Home > Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)(5)

Brimstone Bound (Firebrand #1)(5)
Author: Helen Harper

Cassidy? Was that her real name? I glanced around and noted the wide array of meat on offer. Oh. Butch Cassidy.

She looked pointedly at her watch. As she did so, I caught a brief glimpse of an odd yellow tag on her raised arm. I realised that the wolf outside – Marsh – had displayed a similar tag, except his had been green. Interesting.

‘It’s nearly two, Tony,’ Cassidy chided in a soft voice. ‘It’s a bit late for lunch.’

He spread his arms out wide. ‘Two? Then it’s no wonder I’m so hungry! Roast beef on rye with extra horseradish, please. D’Artagnan, what do you fancy?’

I scratched my head. ‘Do you have any hummus?’

The woman and Tony exchanged glances.

‘D’Artagnan.’ He shook his head. ‘This is the finest meat you’re likely to get.’

‘Or cheese?’ I suggested. ‘Do you have any cheese? And salad?’

Tony’s shoulders sagged and he gazed at me in dismay. ‘Oh no.’

‘What?’

‘Oh no, D’Artagnan. This simply won’t do. Please don’t tell me. Please don’t say the word.’

I folded my arms. ‘I’m a vegetarian.’

He held up his hands in mock horror. ‘Just when I was beginning to like you. Supes is most definitely not the right place for you. Don’t you dare tell anyone else.’ He glared at Cassidy. ‘Don’t you go blabbing to anyone either, Cass.’ He sighed. ‘We’re in the bloodiest, most meat-driven quarter in the entire City of London, and those idiots at Head Office send me a vegetarian. Unbelievable.’

I couldn’t tell whether he was teasing me or having a real dig. I guessed this wasn’t the time to tell him that I was considering going the whole hog, so to speak, and becoming vegan.

‘I can make you up a cheese sandwich,’ Cassidy told me, scanning her well-stocked display of meat, meat and more meat.

‘That would be amazing,’ I told her. ‘Thank you.’

Tony nudged me towards the door. ‘Go on. You can wait outside. I’d hate to offend your delicate vegetarian sensibilities by having you hang around in here with all this delicious flesh on offer.’

I wasn’t that bothered, but I had sense enough to realise that he wanted to talk to Cassidy on his own. I headed outside again. The air was chilly. Spotting a splash of sunshine to my left, I walked away from the shop. My suit jacket wasn’t much protection against the cold, and the patch of sunlight was better than nothing.

I looked around, wondering how many more werewolves I could spot. Despite the encounter with Marsh, I was surprised at the relaxed atmosphere on the street. There was no hint of menace or fear; to be honest, apart from the impressive arch at the entrance, the werewolves’ quarter was no different to any other London borough.

My eyes were tracking an old man who looked to be his eighties, whose impressive grey sideburns and whiskers definitely proclaimed wolf, when something odd flickered in my peripheral vision. I leaned to the side to get a better look, then I straightened up like a shot.

Sprinting down a side street as if the hounds of hell were after her was a young woman wearing nothing except a scrap of underwear. And her pale skin looked like it had been smeared with blood.

Chapter Four

I didn’t waste any time. Hiking up my skirt, and thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t wearing heels, I took off after her. Whoever she was – werewolf or otherwise – she was in trouble. I pelted down the street, ignoring the wide-eyed stares I received from passers-by.

Even though she was barefoot, she was moving faster than me. I forced myself to move as quickly as I could, air whipping at my short, bobbed hair as I ran. ‘Police!’ I shouted. ‘Stop!’

Either she didn’t hear me, or she was too scared to slow down. Within seconds, she’d disappeared round the corner at the far end of the street. I cursed and followed her, past rows of expensive parked cars and well-kept houses.

I knew that I should have waited for Tony. The last thing trainees were supposed to do was to go after crime-related matters on their own. But there hadn’t been time to fetch him. I had to find the woman and help her in any way that I could before something worse happened to her.

Reaching the end of the street I spun to my right, my eyes searching for her fleeing, blood-streaked figure. There wasn’t a single living soul to be seen.

With my stomach tightening, I slowed to a jog. My head swung from side to side as I scanned for a sign of her. A lone crow cawed overhead, its black body silhouetted against the weak blue sky.

Then I heard a shout. And another. I tried to pinpoint the source. Somewhere up ahead – I was sure of it. I held my breath and kept going. Where was she? Where had she gone? I pushed aside my anxiety in favour of professionalism. I’d trained for this. I had it in me to help her. I just had to find her first.

