Critical Moments (£2.99 | $3.72)
I pushed through the people with Harvey; they were gathering around the body on the pavement. Sitting huddled into a ball beside it was a girl, woman; I wasn’t sure yet.
“Could you all stand back, please, and give us some room? There’s nothing to see. Get on your way now.” Harvey stared at them until some of them moved, but you always have a few who ignore you. He took out his warrant card. “I’ll have you taken to the station if you don’t move on.” They reluctantly moved; more were filling the spaces they left. Harvey stood away from me and the girl with his back to the crowd, giving me some space.
The rain was hammering down; Harvey pulled his phone out and asked where his team were. I suppose the rush hour has stopped them getting here as quickly as us, coming from a different direction.
“I believe it was you who rang us; can you tell me who you are, please?”
I looked at the girl. Why can’t she look at me? Sitting on the wet pavement with her back to the wall; I don’t understand her. Her head was resting on her knees, looking straight ahead, the rain soaking her hair and running in little rivers down onto her thin clothes.
She called us. Why the fuck won’t she look at me?
I turned my attention to the body on the floor beside her. It was a man. His hair stuck to his neck in clumps, because of the rain, and in the gaps between them, blood dribbled from two small wounds.
“Harvey, look at this.” He sat on his haunches in front of the body and looked to where I was pointing.
“Jesus, Alli, that’s a bite.” He kept his voice low. “I’ll ring Hillary and warn her what’s coming in.”
We both stood up and looked at the girl huddled beside the body of the man, touching the top of his head with her thigh.
“What’s your name?”
She didn’t move, let alone look at us. I bent over and touched her hand, wrapped around her knees. She flinched.
Harvey, she’s petrified.
I can feel it, Alli; try again?
“What’s your name? You called us. I’m Alli and this is Harvey; we’re here to help you.”
She looked at me now. “You can’t help me, so leave me alone.”
Do you think she’ll come with us, so we can talk to her, Alli?
I’ll try to read her mind. Whatever she’s hiding is buried really deep, give me a minute.
I squatted down in front of her and took both of her hands in mine. She tried to pull away, staring at me, but I held them firmly and she stopped pulling.
“I’m psychic. I can see you’re the same as us.”
Her eyes bulged.
“We’d like to talk to you.”
“Don’t bullshit me!” she screamed in my face.
“It’s not bullshit; you are the same as us.” She doesn’t believe it, Harvey.
“You can stop talking in your heads. I can hear everything you’re saying.”
“And you say you’re not?” I threw straight back at her.
“I’m Detective Inspector Burgess. Look, we need to talk to you either in a café somewhere or down at the station, it’s up to you.”
She looked worried now. I heard cars screech to a halt.
Harvey forced his way through the crowds to his two detectives, who were just getting out of their car.
“Andy, wait for the doctor. Jamie, get Uniform to clear all these people out of here. We’re taking her over the road to the café. She’s bricking it about something and Alli can’t read her yet. She may open up a bit, away from the body.”
“Okay, sir. Shall I get SOCO down here?”
“I don’t think they’ll get much. It’s been raining for hours but call them out, Jamie.”
“Will do, sir.” He ran over to the nearest Uniform officer.
Harvey turned back to me and pushed his way through the onlookers. “We’ll take her over there.” He sat on his haunches in front of the girl. “We’re taking you to the café over the road. Come on, you look like you could do with a hot drink.”
“I tried to help, I wasn’t strong enough.”
Harvey stood up. “Come and tell us out of the rain, you’ll catch your death out here.”
She looked at me. “Is he trying to be funny?”
“No, love, he’s trying to be kind; you’re completely missing the point.”
I put my hand out for hers and helped her up; she was shaking like a leaf and soaked to her skin. Her bare arms looked white in the gloom of the storm. Andy came to stand with the body as we walked away.
