How Like Wolves
For a while it seemed like nothing was actually wrong. The families avoided each other, possibly under the direction of Lester Kinney. Christine and John Gibbons stayed in. For at least a week, they ate dinner together, spent their evenings watching TV, and didn’t go out at night. The fighting had not died down. The families were still angry, but they stuck with what Lester Kinney had said. The Luppens ran at night, and so did the Risers, but they didn’t cross territories. It was one wrong move, and it might as well be a civil war.
It did not last that long.
Lester Kinney could tell them Calvin Heddin was stabbed, and he could tell them the kind of knife and the angle, but he could not tell them who or how or why. Calvin himself seemed just as baffled. He’d been running, he’d told his family, and he thought he saw someone there, and for some reason he felt compelled to greet them as a man. Then it’d just been pain and blinding red. He couldn’t tell them anything else. The Heddins were disgruntled over the lack of movement Sheriff Kinney was making. Andrea could sympathize.
Something had been stuck in the back of her mind since everything had started. What was fast enough to keep up with a werewolf, quick enough to stab it without being seen, and could disappear without a trace? She’d been lounging on the couch, dealing with the conundrum, when her sister walked through, grabbing discarded makeup from the table.
“Do you think,” she said as Christine made a bigger mess than the one she was cleaning up, “that if werewolves are real, other stuff exists?”
“Yeah, Andy.” She kicked over the shoe pile. “Everyone knows that. Witches are def real, and I bet voodoo is like a thing.”
“Voodoo is like a thing.” She sat up. “What about vampires?”
“Vampires are dumb and no one cares about them anymore.”
“Okay.” She rolled her eyes. “But are they real?”
Christine went into the bathroom and shouted back at her, “I guess they could be. I think someone would notice.”
“Someone would notice us,” she shouted back and flopped forward on the couch. “Where are you going?”
“What?” Christine’s head popped out from around the corner as she applied pink lipstick. “Nowhere.”
“Is that the story you’re going to stick with?”
“I’m going out with some friends.”
“Who?” Andrea asked.
“It’s some in-town people.” She shrugged. “I didn’t think it’d be a big deal.”
“You know the Luppens are ready to fight over this, right?” She looked at her sister. “They won’t care who you’re out with.”
“We’re going to the next town over. I’m not dumb.”
Andrea’s lips came together, but she shook her head. “Fine. Okay. But call me if anything happens, okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” She grabbed her phone. “Don’t wait up.”
Andrea wanted to shout after her, but she only rolled over. After a few minutes, her dad came into the room, pulling his shirt on.
“You going out too?” she asked.
He looked at her. He seemed less and less like her father these days. She’d hoped the time spent indoors away from booze would clean him up, but he seemed to be falling apart even more.
“Going over to the Tyres,” he said. “Leon wants to talk.”
“Sheriff Kinney says we shouldn’t do that. It’ll make the other families angry.”
“Sheriff Kinney don’t always know everything he says he does.”
He didn’t say anything else to her as he pushed open the door. Andrea remained where she was. She could hear Rosemary’s voice in the back of her head, and she drowned it out with TV. Her phone buzzed from the table, but besides checking to make sure Christine’s name didn’t pop up, she ignored it. Right now she wanted to forget about the world. There was too much happening here and now, and it was all too familiar.
Her phone buzzed a few more times, and she continued to ignore it. She went to the kitchen, pulling open the fridge to see what was worth eating. For once, it was full. The past week, she’d tried cooking every night. Pasta and chicken was left in tupperware, and there were still a few remaining legs coated in barbecue sauce. She’d made a spicy sausage with rice that she noted her dad had finished off. She slammed it shut and started looking over the pantry when a knock at the door scared her.
Andrea stood alone in the house, and for some reason her heart was pounding in her chest. On the other side of the door, she could smell gasoline and anxiety. Slowly she walked forward and opened the door.
It was Luke. She hadn’t seen him in days, and he looked exactly as tired as she felt. His normally smoothed back hair was messy with the times he’d ran his hands through it, and his eyes had sunken in. He still smiled at her with those tombstone teeth.
“I thought…” she murmured and then swallowed it.
“I called you, sorry.” He ran a hand through his hair again, messing it up further. “Are you doing anything important?”
“No.” She stepped away from the door. “I was just–no.”
He hesitated slightly, and she looked at him.
“You can come in,” she said.
He nodded as he stepped through the doorway. He hadn’t been inside her house, not yet, and she wished that she’d cleaned up more. The shoe pile had been kicked around across the floor, and the blankets on the couch hadn’t been washed in weeks. The trash bin was filling up, and though she’d done the dishes, most of the plates were still piled up. He didn’t seem bothered by it. He wore his dark jacket again. His hands were nervous.
“Things have been crazy,” she said by way of apology and dug up her phone. Sam, Robin, and a few in-town friends had texted her. She ignored them all. “You have no idea.”
“I’ve been sort of focused in.” He inspected the couch but didn’t sit. “I had a question for you.”
“I know what you’re going to say, but–” He took a breath. “–I need to go out to Barker’s Forest. I think I figured out where the house is.”
She stopped. She hadn’t been expecting that.
“You want to go right now?” she asked.
“I want you to come with me,” he said and held out his hand.
She stared at it. “I–I can’t, Luke. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“But this is your history. These were your ancestors. I want to share that with you.”
He looked at her so eagerly. She liked that he was so invested in the town. Rosemary had never shown interest in the history, and though she would listen to Andrea complain, she was sure it was all white noise to her. She’d never bothered to understand, or to learn. It’d driven Andrea crazy sometimes trying to get her to see what she was missing. But Luke was here to understand. He wanted to learn. He’d listened to her talk about the families and wanted to know more. Even if it was for research, even if it was going to end, she’d enjoyed it.
But there was werewolves, and blood feuds, and curses,and then there was Crooked Aggie.
“Barker’s Forest is dangerous,” she said. “I don’t know if I can go out there, and there’s all this stuff happening. Someone–someone got hurt–”
“I can find it.” He grabbed her arm. “But I need you.”
She wanted to tell him no. More than anything she wanted to curl up and pretend nothing was happening. But he looked at her, and she heard herself say, “Okay.”
They drove in silence, Luke’s cassettes rattling in the glove box. She looked out the window and wondered how many people were running tonight, how many times she would look through the shadows between the trees and see wolves looking back. They parked as close to the trees as they could, and stood at the edge with him, fidgeting. There was a wolf inside her, and it barked and howled madly, like an animal in a cage, but she took Luke’s hand and walked into the darkness.
