“I messed things up?” Sophie gasped.
“What about you? You smashed that cop’s head in!”
“I had to get the blood back. If he had found that on you – then the Skin-walkers might have figured out what Kiera truly is and that would have led them back to us.”
“And what’s so bad about that?” she sneered. Then, looking at me she added, “It’s not as if you’re going around trying not to draw attention to yourselves. Ripping the heads off Walkers every five minutes isn’t going to go unnoticed, you know.”
“I was trying to save you,” I told her.
“Yeah, well maybe I don’t want to be saved by you and your friend anymore,” she said, glancing at me, then at Murphy. “Maybe I should tell the Skin-walkers what you really did out on the road, tell them about the blood...”
“Tell them what you like,” Murphy shouted. “They won’t believe you. I’ve destroyed Kiera’s blood sample – it doesn’t exist anymore, but the gun with your prints all over it does.”
“You bastard,” she hissed at him.
“Not a bastard, a friend,” he said. “But you just don’t see it. That animal was going to hurt you real bad if I hadn’t have killed him on that road. I had to make it look like you’d escaped so my position wasn’t compromised. I did what I did because I didn’t have a choice. If you hadn’t have taken that blood, then you would never have been involved in this. In fact, I was on the verge of convincing them that you must be dead. I told them that you were very badly injured in the car crash. As it had been some weeks and you hadn’t been sighted, I’d almost got them to believe that you were lying injured in a ditch somewhere and that you must have frozen to death in the cold.
Then you go and use your credit card, and they start hunting for you all over again.”
“But why?” Sophie said. “I stole some blood – big deal.”
“The wolves have been waiting for hundreds of years for an angel to come,” Murphy explained, as he sucked on his pipe. “All they know is that this angel will be female and will be aided by four others. They believe that she will come and destroy the Treaty that exists between them and the humans and will eventually destroy the wolves. They don’t know her name or when she will come. All they know is that this angel will be dead already. So, when they heard that a female corpse had come back to life in your morgue, they...well, let’s just say they were just a tiny bit curious. There was that cop with the broken legs and the lab assistant who both kept babbling on about the young woman who came back to life. I didn’t know how much they knew or what they had seen, but before I’d managed to speak with them, they had both died.”
“Yeah, one died of having broken legs and the other one killed himself,” Sophie said sarcastically.
“That’s what that cop wanted you to believe,” Murphy said. “But both died with crusty black scorch marks around their eyes.”
“Just like Marty,” Sophie breathed.
“Your friend had been visited by the wolves,” Murphy grunted.
“Impossible, I was with him just before he died,” Sophie explained. “I would have remembered.”
“You told me that you had fallen asleep and woken to find him staggering into the road,” I reminded her. “He could have been visited by a wolf while you slept.”
“But why burn out Marty’s eyes and not mine?” she pondered. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“Does anything make sense anymore?” I said, glancing at Murphy in his carpet slippers.
“Perhaps they wanted your friend Marty to tell them about the blood,” Murphy said. “Tell them what he had discovered.”
“I guess,” Sophie said thoughtfully, but I could tell that she wasn’t convinced. It was like something was troubling her – something she couldn’t quite remember.
Then, from not too far away came the sound of howling, and we all turned to look at each other. At first I wondered if it was just the wind screaming up the hill. But as it got closer, I recognised the sound to be that of wolves.
Something wasn’t quite right and it wasn’t just the sound of the wind howling around the tumbled down farmhouse. Potter and this police officer – if that’s what he really was – seemed to be convinced that Marty had been killed by one of the Skin-walkers, staring into his eyes, hoping to find out what he had discovered while testing Kiera Hudson’s blood.
But as they stood and tried to convince me, my flesh turned cold, breaking out in tiny goose bumps. Somewhere in the back of my mind I could hear the sound of someone chuckling.
Then they spoke, as if whispering into my ear.
“Oh, Sophie,” the voice said.
Then, like a broken reflection in a cracked mirror, I saw a long, pointed face looking back at me. His cheeks and eye sockets were sunk deep into his face, like caves. He wore a navy blue baseball cap on his head and a red bandanna was tied about his scrawny throat. But it was his eyes.
They burnt in his face, like two seething suns.
Who are you? I whispered, inside my mind.
“It doesn’t matter,” he smiled back, his lips a twisted scar. “You won’t remember me.”
Then he was gone, snuffed out like a light bulb inside my head.
Murphy was shouting at Potter again.
