Winter Rain, part 26

I crouch at the edge of the roof and stare down into the space between the buildings. I see nothing but movement. The spinning red and blue lights from the police car in the street cast an eerie, pulsating light into the night: it careens off the walls and down the alleys in odd, scurrying shapes. They seem almost to run in horror from their glimpse of me.

And I guess I can’t blame them.

There’s still blood in my mouth. And in my nose. I can’t seem to get it all out. And my attempts to wipe it away have only spread it around. It grows cold and sticky on my face, on my chest. And on my hands. I can feel it tightening as it dries, pulling at hairs and skin; a cold, angry embrace.

The wind mutters in my ear. It says nothing good.

When did it get so cold?

I try to shake the growing, dark swirl from my mind, but it refuses to go.

He lies still behind me. I should check him, to be sure, but . . . . Fuck it, it’s done, and . . . it’s time for me to go. I’ve been here too long already.

I reach out to grab the conduit, but something’s wrong. I’m forgetting something, I think.

Oh. Right. Fingerprints.

I just murdered somebody.

Come on, Tiergan. Hold your shit together please.

I look down at my hands, though I can’t really see them in this light, with these eyes. But the problem is clear. There’s so much blood . . . still wet . . . I’m bound to leave indelible proof, all the way down.

I haven’t touched much. Only the conduit already has my fingerprints. And maybe the metal flashing on the top of the wall. There’s nothing I can do about my saliva all over everything, but that, at least, won’t be so easy for them to use.

Fuck! Why am I worrying about this! It was self-defense!

Yeah. A dead guy on a roof with his throat torn out. Human teeth marks. That’s sure going to play as self-defense.

I turn to face him.

It’s strange—he seemed so big when I was grappling with him. But now . . . he’s just some guy. Cold. And alone.

I shake my head again and force my eyes to the task at hand.

His shirt might work, but his jeans would probably be the better choice. Coarse cotton, lots of texture. I can hold onto the conduit with it and brush away any proof.

Yeah, the thought surfaces, and you could get rid of even more proof if you change and maul him a bit.

My stomach heaves violently at the thought, and I clench both fists. I force myself still.

No! Enough. I’ve done enough to him already.

I’ll take my chances.

I don’t want to touch him again, don’t want to feel his lifeless, slack muscles, under my hands. His cold, clammy skin.

And I’m afraid, too. That he’s just playing. That as soon as I go near him, he’ll be on me. And this time, I won’t be so lucky.

Tiergan! that cold, always-in-control part of me yells. Time! Let’s go!

I step forward. Without a knife, I won’t be able to do anything with his jeans. I pull up his shirt instead, take it in my teeth and tear. It takes some work, but I get a strip. The second is easier.

I jump away from him the instant I’m done, then arrange a strip in each hand. I grab the conduit and lower myself over the edge, and wipe the pipe as I descend.

My bare feet hit the ground more loudly than I expect. It’s really not that far of a drop. But I guess my muscles aren’t working quite right. They feel slow, and heavy, like I’ve just run a dozen miles at full speed.

The adrenalin seems to have left me to my own devices.

I shiver as I look around. The alley is still, and I can’t detect any noise. Except from the police in the street. On foot, from the sounds of it—I can hear chatter on a radio. Approaching.

I take the strips of cloth in my mouth and change, then run down the space between the back of the buildings and the school yard fence, toward Taylee. If I have to run towards trouble, better it be the police. The alternative . . . they know what I am. They won’t mistake me for a dog.

And besides . . . I have to know.

I stop at the last building before Taylee, and slink back towards the street. The lights of the police car are dazzling, up close, so bright in the dark. But my wolf eyes are up to the job, as long as I don’t look straight at the lights.

And the street’s empty! Except for the police car. No Tara. No Faolan.

I want to go out and check. If only the wind was blowing the other way, I’d know more. But it isn’t. Still, no body, no pool of blood that I can see.

I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.

It’s stupid, it’s reckless but I can’t help it. I let out a howl to the night: Sound off.

The first response is almost instantaneous. And it’s Faolan! Across Taylee and to the north of me. He’s okay!

Cormac follows. Then Saraid and Findlay, together.

My breath becomes short and ragged, I’m so relieved.

Brennan, Sheridan. Brennan sounds angry, and I almost start to laugh.

But I startle at the sound of a footstep behind me. I spin and bare my teeth, ready to attack.

“Tiergan!” Tara whispers as she steps into the gap between the buildings. “I called the cops. You need to go. Now!”

I cover the distance between us in two breaths and leap at her. She giggles softly as we hit the ground, my tongue in her face, my body a furious wiggle.

Puppies have more dignity than me, when the time is right.

“Come on,” she says softly. “I can worry about the police tomorrow, if they come by.

“Let’s go home.”