He’d brought flashlights, not that she really needed them. Without them she could see the glint and glimmer of light through the trees, saw the movement within shadows, caught the scent in the air of rabbits and squirrels. They scurried out of their way, no doubt used to be undisturbed. The land was bumpy with tree roots, and they climbed through them. The moon was nearing full, and it made her itch. She tried to say something to Luke, but her teeth grit down so they wouldn’t become fangs.
“Did you say someone got hurt?” he asked from a few feet ahead of her. His voice was like a siren amid the emptiness of the woods. She scurried to keep up.
“One of the Heddin boys,” she said. “He was–someone got him, I don’t know who.”
“No.” Maybe. Andrea wished she knew. “But it might as well be. It’s whipping everybody into a frenzy.”
“What happens when werewolves fight?”
“We die, mostly.” Her flashlight swept across the ground, and images sprang up in her head of the families in Rome all those centuries ago, guns loaded, hate in their hearts, and a wolf to catch. “If we don’t kill each other, the in-towners will kill us off.”
“You think they’d have another trial?” he asked.
“If we’re lucky.” She closed her eyes and focused on smells. He was in front of her, woodsy cologne and car grease, and there was the dark soil underneath her feet, animal piss, small creatures’ fear. “If we’re not, it’ll be open season.”
He glanced behind him and offered her a smile. “It won’t be that bad. It hasn’t, right? In a long time.”
“People forget things though.” Her head jerked to the side as a possum skittered through the underbrush. “Forget what the fighting was like before, forget that this is a curse, forget everything but themselves and what they want.”
“That’s how people are,” he said. “They can go their whole lives without thinking of another person. They convince themselves what they want is more important than the rules they’ve set in place. But around here people live by tradition.”
“People die by it too.” She shook her head. “My brother died a year ago. Randomly. Brutally. We never figured out who did it, and sometimes I think… Sometimes I worry we don’t accuse each other because we’re afraid of what the consequences are if we do. If someone here murdered someone, or tried to murder someone, could we just cart them off to prison? We’re werewolves. What does that mean, if suddenly there was a big case about it? It’s easier to keep it insular. To police our own. To take justice into our own hands.”
She stopped. He was watching her, eyes dark in the low light, face hard to read as the flashlight glared in front of her. He looked for a moment like he did when they were where her brother died, like a shadow of a man. The hair on the back of her neck raised. A bird burst out of the trees above her, and she ducked down. The wolf wanted to run free, wanted to get out of here. She bit down on the urge to run.
“I think it’s not far from here,” he said. “Come on.”
They walked for another twenty minutes, talking some, but mostly keeping quiet. Questions bubbled in Andrea’s throat, but she swallowed them down. She’d was starting to suspect Luke was keeping things from her, and not the usual skeletons one tried to clear out for a new relationship. Was he too interested in the town? Was he too interested in her?
“Here,” she heard him say, and he was running forward. She chased after him, flashlight slapping against her leg as she did, and then the trees broke away, and they could see among them a small cottage. It was a miracle it was still standing. The roof had caved in, and a tree was growing through it, spreading black branches out into the moonlit sky. The wood was ancient and rotted and growing moss on its outside, the windows long since frosted over. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. The witch’s cottage in the middle of the woods. It could only belong to Crooked Aggie.
Luke didn’t wait as he moved forward. All around the house were large weeds growing and thistles, and holly made a splash of red among the brush. The door had long since fallen off its hinges, and darkness filled the inside of the cabin, so thick even the flashlight could barely cut through it. He moved forward, placing a hand on the threshold, and she could see his face in the glow of the flashlight. It was pure excitement, eyes wide, lips parted, an exhilaration on his face. He may as well have discovered King Tut’s tomb.
Andrea’s feet wouldn’t move. She stood planted on the edge of the trees, her eyes staring at the house. Crooked Aggie had haunted her nightmares as a kid, had waited in every shadow, had still lived in these trees. She shouldn’t be here. The witch would return, would find them, and the wolf inside her was terrified. She opened her mouth to tell Luke no, to beg him to go back, but all that came out was a strangled howl. She changed as she stepped forward, like slipping on an old shoe, the flashlight clattering into the dirt beside her. He turned, and she couldn’t quite see his face as she ran. Blindly she followed their path back through the trees, wolf legs pushing her past her usual speeds. Suddenly the whole forest was screaming at her. Around every tree she saw shadows moving, and she veered wildly, ghosts chasing her the whole way. She saw Luke’s car as she burst from the trees but did not stop.
There was no separation between the wolf and the man, but the wolf was leading tonight. It meant she could smell the other wolves out, Heddins, Luppens, Tyres, Risers, all running around. Fear propelled her, and she was darting across roads until she found her way back home. The familiar scent of her land and her people made her slow, and when she came to her front door, panting madly, drenched in sweat, whole body shaking, she was human again. She collapsed on the porch steps, hugging herself, tears leaking down her face. She sucked in deep breaths, the cool night air chilling her sweat. After a few minutes, her heart rate slowed, and she slowly came to her feet.
The inside of her house was as empty as she left it, and for once she was grateful. She couldn’t explain to anyone what she’d felt out there. Sheer horror was as close as she could get, layered on with paranoia. Sam and Robin would yell at her just for going out there, and her sister wouldn’t understand. Stumbling across her house, Andrea searched for her phone. She’d left it when Luke came in. Text messages lit up the screen, but there were three calls from Rosemary. She stared at it, raised her phone up, and pressed call.
“Oh thank God,” Rosemary said as soon as she picked up. “Where have you been?”
“I was–I was out.” Andrea’s voice trembled, and she swallowed it down. “What’s going on?”
“Your sister is here.” Rosemary drew away from the phone and shouted, “Of course I’m calling your sister.”
A thousand scenarios were running through her head. “Why is Christine with you?”
“Because she didn’t want to get in trouble. We’re at my house right now.”
“I think it might be easier if you come over.” Worry tinged Rosemary’s voice. “It’s not going to look great, but, listen, Vincent Heddin is with her.”
That made Andrea bolt up. “What? Why?”
“It’s… Will you just come over? I don’t think we can talk about this over the phone.”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Andrea was already grabbing her keys. “Give me ten minutes.”
She ended the call and grabbed her wallet. All the terror, all her worry was forgotten. Something had happened to her sister. That was the end of it.
