The mud of the graveyard gave in under Thalia's boots and pulled her down a little bit with every step. The air smelled damp, which didn't exactly make sense, but she couldn't describe it any better. Thalia walked through the headstones without any real destination. Her job was to find, and she was searching.
It was a dark, cloudy day, and it was raining. It was always raining.
She sat down on a bench and closed her eyes thoughtfully, and then her mind slid away. It spread out, slipping and snaking its way through the graves and monuments. As soon as they were touched, the consciousnesses of all the rabbits and snakes and other such creatures lit up. Thalia stopped the movement of her thoughts at a good fifty yard radius. The simple, vague animal thoughts floated around gently in her head, not clamoring to be heard. Thalia happily set about picking through them, but nothing jumped out at her. None of them could be considered worrying or malicious by human standards, which meant that nothing was more than just typically animalistic. The mind reader sighed, quite literally gathered her thoughts, and kept walking.
Her job was fairly simple: find and capture whatever was eating the new burials. The graveyard did not discriminate. According to the man who ran the cemetery, the process was usually a very simple one, as long as the clients payed. First, a client would provide them with a new body, usually a dead one. Then the people at the cemetery would clean it up. Sometimes this involved killing the body, you know, just in case. The next day, they'd stick the person in the ground, cover it up, mark it with a stone, and what's done is done.
Except that lately, the morning after the burial, the people at the cemetery would find the new graves dug up and painted generously with blood and bits of gore. There would be no body.
That's where Thalia proverbially flew onto the scene. It was a simple enough job, but there was one problem: the graveyard was big. And Thalia was, in the nicest of terms, lazy. But she kept plodding forward. She had a job to do, after all.
The rain continued to drum on the world around her.
Anyone can recognize a monster when they see one. It takes no prior experience with such things to know when you are about to be eaten by something that seems to be out of a storybook. If one would like to arm oneself with the great weapon of knowledge, however, it would do one good to take a quick trip inside a local preschool and ask some of the children there to draw a monster. Children know monsters far better than their parents, who think the only monsters are criminals and government officials.
Anyone can recognize a monster when he sees one, too. He was a short, portly man with graying hair, probably somewhere in his mid forties. He didn't have a wife or children and his parents had died the previous year, but he did have a nice job with the Sanctuary. He also had a kind face, and despite his odd name, he was generally well liked by people. Monsters too, apparently.
People were going to miss Benjamin Anyone.
The man who ran the cemetery was unimpressed. Granted, he was always unimpressed, but now he was extremely unimpressed. It was making him pace. He didn't like pacing. Just the other week a dog had bitten him and left him with a limp. But pacing made him look intimidating, without or without the limp.
He stopped pacing. “Miss Circe,” he said slowly, trying to hide his irritation, “I'm afraid I misheard you.”
“No, you didn't.”
He ignored her. “Your words got jumbled in my ears, and I thought you were asking entrance to the ancient and restricted sections of our graveyard. Would you be so kind as to repeat yourself?”
“I really don't see the point of that if you heard me correctly the first time,” Miss Circe said.
The man who ran the cemetery examined her shrewdly. She was slumped in on herself, scowling and dripping water all over the chair and the floor. He crinkled his nose in distain. Someone would need to be called in to take care of that later, along with her muddy footprints. The room was starting to smell very much like the graveyard.
“Let me ask you a question. Do you know the meaning of the word 'restricted'?” Miss Circe opened her mouth to respond, but he cut her off. “It means that even if you were the most important Grand Mage in the world, you would still not be allowed access to those sections of the graveyard. Do you understand?”
Miss Circe frowned. “I don't think it'd say that if I looked in a dictionary. Where'd you get that definition?”
Putting up with this girl, the man who ran the cemetery decided, was going to be very hard indeed.
“I'm sorry, Miss Circe, but I can't let you into those parts.” He smiled in what he thought was a fatherly manner. “Perhaps there are still places you can check? It's only been about three days since you started looking, and our graveyard is very big.”
She crossed one of her ankles on top of the other knee and raised an eyebrow at him. The feeling that his mind was laid out like a book for her to read was back. “I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't speak to me like I'm five. Also, please remove that ridiculous expression from your face. It'd be really unfortunate if you got stuck like that.”
His smile faltered, then fell off completely, and Miss Circe gave him an approving nod. The weird feeling went away as she got up and stretched. “I'll look in the potter's field, but I'm going to need access to those old graves eventually.”
“I really don't think you will.”
“Something's eating your burials. Do you want me to find it or not?”
He glowered at her. “Get out of my office.”
The sewers of London are not a pretty place. In fact, the sewers of anywhere are not pretty places. The details of sewers are best left unspoken, though they are very wet, dark, and smelly. The perfect place for a monster.
The monster didn't have a name, but it was a he. If he did have a name, it would have been Fredrick. It had always seemed like a perfectly respectable name to him, and monsters do want to be respected, even the ones who like to eat freshly dead things. Monsters are people too.
Fredrick could be mistaken for a giant snake, or maybe a bird, or perhaps even a turtle. He actually looked like some sort of demented mutation of all three. With claws. Big, sharp claws.
He was quite far away from his usual home. He didn't normal stray so far – not all monsters like to be adventurers – but he was hungry. Hunger, in a monster, is a powerful thing. Blood dripped from his jaws – thick, warm, and wet. Fredrick's latest meal had been tasty, but quite messy.
One thing is to be understood about monsters, and that is that they don't understand that the dead body they just ingested was your great Aunt Susie. They just do what their instincts tell them, with minimal thinking.
Fredrick lifted his nose into the air and sniffed once. Then, with the grim certainty that monsters always seem to have, he turned and started home.
Dead people, Thalia discovered, were not good company.
You could walk around a graveyard all day, and not one of them would talk to you. Ghosts, or at least ones who want to chat, are apparently quite hard to come by. There didn't seem to be any zombies, either. That was disappointing. Thalia would have liked to see a zombie. It would have given her something to kill.
She sighed in frustration, snapping her mind back. Not even the potter's field had wielded any results. She turned and walked back towards the main cemetery. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Not even the few dead minds she did happen encounter. They just promptly told her to shove off, and that was normal for a mind reader in a cemetery. Was the man who ran the cemetery just setting her up? Was this all a joke?
No. She shook her head furiously. No, there was something. There were even some things. Her mind would brush them occasionally, just enough to get a feeling, and then they'd be gone. Vanished. That wasn't normal, and that was also the most irritating part.
Thalia stopped by a gravestone and smiled at it wearily. The stone read 'BEATRICE.'
“Hello Beatrice,” she said. “I don't suppose you could help me.”
“Why, I do suppose I could.”