“I didn’t murder him!” I groaned, the pain in my leg sapping any fight I had left in me.
“Not what several witnesses have told us,” he said, pulling away from the kerb.
“Apparently you pushed him right out in front of that car.”
“They’re talking shit,” I whined, holding my leg.
“And you’re in it,” the officer said, and the other copper laughed.
I must have been mad to even consider the idea of going in search of Sophie. What was wrong with me, for crying out loud? It was like I was in some kind of emotional shoot-out or something. Part of me was glad that she hadn’t been home. But there was that other part – the part that feared for her safety. Sophie’s father said that others had come looking for her and that they’d been killers. Why would these people be looking for her? What kind of life was she leading now in this world that had been pushed? Sophie had been the kind of girl who wouldn’t have said shit even if her mouth had been full of it – so how had she got herself into trouble? And what kind of trouble was she in?
Was it my problem? No – not really. We had been lovers once and I had been in love with her – but she had rejected me. Even when I’d left her bedroom that night, as she lay screaming and petrified of me, I hadn’t been able to forget – not at first, anyway. As I had crisscrossed the country picking up the odd job here and there and sleeping in cheap motels, I had written to her. In each letter I had explained in the best way I could – and I wasn’t very good with words – how much she had meant to me and how sorry I was for scaring her.
But Sophie never replied once. She made it clear that she didn’t want anything more to do with me.
So why should I go and get myself into a heap of shit for her now? I attracted shit like a cow’s arse attracted flies and I didn’t need it, not now. I was meant to keep my head down in this new world.
Kiera had said that – and she was right.
Kiera! What about Kiera? She needed my help more than Sophie did. I needed her help too.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have left the manor? Kiera and I were a team now – we always had been. I turned my back on Sophie’s home once and for all, knowing I would never mention that I had come looking for Sophie – whatever my true reasons had been for doing so. Then, leaping into the air, my wings shot from my back and I raced into the cold, winter sky. I didn’t head straight for Hallowed Manor; I was going to take a detour first.
Kiera had stuff that she wanted, especially her police badge more than anything. So banking right, I headed in the direction of Havensfield.
I knew Kiera’s home address, but I had never been there. She had spoken about her flat to me many times, talking about her comfy armchair placed by the window so she could sit and watch people pass by in the street below. Kiera had told me about the thousands of newspaper clippings that covered her living room wall. As I flew nearer to Havensfield, my curiosity grew about how Kiera had lived and what her life had been like before leaving for The Ragged Cove.
The streets of Havensfield were deserted, and just a few houses still had lights shining within them. It was late; I didn’t know how late, but I guessed that most people had gone to bed for the night. That suited me, as I didn’t want to be seen by anyone, especially as I was breaking into Kiera’s flat. I just wanted to get her stuff and get back to the manor.
Swooping out of the sky, I felt my wings withdraw into my back and wrap themselves around my ribcage. I’d had wings for as long as I could remember, but I could never get used to that feeling of them disappearing back into me. Every time it happened, it felt like I was momentarily suffocating. Then my lungs would expand, and I could breathe again.
I pulled the collar of the scarecrow’s coat up about my throat, glanced up and down the deserted street, then approached the front door that would lead me to Kiera’s flat. Without much effort, I pressed my shoulder against the door and felt the lock pop. With one last look over my shoulder, I eased open the door and snuck inside.
There were three doors leading off the main hall, and a staircase leading up into the darkness.
Knowing that Kiera lived in flat number four, I climbed the stairs. I tapped gently on the door with my knuckles, just in case Kiera had been evicted, and in her absence somebody else had moved in. I waited several moments and when I didn’t get any response or hear any movement from inside I pressed my shoulder against the door and forced it open.
I closed the door behind me and stood alone in her flat. It felt odd being there on my own. In a weird way, it felt like I was, invading Kiera’s private space. But I’d only returned to get her badge and some clothing. The place was in darkness, and I couldn’t risk turning the lights on.
The flat had stood empty for months or more, and it might make neighbours curious if they suddenly saw a light on in the flat.
Feeling my way across the poky living room, I wondered where Kiera might have left her police badge. There was a door set into the wall and I pushed it open. A bed was in the far corner of the room and it looked like the bed clothes were lumpy and dishevelled, as if Kiera hadn’t made her bed the last time she had slept in it. Smiling to myself, I headed towards a small nest of drawers.