Rosemary lived in the row of suburban houses on the west side of Rome, close to the schools, close to the parks, in a part of town Andrea had never really experienced. Her in-town friends lived like this, with little yards and garages and homes their ancestors didn’t build for them. It was like another world to her. The few times she’d been over at Rosemary’s, she’d felt more like a wolf than she did in her own home. Like Rosemary, her parents were two perfect people who didn’t fight and went to their jobs every day and made dinner every night. They were supportive of their daughter and had said nothing to Andrea about being a girl or a werewolf, but she’d always suspected they weren’t happy about it.
Andrea parked on the curb, shoved open the door of her car, and ran to the front door. Rosemary must’ve been waiting for her, because she barely made it to the porch when the door opened. In the living room sat Christine, looking sheepishly up at her sister, left hand bandaged and soaking through red, and beside her was Vincent Heddin, who didn’t meet her eye. His arm was curled around Christine’s. It was the only thing that kept Andrea from grabbing him by the throat.
“What is going on?” she said.
“I told you not to call her,” Christine said.
Rosemary threw up her hands. “This is not my area of expertise. I have no idea what to do here.”
“What–” Andrea pointed at her bandaged hand. “–is going on here?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” her sister insisted.
“It’s not nothing.” Vincent gave her a look. “You were stabbed.”
“I cut myself, probably on some old wire or something.” She held it up for Andrea to see. “You know how people are.”
“Did you see someone?” Andrea asked. “Did you smell anyone? Was it with a knife?”
“It’s barely a cut!”
“My brother literally just got stabbed,” Vincent said.
“Yeah!” Andrea gestured at him. “How’s that going! Why are you even here?!”
“It’s complicated–” Christine started at the same time Vincent said, “I wasn’t–”
“They’re dating,” Rosemary said from behind them. She’d decided to stay in the hallway door, arms crossed, trying not to look too interested. “Christine made me promise not to tell you.”
Andrea stared at her and then slowly turned back to her sister. They looked at her with wide eyes as she prepared her reaction.
“You’ve been,” Andrea said quietly, “dating Vincent Heddin behind the backs of all the families.”
“I was going to tell you eventually,” Christine whispered.
“Were you?!” she shouted back. “You’ve been running around for weeks now, Christine, at all hours! Is this what you’ve been doing?”
“And you went out tonight! With everyone out! What if you were caught!”
“Well it shouldn’t matter!” Christine rose off the couch. “Who cares if I’m seeing Vincent Heddin! Who cares if he’s from another family!”
“He’s from the only family that matters!”
“Not to me!” She sucked in a breath. “I don’t care what the Heddins did three hundred years ago. I don’t care what the Heddins did yesterday. I–I like Vincent. More than I’ve ever liked anybody.”
Vincent reached up, taking her hand in his. He glanced at Andrea.
“I know my family’s never been nice to yours,” he said, “and I know Ernest makes it worse most of the time. I don’t know if we’re at a place where we can make this work, but I want to.”
Andrea breathed in. She was aware of Rosemary watching her. She was aware a judgement was being made.
“What happened tonight?” she asked. “How did you get hurt?”
Christine looked at her bloodied hand. “I don’t really know what happened. We were–we meet in these trees off Church St. I told Vincent to meet. He was the one who said we needed space after everything.”
“And you didn’t listen.” Andrea rolled her eyes. “I’m so surprised.”
Christine’s eyes narrowed. “I just wanted to know everything was okay. He came to you. You didn’t think that was significant?”
“Just–” She waved a hand at her. “Keep talking.”
She gave her a look. “Well we were talking, and then we heard something weird. Vincent assumed it was one of the families, and–I don’t know.”
“You were reaching for something,” Vincent said. “I didn’t see completely. You were in the trees. And then you were shouting.”
“I knew if I went to Sheriff Kinney it’d only cause more problems,” she said. “And I couldn’t let you know, because of all of this, and so I went to Rosemary.”
“You weren’t going to tell me you got stabbed!”
“I didn’t get stabbed!” she shouted. “I cut myself on some wire or something. I’m totally fine.”
Andrea turned back around to Rosemary. “How bad is it?”
Rosemary shrugged. “I’m not like a doctor or anything, but it was bleeding a lot. I don’t know if that means it was deep or if she just happen to cut it a lot.”
“I don’t need to get stitched up,” Christine insisted. “We’ll change the bandage tomorrow and you’ll see. If you go tell Sheriff Kinney or his wife, we’re just going to get in trouble. Please, Andrea.”
Rosemary waved a hand. “Let’s talk for a minute.”
Andrea followed her out of the living room, giving a pointed glare to the two of them as she did. Rosemary’s parents must’ve been out tonight, because the rest of the house was dark. Rosemary flicked on the kitchen light and leaned onto a counter. Everything looked the same was it always did, and the nostalgia burned Andrea’s nostrils. Over the window looking into the backyard was a little cloth awning printed with tiny tomatoes, and on the fridge were a hundred pictures from their lives, including a few that still had Andrea in them. Vacations spent in South Padre, school trips to Disney World, family holidays pictures including aunts and uncles. Bananas sat uneaten in a bowl, their skins turning brown. It was domestic in a way that Andrea’s life never was.
Rosemary fidgeted uncomfortably. “It’s been a long night for those two.”
“It’s been a long night for me,” Andrea said. “You have no idea where I went.”
She gave her a look. “I just don’t want you to freak out over nothing. They’re together. It’s probably fun for them, all forbidden romance and all that garbage. It’s okay if they get a little excitement out of it.”
Andrea shook her head. “Do you remember like three years ago when Ernest Heddin broke Jason’s nose?”
“Not really, but I bet you do.”
“Everyone does! Sheriff Kinney had to break up my dad and Ernest’s dad because they were going to brawl it out in the streets. Right now the families are looking for an excuse to start fighting again.”
“Contrary to popular belief,” Rosemary said, her tone cold, “the families aren’t everything that goes on in this town. It’s not normal, you know, to have blood feuds and to get into fights just because of something your grandpappy said or to…”
She trailed off, jaw snapping shut, lips becoming a line. the end of the sentence still rang in Andrea’s ears. It wasn’t normal to be a werewolf. None of this was normal.
“Anyway,” she finished, “I think your sister is probably fine. They would’ve known if some psychopath had jumped out of the woods swinging at them. Just make sure she gets a tetanus shot or something.”
