When blood runs cold
Siouxie and her children’s world are turned upside down when her husband is attacked in their home a week before Hallow’s Eve.
Black tar-mac glistens underneath the white street lamps. The windscreen wipers hypnotic pace become faster as the van pulls into the street.
“Where the hell is this place?” I ask squinting to see through the blurred window.
“I can’t say, love. You’ll have to ask the suit. I’ll lose my job.”
We sway to the right as the van turns a corner. My shoulder crunches as Dante’s large frame pushes me into the door. The road straightens out to my relief, but we bounce most of the way in the seats.
“Shit my head,” Rocco yells from the back of the van.
“Sorry mate, can’t help the potholes! Just a little further and…Oh this is it! We gotta wait for the car. It’s not far behind us.” The driver mutters.
I watch in the side mirrors as the dark car pulls up behind us, the lights blind me for a few seconds. The driver knocks the glass and opens my door. “Let’s go..”
Water seeps into my boots from the large puddle I stand-in. “Shit,” I mutter.
The suited guy fumbles with the keys and opens the door. Thunder crashes above our heads and the rain bounces off the concrete. “What a night!” He splutters.
“You’re telling me. It’s the worst night of my life and one I ain’t gonna forget in a hurry!!”
“I’m sorry, of course not. How inconsiderate of me.” He pauses briefly and lowers his head. “This isn’t ideal, but it’s the best we could do. It’ll be for a few days to a week, max. Witness Protection will find something better, but for now, bear with us and lie low until after Halloween.”
“After Halloween? You can’t be serious? Are we gonna be safe here? What if the person who did this to my husband is watching us, waiting for you to leave?” I huff throwing my arms up.
“Siouxie you will be safer here. You don’t have a choice! Whoever is responsible could be after you next if they think you could identify them.”
“Fucking awesome.” I cross my arms and breathe heavily through my nose. “I need a smoke.”
The suit hands me a cigarette. My hand shakes as I put it to my mouth. He lights it. “Keep the packet.” He stares at my wrist. I pull my sleeve down.
I inhale and exhale deeply. Smoke pours from my nostrils.
“We have made it as comfortable as we can, beds are made, curtains are up. The fridge and freezer are full. There’s hot running water. Gas and electric are back on. Here’s my card. Call me if there is a problem. Your new mobile is in the suitcase. I’ll be in touch.” He replies.
He hands me his business card. A tattoo of three small cut marks shows as his jacket sleeve rises up. I flick the card between my fingers. “Thank you … Mr Black.”
“Anytime. Don’t let anyone in. I will ring with the password tomorrow, without it, no one steps a foot inside. Okay?”
“Yeah, sure. Can the kids come in? It’s been a long day and past two in the morning.”
“Of course. Lock the door as soon as I’m gone. Double-check all the locks. Here are the keys.”
I nod and watch him run down the garden as the rain runs down the concrete path like a river.
Seconds later teenagers stampede through the door and three different demanding cries of “Where’s my bed?” “I’m starving.” “I need the loo!”
My head is screaming “Are there any beers. I need a drink. Where’s the fucking fridge?”
I answer their questions not all in the right order. “Tiki, go look for your room and whatever one suits you, sleep in it. Dante check the fridge. If there are beers, they’re mine! Rocco go and explore.. I need your phones now. No internet until we are told otherwise. We’re not safe and this isn’t a game, okay?
”Yes, Mum.” they all shouted, one after the other.
“Hey, I found some beers for you,” Dante said, handing me a lager and carrying a plate of cold snacks. “What does all this have to do with dad? Why all the secrecy?”
“Dante, Nothing is sinking in yet.” The can hisses as I pull back the tab. “It all feels so surreal right now. I can’t get my head around it all yet.”
“Is he gonna be okay?”
“I hope so, he’s in intensive care. Let’s pray he pulls through.”
“What happened at the house? The police wouldn’t let us in.”
“Dante, I can’t go through this right now. My brain is mushed.”
All I can remember is Jacob lying on the bed, his white shirt soaked in blood and the petrified look on his face. How do I explain that to my nineteen-year-old son? How do I tell any of them? Fuck.
“Okay mum, try and get some sleep, please!”
“I’ll have a go.” How the friggin hell can I sleep after tonight? Maybe the lagers will help numb the pain and help me forget the images! I hope there’s enough.
Dante walks out and minutes later comes back with another can of lager and two sausage rolls. “There are six cans in the fridge. Someone got most of it right! Although Tiki won’t like much, it’s mainly meat and not much veg!
“I’ll sort something out. Go to bed. I’ll be up soon.”
The second and third cans don’t touch the sides. Tears drip down my face. I welcome the alcoholic numbness that begins to set in. What happened tonight and why?
My mind rushes backwards and forwards, to repeat and replay. Pause. Stop, Start. Rewind. Play. Nothing in my head makes sense. Random images all jumbled up. One more can. Maybe I can forget for a few hours.
