This week’s friday fiction is hosted by by Sharlyn at her blog, Dancing on the Rainbows. Click here to read and share more great fiction.
Author’s Ramblings: Well, I’m late this week, but I hope it’s worth it for two new bonus twists. ^_^ I added them as a last minute afterthought, think you can tell me what they are? It’s a great installment with more exploration between Rachel, her uncle and a new connection between Ben. Enjoy and a have a wonderful weekend! (on a side note, I have successfully completed Screnzy, clocking in last night at 101 pages. The dialog side of me should be winding down soon. ^_^)
The ride back to the motel was virtually silent until they reached the parking lot, then Ben caught her arm as she reached for the door handle. “Wait…”
“What?” Rachel turned towards him, for the first time that evening, she caught the full view of the painful expression on his face. It made her chest ache. “Ben? Is there something wrong?” Her voice softened. She’d been leaning on him hard, from the first week of their friendship, it hadn’t occurred to her that his own needs or hurts would ever come to the surface.
“Your telepathy.” He said quietly, unhooking something from around his neck. It was a tiny blue pearl on a fine gold chain. “You won’t be able to control it and…having the power to read someone’s thoughts, or to deal with the strong auras of emotions is very taxing on the human…soul.”
“Soul?” Rachel undid the seat belt, turning to face him directly. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about a gift that is as much of a curse as it is a gift.” He offered a half-smile. He wiggled his finger. “Turn around. Wear this…it will keep your mind steady.”
Rachel turned, lifting her limp ponytail. The necklace slipped easily around her neck, settling almost weightlessly. “It’s beautiful.”
“It’s a special gift…from a long time ago. When you need to focus, just hold it and use the energy inside of it. Okay?”
Rachel swallowed, fingering the tiny blue stone. “Okay.” Her voice was choked. “T-thanks, Ben…what kind of energy…?”
He almost smiled. “Don’t worry about it. Just know that from the moment, you think you’re losing it, your mind isn’t functioning the way you want it, then just hold this and focus. You’ll be fine.”
“You’re sure?” Rachel blushed, then reached backwards, leaning over to give him a hug. “Never mind. I know it will.”
He hugged her back. “Sure it will. It works when you’re good…it hones in on the positive energy generated by the wearer. You’re a good kid, Rock.” He sighed, pulling away. “Come along now, I’m sure there’s a lecture waiting for you upstairs.”
“A lecture?” Rachel scrambled out of the car and hurried to the sidewalk. “What do you mean?”
He didn’t answer and she didn’t ask again, but the strange-atmosphere seemed to grow as she continued up the walk, into the motel and even as they stood in the elevator.
Ben shifted uneasily in the corridor as Rachel opened the door to the motel room. She started in and backed out almost at once. Ben caught her elbow with one hand, his height allowing him to see over her shoulder and determine the cause of her sudden reverse.
She heard him sigh and the propel her forward into the room. Rachel opened her mouth and shut it as her Uncle Thom finally released the remaining set of words he’d had stored up for her.
“Where were you?” The question was more of a demand, as he stood, arms folded across his chest, expression hard and unmoving. “I’ve been waiting here for you for the past four hours. I couldn’t call your phone, Pete said you promised you were going to stay here and I’m supposed to have come to get your statement and then get out there looking for a killer!”
“A killer?” Rachel felt herself suddenly shrinking beneath his anger-tinted frustrations. “What kind of a killer?”
“That lady…” Thom raked a hand through his hair and then turned away abruptly. “That lady in the room…she was dead, Rachel. Somebody killed her. I can’t get a straight answer out of Jeanette and Abby won’t let me take it from her. What we have going on right now…all we can tell is that someone electrocuted her.”
“She didn’t just…um, zap herself?” Rachel heard herself say.
The words sounded foolish to her own ears and he nailed her with a withering glare, his mouth opened and more words poured out. “…and then what did you think you were doing? Just disappearing like that?” He caught hold of thick handful of hair. “Sit down. Just sit down. We need to talk.”
Ben cleared his throat.
Thom glared at him. “I’m not asking your opinion, though I am curious…how many times have you died?”
Ben perked a brow.
The glare darkened. “I seem to remember a phone call with a sobbing Rachel on one end trying to tell me that some special friend was dead. I remember driving her to a memorial service. I remember watching framed pictures of your high school graduation displayed on a shelf above your open casket. I also remember overhearing a certain conversation between two punks, the neon colored hair and too much metal in their ears, laughing about how this wasn’t the first time, you’d died.”
Rachel stared at him, uncomprehendingly. “Not the first?” She swallowed, the rush of memories flooding over her.
Ben whirled on her at once. “Don’t!” He grabbed her shoulders and gave her a light shake. “Don’t do that! You want to black out the motel next?”
“Black out?” Thom interjected. “Get your hands off of her!”
Ben let go and took two quick steps back, successfully out of reach of Thom. “The lady back at the house-”
“That’s none of your business.” Thom said brusquely, drawing Rachel closer to him. “Rachel, are you okay?”
Rachel shrank back. “Yeah, I’m fine, Unk…it’s just Ben.” The thought echoed eerily in her mind and she swallowed hard, apparently this new power would be requiring a whole lot of extra work and concentration to maintain. She took several deep breaths to calm herself down. Blacking out a motel wasn’t something she wanted to explain.
