CHAPTER FOUR - UNFINISHED
Eleven years ago …
A ten-year-old Cameron Blake stood on the cracked sidewalk outside of his middle school. He stared down the street, ears pricked, eyes wide, totally alert for the sound and sight of his older brother Liam who would be coming to pick him up on a totally killer motorcycle, an old BMW Triumph Bobber. It was black and chrome and mean all over.
Liam had started picking him up at school ever since the second boy, Diego Escobar, had been found dead in the desert. To say Diego was dead was an understatement. He’d been killed. Murdered. Mutilated. Eviscerated. Opened up so that his insides were outside and he had no face. These were the things that Cameron had picked up at the Sheriff’s Station. Not from his mother, who was the Sheriff. Oh, no, she kept such things hidden from him.
The thing was that it was easy to be forgotten in the hubbub of an investigation and Cameron had discovered he could almost will himself not to be seen if he wanted. When he was younger he had pretended this ability was magic. Now as a mature boy of ten he pretended there was no such thing as magic. But he overheard everything about the serial killer the press was calling the “Desert Killer”. It wasn’t an imaginative name, but anything more descriptive of what the guy did wouldn’t be able to be printed anyways.
Cameron shifted his weight from his left to right foot. His shorts shifted over the fronts of his thighs and a bead of sweat trickled down his spine under his t-shirt. It was so hot. One of those baked days that leached his tongue of all moisture. He swallowed dryly. He reached down and grabbed the water bottle that was clipped to the side of his backpack by his feet. His eyes didn’t leave the road even as he unscrew the cap of his water bottle and took a huge swig of the lukewarm liquid.
Normally Liam would be there by now, but Cameron knew that he’d been having some problems with the Bobber. Maybe the cool, but unpredictable motorcycle quit working on Liam midway to pick-up Cameron. He hoped not. His brother would be a sweaty mess if he had to walk the bike all the way to school. Cameron could imagine Liam with his long blond hair hanging loose down to his shoulders, sweat plastering the tight white t-shirt to his muscled chest and dust rising from his faded, ripped jeans. He would look … good. Cameron didn’t quite have the words to describe how his brother appeared or how it made him feel to see him striding towards him.
His friend, Jenny Lynn, had started mentioning how “hot” his brother was. It caused anger to rise up in Cameron and it wasn’t because Jenny Lynn didn’t find him hot -- she actually did -- but that he didn’t like people noticing his brother that way. It felt like they were trying to take something of Liam away from him. The emotions were confusing and there had been half a dozen times lately when he had been tempted to tell Liam about it and ask him what the feelings meant. But he had always veered off topic at the last minute. Some part of them guessed that they weren’t normal feelings. Not that the Blake family was terribly normal at the best of times, but he dreaded being or feeling anything that Liam might dislike. So he remained silent even as the feelings continued to build in him.
“Hey, if Liam’s not coming do you want to head to my house?” Carmody asked from behind him, nearly causing Cameron to jump.
Annoyed that he was startled and even more annoyed that anyone would suggest that Liam wouldn’t come for him, Cameron ground out, “He’s coming.”
More annoyance, raising into aggravation. Liam always was there for him. If he was late he had a really good reason. Kids like Carmody without awesome big brothers wouldn’t understand. “He’s coming.”
Carmody ran a freckled arm over his freckled forehead. A redhead, Carmody was not made for the sun. Neither was Cameron with his milky skin, but where Carmody burned and freckled, the sun seemed to have no effect on Cameron at all. His skin stayed pale as cream. His hair might have gotten more gold over time, but he wouldn’t know as he had never left Holten, New Mexico.
“I thought you went home. Took the bus,” Cameron said, his gaze still focused down the dusty street where Liam was sure to appear any second.
“Naw. Missed it. Nobody’s home anyways so it’s not like I’d be safe from the perv anyways.” Carmody shrugged his thin shoulders.
The “perv” was their name for the Desert Killer. Every kid knew that the perv not only butchered kids, but raped them before he did it. His mother used the word “rape”, but Cameron just translated that into “do sex things with” or “be a freak with” or “eweh”.. Rape sounded so … adult, which was stupid considering wasn’t murder a really adult word? Mutilation?