There was a bedside lamp, and what felt like a book and a jewellery case. Running my fingertips amongst the clutter, I couldn’t find Kiera’s police badge. So, opening the top drawer I began to rummage around inside. It seemed to be full of clothes of some kind. Still in search of Kiera’s badge, I removed some of the garments. Then, holding a piece of clothing that felt elasticated, I realised I was looking through the darkness at the biggest pair of women’s knickers I had seen in my life.
“Whoa, Kiera,” I breathed, struggling to picture her wearing such frumpy underwear. They were nothing like the skimpy, silky numbers I had seen Kiera wear. I pulled out another pair. “Jeez, I never knew you wore parachutes!”
Then, from behind me I heard someone scream. “Who are you?”
Wheeling around with the giant-sized underwear in my hands, I saw the silhouette of a figure sitting up in the bed, and it was then I knew that I was in the wrong flat. The bedside lamp flickered on to reveal an old woman sitting up in her bed.
“What are you doing with my knickers?”
she screeched, her snow-white hair matted and her wrinkled jowls swinging on either side of her ancient-looking face.
“Sorry, Grandma,” I gasped, sounding as shocked as her. “I’ve got the wrong flat.”
“Help!” the old woman screamed at the top of her voice, and for such an old woman, her voice was strong and ear-piercing.
“Take it easy,” I hushed, just wishing she would stop.
“Pervert!” she screeched, pulling her bed clothes up around her chin.
“I’m not a pervert,” I tried to assure her, stuffing her knickers back into the drawer. “I’ve got the wrong flat. I thought someone else lived here.”
“You’re a pervert!” the old woman screamed again. “Somebody help me – there’s a man in here sniffing my knickers!”
“Now hang on, Grandma,” I said, unable to believe what I was hearing. “I wasn’t...”
“I’ve read about young men like you in the newspapers,” the old woman croaked. “You’re one of those kinky types.”
“Kinky?” I blustered and for the first time in my life, I was lost for words. “I’m not kinky!”
“Get out!” she screamed again.
I could hear movement from the adjoining flats. So, not wanting to be caught in the old woman’s flat clutching a pair of her giant knickers, I looked at her one last time, told her I was sorry, and fled. As I raced down the stairs, a door opened above me.
“What’s going on?” a man shouted, sounding half asleep.
“Pervert!” I heard the old woman screech again.
Yanking open the front door, I slipped back out into the night. Not knowing what direction to head in, I turned right, and pulling the scarecrow’s coat tight about me, I disappeared into the shadows. I reached the end of the street, looked back one last time, and on seeing a man in pyjamas stagger from the flat that I had broken into, I turned the corner.
There was a covered doorway, and pressing myself flat against the wall, I waited for the man to go back inside before I spread my wings and flew away. Being discovered as a knicker-sniffing pervert was one thing, but being noticed for swooping up into the night with a set of clawed wings was something else altogether. It was as I waited in the dark for the man in the pyjamas to go away, that I noticed Kiera’s beat-up old Mini parked at the kerb, just outside the doorway that I was hiding in. Turning around to see that the door to this flat was ajar, I realised the mistake I had made, so I pushed it open and stepped inside.
The burning sensation in my leg began to ease, so I pulled myself up onto the backseat of the police car and peered out of the window. I’d lived in Ripper Falls all of my life and I knew that we weren’t heading towards the police station.
For some reason, the cops were taking me out of town and into the country. With every mile the roads became narrower and more remote. Trees grew tall and leafless on either side of the road, and between the black and twisted trunks, I could see miles and miles of desolate farmland.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked them.
The cop in the passenger seat didn’t say anything; he just kept staring straight ahead.
Glancing at me in the rear view mirror with his yellow eyes, the cop who had zapped me grinned and said, “Just taking a little detour.”
“Where?” I pushed, trying not to look into his eyes, but wanting to know where they were taking me.
“To a little place I know,” the happy-zapper cop grinned at me in the mirror. “It’s nice and secluded...”
“Look, I’m either under arrest or I’m not,”
I said, beginning to sense that I was in serious trouble with these guys. “Either take me to the police station or release me.”