Empty lager cans are strewn on the coffee table, two are on the floor beside the sofa I lie on. My head throbs. This wasn’t the room I wanted to wake up to. Gone were my pristine white sheets and four-poster bed and the beautiful forest view that could be seen from the glass sliding door of the balcony. In their place, the charred iron fire pit, with years of soot and discoloured tiled fire surround, brought back the stark reality of the horror of last night.
“Jacob. Jacob.” I scream.
Heavy footsteps run down the stairs. “It’s okay I’m here. We’re here. I’ve got you.” Dante said holding me tight.
“I wanna go home. This is just a bad dream.” I clutch my son tighter.
“So do I and I wish it was, but it’s not. It’ll be okay. I promise. We’ve got each other. Family, right? That’s what you have always taught us. We stick together.”
My sobs are muffled in his chest and tears sink into his t-shirt.
The mobile begins to vibrate and ring on the table. I pick it up.
“Siouxie, It’s Mr Black. I’m afraid I have two lots of bad news. I’m sorry to say but your husband passed away thirty minutes ago due to his injuries. His colleague, Dr Langstein has been found dead at home with similar injuries to Jacob’s.”
“I … umm… Jacob’s dead?”
“I’m so sorry Mrs Crow. My condolences. He was a well-respected family man and scientist in his field. We are doing the best we can. Forensics are at the house trying to gather as much information as possible. The coroner will be in touch with us in the next few days.”
“Oh my god. Oh my god. He’s gone? No, there’s a mistake. He can’t be dead! Not Jacob.” I yell.
Dante snatches the phone from my hand. His voice fades into the background.
Rocco and Tiki burst into the room hearing the latter end of the phone conversation. They fling their arms around my back and shoulders, tears seep through my cotton top. Our sobs consume the house as we huddle together on the sofa.
To see my children hurt is unbearable. I wish I could take on their heartache too. Hurt me in life but not my kids. Let me suffer, but not them.
“Mum, It’s been five days. I feel like a caged animal and one more game of monopoly and I’ll flip.” Dante zips up his jacket and pulls his hood over his head. “I’ll take Rocco with me. We won’t be long.”
“Okay. Be back before it’s dark.”
I shut the door behind them and stiffly pull the old bolts and chain across.
I take one long last look at my blond hair in the mirror before Tiki starts applying the permanent red hair dye. “Let’s do this,” I say with a wink. Shit. Here goes!
Twenty minutes later I look in the mirror and take a step back. “Wow.” I stifle the scream that sits at the back of my throat as I see Jacob’s slashed bloody face looks back at me. “Awesome job!.” I gulp trapping my emotions that stick in my chest.
“Mum, what happened that night at the house? Can you remember anything?” Tiki asks brushing my long red-dyed hair.
“No, love I can’t. I feel guilty, but I don’t know why. There seems to be pieces missing that I can’t get back and fit together.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing.” Tiki said, squeezing my shoulder “What you can’t remember can’t haunt you!”
I nod. There was truth in her words and an old soul beneath those green eyes. Very mature for a thirteen-year-old. Tiki put her arms around me and lay her head on my shoulder. “I love you, Mum. It’s gonna be fine. The boys and I will protect you.”
I hug her tight. “ I love you too and will always do the same. Let’s have a pamper day, while they’re out and try and cheer ourselves up a little.”
In the five days that have passed, it hasn’t got easier. Every night I hear my daughter sobbing. She always stops before I reach her door. When I check on her she’s asleep.
I don’t feel like a pamper day, but my girl needs a distraction. Maybe I do too.
We do a lucky dip with our eyes closed and pick out a face mask for each other, then take turns to put each other’s on without looking at which one has been picked or as its applied.
“One, two, three…mirror.” I giggle. “Oh my god, you look like the Wicked witch from the East.”
Tiki slurs her words “You look like a smurf! I sound drunk, this face mask is too tight.”
Laughter echoes around the small bathroom. “We have twenty minutes before we can take these off. The first one not to crack their mask gets to pick a movie tonight.” I reply sounding like a ventriloquist’s dummy.
“Oh Jeez, look at the size on that spider!” Tiki yells.
I spin around and her bony fingers begin tickling me under my arm. I’m helpless and in fits of giggles. The mask starts to split and my skin feels less tight. “That’s cheating!” I laugh. “Okay, you won that challenge. I get to pick the nail varnish colour and you have to keep it on for a week!
”Oh no, really! You can have the remote!”
“Pink and green.” I shake the bottles in front of her and chuckle.
Tiki groans. “Eww, worst colours ever!”
We paint each other’s nails, then it’s the makeup challenge … blindfold. We tell each other what is in our hands and construct our own beauty regime. We look in the mirror. Tiki’s eyebrows are near her hairline and joined, her purple eyeshadow is over her eyes but blending into her cheeks and blue lipstick is more on her teeth than her lips. I have red eyeshadow that looks as if it’s been painted on by a four-year-old…eyeliner is crooked and my lipstick is exaggerated over the lines.