Barry Stanley had been the last one to die. They’d found his body only two weeks ago. Cameron hadn’t been friends with him, but he knew him as Holten was small and everybody knew everybody.
Barry was dark-haired and eyed. He had played baseball and been obsessed with first person shooter video games. His mom was a kindergarten teacher while his dad was an accountant. They lived in one of the nice areas of Holten. Barry was a typical kid. Nothing about him stood out really. But one day on his way home from baseball practice he’d just disappeared. Vanished. Cameron could still remember Barry’s dad, Mr. Stanley came to the house. He had pounded on their door, screaming for Cameron’s mother even though she had just gotten off of a 48 hour shift looking for his son.
Roused from the briefest of sleeps, she had gone to the door, still in her brown uniform – she had fallen asleep on the couch in it – and listened to him. Cameron had crouched on the stairs, doing that “don’t see me magic trick” that couldn’t be magic. Yet neither Mr. Stanley who was looking right at him or his mother who was incredibly observant noticed him.
Cameron remembered how she had put a hand on Mr. Stanley’s arm even as he had cursed her and everyone in the Sheriff’s Department for being incompetent. His mother did not lose her temper in the face of grief. She could use words like whip cracks when she needed to, but she never lashed out at those in pain no matter what unfair thing they said to her.
“We are doing everything we can, Mr. Stanley,” his mother said, her voice incisive yet gentle.
“But you’re not out there looking for him! You’re home! Resting!” Mr. Stanley flared up at her.
“My mother has been awake for over forty-eight hours!” Liam’s voice rose up like a thundercloud. He had appeared out of the kitchen. He wore the softest sweatpants that clung to his narrow hips and no shirt, which showed off his heavily muscled torso. His eyes immediately went to Cameron. He could never hide from his big brother. Liam gestured for him to leave the stairs and come by his side. Cameron scampered over, and tucked himself against Liam’s powerful side.
“Your mother,” Mr. Stanley began, wound up again.
But Liam cut him off, “Is doing all she can, Mr. Stanley!”
Liam’s blue eyes flashed with lightning. Unlike their mother, Liam’s temper was far closer to the surface.
“Liam,” their mother said quietly and that simple saying of his name silenced her eldest son. But it wasn’t just her children that tone worked on. It had been known to silence career politician in mid-promise. “Mr. Stanley, my people are on it. They are the best out there. The investigation is not stopping just because someone is taking a few hours to sleep..”
“How can you sleep?” Mr. Stanley’s arms had flown up and fallen down. The dark circles under his eyes were evidence that he wasn’t sleeping or eating or anything else but worrying about Barry. “How can anyone sleep when there is a monster out there?”
Mr. Stanley hadn’t waited for her answer, but just turned away and got into his car. Dust rose up under his squealing tires. Their mother had stood there for long moments looking after him. Suddenly, she was turning and going to the kitchen table for where her utility belt lay. She began to buckle it on again, preparing to head back to work despite having only twenty-minutes rest in the last two days.
“Mom!” Liam reached over and covered her hands with his, stopping her from buckling on the belt. His blue eyes were furious and afraid. “You can’t go back out! It’s twenty-four hours on and forty-eight off! You’ve been forty-eight on and no time off!”
“I won’t sleep anyways, Liam. I might as well make myself useful,” she said, her blue eyes meeting his matching ones.
“It’s not safe!” Liam insisted, not letting go of her hand. “You can’t even see straight let alone look for Barry Stanley.”
“Mr. Stanley’s right. His boy is out there! If it were one of you, I wouldn’t rest. How can I do so when it’s his son?”
“Barry is dead.” Liam’s last word landed with a terrible thump. “You’re risking yourself for a corpse.”
“You think Barry’s dead?” Cameron spoke up for the first time. His mother and Liam shared a look. It meant ‘don’t scare the little kid’. He hated that. He might be little in comparison to them, but he wasn’t stupid. “Of course, he’s dead.” Now both of him stared at him, shocked and uncertain what he would say. “All the other ones were. One day. Right? The perv lets them live only one day and it’s already been three for Barry.”
Their mother closed her eyes for a long time. “You’ve been listening to Munoz again, haven’t you?”