Andrea swallowed. “Thanks, Rosemary. For calling me.”
“Yeah, well, I still want to make sure you guys are safe or whatever. Just…” She sighed. “I’m not always going to be around, and I don’t mean that in a ‘I’m cutting you off’ kind of way. Things might be… changing soon.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“Don’t worry about it. But it would make me feel a lot better about all that if I knew your sister wasn’t running around at night too scared to go to her own family.”
“Yeah.” Andrea pushed down her questions. “Thanks again.”
Vincent agreed to run back, but Christine got into the car with Andrea, and they drove back home. Christine flipped through stations while Andrea stared straight ahead, both hands on the wheels.
“Are you mad?” Christine asked.
Andrea turned off the main street onto the farm road. “Kind of. I’m mad you didn’t come to me tonight.”
“I didn’t want you to know.”
“But I’m your sister. And after everything…” She glanced at her hand. “I just want to know you’re safe.”
She sat back. “Vincent’s really nice.”
“He probably is.”
“He’s been trying to talk to his family, but after Calvin got hurt, he can’t say anything to them.”
There was a stop light in the middle of the road. Andrea sighed as she pushed down on the break.
“What do you think dad would say?” Christine asked.
“I don’t know,” she said truthfully. “He could be fine with it. He could be really mad about it. He never said anything to me about Rosemary.”
“But it’s different.” Her forehead pressed against the window. “Rosemary isn’t part of the families.”
“He wouldn’t kick you out.”
“But that doesn’t mean he’d accept it. What if he forces me to break up with him?”
She smiled. “No.”
They sat in silence as the instrumental of some classic rock song stretched between them. Finally the light clicked green, and Andrea put her foot on the gas.
“I won’t tell him,” she said. “I wouldn’t do that to you. And I won’t tell you to break up. But be careful. Don’t lie to me anymore. I want to trust you.”
They finally made it back home, and Andrea felt like she’d been awake for hours. She said nothing as she collapsed onto her bed, ignored the texts and calls on her phone, pressed her face into her pillow, and prayed for a dreamless sleep.
It was after noon when Andrea woke again, and the world’s problems crashed back in on her. For a blessed moment she was between awake and sleep, and then her phone buzzed by her head.
She kicked it over and rolled over. Last night everything had happened. Her sister was dating a Heddin, which was insane. She had no idea how anyone would react to that. Their dad might be okay with it. They never saw anyone else in their family, and after Jason it was just the three of them. She’d always wondered if that had helped him with her dating girls. But the Heddins would drag Christine through the dirt, if they didn’t throw out Vincent in response. Maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe they loved their son more than they hated the Gibbons, but she doubted it with his brothers. Then there were the Luppens, and the Dixons, and everyone else who hated them. It was any wonder most of her friends were in-town. They wouldn’t care at all.
Andrea finally lifted herself out of bed. She left her phone where it had landed, face down, and trudged into the bathroom. Christine’s door was closed, but she could hear her deep breaths inside. It’d been a long night for both of them. She looked in the mirror, staring at the dark circles under her eyes, the way her skin cracked, the color loss in her lips. Last night they went to Barker’s Forest and found Crooked Aggie’s home. It’d been unbearable to be there. She felt drained more from that than the revelation that her sister had dumped on her. The shadows had followed, so even in the light of day, she felt darkness creeping up behind her. That dark shape that appeared in the trees, that filled her vision, that crept into her dreams, she was almost afraid to turn around because of it.
Showered, hair brushed, fresh clothes on, she felt a little better. Christine came out of her room, and they didn’t talk, but for the first time it was a comfortable silence. No secrets bridged between them. She made lunch for the two of them, cooking a pot of beans with some chicken. The smell of pepper and oregano was comforting, and she didn’t feel queasy at the sight of the pink meat. Turning the beans over in their pot, she was distracted enough from her worries that it surprised her when she heard the thump against the kitchen door. The spoon clattered out of her hand, and she stepped back. For a second she flashed back to when Luke arrived the night before, and she imagined him bloodied or hurt, or cursed by the witch, but a smell invaded her nostrils, and she knew immediately who it was.
When she opened the door, the wolf body of her dad slumped through. He looked tired, as though he’d been running all night, covered in dirt, stinking of booze and sweat. Andrea wrapped her arms around him, dragging him into the house. The bathroom door slammed, and Christine came out, towel wrapped around her. She brought a hand up to her nose.
“What’s wrong with him?” she asked.
“He’s been out all night.” Andrea kicked shut the door and brought her hands to her dad’s face.
“Is he still drunk?”
“Probably.” The wolf looked at her blearily, his eyes watering. “Did you drink too much, dad?”
He let out a mournful noise. She helped him up and waved Christine back. Christine pushed open the door to his bedroom, and Andrea stood in it. Clothes covered the floor, bedsheets unwashed, everything the same as it always was. The wolf trekked behind her, head down. She helped him into his bed and wrapped the sheets around him. Making sure Christine had gone back to her room, she leaned down, laying her head down beside him.
“You gotta snap out of it, dad,” she said. “We still need you.”
His head went down, dipping into the blankets. His fur was warm against her. He was feverish, and when she rubbed a hand down her spine, it came away with mud and leaves. Tears pricked at her eyes, and she wrapped her arms around him, burying her face.
“Just rest,” she said, hiding the shake in her voice. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
Andrea went back to the kitchen and put the food on a plate. She laid one out for her, for Christine, and put together a plate of just chicken. She took that into her dad’s room and laid it down. He was shaking, and he barked at her gently. She laid a hand on his head and shut the door.
Christine was already at the table. “Is he okay?”
“He will be.” She forced a smile. “You know how he is.”
She gave her a look. “He’s never been like this before.”
“It takes him a bit sometimes.” Andrea plopped down and stabbed a fork into her meat. “It’ll be okay.”
“You can’t say that. You can’t just say ‘it’ll be okay’. You always say that about him.”
“He always comes back to us,” she murmured.
“Does he?” Christine’s voice was raising. “Because it feels like each time we’re losing him a little more. Now whenever you change, I’m scared you won’t come back.”
“Of course I would–”
“But he doesn’t! Why don’t you ever say something? Why don’t you ever tell him to stop?”
“I don’t control him!” Andrea shouted back. “I’m not mom, I don’t have a say. If we he wants to torture himself and disappear, why do I have to be the one to stop him?”
