“Not much,” she said, stuffing the rucksack with her belongings and my scarecrow coat. “Why do we need money?”
“If we’re going on the run, we’ll need some,” I said, racing into the kitchen.
I knew that humans often hid cash at home, usually in a cookie jar or something similar.
When I’d been masquerading as a cop, I’d been to many burglaries where money had been stolen from such a place. I threw open Kiera’s kitchen cupboards, as one of the coppers started to order from outside that I open the door before they smashed it down. I pulled cups and plates from the cupboard and there, sitting at the back, was a small jar with “Cookies” written across the front. I ripped off the lid and tipped out the contents.
“Bingo!” I shouted, seeing a roll of notes spill onto the kitchen counter. I snatched them up, put them into my jeans pocket, and raced back into the living room.
Sophie threw the rucksack over her back and looking at me, she said “What now?”
“We fight,” I said, flashing my fangs and claws at her.
“But I thought you said no one should see you like this,” she reminded me.
“Don’t worry, they won’t be around long enough to tell anyone about me,” I said. “Now get behind me!”
No sooner had Sophie ducked behind my wings, the door to Kiera’s flat came crashing in.
With my claws up and wings spread, I leapt towards the coppers who came pouring through the doorway. Whoever or whatever they had been expecting - it wasn’t me - and I saw the fear in their eyes for just a moment before I removed two of their heads with one quick swipe of my claws.
The thump-thump sound of their heads bouncing away down the stairs meant nothing to me, but the coppers who watched them roll away began to scream. Bursting onto the landing, I pin-wheeled my arms and opened up the belly of the nearest copper. There was a plopping sound as his intestines burst out of him and spilt onto the landing. The cop looked at me, his eyes wide and mouth open as if he wasn’t quite sure of what had just happened to him. Then, realising that his guts were slipping out of him, he started to gather them up in his hands. I watched as the red and pink lengths of intestines slipped through his fingers like oily lengths of rope. He then staggered forward, his feet becoming entangled in his own guts, and he went sprawling down the stairs.
Although the final copper was screaming, I realised that he wasn’t screaming in fear, but in anger. I looked at him and could see his eyes were burning a hot white-yellowy colour. The last time I had seen eyes like that was when I was staring into the face of a Lycanthrope. Before I’d the chance to react, the Skin-walker bounded towards me, shoving me back across the room. Sophie spun away from me and landed in the chair by the window. From the corner of my eye, I saw the chair upturn, taking Sophie with it. The wolf came at me again, and as it did, it began to change.
Its face almost seemed to rip apart as a long, brown snout shot out. Its shoulders and neck grew, the buttons from its shirt spraying away.
The copper’s hands tripled in size and began to turn in to giant paws as it lunged at me. The paws struck me in the chest and sent me flying backwards through the window in a shower of glass. I spun towards the ground, my wings covered in shards of razor-sharp glass and splinters of wood from the window frame.
The roof of the police car crumpled like a sheet of tissue paper as I crashed into it. There was a groaning sound from inside. The car door flew open and another cop staggered out. I shook the glass from me, and slid down the windscreen and stood on the bonnet. From above me, I could hear Sophie start to scream. Launching myself into the air, I shot upwards and back through the broken window.
The Skin-walker was clawing at Sophie as she cowered beneath the chair. Its shirt had completely fallen away now, and its back was a mass of muscle which was covered in shiny brown fur. The wolf howled and barked as Sophie scuttled away on her back like a giant crab.
Jumping from the window, I landed on the wolf’s back and slid my claws into its huge neck. It spun around, whipping its tail, desperate to throw me off. I held fast, digging my claws deeper and deeper into its throat. The wolf’s blood felt hot and tacky as it poured over my claws. I sliced my fingers back and forth, until I felt the wolf’s head come away from its hulking shoulders. It slumped forward and then rolled onto its side. I flew backwards, snatching Sophie into my arms.
Before flying back out of the window, I looked back to see that the dead wolf once again looked like a human as it lay decapitated in the middle of Kiera’s living room.
No sooner had I swooped from the window with Sophie in my arms, the sound of gun fire boomed from below, as bullets went whizzing past me. Sophie clung to me, and I looked down to see that she had her head pressed against my chest, with her eyes shut tight. Spinning through the night, I perched on the roof of a nearby house.
Setting Sophie down, I said, “Hold on, I’ll be back in a moment or two.”
“You’re joking me,” she squealed, griping the roof with her fingernails.
