“He’s unconscious? Good. That’ll give us time to get out of here. If a teacher catches me, I’ll get suspended for sure.”
Simon kept staring at me, like . . . I don’t know. Like we were talking different languages.
I bent and scooped up the knife. As I did, I looked at the guy. He was lying there . . . twisted. A sick feeling settled in the pit of my gut.
Simon grabbed my arm. “You’re right. Let’s go. With your crappy grades, you can’t afford a suspension or you’ll never get into college.”
He smiled as he said it, but it was a strange smile. A desperate smile.
I looked at the kid, and the sick feeling spread.
“No way.” Simon yanked me back. “Have you forgotten we’re flying under the radar here? Fake names? Fake IDs?”
“ Perfectfake IDs.” That wasn’t easy to do, but the supernatural community had perfected the art of forgery. “Dad always says it’s better to hand it over and let them run it through the system.”
“Run? Yeah. Because no one will ever know it was us. We blend in so well.” I shook my head. “The second this guy or his friends talk, I’m done. Or we’re on the run again. You want that?”
“And you call 9-1-1. From your cell.”
He did. I took out my phone and hit speed-dial. It picked up on the second ring, road noise buzzing through the car’s hands-free system.
I knew what Dad would say. Call 9-1-1. Stay there. Don’t cover up anything. He was on his way, and would hopefully arrive before the police did, but if he didn’t, we knew the drill. Tell them only what they needed to know to treat the guy. He’d handle the rest.
I gave one paramedic the basic story as the other tended to the guy. I said I’d found the kid pinning Simon to the wall, with a knife at his throat, so I’d thrown him off. The paramedic didn’t know how strong I was, so it should be perfectly justifiable.
It didn’t matter. As I spoke, her lips tightened and she gave me a look I knew well: disgust. I was a hulking bully, picking fights with smaller guys.
She went back to her partner, who was putting the injured kid on a backboard. She told him what I’d said, whispering it, but werewolf hearing meant I caught every word.
“He did this?” the guy whispered. “By just throwing him?”
When he looked my way, I saw something I hated way more than disgust. Fear.
They were getting the guy into the ambulance when the police showed up. As soon as I saw the lights strobing, I called Dad and told him.
He swore. “I’m stuck on the highway, bud. There must have been something going on in the legislature today. Everyone’s leaving Albany at once. I’ll get there—”
“As soon as you can. I know.”
A sigh, like he’d hoped for—but didn’t expect—a more honest answer. “Okay, just hang tight. Tell them what they need to know—”
“And nothing else until you get here.”
“You got it. Any problems? Call me.”
“Is he almost here?” Simon asked, his face tight with worry.
A second cop car—unmarked—pulled into the lot. Detectives? Was it that bad?
I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to look more presentable, but the greasy film told me finger-combing wasn’t going to help. I’d had a shower that morning, but that didn’t help either. By the end of the day, I looked like I hadn’t bathed in a week. And, as I lowered my arm, I realized that I smelled like it, too.
I looked around for my backpack.
“My backpack.” I spotted it across the tarmac. I must have dropped it as I ran. I didn’t remember doing it. I barely remembered throwing that kid or—
The cops were climbing out of their car, and I’d really rather get to my deodorant before they got to me. As I jogged for the bag, though, one yelled, “Hey! Stop!”
I slowed, eyeing the twenty feet to my backpack. My heart slammed into my ribs, telling me I really needed that deodorant, but I knew I didn’t. If I could already smell BO, then it was soaked into my shirt, and a swipe of deodorant wouldn’t fix that.
It wouldn’t fix the rest of it either—my size, my hair, my skin. I knew exactly what kind of impression I made, I saw that impression in the detective’s eyes—the flash of fear when he realized how big I was, disappearing after a slow once-over of distaste bordering on disgust. A punk teenager who couldn’t be bothered bathing now and then.
“I was just . . .” I pointed at my backpack.
“Leave it. I have some questions for you.”
“Yes, sir.” I said it without sarcasm, but he still glanced over sharply. He’d made up his mind. I was just a knuckle-dragging bully who’d probably thrown that kid into the wall because he wouldn’t lend me a smoke.
When the cop noticed Simon following us, he said, “I need to talk to him first, son. You can wait over there.”
“Yes, sir.” There wasa twinge of sarcasm in that—and in the eye-roll Simon tossed my way—but the cop didn’t notice. Simon was clean and well dressed—just a cheerful, cooperative young man.
“Dad’ll be here soon,” Simon called back as he walked away. “Remember that.”
The cop looked from me to Simon. “Whose dad?”
“Ours.” Simon turned to give him a look that defied him to point out that Simon and I obviously didn’t share a single point of DNA.
The cop looked at me. “Foster kid?”
Simon started to shoot something back. I knew he didn’t like the guy’s tone, but mouthing off wasn’t going to help. When I shot Simon a look, he settled for saying, “Our dad will be here soon. He’s a lawyer. A criminallawyer.”
The cop sighed. “They always are.” He waved Simon off, then turned to me. “Used to having your daddy get you out of trouble, boy?”
“Well, he’s not going to this time. So go ahead and tell me what happened.”
I did. When I finished, he kept looking at me, as if he was waiting for more.
“So you just threw this kid off your brother.”
“Yeah, because he had a—”
“He allegedlyhad a knife. All right. But you’re telling me allyou did was pull him off and toss him aside, and that put him into a coma.”
“Coma?” I glanced sharply at the departing ambulance. “Did they say—?”
“They won’t know until they run tests, but that kid wasn’t waking up, and I don’t need tests to tell me that’s a coma.”
Sweat trickled into my eye. I blinked it away and wiped my forehead.
“You did more than ‘toss’ that boy,” the cop said. “How much do you weigh?”
He jotted that in his book, then without looking up, he said, “We’re going to need your shirt.”
“But there isn’t any blood. No one got shot. The guy didn’t use his knife. And I’m admitting I threw him. So why would you need—”
“If you want to wait for Daddy, you go ahead and do that, but refusing a simple request won’t make things any easier for you.”
There was no reason to take my shirt. Dad had told us enough stories that I knew this guy was power tripping. It was January, and without a shirt on, I’d be uncomfortable, maybe pay less attention to his questions and slip up.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Simon bouncing on the balls of his feet, two seconds from barreling over here. He’d only make things worse. If this cop thought a little cold would tip the balance his way, he was in for a surprise.
As I peeled off my shirt, he gave me a once-over, grunted “thought so” and motioned for me to put it back on.
It was a stupid question. As soon as I took off my baggy jersey, he knew I worked out, which was why he’d asked me to remove it. Weightlifting was like running, a way to work off the restless energy. It wasn’t like I spent hours a day pumping iron, but I looked like I did—a combination of werewolf genes and my natural body type.
“You on the wrestling team?” the cop asked.
“None.” When he didn’t seem to take that for an answer, I said, “I was on the math team at my last school.”
He gave me a sour look.
“The only sport I do is tossing around a ball with my brother. He’s the athlete.”
“You’re in damn good shape for someone who doesn’t like sports.”
I shrugged. “Didn’t say I don’t like them. Just not really into them.”
“What do you work out for then? To impress the girls?”
Now it was my turn to give hima look. Like muscles were really going to help in that department. Not that I cared—girls were another thing I left to Simon.
And if I wasworking out to get a girl’s attention, why would I wear baggy clothes? I dressed this way because it made me look overweight. Being big and heavy meant people paid less attention to me than if I was big and muscular. The less attention I attracted, the happier I was.