Worth parks at the foot of the Crosses' driveway for the second time that day and leans back in his seat, surveying the house. He takes a long drag on his cigarette before tilting his head toward Lamont in the passenger seat and asking, "You eat at all today?"
"No reason." He gets out of the car, and Lamont follows suit. Worth raps his knuckles on the window to the backseat, startling Hanna. "C'mon, Cross, out ya get." At Hanna's panicked expression, he says, "Fer fuck's sake, Hanna, I ain't makin' ya go inside. Jesus. But ya gotta get outta the car. Come on." He opens the door. Hanna stares up at him fearfully for a few moments before swallowing, nodding his head feebly, and timidly exiting the car.
Worth leans against the hood of the car with Hanna at his side as they watch Lamont go up the porch steps, treading carefully and watching his step around the blood.
"What's he doing?" Hanna asks nervously as Lamont examines the dried mess on the welcome mat. "Is he gonna, like, tamper with—with evidence a-and stuff? Is that—"
"Relax," Worth drawls. "He ain't gonna fuck with any evidence."
"For fuck's sake, Luce!" Lamont calls irritably from the porch, stooping to pick up Worth's crushed cigarette from the first trip to the crime scene. He waves it at Worth. "They'd've had some questions for you if they found this."
Worth laughs and gives him a thumbs-up. To Hanna, he continues, "'Mont's just gonna take a look 'round the place so he can tell ya what not to tell the cops."
"B-but I thought you said not to lie to them!"
"Not tellin' 'em somethin' ain't the same thing as lyin', Cross, you know that," Worth scoffs. "Everyone knows that. Ya learn that when yer a kid an ya don't wanna get yer arse kicked by yer parents."
The sound of coughing draws his attention back to the front porch. Lamont has opened the front door and recoiled from the stench inside. He gags into the crook of his elbow.
"Jesus Christ," Lamont coughs. Worth grins at the sight of him facing the yard, eyes cast skyward and his hands on his hips as he takes deep, nauseated breaths. "That's fucking disgusting, thanks for the warning."
"Wot? Ya knew there'd be two dead people in there, what'd ya expect? Roses?"
"I'm gonna throw up," Lamont says plaintively, and Worth cackles. Beside him, Hanna makes a distressed noise.
"Yer aw'right," Worth assures him languidly, clapping him on the back as Lamont ducks into the house. "That ain't really yer mum an' dad ya killed in there, jus' keep that in mind." And he squeezes the back of Hanna's neck lightly and stuffs his hands in his pocket. That's about as much real comfort he's comfortable offering.
After a moment, Hanna mutters in a troubled tone, "They're gonna ID the bodies as m-my parents, and…and that's gonna be awkward, since their death certificates were issued two years ago. And, w-well, y'know, they've been buried and…stuff."
Worth doesn't respond. "Awkward" isn't exactly the word he'd use.
A few minutes later, Lamont emerges from the house, obviously thankful to be back in the fresh air.
"That was the worst fucking thing I've ever seen in my entire life," Lamont says irritably, approaching Worth and Hanna and smelling of the dead Crosses inside. "And I've seen some fucked up crime scenes. But," he turns to Hanna, expression smoothing out a bit, "you're gonna be fine, kid."
"I am?" Hanna says weakly.
"What happened in there was, essentially, that they exploded," Lamont says. "Right? You did that, uh, magic…thing, cut your chest open, drew those things on yourself, and that made the—heheh, um—demons burst out of them, right?" Hanna nods. "As far as the police are gonna be able to tell, there was no weapon. There's literally nothing in there that could prove you're the one who did that to them. But it won't even matter, because even if I wasn't going to keep an eye on the resulting investigation, this is going to be completely covered up."
"They're gonna cover it up?" Hanna says incredulously.
"If they weren't, I'd have made sure they would, kid," Lamont says with an easy grin. "But they will, I'm sure of it. Completely unexplainable deaths, not to mention the fact that they'll discover Mr. and Mrs. Cross died two years ago."
Worth elbows Hanna triumphantly.
"Were your parents buried?" Lamont asks. Hanna nods. "They'll exume the bodies and run some tests, and they'll either find that the bodies in your house right now aren't technically human, or they'll find that they're the same people in your parents' coffins. And both of those discoveries will be hushed up. The only reason I'm bothering to supervise this whole thing is to keep them from prying at you too hard." He smirks at Worth. "Luce doesn't want the big bad coppers breaking his poor patient in half."
