Irving circled above, looking down on the house. He had it on good authority that the hunter had arrived earlier while the sun was up, and that she was planning on staying for some time. He knew little of her, other than that she was experienced at dealing with his kind. He was eager to see what he could expect out of her.
With a few flaps of his wings, he swept past the house again. There were wards up here. He could feel them, thrumming against him, the intensity increasing as he approached, fading away as he passed by. He wondered what they would do if he tried to land on the house. It was nearly inconceivable to try it. It was an odd sensation, almost as if they made the house a non-entity in his mind. It didn’t just make the building difficult to approach. It was difficult to even acknowledge, like some force pushed his mind away from it with the same force it repelled his body.
He anticipated that trying to land on it would feel like trying to use the flame of a torch as a stepladder. It was ill suited to the task and was likely to burn him. There was, however, nothing to prevent him from hanging under the eaves of the neighbor’s house. A few flaps of his leathery wings and he was upside down, peering at the Lucas house.
As a bat, he was not nearly as blind as the old adage would lead one to believe, but his eyesight was still far from good. His hearing was excellent, however. He could hear the sound of sirens off in the distance, the crunching if snow as a dozen different people made their ways from car to door or the reverse, the creaking of ice down at the pond.
The wards. Irving had almost forgotten why he was here. It was difficult to even mention the Lucas house. Trying to describe it, giving instructions regarding it, just rendered him sounding like an idiot as words as simple as the street name would escape him when he tried to speak. Writing it down didn’t help, as he would tend to lose track of the paper. And anyone inside would be equally difficult to even contact. Irritating.
The most reliable method would be to set things in motion that would draw them out of the building. Esther Lucas, for example, was in custody with the police now because of the events of last night. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening. Light shown out onto the snow, illuminating the gate. The hunter stepped out and closed the door behind her. He wouldn’t allow himself to get too hopeful. She might go back inside. Or she might stay too close to the building to have an opportunity.
He was well aware of who the residents of the Lucas house were. Even with Esther and Janice gone, he had no interest in facing off with Bruce Hanlon, Mr. Gone himself. And he had no doubt that Esther Lucas, the coyote and spirit talker, had other defenses in place that were not so obvious as the wards.
This Alice Levy woman was new, an unknown, intriguing to him. She carried herself with confidence, but wary. He watched as she made her way down the stairs and out the gate, looking back up at the door before letting herself out past the curtilage of the house onto the sidewalk. She looked to be all in dark colors, making her stand out against the snow.
She pulled out her phone, and the screen illuminated her face for a moment before plunging back into darkness. She began to jog down the road in the direction of the pond. He dropped down from the eaves, taking flight once more. It felt good to have the crisp, cold wind under his wings. It was an odd sentiment, one he had had many times before. His wings didn’t exactly correlate to a part of his body when he was in another form. Even on the occasion that he took the form of a wolf, there was no relationship between a front paw and his hand. Injuries in one form simply sloughed off when he changed, not that he was ever in much risk of injury.
Alice had made it down to the main road and was jogging against the light traffic, her face and the cloud of ice crystals she was exhaling the only parts of her he could see. He suspected that the few cars on the road were dangerously unaware of her. Not the sort of risk he expected a hunter of any experience to take. He swooped down overhead and settled into a tree branch to watch as she made her way.
The crime scene down at the pond was marked in the black and yellow police tape. And two officers were stationed there, no doubt to keep people like Alice from snooping around inside. There wouldn’t be much left in there by now. The cops would have taken the body and all of its accoutrements to the morgue to be processed. With no blood, the cleanup would be quick, and the only real repairs needed would be replaced the floorboards where the circle had been gouged out. They would be renting kayaks to tourists again by the spring.
The police had pulled their car up onto the path outside the outbuilding, and had aimed their headlights at the door. It made sense; no one was going to stand outside on a night like this.
Alice stopped jogging as she neared the outbuilding, and stepped off the path into the light woods. Even with the snow reflecting every hint of light, he lost track of her. But he could still hear her. She was making her way around the police car. After a few moments, he could hear the sounds of a window being jimmied open. He dropped from the branch and flew around to another vantage where he could see her in the shadow of the building, sliding the window up and squeezing into the building. She knew how to stay out of sight. He would keep that in mind.
Once the window shut, he had no idea what she was doing inside. He couldn’t hear through the walls, and he wouldn’t risk having her see a bat watching her through the window. Besides, he knew what she would find in there. Still, she took her time. It was a matter of twenty or so minutes before she emerged out that same window.
She closed it behind her and, staying out of sight from the cops, made her way back to the path. Once there, she began jogging again, and pulled out her phone. He could hear her side of the call.
“Yeah, it’s me.” Pause. “I need to meet.” Pause. “Yeah. Okay.” She hung up and started up the hill back to the main road. This was interesting. She had backup. He followed along. Another fifteen minutes of jogging, and she was in the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts. She slowed to a walk and crossed the lot, pulling her phone out, again illuminating her face. She did something with the phone and then headed inside. She did not appear to be breathing hard at all. It hadn’t been more than a light jog, but most people would suffer from any sort of exercise in this cold. She was hardy. He had expected as much, but it was good to know.
Once inside, she took a seat at a booth by the window with a heavyset man sitting opposite her. He had a coffee waiting for her when she sat. Irving wheeled past the building, located an unobserved section of the street, flew low, and changed. In the time it took to look away and back again, Irving was walking along the sidewalk, just a man in his early twenties, heading inside for a coffee.