“Can I help it if he talks about cases in front of me?” Cameron shrugged. His mother had insisted he stay at the Sheriff’s Station when Liam was working. Deputy Juan Munoz’s desk was right near where he sat so he heard everything. It wasn’t like Juan wanted him to overhear, but there wasn’t much they could do in a three room station with thin walls – excluding the jail walls. And his magical talent helped.
“Barry could be dead,” their mother finally said as she opened her eyes. “But he also could be alive. And until I see his body I’m not going to act like he’s other than with us!”
Liam’s jaw clenched. “Mom, just take a few hours to sleep. Just a few. Please.”
“Liam, I –”
“We already lost Dad,” Liam said and stopped. They didn’t speak about Kurt Blake’s death very often. He had been the love of their mother’s life and his death the year before had nearly blasted her to pieces. Taking on his job of caring for the people of Holten was the only thing that had brought her back to life.
Their mother went rigid, but then she sagged. “All right. Two hours of sleep and then I have to get back out there.”
Liam nodded, but he picked up her utility belt and held it as if he were planning to hide it somewhere in the house where she couldn’t find it again so she could never leave. Her gun was in the gun safe though so she could always find that and, really, all she needed was her gun against the perv not mace or handcuffs.
His mother had gone out again after two hours of rest, but Liam had been right that she had been looking for a corpse. Barry’s body was found the next day. It was clear he had been killed just one day after he had gone missing..
“So do you want to hang out?” Carmody asked, breaking Cameron out of his memories.
“You should come with me and Liam,” Cameron said. His mother had made clear during the half dozen press conferences that she gave that no child – especially no boy their age – should be left alone. But here Carmody was without anyone to watch him and only an empty house to go back to.
“Uh, how can I go with you guys? Liam has the bike, right? So you want me to run after the bike like a dog?” Carmody’s red eyebrows crawled up into his hairline.
“You’re small. Liam can have us both ride no problem.”
Cameron felt a twinge of annoyance though. Riding with Liam was one of his absolute favorite things. He loved holding onto his brother’s waist while the road unfurled before them like a ribbon of pale blue denim. The roar of the motor would be in Cameron’s ears and the thrum of the powerful engine would run throughout his body. He always rested one ear against Liam’s back and he could hear the thump of his brother’s powerful heart, too. He got the best ideas for paintings and sculptures when he and Liam went on rides. Just the two of them. The two of them and the lure of wide open spaces. Sometimes he imagined that his brother just kept on riding down those roads, never turning back to Holten, riding to a destiny that was just out of his power to imagine.
“That’s okay I guess. Do you think I have time to pee?” Carmody asked. He was crossing his legs and doing a little jig suddenly. He had the bladder the size of a peanut or, at least, that’s what their mutual friend Jason had said.
Cameron rolled his eyes. “Pee behind the bushes. Don’t go back into the school. It’ll take too long and Liam will be here any second.”
“I can’t go behind a bush! I have to be in a bathroom.” Carmody turned and raced towards the one-floor school behind them. He called over his shoulder. “I’ll be right back! Don’t leave without me!”
Cameron didn’t say anything. It was useless. Carmody was going to do what he was going to do and Liam wouldn’t mind waiting. Besides it would give Cameron and him some small time to be alone together. Maybe he could hope up on the bike behind his big brother and just put his arms around his waist and rest his head against his back. Hot, strange sensations raced through him as he imagined that. Face flushed and suddenly edgy, he swung away from the school. He was about to turn and look back down the road for Liam when he realized he was not alone. There was a man about fifty feet away down the sidewalk. Cameron straightened, surprised and a little uneasy about the man’s sudden appearance. Was it the perv? Did pervs come out in daylight? Walk openly in the sun?
Despite the heat the guy was dressed in all black. Black long-sleeved button down shirt. Black jeans. Black shoes. His hair stuck up towards the sky and reminded Cameron of a lit match. That hair gave him away. It was Reginald Fox. Cameron’s shoulders slumped. It wasn’t the perv. It was just Reggie.
Reggie was weird, but not scary. His family owned the local bowling alley and Reggie was the one to hand out the shoes after spraying them with deodorant. Because of his job, the kids claims he smelled like dirty feet. He was the same age as Liam, but he seemed worlds apart from Cameron’s cool older brother. He stuttered – when he spoke at all – kept his head sunk down against his chest, turtling in on himself, and never met anyone’s eyes.