Back-flipping off the roof, I circled in the air and spied the last of the coppers. He was shielding himself behind the damaged police car and firing wildly up at me. Rolling back my shoulders, I sped towards the ground, cutting through the air like an arrow. I was on him so fast that he was still pulling the trigger on the gun as I swept back up into the night with his head hanging from between my jaws. I looked back to see his headless corpse twitch then wobble as it collapsed onto the ground. I spat his head away, and span around in the air. It was as I banked right in the direction of Sophie on the roof that I saw the old woman, who was convinced that I was a pervert, standing in the street below. She was screaming.
Knowing that I couldn’t leave any witnesses alive, I flew down towards her.
I landed on the pavement as she threw her hands up as if to protect herself from me. I walked towards her. Gently, I took her hands in mine, and I knew I couldn’t kill her. I didn’t want to kill her. Leaning in close, I could feel her trembling.
Then, placing my mouth next to her ancient ear, I whispered, “You can’t tell anyone what you saw here tonight. Because if you do, I’ll come and strangle you with those pretty knickers of yours.”
I felt her head nod next to mine, as she stifled her sobs.
“Do we have an agreement?” I asked.
“Okay,” she said, her voice steadying.
Pulling away from her and wondering what kind of life she had lived alongside these Skin-walkers, I said, “There’s a beautiful world out there – I’ve seen it – and me and my friends will push it back for you, I promise.”
Then I was gone, soaring back up to the rooftop where Sophie was now hanging by her fingernails. As I raced towards her, Sophie lost her grip and began to plummet back towards the ground. Just feet from the pavement, I snatched her back into my arms and rocketed up into the night.
“You arsehole!” she screeched, pounding her fists against my naked chest. “You could’ve killed me!”
“And here I was thinking I just saved your life,” I half-grinned at her.
“That copper was right about you,” she shouted over the sound of the roaring wind. “You are a wise arse!”
“And that’s why you fell in love with me,”
I said, racing into the clouds with her.
I thought the copper who had killed the happy-zapper in the police car had been violent, but the way Potter had killed those police officers back at the flat was something else. It had been like watching a wild animal. He had moved with such speed, agility, and skill – if that’s what you could call it. He hadn’t shown any reluctance in killing any of them and somehow I got the impression that he was enjoying himself – like a lion hunting down a zebra. The animal does it out of instinct – it knows nothing else – and that’s what watching Potter had been like. But unlike in my dreams, he hadn’t scared me. If there had been another Sophie in a world that hadn’t been pushed, as Potter had described it, then I was different now. Maybe because I had grown up in a world with monsters, and I was no longer scared of the one who held me in his arms as we raced through the night sky.
Clouds raced past us and every so often, if I dared to look down, I could see the fields racing away far below, bathed in the silver light of the moon. He sped up and there was a rumbling sound like thunder. I stared up at Potter’s face, and it looked as hard as stone. His eyes were dark, and his skin pale like marble.
“Where are you taking me?” I shouted over the sound of the rushing wind.
“I was hoping you might know somewhere,” he said, without looking down at me.
“There’s a farmhouse that I’ve been hiding out in,” I yelled. “It’s pretty secluded. We could hide out there for a few days.”
“I haven’t got a few days,” he said, and to hear that made me feel alone again. But was that really how I felt? Wasn’t I just a little bit disappointed that he would be leaving me so soon?
“Where is this farmhouse?” he asked me.
“On a hill near a town called Beechers Hope,” I said. “Do you know where that is?”
Without answering me, Potter banked sharply to the left, and my stomach did that somersault thing that happens when you take off in an aeroplane. What had taken me a week by foot and the odd bus journey to travel, Potter covered the distance between Havensfield to Beechers Hope in about half an hour. With his eyes fixed firmly ahead, we shot through the clouds and circled high above the town of Beechers Hope.
“Where’s the farmhouse?” he asked in my ear.
In the distance I could see the black silhouette of the hill against the night sky. I pointed at it and said, “Over there.”
Potter covered the last half of a mile in what seemed like seconds, and it wasn’t long before he was setting me on my feet again outside the derelict farmhouse. With a shrug of his shoulders, I watched in wonder as his wings seemed to shrink away into his back. He clenched his fists and locked his jaw as his claws and fangs disappeared. He wrenched the rucksack from my back and pulled out the filthy-looking coat he had been wearing. Potter put it on and pushed open the broken down front door.