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The can slid out of Chelsea’s hand and fell to the ground with a soft thunk. Angelina bent down and picked it up, turning it over in her hand.

“Angelina, I don’t know if it’s a good idea to touch that,” said Chelsea. “It’s probably not very sanitary.”

“It’s fine,” said Angelina. “Plus, we need to examine it. It’s evidence.”

“Evidence of what?”

Chelsea didn’t sound skeptical like most people would have, just curious.

“Someone else is here. We should look for them.”

“You’re right,” said Chelsea. “They must have left the can recently. A lot of the blood is still bright red. It must have just dried.”

“Look!” came Belfry’s squeaky voice from the ground.

He was sniffing a spot on the ground. Angelina could make out a faint, ridged pattern–red lines matching the red on the can. It took her a moment to realize it was a shoe print.

“What is it?” said Chelsea.

“Footprints!” said Angelina. “If we follow them, we’ll be able to find whoever left that can.”

“The question is,” Chelsea said, “do we want to find whoever left it?”

“What do you mean?”

“We don’t know if whoever left it is, you know, human.”

Oh. That was a good point.

Belfry sniffed the footprint again.

“Belfry,” Angelina said in Italian, “Do bats have a good sense of smell or is that just dogs?”

“It smells like a human, signorina,” said Belfry. “Like you.”

“Thank you!” said Angelina. She switched to English. “He says it smells human.”

Chelsea frowned, but it looked more like a frown of concentration than disapproval.

“Well… I guess there’s no harm in following the footprints,” said Chelsea. “Whoever it is might need help.”

Angelina skipped away from the shop, following the faint trail of red prints down the street as far as she could see it.


There was so little light in the town and the footprints were so faded it forced Angelina to slow down. She’d had to stop skipping and walk with Chelsea behind Belfry as he sniffed out the trail.

There were two people, Belfry had told them, though the second wasn’t bleeding and therefore harder to smell.

Who were these people they were looking for? How had they gotten stuck here? The soda can definitely wasn’t from Italy, so they hadn’t gotten lost on the Sentiero Angelica. Had the woman who took Chelsea taken them too? And where did CPSI fit into all this?

Chelsea stopped suddenly, and Angelina collided with her, stepping on the back of her shoe and causing them both to stumble.

Chelsea turned, fixing her with an intense look.

“I’m sorry, C–” she started.

Chelsea placed a finger to her lips.

“Why?” Angelina whispered. “What is it?”

Chelsea shook her head, as if to say ‘no, even quieter than that.’ Angelina clapped a hand over her mouth.

Chelsea pointed at an alleyway. Angelina didn’t see where Chelsea was pointing at first, but once she did, she had no idea how she’d missed it.

It was too dark to make out the details, but she could see its clear silhouette against the building wall. It was shaped like a human from the waist down, but its torso was elongated and bent backwards, with something bulging from its chest.

“Hey!” it said.

It seemed to speak with two voices, one with a drunken slur, and one with a strange, inhuman edge.

“What is that thing?” whispered Angelina.

Chelsea shook her head again.

“Hey!” said the thing again.

It didn’t sound friendly.

The creature shambled out of the alley, allowing them a better view of it. It wore a white jumpsuit that stretched and strained over its misshapen body. Its head was bent backward, looking perpetually up at the sky, and it had the face of an old statue, its features half-worn away.

Belfry fluttered up to Chelsea’s shoulder, digging his claws into the fabric on her shirt.

“We don’t want any trouble,” said Chelsea.

“I don’t care what you want,” it slurred.

It advanced on them, swiping a hand out at Chelsea.

“Run!” said Chelsea, taking off in a sprint.

Angelina followed her lead, and soon, Chelsea fell behind her. She’d run about a block before she heard Chelsea cry out.

She turned around to see the creature’s arms holding onto Chelsea as she struggled, attempting to lean down and bite at her with its strange slit of a mouth. Belfry zipped around the creature’s head, biting it repeatedly, but it hardly seemed to notice him.

“Hey!” said Angelina. “Let go of my friend!”

She let out a shout and charged at the creature.

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