Wonder what he’s doing here?
But that was an idle thought that Cameron didn’t really care to know the answer to. He turned away from Reggie to look for Liam. It was then though that Cameron realized how quiet the school was. There were no kids outside playing like there had been before the perv started killing kids. Normally teachers hung out until every student was taken home these days, but today there was some kind of teacher meeting so they were gone as well. Carmody hadn’t yet appeared back from the bathroom. The only sounds were the wind and the faint footfalls of Reggie coming up behind him. Cameron was about to say ‘hi’ to Reggie – not that Reggie would say anything in return – when he heard the thrum of the Bobber.
Excitement lit up inside of him and he rocked back and forth on his feet as Liam and the bike came into view. Heat rose up from the asphalt in wavy lines, blurring everything, but he could see Liam riding the bike, hair flying back in the wind, looking awesomely cool as every big brother should. He hardly noticed that the sound of Reggie’s footfalls behind him had sped up until there was this whooshing sound and there was a sharp, terrible crack.
Cameron was falling forward before he felt the pain in his head. His eyesight blackened to nothing for a time – how long he couldn’t say -- before surging back again yet instead of his vision returning crisp and clear everything was shadowed, blurry. That wasn’t the only change. His body wouldn’t work right. The pain in his head was unbearable and he swore his head was going to crack open like an egg and spill his brain onto the sidewalk. He thought he was going to vomit.
Then he realized that he was being carried. He smelled a sharp astringent odor, antiseptic, and his stomach roiled like it was filled with snakes. He realized something else, too. His wrists and ankles were being held together with what looked like zip ties. He stared at them uncomprehendingly. Then he felt something spatter his face and he realized it was spit from Reggie. Reggie was carrying him. Reggie was drooling on him. Reggie had a looney grin on his face as he was running awkwardly towards a black Charger.
“Reggie, what … why’d you hit me?” Cameron’s voice sounded like it was coming from a long way away. He was certain that Reggie had smacked him with something -- maybe a pipe? -- on the back of the head. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Who was he kidding? It felt far worse than that.
Reggie didn’t answer. He was breathing hard though the grin hadn’t left his pale lips. The whine of Liam’s bike was louder now. Cameron thought he heard Liam shouting at Reggie to stop. Cameron tried to turn his head to look over Reggie’s shoulder to see his brother.
“L-Liam?” his voice was so soft. His brother wouldn’t be able to hear him. He had to yell, but he couldn’t draw in enough breath.
Then Reggie was opening the door of the Charger and dumping him into the back sea. Cameron’s head hit the seat and unbelievable pain flared inside of his skull again. He shouted. Shrieked. His voice working again. Liam definitely was calling his name now, a howl, hardly indistinguishable from the roar of the bike’s motor.
“LIAM!” he screamed back, wanting -- no, needing -- his brother so badly that it was a physical ache.
But Reggie had the car in gear and he punched the gas, letting out a strange maniacal giggle as the car slalomed down the street before he got control of it. Then he punched the gas again and pulled away from Liam and the Bobber.
Cameron felt sick and stupid. His thoughts were sluggish like they were dipped in molasses. He blinked a few times before he thought of doing the obvious and opening the door and rolling out of the car. But when he lifted his head he saw that the ground was just whipping by. If he got out of the car at that speed he would be dead. Road kill. But maybe Reggie would slow down. Surely he would put on the breaks when he took a turn.
Cameron decided that he had to free his wrists and ankles. He tried to frantically work to undo his hands from the zip ties. His skin was chafed raw, but the he could not get the zip ties over his hands. . The glare from the desert sun kept coming through the car’s windows, blinding him and confusing his aching head. The pain now in his wrists centered him. The same thing happened when he tried to free his ankles. He was tied tight. He wasn’t getting out of these without scissors or a knife, neither of which was available in the back seat of Reggie’s car.
He remembered this car suddenly from the times that Reggie had brought it over for his brother to work on. Reggie thought he knew cars, but Liam said he really didn’t. Reggie was so protective of the Charger that he had insisted on being there nearly every time Liam worked on it. Cameron had wondered if Reggie just wanted to hang with Liam, but though his brother had tried to get Reggie to talk during those hours long work sessions, Reggie had only answered in monosyllables and kept most of his attention on the black Charger.
