Floating down the stairs, Selina found him just where she expected. With his back turned to her, it almost looked as though he was praying to the stone wall in front of where he sat cross-legged, eyes fixed on the single slab with the initials S.N.M. carved into the side of its gray, blank surface. He sniffed suddenly, taking Selina off guard. She gave a slight yelp, revealing her presence.
"You don't need to sneak up on me," Gregg whispered, not bothering to turn to look at her. There was an emptiness in his voice; something that had become common in his demeanor. He was in a state of emotionless apathy. His mind had disappeared into the analytical. He was more machine than man inside his brain now, and Selina could tell it was all due to her presence. Had she never come here
"Didn't mean to," she replied, hovering over beside him, crossing her own legs to mimic his posture on the cold tile floor. "Just wondering what you're up to down here."
"Meditating," he replied curtly, closing his somber eyes and taking in a deep breath, "it's soothing."
"Thinking about Victoria?"
"No," Gregg muttered, opening one eye, "why should I?"
"Because you guys really upset her!" cried Selina in response, her mouth tightening into a harsh frown, "it's obvious talking about her mom upset her."
"Point being?" asked Gregg, closing his eye once again. "Point being she's trying to help you and you threaten her and make her cry! Do you have a shred of empathy in your heart?"
"Empathy," said Gregg cooly, "is weakness. It stands in the way of deduction."
Speechless, Selina could only emit an angered gulp as she swallowed her frustration. Remembering her own guilt, she allowed her head to cool off, and instead of ripping Gregg a new one, she simply turned her head to look at her own initials carved in stone. It was an odd sort of thing to glance at the past as she was at this instant; to recall crafting such a memory in the precipice of the earth, the foundation of this house. There was the flash of sanguine love within her, the taste of friends lost, flesh across the tongue. Years and years ago, she had sat in this very spot and dug her nails into the stone, her fingers pressing into it as though it were clay, all in an effort to show the world she had been here. She was over a thousand years old, but forever trapped in the body and mind of a nineteen year old girl. This carving was the living preservation of the nineteen year old from 1921.
"Alright," she grumbled softly, "I can't say I wasn't at wrong in the debacle last night. I wanted to rip that wolf's throat out of his neck for even touching Cooper. I guess it's just the deep-seeded hatred between our kind."
"You're not responsible for the sins of your fathers," Gregg replied softly, still in deep reflection. His eyes twitched slightly, as though he were glancing at Selina through his eyelids. She paused, momentarily stunned at Gregg's reply. She scoffed slightly.
"You don't know my father," she laughed cold-heartedly, hanging her head low, "what he's like."
"Will I ever get that opportunity?" asked Gregg, opening his eyes to actually look in her direction. She sighed deeply and shook her head.
"Assuming he's still?"
"Not if I have anything to say about it," Selina whispered back.
Together, the two sat in silence for the rest of the afternoon, quietly contemplating in front of the slab bearing Selina's born initials. They never said a word to each other in the time span, but in the silence, a conversation flowed between them. This was the time of their arrival on the same earth; the moment it began to click. She had done away with his love, he had done away with her hate. As sentinels, they sat in guard of each other, and very much at the same time, in guard of themselves.
Bobby's house was just as big as Alex remembered. It was a lone mcmansion, standing silently on the edge of a small cliff overlooking the high point of Ganton. For the most part, no one came out this far to the outskirts of town. The only things out here were a few scattered luxury homes and one farm, belonging to a family that owned one of the aforementioned luxury homes. It was disturbing to some, including Alex, that such glamour lived in what could be considered the skeleton of the town. The landscape here was barren, dotted with flocks of night-black crows scavenging. It was miles to the nearest town besides Ganton.
Ascending the walkway out front, Alex looked over his shoulder back at Cooper, who tugged at his gray muscle shirt, unsticking the cloth from his sweaty stomach. It was oddly humid for an early October weekend, and Ganton was suffering. No one expected it to be this warm this late in the year.
"You doing okay back there?" asked Alex as he rocketed up the front stairs to Bobby's front door. Cooper gave Alex a smile and a nod, assuring him that the events of two nights prior hadn't left Cooper severely injured. Just some bruises from hitting the wall.
