Brushing past him, Madison stepped into the house and I followed close behind. As if knowing what to expect, she shone the cone of white light directly at the child’s chair which was in the centre of the living room. She gasped and dropped the flashlight. It rolled away from her and I snatched it up. Aiming the light at the chair, I moved forward.
Just like the night before, there was a child sitting slumped in the chair. Clenching my jaw tight, and the sound of my heart racing in my ears, I reached out and lifted the child’s head. The face of a girl looked back at me, her eyes blank but open. In them I could see the fear that had been captured. Red curls of hair spilt across her brow and down onto her shoulder in ringlets. She wore a Bratz nightdress which was covered in little purple stars. I lowered her head and took my hand from the base of her neck. It felt damp and clammy. Using the flashlight, I could see that it was coloured red with blood. Smearing my hand against my trouser leg, I realised that her hair wasn’t red at all; her blond hair was stained with blood. Hunkering down, I could see she had something in her tiny clenched fist. Very gently, I unfolded her fingers and took the item from her hand. Holding it up in the light, I could see that it was a tiny pink shoe, and I guessed it had probably come from one of her Bratz dolls as she had been stolen from her bed by the wolf.
Placing it along with the growing collection of toys by the chair, I stood up and turned on Drake who was standing by the open doorway.
“Where were you when this happened?” I asked him.
“I could ask you the same question,” he shot back, his eyes never leaving mine.
Glancing sideways, I looked at Madison and then back at Drake. “I was with Madison.”
“Oh yeah?” he smirked. “Doing what exactly?”
“We were checking out the woods for any clues that might have been left by the wolf from last night,” Madison lied, and for the first time since meeting her, I saw her pale face flush red. I felt her embarrassment and shame too; not because we didn’t want Drake to know what happened between us in the woods, but that we had been making out while another dead child had been brought to the Wolf House. But it was more than that. Murphy and Luke were depending on me to find this killer – Murphy had put his trust in me and I could hear myself saying to him as he lay bleeding, “I won’t let you down.”
But I had let him down; I let Luke down and the children the wolf had brought here. Perhaps my father was right. Maybe I was useless and would never amount to anything.
“Checking for clues?” Drake asked, and I could hear the disbelief in his voice.
“It’s got fuck-all to do with you what we were doing in that wood,” I scowled at him. “But what is important is that we were both together – we have alibis.”
“What’s that s’posed to mean?” Drake asked, puffing out his chest.
“It means, numb-nuts, that it couldn’t have been either one of us who brought that dead little girl in here,” I snapped, “But you, on the other hand? We only have your word that you were out searching for us!”
“What are you trying to say?” Drake blustered. “That I killed that little girl and brought her here?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” I spat, moving closer towards him.
Shaking his head, Drake looked at Madison and said, “Are you just gonna stand there and let him say that about me? I’m your friend! I’m a Lycanthrope, just like you.”
Staring back at him, Madison said, “I hate to say this, but Potter’s got a point.”
“Well he can shove his point up his freaking arse!” Drake shouted. “I ain’t a child killer!”
“Sorry but I thought all you Lycanthrope had been child killers at some time or another!” I growled.
“Ancient freaking history!” Drake shouted and spit flew from his lips. “I’m not going to stand here and listen to this shit!”
I saw him turn as if to leave, but before he’d even had the chance to reach for the door handle, I’d flitted across the room in a spray of shadows and barred his exit from the house.
“What were you really doing in the woods yesterday?” I hissed. “You weren’t taking a piss!”
“And you and Madison weren’t looking for clues,” he half-smiled. “Now get out of my way.”
Placing my hand firmly against his chest, I looked in his bright yellow eyes and said, “How come you were in the woods last night when I was chasing down that wolf?”
“I heard the howling and came after you,” he said. “I wish now that I’d left you to die.” Then, shoving me aside, he yanked open the front door and stormed out.
The door slammed shut with such force that the whole house trembled on its ancient foundation. “I’m watching you!” I shouted after him, but he was gone. Turning, I flinched backwards to find Madison standing directly behind me.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” she smiled.
Skirting around her, I made my way back towards the little girl in the chair.
