“Ready?” he asked.
“Yeah…no hang on a minute…where’s my mobile phone?” I said, taking the coat from over my arm and placing it on the counter, concealing the bottle of blood with it. Then, I searched the pockets of my coat as the officer stood and watched. Glancing over my shoulder, I smiled at him and said, “Oh, here it is. It was in my coat pocket the whole time. I’d be lost without it. How did we manage before the damn things were invented?”
“Dunno. Can’t remember,” the officer said. “Can we just hurry it up? Scenes of Crime officers are waiting to get in here.”
“Oh yeah, sorry,” I said, scooping up my coat, hiding the bottle of blood in the folds of its material. “I’m good to go.”
The police officer ushered me out into the cold night air, and it was nice to be out of the lab.
“How do you put up with that smell?” the officer asked me, steering me towards a police car.
“What smell?” I asked, realising where I was being guided to.
“Oh that,” I said, the officer pulling open one of the rear passenger doors to the police car and motioning for me to climb inside. I clutched the bottle beneath my coat. “I’d rather ride in my own car, if you don’t mind?”
“I’d rather you came along with me,” the officer said, stepping aside from the door so I could get in.
“My car’s just over there, officer. How am I going to get back from the station when I’ve finished giving you my statement?”
“Not to worry. I’ll drop you back when we’re done,” he assured me.
Stepping away from the door, I said, “That’s very kind of you, officer, but I’d still rather…”
“I insist,” he said, a fake smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
Then, with a fake smile of my own, I said, “Am I under arrest, officer?”
“We’ll then, I’d rather travel in my own car.” Turning away from him, I made my way towards my car, which sat in a pool of orange light from the streetlamp above.
“I’ll follow you to the station,” I said. As I climbed into the driver’s seat I saw his face, he was looking at me with suspicion.
Does he know about the bottle? No, if he did he would have stopped me by now.
I pulled the driver’s door closed with a thump, placed my coat on the passenger’s seat, and watched him through the windscreen. The officer stood by the open door of the police car.
He suspects something. He’s gonna come running over here any minute and arrest me…arrest me for what? For removing evidence from a crime scene – that’s what!
It was then I saw his eyes as he stared at me from beneath the streetlamp. In the warm orange light, his eyes seemed to glow a fierce yellow and I knew then that he was a Skin-walker – once a wolf but now matched with a human.
Trembling, I forced the key into the ignition and the car rumbled to life. The police officer then climbed into his own vehicle.
What evidence have I taken? I wondered. Evidence that perhaps that corpse wasn’t completely human? But then again, neither was that cop.
I watched as the taillights of the police car glowed like burning coals. Then, I eased forward and followed the officer as he swung his car away from the kerb and drove out of the hospital grounds.
Keeping my eyes on the car in front, I searched the folds of my coat for the bottle. I closed my fingers around it. It felt warm. I knew that if it were to be any good for testing, I would have to get the blood sample into refrigeration -
But where? Not home. I can’t take a detour back there. That would definitely raise the officer’s suspicions. Besides, that was mum and dad’s house, and I didn’t want them to get involved in this.
The police car swung out onto the dual carriageway and I followed.
Marty! I could take it to Marty’s. He could test it for me!
As if driving on autopilot, I followed the officer. Marty seemed the natural choice. We had broken up six months ago and I had gone back to live with my parents. We had met while at medical school. I had studied pathology and Marty, the human genome. But what would his reaction be to me turning up on his doorstep in the middle of the night, clutching a bottle of blood?
We hadn’t spoken for six months and the last time hadn’t been pleasant. Pleasant?
Who am I trying to kid – it had been downright nasty.
I eased up on the gas, letting the gap between my own car and the police car grow.
He’d never gotten over the fact that I’d been awarded custody of Archie.
I let the gap grow further still.
Archie had always loved me more than him anyway!
The gap grew.
Hadn’t it always been me who had taken him to the park?
The police vehicle slowed and narrowed the gap.
I eased down on the accelerator. I didn’t want the officer to get suspicious.
Would he still be bitter about Archie after all this time?
