Blood or Chocolate?
Chapter 10: Something Wicked This Way Comes
I kept slowly coming to consciousness, but I was so warm and comfortable I would sink right back into the abyss. Who knew how long this went on. It could've been every few minutes or hours. When I finally did wake up, I found the reason why I was so warm and comfortable.
I wasn't alone in my bed.
I sat up with a gasp, disturbing Mariemaia. She sat up with a slight squeal. I guess we scared each other.
"Marie, what are you doing?" I asked in a breathless voice.
"Umm...sleeping?" She had a wide-eyed and oh-so-innocent expression on her face. Ch'. Right. As if I haven't pulled that one before.
"Cute. That's real cute," I said, lying back down. She mimicked me. "I figured that out all by myself, believe it or not. I meant ‘what you are doing sleeping in my bed?' "
"Well..." She started picking at the blanket, eyes fixed on something only she saw. "I got scared, so I decided to sneak out and stay somewhere safe and with someone my uncle trusted. I didn't think you would mind." She fixed her blue eyes on me, giving me that watery, chibi-eyed look.
Well, shit. I couldn't very well kick her out now. "No, I don't mind," I said, even though I knew Hilde damn well would. "Why didn't you wake me up?"
"You needed to sleep," she whispered, gently touching my face. "I know you got hurt last night, and that the police were here all night. They were so noisy they kept us up too. Auntie Cathy was mad because she said she wasn't gettin' her 'beauty sleep,' so she wanted to eat them. The Packmaster wouldn't let her though."
Despite the fact that the police were in serious danger, I laughed. Catherine, from what I remembered, was one tough chick. I was sure that nothing short of Wufei telling her ‘no' was going to stop her. Then what Mariemaia said earlier registered, and my eyebrows drew together in confusion. "You got scared? What scared you honey?" Werewolf or not, I liked the squirt. She had guts...and teeth. Pointy, sharp teeth.
"The Packmaster," she whispered so softly I almost didn't hear.
"Wufei?" That was surprising. He seemed to care for his Pack. I didn't understand. "What happened that scared you?"
"He was yelling at the Pack."
I started to run my fingers through her hair. "But he wasn't yelling at you?"
"Oh no." She shook her red head. "The Packmaster has never yelled at me. But you don't understand. He never yells. I've never heard him raise his voice before, not at me, not at anybody. But he was so mad his fur sprouted!"
His fur sprouted? Guess that was as good a sign of a pissed off werewolf as any. "Why was he mad?"
She gently touched my nose. "Because of you."
I raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"He knows someone in the Pack is attacking the humans and killing them," she told me bluntly. "It's dangerous because we could be discovered, and we don't have too many other places to go to. But he's really mad at whoever left the head on your car. He's afraid that has threatened his courtship to you." She shook her head. "That's bad. Really, really bad. The only one that can compete with the Packmaster in a courtship is another Packmaster, and we're the only Pack here. Whoever did it broke a big rule." She nodded vigorously. "He was so mad, he said he was going to kill whoever did it."
Someone had threatened Wufei's courtship to me? He was trying to court me? And he was mad enough to kill whoever was responsible? Boy, talk about feeling special... "Sounds like the Packmaster is mad about a lot of things."
"Oh yeah." She nodded her head vigorously, again.
The sarcasm was completely lost on her. Should've known better. "Well, enough time spent in bed. You hungry?"
She was being shy. "A little..."
"Well, what would you like to eat munchkin?"
She blushed. "I don't know..."
I thought about the night before, on the day of Luna's murder. Hilde had cooked a big dinner. "How about some chicken and mashed potatoes? I'm sure we have a lot of leftovers."
So hand and hand, we left the sanctuary that was my bedroom and went into the kitchen. It took me about twenty minutes to reheat everything. There were plenty of leftovers for today, but not enough for a third serving. Might as well eat it all now.
It wasn't too long after that that Howard and Hilde strolled in. To say they were surprised at Mariemaia's visit was an understatement. Let's just say that it took some time to calm Hilde and Howard down, and more time for the cub to stop crying. Hilde's shout of surprise scared Mariemaia into thinking there was something in the kitchen that would hurt her. I was plenty pissed at Hilde for that, and they were plenty pissed at me for letting the cub in the house. (I wasn't going to tell them that I DIDN'T let her in. That was going to open a whole new can of worms). So Mariemaia and I finished lunch in my room while we watched ‘Finding Nemo.' That's when I noticed that my curtains had been pushed aside. Oh ho...so that's how she got in.
I let her jump on the bed while I took a quick shower. I frowned at my hands after I unwrapped the gauze. The upper palms were bruised, but other than that my fingers were only stiff. I wanted to check out my face but just as quickly turned away. My left eye was puffy, and that side of my face was bruised, appearing as though I was wearing half a mask. Photogenic I was not.