“He thinks it’ll make him cool,” Cameron had told Liam later. “It won’t. But he thinks its will.”
Liam had been putting away his tools and said, “Reggie’s just a sad guy. I feel bad for him. You should, too.”
“Why?” Reggie had taken away some of Cameron’s time with Liam so he wasn’t looking on the guy all too kindly.
“Because he’s always going to be an outsider, Cam. He doesn’t have anybody like you and I do to not feel so … different.”
Cameron had scuffed the garage with his foot. “Yeah, I guess. I mean we have each other, right?”
Liam had given him a smile. “Right.”
Now after Reggie had bonked him on the head and was taking him who knew where, hatred again flared in Cameron’s chest.
“Reggie, what are you doing?” Cameron got out as the man took a sharp turn and Cameron’s body slid over the back seat.
So much for slowing down on the turns!
He sort of knew the answer to his question. Reggie must be the perv, the “Desert Killer”. Reggie that everyone ignored or, if they did pay attention to him, made fun of him. Reggie who stuttered and wouldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. But he did meet Cameron’s gaze in the rearview mirror and, for a moment, his eyes were black pits. It was like his eyes had been carved out and Cameron was seeing into his soul and it was pitch black, no light, no goodness, just everlasting darkness.
“Scared?” Reggie asked, not stammering, not sounding like himself at all.
“What are you?” The words had just pushed their way out of Cameron’s mouth. It wasn’t just fear he felt, but horror.
That had Reggie pausing then smiling and nodding. “I hoped. I mean I thought you had enough of his blood in you, but I wasn’t sure. At least you’ll know what this is all about, because you’ll see.”
“W-what’ll I see?”
Another grin that showed black gums and teeth turning gray with rot. It was like Reggie was a corpse, the walking dead, but no one saw that but Cameron. “You’re seeing it now.”
Cameron looked away from the rearview mirror. He couldn’t look at Reggie anymore or he’d puke or worse. Panic beat inside of him like a bass drum. Fear wanted to overwhelm him, keep him from thinking of acting. His mouth was dry while his palms were slick with sweat. His heart felt like it was trying to get out of his chest. It was adrenaline. Flight or fight. At least that’s what his father would have told him.
“Don’t let your base emotions rule you, Cameron,” his father had said after Cameron had lost his temper and lashed out. “They’ll play you for a fool every time.”
But it was so hard to think clearly! Cameron had never imagined what he would do if the perv caught him. Other kids had laid out elaborate plans, because it made them sound like big heroes, but Cameron knew better. Heroes died. His father had died. He wasn’t a hero like his father. He was a kid. An artsy, bookish kid. Not in sports or anything like. His brother was built like a linebacker, but he was slender, almost delicate. What could he do against Reggie. He had no plan.
Liam. Liam is coming after me. Just look out the back and I’ll see him. He won’t let Reggie kill me!
He got up so that he could see out the rear window. His heart leaped into his throat as he saw that Liam was indeed still following after them. Liam leaned over the bike’s handlebars, reducing the wind drag of his body to increase his speed. But the Bobber wasn’t as fast as the Charger. His brother’s work on it had seen to that. Reggie let out a tittering laugh.
“I know he’s there. He’s not going to save you, you know,” Reggie said.
“He will too!”
“I want him to catch up with us. Two for the price of one,” Reggie drawled. “He’ll die trying to save you and I’ll make a most beautiful tableau out of both of your bodies together. I can just imagine your mother’s face. First her husband and now both her sons. I’m betting she’s eat a bullet.”
“BASTARD!” Cameron’s rage surged up in his and he slammed his bound feet against the back of Reggie’s seat. To say that about his mom and Liam was just wrong. He might be slender and bookish, but suddenly he felt fierce. He wasn’t scared of Reggie. He would kick the bastard’s face in.
“Don’t do that or we’ll crash and then you’ll die anyways.” Reggie winked at him.
The thought of them crashing cooled Cameron. He could imagine the car flying end over end and him being mangled. Not the say he wanted to go. Reggie was going to stop the car at some point. And then Cameron would act.
