Home > Downpour (Greywalker #6)(17)

Downpour (Greywalker #6)(17)
Author: Kat Richardson

Michael pushed himself off the wall, standing straight and wide-eyed. “No, he doesn’t! He doesn’t think it’s you; he thinks it’s me!”

I blinked at him. “What?”

“Solis thinks I killed Will. He thinks it was an accident, that I was angry at Will or scared of him or something like that. He thinks that because Will hit me, I—I hit him back. But I didn’t! I didn’t, I swear to God. I swear. . . .” His voice broke and he covered his face with his grease-stained hands, his words coming out in hard, gulping sobs. “I don’t want to be here. I want to go back to England. I tried to hold out here, but I can’t make it—I can’t stand the pitying stares and the horrible memories. I was going to leave, but that detective started asking around and then he told me he would find out.” He lifted his face. “I can’t go while he thinks I did it, but I want to. I want to so bad. I just want out of this place. I just want to go back to where I had a life I understood. I want to make my own life.”

I grabbed onto his shoulders, keeping him from sliding to his knees from the weight of his despair. “Michael, I know you didn’t do it. I know it was nothing to do with you. But you can’t run while you’re under suspicion, and why would anyone believe you killed Will?”

It took him a moment to catch his breath and rein his emotions in, but he managed. “Because . . . he broke my jaw. And then . . . he ran off.”

“He ran off?” I questioned, not because I didn’t believe him, but because something wasn’t adding up: Wygan had made Will call me to come to the gymnasium on the night I’d most recently died. Will had clearly been a prisoner and in their clutches for hours by the time I saw him. He certainly hadn’t run to Wygan and the asetem. How had they grabbed him?

“Tell me what happened, Michael. Just tell me in sequence. When did Will hit you and why? What happened before that and what time was all this?”

Michael sucked in a shaking breath and looked ill. “It was about four, I think. In the afternoon. I came down here to drop off my references—I was trying to get a job. I’d been sticking to Will or trying to keep him with me, because every time I didn’t, he’d slip away or do something horrible to himself. I’d taken him to the doctors when we first got here and they said he shouldn’t be left alone, but . . . I needed a job—we needed the money so badly. I was here that time you called me—remember?—about Charlie Rice’s shop. That was when Will socked me in the eye. I thought he couldn’t hear me talking to you, but he did, and he asked if you were going to Charlie’s and I lied and said no. But he didn’t believe me.”

“He was your older brother and you’ve never been a good liar, Michael,” I said.

His face crumpled and he squeezed his eyes shut for several seconds until he could open them again without leaking tears. “I know. He knew I was lying and he tried to go after you. I told him he should leave you alone, that we should go back to the hospital. But he didn’t want to go and he hit me. I—I was so shocked, I couldn’t stop him. He’d never hit me before. Will was like my dad as well as my brother, but he’d never even yelled at me, and now he’d gone and smacked me one right in the face and I didn’t know what to do. The crew here tried to help hold on to him, but Will got away, and then they tried to help me, which kept me from doing anything to find him right away. Then Charlie called me when he had Will arrested for harassing you. He was pretty worried about him, too.

“When I got him out of jail, I tried to make Will go to the hospital, because he was acting so strange, but he wouldn’t go and he gave me the slip again. He kept doing that—I’d find him and then he’d get away again. That last day, he got a phone call and said he needed to go somewhere, but he wouldn’t tell me where. I figured he was stalking you again and I said I wouldn’t let him go. I needed to come here and drop off my paperwork, but I couldn’t leave him alone, so I made him come with me—I even locked him in the car like a little kid while I came inside. But he got out and when I tried to hold on to him and make him go home, he fought with me. He hit me in the face with a piece of steel pipe from one of the workbenches. I already had the black eye from earlier in the week, so I didn’t see him swing at me until it was too late. And then he was out of here so fast, no one could catch him.

“Mencez and the crew wanted to send me to the hospital, but I wouldn’t go—I didn’t know I had a broken jaw. I just had to find Will, so I went after him, but I didn’t know where he was. I just kept looking everywhere I could think of. Then I got smart and I called the rental car company—”

“Why a car rental company?”

He paused, catching his breath. “We didn’t have our own car—we sold it when we moved to England—so I had a rental. The rental company has those tracking things on the cars in case they get stolen. So I finally remembered that and called them, and they said the car was up on Queen Anne Hill. I went to get it and look for Will—”

“What time was that?” I asked.

“I don’t know . . . like seven o’clock? It wasn’t dark yet.”

That had been before I arrived, when the vampires were only just waking. The asetem and their pharaohn would have been hungry and greedy for their particular food—fear. I shuddered at the thought. I tried not to let Michael see my distress; he was upset enough already.

“All right, so what then?” I asked.

“I kept looking for Will, but I couldn’t find any sign of him and I was . . . having some trouble. People wouldn’t talk to me because of how I looked, and I couldn’t see on the left side and I felt kind of sick and dizzy. . . . I didn’t know how bad I was hurt and I don’t think I’d have cared. I drove the car around, looking for Will everywhere, anywhere he might have walked to from there. I wound up down in Myrtle Edwards Park—you know, that park along the bay front where they used to have the Hemp Festival. I don’t know how I got the car in there, but I guess I made a turn somewhere and ended up on the bike path instead of a road. About then I just stopped driving. I think I passed out. Things get pretty hazy about then. . . .”

“Where in Myrtle Edwards?” I asked, fearing the answer. The long narrow park with its winding twin bike trails borders Elliott Bay from a few miles south of the ship canal where we now stood, all the way to downtown. There are plenty of train yards, commercial ship docks, industrial Dumpsters, and unwatched bends along the shore where a body could be dropped.