After I showered and dressed, I went back into the room to find my unexpected guest napping. I laid down with her, and managed to get another few hours of sleep before there was a hard knock on my door. Both Mariemaia and I jumped awake. "Yeah?"
The door swung open. "You have a visitor," Howard said. "He's come for her." He nodded at Mariemaia.
"Alright." I clawed my hair out of my face as we got out of bed. Holding her hand, we made our way to the front door, where a man I didn't recognize was waiting on the porch. He had on black, rounded sunglasses, short black hair, a fez, and dressed as if he was on his way to the desert.
"Abdul!" Mariemaia shrieked, running into his arms.
"There you are!" He picked her up, settling her on his hip. "I should've known you'd be over here to see him."
"Abdul!" she said in a nervous squeal, blushing. "Be quiet!"
He chuckled, kissed her on the forehead, and gave me a slight bow. I was too much in the throes of waking up to bow back. He didn't seem to care. "My name is Abdul. I am one of the forty Maguanacs."
What the hell was a Maguanac? "Name's Duo Maxwell."
"Yes, we know," he said, and I got the impression he didn't mean ‘we' as in himself and Mariemaia.
"You were harmed."
I'd completely forgotten about my appearance. "Oh, sorry. I'm sure it's not pleasant to look at--"
"You misunderstand," he interrupted with a smile. "The Packmaster has been very preoccupied, so he will not be able to visit until dusk. That's only if you feel like receiving him at all today."
He was offering me a way out if I didn't feel up to it. If this had been proposed yesterday, I would've jumped at it. But today, I was feeling bored, curious, and...I kinda missed his company. God, I could just puke for thinking that. Mushy I was being. "No no, he can come by whenever. We still have a lot of stuff to talk about."
He beamed at me. "Excellent. He will be very happy to hear that. And thank you for watching over Mariemaia. Things have been very...disruptive."
I loved his vocabulary. I bet he was one hell of a Scrabble player. "No problem at all." I ruffled the cub's hair. She giggled. Abdul bowed once more, turned on his heel and was gone.
Since it was a beautiful day out, I decided to get a glass of cool lemonade and hang out on the porch. Settled in my decrepit rocking chair, I counted clouds, smiled at butterflies, picked my nose, and just relaxed. I was at such peace, I couldn't believe that my world had been turned upside down not even twenty four hours ago. Proof that I could cope with any situation, I guess. Ch'. Right.
I was just beginning to take yet another nap when I heard a car pull up in my driveway. Squinting against the sunlight, I was able to make out the signature brown and gold stripes of the town's squad car. Meizer slid from the car and raced up the stairs. He held my face carefully between his hands as he turned my head this way and that, examining my bruises. I didn't have the energy for a smart-ass remark, so I rolled my eyes just to make due. Once he was satisfied, he plopped down on the porch, facing me. I needed to get another chair out here. "You're not gonna kiss it better?" Okay, so maybe I did have the energy.
"Don't tempt me," he said, swatting me on the knee. "How do you feel?"
"Stiff, but otherwise okay."
"Good." He exhaled. "I came by to hide from work, and to let you know what's been going on."
"Okay." I sipped some lemonade. "If you're thirsty, you know where the kitchen is."
"No, I'm good thanks." Pause. "The hobo had a contract on you."
I raised an eyebrow. That guy was dangerous, but he was not part of the mafia. He smelled too bad. "Cob, please. This is not 'The Sopranos.' "
He smiled, then sobered. "We got out of him that he was paid to attack you." This time both of my eyebrows shot up. I wasn't expecting that. "He said a guy dressed in all black approached him while he was smoking a joint, and paid him fifty bucks to ‘roughen you up.' He never saw the man's face, and he was paid in cash. We ran prints on the money, but the only prints found were that asshole's." He had a disgusted look on his face. "Whoever did this was careful." He looked at me. "Worst yet, the hobo was killed today."
I choked on my drink. Ack! "What?!" Cough cough.
"We were transporting him this morning when the van he was in had blowouts on all four tires." I raised an eyebrow. All four? He agreed. "I know. They figured someone spilled a can of nails on the road or something. I don't know. Anyway, one guard changed the tires while the other checked the road for the cause. They don't remember getting clocked over the head, but when they woke up they were safely in the van. They checked to see if their charge was still there. He was...however, it looked like he tried to mimic 'The Exorcist' and did it fatally wrong."
"So his neck was broken?"
"Not only that, his head was twisted around ninety degrees! I guess he wanted to look behind him without turning."
"Oh my," was all I could say. The werewolves. Damnit, Wufei was going to go apeshit.
" 'Oh my?' Since when is something that innocent in your vocabulary?"
"Suck my balls." We grinned. Now, how the hell was I gonna find out what I needed to know? "Say Cob, did they find anything weird, like a strange smell or fingerprints or something?"
"Nope," he said, shaking his head. "They didn't find anything weird--well--other than his head being twisted completely around. Why?"
