When I finally got back to the G-Nome's house, my muzzle and claws wet with blood, I found the entire Swag Pag outside waiting for me. To my surprise, that included Tyler. His legs were shaking under his own weight, but it was astounding that he was standing at all after taking a bullet to the spine. Kaylie, for once, was paying more attention to her other packmate than she was to D.K., sniffing the other wolf's wound and whining worriedly.
And, speaking of D.K., the alpha was standing apart from the rest of his pack, glaring angrily out into the woods. He spun around and growled when he heard me approach, but fell silent when he saw who it was. He was holding a big wad of bills in his jaws. Hopefully they'd still be in good condition when we got back home. I didn't want to face D.K.'s anger if he accidentally ruined the very reason he'd come here in the first place.
D.K. cocked his head and growled questioningly. I bobbed my head in response. Zeke was dead. He wouldn't be invading the Swag Pag's turf anymore.
D.K. held his head up higher and turned to lead the way home. I fought down my irritation at his cocky swagger, present even when he was on four legs. Tyler and I had done all the work, but I knew better than to shatter his illusions of superiority. I glanced back at Tyler, who was struggling to keep up with D.K.'s brisk pace. Kaylie was still there, which was strange. I'd have thought she'd be walking beside D.K., flattering him for his strong leadership.
Why does Tyler let that idiot keep him under his thumb? I wondered. He's up walking after taking a bullet to the spine. He'd be a way better alpha than D.K.
I made a mental note to ask him later. D.K. clearly didn't have what it took to be a leader. If I could just snap Tyler out of whatever funk he was in, I was sure I could convince him to challenge D.K. for his position as alpha. And he'd win, too. Tyler was big enough to break D.K. in half with a sneeze. I couldn't talk about it now, of course. Not with D.K. and Kaylie right here. It could wait until later.
A half hour later, we made it back to the pack's back yard. The others hurried on ahead, but I slowed down a bit to pick up my clothes. The thrill of the hunt was long gone, and I didn't want to change back without something to put on. Leave that kind of stuff to Kaylie. In fact, I thought as I watched the rest of the pack go in through the back door, why wait until I was in the house at all? I shifted back right there in the forest, where there was nobody to see me, and got dressed before making my way inside. D.K. was sitting in his chair, wearing a pair of sweat pants and a ratty sports jersey, thumbing through his money with a satisfied grin. At the other end of the room, Kaylie, who had put on a bra and panties, was applying a bandage to what remained of Tyler's wound. Tyler lay face down on the floor, still naked, groaning as his packmate took care of him. I looked away. Nobody seemed to be paying me any attention, and I was fine with that. I needed to check on Kimberly. But first, I needed to wash the blood off my face.
I went to the bathroom and wet the cloth I had washed Kimberly with the night before. When I looked into the mirror, though, I froze.
I was covered in blood. My face, my chest, my hands, everything that had touched Zeke while I tore him apart. I'd known the whole time, though, so why was it so horrifying now?
I killed somebody today.
I started to tremble. I had actually killed somebody. This wasn't like Kimberly, this was worse. Zeke was dead. His remains were lying out in the middle of the forest, waiting for the crows and vultures to notice.
Without warning, I leaned over and threw up into the sink, my body shaking uncontrollably. I had killed a living creature! Not an animal, something that was actually capable of real thought. Of living a real life. Even reminding myself that Zeke wasn't human didn't comfort me.
Hadn't been… Zeke hadn't been human.
But I had been so proud of myself when I'd done it! The G-Nomes were our enemy, and Zeke was their leader. That made killing him a good thing, right? Which part of me was I supposed to listen to? The guilty teenage girl, or the bloodthirsty huntress?
I sat down hard on the bathroom floor, leaning against the wall behind me as I rocked back and forth. Zeke's terrified face kept flashing in front of my eyes, and his screams were echoing in my ears. Tears ran down my cheeks, mixing with the blood and making it run even further down my body.
Get ahold of yourself! I snapped. Kimberly is in the other room, waiting for you. You can't let her see you like this!
To my surprise, this calmed me down. That little voice in my head was right. I still had to take care of Kimberly. Seeing me cry would only make things worse. I sniffed a couple more times, got up and dried my eyes, and then proceeded to wash the blood off. I made sure it all went down the drain, along with my vomit, just to make sure Kimberly didn't come in later and find it. Then, taking a deep breath, I headed for my room.
“Hey, Kimberly," I said, knocking softly on the door. “You awake in there?"
“Yeah," I heard her say. “I'm playing with my new toys!"
New toys? Did she mean Blister? Had she found another somewhere? My hand reached for the doorknob, but froze when I heard another voice come from inside.
“I think she's gonna be real happy when she sees this!"
I turned the knob and threw the door open.
“Okay, Edgar," I said, “you've got a lot of explaining to do!"
NEXT TIME: Wowzers, just how much crazy can fit inside a single day? First the G-Nomes, then Stark, and now Edgar. Luckily, he's here with good news... and an offer.