Episode 24: Cat Scratch Fever
The newspaper is light on neck ruptures, for a change, but full of cat attacks, including some fatalities at the Museum of Antiquities. Billy and Juliet follow Alba Inconnu, whom they believe to be the rakshasa Serendip, down to the river's edge, armed with blessed crossbow bolts.
Alba kneels under the Federal Street bridge and gives out a low croaking rumble, which summons a freaky-looking fish-man from the water. His skin is black, thick and ringed like chainmail, his head is armored with strips of bone and conical sonar-ears, his fingers are webbed, and he's got a tool belt with wrench, pliers, screwdriver and bolt cutters.
Alba commands him to stand still while she eats his entrails, and Billy's heard enough. He shoots her with the crossbow, and she crumples. The fish-man runs after Billy, gets kicked hard and comes right back with some martial arts moves of his own. It's a close one until Juliet and Walker pitch in; the fish-guy's as solid as a werewolf, but he's getting hit more often than he hits, and starting to tire.
So he whistles a piercing warble, and more fish-men emerge from the river. Two of them fire machine guns to drive Billy and Juliet back, while others circle left and right to attack from behind. A confused brawl erupts, which ends when the fish-men grab their wounded and retreat back into the water.
Alba, upon examination, turns out not to have been Serendip at all, but some other Indian woman with the power of making people see a trusted friend. How many rakshasa are there in this town, anyhow?
Our heroes see a policeman and come up, trying to explain. But he's not a cop -- he's a leopard man! He attacks, and he's blindingly fast. He rips up Juliet and Walker both until Juliet gets in a decapitating stroke. Dead, his features revert to his human shape, that of a security guard from the Museum. One guard dead of cat bites, one turned into a cat-guy. Hmm ...
A rare necklace was stolen from the museum; Juliet gets Dr. Armitage to put on a phony showing of a rare Egyptian necklace to draw out the thief. Then she has to pick just the right formal dress, a process duplicated in earnest by Excellence. She decides on red, since all the men will be in tuxedos and she wants to make an entrance. She has Billy pick her up two blocks from home, since Daddy (who hired goons to scare Billy off, then more goons to break his legs) clearly doesn't approve of him.
Walker's scars don't heal as fast as usual; they must be related to werewolf claws, whose wounds cannot be healed by other werewolves. So Dr. Armitage casts a glamor on him to make him look like he's in a perfect tux. It even puts a little twinkle in his eye. Both Juliet and Excellence turn all heads when they enter with their beaux. The difference is that no one recognizes Billy in a tux and tie.
Many professors are on hand for the showing, and well before Dr. Armitage is forced to admit there isn't any rare necklace to be shown, two leopard men attack through the window! Billy and Excellence run into a storage area, where Billy finds some polearms, but the leopards slash them into jagged sticks. Dr. Barbara Minerva, a professor of Ancient Religion, transforms into a leopard woman, grabs the fake necklace, and leaps out another window.
Everyone follows, although Walker and Juliet are still fighting super-quick leopard men. Billy and Excellence follow Dr. Minerva downhill to a stand of trees -- Billy sees Minerva up in a tree about to pounce on Excellence and shouts a warning, causing Excellence to raise her broken polearm and impale Dr. Minerva on its broken, sharp end.
The necklace of Rama-shi apparently gave Dr. Minerva the power to become a leopard woman, whose bite could turn others into leopard-men as well. Dr. Armitage takes it for safekeeping, and the two couples go for sodas.