Thud, Thud, Thud. The old wooden door shakes the whole house. I shoot a horrified look at Tiki and run out of the bathroom and down the stairs. “Who is it?”
“It’s Dante and Rocco. Mum, quick, let us in.”
I fumble for my keys and open the door. The two boys rush towards me. I stumble backwards. Rocco slams the door shut and stands against it panting. Dante slides the bolts across.
“What the hell happened?” I ask them scouring over them for any cuts or marks.
“All good Mum. Things got a bit hairy and Rocco lost it a little when an old woman was mugged. She’s okay, we took her home and she called the police. but the idiots caught up with us. We had to make a run for it, ” Dante said shoving his hands in his pockets.
“Tell me you didn’t do what I think you did boys!”
Rocco looked at the floor. “We had no choice. We couldn’t have outrun them otherwise.”
“Did anyone see you? Dante let me look at your hands, right now!”
He pulled his hands slowly out of his pockets and held them fingernail side up.”
“Good. We don’t need any more trouble.”
“Bloody hell…are you two practising for Halloween? because the makeup is enough to scare the crap out of the devil himself.”
“It’s late. Close all the curtains and then we’ll eat.”
Food is plated up in bowls ready to self serve, meat and lots of veg, rice and salad.
Tiki reaches for the chicken and steak and ignores the veg dishes.
“Have you forgotten what vegetarian means? Rocco laughs and grabs for the beef bowl. “Hey leave some for us carnivores too.” He teases.
Tiki shoots him a glance as she let the meat plate go.
Rocco drops his stare and lets his grasp loosen on the bowl. His eyes dart to me and Dante and he eats in silence.
“What happened to your five-year vegetarian buffet?” Dante asks.
The mobile rings in the lounge. I wipe my hands and my mouth with a napkin and swallow what is left.
“Siouxsie, it’s Mr Black. I’m sorry to disturb you, but I have good news and bad news.”
“Your husband’s death was caused by an animal, so the DNA has confirmed. Pawprints were found near your property. The same evidence was found at Dr Langstein’s house.”
“Are you sure? What animal?”
“From the claw marks and fragments of fur, it belongs to a wolf. There are several packs around where you live.”
I exhaled deeply. “So what are you trying to say?”
“Witness protection is satisfied with the conclusion of Jacob’s cause of death and agree for you to come out of the safe house. You can go home on Halloween if you feel you can cope going back there?”
“Thank you and yes, we have nowhere else to go for now. We will deal with it our own way and maybe sell up.”
“That’s understandable. I have a question to ask, where were your boys last night?”
“They went for a walk as they felt claustrophobic. Is there a problem, Mr Black?”
“No, a couple of boys were traumatised last night after a run-in with two lads that fit your son’s descriptions. A lady identified the other males who stole her bag and gave the same description of your sons too, who helped her. The muggers had a pasting!”
“They did help someone last night but they were home by seven.”
“Oh okay, not your son’s that gave them a pasting, timing is out. I’ll send a van and I’ll escort you home. Four tomorrow afternoon, okay?”
“Great! Thank you.” I reply and hang up.
“Pack up…we’re going home tomorrow!
Dante and Rocco shoot glances at Tiki and carry on eating.
The following day the same guy who dropped us off picks us up. We put what possessions we had into the back of the car.
Our mountain house felt welcoming but haunting. I didn’t know if I wanted to step inside or run. I left our bedroom until last. Pieces of the puzzle came back. I stood there facing the flashbacks that played in my mind.
“I’ll drug Siouxie, then the kids. We start the trials soon. They’re the last of their kind. It’s the breakthrough we have wanted, Dr Langstein.” Jacob whispered on the phone. “We can’t leave it much longer. They turn on Halloween.”
I stand in the doorway. Bile rises in my throat. “Jacob, what trials?
He hangs up. “I have kept The Crow secret for years. It’s time to explore your genes and DNA. Science needs this.”
“Over my dead body will you harm our kids for your career.” I seeth “I never thought for one minute you’ de betray us.”
“Try and stop me!” He grins and lunges towards me. I run. His hand grabs the back of my shirt and I stumble backwards. I grab the vase off the dressing table, but it slips and smashes. His arm wraps around my neck, squeezing my throat tighter. My breathing becomes raspy. The light brightens. My body feels limp.
A loud snarl penetrates the room. Bones crack and claws scratch the wooden floor. A deep growl almost drowns out the screams. Jacob trips over my foot and lands on his back on the bed.
I hear flesh being ripped open. Gurgles bubble from my husband’s throat.
The wolf nuzzles it’s head against me and gently paws my leg. It’s green eyes connect to mine.
Tiki? I understand. No veg! Transformation.
It’s three in the morning. Halloween’s witching hour. I sit on the porch in Wolf form and smell the air. He’s coming. The dark car drives past. I howl.
He winds the window down. “Loyalty is always in the pack.”
I call once more … he howls back. My cubs join in.