"Just asking. You know all that CSI stuff has everyone trying to be a detective." Which was true. I loved that show! "I'm just following the crowd."
"Yeah right. As if you've ever been a follower." He was shaking his head again. "Seriously Duo, why do you ask? You gettin' a vibe I should know about?"
Ahh...shit. "Yeah, actually." I started to pick at the invisible lint on my shirt. "If I were you, I would check those bodies out, sniff around," I emphasized, "and...don't be out late at night. Okay?"
He had the question in his eyes, but he knew better than to say it out loud. The wind could carry words for miles, and they could very possibly be heard by my new neighbors. "Okay," he said, standing up. "I gotta go."
"Alright man. Later." He hopped off the porch and was ambling to the car. The revelation then hit me like a bolt of lightening. "Hey Cob."
He turned around. "Yeah?"
"If I were you, I would also stop by Tsubarov's."
He gave me the look one could give a grown man singing a Britney Spears song. "Stop by Tsubarov's?"
"Yeah." I started picking at my lint-free shirt again. "See what he's been up to lately. If he's been anywhere interesting..."
I knew he figured out what I meant when I saw his face close up. He tended to do that when he was in his ‘Pissed Off' mood. "Oh? I think I'll do that. See if he's been...anywhere." He jumped in and took off. I closed my eyes and went back to rocking. Good luck Tsubarov, you're about to be visited by the one-man Spanish Inquisition.
I managed to doze on the porch for a good while until Hilde and Howard woke me up as they left for work. I could tell that my 'ability' was healing; I could feel their anxiety and confusion rolling off of them and plowing into me. Unfortunately, I wasn't healed enough. I was having a hard time blocking them out, and it took me a moment to decipher what were their feelings and what were mine. Finally, I just barked at them to go to work, and got myself sorted out as soon as they left. Then, wonder of wonders, I fell asleep again.
The sun was halfway done setting when I woke up for good. The sky had dyed the clouds purple, pink and red, and flocks of birds flew across what remained of the sun. I stood and stretched, feeling the most rested I have felt in forever. I stood on the porch and just watched the sky, feeling the breeze race through my tattered jeans and sleeveless sweatshirt. God, this was perfect for yoga. I could hear the voice of my instructor now; 'Close your eyes. Relax your eyebrows. Relax your shoulders. Slowly inhale, then exhale. Concentrate on your breathing. Feel your muscles loosen. Find your center...then go get some tacos.'
Okay, so maybe those weren't her exact words. The idea had merit though.
A faint...something in the atmosphere made me turn my head to the left. The wind whipped up just then, blowing my braid around like a leaf and making it harder to see through my bangs. The dry dirt flying into my eyes didn't help either. But I clawed both hair and dirt from my eyes, and found that I was all alone. Still feeling a bit off, I tried to figure out what I thought was different. There wasn't anyone here...there wasn't a smell, almonds or otherwise...I wasn't picking up any thoughts or feelings...damnit. The only thing I felt was small. I felt as though I was standing next to something infinitely big.
I was barefoot, but that didn't stop me from stepping off the porch and going around the left side of my house. We had a fence made out of wood around five feet high, that was about twenty yards from the house. The fence separated mine and Hilde's property from the field next door, which was owned by the state. That was where I was headed.
I walked towards the fence, watching my steps carefully. The wind's howl became more aggressive, slowing me down somewhat, and the vibrant colors of the sky were now darkening and inhibiting. I wrapped my arms around myself as I approached, and wondered what was so important that I would wander over here. The wooden fence was old and weak, some of the boards rotted away or simply in pieces, hanging on to their tired nails. The section of fence I was heading towards was worn and old, but the boards were still in place as they should have been.
I stopped maybe three feet in front of it, and just waited. The wind quieted. Then I waited a little longer. It became darker. So I waited longer. The crickets began to sing. At last, when nothing happened, I took a step forward.
I jumped in surprise as something ran into the fence, causing the center to bulge out.
I jumped back, and noticed that this time the bulge was bigger.
This time I heard the wood splinter.
Not waiting for the final 'bang,' I took off running back to the house. The strange feeling I had suddenly evaporated, but I was not taking any chances until I was in my house, with the doors locked, with my uncle's shotgun in my hands and rounds of ammunition at my feet.
I ran along the side of the house, up the porch...and right into someone's chest. "Jesus Christ!" I shouted, then saw that it was only Wufei. "Wufei?!"
He didn't say anything. Putting his arm on my hip, he pushed me behind him as his sharp eyes surveyed the yard. The wind started to blow again, making the tall grass dance. The trees moaned with the strong breeze, and the crickets became silent. Wufei continued to scour the field with his eyes, as if he could force whatever it was out by will alone. I heard him take a few deep sniffs, and he glared in the direction of the fence. I peeked over his shoulder, and saw that everything was as it should have been. Hell, for all I knew, it was just my imagination.
"Let's go inside," he said at last.
I didn't argue.