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We hurried her across the road to the café and sat at the back, not succeeding at staying away from anyone. A girl came over and asked what we wanted. I ordered three teas and took my jacket off to put over her shoulders. She only had a T-shirt and jeans on and should’ve been shivering, if she wasn’t a Hybrid.
She’d had her arms crossed over her body until we sat down. It was obvious she had no underwear on and a few of the men in the café were staring at her.
“Thank you. Sorry, I’ll get it soaked inside.”
“Put your arms in the sleeves, I don’t care if it gets wet, it’s okay.”
Harvey was trying to read her mind.
“What’s your name?”
She just stared at me for a moment. “I don’t know what it is, that’s why I couldn’t answer you before. I know what I am; I don’t know who I am.”
“How did you phone us? It doesn’t look like you have a phone on you now or did you use a call box.”
“I grabbed a man’s trouser leg and screamed for a phone. He could see I needed help and let me use his. He hurried off after I gave it back.”
“Do you know who the dead man was?” Harvey asked her gently.
A tear ran down her cheek so I gave her a tissue from my bag.
“Thank you. His name is Olli and he found me hiding in a shed six months ago; he’s looked out for me ever since. I can’t believe he’s dead.”
“What the hell happened?” Harvey asked her.
She looked at Harvey. “A huge man came over and started rowing with him over something really stupid. I’d never seen him before. We’ve only been in this town for a couple of days. We were in a derelict house, keeping out of the rain, and two policemen moved us on. That’s why I haven’t got a coat on. They wouldn’t let me take it. Our rucksacks are still there with all our belongings in.”
“Did these policemen have uniforms on?” Harvey asked.
“No, they said they were plain-clothed policemen and they’re moving all tramps out of town.”
“You’re the cleanest tramp I’ve ever seen,” I said to her. “Were you sleeping rough?”
The tea was put on the table. Harvey gave her a fiver and said keep the change, to hurry her away from us.
“Not really, we always did for maybe a couple of nights before we found ourselves a flat but we’ve always worked and moved about. Olli never liked staying in one place for too long, he had itchy feet.”
“Was he the same as you?”
She smiled, shook her head and lowered her voice. “No, he wished he was many times. He always said when he ages he’ll look like a perv, being with someone so young. He made a joke of it but I know he was serious.”
“How did an argument turn into him being killed? I’m sorry to keep pressing you. I need to know if we’re going to catch whoever did this.”
She looked at Harvey again. “From the way the big man kept yelling about something that happened a while ago, I’m sure he thought he was someone else.”
“Can you remember anything he was saying?”
“He kept saying: last month, I told you not to do it. I was screaming and trying to pull him off so I missed a lot of it.”
“There’s a bite on your friend’s neck,” Harvey whispered.
She stared at Harvey. “What do you mean a bite, he’s never been bitten.”
Harvey looked towards the door; Jamie was hurrying to speak to him.
“What is it, Jamie?” Harvey could see he was confused about something.
“Sir, this is weird. The doctor says he’s not dead, he’s got a heartbeat.”
Harvey got up to leave with Jamie. “Stay here with her, Alli,” he said then headed for the door. The other customers were wondering what the hell was going on. I stared at them and they lost interest.
“I want to go and see him.”
I put my hand over hers. “He’ll come back as soon as he knows for sure. He can see how much you care about him.”
She looked at my hand. “Bloody hell, they’re real, aren’t they.”
“Yes, I’m married to Harvey. We got wed four months ago. Harvey runs the murder squad. That’s why we were called out to this.”
“Are you in the police, too?”
“Almost a year now. I was taken on by them because I read minds and see the dead. It’s very handy in this line of work.”
“He’s not come back. They must have made a mistake.” Silent tears were rolling down her face.
I put my arm around her shoulder and gave her a hug.
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The door opened and her eyes shot up to see who was coming in. Harvey walked towards us and sat down. The man we thought was dead stood before us soaking wet.
“Olli!” she yelled.
