Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(6)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(6)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

Not that trying to buy friends with baked goods isn’t kind of embarrassing in itself, he had thought as he walked back out to the unmarked car. Jesse was buckling his seat belt—Officer Friendly always does—when he had heard the call come over the radio, the code for a multiple homicide. Jesse listened as the dispatcher described a clearing in La Brea Park, and he felt a thrill in his stomach when he realized just how close he was already. He started up the car, sticking the little domed flasher on the roof with one hand, and felt a shiver of excitement as he sped out of the parking lot. Maybe he’d even be the first one there.

The second that he would replay, over and over, was the moment when he’d actually dropped his gun. The girl with the bright-green eyes had startled him, and obviously the body...parts...in the clearing were beyond gruesome, but he was doing okay at that point, he’d thought. Then Jesse caught movement out of the corner of his eye and glanced over in time to see the giant dog bound toward them. He’d felt a pang of regret as he clicked off the safety—Jesse loved dogs—but before his finger could even tighten on the trigger everything had changed.

Not a dog. A naked man.

Working on autopilot, he had swooped down and picked up the service weapon, aiming for the guy’s chest, but the guy had remained motionless, curled up on the ground. Let’s try this again, Jesse had thought, loopy with shock, as he rose and began to circle around the blood again, toward the naked man. “Police! Don’t move!” he’d shouted, keeping a few feet away as he got far enough around to see the guy’s face. It was a normal human face, sort of wispy and pinched-looking, and if the guy hadn’t been stark naked, Jesse almost might have convinced himself that he hadn’t just seen a giant husky change into a person. No way had he seen a giant husky change into a person, right?

The guy—who was actually kind of little and scrawny when you saw him up close—finally opened his eyes and started to pull himself to a sitting position. “Stop!” Jesse had ordered, and the smaller man sort of shook himself and met Jesse’s eyes. Then his gaze darted around the clearing, and when he looked back to Jesse, there was an almost mischievous grin spreading across his face. Before Jesse could open his mouth to speak again, the guy pulled himself into a ball and rolled forward, a look of intense concentration on his face. Jesse stared, completely speechless, as limbs started to move under the man’s skin, as if they were stretching in two directions. His skin started to sprout tiny hairs, but before Jesse’s eyes could even adjust to this development, the dog—not a dog, Jesse thought numbly, a wolf—was back. It had taken maybe twenty seconds.

The animal shook its fur, panting a little, and without a glance back at Jesse, it turned and raced off into the darkness. Jesse had fallen back to his knees, and for the first time, he really looked at the carnage in front of him. What the hell?

That was how the next cops on the scene found him—Officer Friendly on his knees in the bloody mud, looking stunned. And for the first time, he wanted nothing more than to go back in time and undo his promotion. Officer Friendly never had to deal with wolves that were sometimes naked guys.

When the first-response team joined Jesse at the scene, they attributed his stunned, wide-eyed look to shock and the gruesome arrangement of the bodies. If they could even be called “bodies” at this point. It was a perfectly reasonable response, and nobody even hassled him much over it, to his surprise. Jesse figured that even the most hardened veterans hadn’t seen anything like this before; everyone looked subdued and shocky. A couple of the rookies had run into the woods to vomit, though Jesse had managed to keep his coffee down. He was glad he hadn’t gotten the chance to eat any donuts.

When asked to describe his arrival at the scene, Jesse heard his own voice telling the story without any mention of the girl with the green eyes or the naked...man. Lying about witnesses and withholding information were pretty much fireable offenses for a cop, but it was over and done with before he’d stopped to really weigh the consequences. He couldn’t describe the woman without describing the man—Jesse still wasn’t using the word werewolf, even in his own head—and he couldn’t describe the man without explaining how everyone had gotten away from him. So Jesse kept his mouth shut, stuck to the sidelines, and watched the bustle and activity all around him.

He didn’t realize he was waiting for his moment until it came: a few seconds when the photographer was setting out equipment and the medical examiner arrived, when everyone else was occupied with paperwork and conversations and tasks. Jesse saw his chance and swooped down to pick up the black plastic garbage bag, tucking it smoothly into his jacket pocket. He immediately felt awful. He’d already lied to his fellow officers and concealed two possible witnesses, and now he was hiding evidence. This was not what he would call being a real cop. For a moment, Jesse considered walking over to the detective in charge and confessing everything. But he didn’t want to get locked away with an army of shrinks.

Besides, Jesse knew that the girl he’d seen wasn’t the actual killer—the forensics people on-site had already speculated that it must have been a really big, seriously muscled guy, and she was maybe five foot seven on a good day, not much over a hundred pounds. And whoever had killed those people would have been drenched in blood. Still, she had to be important to the case somehow, and if he couldn’t make her part of the official investigation, he decided that it was his responsibility to follow up with her on his own.

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