"The wall's in worse shape than I am," Cooper laughed, trudging up behind Alex as he rang the doorbell.
They had been called here by Bobby's younger sister, Rosalyn. She had called Cooper the night prior, a concern in her voice. Bobby apparently hadn't been home in a few days, and the family was beginning to worry. But with Bobby's adoptive parents at work most of the day, they didn't really wonder where he was until the third night of him missing came by the same night the boys had seen him under the streetlight at the park. While her parents may have been fine with Bobby out having a life of his own, Rosalyn knew better; this wasn't in his nature, and the boys knew it wasn't, as well.
A few seconds later, the door swung open, revealing Rosalyn, her long reddish-blonde hair stuck to her forehead with sweat. She looked positively exhausted, as though she had been running for miles before they arrived. But upon seeing Cooper and Alex staring back at her through the doorway, she smiled warmly and gave Cooper a hug.
"Thanks for coming," she said, releasing Cooper.
"No problem," Cooepr replied, following her inside with Alex silently on his heels.
The inside of the McEyre household was as large as Cooper remembered, with a twin staircase leading up to the pure white second floor. For now, Rosalyn led the duo under the stairs' archway and through the living room, finally stopping in the massive kitchen. The boys quickly sat in two tall chairs at the island counter. Almost immediately, Alex began fiddling with an orange he plucked from the nearby fruit bowl, before realizing it was purely decorative and made of wax. Sheepishly, he placed it back as Rosalyn paced back and forth on the opposite side of the counter, her small nose wrinkled in worry.
"So give us the details," Cooper begged, leaning onto his elbows in great interest.
"I told you, Bobby hasn't been home in forever," Rosalyn announced, still pacing. "Of course, he could be sneaking in when I'm at school, but nothing's been moved or taken. It's like he just ran away. I don't know what to do. Mom and Dad are too busy to worry about him right now, and they figure he can handle himself. I'm justI don't know."
Almost immediately, Alex leaned in to whisper to Cooper's ear, cupping his mouth so Rosalyn couldn't see his lips move.
"Should we mention him at the park?" Alex asked quietly, hoping Cooper had a plan.
"Not yet," replied Cooper, his eyes drooping in confidence, "I want to check something first."
With that, the duo straightened. Rosalyn hadn't even looked their way in the time it took them to whisper to each other. She was too busy counting her steps as she paced back and forth. After a moment of doing this, she stopped and slumped against the island counter, her seafoam eyes murky with doubt.
"You say nothing's been moved?" asked Cooper, an inquisitive look on his face.
"Nothing," confirmed Rosalyn.
"What about his room?"
"F*ck," muttered Cooper as he turned the handle and felt resistance. The door was held shut rather firmly. "Locked from the inside."
"Lemme try," demanded Alex, shoving his larger counterpart out of the way so he himself could have a go at breaking in Bobby's room. From down the hall, Rosalyn watched, stifling a nervous giggle as Alex threw his weight up against the door, only to bounce off it like a tennis ball.
"Okay, it really is locked," admitted Alex, sprawled out on the floor of the hallway. "Any bright ideas, detective?"
"Just one," Cooper replied with a small grin. Stooping over, he placed his lips to the doorknob. "Reserare."
There came the sound of the door unlocking, and Cooper stood, amused at his own creativity with the situation. But the grin adorning his face soon melted to a frightened gasp, as when the door opened, it revealed a room of nightmares. Inside, what had once been Bobby's room was now a hellish landscape. All across the walls, a series of triangles and foreign words were scribbled in a crimson fluid, which had dried to a hardened brownish crust. Throughout the dark room, a series of half-melted candles lay in different places, the wax having run down and hardened on the surfaces they were placed upon. Across the carpet, a series of sticks, obviously gathered from the surrounding woods, were arranged in a reverse pentagram, a single round candle, still lit, sitting in the middle.
"Oh, my God," Alex gasped, stepping back slightly and pulling the door closed with him.
"Go distract Rose, she shouldn't see this," ordered Cooper, flinging himself back into the room and closing the door behind him. Fumbling into the dark, he reached for the dark blue curtains and threw them open, bathing the room in the afternoon sun. It was only then that he had a true indication of the horrors surrounding him.