Abruptly, Reggie took another turn onto a small road that was dusted over with sand. Once again, Cameron was sent flying to the other side of the car. They had crested a hill just before the turnoff and he wasn’t sure that Liam saw them turn. He hoped that his brother glimpsed the tire tracks and followed.
He looked out the back window, but didn’t see Liam anywhere. Reggie was going over one hundred and twenty miles per hour, hurtling down this sandy road and it seemed like the wheels were hardly touching the pavement. There was nobody and nothing around. They were out of town, somewhere in the surrounding, unforgiving desert. Cameron didn’t recognize the place at all. Panic fluttered in his chest. Had he lost Liam? Was he trapped along with Reggie?
After a fifteen minute drive, Reggie was turning off the road and onto a gravel track, which he followed for half a mile before the track deadended.. There were three buildings all the color of burnt umber around them. The buildings looked like many of the abandoned ranches Cameron had seen when he and Liam went riding. Reggie parked the car in what looked like a large stable. The sunlight that had kept blinding Cameron was replaced with shuttered light that seeped through the slats that made up the stable’s walls. The air inside the stable was still and hot.
The stable no longer contained any horses, but there were still stalls lining one wall. Reggie got out of the Charger and came around to the back door. He foolishly opened the door by Cameron’s feet. Bound or not he was still able to kick and kick Cameron did. He raised his feet up and slammed them into Reggie’s face. There was a satisfying crunch and blood sprayed everywhere. Reggie let out a howl of pain and rage. One of his hands went up to his face to stop the geysering of blood and he curled forward. Cameron kicked him again and he fell back from the car.
Cameron turned and got his hands on the other door handle behind him. The door wouldn’t open! It was locked. He went to pull up the lock when he realized that the back door’s lock had been tampered with. There was no way to open it. It was at that moment when Reggie was grabbing his legs. Cameron let out a squeal of fright and kicked again, but Reggie had a hold of him and simply pulled him out of the car. His head bashed against the kickboard and stars of blackness blossomed in his vision.
Reggie was saying things, cursing him, “I’m going to fuck you until bleed, you little shit! You’ll see all the dark places before I eat you whole! Your brother will watch as I drain the life’s blood right out of you!”
Reggie’s face with its broken nose looked even more monstrous than before. Cameron knew he had to fight, but his arms and legs wouldn’t work. Reggie picked him up and tossed him over his shoulder. He couldn’t understand how Reggie was so strong. The guy was a pipsqueak, but he wasn’t acting like one now. He seemed to have preternatural strength and a part of Cameron’s mind wondered if it was because he was a zombie and the thing inside of him, the thing animating him, was what was strong about him.
Reggie carried him out of the stable, heading towards one of the other buildings, but then the sound of a motorcycle’s engine filled the air and Liam came roaring in. His brother didn’t exactly stop the bike so much as leap off it and let it slide on its side until it stopped ten feet away.
Road dust covered his brother’s face. Liam wore sunglasses, but he pulled those off as he strode towards Reggie on tree-trunk sized legs. Rage burned in his blue eyes like gas lamps. The massive muscles in his arms flexed under the tight t-shirt stained with oil and grease from fixing cars. Cameron could almost smell his brother’s cologne mixed with motor oil. It was a comforting scent.
“LIAM!” Cameron screamed, thrashing around over Reggie’s shoulder, but the man held him tight and didn’t release him.
“Let go of my brother!” Liam roared as he stormed forward.
Reggie did let Cameron go, dropped him like a sack of flour. Cameron’s right shoulder broke his fall and pain had his eyes watering with tears. Something had broken. His wrist maybe. He squeezed away the tears and tried to get up but he couldn’t. Everything was swaying precariously.
Liam was just a few feet from Reggie when the man took out a long bladed hunting knife. Liam jerked to a halt, blue eyes wary, but not afraid. He turned the blade and it glinted in the sun.
“This is the blade I used on the others. It’s been bathed in the blood of innocents so it’s much stronger now,” Reggie tittered.
A vein in Liam’s forehead throbbed even as he growled, “Get away from my brother, you sick fuck.”
“No, he’s mine and so are you.”