I stood up to let her out of the corner. He flung his arms around her shoulders and kissed her. I sat beside Harvey and they took the bench opposite. Harvey waited a few minutes before he asked him anything.
“Olli, do you understand what’s happened to you?”
“Not really, everything went black and then I started to feel things like the pavement and the rain hitting my face. When I opened my eyes, someone had a stethoscope on my chest, listening to my heart.”
“Can you remember where your belongings are?” Harvey asked him.
“Yes, two streets away, where a whole row of houses are boarded up, and we were in the only one boarded, opposite. The front door was already open.”
“I know it, we’ll get your stuff and you’re coming home with us. I’m sure Alli won’t mind you using the cottage, left to her by our dear friend when she died.” Harvey looked at me.
“You know I won’t, Harvey.”
Olli looked at us both. “Why are you helping us? We’re just drifters.”
“Everyone needs a helping hand at some point in their lives and this is your time,” Harvey answered him.
Olli looked stunned.
I got up and let Harvey out. “Come on, you could do with a bath and dry clothes, you both look like drowned rats.”
The girl giggled at me.
“What are we going to call you?”
“I’ve always called her Gina, I think it suits her,” Olli told us.
“Gina it is from now on. Are you ready?” I swept my hand to the door, and they got up to follow us out of the café. The rain was very fine now and we got in Harvey’s car to pick up their stuff.
Harvey went into the building with Olli to help him get their things, and their bags had been ransacked. Olli was pissed off; their clothes were strewn all over. They picked them up and stuffed them into the rucksacks.
“The bastards that made you move on must have watched you come in here with your gear. Forget it. We have plenty of clothes and we’ll get you more over the next couple of days.”
“I don’t understand why you’re helping us like this.”
“We’ve both been in your position and someone helped us in the past; like I said, it’s your time, let’s go.”
Harvey parked the car outside our house and we took them into Jenny’s cottage next door to show them around.
“It’s not very modern but she was eighty-two when she died. If you want to stay, we’ll change the furniture for you, it won’t be a problem.”
“We haven’t any money for rent until I get a job.”
“We didn’t ask you for rent, we don’t want any.”
They both looked astonished.
“After you’ve got changed, come to the big house next door. I’m ordering a curry if you both eat it?”
Harvey opened a drawer in the kitchen and took out a bunch of keys. “Here are the keys for this house and so you don’t worry, Jenny died in hospital. Some people are a bit weird about that sort of thing.”
“I can’t believe how kind you two are.” Gina looked like she was going to cry.
Harvey answered, “I told Olli, we’ve both been in your position. I’ll order for an hour’s time, but if you’re ready before that just come round, we’ll have a drink.”
The bell on the front door rang. I opened it and asked them in. They looked shocked at the house, their eyes were everywhere.
“Come in, make yourselves at home. There’s no standing on ceremony here. What do you both drink?” Harvey asked them.
“We drink wine when we’ve got money, Harvey; red wine,” Olli answered.
“That’s what we mainly drink, sit down and relax.”
They both sat on one of the sofas, very close together. Harvey went down to the cellar.
“This house is incredible. I’ve never seen furniture like this before, Alli.”
“Harvey looked for all this years ago, long before I met him.”
“He doesn’t look old enough; did he buy it from his pram?” Olli joked.
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I smiled at him. “You’ll understand things when we’ve talked to you after we’ve eaten. Just remember this; we’ve been where you are now and had help from others. We’re passing on the favour we were once given.”
Harvey brought them a glass of wine each and went back for ours.
“Thanks, Harvey.” I raised my glass. “To new friendships and new beginnings.” I toasted them.
They both looked gobsmacked.
“Drink up,” Harvey coaxed. “Your lives change from this point on; that’s if you want it to.”
The bell rang and Harvey hurried to pay for the takeaway. As he walked back through the sitting room, towards the kitchen, he said, “Come and help yourselves.”
I followed him and they came into the kitchen staring at everything.
