After enduring Lieutenant Nora Harris’s bitching about our lack of arrests in the solicitation sting, I went to the room we referred to as the computer lab and found an empty desk. I typed my passcode into the Dell and, once it had judged me worthy, I began typing my reports.
The room was directly across the hall from the vending machine alcove, and every time I heard the whir of a dollar being sucked into a slot, I leaned back in my hard plastic chair to check on who was buying a Coke or a Snickers. I kept expecting to see David Mercer, my on-again, off-again, currently (maybe?) on-again boyfriend, because he was due to be on-duty soon, and he usually started his shift with a Dr. Pepper.
When I finished my report, and there was still no David, I gave up and handed it in. I probably had his work days screwed up again. Maybe it was better that I didn’t see him; I still had the headache, despite the two aspirin I’d dry-swallowed, and there was that little matter of that dead body.
I nearly texted him anyway, even took out my phone, but then I jammed it back into my pocket. I had zero plans for what to do with the late Christopher H. Ferris. A year ago, I could have simply called a certain crooked deputy, but last October, on Halloween night no less, Tracy Dent had vanished while on duty. Lieutenant Harris had driven Tracy’s patrol car back to the office that night. The next morning, when I’d dragged my ass in to work, she’d called me into her office, slammed me against the door, and told me I was suspended for two weeks and to spend that time either kicking whatever I was on or overdosing, she didn’t care which. I chose to kick it, with David’s help.
It took longer than two weeks, but by then, the worst of it was over. And once I figured I was okay enough, I’d dumped him, because I was embarrassed and headed into a pretty dark place and screw this memory lane crap, I had a body to dispose of.
– – – – –
After a hot shower in the women’s locker room and a change of clothes (shorts that weren’t quite as short, Dallas Cowboys tee), I drove back to Riverside in my personal car.
The best plan I could come up with was to set fire to the whole frigging place, but I didn’t feel that arson was the best solution to my problem.
I couldn’t just let someone find the body, though. It had a .380 slug in it, and once that was discovered, Brian would have no problem letting Harris and the sheriff know about my “accidental discharge”.
The bullet was in the head. Maybe I could chop off the head and toss it into the Mitchum River.
Gah, I’d gone from murder to arson to abuse of a corpse.
I parked my black Mustang behind the Olds and locked up while I scoped out the area. Still not a lot of activity. It was half past seven, technically night, but it wouldn’t be dark until almost nine. I took my gun and a small flashlight and walked back to the scene of the crime.
I did think that it was possible that I had hallucinated the attack. There had been no weird Lost Weekend-type episodes while I was cutting back on the booze and completely getting off the pain pills, so maybe my brain had just waited, biding its time until today’s freak-out.
But. There had been pain. Very clear, very sharp, very painful pain. And blood. I had smelled my blood. The attack had happened. Because it—he—had been a werewolf. A real life werewolf, despite all the odds against it.
I lived in a world with movies like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. I wasn’t going to stumble across some old book with a copy of a 16th-century woodcut or some shit and be shocked to learn about Lon Chaney Jr. I knew the basics: silver bullets, fur, sharp teeth. The lack of a full moon—or nighttime, for that matter—was a puzzle, but not much of one. Maybe the movies were wrong.
I pressed my back against the wall near the cavernous entrance and strained to hear anything. Voices, movement, the human cockroaches that usually skittered around here. I heard nothing. I clicked on the flashlight and swept the beam around the interior. It picked up little glowing dots—rats’ eyes—and the trash I’d seen earlier today, and nothing else. I stepped inside, my Nikes crunching on loose bits of glass and gravel and cigarette butts, the gun out and against my left hip. I wound my way to the back of the warehouse, to the stack of wooden pallets and that hideous frigging sofa.
Which was now on its side, revealing the dried puddle of blood where the body had been, but not the body itself.
