It was the smoke that gave him away. It billowed above his head, snaking up into the humidity of Sunday summer in The Quarter and made Mercy certain he’d been infected. She stood with her shoulder resting on the corner of the building, watching, near a dumpster that smelled of burnt fudge and week old crawfish.
The man was leaning against his arm, stretched out on the white brick of the building, his head was down, body tilted and sluggish. The back of his shirt stuck to his shoulders by a film of sweat and his short black hair looked like slick oil. He kept looking over his shoulder, scanning any passersby that came near him.
The smoke grew thicker, the color shifting between gray and white, as it shot out and floated above him like a crown. Mercy knew what would be next. First the smoke jutting out through flared nostrils, the nose elongating into a snout and then the sharp scales that grew on the face and spread to the neck, then the chest until it covered the body-- until the leaking spores of poison settled into the skin. It was their deadliest weapon, that poison, how they recruited, how they killed.