Sydran gritted his teeth as soon as he transformed back into his human form. Every nerve and muscle ached and longed to return to his wolf form. It hurt to be back in his human form, to be reminded of the grief and pain. It slammed against him, full force, like the high winds of a hurricane. Still, he braced himself and shoved open the door to Xander’s front door. “Xander?” he roared, storming through the entryway and into the living room.
Xander lay on the couch, sleeping. He stirred and flickered his eyes open. “Did you find out anything?”
Sydran tightened his hands into fists, resisting the urge to grab Xander and hurl him across the room. His body was on edge, needing to attack something—anything. Not to mention he felt hot—too hot—as if it was the middle of summer, rather than the end of winter. “When you slaughtered the werewolf hunters in their camp, you knew. You knew that Lacy had gotten to them first.”
Xander gazed up at him with widened eyes. “What?” He sat up straight, gaping at him. “What are you talking about?”
Sydran growled and pointed a finger at him. “I found a scent on a van that the hunters used. Followed it back to their camp. Lacy’s scent was all over the place—and the dead bodies. You had to have seen them. Why didn’t you tell me she attacked them first? That she hadn’t lied to you about going running? She—she was scared and running from something… Xander, what really happened out there?”
Xander slid off the couch and then stood to his feet, glaring at the coffee table in front of the couch. “I saw the bodies, Sydran, but I didn’t smell her—didn’t smell anything. I was in the woods, running, hoping to find her and go running together when I smelled her. I found her…” At that, Xander flinched and he paled. “Found her and her kid strung up. I was so angry, so I turned. Next thing I know, I’m at a camp full of werewolf hunters. I just tracked them, Sydran. I didn’t smell anything else. Some of them were dead, so I figured they were killed by Lacy when they attacked her. I was out of my head with grief, Sy. Uh—Sydran.”
Sydran winced and turned away from him. Outside the window on the left-side wall, stars blanketed the night sky. It was night already? “I get it, Xander. I get it. When I went to the camp, all I could sense was that she came there first. Something chased her into camp, and whatever it was, she was scared. I could smell fear all over her. She came into camp and killed some of them, but eventually they overpowered her and took her and the kid. Kidnapped them in the van, then drove them to the place where they…” Sydran’s voice trailed off.
“Do you think the werewolf hunters had something to do with Jindi?” Xander asked.
Sydran nodded but he couldn’t find the words. They were stuck behind a lump in his throat. “Maybe they saw my face, Xander. Came back home and killed her.”
Xander stepped up beside him in front of the window and shook his head. “No. They killed Jindi’s parents a day before we even found Lacy. What about the vampire who killed Jindi’s sister? That’s still our best lead. He is the only one who has a vendetta against Jindi and would want her dead.”
Xander had a point, but Sydran’s gut twisted. It was wrong—all wrong. Perhaps it was just the grief—it still felt so raw.
“I got a phone from one of the werewolf hunters.” Sydran pulled it out of his pocket and clicked it on.
“Wait, really? Did you find anything on it?”
Sydran shook his head. “Haven’t had a chance to look until now.” The screen popped on, but it needed a passcode. With a scowl, he shoved it back into his pocket and cursed. “Thing needs a passcode. I’ll have to get this to a friend of mine that Bruce knows—see if they can crack it.”
Sydran’s phone rang loud enough to make him flinch, so he hurried and answered it. “Detective Barks.”
“It’s Bruce. Sorry for calling; I know it’s late, but the Detective I called in is here. Can you meet me at the office?” Bruce asked.
Sydran nodded. “Be there in ten.” He hung up and returned his phone to his pocket—opposite the stolen phone. “The new werewolf detective’s here. Wanna come?”
Xander yawned. “You haven’t slept yet. If I’m tired, I know you’ve gotta be.”
“We don’t have time for that.” Sydran headed to the door but was surprised when Xander followed right on his heels.
At the station, Sydran and Xander entered into Bruce’s office, where Bruce sat behind his desk with a mug of coffee.
“I found this on some werewolf hunters who killed one of our own. Do you think you could have one of your people try to get into it, discreetly?” Sydran asked, once Xander shut the door.
Bruce took a sip of his coffee and then sat it down with a nod. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll have Sarah look into it.” He grabbed the phone and sat it in the top drawer of his desk. He gestured to a lanky, bearded man wearing a baseball cap who sat in a chair tucked into the left-hand corner of the office. “This Detective Nolan Matterson.” Bruce then gestured to Sydran first and then to Xander. “And this is Detective Barks and his friend, Xander.”
The lanky man, Detective Matterson stood and held out a hand, so Sydran shook it. “Pleasure to meet you. Uh, Detective Barks, is it?” Matterson lifted an eyebrow with a smirk.
Once Sydran would have made a joke about it. Now, he didn’t have the energy—or the strength. “Yeah.”
“A werewolf named Detective Barks? That’s gotta be the most surprising thing I’ve seen all day. Anyway, we better get working on this case. Bruce told me he has all the files in the other room for us to go over. You ready?” Matterson eyed him.
Sydran nodded and headed for the door. Xander and Matterson filed out, but he gazed at Bruce over his shoulder. “You sure we can trust him?”
Bruce took another sip of his coffee. “Yes, I trust that man with my life.” He grabbed the cell phone and headed to the door. “I’ll get this to Sarah so she can get started.”
Sydran sucked in a deep breath and headed into the other room. Inside, Xander handed Matterson a file, so the Detective opened it and read through it. Pain made his shoulder throb and he fought back a yawn. His body felt utterly exhausted—deep into his bones. But he couldn’t sleep or rest now—not while Jindi’s killer was still out there.
“Cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head?” Matterson asked. He peaked over at Sydran above the files in his hands.
Sydran nodded. Images came to his mind, then, of Jindi’s body—all the blood, the way her skull looked. He tried to force the image out and desperately, he tried to piece together images of what she had looked like before. But no, all he could see was her body, the blood…
“Detective Barks?” Matterson closed the file and sat it on the table.
Sydran blinked and met the man’s gaze.
“Are you sure that you should be on this case? It isn’t typical protocol for someone so close to it.”
“I’m fine,” Sydran growled. He walked over and sat in a chair behind the box of files. “I just have to figure out who did this to her.” His voice cracked, so he cleared his throat to try to hide it.
“Why don’t you get me up to speed on everything so far, including the victim’s history?” Matterson sat down at the head of the table.
Sydran hated hearing Jindi referred to like that—as just another victim in one of his cases. She was beautiful and had laughed and given him so much to enjoy in life—was his other half and now she was gone. Just another name on a paper. “Yeah, um, I guess I should start with her sister’s murder case—” Before he could finish speaking, his phone ringed and cut him off. “Detective Barks,” he answered.
“Sydran, it’s David. You with Xander?” David’s deep bass voice asked. The man was one of the top werewolves in the local pack, but with the threat of the Town Council calling in the werewolf hunters, the pack had all scattered, so he hadn’t heard from him in a while.
“Yeah, why? What’s going on, Dave?” Sydran didn’t think he could bare any more bad news.
David’s voice wavered—a man who was broad and strong, who didn’t fear anything. “The Alpha is missing. He—he went away on a trip a day ago, but he hasn’t checked in. I—I don’t know what to do.”
Sydran paled and dropped his phone. He stared at Xander, mouth agape.
“What? What is it?” Xander asked.
“The Alpha—the one who protects the town and keeps the pack safe from the hunters. He’s gone missing.”
The hunters had already murdered Lacy and her kid inside the National Park outside of town. Without the Alpha, there was nothing to stop them from coming here and finishing the rest of the pack off.