It wasn’t easy. Lying to Herc like that. As though it were nothing. As though the man were just another old fool, as though he didn’t matter.
Graham sat at the bench, watching yet another inked-up outsider sit through his new tattoo. The needle moved swiftly, and the man clenched his teeth.
“You can go where you like, son. This isn’t a prison,” Herc was saying. He was a big man. All muscle and gristle, with thinning, white hair and a large, tidy beard. He sat patiently in the other black leather chair, arm out and flat. Sam lowered the needle again.
“Yeah. Right. Should be back in a few days.” Graham stood to leave, flipping his coat collar up and tying his scarf. It was a gift from his sister, black, embroidered with pale blue snowflakes. It was too feminine for his tastes, but he wore it to make her happy. And it was cold out there.
Herc didn’t give him a second look as he left the tattoo parlour. Graham stepped out into the chilly evening, already heading for Dawn Street. His sister lived in a small apartment block there, third story, quiet. He liked it there, she seemed safe. He made his way past Dawn Street Cinema, past Dawn Park, past Echo, the tiny dive bar he’d been in once or twice.
There had been a kerfuffle in Dawn Park only the other day, he recalled. A girl, murdered. He’d seen her sometimes, when he went into Echo. She worked there. Most other patrons called her the pretty one. He had shrugged. Blondes weren’t his type.
He watched the park now, in the dark, it seemed sinister, ugly. As though the scene of the crime somehow had soaked up the evil of that act, and now warned any curious passer-by to stay away, not to even look at the place. He was reminded, somewhat dryly, of a quote from some radio station his sister listened to. Do not look at the dog park.
He ignored the place. Stayed to Echo’s side of the street. He would meet Cassidy there, away from the werewolves she knew nothing about, away from the danger of Herc’s tattoo place. Echo was safer. Well, before the girl disappeared, he would have said so.
The other girl worked the dead girl’s section that night. The darker-haired one, with the freckles and the darkly lined, violet eyes. He’d always thought she was the better looking of the two. He never said anything. The woman looked up as he opened the door, flashed him a quick smile, then brought and order back to the window. She said something to the black man at the bar. Graham knew he was West Indies… maybe Jamaican…
“Grey, over here.” Cassidy sat at a booth, already nursing a pint. He slid in across from her, his smile-mask in place, ready to lie to her, too.