I looked ahead and saw the police car’s left-hand indicator winking on and off, casting long orange shadows across the tarmac.
Only one way to find out!
I waited for the police officer to commit himself to the slip road, then, thumping my foot down on the accelerator, I sped away down the carriageway, leaving the officer behind.
“What do you want?” Marty asked me, pulling his dressing gown about him.
I looked at his hair. It stuck out at the sides in untidy clumps like a clown. For the first time, I noted the grey streaks weaved amongst the dark brown curls and wondered how long he had had them. He was twenty four like me, way too young to be going grey. His face looked worn, and his cheeks and chin were covered in a spray of whiskers that protruded from his face like needlepoints. Lines had appeared around the corners of his eyes. Deep creases had formed around his mouth and streaked across his forehead. It was these that now wrinkled as he looked at me standing on his front step.
“I said, what do you want, Sophie? It’s nearly three-thirty in the morning.”
Pushing past him, I stepped out of the cold and into the hall.
Closing the door, Marty said, “Sophie you can’t just turn up out of the blue like this and barge your way in.” Then, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling, he added, “I’ve got company.”
“You always had company, if I remember rightly,” I said with a wry smile.
I made my way to the rear of the house and sat down at the kitchen table. Marty followed me and switched on the kettle. “This had better be good, Sophie. I don’t appreciate you turning up like this.”
“You’re not still mad at me about Archie, are you?” I asked.
“I’d been trying to forget about him,”
Marty told me, and heaped two teaspoons of coffee into mugs that he had snatched from the sink. “It hurts less when I try not to think about him.”
“If he meant so much to you, how come you haven’t even paid him a visit in over six months?”
Then, clutching the coffee cup to his chest he said, “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
Something’s happened to Archie. Oh my god what’s happened to him?”
“Calm down,” I soothed. “Nothing’s happened to Archie.”
“Are you sure? You’re not trying to break it gently to me, are you?”
“For crying out loud, Marty!” I sighed.
“There’s nothing wrong with Archie. He’s perfectly okay.”
Marty splashed hot water into the mugs and brought them over to the table. He sat opposite me and pulled a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of his dressing gown.
“Thought you’d packed them in?” I said, sipping the sweet, hot coffee.
Popping the cigarette between his lips, he lit it. “I’ve started again, okay?”
“When?” I asked, watching him over the rim of the mug. It was then I remembered why I’d hated him smoking so much, it reminded me of someone else – someone I had once been scared of – but I just couldn’t remember who, however much I tried.
“About six months ago. About the same time you stopped me from seeing Archie,” he explained.
“You know those things will kill ya,” I started.
“Please, Sophie, spare me the lecture.”
“Look…” I began.
“No, you look. Archie was my dog. It was me who saved him from that rescue centre. You didn’t even want a dog,” Marty argued.
“Yeah I did. I’ve always been a dog lover,” I argued back.
“Yeah whatever!” Marty said, squirting bluey-grey smoke from his nostrils. “I’m not gonna sit here arguing about Archie at this time of the morning.”
“You started it,” I said.
“No I never – you did!”
“Didn’t,” I spat.
Pitching out his cigarette, Marty sighed, “I take it you didn’t come all the way over here in the middle of the night just to bitch about Archie?”
“No,” I said.
“So what do I owe the pleasure, Sophie?”
and he said my name as if he had just swallowed something disgusting and it was creeping back up his throat.
“I need you to do something for me,” I said, and this time my voice softened.
Pulling another cigarette from the pack, Marty grimaced. “I don’t believe you! I haven’t seen you in over six months and you suddenly show up expecting favours.”
“Look, Marty, I wouldn’t have come all the way over here if it weren’t important.”
Drawing on his cigarette, Marty eyed me and said, “You in some kinda trouble? What is it, a man?”
“No it’s not a man! ” I huffed.
“Well if it’s not a man, what is it?”
I put my coat on the table and unrolled it.
Then, picking up the capsule of blood, I held it out in front of me. The blood sloshed up the sides of the bottle and it looked thick and black.