A Hard Way to Heaven

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Chapter 17

Kitty’s hand was warm in Syn's as they skipped along the sidewalk. Her sister giggled in her ear, “How do ye always lose a mitten Syn?” Her sister shrieked as Roric and Akir rushed through them, laughing as they played a game of tag.

Their breath frosted in the chill of the air, and a few snowflakes drifted to the ground. Syn turned her face to the sky, tried to catch them on her tongue. Her sister called out waving, “Come on Syn, race you.”

Syn ran to Kitty and grabbed her arm as she heard the lads behind her, calling out. They raced up the walk to the house eager for the warmth, and a mug of Grandmother Graham's hot chocolate. The front door was ajar. Syn’s gloveless hand reached out, landed on the door beside her sister’s, and they pushed the door open, calling out that they had returned. Calling out for that hot chocolate. What was that smell? What was that red stain on the wall, on the doorframe leading into the front room? The door was open to the front parlor as her six-year-old voice called out. “Grandma, pap we are…”

Kitty walked ahead, her blond hair swishing from side to side, her head turning. “Grandma, Pap Pap?”

The ringing in Syn’s ears intensified as she stepped into the room, around her sister. Did Kitty just scream?

Syn froze, her gaze fixed on her grandmother on the couch. Elsa’s eyes were open, unmoving. Odd how vivid the color of her eyes, the blue and white were stark against the blood covering her face. She didn't understand. The woman's left hand dangled off the couch, and Syn’s line of sight dropped to the floor to the black pools of blood beneath her Pap’s motionless body. Why were their clothes covered in blood? She blinked, wondering why they didn’t get up, greet them as they promised. Why had Kitty screamed? Why was there blood? Her questions caught in her throat.

They were dead. Just like the crow she had seen in the back garden of their home in Fort William, killed by the neighbor’s cat. Shredded to pieces, covered in blood and mud. One wing stretched wide gnawed at by teeth, and the body punctured by the cat's claws. Why would the cat kill her grandparents?

She blinked back the tears, suddenly cold. Her eyes lifted to the far wall, to the red words painted on there. She could read them. Hadn't her father praised her recently for her ability to read hard words. Her eyes darted over the sentences. It was a poem. Not a poem she liked.

The words painted on the walls morphed, and transformed to the words made visible by the black lights set up around the room of the warehouse. Her chest tightened in fear. The images so long repressed rushed at her like a freight train. She had forgotten that horrible night. Suddenly, the apparition of her grandmother was rising from the rubble, and walking towards her. The skull’s empty eye sockets glowing red, and she felt a crushing weight upon her back. She was alone in the semi-darkened warehouse, crouched down, hugging her knees, and covering her ears afraid of the tapping sound.

Tied in bed in a roofless room of her grandparent’s house, the smell of smoke invading her nostrils, and gasping for breath at the rising panic that gripped her mind, her heart. Syn struggled against the bindings that held her fast to the bed, unable to scream for the wool in her mouth. The cold of the stone beneath her naked body, the chains that bound her fast. The bulk of the black shadow's weight pressing her down.

Her mind tried to think, tried to form an escape plan. She was naked and sobbing, exposed to the elements, and terrified of the approaching footsteps, the sound of the door creaking open, and snap of fingers. Struggling against the umbra that held her fast, that kept her in the darkness. The sound of the wolf’s howl, and the faint sounds of his measured breaths as he ran through snow, through the trees.

The asphyxiating blackness had a crushing hold about her shoulders, her body, and silenced her screaming. The piercing green eyes over her, and jaws snapping at her chains…

Syn’s eyes popped opened on a harsh gasp. She couldn’t get enough air into her lungs, and breathed deeply as the images played over in her mind. Her stomach clenched, and saliva filled her mouth against her gag reflex. She swallowed trying to keep the need, the want to be sick at bay. She turned against someone’s hold, crawled away, unable to hold back, and retched, emptying her stomach over the rubble covered floor. The sound of voices filled her ears as she pushed off hands. She continued to crawl away from her own sickness as she gagged again, vomiting several times, emptying the entire contents of her stomach. She leaned into warmth, some body that pressed into her left side. A water bottle appeared in her line of vision, and reached for it. Her shaking hand missed the bottle for the tears that obscured her vision. Syn snarled at her sudden weakness and grabbed the bottle.

