Lethean Shroud

Reeve glowered in the shadow of the flames raging at his back. With his curled lip and statuary position he seemed almost like a grotesque carving mortared in with the hearth stones.

The fire’s heat surged past him and pricked at the scabbing wounds on Rayanna’s face and arms. She dipped her chin and pressed a shielding hand over the cuts on her forehead. How much should she tell him? “I do remember an animal darting across the road in front of my car. Hard to say what … it was so dark. Must’ve swerved to avoid it. But I … blacked out. I woke up on the side of the road with no memory.”

He leaned forward. “What did you see when you woke up? Tell me about this accident scene you failed to mention before.”

“The windshield was broken. From the inside or the outside, I couldn’t tell.” She chewed her lip.

“I’m gonna warn you one last time to tell me everything.” His thick, yellowed fingernails had the unkempt look of a wild creature’s claws. He clutched at the stony edge of his seat, grating his talons against the river rock. “What. Else. Anna.”

She recoiled, triggering the unnerving reel backward of the rocker. Her lips shuddered around breathless attempts to respond for a moment. “B-blood everywhere. I, uh, got out to look, but couldn’t find any sign of an animal.”

“What about police?”

She tightened her grip on the arms of her chair. No way to avoid it. She had to tell him about the other accident.

“Someone stopped. I thought he’d help, but with all the blood, he um … decided to take me to town in the back of his cruiser. But then it happened again. Maybe the same animal, or another one like it … I don’t know. We flipped into a ditch. I came to, and there was nothing left of the officer.” She studied the red flicks of firelight playing at the corners of his eyes. “I had no other choice but to run into the forest. The way it all happened, everything would’ve made me look–”

“Guilty.” With the shifting motion of his jaw, a faint grinding noise joined the snap of flames. “And in more ways than most folks could tell. Even you, I reckon.”

 

*** TO BE CONTINUED ***

 

 

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