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The Mysterious Mauling

A. C. Spahn wanted to be an interstellar starship captain when she grew up. Since nobody was hiring, she became a writer instead. She enjoys training in martial arts, organizing messy rooms, and researching a hobby-of-the-month. When not commanding imaginary starships, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and feline overlord. She is the author of the Endurance series of comedic sci-fi novellas and short stories appearing in Outposts of Beyond, Disturbed Digest, and other publications.

Cara Watt, paranormal investigator, entered the police precinct and asked, "What do you have for me this time, Detective?"
Detective Faraday turned and ran a hand through his waves of dark hair. "Thought you might like to consult on this one from the get-go, Ms. Watt. You're becoming a regular team member around here."
She smiled. "In that case, call me Cara."
"Cara." Faraday returned the smile, then waved her toward the enclosed room where suspects were questioned. "By the way, I looked into you."
"How scandalous."
He flushed. "I mean I asked around about you. You're a mythology professor at the local college."
"I teach a few classes," she said. "Mostly I do research."
"Would that research include your personal life?"
She eyed him, her eyes twinkling. "Still trying to figure out what kind of mythical creature I am?"
He spread his hands. "I'm a detective. Curiosity is a job hazard."
"You'll have to keep digging, then, Detective Faraday. You may have learned a bit about me, but that doesn't mean I'll give the rest away."
They entered the observation area looking in on the interrogation room. Inside, a wiry young man sat at an empty table. His fingers entwined with one another in tight knots. His heels bounced on the floor. His nostrils flared. His eyes darted from wall to wall with the tension of a trapped animal.
Faraday spoke softly. "Last month, a young woman at the college was mauled outside the student union."
"I remember hearing about that," said Cara. "Her attacker bit and scratched her before running off with her purse."
Faraday nodded. "She's recovered physically, but we weren't able to catch her assailant. She said it was too dark for her to see any identifying details, or even pin down her attacker's species. Yesterday, though, we got a ping off her cellphone, and traced it to Kyle here." He nodded to the one-way glass. "He had the phone, the purse, all of it."
Cara studied the nervous young man. "Let me guess. He claims he found the purse abandoned somewhere?"
In the interrogation room, Kyle jumped from his chair and began to pace. He rubbed the nape of his neck. When he removed his hand, a few patches of fur had sprouted from his skin.
"What is he?" Cara asked.
Faraday's eyebrows climbed. "You don't know?"
"Plenty of us have fur, Detective. It narrows things down, but not enough."
"Call me Derek. And you said 'us.'"
Cara laughed softly. "It seems I did. That's the only hint you get today, though, Derek."
Faraday grinned before lowering his voice even further. "He's a werewolf. The traditional kind, not the kind with a dual animal soul he can access at will. Tonight's a full moon, so if we're going to book him, we need to do it before he shifts. But we don't have any hard evidence linking him to the crime."
"That's because he didn't do it," said Cara.
Faraday frowned. "How do you..."
"Full moon."
The detective closed his eyes. "Of course. If it was too dark for the victim to see her attacker, there couldn't have been a full moon. And if it wasn't a full moon, our werewolf wouldn't have been in his wolf form. Which means he couldn't have left the bites and scratches on the victim."
Cara nodded. "I think you're looking for a shifter, or possibly even a regular old animal. But you can safely let Kyle go so he can be comfortable at home for the full moon."
"How about you? Do you have full-moon plans?"
"Are you asking me on a date?"
Faraday's eyes widened. "I, uh..."
"No," said Cara. "I don't already have plans. You can cross were-creature off your list of possibilities." She waited, expectant.
Faraday cleared his throat. "In that case, join me for dinner?"
Cara grinned. "I'd love to."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Author Comments

The Cara Watt stories were inspired by the two-minute mysteries by Donald J. Sobol, featuring Dr. Haledijan the sleuth solving various cases alongside the reader. My husband and I enjoyed reading Dr. Haledjian's adventures aloud together, and the pairing of the interactive mystery style with a paranormal setting seemed like a perfect fit.

- A. C. Spahn
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