“Do you really think Drake has something to do with this?” she asked me.
“You tell me,” I said without looking at her. “You and he are the same, aren’t you?”
“We’re both Lycanthrope,” she said, “and yes, we’ve both done our fair share of killing, but what Drake said was true.”
“And what was that?” I scoffed, with my back to her.
“We both stopped killing years ago,” she told me. “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want to be trapped by this curse. I want to be human again, not a werewolf.”
Looking back over my shoulder, I said, “I don’t trust him and to be honest, I don’t know if I trust you.”
Hearing me say this, the glow in her eyes faded and I was surprised to see that she looked hurt by what I said. “But what about what happened between us in the woods?” she whispered. “Didn’t that mean anything to you?”
“Nothing happened. It was a mistake!” I snapped at her.
Looking at me, I could see tears building in her eyes. “You bastard!” she hissed.
“I thought you liked me because I had a dark side,” I shot back.
“And you like me because of mine!” she shouted, screwing her hands into fists by her sides. “I could see it in your eyes the first time you saw me. There was a connection and you know it!”
“Dream on!” I barked back.
“I’ve seen you checking me out with all of your little side glances,” she said. “I’ve seen you staring at my butt. Your eyes nearly fell out of your head earlier when I unbuttoned my shirt to show you my necklace. And when I was dressing your wounds, I could feel your heart racing. I could see your body tensing every time I came near you. So don’t give me all this crap that you’re not attracted to me like I am to you. You need to let go, Potter!”
“Let go of what?” I sneered.
“Whoever it was that broke your heart!” she snapped back. “If she’d really wanted you, she’d be here right now, so stop chasing ghosts!”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!” I said angrily, scooping up the little girl in my arms. But she was right. I did need to let go of Sophie – but not yet – not now.
I carried the little girl towards the door and as I went, Madison said, “Where are you going?”
“To lay this little girl to rest,” I said. “That’s what Harker wants us to do isn’t it?”
I carried the little girl in to the woods. I found the prettiest spot I could find, where the moonlight cut through an opening in the trees and bathed the ground in a pool of milky light. Laying her down on a pile of leaves, I set about digging her grave with my claws.
As I worked, I tried to free my mind of everything, but it was impossible. No wonder the wolf hadn’t been caught; this place was messed up. It was like a world within a world where rules didn’t apply and your sanity was pushed to the limits. How had I missed this little girl being brought to the house? Why had I let myself be seduced by Madison? But had she really seduced me? Could I really blame her? I had a mind of my own, didn’t I? And however much I hated to admit it to myself, Madison had been right. I had been checking her out. I did find her attractive – there was something about her that kind of drove me crazy. But maybe that was good. Madison had said I needed to let go – let go of Sophie – and maybe I had already started to. After all, if my love for Sophie was as strong as it had once been, would I have found Madison so attractive? Would I have slept with her? No, I wouldn’t have.
But I had imagined that I’d been making love to Sophie, when really it had been Madison who I’d wanted. Wasn’t that just the last fragment of guilt taking over as I let go of Sophie? Now that I had given myself to Madison, I could never look back at Sophie. That part of my life was now over.
With my claws caked in mud and earth, I dug away at the ground, the hole getting deeper and deeper. I had to pull myself together. I had one night left to catch this killer before the full moon faded and the cycle of killings stopped. But they wouldn’t stop forever. At the beginning of the next cycle, the wolf would be back and by then, Luke and I would probably be in jail for a crime that we didn’t commit and Murphy would be dead. Then who would be left to stop these killings?
I need to get my shit together and think of a plan. But what? This wolf was sly. He’d come into the house while we had been there, taken the chair, and placed it in the front garden. But why had he done that? Why take the risk? Because he wanted us to know that he could come and go without us being able to stop him. He was that confident. Then to creep past me while I was napping and place the body of that boy right in front of me; that really was taking the piss. And again tonight, he had the nerve to saunter in and place the little girl in that chair and then slip away unnoticed. It was like he was always there, never too far away. That’s why he had never been caught – because he had been there the whole time. He had been on those stakeouts, he had to have been. He needed to know where the others were at any given time so he could creep in and out. He was part of the team. He was Drake.