It was at this moment that Cooper could confirm to himself that the liquid on the walls was indeed blood, albeit dried. However, moving closer, he couldn't tell if it was human orotherwise. Running his hand across the words and symbols scribbled all over the walls, he soon realized they were in a language unknown to him. Thinking quickly, Cooper removed his cell phone from his pocket and began snapping photos of everything in the room. Hopefully, he thought, Victoria will be able to tell me more about all this.
In moving about the room, he stumbled, almost landing on Bobby's bedside table. Catching himself on the edge, Cooper peered up at the top of the table and immediately yelped, falling backwards onto his rear. On top of the table was a perfectly severed goat's head, tongue flopped lazily out of its unmoving mouth. After catching his breath and rising to his feet, Cooper took a picture and turned his attention to the candle in the pentagram.
Kneeling down, he licked his fingers and pinched the flame out, figuring it odd that it would still be lit. But as he moved to stand up, something unusual occurred: the flame re-ignited. Curious, Cooper knelt back down and extinguished it once more, this time with more saliva on his fingers. As if taunting him, the flame lit up once more, a fiery beacon to his failures.
Frustrated, Cooper decided to let it be. The flame was obviously not meant to be messed with, and at this moment, he realized he was in far over his head. Whoever, or whatever, had done this was a harbinger of evil, and Cooper was not prepared to face it just yet. Yet.
As he returned to the door, closing it behind him, Cooper began to think of Victoria. Specifically, whether she would ever forgive them for what had occurred two nights prior.
"Of course I forgive them. There's nothing to forgive."
Victoria rounded her room, placing her washed and dried clothes in separate piles on the bed, where the ethereal form of Sam sat, his large nose wrinkled with the stresses of the week. He felt that, even though he was incapable of physical remedies, he should at least attempt to be the peacemaker between the boys and Victoria. She was, after all, essentially their only guide in such a strange life.
"You'repretty easy to forgive," Sam admitted, shrugging at her as she placed a small pile of clothes in the lowest drawer of her dresser. "I mean"
"Calm down, Sam," Victoria assured him, holding a defensive hand up, "I might be sensitive, but trust me, it's going to take a lot more than a few idol threats to scare me out of helping you guys."
"Oh, I'm beyond help," Sam laughed bitterly, sinking through the bottom of the bed and re-emerging from the floor a few feet away.
"You're not going to spy on me while I shower or anything, are you?" asked Victoria with a sly laugh, to which Sam shivered.
"Gay as Liberace, Vic," Sam laughed, pointing at himself. "You don't have a cute brother, though, do you?"
"No such luck," Victoria joked back, sitting on the edge of her bed, legs dangling. "But Will's got a few cousins down south who might be down."
"If they're as hairy as him, forget it," Sam sighed, tapping his foot. "I'm not too keen on him. He's easy to anger."
"Lycanthrope," Victoria muttered back, shrugging sheepishly. "What're you gonna do?"
"How'd you get him as your littleprotector?" asked Sam, actually genuinely curious for once.
"It started when he ran away from home after being turned by one of his cousins," explained Victoria, her eyes drifting off to the fantasyland they often did when she was deep in thought, "he came up to Jersey, lost and confused. I was still pretty young, probably twelve or so, but I had been doing my research. I was living with mom's old hunting partner Rick. When Will showed up all confused about what was happening, I helped him out. Hid him from Rick. He'd probably have shot Will the moment he smelled the wolf hair on him. I helped Will sort out the changes he was going through. We've been friends and occasional allies ever since."
"Interesting," Sam pondered, his eyes following Victoria's to the fantasyland, "so he listens to you, basically?"
"Essentially. When he knows I'm right."
"That's good," Sam said, nodding. "Just keep him on a tight leash. He almost wrecked Coop the other night."
"I've been wondering," Victoria pondered aloud, leaning toward Sam, "you're dead. So why are you still around here, looking out for your friends?"
"I never got the choice to gosomewhere else," Sam admitted, his voice dropping in both volume and pitch, "besides..."
There was a short pause as Sam drew in the breath to continue speaking, despite the fact his lungs drew no real air into them.
"I can't let them end up like me."