CHAPTER 3 — Fraternity
V was crouching, shaking the limp body resting in front of him. Owen quickly rushed to his side, confused but with the calmness that a police officer should have. Considering V was feeling desperate, he had to be the one to maintain a clear head and do his job.
"Owen, don't!" V slapped Owen's hand away, as he tried to reach for Tem's neck and see if he still had pulse. It stunned him for a second; it wasn't common for V to be acting so forceful. In this situation, he should have been cooperating. "I'm going to carry him all the way home."
"Shouldn't we call an ambulance?" Owen helped getting Tem onto V's back. It was just now that he realized how strong this man was, being able to carry another guy of his same size with minimum effort. But he couldn't help feeling worried; Tem's body was eerily cold. He told himself it was only because he passed out and needed time for his blood to flow naturally, but at the back of his mind, he felt something was wrong.
"I'll call our usual doctor once we're there," V answered. "He knows his condition and all that. Also," he added before leaving, "Tem will kill me if we make this a big deal. So, uh…"
"I get it. I won't say anything."
V smiled in response. He seemed grateful. As he was leaving, Owen attempted to follow him, but stopped. The two brothers were hiding something, that's what Owen felt. But for now, he decided to trust his friend, and leave them alone. If they ever needed help, he would simply say it.
When he was alone, he looked around once more. The fact that V decided to investigate, and the fact that he brought Tem with him, meant that there was indeed something else to this case. Perhaps, it was best to leave it to the two brothers. Perhaps.
Instead of bringing him to his apartment, V decided that Tem would feel better if he was in a desolate part of the forest. He waited there for a pretty long time before he woke up.
"Geez, can't you wait until you're alone before passing out?" V said, sighing in annoyance. "Owen is a police officer. He almost tried to search for your pulse."
"Sorry," Mortem murmured, closing his eyes.
V sighed again, letting his body relax and falling into the soft grass. His hands rested behind his head, he enjoyed this moment of tranquility. The orange sky above told him that the sun was setting already, and he should be going home before night fell.
"Aren't you going back to your wolf form?" V asked. What was Tem going to do now? He couldn't leave him alone when he was low on blood.
V went silent, thoughtful. "Did that old man Wyatt attack you? Is that why you killed him?"
V waited a few seconds for Mortem to continue his story naturally, but apparently that thought never crossed his mind.
"So, what happened?"
"The other guy that went missing, he was being annoying, so I leaped out at him."
"So he shot you."
"Where?" V sat up straight hoping to inspect Tem's body and see if there were any new scars. "You should stop provoking them," he asked with a hint of concern.
"It doesn't matter. He can't kill me anyway," Tem replied, not bothering to answer V's first question. However his brother already had an idea in mind, so he didn't bother asking again.
All of Mortem's wounds healed easily. His skin would regenerate just like anyone else's, and what would remain was a small red mark or a scar. However, unlike V's, Mortem's scars were permanent. That was another reason why he disliked being in human form; while he took care of his face, he couldn't always do the same for his body. The fur or plumage of any animal would cover his entire skin, so that wasn't an issue.
And a third reason why he didn't like hanging out with humans was because of how violent they could be sometimes. By being an animal, Mortem could avoid being shot or stabbed in a robbery or something similar, and that avoided many scars later. Most animals would feel that he was different anyway, but if they didn't, at least they would go for non-lethal parts of his body, and he could always act submissive for them to stop attacking. In that sense, it was much easier to be around other creatures.
Mortem placed a hand on his forehead. He had been shot there once. The wound had healed, but a reddish-pink remained, so he covered it with hair. In fact, most of the right side of his face was covered; he had once explained that it was the side that better conveyed emotions. V had wondered why he would want to hide them from the world, but he suspected that his sibling was simply shy and didn't trust humans at all.
If he only tried to hang out with them more, perhaps he would understand that they weren't as bad as he thought. Yet V never pressed the issue further. Mortem would never admit it, but he knew that, in reality, he just feared them.
"The only reason that you would lose enough blood to faint is because he shot you in the heart," V reasoned after a while. "Your other organs went without blood for a little while, and you were up and walking even after that."
"You should have rested, Tem!" Mortem said, mimicking V's voice. "I couldn't with those two making my life difficult."
"Ah…" V jerked, as if he just remembered something. Right, he not only came here to investigate Wyatt's death. "Where is Jacob?"
"Jacob?" Tem echoed, genuinely confused.
"The old man's friend and I guess he was the one who shot you. He went missing last night. Where is he?"
"Him, I have no idea," Mortem replied, making V only more curious. "If I had taken him, he would be dead by now and you wouldn't have any trouble finding him."
V had to admit he was right. Even though he didn't completely believe his story, or that he was not involved with the disappearance of the hunter. It didn't make sense that he would go for Wyatt, leaving Jacob alone, considering he was the one who was killing off the wolves.
