(I am currently doing the rewrites for the second Bulletproof Werewolf book, and I have plans to post a few excerpts on here. But first this story . . . I’m writing it whenever I need a break from the novel.)
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I was on my third whiskey sour of the night when she sat down next to me. Liquerotica made their drinks strong, which was why I liked coming here, even though the decor–black walls covered in gargoyles and devils, with taxidermy scattered everywhere–wasn’t my style. I did like the music, though: Radioactive, by Imagine Dragons. Had a good beat.
I didn’t recognize her smell, because the last time I’d been around her, I hadn’t been a werewolf, just an ordinary cop a few months away from being sucker-punched by fate. My brain filed her scent away for future reference while I debated whether I wanted a fourth drink.
“Corona with lemon,” she told the bartender, and her voice, and the drink choice, made the fine hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I went still, the drink halfway to my mouth.
My peripheral vision caught her shifting on her stool to face me. The bartender brought her beer. I heard the bottle tap onto the wooden bar top.
“Elizabeth, hey, long time no see,” Tracy Dent said.
An idea flashed through my head: bounce her head off the bar a few hundred times with my left arm, then switch to the right.
Instead, I drained the glass and set it down. She pushed the lemon wedge half-stuck into her beer, and once it dropped down into the bottle, she picked it up and took a long swallow.
“Holy cow, that’s good,” she said. She smacked her lips. “That was the first thing I did when I got out, you know. Got a beer from the first bar I saw. Real dive, that place, but the beer was good. This one, though. This one’s excellent. Maybe it’s because I’m home now?”
“You stupid bitch, why are you here?” I finally twisted around to face her.
Dent blinked. Her hair was a lot shorter, almost as short as mine, and she’d dyed it black, which looked horrible. She also had a thin scar that started near the left corner of her mouth and ran up her cheek, ending a millimeter or so from her eye. Overall, she looked bad.
Dent waggled the beer bottle. “Uh, duh, for this. Same as you, it seems. How long did you spend on the wagon this time before falling off? David know you’re here?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I spent a year in the program, followed by another year in a halfway house. I’ve done my time. I’m free, white, and over nineteen.”
“I heard the sheriff told you to never set foot in this county again.”
“You heard right. Good to know the old Sawyer County rumor mill is still functioning. So let’s keep this between us, hmm?” She sipped her beer. “I need your help.”
“You still owe me two hundred dollars, Elizabeth.”
“Here.” I pulled out my wallet and withdrew my ATM card. “There’s an ATM over there. I’ll be right back.”
She put her hand on my arm. “Wait.”
I jerked my arm free. “You touch me again, I’ll kill you.”
She blinked again. “Wow. You know what, I believe you. Huh. Forget the money. If you don’t help me, I’ll return that reporter’s call and tell everything I know.”
“What reporter?” I returned my wallet to my jacket pocket.
Dent shrugged. “Some reporter chick from the Plain Speaker. She called me when I got into the halfway house. We’ve been in contact ever since. She wants to know what happened with me, and you, and all those other guys. I don’t know how she found about the stuff I took from the evidence room, but she knew about it. And here I thought the sheriff was so good at covering his tracks. I guess a deputy suddenly going on an indefinite leave of absence gets noticed.”
She grinned. I had to resist the very strong urge to put my fist through her teeth. A couple of years ago, I was the clichéd Cop with a Problem, specifically alcohol and prescription medications, helpfully supplied by Dent, who also sold her wares to a handful of other deputies. Vicodin, OxyContin, Viagra, Percocet, Xanax, plus their generic forms. She’d rarely pilfered from the county evidence room; the bulk of her inventory came from a guy with a shaved head and an 8-ball tattoo, a guy I had seen her with once, right before she tossed me a free sample of . . . had it been Oxy?
Then I had cleaned up. No more pills, no more alcohol. I pushed the empty glass to the edge of the bar. Well, no more pills. I shook my head when the bartender picked up the glass and asked if I wanted another. I had stopped drinking for a while, but since becoming a werewolf, and this is going to sound like utter bullshit, I haven’t needed to drink. Not like I used to, when I drank to get obliterated.
“Snitch,” I said. “I don’t give a shit.”
“I think you do. You think another department is going to touch you after you get shit-canned?”
“Like I’m the only cop who’s ever been fired for substance abuse problems.”
“I was thinking about Leroy Evans. I mentioned him to the reporter. She’s intrigued. Help me, and I’ll un-intrigue her.”
My teeth ground together.
Dent said, “I saved your ass on that. You owe me. Help me do what I came here to do, and I’ll vanish. Without me, that reporter has nothing.”
I put a twenty on the bar to cover my drinks and the tip. I ran my hands through my hair. I could kill her. Dump her body in the marshes near Mustang Island, like everyone else did.
“The thing is,” Dent said, “I’m supposed to meet someone in Wyoming in four days. I don’t make it there, she is going to send that reporter an e-mail detailing everything I know about sinful Sawyer County.”
I laughed. “You are still a paranoid bitch.”
“And you still have an awful poker face. You’re thinking of doing me harm, Elizabeth.” She picked up her bottle. “That hurts, it really does.”
She drank her beer while I watched the bartender scoop up his money. I considered my options. Nothing short of killing her would make her go away. She was relentless, a good trait for a cop to have. And if I killed her, and she wasn’t bullshitting about her e-mail . . . I didn’t need this. I had a bigger secret than the near-murder of Leroy Evans.
“What the hell are you here for?” I asked.
“I’m glad you asked. I need you to help me dig up some money.”
She nodded to the booths tucked in the rear of the bar. “Let’s take that corner over there.”
We slid into the booth. Dent sat too close to me. She said, “It’s eighty thousand dollars in twenties and hundreds. My life savings. I buried it near the airport right before McNair and Harris ambushed me.”
Sheriff McNair had known for a while that Dent was crooked. He’d had her respond to a fake call out in the middle of almost-nowhere; she’d driven up to find him and Lieutenant Harris leaning against his truck. Dent had been shipped off to some place in Colorado that handled cops with drug problems, even though she never, as far as I knew, used anything. The rest of us, he dealt with privately.
“Sawyer County Regional, in that field out past the runway. It was the only place I could think of that would never be developed, since it’s used for emergency landings. Oh, and for the air show. Have you ever been? It’s a blast.”
“Why the hell did you bury it?”
“I had no idea what was going to happen to me. I didn’t know if my bank account would be frozen or seized or whatever. I closed it out the day before I got shipped off.”
“Jesus.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. Going on a Tom Sawyer-style treasure hunt with this bitch was one of the last things I wanted to do.
“Help me dig it up. I’ll cut you in ten percent. And I’ll waive the two hundred you owe me.”
“Keep your money. I don’t want it.”
“But you’ll help?”
“You didn’t leave me much choice, did you?”
Dent laughed. “I guess I didn’t. We need shovels.”