"Fuck off, gimme yer phone," Worth snaps, reaching into Lamont's pocket and pulling out his cell phone, ready to dial 911.
"Wait!" Hanna cries. "But—what—wh-what am I gonna tell them? They're gonna interrogate me, I can't say I wasn't there when it happened, what do I say?"
"The truth," Lamont says simply. "Just, you know…minus the magic part. You tell them the truth about how your parents died. Two years ago, in a car crash."
"And then they came back as ghosts."
"Don't tell them they came back as ghosts," Lamont says firmly. "They came back. You were living with your grandmother and they came back, and you don't know how or why. And if they ask you why you didn't tell anyone, you tell them you tried, but no one believed you. That much is true, isn't it?"
"But what do I say when they ask me what happened last night?" Hanna asks desperately.
"You say you don't know. That's your safest answer. How did your parents come back? You don't know. How did your parents die this time? You don't know. What happened to your chest? You don't know. Did you blow them up? No. You are just as baffled as they are, understand? Also, it's best you don't mention Luce's little set-up downstairs. Let's just say you don't remember much after what happened in your house, and you woke up in Luce's apartment. He's a good Samaritan who found you staggering along the streets and took you, all right?"
"Is that really gonna work?" Hanna asks.
"'Course it will," Worth scoffs. "With 'Mont lookin' over their shoulders the whole fuckin' time, they won't push it. At least, not if they value their jobs or their kneecaps…"
"It'll work, Hanna," Lamont says. "I promise." He holds his hand out to Worth, beckoning for his phone. "I'll make the call."
Worth tosses him the phone and goes around to the passenger side door. As Lamont dials 911, Worth slips inside his car and rummages through the glove compartment until he finds his roll of bandages and sets about wrapping his arms. If he has to accompany Hanna into the police station, he's sure as shit not doing it with his track marks on display for every cop and his brother to see.
He's just taping down the last of the gauze on one arm and preparing to wrap the other one when Hanna shuffles over. Worth glances up at him briefly before going back to his bandaging. He waits a few seconds for Hanna to speak, but when all Hanna does is fidget uncomfortably, Worth says, "Spit it out, Cross, I ain't got all day."
"Well, I just—I mean," Hanna stutters awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. "I-I-I…I know what you…you know, do, I mean. In the alley, you're a, um, doctor, sort of. Eddie told me—th-the homeless guy, I mean, that's him, that's Eddie—he told me what you do before he dropped me off outside the alley."
"I don't…I-I don't have any money, is my point," Hanna says miserably.
"Don't recall askin' ya fer any," Worth says, fastening his bandages and bending his arms at the elbows experimentally.
"Cross, if I thought you had any money to yer name, I woulda made ya pay up before ya collapsed at my feet last night, aw'right?" Worth says shortly. "'S on the house. End of story. Relax."
"I doubt your other patients brought the police down on your head, though," Hanna says guiltily.
"Yeah, well, maybe I just got a thing fer redheads." At Hanna's alarmed expression, Worth says, "Fer fuck's sake, I'm joking. Jesus Christ. Y'know what, go ride Lamont's ass till the cops get here. Piss off." He motions for Hanna to go away.
Worth lights up another cigarette when he hears the distant wail of sirens. He checks his watch and prepares for a very, very long evening.
Hanna looks remarkably tiny inside the barren interrogation room and it is quite a pitiful sight. He's fidgety and shaky after the police officer's gentle but probing questions, but to Worth's satisfaction, Hanna has stuck to Lamont's instructions, admitting to nothing incriminating and mentioning nothing of magic or ghosts or demons, but otherwise staying honest.
"Oi," Worth barks impatiently on the other side of the observation window when an officer enters. "We finished yet?"
"Hanna is," the officer says mildly. "But I'd like to ask you a few questions. This way, please." He opens the door to Hanna's interrogation room, making Hanna jump. "All right, Mr. Cross, you're free to go."
Hanna's face collapses with relief, but fills with confusion when Worth steps inside.
"'S my turn," Worth says sardonically. "Lamont's somewhere in the buildin'. He'll take care'a ya if this takes long." He shoos Hanna out of the room. Worth isn't worried, but Hanna obviously is.
The door clicks shut, and the officer smiles blandly at Worth. "Have a seat."
Worth spins the chair around and sits in it, straddling the back. It's a little small; too big for Hanna's tiny frame, and too tiny for Worth's monstrously tall one. He hopes this won't take long. It's bad for his back.