“Fuck me sideways,” I whispered, the gun up now, beside the flashlight. I made a slow circle, the light picking up the pizza box and the crusty blanket and the tent, and now more furniture, and an empty jar of Jif peanut butter, a shriveled condom, a pair of bare feet—
I jerked the beam up, illuminating the face of the man I thought I’d killed. He grimaced, raised a hand to block the light. The right side of his face was coated in dried blood. “Don’t shoot again, okay?” he said. “I’m not gonna hurt you. I was looking for my clothes when I heard you.”
“I killed you,” I said.
He dropped the hand. The pupil of his right eye was a pinprick. “I’m pretty hard to kill. Can you point that light somewhere else? Like over here, maybe? I thought I remembered stashing my clothes over here.”
Numbly, I moved the flashlight beam to where he pointed. Sure enough, there was a wad of clothing on the seat of a ratty recliner. Ferris shuffled to it, picked up the bundle, and dropped into the recliner with a sigh. He pulled on his T-shirt. “Next time, check for a goddamn pulse.”
“I didn’t have time.”
Ferris grunted. “You had time to put that couch on me. Bitch of a thing to wake up to.”
“Well, I was hiding you.”
He grunted again.
My mouth was dry. I swallowed, then said, “You said you’re hard to kill.”
He stood up long enough to pull up his pants. Then he sank back into the chair. “I seem to be, yeah.”
“I need silver bullets, I guess.” I kept the light out of his face, but I know he rolled his eyes.
“Christ,” he muttered. “No, you don’t. You just need more than whatever the hell you shot me with. If I have a chance of surviving, it takes it.”
“What’s that mean? It? It what?”
He bent over, pulled on his cheap canvas sneakers, and stood up without lacing them. He wobbled a little, closed his eyes, regained his balance enough to start walking slowly away from me.
“Hey,” I said, going after him. “Hey, goddammit.”
“Leave me alone,” he said, still creeping forward. “All I wanted was to get laid. I wasn’t gonna hurt you or nothing.”
“Bull-fucking-shit, you bit me!”
“Well, I got pissed you were a cop. And I didn’t wanna be caged up. Jail food sucks.” He staggered to the left and bumped his shin against a plaid couch. “Shit! Also, fucking also, I didn’t want another visit from the CDC. Those guys’re dicks. FYI.”
We were almost outside now. Ferris raised his head, breathed in deep. Sniffing the air.
I took a step forward, and then the headache, which up to that point had been a constant dull thud-thud behind my forehead, went nuclear. It felt like my head exploded. My ears rang. My vision went red, then black. I felt my knees hit the concrete. I forgot how to breathe.
And then I remembered and took a big whooping gasp. A second later, the pain in my head faded, as did the ringing in my ears. Best of all, my eyesight came back. Ferris was gone. I pushed up to my feet, leaning heavily on the building’s doorway for support, the gun and light still clenched in my hands, my heart racing.
Ferris hadn’t gone far; he was leaning against the driver’s door of the Cutlass. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the keys missing from the ignition. “I smell you assholes all over my car. Where’s the keys?”
I holstered the gun, clicked off the flashlight. “In that drain over there. Halfway to the Gulf of Mexico by now.”
Ferris sighed. He heaved himself off the fender, kept a hand on the car for support while he shuffled to the back tire. He felt under the wheel well and removed a magnetized key box. He slid it open, shook out a key, and opened the driver’s door. He collapsed into the seat, swung his legs in, and slammed the door shut. The car started with a whine.
“Wait a second,” I said. “Wait.” I knocked on his window. “Hey, asshole.”
Ferris rolled it halfway down. “I’m leaving.”
“Awesome, great. What the hell am I supposed to do? What’s going to happen to me?”
He rolled the window up, raised his middle finger, and punched the gas. The car shuddered before taking off in a gasp of dirty gray exhaust. I kicked its rusty rear bumper as it passed.
I watched the car turn a corner and vanish. I was suddenly drag-ass bone-tired. The headache was coming back, very faint, but I had the feeling it would grow, and I wanted to get home and get to bed before that happened.
– – – – –
I made it home without incident and stripped before crawling under the bedcovers. I thought of setting the alarm on my iPhone and then decided not to; I had the next day off, so why not sleep as late as I wanted?