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Agency Work

With its now-familiar rattles and wheezes - some belonging to the van, some to the myriad of potions, weapons, and equipment in the back of it - Iggy got his trusty van to Kysham village. It was a nice change of pace having someone actually contact the agency instead of having to chase down work personally, even though this did mean a lot of decisions were now contractually out of his hands. He parked outside a quaint-looking pub: The Crab's Claw, and put the address of his contact, William Stout, into his phone and began walking through the village following the little blue line on his phone's map. Everything seemed typical, lovely, and quaint, with a single and notable exception. The front entrance to the local primary school had been completely caved in. It looked particularly out of place as it seemed otherwise untouched, pristine even. No police tape. No investigators. No members of the public even passing by. It was as if everyone simply knew to keep away. It looked like a train had smashed through it and then trundled on its way, leaving only a broken building against an otherwise idyllic backdrop. Iggy knew this was exactly why he was here.

Knocking on William's door, Iggy was greeted eagerly by a portly, balding man holding a deeply serious expression.

"Come in, I'll tell you what I can," He said without any courtesy. Iggy nodded and followed the man to his tidy dining table, where he was efficiently presented with a cup of tea.

"It's my sister. I know it. A month ago, something terrible happened… just awful," William seemed to confess.

"My sister's… my niece was found kil… dead on the school field." William's eyes filled with tears, and he took a moment to compose himself.

"I'm terribly sorry to hear that, but please go on," Iggy urged, lifting the tea to his lips only to gently blow on it due to the heat.

"Yes, of course. Erm, the police have been useless. Nothing conclusive or whatever. It's left the whole family, well, in limbo during this already hellish time," He said.

"I see, the death of a child in a family has, obviously, deep ramifications, and a lack of closure or an air of mystery can, of course, compound that. But, Mr. Stout, I am not a detective; I will not be able, nor would I presume to try, to solve an unexplained death," Iggy said solemnly, as an opinion of William began to form in his mind.

"No, no, no, I know. It's my sister. She has been inconsolable, and last week the school was, well, I'm sure you saw on your way through the village. And there have been sightings of… well, of a large beast wailing; covered, shrouded... in red mist. I think it's her, well you know, her...self, escaped. I'm sure there's a proper name for them," said William. Iggy considered telling him the proper terms but decided against it.

"I see. It is possible. It is my job to deal with that exact scenario Mr. Stout, but it is not the only possible explanation, and - to be clear - nobody has actually been hurt since the incident at the school?" Iggy said in a calm, practised tone.

"No, just the damage to the school and sightings, but people aren't about much at night around here anyway, and the school is closed for a little while so children and families can grieve in peace - we're a very tight-knit community. People have also been avoiding the area...where it happened," Said William.

"Ok then, in which case the first step here should be my initial assessment of your sister. Is she aware I have been contacted?" asked Iggy.

"Of course," Said William.

"Although her husband, Daniel, was not overly happy about the idea. Nor was he overly happy with me for being the one to bring you in," he finished. There was often hostility and misunderstanding wherever Iggy went; it was the nature of the work.

"Do you agree to me assessing your sister at this stage? As you contacted the agency I am working for you during this time, and I technically do not have the autonomy to act," Iggy explained, though this was usually simply a formality.

"I know, and of course you do," replied William, surprisingly sure of himself in this matter. And with it, official Iggy left William's tidy home and followed his little blue line through the village to complete an initial psychological assessment.

Knocking firmly on the door, Iggy thought about the likelihood of this being a grief disembodiment. It was firmly possible, but he would not have put money on it either way at this early stage. The creature's description, vague as it was, did not match up with a manifestation of crippling sadness. Eventually, the door was answered by a dishevelled man Iggy took to be Daniel, and he broke Iggy's train of thought.

"Hello, my name is Iago Finlay. Your brother-in-law, William, procured my services to possibly help your wife," Iggy said in a neutral non-threatening tone. Daniel took a long moment to reply. His jaw was clenched, and his gaze bordered on maniacal; this had to subside before he could speak.

"The demon hunter," He said with contempt.

"As you say," replied Iggy, not correcting this gross and probably purposefully offensive oversimplification. Confrontation at this stage was more than unadvisable.

"The kitchen," was all else Daniel spat out. He did leave the door open and walked back into his home. This was the closest Iggy felt he would get to being invited in, so he took it as such and made his way to the kitchen to find a red-eyed, dirty, and completely crestfallen Gillian Range holding a sodden handkerchief in one hand and with her other an untouched stone-cold cup of tea. Tea was a constant part of Iggy's work. Dealing with emotionally fraught individuals (and whole communities) besieged by rogue manifestations of raw, seething emotion meant people poured out the tea like it was ambrosia itself. With this fleeting thought, Iggy heard Daniel literally stomp up the stairs like a child being sent to bed. Gillian looked up.

"Oh, oh, I'm sorry, the place is a mess, and I'm…" she trailed off into grim soggy silence.

"No need to apologise, Ms?" asked Iggy.

"Mrs. Mrs. Range," she said before sniffing and looking into her cold tea as if it were a magic ball.

"So, Mrs. Range, I've been asked by your brother…"

"I know, it's fine. I, I, don't have anything else to do after all."

Iggy gave her a thorough psychological and supernatural assessment. After this, he let himself out and made his way back to William's house. Daniel never did make a reappearance.

"Well, Mr. Stout, I have completed a full assessment of your sister, and I have to say, I find it unlikely she is responsible for a disembodiment," Iggy said after returning from the Range household.