The cobbles beneath my feet were uneven; in my haste, my toe caught the edge of one that was jutting out, and I almost went flying. I staggered but kept my balance, more through luck than cat-like footwork. My arms flailed and stretched out – and that was when I spotted the splash of red. Blood. The woman had left a trail of blood.

With a renewed surge of adrenaline, I focused on the ground. There were more droplets forming a faint path from where I was standing up to the scarlet door of one of the houses that lined the street. I had no choice but to follow it.

The door was slightly open and I paused briefly. There was a strange, huffing sound from within, followed by a guttural snarl. Obviously, even if I were a fully-trained detective, I couldn’t wander into random houses to have a poke around. But I didn’t need a warrant if there was a genuine expectation of immediate harm to life – and a half-naked woman covered in blood fit that expectation perfectly.

I gulped in air and kicked the door all the way open. ‘Police! What is…?’ My words died in my mouth. Standing in the hallway, facing each other with hackles raised and gleaming white teeth bared, were two enormous werewolves.

Neither of them paid me any attention. The one closest to me, whose hindquarters reached virtually to my midriff, was growling, its entire body quivering. The yellow eyes of the werewolf opposite were fixed on it. Their muzzles were less than an inch apart.

I might not have been an expert on the supernatural, but I knew aggression and intimidation when I saw them. Whatever was going on here was about to escalate into a full-blown battle.

I wasn’t armed – I didn’t have a Taser or a baton or so much as a bloody pen. And I was only carrying a trainee’s warrant card. I reminded myself that I wasn’t without power; I’d trained for this sort of situation.

I stepped forward. ‘You will stand down.’ My voice rang out across the hallway, clear as a bell.

Neither werewolf moved, but I knew they’d heard me from the visible twitches in their fur-covered bodies. The tail of the yellow-eyed werewolf started to drop – and that was when the other one made its move. It leapt upwards, massive paws outstretched. I caught a brief glimpse of unsheathed claws. I just had time to register how lethally sharp they looked before they descended onto the body of its adversary and chaos ensued.

The vicious snarls emanating from both creatures would have been enough to make most sensible people run. That’s exactly what I should have done, especially with the scraps of fur flying in all directions and the very real risk that I’d end up in the crossfire between two painfully sharp sets of teeth.

Neither wolf was holding back. As they collided, they crashed against the wall making the plaster crack and a picture frame fall. When the yellow-eyed wolf, who I could now see was the smaller of the two, howled in pain, I stopped thinking about my own safety. Enough was enough.

‘I said,’ I yelled, as I reached forward and grabbed the nearest wolf by the scruff of its neck, ‘stand down! I am the police and you will stop this immediately!’

I’d acted without thinking. Even so, no one was more surprised than me when the pair of them immediately subsided. I could feel the vibrations from the growls of the wolf I was holding, but at least it had pulled away from the fight. I shuffled round its body until I was between the pair of them, noting that the smaller wolf’s fur was matted with blood.

‘Change,’ I ordered. Nothing happened. I gritted my teeth and hardened my tone. ‘Change!’

It happened quickly. One moment I was holding the scruff of a wolf’s neck, its wiry fur tickling my skin; the next moment I was pinching the smooth skin of a woman – the same woman I’d seen running down the street. I immediately let go of her, wondering if I’d been wrong and she was the attacker rather than the victim.

I turned to the second wolf. He’d also transformed and was standing in front of me with his hands by his sides. His body was covered in cuts and gashes. Between the pair of them, he’d definitely come off worst.

If I felt strange standing between a naked couple who were glaring at each other with ferocious, simmering hatred, it didn’t seem to bother them.

‘Back up,’ I said. ‘Both of you, three paces each.’

They did as I asked, although it was clear from the woman’s shuffling gait that she was none too happy about it. Tough.

‘Now tell me what is going on here.’ I pointed at the man. ‘You. Explain.’

‘That bitch fucking attacked me for no reason!’

‘No reason? Are you kidding me? My sister—’

‘I haven’t done anything to your fucking sister that she didn’t want me to do!’

The woman put her hands on her hips. ‘Then where is she? Eh? Why hasn’t she come home?’ Her voice shook. From the fire spitting in her eyes, I knew that if I didn’t get these two away from each other she was liable to attack the man again.

I scanned her up and down, realising what I hadn’t been able to tell from a distance: the blood on her body wasn’t hers. She wasn’t the one who needed medical attention.

‘This is your house?’ I asked the man. He nodded, his skin pale. ‘Right,’ I said. ‘Then here’s what we’re going to do. You’ll put on some clothes while the two of us—’

   
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