“Because no one else will!” She sucked in a breath. “If Leon Tyre would talk to him, or Victor Riser, but instead they all pretend it’s nothing too, and they don’t have to live with him every day. The families don’t care about us.”
“You can’t say that.”
“I can if it’s true! Why shouldn’t I say that?”
“We have friends in the families,” she said. “People who do care about us.”
She rolled her eyes. “Then why isn’t anyone doing anything?”
“It’s our problem,” Andrea insisted. “It’s our dad.”
“Is it?” She tossed down her fork and stood. “Because the thing in there is a wolf.”
She stared at her. “Who’s still our dad.”
“God, I hate dealing with this stuff.” She reached for her phone. “I hate that you just want me to accept this. I hate that I have to pretend an animal is my dad.”
“Where are you going?” Andrea asked as she pulled on some flip-flops.
“Literally anywhere else.” She grabbed her keys. “Call me when this phase has passed.”
Andrea got up to run after her, but the door was already slammed. She listened to her sister peel out of the driveway. She gave a shout, kicked a chair, and sat back down to finish her lunch. Throwing the empty plate into the sink, she went into her room, grabbed her phone off the floor, and then grabbed her keys as well. Her dad was asleep in his room, and she took the empty plate, gently waking him, and helping him down. His limbs looked arthritic, as though he’d lost control of them. He made it into the backseat of her car, and she took off, driving slowly to the Kinneys.
It was always one crisis after another. They could never get on their feet. Andrea looked into her rearview mirror and wondered how much he’d heard of Christine’s rampage. Did he understand how much he was hurting them? Did he realize what this did? The fear she felt in her throat? The worry she had every time he didn’t come home? The anger she felt, the sadness that overwhelmed her, the ways she wanted to lash out? And she had to be the adult in this family. It was all on her shoulders, because Christine was too young, and their dad couldn’t hold himself up, and maybe Christine was right, the other families were willing to listen but unwilling to step in.
The Kinneys lived on the other side of town, their home spread out across the many acres they owned. The cop car was gone from the driveway, but Dolores Kinney answered the door. She gave a worried look to Andrea before helping John Gibbons in the door. Like her husband, Dolores looked like the years had taken their toll on her. Her hair had gone completely white, and she kept it tied up in cloth wrap. Her eyes were a sharp blue, her skin freckled, and her hands calloused.
Dolores disappeared in another room with her dad, and Lorrie made iced tea for Andrea in the kitchen. Lorrie was their youngest, only a year younger than Andrea, but they’d never talked much. Lorrie was quiet, sharing her mother’s serious face and curly hair. She was in school, and Andrea made nervous small talk with her about school and tests and papers. She flipped through her texts, ignoring half of them. A few were from Luke, and she let him know she was okay.
Dolores came back and waved Lorrie out of the room. She sat at the table with Andrea and turned a cold cup of tea over in her hands.
“Has this happened before?” she asked.
Andrea nodded. “There’s a few times he hasn’t been able to turn back.”
She reached over for some sugar, mixing it into the tea. “I’m the only person these families turn to, you know. Even for the little things. Nurse for thirty years, and now I’m doctor to every werewolf in Texas. Jesse Dixon gets his asthma medication through me. I see everything.”
“Are you going to tell me this is normal?” she asked.
“No. This is usually a bad sign, and I’ve got no doubt the drinking is the main reason behind it. But there are probably wolves out there that don’t remember how to turn back. And it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
“But if he doesn’t come back…”
“You’re so young.” Dolores reached out a hand to her. “And after your brother, you had to take so much on your shoulders. You probably aren’t ready to be the only one looking after your sister, but it’s a real possibility.”
“I just…” She slumped forward, head in her hand. The tears couldn’t be held back anymore. Her shoulders shook as she sobbed. “I don’t know what to do.”
Dolores leaned forward, wrapping her arms around her. She smelled like antiseptic and a homecooked meal. Her brown skin was warm, and Andrea sucked in a breath as she sobbed into her shoulder. Everything was constantly falling down around her, and she had no idea how to rebuild. She wanted her brother back. She wanted her dad back. She wanted her sister home and safe. She wanted to stop fighting constantly with everyone around her.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Dolores said. “Your father will still be here. He can still be here for your and your sister.”
“Christine is already so mad. He might as well be abandoning her.”
“John Gibbons has never done well with expressing his emotions, but he cares about you two more than he can ever say.” She used a napkin to wipe Andrea’s face. “Be here for him. Draw him back. If he can, he’ll come back to you, and he’ll sure as hell try. If he doesn’t, I think he’ll still do everything in his power to make sure you two are still loved.”
Andrea swallowed, touching the condensation the outside of her glass. Her face was hot, her body was shaking, and her well of loneliness was overflowing. “If he really loved us, he would’ve stopped before this. He wouldn’t make me drive out to whatever hole he crawled into because he was too drunk to make it back. He wouldn’t make us feel this way.”
Dolores lowered her eyes. “Some men can’t help the way they are.”
“Then they have to try harder.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. Can I leave him here? Sort out a few things at home? I don’t know how to tell Christine all this.”
“I’ll call you if anything changes,” she said.
Andrea drove home, numb now. The tears left her. She felt cold to her core. Christine was still gone, but there was a text on her phone from a number she didn’t recognize letting her know she was okay. Vincent most likely. It made Andrea’s head hurt a little less to know he was there for her. A Heddin and a Gibbons could get along. Somehow, a miracle had happened.
She cleaned. It was the only thing to do. She pushed open her dad’s room, pulled back the curtains, tore the sheets off the bed, gathered up the clothes. After everything was off the floor and tossed into the bathtub, she vacuumed and dusted. There was a half empty bottle of scented spray in the bathroom she walked around the house with. All the shoes in a pile in the living room were picked up and placed in everyone’s closets. The stove was wiped down and the grease catchers pulled out, tossed into the sink with some baking soda. She even pulled out glass cleaner and wiped down the windows. The front porch was swept. After everything was done, washed, and put up, she collapsed back onto her couch, limbs sore, eyes hurting, chest hollow.
She must’ve fallen asleep, because when she woke up next, the windows were dark, and someone was knocking on her door. She stood slowly, and she wasn’t surprised to see Luke standing behind it.
“I wanted to make sure you’re okay,” he said.
“I’m not.” She stepped back, letting him in. “I can’t tell you everything that happened.”
“You just ran off.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m glad you’re okay, by the way.”