“Bloody hell, I’ve never seen a kitchen like this,” Gina said. “Not that I can remember, anyway.”
“If you stay I’ll get one fitted, just as nice as this, next door.” Harvey was opening all the cartons. “Have anything you want; dive in. We’ll throw anything that’s left so don’t be shy.”
They picked up plates and gathered what they wanted.
“We eat off the big coffee table in the sitting room. The dining room is a bit formal for a chat.”
Gina looked at me, smiled and picked up her cutlery.
I cleared all the plates, loaded the dishwasher and joined them.
Olli was the first to speak. “The meal was great, thank you. Please don’t think I’m being rude, but why us?”
Harvey smiled at both of them and started explaining. “I run the murder squad at the local nick and Alli works with me. She reads minds, sees the dead everywhere and can dig inside someone’s head to find out what we need to know to solve the cases we get. Today, Gina phoned 999 for help as you’d been attacked. When we got there, you were dead as far as both of us were concerned.”
Olli’s face showed total shock.
“I was even going to ring the pathologist to tell her what was coming in. You’ve been bitten the same as us.”
“What the hell are you saying?”
Gina touched his hand. “Listen, Olli, he’ll explain it all to you.”
He stared at her. “Am I the same as you?”
A smile broke out on his face. “This is fucking brilliant.” He gave her a cuddle. “Sorry, Alli, I got a bit carried away and swear a lot, I’m afraid.”
“You should fit in here perfectly, then.” Harvey was laughing at me. His mobile rang, “Sorry, I have to get this.” He listened and said, “You bugger, Jo, I thought we were getting called out. I was going to ring Hillary today and things changed, slightly.” He listened again. “Come round and you’ll see for yourself, I’m not telling you, okay. See you soon.” He hung up. “They’ll be here soon. Sorry; Jo works with us and Hillary is a pathologist. They’re a gay couple; you don’t have any hang-ups about that, do you?”
“Gay, straight; it doesn’t bother us. We both know what we want.”
“Hillary is human and would love to be in your position now, Olli. Once they’ve been told I think the subject should be dropped.”
“I agree. I know how that feels, Harvey. It didn’t sit well with me.”
“What work do you look for, Olli?”
“Anything to do with cars; mechanic is my first choice but I’ve done delivery driving. I haven’t got an HGV licence but I wouldn’t want to be away from Gina, now we’ve found each other.”
“I know exactly what you mean by that.” Harvey squeezed my hand.
“They’re outside; I’ll let them in.”
As I left the room, Harvey said, “Who needs a doorbell, when you can read minds.” I heard laughing behind me.
“Come on, you two, I’m getting bloody wet standing here.”
They came running up the path and I stood back to let them in.
“What’s the big secret he couldn’t tell Jo on the phone?” Hillary asked.
I put my finger across my lips and walked into the sitting room. They followed right behind me.
Harvey got up to do the introductions and then he went for more wine.
“This fucking weather is driving me mad. You get a day off and it pisses down,” Jo said to no one in particular.
Harvey walked back in with wine for them. “And you were worried about swearing, Olli.”
That set us off laughing and everyone relaxed.
“What were you going to ring me about today, Harvey? I didn’t get what Jo meant about things changing.”
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“We were called out because Olli had been attacked and was dead, but had a bite on his neck. About an hour later he was kissing Gina again.”
“Lucky bugger,” was all Hillary said. We could see the tears in her eyes. Jo put her arms around her.
“Come on, we’ll give them a bit of space. Does anyone fancy a swim?”
Olli looked at Gina. “We haven’t got costumes.”
I giggled. “Nor have we.”
Harvey got up and followed me through the kitchen. I opened the double doors and flicked the light switches.
The pool was flooded with light. I dropped my clothes with Harvey’s and we dived in. Gina and Olli were looking from the door and smiled at each other. It didn’t take long for them to strip and jump in. A few minutes later Jo dived in and Hillary used the steps. I did a few lengths on the bottom and above me, Harvey was trying to catch up on the top, ploughing through the water.
