Lily heard the engine long before she saw the car. She stepped back into the shadows of the alley, waiting until she could no longer see its rear lights before walking back out into the street. She paused, taking a slow, deep breath and letting her senses readjust after the intrusion. Every smell and sound came to her in sharp detail. A bitter autumn wind stirred dead leaves and trash on the ground, and she pulled the collar of her jacket up. She took another breath to steady her heartbeat and silently moved forward.
Her prey was close.
She could smell him now, his scent a mixture of sweat and dirt. He was nervous. He’d no doubt felt her gaze and her presence on the main street, but hadn’t caught a glimpse of her. Anyone else would have listened to instinct and backed off for the night, but not him.
He made a jagged trail through the town, avoiding the most brightly lit streets. She guessed his destination would be the abandoned construction site by the lake on the east side of town – the place she’d first seen him a few nights ago.
She wouldn’t let him get that far.
Thick mist began to obscure the streets as she followed him. His pace slowed, and she slowed with him, letting her smell and hearing make up for her lacking sight. Although she’d grown up on these streets and walked every one of them, they felt unfamiliar and unsettling at such a late hour in a way that laid heavy in her stomach. She’d explored the mountains surrounding the town as both wolf and human, going far beyond the territory of the wolf pack. The mountains made her feel more at home than she ever did in town for reasons she couldn’t put into words. She belonged to the mountains, and she never felt more powerful than she did on the hunt.
Echo Falls did not belong to her – nor she to it.
She wished she could shift so she could hunt in her true form, like she was meant to hunt. Balancing her weight on four paws instead of two feet would give her the speed and stealth she truly wanted. But she wasn’t allowed to hunt as a werewolf. Not in the town and not for this. As a human, she still held an advantage: she could do more than a regular human. Unfortunately, so could her prey. She could smell the wolf on him, that tinge of wilderness that marked him as something ‘other’.
The heaviness in her stomach began to churn, and the feeling of being watched prickled her skin across her shoulders.
Focus, Lily. Focus… There.
Her prey had stopped at the corner of an old brick building and looked around. She could hear his muttered curses as he rummaged through his pockets. She stopped to watch as he pulled out a phone. The glow of the screen turned his torso into a dark silhouette, and she moved closer.
“Crap,” he muttered, letting the hand holding the phone fall to his side.
Not wanting to risk him getting away, she sprinted forward. He would hear her feet on the concrete, but he wouldn’t have time to react. One tackle with a few fractured ribs would keep him still long enough for her to interrogate him. She sprung forward.
She was wrong.
He pushed away from the brick wall and turned, leaving her to hit the road. She landed mostly on her forearms, the sleeves of her jacket saving her from the worst of the scrapes. She coughed and desperately gulped down air. Rolling onto her back, she saw him stop and look back over his shoulder. Pushing past the pain in her chest, she got to her knees and scanned the ground to see what he’d lost. Her muscles tensed, and they looked at each other.
Whatever it was, he decided it wasn’t worth the risk and took off again. She sprinted after him, catching him before he managed to cross the road.
He stopped and spun around, slamming his fist into her jaw. The force of the blow nearly knocked her to the ground. He pushed past her as she stumbled, and she made a mental note to never underestimate a werewolf.
Even the ugly ones.
Adrenaline began to course through her, and she sprinted forward. Within a dozen steps, she’d closed the distance between them. She jumped forward and tackled him, throwing them both down on the pavement. Before he had a chance to recover, she punched him in the stomach. When he curled to protect himself, she pushed him onto his back. Straddling him, she pinned his arms to his sides. He slowly stopped squirming.
Then he laughed and spit in her face.
“Do you like punching women?” she asked.
Her fist stopped any answer he could have made. His head wrenched to the side, and he coughed blood. She raised her fist again… and looked around. She could smell someone, and the sensation of being watched quickly followed. A familiar scent. A human.
He began to walk toward her, and she looked down at the werewolf. Scum giving a bad name to her kind, as far as she was concerned. Her jaw began to ache. He began to twist and turn beneath her, cursing as he tried to buck her off.
“I’ll kill you!” he raged.
She raised her fist to punch him again and heard David’s quick footsteps coming toward her. He caught her arm and all but pulled her off the dealer. Satisfied that she wouldn’t have another go, he pulled the man to his feet.
“I have it under control,” she said and scowled at him. She didn’t like being ‘handled’ by anyone.
“You always do,” he said.
She growled softly at him and, as usual, he ignored her. Shaking her head, she walked back toward the corner of the brick building. His English accent made him sound like he was always talking down to her. She had to remind herself that they were working for the same cause.
David said nothing as he followed her, easily keeping his grip on his captive while she searched the ground. It didn’t take her long to find the guy’s phone. The screen had cracked because of the fall, but it still worked.
“This could be useful,” she said, picking it up and examining it.
“That’s mine, you dumb–”
Before he could finish his sentence, David gripped his throat. He sputtered and coughed, but he didn’t call her the word he’d been thinking.
“Language,” David said, loosening his grip.
She dropped the phone into her jacket pocket and, not finding anything else, walked over to the pair. The man struggled, but David held him tight as she searched him. He didn’t have any weapons other than a small knife, no doubt relying on his werewolf strength to keep him safe. Idiot. Another lone wolf causing trouble.
She found what she wanted in a small pocket on the inside of his jacket, close to his armpit. He only needed a small pocket for those kinds of goods. She couldn’t be completely sure of their colour in the poor glow of the streetlight, but she didn’t need to be. The feel and the weight of them told her all she needed to know.
“Drug dealer,” she said, putting the baggie into her pocket with the phone. She watched him struggle. “I need some information.”
“I’m not gonna tell you a thing.”
“Are you sure about that?” She lifted her hand so he could clearly see it. He screwed his face in an expression of annoyance until he noticed that her fingernails were growing. And they weren’t only growing – they were forming sharp points.
“Pure bred,” he whispered, his voice a mixture of awe and disgust. He shook his head and raised his chin. “Running around harassing us normal wolves.”
“I’m interested in what you’re selling,” she said.
His eyes narrowed as he studied her face.
She cleared her throat. “Something just for werewolves.”
The dealer visibly relaxed and leered at her. “Why didn’t you say so? I got the best Bane in town.”
She frowned. Bane had started appearing in Echo Falls months ago. Supposedly only a ‘decent’ high for humans, some tweaking had turned the drug into the ultimate high for werewolves. It promised to expand all the senses to wolf levels while the user stayed in human form. Every werewolf could feel like a pure bred – even during the new moon when they were at their weakest. Already more attacks and violence were being reported, not only around Echo Falls but in the surrounding towns as well.
“No thanks,” she said. “I want something specific. That comes in a syringe.”
He sniffed. “I don’t deal that crap.”
She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Gel caps only. Easy to move, easy to hide, easy to take.”
“You don’t have anything else?” David asked. “The Cure?”
The dealer snorted and shook his head. “Lemme go, morons. If you wanna believe in fairy tales, I don’t want nothin’ to do with you.”
As much as Lily wanted to keep questioning him, she sensed he was telling the truth. With nothing to lose and two potential customers to gain, he would have told them if he had anything close to what they wanted. He might have tried to pass the Bane off as something else, but he wasn’t smart enough for that.
Another dead end.
She began to feel the cold and her lack of sleep, her mind and her muscles all protesting. “Let’s tie him up.”