"Oh," was all William managed, seemingly almost genuinely surprised. Which is not what Iggy was expecting, but he continued:

"She is in a deep state of grief, and this is presenting a number of ways, but this is expected after the loss of a child. If there is a dangerous physiological abomination in this village, it is my professional opinion your sister is not the source of it," said Iggy.

"Ok, so now what?" asked William.

"Well, you have paid the agency in full and in advance, so that is up to you," explained Iggy.

"Ok. So, what are the options?" William ventured.

"You can accept your sister is grieving in a normal and understandable way and support her the best you can through a life-changing time, and I can leave. Or I can try and find another person who is the source of this supposed creature and assess them. Or I could find the abomination directly and attempt to destroy it if indeed there is one in this village. And despite that being the fastest solution, it is dangerous as I may perish if I fail. But also, if I destroy it, a huge piece of the person who created it will be destroyed as well. If it were sadness that created this, although it presents more like anger, or possibly guilt, that person would lose the ability to be sad or angry or even guilty forever. That part of them will die along with the creature."

"Ok, destroy it," said William decisively. Iggy was expecting this outcome, but it did seem to tumble out of William alarmingly fast - he was expecting more deliberation, or the pretence of one, at least. It was, however, the client's right since he wholly accepted the job from the agency, no matter the speed of decision or motive for that decision — one potential downside of agency work.

"If that is your choice, I will prepare and hunt for it, or evidence of it, this evening," concluded Iggy.

With vials, potions, weapons, and all manner of equipment and tools, Iggy's van was an Aladdin's cave of Abomination slaughter when one looked past the tools for psychological aid of people at least. Iggy armed himself as the sun was setting and headed towards the damaged school.

Hiding across from the destruction, primed and ready, Iggy watched and waited. He saw nothing. But, he did hear a muffled growl coming from the expanse behind the school. Stalking towards it, he came upon the abomination: shrouded in red mist covering its face, it seemed to almost blend itself into the backdrop of the blood-red setting sun. Its growl loudened and deepened, eclipsing the quaint babbling stream and the gentle rustling of leaves and flowers. People were indeed avoiding this area; this noise dominated the idyllic, sprawling landscape. It was just Iggy and the abomination. It was huge. Iggy raised his crossbow and sent a bolt into the creature's centre mass. With all that obscuring mist, it was the safest option. The impact made a satisfying thud. But, as soon as it did, the monster heaved itself towards Iggy. Its large mass and obfuscate nature created the urge to flee from it at all costs, much like the emotion which birthed it. With it barrelling towards him, Iggy dropped the now useless crossbow and drew a long syringe into each hand - the urge to flee having to be purged. Each syringe had a long, thick needle and contained bright liquid designed to slow and weaken the abomination. The crossbow bolt had also been covered in a similar concoction, and the thought of it working its way into its system was of comfort to Iggy. However, electrically quick, the abomination was upon Iggy; he managed to dive away from it, but he dropped one of his syringes, making this hasty escape. Missing its target made the creature roar with fury as it turned to face a prone and harried Iggy. It made a slower, more purposeful approach this time. Iggy responded in kind and slowly, purposefully got to his feet, aware less of the syringe in his hand but all of the other tools and weapons about his person he could not reach for during this tense moment. Not wanting to make any sudden movements meant they might as well have been back in the van.

With each heavy drop of a large foot, the creature closed the gap between itself and Iggy. He had to do something; he could not let it simply walk up to him without a plan of action. Remaining tense and purposeful was simply playing into the creature's hands. He threw the syringe towards the creature, lightning-quick, with one hand and reached for a sedative-coated throwing knife with the other. The syringe struck, but it did not stay stuck in the beast long enough to administer the full dose. The creature lurched into motion and was upon Iggy. It tried to swipe a huge arm in an arc at him, this time anticipating his diving away again. Still, Iggy dropped directly downwards under its attack and thrust his knife upwards, gouging the creature's arm and getting the sedative into its bloodstream. The smell of the creature's foul blood seemed to assault Iggy, but it buoyed him nonetheless.

The shock of missing its target and being cut open stunned and angered the monster, and it wailed in response. This gave Iggy time to throw his knife at the creature and make a desperate sprint to the dropped and unused syringe. He grabbed it from the floor and hurled it towards the red misted monstrosity, it struck it in a leg, but this caused the creature to stop its wail and instead turn towards Iggy once again. The various concoctions Iggy got into the creature's blood were starting to take effect. He could hear the quickening of its breathing and see the more laboured movements. The mist was thinning. Iggy could make out its face now, and its features were almost human, but it looked anguished. A sure sign that it was born of guilt, which would also explain the obscuring mist, a representation of wanting to keep itself hidden. Now it was easier to see and slower. Iggy drew a short sword in his right hand and a small axe in the other. The creature made a stumbling but still powerful motion towards Iggy. Slashing with the swords, then twirling away, Iggy cut the creature and put some distance between it and himself. He then threw the axe into its side with a satisfying thunk. This marked the end of Iggy being in any real danger – much to his relief and disappointment. The creature was drugged and injured; it was only a case of hacking and slashing until it died and vanished into a mist.

Iggy collected the used weapons while trying to let the adrenaline in his system subside. He had followed his client's wishes to the letter and dispatched a psychological abomination before it could hurt or kill anybody. And because of this, William Stout would no longer feel any guilt for the murder of his niece or for any actions he committed for the rest of his life.