Olli and Gina watched us and couldn’t stop smiling. I caught sight of Jo and Hillary laughing and carrying on; disappointment buried once more.
I came up for air and dragged Harvey to the bottom where we made love for ages. We’ve both been able to stay down for much longer than we used to and have it to twenty-five minutes now. When we came up the look on their faces was priceless.
“They’re both fish. They pretend they’re Hybrids, but they lie,” Jo said when she saw their faces.
“Can you do it, Jo?” Gina asked.
“Christ no, I’d bloody drown. That was stupid I can’t die. Put it this way, I haven’t tried.”
Hillary was behind her, jumped up and planted her hands on Jo’s shoulders and pushed her under. Jo swam away from her hands, down to the bottom and back up.
“I’m changing that; maybe I could with practice.” She put her arms around Hillary and they floated with their feet kicking to the other end of the pool to make out.
I got out, hurried to the cupboard in the corner and pulled out tons of towels for everyone. I wrapped one around my body and another for my hair. When I was putting the coffee on, I felt Harvey’s arms around me.
“How are you, Mrs Burgess?”
I pressed my body into his. “I’m very happy, Mr Burgess, and you.”
He squeezed me tight. “Ready and waiting, Mrs Burgess.”
Pack it in, you two, you’ve got guests.
“Did you see that parrot flying around, Mrs Burgess?” We could hear Jo and Hillary laughing in our heads.
I filled the cafetière and got the coffee cups out. Gina and Olli came through from the pool, wrapped in towels.
“I never expected that, Alli. This is a different world than we’ve been used to.”
I smiled at him.
“And good taste in music; what more could a man want?”
“That’s Harvey playing his guitar.”
Olli was shocked and left Gina to go and see for himself.
“Do you need a hand with anything, Alli?”
“The only thing I want from you is to know if you’re sticking around, Gina. We’ve all had a nomadic life of sorts, even Hillary; put down some roots. The house next door is yours for as long as you want it. We don’t bond easily with humans, apart from life partners, and you have friends here. All four of us like you both, I’m sure you’ve felt it.” I went to the pool room door. “Come on, stop shagging, the coffee’s made.”
Gina was laughing when I turned back to her. “I want to stay. If Olli gets a job, I think he will, too.”
“We’ll have to work on that, won’t we?” I carried the coffee through just as Harvey came to the end of some music. My towel slipped as I put the tray down.
“Sorry.” I dragged it back up.
“Don’t be sorry, Alli.” Gina came over. “Can I see your back? I noticed it in the pool but didn’t see it properly.”
I faced away from Olli and let the towel drop down my back.
“Alli, it’s beautiful. I don’t know how any of you dared get as much done as you have.”
Jo and Hillary came in. Jo only wears a towel around her bottom half. She has no boobs and was covered in tribal tattoos, like Harvey. Her shoulders were broad and she’d been weight training recently. Her physique was as good as his and we think nothing of it.
“Bloody hell, Jo, you look like a guy!” Gina put her hand to her mouth. “I’m so sorry, Jo, it just fell out of my mouth.”
Jo started laughing. “Not another one with Alli’s disease.”
That set us all off and we fell about, laughing.
“Gina, you’ve made my fucking day,” Jo said. “I couldn’t give a shit how much I’ve spent in that gym, now.”
Gina giggled and Olli cuddled her with a huge grin on his face.
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“I think I ought to pour this coffee before it turns solid.” I picked up the coffee and poured.
Hillary and Jo left about an hour later. Hillary had to have more sleep than me and we talked about more serious things.
“Gina, what did you feed off? I’m only asking because I buy blood for us. Alli used to go out to feed before we got together.”
“This is the bit I’m not sure about,” Olli admitted and his face showed it.
Gina told us, “Olli never saw me feed, I wouldn’t let him. I was ashamed of it if you want the truth. Small animals; deer mainly.”