He smiled. “There was barely anything in there. I got some pictures, and I went back today to get some more. I’m sorry you got scared.”
She grabbed him, dragging his arms around her. He was warm, and she breathed in his woodsy cologne. His black jacket smelled like leather, and everything about him was comforting. He didn’t object, only grabbed her tighter. She didn’t know how to explain to him everything that happened. There was nothing she could say, nothing he could say to make her feel better, but she was so glad for him to be there. She turned her head up, hitting the warmth of his neck, and then he leaned down, lips pressing against hers. She couldn’t stop herself from there. He was the only stable thing in her life at the moment, and even then in a few weeks he’d be gone. She wanted to latch onto him. Her fingers dug into his arms, and his hand moved under her shirt, pressing against the skin underneath.
Andrea wished she could say they talked, or that he offered any more comfort than the physical. Her hands dragged his jacket off, his teeth pulled on her skin as her shirt came off, and it was hands, and heat, and closeness. She wanted to keep him close, pull him in, keep him from running off. She wanted a break from herself, from her thoughts, from the world crashing down around her. She just didn’t want to be alone. She reached up, feeling his heart pounding in his chest. He dragged her up, mouth open, hands clutching her, hips moving, and Andrea let him consume her.
The world came back to Andrea in bits and pieces. Her hair was matted against her face, fingers numb, eyes crusted together. She rolled over and found the space in her bed empty. Her arm ran across the bedspread, cool and untouched for hours. It almost felt like a dream.
It took her a long time to get up, but she slowly made her way to the kitchen. Christine was eating cereal at the table, head down, spoon clattering against the bowl.
“What time did you get in?” Andrea asked.
She shrugged. “Me and Vincent went out. We just talked.”
Andrea wobbled in the middle of the room. Her limbs still felt heavy, and she considered curling back up into sleep. Christine dropped her spoon and looked at her.
“I’m, like, sorry,” she said, “for freaking out yesterday. I get so mad about dad, and he just–”
She wrapped her arms around her sister, cutting off anything she was about to say. They stood there a minute, holding onto each other, and then Andrea pulled away, dropping into the seat beside her. A smile crept over Christine’s face.
“So Luke was here last night,” she said.
Andrea stared at her. “Did you smell him on me?”
She shrugged. “Vincent likes to run, you know. I forget how much you can smell sometimes.”
“Oh, God, I need a shower.”
“Is he still here?” Her grin stretched over her face. “I want to congratulate him for pulling you out of your Rosemary-themed slump.”
“He left,” she said.
“Oh.” Christine twirled the spoon. “Sucks, sorry.”
“It’s whatever. We didn’t talk about it or anything.”
Andrea shook her head. “I took Dad to the Kinneys, so you know. Dolores is looking after him for a while.”
“Do you think he’s stuck like that for good?” she asked.
“She said he’ll keep trying to come back to us.” She hung her head. “It’s up to him at this point. I think we can go by later, talk to him some more. He’s sobered up by now.”
“What if he can’t?”
Andrea reached a hand across, touching her sister’s arm. “He’ll still be here. He’ll still be our dad, as much as he’s able.”
She gave her a look that made it clear she didn’t believe her, but Andrea didn’t know what else to tell her. Eventually Andrea went and showered, and she saw on her phone a message from Dolores Kinney. She called her back.
“I tried calling you all morning,” Dolores said. “Cliff Dixon came by this morning. Your father went with him.”
“What?” She sat down on her bed. “Was he human?”
“Still a wolf, I’m afraid. But Cliff said he needed him. He said it was family business.”
“Where did they go?”
“He didn’t say.” Her voice was soft, and she could hear Lester saying something in the background. “I haven’t told my husband this, because he forgets sometimes what it’s like for the families, but I suggest you figure out where the Dixons are quick. If Lester suspects they’re gathering, he’s going to be mighty upset about it.”
She hung up the phone and thumbed through her contacts. Finally, she settled on Robin’s name and gave him a call.
“My dad just left,” Robin said. “He said something about getting lunch with the boys.”
“Do you know where?” Andrea asked.
“Yeah, they went somewhere out of the way. Rex wanted to come along, but he said no. It’s the Cocina Mexicana.”
That was the place Gus’ parents owned. “Okay, Robin, thanks. Will you text me if you see them?”
“Yeah, sure. Is something going on?”
She sighed. “When isn’t something going on around here.”
The heads of households had gone out of their way to meet, which was always a bad sign, and they went to an in-town place where no one was likely to know what they were talking about. Lester Kinney would drag them all in, no doubt.
Andrea didn’t tell Christine where she was going. It wasn’t worth worrying her. She hopped into her car and turned down the main road that led to the highway, speeding through yellow lights and whipping through traffic. The Cocina Mexicana was in a small block on its own in view of the overpass, bright red and yellow flowers blooming up around the simple face of it. The sign was printed with a sombrero beside the lettering, and the windows boasted specials. As she pulled around, she could see inside the same torn vinyl chairs and resold tables, and several familiar faces inside. She parked around back, and then stopped as she crept up to the window. It wasn’t just Cliff Dixon and Leon Tyre and Victor Riser around the table with her dad, who seemed to be struggling but was sitting like a man. Frank Luppen was sitting down with them as well, and Marty Heddin was leaning back, arms crossed, face puckered up. It was all of them. Except the Kinneys, all the families were represented at the table.
Gus was standing by the drink machine, and she caught his eye. She waved to him, pointing towards the employee entrance. His eyes moved to the heads of families sitting there, and then he started walking back.
“This is going to be weird, isn’t it?” he said as he pushed open the door.
Andrea clasped her hands together. “I need to know what they’re saying.”
“It’s like, you know, your stuff.” He glanced back at the kitchen as his mom said something in Spanish. He gave her a sheepish look. “Can’t you just ask?”
“They’re meeting in secret,” she said. “They’re not going to tell me. The only reason I know is because–it’s complicated. I need you to spy on them for me.”
“I’m not going to spy.” He rubbed his arms. “Look, I keep far away from the families if I can help it. You’re cool, but when it’s like them, you know?”
She sucked in a breath. “Calvin Heddin got stabbed the other night, my sister got hurt, there’s something happening, and it’s so big that all the families who hate each other are sitting down right now at your restaurant. Can you just, like, serve them water and tell me three words they say? Please? It can be anything.”
He glanced back again. “Yeah, okay. Real fast, though.”
