Sydan’s mind dragged on slowly, not fully registering everything that had happened. As if from a distance, he heard the neighbors call his name, heard a cry. Then the words, “911.” As he stared at Jindi’s broken body with tears falling down his face, he trembled, and had no idea how much time passed. Yet he couldn’t move—couldn’t bring himself to do anything other than stare at her, than wish to disappear and wonder whether this was all real or just a terrible nightmare. With every second that ticked by, he prayed to wake up, only he never did.
Blue and red lights flashed and police rushed into the house. Sydran didn’t notice them until one of them crouched in front of him, across from Jindi’s body.
“Sir? I need you to tell me everything that happened.” The Latina woman gazed at him as if he was a predator—cautious and careful.
Sydran shook his head, gazing down at his hands, hands that held her and were now covered in her blood. “I found her… I came home and found her like this.”
“Could be suicide,” one of the cops behind him muttered.
The Latina woman shot the cop behind him a glare. “Go somewhere else and make yourself useful, Conner. Now’s not the time.”
Sydran sucked in a deep breath and blinked several times. His mate… was gone. She—
It felt as if half of him had just been ripped apart, and it was hard to breathe. Sydran shook where he stood to his feet, suddenly hyper-aware of everything around him. He breathed in deeply, taking in the scent of everything here—strangers, too many of them. Their sharp scents of the woods surged into him, covering the disarrayed house. “Signs of a struggle,” he muttered, eyes flickering from the broken table to the shattered dishes.
“Sir, you’re in shock right now. We need to get you out front and get your side of the story. You’re cut up. Who is the victim to you?”
“My wife.” Sydran shook his head, turning back around to gaze at her body. At the sight of it, he flinched, and slid his gaze up to the balcony. “Upstairs.” He took off that way, darting through the house around the police and crime scene investigators that had just arrived.
“S—Sir! Sir, don’t go up there! This is an official crime scene and I need to ask you some questions.”
But Sydran didn’t respond. His entire focus was on Jindi, on finding out what happened and getting those responsible. Their scent billowed all over the house, up the stairs where blood lined the walls on the right side beneath the railing. The door to the room was open, partially ripped off the hinges.
“Sir, you’re in shock.” A hand grabbed him.
Sydran whirled around only to see the Latina woman from before.
“If you don’t come with me, I’m going to have to arrest you.” The woman narrowed her eyes on him.
Sydran gestured to the balcony with a trembling hand. “There’s signs of a struggle here. I’m—someone had to have pushed her. I—I’m a private detective. Sydran Barks.”
“Well, Detective Barks, this is now an official crime scene. Let’s get you out front and take down your statement, alright? You’re in shock. This is no place for you to be right now.” The woman gestured to the door.
Sydran shook his head. “No, I can help. This is where I need to be. He had to see something, had to find out who had done this and end them. His lungs burned and the room around him spun. “I have to figure this out.” As he sucked in another deep breath, he whirled around to the balcony and his head pulsed and throbbed in his skull.
“Detective Barks, I’m—”
“It’s alright, Maria,” said a familiar voice from behind them.
“Bruce. He has blood on his hands and he’s refusing to cooperate.”
Sydran didn’t hear them. His mind ran a mile a minute—whirling through all the possibilities of what had happened. He drew in every scent in the room until flashes of what happened played out in his mind.
Intruders shoved Jindi into the room. She kicked and punched one who slammed against the bookshelf on the left-side wall and shattered it. But the images blurred, along with the scents, and he couldn’t quite see what happened.
“I’ll deal with him.”
No. Why couldn’t he smell what happened? Sydran turned toward the broken bookshelf. Blood lined the broken shelves and books, so he took in the scent…
A hand gripped his arm. He jumped and turned that way, only to see Bruce standing on his right. Bruce stepped around in front of him. “Sydran, please. Let us handle this.”
Sydran shook his head and pointed to the shelf. “Jindi fought back. They came for her, maybe five or six of them. She shoved one of them into the shelf here. Look, t his is blood. I might be able to track them—” Sydran pointed to the shelf, but Bruce blocked his view and forced his arm down to his side.
“Detective Barks, you’re in a state of shock—”
But Sydran pressed on, not hearing a word Bruce was saying. “—looks like she put up a fight. We have to figure out why they attacked or if it’s because they found me. How did they find me? And why attack Jindi?” Sydran headed toward the balcony, but Bruce’s hands grabbed him and slammed him against the wall.
The sudden jolt and Bruce’s shout snapped Sydran out of it. All over again, the grief slammed into his chest and he gazed out the balcony. The railing was broken and some hair had been caught up in it. He wondered whose hair it was.
“Out front, Sydran…” Bruce tugged him to the door, so this time Sydran followed him as if in a stupor. This time, as he trailed through the house, his eyes barely saw the scene of the fight and none of the details that the investigators were already at work to decipher.
Outside, a cool breeze blew on Sydran but he couldn’t feel it—couldn’t feel anything beyond the pain surging against him again and again and again, like a tidal wave that threatened to drag him down and drown him.
“Now, tell me what happened.” Bruce stood in front of him and took out a notebook.
Sydran blinked several times and it was the first time he realized that he was still crying. “Hunters—the Town Council must’ve called them. They attacked someone in our pack, so I went to investigate, but it was a trap…” His sluggish mind slowed down and he desperately wished he could force himself back into overdrive. Now, all he felt was exhaustion and the urge to sleep and never wake. It was difficult to think back to what had happened, to the details of the scene and what he was supposed to think of.
“Take your time, Sydran.”
Sydran nodded, closing his eyes as he tried to recall the events that had taken place. “They let someone of our pack follow their scents back to a camp, but why allow themselves to be slaughtered just to ambush us?” He shook his head with a curse. “I came home after getting tended to and found the house in disarray. Went out back and that’s when—” Sydran choked, and the words became stuck behind a lump in his throat. It made it difficult to swallow and to breathe.
“That’s when you found the body?” Bruce asked.
“Jindi,” Sydran snapped. “That’s when I found her.
Bruce frowned. “Is this a werewolf thing? I mean, you can sense her? Because we have no identification of the body, yet, Detective Barks.”
Sydran shook his head. “No sense. Just—”
“Wait until we get an I.D. back, okay? Right now, all we know is it’s a female in her mid-twenties with straight brown hair.” Bruce gazed at his hands. “Did you hold her?”
Sydran gazed at the blood on his hands as if seeing it for the first time. “I don’t—I don’t know.” He shook his head, eyes flicking back to the house. Yellow tape sectioned it off and the street outside was littered with cop cars and other vehicles. A crowd had started to gather at the neighbor’s house, where the neighbor spoke to another officer.
“I’m doing to put you in my car in the back and run you downtown.”
Sydran frowned and yanked out of Bruce’s grasp. “Wait, why? There were intruders! There’s signs of fowl play, Bruce, even I noticed that.”
Bruce put his notebook back inside his jacket and gestured to one of the cop cars parked on the curb just outside the front yard. “It’s a formality, Sydran. Don’t resist me on this.”
Sydran breathed heavily, but nodded. He gave in at last and let Bruce led him to the car, where he sat him in the back seat, and closed the door. Exhaustion overcame him, but he refused to sleep; he couldn’t.
Instead, he replayed everything that had happened over and over in his mind, desperately trying to grasp any details that he had missed…
Trying to find anything he could to bring Jindi’s killers to justice.