“This is the place,” Murphy suddenly said.
I snapped open my eyes and stared through the window. We had stopped alongside a snow-covered field. In the distance there was a barn. I slid open the side door of the van and climbed out.
It was cold and bleak. The hills rolled away into the distance, so white, they almost seemed to blend into the snow-laden sky. I crossed in front of the van and headed towards a small stone slate wall, which ran the length of the narrow road.
“We last saw Kayla and Sam in this field,”
Murphy said, pointing into the distance.
“Any tracks will be covered by now,”
Potter said, joining us at the wall.
“Not necessarily,” I said, clambering over the wall and into the field. I landed in the snow.
Potter and Murphy climbed over the wall behind me. I turned to look at them. Raising my hand, I said, “Keep back, we don’t want any tracks trampled over.”
I caught Potter shoot a sideways glance at Murphy. That look reminded me of being back in the Ragged Cove. It reminded me of how Potter had called me ‘Miss Marple.’ Did he still think the same, or was that me just being paranoid? I pushed the memory from my mind and surveyed the scene before me.
“Now what do I see?” I whispered, slowly setting off across the field.
Maybe the signs that Kiera had always been part wolf had always been there, but I’d been too dumb to notice. As Kiera dropped low and worked her way across the field, she looked something close to a giant bloodhound wrapped in a long, dark coat. She paused, looked closely at the ground, then moved on again, weaving her way across the field. Kiera would stop suddenly and run the tips of her fingers over the snow. She would take some, hold it up to the light, then let if fall from between her fingers. Fuck knows what Kiera was able to see. To me it just looked like a bunch of white stuff.
Sometimes she appeared methodical in her examination, other times more frenzied, as she darted forward, stopped for a moment, as if getting her bearings, spinning around in a spray of snow, then racing forward again. I watched as several times, she dropped completely onto her front. Then, as if she were burying her face in the snow, she would make an examination of the ground and whatever else it was she could see.
Murphy and I watched from the wall, occasionally sharing a quick glance at each other, then back at Kiera. With a look of pride on his face, Murphy whispered, “Look at her go. You can tell she’s a chip off the old block.”
“What’s that s’posed to mean?” I frowned.
“She’s a natural copper – a natural investigator, just like me,” Murphy said, puffing out his chest and sucking on his pipe.
“You couldn’t solve a crime even if you stumbled across a killer standing over a headless copse with an axe in his hand shouting, ‘I’m glad I chopped the arsehole’s freaking head off!’” I groaned. “You’re nothing like Kiera.”
“She takes after me, alright,” Murphy said thoughtfully as he watched Kiera at work. “We’re definitely related.”
“And you say I’m the one who is taking fucking drugs,” I sighed, stepping away from the wall and Murphy. He was starting to piss me off with this newfound admiration and concern for Kiera. It was like now that the truth about her being his niece was out, he had to take credit for every little thing she did.
I continued to watch Kiera zigzag across the field as she made her way towards a line of trees in the distance. Reaching them, she stopped, hunkered down again briefly, then stood up.
Turning to face us, she beckoned us towards her with a wave of her hand.
“Looks like she’s found something,” I said over my shoulder, but Murphy was already passing by me.
“Just like I said she would,” Murphy grunted, heading out across the field towards Kiera.
“Just like I said she would,” I mimicked under my breath, following Murphy across the field.
With plumes of breath escaping my mouth and disappearing up into the fresh morning air, I reached the line of trees with Murphy.
“What have you found, Kiera?” he asked.
Nodding back in the direction that we had come, Kiera said, “Okay, so over there is where you, Kayla, and Sam fought with wolves. There were seven of them...”
“Seven different tracks,” Murphy cut in knowingly.
“Right,” Kiera said. “Potter was being held face down and that’s where he took a beating...”
“Blood splatters,” Murphy cut in again, glancing at me with a smug smile.
“Right,” Kiera said. “The fight was fierce, but over quickly. One of the wolves was decapitated, I’m guessing by you, Murphy, as Potter was face down in the snow, and Kayla and Sam were fighting with wolves just over there.”
“Yes it was me,” Murphy said, puffing his chest out in pride.