"So," says the officer, taking the seat opposite him. "Luce Worth. Today is just full of interesting names."
Worth drums his fingers on the tabletop.
The officer looks bac down at the manila folder in front of him. "How long have you been in this country, Mr. Worth?"
"It don't say in that file?" Worth jerks his chin at the old photograph of himself clipped to the papers.
The officer smiles tightly. "Just trying to make conversation."
"'Zat why I'm in here?" Worth asks. "Buy me a drink if it's conversation yer after, love."
"All right," the police officer agrees briskly, "let's cut through the bullshit. How long have you known Hanna Cross?"
"Met 'im last night."
"How did you meet him?"
Worth lets out a long, drawn-out sigh, preparing to lie. "Saw 'im stumblin' 'round late last night. Looked like death. He was goin' into shock so I brought him into my flat and fixed him up."
"Yes, I see you went to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons," says the officer, flipping to the second page of Worth's file. "And you were one of the top ten students in your class. Impressive. Why'd you drop out?"
Worth grins. "Do I really look like I belong in med school?"
The officer's eyes trail from Worth's smoke-stained teeth down to his loosely wrapped arms. Politely, he says, "It takes all kinds." He nods at the bandages. "Got something to hide, Mr. Worth?"
"Really," the officer says flatly, unimpressed. He motions for Worth to expose his arms.
"I could be a burn victim!" Worth protests theatrically, feigning offense.
"I'll pull up your recent medical history," the officer says easily.
Worth wags his finger with a sneer. "Oh, you nosy bastard." But he unwraps his wrists, the fluorescent lights washing out his sallow skin and throwing his plentiful scars into sharp definition. He reveals more of his arms and more of his scars, stopping just before where his track marks begin.
"I'm a tortured soul," he tells the police officer.
"I can see that," says the officer, pursing his lips. "Wrap them up." As Worth complies, he asks, "Did you know something bad had happened to Hanna when you took him in?"
"I knew he'd seen somethin' fucked up fit to send him into shock," Worth shrugs. "Didn't much care what it was, jus' wanted to keep 'im from dyin'. Shock'll kill ya, mate. He wasn't talkin' much, anyway."
The officer leans forward, elbows on the table. "And what brought you to the scene of the crime?"
"Hanna did. Wrote down his address. Didn't say nothin' 'bout what was gonna be there. Took Lamont out there with me, an' when we saw the bodies, he called the police."
"And Hanna," says the officer, "was Hanna acting suspiciously?"
"He was actin' like a kid whose mum an' dad flew to bits in front'a his fuckin' face, that's how he was actin'," Worth says sharply. "An' considerin' he knows you lot think he had somethin' to do with it—"
"We're not saying that, Mr. Worth—"
"—I think he's actin' fuckin' great."
The officer stares at him critically for a long few seconds with Worth meeting his gaze levelly until another police officer opens the door.
"He's done, Crane," she says firmly, looking nervous and distracted. "Let him go."
"I said he's done," she snaps. "You can go, Mr. Worth."
Smirking at Officer Crane, Worth rises from his too-small seat. "It's been a pleasure workin' with ya, officer," he says smarmily.
"We'll just need to get Mr. Cross's new place of residence," Officer Crane mutters, gathering Worth's file into his folder, "in the event we need to contact him again."
"He'll be with me," Worth tosses over his shoulder on his way to the door.
"You're going to let a nineteen-year-old basket case you met yesterday live with you?" Officer Crane says dubiously.
"Well, if ya want 'im on the streets—"
"It's just," interrupts Crane, "you don't exactly seem like the hospitable type, Mr. Worth."
"Heh." Worth plucks a cigarette from his pack, nearly empty, and lights it front of the officer. "Takes all kinds, don't it?" And he waltzes from the interrogation room and into the bustling lobby of the station where Hanna sits nervously in a chair and Lamont shakes hands with the anxious-looking police officer who ordered Crane to let Worth go. Hanna springs to his feet when he sees him.
"Yer in the clear, Cross." He grips Hanna tight around the back of his neck and steers him towards the exit, feeling ready to jump out of his skin in this environment. He nearly shouts for Lamont to come along, but already he feels him shadowing them on the steps leading out of the police station.
"I-I-I think I'm gonna pass out, Doc," Hanna says queasily. Worth sits him on the curb and shoves Hanna's head between his knobby knees. He can't bring himself to be annoyed.
Hey guys, I'm really sorry for the big gap between chapters! It shouldn't happen again.