Water sloshed free, and over her hand. She brought the lip of the bottle to her mouth and drank greedily of the cold water. She rinsed out her mouth and spit, groaning. Finally, gaining some composure, she looked up, and into the green eyes of the man from Interpol.

Green eyes she knew as a child.

Inwardly she cursed, trying to find the right words. She glared at Akir, but said nothing. Something was going on, and her mind was working on fitting the pieces of the puzzle together. Akir helped her up, and she abruptly shoved off his aid. His warmth was disconcerting, confusing her thoughts. The cold shock wanted that warmth, and the calculating reality wanted distance. Their eyes locked as she cleared her throat, “Where is my camera?”

A tech stepped forward as she finished off the bottle of water, holding it out. She snatched it from his hands, and fumbled, almost dropping the expensive piece of equipment. Her saving grace was catching the neck strap, and tugging it up as the water bottle dropped, and bounced away. She took several measured breaths, finally hearing Peter’s concerned inquiry. “What?”

“Are you alright?” Peter gently grabbed her elbow, and Syn realized she was still quaking.

“F..Fine.” She stuttered.

“Fine, you fainted, and were twitching as if you were having a seizure. Did you hit your head recently?”

Before she could deny his question, he was calling for Doc Swab. “I am fine.” She couldn’t very well explain the whole of it, not to Peter, not to the techs and the police officers standing about looking uncomfortable over what had happened. None of them knew about her past in Scotland. Hell, she hardly remembered it, but for the occasional bad dream. Syn turned looked at Akir, “I know which report, which murders you are talking about. I read the file awhile back, saw the pictures of the crime scene.” Doc Swab was suddenly in her line of vision, and she took a step back, almost stumbled over a small pile of rubble.

“May I?”

“I am fine.”

“Apparently not Detective.” Doc Swab steered her away from the areas of sickness, pushed her down on a stool. His hand lifted, his fingers curled around a pen light, and was flickering it back and forth over her eyes.

“Doc I am fine. How long was I out?”

“A couple of minutes.” Peter crouched down, concerned.

Akir shook his head, “Thirty seconds, maybe a minute.”

Peter snarled, stood, “Enough to be worried.” He turned back to Syn, “Are you pregnant?”

Syn shoved away Doc’s hand, stood, and swayed a bit. Swab reached for her as she did his arm, and steadied herself. Finally she let go, angered and snapped, “Not that it is any of your fucking business, but no. I haven’t slept properly since I got to the states…and I never did well with jet lag.” The look of relief on Peter’s face unnerved her.

Doc stood, let out an exasperated breath, “It has been a long, stressful day for all of us. Take your pictures Detective, whatever else you need, and then go home and sleep, good meal too. I’ll begin the autopsy tomorrow 8am sharp. If you want to attend, that is fine. But I strongly recommend you get a good night's sleep.” Swab stuffed his pen light back into his pocket. He glared at Peter as he walked past, “And you, half the squad is upset over this, or hadn’t you noticed. Could have happened to any one of us. This is three women in less than two weeks.”

A tense silence filled the air as Doc Swab left final instructions for his technicians, and the forensic team.

Peter walked over to Syn, but she took a step back. “Don’t, just don’t. It’s been three years since I’ve been to a crime scene. I just have to get my sea legs back. Your concern is noted.”

“Don’t be such a cold hearted bi…” Peter closed his mouth, turned on his heel, and spoke over his shoulder, “Finish up, and make sure you make copies of everything.”