“Okay, so while you were distracted by the fight, another person appeared. This one didn’t join the fight. Whoever it was, was watching from the edge of this treeline.”
“How can you be so sure?” I asked.
“See the footprints?” Kiera said, pointing at the ground beneath a nearby tree.
I looked and could see them. The snow wasn’t as deep beneath the trees, but they hadn’t been filled in either by more falling snow – so they were clearer than any other tracks she had managed to find.
“Kayla and Sam ran across the field towards her,” Kiera started.
“Her?” I asked. “How can you be so sure it was a female?”
“She was wearing boots with a small heel,” Kiera explained, dropping to her knees and pointing to the footprints in the snow.
“So how do you know Kayla and Sam ran towards her?” I asked. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her, but I was tired of Murphy jumping in with his explanations.
“By the distance between each footprint,”
Murphy cut in anyway. “If someone is running, the gap between each footprint will be larger than if they were walking.”
“Correct!” Kiera said. “But don’t forget that the toe of the shoe will be more pronounced, again suggesting running instead of merely walking.”
“So what happened when they reached this point?” I asked.
“They stood and talked to whoever she was,” Kiera said. “You can see by the spread of prints they stood here for a little while before heading off through the trees with the female.”
“Where did they go?” I tried to follow the prints, but the snow just looked like a trampled mess.
“Let’s find out,” Kiera said, setting off between the trees.
We followed behind as she sometimes raced ahead, then slowed to an almost standstill.
She would inspect the ground again, then set off.
We followed at a distance, both of us mindful not to get in her way or destroy any evidence. Then, up ahead, Kiera came to a sudden halt.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, joining her beneath a large oak tree.
“The tracks just suddenly stop,” Kiera said with a frown, looking down at the ground. “It’s like the three of them just vanished.”
“Vanished?” Murphy grunted.
“Perhaps this other person they met was a Vampyrus and they flew away?” I suggested, believing it to be a reasonable possibility.
“Sam’s a wolf and can’t fly,” Murphy said.
“Maybe Kayla carried him?” I said, not wanting my theory to be proved wrong – not just seconds after formulating it.
“And perhaps an army of pixies appeared and sprayed them all with magic disappearing dust?” Murphy scowled at me.
“No one flew away,” Kiera cut in, as if trying to diffuse the growing tension between me and Murphy.
“How can you tell?” I asked her.
Looking up, Kiera said, ‘See how the branches of the trees are so close together? If they had flown away from here, they would have disturbed the branches and the snow would have fallen away. But as you can see, they are still covered in a thick layer of snow.”
“So what do you think happened to them?”
“I don’t know,” Kiera whispered thoughtfully. “I just don’t know.”
“Well, standing out here isn’t going to help us find them,” Murphy said, turning away. “Good job, Kiera, but if the tracks have run cold, then we need to start looking someplace else.”
“Where?” I asked, watching him walk away.
“Kayla and Sam knew we were heading for the Fountain of Souls and the Dead Waters,”
Murphy said, glancing back at us. “Perhaps they will head there.”
“But how can they have just vanished, into thin air?” I frowned. “And who is this female they were talking to? Kayla wouldn’t have just walked away and left me and Murphy to get the shit kicked out of us. How do we know Teen Wolf hasn’t taken her, we don’t even know if we can trust him? You know what happens to a human who has been badly matched to a wolf, they turn in to those freaky fucking berserkers! Sam might have become one of them and eaten Kayla.”
“Have you been sniffing fucking glue?”
Murphy rounded on me. “Jesus Christ, you make Sam sound like the big bad wolf out of little-red-freaking-riding-hood!”
I looked at Kiera, and without saying a word, she set off after Murphy. I followed at a distance as we made our way out of the small woods and back across the field. I looked back and could see the barn where I had been tricked into believing that teacher had been Kiera. I remembered how I had killed the wolf-boy, Dorsey, and how that hooded photographer had appeared and taken a photo of him dead in my arms. I looked away, and it was then I saw several of those creepy statues standing in a row on the other side of the field. I opened my mouth to call out after Kiera and Murphy. But what was the point? Neither of them seemed to be interested in anything I had to say. I closed my mouth, turned away from the statues, and caught up with Kiera and Murphy.