“Help me wedge this against the door!”
he roared, nudging a woodworm-infested cupboard across the room with his dodgy hip.
Potter lifted one end off the floor and pressed it against the door. Then, looking at the guy with the pipe hanging from his mouth like a child’s soother, he said, “I don’t want to piss all over another one of your plans, Sarge, but a few armchairs and cupboards aren’t going to stop those wolves.”
“Got a better plan?” Murphy shouted over the sound of the howling and the barking that was growing ever closer outside.
“Well anything’s got to be better than this,” Potter snapped back, pointing at the flimsy-looking cupboard they had pushed against the front door.
“What’s wrong with my plans?” Murphy asked, yanking the pipe from the corner of his mouth and staring at Potter.
“Well, for starters, what about when you had us dress up in disguise at Hallowed Manor...”
“That was a great plan,” Murphy cut in.
“It would have worked if it hadn’t have been for you!”
“For me?” Potter said in disbelief.
“You wrapped bandages around your head for fuck’s sake! That was never part of the plan!” Murphy roared, as the howling grew louder from outside. “Jesus, you were prancing about the place like the Invisible Man on crack!”
“I’ve never done any crack,” Potter shot back.
“Yeah?” Murphy said. “You could’ve fooled me.”
With the sounds of snarling and howling just outside the door, I stared in disbelief at Potter and his friend and said, “Are you two going to stand there bitching at each other all night long or -” but before I’d the chance to finish, one of the chairs that Murphy had placed in front of the window flew across the room in a shower of glass.
Unable to stop myself, I let out an ear-piercing scream as a giant black snout poked its way through the window and sniffed at the air in the room.
As if I hadn’t made a sound, Potter pointed at the splintered armchair, and looking at Murphy, he said, “See, I told you it wouldn’t work.”
The wolf forced its colossal skull through the window, tearing out the frame in a shower of brick and dust. Thick lengths of foamy, white drool swung from its jaws as it howled in fury. Working its claws through the hole it had created, the wolf tried to scramble into the farmhouse. Moving so quickly that he seemed like a blur, Potter shot from where he had been arguing with Murphy and was now attacking the giant wolf.
Potter’s claws were like a set of knives as he slashed and ripped at the wolf. The creature howled in agony, and its breath was so strong that my hair blew back off my shoulders. From the foot of the stairs, I watched as Potter wrestled with the beast as it fought its way into the room. I glanced at Murphy as the front door began to shake in its frame. The sound of crashing was deafening as the wolves outside threw themselves against the door, desperate to get at us. Murphy stood before the door, and I watched with my mouth open wide as he slowly unbuttoned his police shirt, and placed it neatly to one side. I had called him a granddad, but in fact, with his shirt off, he looked anything but. His body was pale and slender, and what meat he did have on him was toned with muscle. He had the body that any twenty-year-old guy could only dream of having.
I glanced back at Potter, who was now on his back, kicking upwards at the gnashing jaws of the wolf. “Any time you feel like joining in will be fine with me,” Potter yelled at his friend.
“Aren’t you going to help him?” I shouted, unable to believe that Murphy seemed more interested in folding his shirt.
“Just got to kick off the old slippers,”
Murphy said, sucking on his pipe.
The front door was now hanging from its rusty hinges, and the sounds of the wolves’ claws scratching against wood panels filled me with fear.
I glanced at Potter; the wolf had managed to work one of its boulder-sized shoulders through the window and it was now swiping at Potter, who still lay on his back, driving the heel of his boot upwards into the jaws of the beast.
If Murphy seemed to be taking his time in helping Potter, I knew that I just couldn’t stand by and watch him fight for his life. Spinning around, I looked for anything that I could use as a weapon. I spied the broken armchair and raced across the room, and gritting my teeth together I wrenched free one of its legs. It came away in my hand, jagged and sharp, looking like a giant stake.
Now that the wolf had its head just inches from Potter, I got a true understanding of the size of it. Its head was as big as a bear, but it was sleeker looking and its eyes blazed yellow. Its ears pointed upwards and silver whiskers sprung from its dripping snout. Charging across the room, I brought the stake up above my head; then, with all my strength, I sliced it down through the air in a sweeping arc and buried the splintered point into the top of its skull. There was a crunching sound as the wolf’s skull fractured. Gripping the stake with both hands, I forced the splintered chair leg deep into the wolf’s head. Blood jetted from its nostrils in thick, ropey streams and splattered the floor. The wolf jerked its head left and right and made a howling noise deep in the back of its throat.