In the end, it seemed to make more sense to warn James of his friend’s duplicity than to keep following Payne and Stone around. Besides, I knew the place they were talking about, so I should be able to find them again fairly easily.
Unfortunately, I’d driven all the way to his house before I realized he’d been serious about checking in on Mary.
By the time I’d made it across town to the gals’ house, it was far too late for me to go knocking on doors. Luckily, I spotted James in the driveway, hunched over the hood of a car. I cleared my throat as I walked up, not wanting to startle him. I needn’t have worried, as he stood up and carefully closed it as I got nearer.
“Would you be so kind as to stop narrating? The echo from your mind is giving me a headache.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” I replied after a moment’s hesitation. James’s expression flickered between annoyed and exasperated before he finally just rolled his eyes.
“Never mind. What do you want?”
“I came to warn you about Tristan.”
“What about him?”
“I think he’s working with Stone.”
“He took up sculpting?”
“What I mean is… Hey, what were you doing? Isn’t this Miss McMally’s car?”
“Does she know you took the sparkplugs out?” I asked, catching a glint of light reflecting off one in the grass. James looked up at me as if I were some sort of dullard.
“No, but it is for her own good. There are many things in this town that could harm her, so I would rather she were safe in her house. That way, I always know where I can find her as well. I do not like the thought of her befriending any of the werewolves in town. They do not care for her virtue as much as I do, and may cause her to stray. Also, people with such disregard for shirts should not be trusted.”
“I didn’t know we had werewolves in Deception Pass.”
“They’ve been here for many generations. Don’t underestimate them.”
“Well, at any rate, be careful around Tristan. I’m not sure he can be trusted anymore than the, uh, werewolves.”
“I am very capable of taking care of myself. I will make sure, however, that he does not injure Mary. I shall have to wait until tomorrow, as she seems to be cross with me this evening. I was only trying to protect her virtue, and I'm sure by the afternoon she'll realize this. Meanwhile, I will look after her from afar.”
I could only nod and leave him to his task. I’d done what I could to warn him of his best friend’s apparent treachery; the rest was up to him.
“Could you please go? You’re causing me a headache.”
“Sorry. You have my number if you need anything.”
I turned on my heel and headed back for my car. There was a growing pang inside my gut, and I figured my work was pretty much finished for the night. I knew there was a field of cattle not too far from where I was, so I turned the engine in my car and headed toward it.
Five minutes later, I was pulling up to a fence alongside the road. Overhead, the stars and moon shone down from a clear sky, bathing the countryside with a light that was, to my eyes, just as bright as any high noon I’d known before I died. The only difference was the world now looked like it had been repainted in shades of blue, like in old ads where the red had long since faded.
I stepped out of the car, my shoes crunching loudly over gravel and weeds, and easily climbed over the post-and-rail fence. A small group of cows stood huddled together a few feet away, hardly making note of my presence as I closed the distance between us. The closer I got, the longer my canines grew in anticipation of dinner. I locked eyes with the cow closest to me, sending out soothing thoughts to keep her from panicking. Cows pretty much always tended to look pretty blank to me, but I could still tell my hypnosis was working.
I took a deep breath before piercing the thick hide with my teeth, quickly filling up on the hot blood. I pulled away, watching in amazement as the wound healed before my eyes. The cow’s only reaction to the ordeal was a quick snort.
“Thanks, Betsy,” I said, heading back to my car. I was more than ready to head home for the day.