Michael bit his lip, his brows knitting down and telltale sparks of sick green fear shooting off his aura. “Near the grain elevator . . .”

I swore softly: Solis must have seen the grain elevator as an ideal place to dump a body—or even a live person who couldn’t fight back, if he thought Michael had given as good as he got in the fight the mechanics had witnessed. I supposed the detective was hot to talk to me because he thought I could nail the timing for him and help put a noose around Michael’s neck whether he could find a body or not. And if I’d been Solis, I’d have been thinking the same way.

I knew Michael hadn’t done anything but try to help his brother, even while he was in pain, half-blind, and probably bleeding, but it wouldn’t look like that to an outsider. It would look like a crime of the moment driven by overwhelming rage and complicated by pain and a traumatized memory. Considering all the injuries and arguments the brothers must have had while using it, the rental car probably had plenty of blood samples from both of them. Those blood traces would have been hard to get so long after the fact, once the car had been cleaned and rented out over and over, but not impossible. All the records would have been there for Solis to put together, much like I’d put Leung’s pieces together: police reports, hospital records, impound receipts, rental agreements, witnesses. . . . Michael hadn’t helped himself with his actions and evasions, nor with his desire to skip town, which was probably no secret to anyone.

“Michael,” I asked, “why didn’t you file a missing person report on Will?”

“What could I say? I knew Will’s disappearance had to be tied up with whatever you were doing at the gymnasium—all that business with the kidnapping—and that it had to be more of what happened in London, and how could I explain that? It was rough enough with the English cops. I couldn’t do that again. The gym—that was the end of it all, wasn’t it?”

I nodded.

Michael looked teary again. “See, I knew you knew what had happened to Will, but you hadn’t said anything and he hadn’t been found, so I knew he was gone. I didn’t need to file a report. And if I had, it would have just been as bad for you. And why should I when I just want to leave here?”

“Oh, Michael. You should have just thrown me to the wolves and saved yourself. Now Solis has every reason to think you killed your brother and dumped the body in the grain elevator—from which it’s now long gone. He doesn’t have to have a body to build a circumstantial case and now he’s got a damned good one against you. A decent defense will break it down, but in the process, you’ll be spending a lot of time in jail over something you didn’t do and Solis and the rest of the department will try everything they can to persuade you to confess to it. Because that’s the easier route for them.”

“I may not have done it, but I deserve to be blamed—it’s my fault he’s gone. If I’d been a better brother, if I’d called the doctor, or the cops or . . . anything but what I did, he wouldn’t have gone and he wouldn’t have followed you and whatever happened to him . . . wouldn’t have happened.”

“That’s not true. He didn’t follow me to the end. He was brought there well before I got there. That must have been the phone call he got, probably from Goodall, telling him some irresistible lie about me. They used him as bait and they would have used you, too, if you’d been able to stop him from going. You were a good brother; you saved him once in London and you were trying to save him again twice over here. You did everything you could and more than most would even try to do. You didn’t fail. You don’t deserve any blame.”

“But I didn’t save him. . . .”

One of the mechanics stuck his head around the corner and glanced at us. “Hey, man, you about done?”

Michael waved at him. “Yeah. I . . . just need another minute. I’ll be right in.” He looked back at me with an intense gaze and whispered, “I didn’t save him and he’s gone forever. And I just want to go home.” He started to turn away and go back into the garage.

I caught his arm, feeling the shock of his despair leap like a spark through my hand and into my heart. “I know it won’t be enough for you yet, but Will didn’t die horribly at the hands of monsters. He didn’t even die as you think of it. He was alive at the end and he chose to go on to something else.”

Michael gave me a bitter look. “This isn’t the ‘he’s gone on to a better place’ speech, is it? Because that’s just so much bull.”

“Then listen to what I’m actually saying. You remember all Marsden and I told you about the Grey and the things that live there?”

He nodded, wary, but listening.

I took a slow breath before I tried to explain. “There’s a sort of gatekeeper for that place. It keeps the monsters on their side of the line and us on ours.”

“Well, it didn’t do a very good job.” Michael’s voice shook.

“No, it didn’t. Not this time. Because Wygan destroyed it.” I was surprised at how easy it was to tell Michael these things. The Grey had always tried to muzzle me in the past. But perhaps I’d surpassed the need to be regulated. Or maybe it just couldn’t stop me. So I went on. “There’s no time for the details—you probably don’t even want them—but without this guardian, things fall apart. The monsters get loose in the world. At the end, someone had to take that job and Will chose it for himself. Chose. No one forced him. You know he was breaking, and what happened up in Queen Anne would have left him a wreck in this world. He had a chance to be better, but he had to leave here completely.”

“So . . . he is some kind of ghost after all?”

“No. He can’t haunt you, or be haunted by the memory of life. He’s not some kind of remnant of his former self; he’s something else. I can’t even explain what it is—I don’t really know—but it protects us . . . from things even worse than what you saw and heard and fought against in London and again here. That’s what became of Will.”

Michael didn’t look a lot happier, but he did seem less afraid and angry. The greenish tinge around his head faded a little and the orange sparks sputtered out. He seemed to be thinking about it, but hadn’t made up his mind if he believed it or if it comforted him any.

“Are you sure, knowing all that, that you want to go back to England?”

He bit his lip until it bled, but he nodded. “I had friends who didn’t look at me like I’m going to break any minute. Even—even with the things that are there, like Marsden and the vampires,” he added with an expression so bitter his mouth could barely shape the words, “I’d rather be there than here.”

A sour cold twisted through me and my throat felt harsh as I said, “All right. I’ll take care of Solis.” Then I added, “I’ll find some way to get him onto another track. I promise he won’t arrest you.”

Michael nodded, still abstracted, and headed back inside to work, still trying to make something better of the situation.

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