They had to work quickly, Moran and the two men dressed as orderlies, to get Jim’s body off the roof. But Isolde wouldn’t listen, didn’t keep watch, just paced around Jim’s still form and sniffed the thick pool of blood framing his head. As they settled Jim into the body bag, she licked the shoulder of Jim’s coat, where Scheherazade would perch when she was finished circling overhead, taking in every detail to whisper in Jim’s ear.
Moran paused to lay a hand on the back of Isolde head, fur warm under his hand, a comfort as much as a warning. When he let go, a spot of Jim's blood stained the fur on her neck between the two narrow black stripes on her neck.
The spot of red remained there hours later, as he sat at the pub near his flat, drinking pint after pint without tasting a thing, ignoring all the calls on Jim’s phone and his own, questions and demands and requests buzzing against his thigh. At his feet, Isolde licked her paws and occasionally his shin with her rough tongue, catching the hair on his legs and the hilt of the knife in his boot.
He left soon after, people on the street giving him, as usual, a wide berth. Civilians were unaccustomed to such huge, wild looking daemons and Isolde stalked beside him like she wanted a fight. She did. Wanted to tear and claw, to roar her confusion at the sky, wanted a familiar sting of tiny claws at the top of her head, a playful beak tugging at her whiskers.
They ended up outside Jim's flat in Bethnal Green. There were dishes in the sink and a stack of newspapers spread on the coffee table. Jim must have offed the housekeeper earlier in the week; he never tolerated such a mess. Moran gave the rest of the flat a courtesy glace to make sure it was empty and laid on the couch, feet hanging off the edge of the armrest.
The angle felt wrong. After debriefings, Jim would order him here to watch movies with him or point out how the news got his crimes wrong or just to make Moran suffer through the terrible tv shows Jim would tivo. Jim would shove him in the furthest corner of the couch, taking up as much room as possible and still ended up tucking his feet under Moran’s thigh or curling into his side.
It wasn’t strictly professional; then again nothing about Jim’s operation was in the strictest sense professional. Jim could kill or sell out or turn down his clients on whims unknown to Moran, because it amused Jim. Jim would take cases that would pay nothing and cost thousands because the plan itself was tricky and dangerous.
Then there were the long gray days Moran had to come over and bodily make Jim eat and shower; else Jim would stay in bed, curtains drawn, Scheherazade tucked against his neck with her feathers disheveled and dull. Though Moran told Jim every time he was not a fucking nursemaid, Isolde would groom Scheherazade’s black and white plumage to an oil slick sheen while Moran bathed a sullen and listless Jim.
Isolde paced the flat within the limited stretch of their bond, shaking her head side to side like a caged thing. Moran starred at the ceiling, then at the bar mounted to the wall over the couch.
A steel perch for Scheherazade. She would fly up there when Jim would fold himself to Moran’s side, a splash of black and white on the wall, still in ways real magpie were not, seeing much but saying little. Never again. Something twisted just below his sternum.
“He’s dead,” Moran said out loud. “They’re not coming back.”
“I don’t believe you,” Isolde hissed, still pacing. She always was a terrible liar.