Excerpt from BLAME IT ON THE NIGHT by Shara Lanel:
The crime scene was easy to spot in the early twilight, with strobes from the assembled cop cars and the two spotlights set up in preparation for the coming darkness. Law enforcement waited in a ring outside the immediate crime scene, while the two gloved forensic techs concentrated on photographing the evidence. Guy could only glimpse the bright blood on the snow and the form of a body on the ground, so he focused on his other senses, starting with sound. The sheriff was being brought up-to-date by the deputies.
“A giant knife right in the neck. Never seen anything like this before.”
But Guy had. Damn.
The deputies had interviewed the Wilcox boy again, since he was calmer now, but he’d added no new details. “Pretty sure the news’ll be all over the two counties in a few hours.”
The sheriff nodded. “No doubt.”
They continued to talk as the scent of death filled Guy’s nostrils. The corpse wasn’t old enough nor the ground and air warm enough for the decomposition process to really start, so the smell was minimal to the crime scene workers. But Guy’s nose picked up all the subtleties of the scene: the metallic scent of blood, pine, the sweat and breath of the workers. The man’s body wastes were something he’d rather forget. Any trace of the attacker would be long gone now that all the footsteps had disturbed the snow.
But underneath all that, barely discernible, was a scent so familiar that Guy stopped breathing and almost threw up on the spot. Someone pack was on the ground, near the man’s corpse. The sheriff hadn’t mentioned another body, so the pack member—he prayed it wasn’t who he thought it was—had remained in wolf form. A dead animal didn’t rank high around here, where hunting took place all year, licenses or not. Guy sucked in a steadying breath. He had to go see.
Guy wove silently closer and closer to the cordoned-off scene. The artificially lit snow blinded him until he stepped into the next shadow. He didn’t want to draw anyone’s notice and be pushed back. He got a clear glimpse of the human body with the knife in its throat. He should’ve felt shock and guilt, knowing he’d covered up the work of what was clearly a serial killer, but he was too overwhelmed by fear.
He heard his name called over the drone of voices. He thought it was Will Wellington.
But Guy didn’t stop. He had to see the coat of the wolf. It wouldn’t be real until he did.
To humans, each pack member would look pretty much the same as any wolf, but they all had faint yet distinctive markings on their fur. His father had dark rings just above his paws, almost like the shadow of handcuffs. But it wasn’t his father. Couldn’t be.
He heard his name again, closer. Will was skirting the taped-off area and weaving through the crowd to get to him. He must know, Guy thought distantly.
Guy had come to the far side of the crime scene, closer to the wolf, a wolf with rings above his claws and a bullet in his head. He stepped up to the yellow tape and tore it. Nearby officers ordered him back, but it wasn’t until someone grabbed him that he realized what he was doing: showing grief for a wolf.
He knocked the hand away and backed into the darkness between the trees, then fell to his knees. He cupped his face to stifle the sobs. No one would understand his sudden grief, and he was distraught enough that he might say something he shouldn’t. It was better to stay out of sight. He needed to run, to get far enough away to shift. If he could, it wouldn’t hurt so badly. Death was the way of the wild. His wolf would understand and accept it. His human side had gone into shock and refused to move.
Another hand on his shoulder startled, then settled him. He knew it was Will.
“I wanted to tell you before you got here, but I couldn’t get away. Sheriff insisted on going to you himself. I’m so sorry.”
Guy nodded; it was all he could manage. He glanced behind him and saw that Will was in full uniform, a heavy utility belt around his waist along with his gun.
Will went on. “Run past the dead oak, and you’ll be out of view. Don’t worry about telling the elders, the chief. I’ll do it as soon as I can.”
Guy thought of telling Will about the first body, that it had had a knife in its neck too, but that would take too many words, and he just wanted to be alone. “His body…?”
“Don’t worry. They’ll want to take the bullet out. After that I’ll make sure he’s returned to the pack. We’ll honor him properly.”
Guy nodded again. The idea of his father on a cold, hard slab with a stranger poking into his head brought up the bile again. He wanted to scream at the two part-time crime scene techs and the milling cops, all of whom were excited to have an actual murder in the county. He wanted to wrap his arms around his father and take him away from there. Shake him awake. Realize it was all a dream.
William squeezed his shoulder again. “I know. Get out of here. Let the wolf take over. You need it.” He walked away, back toward the overly bright lights and the incessant noise. After a few minutes, Guy managed to get up and slowly walk deeper into the woods. Once the human sounds were too muffled to make out, he stripped, leaped into the air as he shifted, and ran, leaving a pile of clothes next to the decaying oak.
Now the wolf was in charge, and he’d run all night if he had to. Anything to keep from feeling the pain.
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