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“Strange night,” Kelly said, staring out at the ripples in the lake's water.
Alan dipped the edge of his shirt into the water and ran it over Angel's pistol. “I didn't wake up this morning thinking I'd cut my friend's gun out of a werewolf,” he said.
“Thought it would be a toothbrush and a unicorn?”
“Croquet mallet out of a leprechaun.”
“How would you...”
“It wouldn't be pretty,” he said with a smile.
“I've missed you,” she admitted.
“Missed you, too,” he said. “And I'm... I'm sorry. The absolute last thing I ever would have wanted was to hurt you.”
“I don't want to lose you.”
“I'm not sure you've got a choice anymore.”
“Guys!” Lark said, running at them like she was being chased by a tsunami. “The detective came back.”
“He what?” Alan asked.
“Says he was bleeding too much, couldn't even walk straight. He was either going to bleed out or come back.”
“I'll be right there,” he said. “Get my kit.” He waited until Lark was out of earshot. “We'll talk later, I guess.” He spun on his heels, and jogged back towards the campfire.
Denny had the detective on his knees, with one of the Colts pointed at him. Lark was kneeling in front of him, spreading out supplies for him in their little zippered case.
“He still in the cuffs?” Alan asked.
“He broke one of his thumbs, to get loose,” Betsy said.
“Get rope, bind his hands. Use one of the tent spikes to pin the rope to the ground above his head. I'm going to need him laying flat.”
Betsy ran for supplies. Denny knelt beside the detective, and he and Alan lowered him onto his back. “He moves,” Alan said.
“Yeah,” Denny nodded, keeping the big old Colt aimed at the man on the ground. Betsy returned with the rest of the rope, and a mallet. She knelt down beside the detective's hands, and wrapped them tightly. Then she threaded a tent spike through the rope, and pounded it into the ground.
“Now, I'm going to need space,” Alan said. “If I'm probing around in a bullet wound the last thing I need is to introduce more germs. The rest of you can wait by the fire. But Denny stays; I can't keep an eye on him myself while I work.”
Alan squirted disinfectant on his hands, then into the wound. “I'm not going to touch the bullet. I'd probably do more harm digging around in you. Long-term, you might want it taken out, because bullets can lead to lead poisoning or problems with nearby joints.” He picked out some gauze and a pressure bandage.
“But before I do a goddamned thing, I want to know what the fuck you are. You aren't a cop. I think you're the same kind of thing as that wolf, or the freak with the hatchet. But I want to hear it from you. Or I won't just let you bleed out, I'll make sure it hurts while you do.”
“I feel sorry for Denny. Least he was born a homo. You had a choice. And you chose to cheat on that sweet little thing by the lake. With him. Even if he lost fifteen pounds, combed his hair so it looked less like it was receding, he's still a step-down. Maybe a six, on his best days. The girl's a seven hung-over and sick with pneumonia.”
Alan's grip tightened around his pliers. Kelly was sick, on New Years Day, and hung over. How long had he been following them?
“The two of you make a hell of a pair. Him afraid of anyone knowing what he really is, and you afraid of how unimportant you are, petrified of the prospect of disappointing anyone- that's what folks in my biz refer to as a two-fer.”
“And what business is that?”
“I'm a detective. I always get my man. Sometimes, when I'm real good, I get my man and his man.”
“You aren't a cop,” Alan said, “and I'm really not seeing a reason we shouldn't shoot you and make it look like you did it to yourself.”
“The gutshot, for one,” he said. “If I were pristine, maybe that story would hold. But you can't really argue that I gutshot myself; no one kills themselves on purpose like that.”
“Then I cut your tendons and open your veins and we toss you in the lake.”
“I'll pretend these are hypotheticals, and float one of my own. You could just hang the queer out to dry. Tell your friends the truth- that you pitied him, so you let him suck you off, that it was as far as you ever meant to let it go. Hell, he looks pitiful enough just standing there I'd take a pity hummer right now.”
“I'm going to examine you,” Alan said, and hunched over his body. He used pliers and a pair of tweezers to pry apart the wound enough to look inside. “You're fortunate. Missed the vital organs, so unless you stupidly got mud inside it, you won't die of sepsis- one of the nastier ways to go. But that's academic, because without help, you're going to bleed out. Excuse us.” He nodded for Denny to follow a few feet away.
Denny walked cautiously, watching both where he was stepping and the detective for movement, keeping the gun trained on him. “Well?” Denny asked.
“He looks human- inside as well as out.”
“But you don't believe it?”
“Do you? I've never seen anyone unhinge so quickly. Usually it's a process, tell-tales that maybe weren't obvious at first but in retrospect should have been flags. But he was sane until he stopped, and now he's pathological.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“I don't know. Maybe it's not the kind of decision we should make alone.”
“And what if he tells?” Denny asked, shunting his gaze away from Alan.
“And what if we're wrong? He's definitely not innocent, but I can't rule out that he's human. And it's not like our friends are in another zip code. They're right there,” he pointed to the fire not a hundred yards away. “We're going to have to have this conversation sooner or later- I just think we should do it before we've got blood on our hands.”