Reggie moved like a striking adder. The blade cut the air where his brother had been just half a second before. Liam had moved even faster. Reggie laughed, that strange high-pitched tittering laugh, before dancing forward, slashing and stabbing. Liam was moving backwards, his eyes fixed on the blade, trying to anticipate where it would next be so that he wasn’t there. One time he wasn’t fast enough and the blade skimmed his side.
“Liam, no!” Cameron croaked as he saw the thin t-shirt part on the left side of his brother’s ribs and a line of red appeared.
Reggie laughed as if delighted by the blood on some terrible primal level. His brother’s breaths were coming in grunts as he had to keep up the frantic pace. Suddenly, his brother lunged forward instead of back and grabbed Reggie’s wrist. Reggie let out a thin, shrill cry as Liam bent the hand holding the knife backwards. There was a snap and the knife fell to the ground with a clatter. Both men froze for a second, looking down at where it lay, and then both dove for it. Cameron held his breath, waiting to see who would get it.
Liam scooped the knife up at the last second and he thrust it into Reggie’s stomach. Reggie made this oomphing sound as the power of Liam’s thrust drove the air out of his lungs even as he slid the nine-inch blade inside of him. Reggie’s eyes – still black as pitch – widened. Then Liam was pulling the knife out and plunging it back in again and again and again. Reggie was letting out a whine like an animal through his clenched teeth. He was leaning forward, into Liam, and then his brother was pushing him back, pushing him off of him and Reggie toppled over onto his back onto the steaming asphalt, unmoving.
Both Cameron and Liam watched Reggie as he lay there on the ground, the knife sticking out of his front like popsicle stick. His clothes were black so no widening crimson stain could be seen, but Cameron was certain there was one.
Dead. He’s dead, dead, dead. A hysterical laugh wanted to bubble out of him, but again his mouth wasn’t working.
Liam turned to Cameron and took a staggering step towards him. Though the fight had been quick it had been brutal. Sweat coated Liam’s forehead and blood oozed out of the long cut on his side. His hands were red, too, likely from Reggie’s blood. But none of that seemed to matter to Liam.
“Cam,” he breathed out. His blue eyes were filled with love and worry. He reached towards Cameron and Cameron reached back. He could already imagine the feel of his brother’s sun-warmed arms around him, holding him, keeping him safe. “Oh, my God, Cam, are you okay?”
“L-Liam!” Cameron got out, lower lip trembling, hurting so bad that he could hardly see. He needed his brother. He had to have Liam!
Liam took two steps towards him and then he stopped as if he had hit a wall. His blue eyes widened.
“Liam?” Cameron called out weakly, confused why his brother had stopped coming towards him.
His brother’s mouth opened and a stream of blood came out. “Cam”
It was a wheeze, a last breath. Then Liam’s body twisted and he fell to one knee.
Cameron started crawling to his brother even as the broken wrist screamed. “LIAM!”
Then Cameron was what stood behind Liam. It was … some thing. Later, his mother would explain that the rest of what he remembered that day was just his imagination, that the truth was just too unbearable to recall. That he had replaced Reggie getting up and stabbing his brother multiple times to death with a monster. The therapists would tell him that, too. So many therapists. He almost believed them about the winged woman he saw after his brother’s death – well, he believed it until that fateful night at the bar, but the rest?
He had stopped in mid crawl, his eyes fixed on the Liam and then on the some thing that had taken his brother’s life in a single breath. Liam was dead. He knew it. He felt it in his bones. And the anguish of that would destroy him, but it had not completely sunk in yet.
What he saw was Reginald Fox still on the ground, dead and unmoving, eyes no longer black but empty just the same fifteen feet away from Liam. The thing that had cut his brother down wasn’t Reggie. It wasn’t human. It was what had been in Reggie’s eyes. It was some thing.
It had a long spindly body, stood over eight feet, and had thin talons for fingers. Its skin was leathery like a bat’s wings. Its eyes were slits of fire. Its mouth was a hole filled with triangular serrated teeth like a shark’s. As Liam fell face forward onto the ground, bleeding out, it pointed one of those long needle-like fingers at Cameron. Marking him. Telling him without words that this wasn’t over.
Making sure Cameron knew that it would be back.