Satisfied that they’d gotten far enough away from the soucouyants the wardens came to a stop. They’d run into a wooded area just off the road and paused at a large hemlock to catch their breath. Erin released Zach’s hand, causing the cloaking spell to wear off. She rested back on the tree.
“Thank goodness they fell for it,” she said, wishing there was water somewhere on her person.
Zach nodded, resting his hands on his knees. “We should keep off the road for the time being, it’ll be daybreak soon enough and those crazy bitches will be running back home to protect their skins.” All soucouyants left pieces of their original skins in their nests as they roamed for blood. They feared being apart from them for long as if this skin – sacred to the creature – was destroyed, she ceased to exist.
Erin nodded, agreeing with Zach’s suggestion and looked around. She was trying to figure out where they could be as the darkness turned into a dim early morning light.
Zach was ahead of her as he usually was with these kinds of things. “If we keep heading north, we’ll make it back into the town before it properly wakes up. We covered quite a bit of ground when we were being chased,” he said.
“Let’s go then. We might have kept them busy for a while, but we have no way of knowing if any of them were able to feed on other humans tonight,” she said, taking a few steps forward, then, pausing for a moment, “And we know she’s going to try to get at that family we saved tonight.” Zach understood that Erin felt badly for how everything had gone down. She was always defensive whenever she knew she was wrong, just as she had been when they’d argued earlier. This time though, he wasn’t quite ready to let it all go,
“Saved? That’s not what I’d call it.”
Erin glanced back at him with a scowl before she turned again in a huff, taking long strides on even longer legs as she went.
“Did I say something wrong?” Zach asked sarcastically as he followed her through the trees and brush.
The day continued to brighten and cool breezes flowed as they made the trek. They didn’t talk to each other, only intent on the task ahead –- getting out of the woods and back to the town. A few woodland animals called out to each other as they went and their footsteps as they travelled over leaves and moss were clearly audible, but otherwise it was silent, which had a calming effect on Zach’s mood. He was about to say something to Erin, just to let her know he wasn’t angry anymore, when something else broke the silence.
The new noise introduced to the party was the buzzing of Erin’s cell phone in her jacket pocket and she sighed, looking at Zach with concern. They both knew who was calling without having to check and Zach looked on anxiously as Erin pressed the answer button.
“Damian, we were just going to call—” Erin stopped talking, cut off by their handler on the other line. Damian was the one who gave them cases and answered to their employers when there were foul ups and this one had been huge. She pressed the speaker button so Zach could hear and watched as his face fell further at Damian’s rant.
“… the laughing stock of the organisation,” he was saying, his gruff tone sounding even more irritated as he went on, “A couple of wardens who can’t get their job right? You realise you’ve put that family and probably the whole county in jeopardy right?”
Erin answered meekly, “Yes, but it wasn’t supposed to –”
“Shut it!” Damian cut her off again, causing her to flinch and Zach, put a reassuring arm on her shoulder. “You listen here girl, it’s one thing when you do your own thing and you succeed, but this is a loss, a big, fat shite storm of a loss that someone else has to clean up.”
Erin spoke up, “No they won’t Damian, we’ll take care of it.”
Damian didn’t say anything for a moment and when he did, she winced. “What? Take care of it you say? We you say? I doubt that Zach … are you there boy, or has the cat ripped your bloody tongue out?”
Zach answered, “I’m here sir.” Erin made a face. Zach still respectfully referred to all their superiors as ‘sir’ or ‘mam’.
“Did you have anything to do with this?” Damian asked now and Zach looked briefly at Erin.
“I backed my partner up as we’re taught to do sir,” he replied diplomatically and Erin smiled appreciatively at him.
This however, made Damian angrier. “You I thought I could count on, now I see you’re both being bloody idiots.” He shouted his last words, disturbing a bird from a nearby tree.
Erin decided it was as good a time as any to share the rest. “I know you’re angry Damian, but there’s more.”
Damian sighed deeply, “What else could have gone wrong last night? Well, spit it out,” he said.
“It’s not just one soucouyant that’s causing the trouble, there’s a nest.” Silence on the line for a minute or two and Zach and Erin waited, phone poised in the palm of Erin’s hand. They were accustomed to Damian’s ways by now and one of them was that when he was thinking, he ignored everything else.
Finally he spoke, sounding calmer than he had since their conversation had begun. “Okay, we can spin this in our favour. You two need to find that nest and when you do, bind it until containment gets there. I’ll stall the boys upstairs until you sort it all out.”
Erin breathed a sigh of relief and raised her other hand for a high-five, which Zach reluctantly gave into. “Great, we should have it all sorted in a week or so Damian, thanks so much.”
Damian laughed drily, “Oh, don’t thank me girl, if you didn’t have this out you’d be sitting in lockup. Zach?”
“By the book, no excuses.”
“Yes sir,” he said, eyeing Erin with a pointed look. “We’ll get on it right now,” he added.
“You better. You’ve got two days.”
The call ended and Erin slipped the phone back into her pocket. “Two days?” she asked Zach incredulously. “It’s not like soucouyants walk up to you and invite you to dinner.” She shook her head.
“It’s better than lockup,” and Erin had to agree. She’d been in lockup once before and hated the small four by six cell, where all contact with others, light and food were forbidden. It was the organisation’s version of solitary and a way to punish its employees if they went too far off the beaten track.
“Okay then, let’s find us some old bitches,” Erin said with a fake southern drawl. Zach hid his smile.