Syn watched Peter disappear out the door. The sun was setting, and the long shadows of dusk were descending on Port Lewis. The technicians went about their final duties, whispering. She turned back to Akir and Raven. She shook her head free of the cobwebs, and turned to snap pictures of the wall. A hand closed over the camera, and she realized just how bad her hand was shaking.

Akir took the camera from her hands, and handed it to Raven. His voice was quiet for the echoing effect in the space, “Make sure you get a pan of the whole thing…”
Raven smiled sympathetically at Syn, dropping his voice, “The usual boss.”


Syn crossed her arms, watching Raven step to take pictures. Her teeth clamped tight as she took a shuddering breath. “Akir Macleod right?” she said tightly.

He nodded, “I am surprised ye remembered, tis been over twenty years.”

Syn’s eyes narrowed, “Twenty-one.”

“Aye, twenty-one.” He stepped closer, and Syn felt that warmth again. Her eyes closed, took a deep breath, inhaling the subtle scent of his aftershave. After all the horror of the day, the terror of fear that had gripped her body, the earthy scent was comforting. The deep baritone of his voice, the brogue washed over her, and she relished the calmness it brought. “Are ye alright?”

She didn’t trust her voice, and nodded. Her tongue wet her lips as she rolled them inward, contemplating the scene across the space. Akir was suddenly blocking her view. Damn he was tall, her eyes on level with the middle of his chest. If she was five inches over five feet, that put him at least a foot taller. She sidestepped around him, but stayed to his left shoulder, and inclined her head at his buddy. “Who is that?”

Akir turned around, “Raven Cameron, a distant cousin of ours.”

She was suddenly angry, “What are you doing here?”

“I will explain, but not here. Some place more secure.”

“What aren’t you telling me?”

Akir bit out, “Not here.”

Syn crossed her arms, her anger deepening, “Fine.” Raven finished and walked over, handing back her camera. She curled her fingers around the body, and looked up into the same eyes as Akir’s, “Cousin my ass.”

“Aye, cousin.”

Syn called out last minute instructions, and then led Akir and Raven back outside, past the tent and to her Highlander. She fished out her keys, and hit the door button. She heard the lock on the tailgate disengaged, and yanked it down. Akir was too close. Didn't he understand personal space? She flipped open a metal storage unit, and lifted out a drone. She affixed another camera to the mountings on the undercarriage, and grabbed the remote control.

Akir bent forward and lifted the small contraption up, surprised at how lightweight it was. Syn stopped him, needing to adjust the camera for night vision. Their fingers brushed and that slight touch turned her insides soft, and warm. Her eyes flashed upward, and saw something written in the depths of his eyes. They were very expressive, and a tickle of fear, and lust raised goose bumps along her arms. She cleared her throat, focused on her task, and set the camera. “Put it in the middle of the road.”

Syn quickly stepped away, adjusting the remote, and turning on the view finder. After Akir had set the machine down in the middle of the road, Syn toggled the controls, and the drone lifted smoothly into the air. As the drone raised into the air, she flicked the switch for video capture and began recording, focusing on the activity behind her. Satisfied with the footage, she toggled the lift controller, and the drone rose higher, clearing the roofs of the buildings on either side of them. She felt Akir and Raven at her shoulder, and stepped away, uneasy for the intrusion.

She directed the drone over the roofs of both buildings, stopping at several points of interest and gaining more video. She finally turned it to the crime scene, and the surrounding dock side. Fifteen minutes later she drove the drone back to their position, and landed it ten feet away. She walked forward, turned off the motors, and picked it up, carried it back to the SUV. Syn removed the camera, shut it down, and placed the drone back into its housing unit. The camera went into her black backpack with her other camera.

She sat on the tailgate of her Highlander as Akir and Raven stood there waiting. She inclined her head at Akir, “You’re with me. No one else.”

“Where are we going?”

Something flippant came to mind, but she bit her tongue. “Somewhere we can talk…”

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