"I really have nothing to do with them," Mortem suddenly said, sitting up straight. The sudden change in position made his head feel dizzy for a while, as the blood that was gathered there was quickly pulled by gravity to the bottom.
"Where were you and what were you doing last night?" V sat down straight with his legs crossed, and a serious expression. In reality, he was feeling delighted; this had been the first time he had the chance to question someone, like a real detective.
Mortem looked at him in the eyes, unflinching, for some long moments. He was a fearsome opponent. "I saw all the wolves being killed as soon as the bullets left their bodies. I was busy, running around gathering souls."
That much was true, V thought. When someone died, someone else had to guide them to the afterlife, and Mortem was an expert in that. He didn't know if there were other beings doing the same in other parts of the world, but he had never been curious enough to leave and investigate.
Every year, the two would be going around the village in the form of small animals, guiding lost souls. But this year, V had left Mortem alone, since he wanted to see this from a different perspective.
"That guy, Jacob, seemed to enjoy killing so many wolves. So, as I watched him, I couldn't hold my anger, and I tried to attack him." V nodded, writing his testimony down in a notepad. "But I wasn't expecting him to react so quickly; at least I hoped to cause blood loss. He turned around at the last second and, with perfect aim, shot me in the chest. I passed out there and didn't wake up until the two of them had left."
V could also believe that to be true. The fact that Mortem just passed out meant that he really was injured, and only Jacob could have done that; after all, Wyatt wasn't carrying a weapon. Also, whenever they were fatally injured, it would cause a temporary death, a state where the mind was shut down completely, but the body still worked, fixing internal organs and skin. Because his brother was in wolf form, the bullet would pass through the chest, damaging not only his heart, but possibly his lungs and other organs, so this regeneration would take longer. Long enough for the two men to reach home safely, and long enough for morning to come.
"I see what you're thinking," Mortem said, bringing V back to reality. His expression must have given him away, that or his brother's incredible deductive abilities. "I woke up sooner than I expected, and I decided I wouldn't let them escape."
"Your heart was probably fixed by then, so that allowed you to live," V reasoned. "In other words, you're lucky he aimed for the chest and not for the head." After all, he thought, the brain was much more complex, and Mortem could take up to an entire day to wake up.
Tem nodded. "And no, I didn't stay there resting. I followed the trail that those two left behind. I was actually aiming for the dude with the gun, but I encountered the older one first. He was weak, pretty close to death himself."
"That doesn't mean you get to kill him whenever you want," V scolded.
"Do you want the facts or not?" Mortem retorted, visibly annoyed. He only continued when he saw V giving up. "Yes, I took his life right there, and then I went looking for the other guy. But I didn't find him, and I didn't have enough strength to search the entire town."
Up to that point, his story made sense. But after he killed Wyatt, Mortem had no alibi; he couldn't rule out the possibility that he had kidnapped Jacob. Yet again, V had to admit that he had no reason to, and that killing him on the spot would make more sense.
In other words, it was more likely that Mortem wasn't involved in Jacob's disappearance, which would mean that Wyatt's death was completely unrelated to that case. But how would he explain that to Owen? 'Hey, you know, my brother was the one that killed Wyatt, so you can stop worrying about it now'?
"I'll have to say that a wolf killed him," V told his brother, with a serious tone.
"Don't the police think it was an accident? Let that guy realize it by himself."
"He is very sharp. He believes this was no mere accident."
"But it was," Mortem said calmly.
V sighed. His brother's ways were confusing; he never really killed anyone, he simply accelerated the process of death. Which by itself would be considered killing, but at the same time he felt like he was letting nature take care of people's lives. Whenever V thought about it, his head hurt, and the way Mortem explained it didn't make much sense to him either.
"So what should I tell him?"
"You found out that it was really an accident, and that's it," Tem said, resting his back again on the grass. "You wouldn't claim a wolf killed him if you never saw the body for yourself."
"That's true, but…"
"It's a theory," Mortem interrupted, guessing V's next words. He knew about Owen's many theories and how he was always overthinking; V often told him stories with his eyes full of fascination. But Mortem could never understand why his brother was so amazed by how humans worked and interacted. When asked, he responded that they were so complex, that it was fun to be like them. Mortem didn't understand it at all.
"Yes, a theory, but maybe yours will work better… I don't know," V thought, sighing, looking at the sky. It was getting darker by the second, and he preferred to be at home by this hour. "It's getting late, what are you going to do?"
"I'll stay here and make sure your precious humans aren't making a mess," Mortem replied, still resting. "And… you should take these clothes, too."
Mortem went back into his usual wolf form. It was as fast as when he became a human, only taking a few seconds before his body completely morphed. He crawled out of the clothes that he was wearing, letting V grab them and put them back into the plastic bag where they belonged.
"And please," Mortem spoke, his muzzle giving him a slightly different voice and tone, "bring me something cleaner next time."
V chuckled. "Yes sir."