For a while there was only the sawing of steel through bone, the rasp of Rook’s own breath echoing in his mask. Then he heard a low growl behind him. He dropped the hunk of meat he was working on and pivoted machete-first, unfolding his lanky frame from the pool of deeper shadow at the base of the auto shop wall.
“Farrago, hush,” Mouse said softly, a warning. Beside her, its head reaching well above her waist, crouched a hulking, chimeric thing with mismatched eyes, the only feature that remained of the daylit stray.
Its nostrils flared, and Rook wondered idly if it recognized what remained of Harley’s scent—if it recalled his comment about stuffing household pets.
“Friend of yours?” Rook said.
“Sometimes.” Mouse curled her fingers in the creature’s thick ruff when it released a rattling, staccato bark. “Hush, it’s okay.” Her hood was down, and Rook saw her hair for the first time, chopped short and ragged as though with a pair of safety scissors. A cord led from her backpack to the headset hanging around her neck, a muffled voice hissing urgently from the speakers. Rook thought he heard his name. Mouse adjusted a dial on the cord to silence the noise.
Rook swayed and smiled when Mouse tracked the movement, her eyes clear and sharp and trained on the lens of his mask, her hand plunged into the pocket of her sweatshirt. Gone was the heaviness from her limbs, the gloss of disinterest scrubbed from her face, as though the night had carved a new Mouse from her daylit torpor with the razor of the moon.
“I know you,” she said. It was almost a challenge. “You live across the street from us. You’re Harley.”
“Sometimes.” Rook stepped onto the sidewalk, a fat dark drop rolling off the serrated edge of his blade and splashing onto the pavement; it sounded loudly in the empty street as though in a tunnel. “Just not at night.” He hadn’t meant to take that step, but he did not try to reclaim it.
The beast planted itself between the girl and Rook, a snarl trickling through bared teeth as it flashed incisors the length of Rook’s thumb. Mouse seized two of its curling horns and tugged.
“Farrago,” she said again, louder. “Leave it. Come on.”
Head a-tilt, Rook lowered his machete, holding it partially out of sight behind his leg. “Little Mouse, little Mouse,” he sing-songed, “won’t you come out and play?”
“I will not,” she said firmly, staring hard into his lens. “Not with you. Not tonight.”