She waited by the back door, stepping out of the way as one of the bus boys brought out some trash. It was early yet, no doubt part of the reason they’d chosen this spot. They were meeting on neutral ground, far away from prying ears. Most in-towners tried not to hear what werewolves had to say. Gus acted like they might chomp down his neck for overhearing, but she knew what it was like with her in-town friends. The second you started talking werewolves, they stopped listening.
She waited about fifteen minutes before Gus came back out again with a nervous look. He stepped out of the door, hands pulling on the apron he wore.
“I didn’t get most of it,” he said.
“Are they fighting?” she asked. “What did they say?”
“They were talking about a truce or something. I don’t know.” He gave her a concerned look. “Your dad looks pretty bad off.”
She shook her head. “It’s been a bad couple of days. What about a truce?”
“They just said they couldn’t keep fighting, and then they mentioned Sheriff Kinney. That’s it.”
“Okay.” She smiled at her friend. “Okay, that’s fine. Thanks, Gus. You’re amazing.”
“Whatever.” He shrugged. “You’re okay, right? Everything’s cool?”
“I’m…” She hesitated, just slightly, and then kept the smile going. “I’m fine. Thanks again.”
She got in her car and drove back. A truce was meaningful. It meant whatever was happening was giant. Monumental. Big enough that a Heddin and a Gibbons sat down at the same table and broke bread. It was big enough they weren’t telling Lester Kinney.
Her gas tank pinged at her, and by instinct she pulled into the Exxon. Rosemary was at the counter, checking out someone. Andrea stared at her through the window and then went inside, pulling a soda off the wall as an excuse. She waited until the line was down to its last person and then got behind them. The door jingled as she put down her Coke.
“How’s your sister?” Rosemary asked as she rang it up.
Andrea ran her hands through her hair. “We’re fine now. Everything else is managing to go wrong.”
“Is it bad?” She cringed slightly as she asked.
“Maybe? I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. Do you know all the heads of the families are currently sitting down to lunch together?”
“Werewolf stuff.” She sighed. “You don’t ever get tired of talking about that?”
“You mean my life?”
“I mean it’s like the only thing going on in your life,” she said.
“Yeah.” Andrea’s brows furrowed. “It’s like my whole life. You don’t even know what’s going on.”
“You don’t even know what’s going on with me!” She shoved the register closed. “I’m leaving in the fall, and you never even asked!”
Andrea’s change dropped out of her hand. “What?”
“I’m–I’m going to school.” She lowered her eyes. “I applied at UT, and they accepted me.”
“You’re going to Austin?”
“I got a really good scholarship. I’ll still have to work and stuff, but…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “This town is so small. I still live with my parents, and I work at a gas station. I want out. I want to experience something different. Even if I hate it, even if I don’t go through with it, I want to do something new.”
Andrea’s mouth was open, and her fingers curled. “Were you going to tell me?”
“I wanted to. I didn’t know how to say it.”
The door jingled as Andrea wrapped a strand of hair around her finger. She saw Rosemary’s eyes widen, and then she felt a person standing behind her. The scent was overwhelming. Sweat, dirt, smoke, and anger.
“Hey,” Ernest Heddin’s heavy voice said in her ear, “Gibbons.”
She turned slowly, jaw clenched, shoulders hunching, eyes narrowing. “What do you want, Heddin?”
“Like you didn’t hear.” He glanced at Rosemary, but his focus was on her. “Where were you last night?”
“At home. I have no idea what you’re so pissed about, but I don’t care.”
“Veronica Luppen was attacked last night,” he said. “And I smelled a Gibbons running around. Rumor is your old man is forgetting what it’s like to be human.”
Her hands balled into fists. “You think that makes him the one attacking people?”
“It’s weird that we’re the only ones getting attacked.”
“I was with him last night,” she said, trying to keep her voice calm. “We were at the Kinneys. I doubt Lester would let us get away with anything under his own roof.”
He scoffed. “It figures. He’s too weak to do anything.”
“Have you talked to your dad yet?” she asked.
His eyes narrowed. “I don’t need you in my family business.”
“Apparently you do. Maybe chat with him before you do anything stupid.”
His hand shot up, shoving her shoulder. “Unlike your family, I don’t have to go running back home every time a little thing happens. I’m going to the Dixons and figuring out who the hell is doing this.”
“You leave them alone,” she said, shoving back. “Go back home, Ernest. Talk to your brothers. Listen to some sense for once.”
“Guys,” Rosemary said behind them. “Please don’t do this here.”
He grimaced at her. “Not your fight, townie.”
Andrea couldn’t stop herself. Her hand flew to his throat, and she bore down on him. Ernest Heddin was a good few inches taller than her, and she forced him to bend his knee.
“Don’t talk to her,” she snarled.
His teeth bared, and he pushed back, shoving her into the counter and knocking over the displays. Rosemary let out a shout and backed away. Andrea forced herself not to change. They were in-town, they were in a public place, with an in-towner, there was no way she was going to fight this as a wolf. Ernest at least seemed to be following the same thought train. He growled as she dug her nails into his neck, but he only pushed down on her harder. It was a strength contest at this point, the two of them locked together. Her mind flashed to all the times Jason had been scuffed up, avoiding Ernest in the hallways of school, all the horrible things he’d ever said to her. She shoved him hard, and he landed in the chip bags, sprang back up, and tried to punch her. She managed to step out of the way and swing up, knocking him in the jaw. He grappled at her, striking her in the side and then grabbing her collar. She was dragged forward as a car door slammed outside, and the door jingled, announcing the presence of Lester Kinney.
It took all of two seconds to break them apart. He picked Ernest up by the back of his shirt, and shoved a hand onto Andrea’s shoulders. Without a word, he pulled them outside, tossing them onto the concrete. Ernest snarled, and he only snapped him a look. Andrea panted with the effort not to tear him apart.
“Wasting my time!” Lester shouted at the two of them. “What did I say?”
“You don’t get a say!” Ernest shouted.
He dragged him up and tossed him into the back of his cruiser. Andrea came to her feet and he grabbed her too. She stared at him, and there was a moment she debated changing and running, finding somewhere far away, hiding as a wolf for a few days until she felt calm again, and then she graciously let Lester guide her into the car. If he chased after her, it’d only be worse, and then everyone would be talking.
Lester went back into the gas station, and the two of them sat in the cruiser together. Ernest kicked the divider, and she snapped at him.
“Why do you always have to do this?” she shouted. “Why do you always have to fight?”
