the door before I stepped out of his body, inhaling deeply in relief. Never before had I been so grateful to be myself—my own eyes, my own hands, my own feet. I disliked Shadowing, and I doubted I would do it again unless I had no choice. I’d wasted too much power to get him here. My knees wobbled, about to give out.
The man gazed around in dumbstruck confusion. “What in the world?” he muttered.
I lunged for him, seizing the front of his coat in my fists and slamming him hard against the tiled wall. He grunted in surprise, then grinned when he saw who had attacked him. “Terrorizing innocent humans again, are we, Phantom?” he chuckled.
He had a solid four inches on me in height, but I slammed him again, eyes glowing as my power flickered weakly inside me. “How did you do that?” I demanded.
“Do what?” he asked innocently.
“You were a wolf! I saw you! I fought you! And now you’re human?”
“You seem confused. I think you must have hit your head.”
“I know what I saw,” I growled.
The man considered, staring me up and down. “You seem a bit young to be playing superhero, aren’t you?” he asked. “What’s a kálos like you doing defending a bunch of humans?”
“Answer my question!” I snapped, getting right in his face.
He narrowed his eyes, and the muddy irises flashed gold for an instant. That confirmed it—he wasn’t human. “I’m a werewolf, my young friend. I not only change between forms; I change between species. My wolf form is a pureblood ghost; this form is a pureblood human.”
I released him and stepped back, stunned. He could switch from ghost to human just like me?
I opened my eyes as I heard Wes’s footsteps pass the doorway. I peered around the edge of the doorframe to watch him turn the corner. Sighing, I emerged from my hiding place and jogged in the opposite direction. A close call to be sure, but Ash was still out there alone with Madison. Hatred turned both eyes green for a split second before I channeled the cold blue power into my hand. I would kill the ghost hunter before I let her harm my lab-sister. That was a promise.
My jog quickened into a sprint, and then I was back on the streets in search of them. My body moved with mechanical rhythm driven by adrenaline and worry and hatred of the deepest kind. The burn of my muscles fueled me; the sting in my lungs drove me forward. I embraced the physical strain.
Ash probably would have run to the outskirts—that’s what I would have done. We knew the abandoned streets and buildings. Madison did not. So, that’s where I went. I passed block after block. No sign of them.
As I was passing the front of a familiar office building, its glass doors long shattered, I shivered just before something leapt through the doorframe and slammed into me from the side. My attacker, just as surprised as I was, tumbled to the ground and landed on top of my chest. “Cato!” Ash gasped. She laughed in relief. “I was looking for you!”
The wind had been knocked from my lungs. I turned my head to look past Ash into the bowels of the empty office building. “Where’s Madison?” I croaked.
“I lost her,” said Ash as she scrambled off me and held out her hand. I allowed her to pull me into a sitting position, but I let go before she could haul me all the way to my feet. “Ran her into a dead end and went through the wall to get away.”
I still couldn’t breathe. Relief made me weak. But Ash was safe, Madison was gone, and that was all that mattered.
Wes wiped his sleeve across his burning nose, growling softly. He cursed under his breath, storming down the hall. All he wanted to do was talk to the fugitive—that was it! Was it really necessary to burn his sensitive nose?
But the scent had been familiar, tugging at his memory. He had smelled that kálos somewhere, years ago. The werewolf shook his head—no that was impossible. How could he have possibly known a prisoner from the Agency? He’d been careful to never set foot anywhere near that awful place.
His steps slowed. Only the twins were born in the laboratory, which meant the others had been taken there. It was possible Wes had met that kálos at some point before the Agents caught him.
Wes’s eyes narrowed at the intriguing possibility. It would have had to be within the last two decades because Wes had been bitten eighteen years ago. They might have met once in the Ghost Realm; Wes had been there hundreds of times. Or, possibly, they had met in Phantom Heights. The kálos would have had to come to this Realm somehow before the Agents captured him, and the most likely way was through the Rip.
If only Wes could catch the scent again, he might remember….
He rubbed his nose; with the overpowering smell of cleaner in his nasal cavity, he couldn’t focus on the elusive smell, couldn’t place why it was familiar. All he could smell now was cleaning solution.
“Damn him,” the werewolf snarled, pounding his fist against the wall. It would take weeks to rid himself of the stench!
Thank you for reading, and of course, thank you so much for continuing to support me!