“You must be fast if you catch deer. I do the speed thing but Alli hasn’t had to and has never tried it. We drink ours in the shower and wait for the feelings to hit and then the change.”
“What the hell is that?” Olli asked, now very unsure what he’d got himself into.
Harvey smiled at him and explained, “The feelings hit and you’re as randy as fuck, to put it bluntly. The change is different and that happens when we get aroused or really annoyed about anything. We look different and couldn’t afford to change in public. We find it difficult sometimes at work, especially if kids are murdered. Don’t be worried about it when you feed. Let it happen as we revert to type at that time, and it heightens everything. You’ll enjoy it, I can promise you that. I’ll supply you with blood as you wouldn’t find many deer running around here, Gina.”
She giggled at him.
“How did you manage feeding on your own, Gina? That must have been really frustrating for you,” I asked. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that?
“It’s all right, Alli. I don’t feel embarrassed in front of you two because we’re the same, I suppose. I used to hide and masturbate, and it drove me nuts at times.”
“I told you I should’ve been with you.”
“I’d have probably shagged you to death, Olli. It was hard enough hiding the fact I change when we made love. Now you know why I insisted on having the light off.”
“What a way to go, though.” He flung his arms out and fell on the empty seat beside him with a huge sigh.
We started laughing.
“I’m making tea. That coffee was too strong,”
“I’m having more wine, Alli, and I think these two will help me drink it, as their hands didn’t shoot up for tea.”
“I have to find a job pretty quickly because we can’t keep taking off you both.” Olli looked upset.
“Listen, the pair of you. I’ve been playing the stock market for the last fifty years or–” He didn’t get another word out.
“What the fuck are you talking about, Harvey; you’re not old.” Olli was really confused.
“Let me explain. Alli and I were bitten when we were kids and aged normally up to a certain date. For Alli it was twenty-two but she’s been stuck there for the last fourteen years. I got to twenty-four and have been there for over a hundred years.”
They made no sound because their mouths were open.
“You’re catching flies,” I called.
Gina started giggling and elbowed Olli. “That’s fuckin incredible. It doesn’t show, you’re all right.”
“Another witty bugger in our midst. I have enough trouble with Jo.” Harvey was grinning at him. “I’ll get more wine and continue.”
I made my tea and carried it in.
“Who plays the piano?” Gina was looking at it.
“Oh, it’s me,” I said and sat down on a floor cushion.
“Play it, Alli, for me.” Harvey came in with three glasses of wine. How could I say no? I love him. I took a sip of my tea and walked to the piano. I sat down and started playing something I’d heard on the classical channel on the radio. We were driving into work so I didn’t hear all of it.
“Why have you stopped, Alli?”
“That was all I heard on the radio. We don’t work far from here, Gina.”
“Please play the music you played last night for me?” Harvey came over and stood behind me to listen.
I went through the whole piece, and at the end of it, he kissed my neck.
“Thank you, I loved that. Your tea is getting cold.”
We sat on the other sofa and Harvey cuddled me as I drank my tea.
Gina and Olli finished kissing. “Sorry, that music got to us. You play really well, Alli, it was beautiful.”
“Thank you, Gina, but I think Harvey takes the biscuit for music.”
“Olli loves the guitar but I love to hear a piano. Do you ever play together?”
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“Sometimes; I’d like to hear you again, Harvey. I missed most of your playing earlier.”
He squeezed me and got up for his guitar. He played my favourite track of Chris Rea’s and I closed my eyes, just listening. It did something to my head and always made me really horny. Harvey knew exactly what it was doing to me and played it over and over, changing it slightly so that it sounded like one piece of music. I kept my eyes closed when he’d finished. Olli and Gina thought I was asleep and said they ought to go. Harvey took them upstairs, gave them enough blood for tonight and they left us. I heard the door close and waited for Harvey’s first touch.
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