“I’m sorry!” he shouted back. “I don’t feel so casual about attacks on the families!”
“Don’t you ever say that again! Do you have any idea what we went through last year? Do you even think about that?”
His jaw snapped shut. Remorse made its way onto his face, and he slumped back, kicking it again.
“I don’t like seeing people get hurt,” he said.
“You could’ve fooled me,” she muttered.
Lester got back into the cruiser, and they drove silently to the sheriff’s station. It was near the center of town in its own block, a handful of police cars sitting unused. The most there were in Rome were fights and domestic disputes. No one bothered to steal or anything that might force Lester Kinney to request outside help. Everyone knew everyone, and any crime could be solved by asking a few questions. There weren’t real secrets in Rome.
Lester walked them both inside and sat them down in separate chairs in opposite rooms. They were small offices, used but currently empty. Lester Kinney was the only one who handled werewolves. He was the only one who could. He closed the door on Ernest and went into the office where Andrea sat, shutting the door behind him.
“Did not expect to pick you up from a scrap today,” he said.
“Ernest started it,” she muttered.
He sat down across from her. “It’s not grade school anymore. It ain’t even junior high. Getting into full body fights in a goddamn gas station isn’t funny anymore.”
Her arms crossed, and she slumped back in her seat. “Why aren’t you telling him any of this?”
“I’m starting with the reasonable person.” He fished from his pocket a cigarette and lit it, giving her a look. “I get in trouble every time I do this.”
“Is this even your office?”
“Nope. But it makes dealing with you thickheaded grunts a lot easier. Was that the girl you dated?”
She bristled slightly. “Yeah. Why?”
“She texted me the moment Ernest walked in.” He waved his phone at her. “I figured she probably got a firsthand look at what goes on in the families.”
“It’s not like a secret that we hate each other.”
“No, but most in-towners don’t have my personal phone number.” He breathed in some smoke and looked at her. “Ernest Heddin is on a short fuse right now. What I’d like to do is call his daddy, but I suspect Marty might let this slide.”
She thought about the heads of families meeting in that restaurant, but kept her mouth shut.
“Anyway,” he continued, “I gotta make good on my promises. I told you I’d drag anyone caught fighting in here. I suspect he made some accusations your way.”
She tapped her fingers against the chair. “What happened to Veronica Luppen?”
His face softened. He turned his cigarette over in his hand. “She came limping back to her home last night swearing she cut herself on some glass or something. Of course the Luppens suspected foul play, and they told the Heddins as much. It’s what happens when the Luppens are running all over the place. She probably made her way into an old building and cut herself.”
Andrea’s eyes widened. “She just sliced herself open?”
“It happens. It just happened right after something worse.”
Right after Christine had been cut too. Pain spiked in her forehead, and she rubbed her temple.
“Anyway, it’s pitched the families into more of a frenzy,” he said. “Ernest wants to fight about it.”
Anger burst inside her, and she swallowed. “I don’t blame him for being angry. I don’t blame anyone for being angry. I’m not mad at Ernest for trying to figure out what happened to his brother. I understand, actually. Because I’m starting to suspect you’re so much more interested in ‘keeping the peace’ between the families that you aren’t willing to actually ask them anything. You’d rather let a murderer get away than ruffle any feathers.”
“You don’t know the investigating I do,” he started.
“I don’t!” she shouted back. “I’ve never seen it! We believed you, a year ago, when you told us you did everything you could. When you promised you’d investigate every angle. I believed you when you said it was random, that we couldn’t know the motive until you brought someone in, but now I don’t know! Of course Ernest is mad, and he’s scared. I was too. I wanted to go down and fight anyone who might have a grudge against my brother, but you told me to be patient. What’ve I got for it?”
“We’ve all got to step lightly,” he said, voice still calm. “I can’t have any of you acting out of anger.”
“Well too fucking bad! My brother died! Ernest’s brother was stabbed! You’re telling me Veronica Luppen was hurt too like it don’t change anything, but someone is trying to hurt wolves, and you’re too far up your own principles to bother about it!” She stood, kicking the chair back. “Nobody else is going to bother with us. In-towners don’t care, you don’t want to overstep, and we’re dying off. I’m going to go home and make sure my sister is okay, because no one else is going to.”
“Andrea,” he said, leaning forward, “I think you oughtta sit for a while.”
“Am I being held?” she asked. “Are you charging me with something?”
He looked at her and leaned back. “No.”
“Then I don’t have to stay.”
She stormed out, shoving open the door and marching out of the station. She didn’t hear what Lester said behind her, didn’t bother with the receptionist, and the second she was outside, she was changing. All the energy was pent up inside her, and it burst out into a run. Her legs strode across the parking lot into the street. She veered into alleys to avoid being seen, and followed them into open land, where she hit her full pace. Anger drove her, and she snapped at weeds and bugs, burst through fields and followed the path back home. She wanted to fight. More than anything, she wanted to take Ernest Heddin down a peg and maybe Lester Kinney too and possibly her dad and the rest of the heads of the families. She was so mad, and it sparked her forward, running until her heart was pounding and her tongue was panting, and she couldn’t run anymore. Only then did she slow, and she paced in a circle, thoughts racing as fast as her heart.
Andrea veered back towards the Exxon only to get her car. She didn’t want to talk to Rosemary, didn’t want to apologize or listen to her berate her. Her pace was slower, and she found the main road, where an odd smell turned her away. She hesitated and then lifted her snout into the air. She recognized the Tyre scent, something warm and sweet and woodsy, but there was something else. Fear. Blood.
She followed the scent. It stayed close to the road, and a drainage trench she saw the body. The second she saw it, she changed back and climbed down. The body in the road was a wolf’s, dark haired with hazel eyes. The form was small, and she knew who it was the second she touched the fur matted with blood. Rex looked up at her with mournful eyes. Blood covered his neck and sides. She pressed down to see where the blood was coming from, and he gave a wail in response.
“Okay,” she murmured. “Hold on.”
She scrambled for her phone, cringing as her thumb smeared blood across the screen. Lester Kinney was currently back at the sheriff’s department chewing out Ernest, and she felt embarrassed now, making her exit only to need him again. Dolores was still on the top of her call list, and she tapped her name. It took a few rings for her to answer, and she gave a messy description of where she was. Dolores remained calm on the phone, told her where to apply pressure, and promised to be there soon. Andrea sat back, holding the small boy as he continued to bleed, and waited for help to arrive.