Thom scowled. “Just Ben. I know…that’s what those two said, I take it you’ve died more than once, correct?”
A new level of blankness registered on Ben’s face. “I wish I knew what you were talking about.” His voice was painstakingly polite. “But I’m afraid I don’t. Nice to see you again, Rock…stay out of trouble, will you?”
Rachel lurched forward. “Hey! You can’t just go!”
Thom grabbed her back. “He can’t just stay either!”
“If he’s not staying, then neither am I!” Rachel pulled away. “and will everyone quit grabbing me? I feel like a rubber toy!”
“Barbie or plush?” Ben asked, innocently.
Rachel turned her glare on him. “Neither! Barbie is plastic…and I don’t feel very warm and fuzzy right now.”
Ben offered a bow. “Hint taken, kiddo…keep your uncle in check.” He swept out the door before either of them could say another word.
There was a moment of silence and then Rachel continued forward to turn the locks on the door. She hesitated at sliding the bolt. “Are you going to keep yelling at me?” Her voice was quiet.
“That depends.” Thom turned back to the room and headed for the armchair near the telephone. “Are you going to leave if I do?”
Rachel shrugged, sliding the bolt shut. “I sort of deserve it…so I guess not…but if you really don’t have to-”
“I’m not going to yell at you.”
Rachel blinked. “you’re not?”
Thom half-smiled. “I’ve already yelled enough for one day.” He frowned. “That friend of yours wears on my nerves…he’s alive?”
Rachel shrugged, sheepishly. “Uh…yeah.”
“I see…and you found this out?”
“Just this past week…that’s why I ended up here.” Rachel shook her head. “I mean, because of him, I uh…was able to get a ride here.”
“N-no…one of his friends gave me a lift.”
“What kind of a lift?” Thom asked, carefully.
Rachel squirmed. “That’s not really important…is it? It was just a motorcycle…”
Thom breathed a sigh of relief. “Good.”
“Good?” Rachel stared at him. “What do you mean, good?”
“There were several unidentified cars in the area lately…a few of them fit the descriptions for those thugs you tangled with the last time.”
Rachel bit her lip to keep from protesting. While her uncle was somewhat in her confidence, at least as far as Mark would permit it, he was still in the dark about the rest of the operations. “Right…um, so….” She wracked her brain for a question and blurted the first thing that came to mind. “You have a girlfriend?” Her cheeks flamed hot the moment the words left her mouth and to her surprise, her uncle blushed as well.
“I’m sorry you met under those…circumstances…she’s really a great lady.”
“Right…sure.” Rachel pasted a smile on her face, recalling the verbal exchange between them. She stifled a shudder. She didn’t think she could look past that kind of first impression…or Jeanette. “Right…and she’s got a brat for a daughter?”
Thom winced. “She’s not really a brat…she’s just…”
“Special?” Rachel interjected. “That kid…I don’t know what’s wrong with her…you know, even that lady, the one who attacked us and broke into the house and all that…she went for Jeanette.” Rachel frowned. “Not for me…and I was in front.”
Thom suddenly straightened. “That’s the second reason I’m here. The first was to make sure you were okay and find out what’s going on, but since you’re focused on this side, go ahead and tell me exactly what happened from the last phone call.”
Rachel moved to sit on the bed, drawing up her knees to her chest as she thought. “Well, um, the power went out again…was it another fuse tripped?”
Thom waved it away. “Never mind that, I think it was just a power surge or something, skip that, focus past that, what happened?”
“Um, well, the lights went out and Jeanette was going to go down to the laundry room by herself to go flip that dumb switch and I told her she couldn’t go down there by herself, I mean, it’s…creepy down there.”
A laugh sputtered from her uncle. “Creepy?” He repeated, then shook his head, trying not to laugh. “Sorry, continue.”
Rachel resisted the urge to make a face. “yes it’s creepy! You can blame it on whichever idiot cousin thought it was a brilliant joke to lock me up down there. The shadows are alive! I’m not joking!”
Thom chuckled. “Okay, Rache, I get it. Please, finish the story?” The chuckle faded as his face grew serious once more. “There’s a lot of loose ends to be tied and retied, before I can actually relay a decent account of today’s events. I need to know what happened there.”
“She came through the hallway and started through the kitchen and I went upstairs…and I made Jeanette follow me and we-”
“Why did you go upstairs?”
“Rachel?” He shifted in the chair.
“My file.” She stared at the window curtains. “I hid the file when Jeanette arrived, because I didn’t know who it was, but if the person was looking for it…”
“Why would the person be looking for it?”
She shrugged. “I-I don’t know…”
“you don’t know, but you went upstairs anyway.” Thom rubbed the sides of his head. “Did you know there was no way out of there?”
“She wouldn’t have found us.” Rachel said stubbornly. “I never would’ve let her find us.”
“Yeah…but she did, didn’t she? At least according to Jeanette she did. Jean says that she almost left the room, then came back and looked under the bed. Did she do that?”
“And you don’t think that was strange?”
“Like you said before…not everything in my life is normal.”
“And this was one of those instances?” Thom slowly rose from the chair. “How did you get that file?”
“A-a friend gave it to me.”
“A friend?” Thom crossed the room to stand near the bed. “What kind of friend are we talking about? That Ben fellow?”
“No!” Rachel jerked around to look at him. “Ben didn’t do that! He wasn’t here!”
“Can you prove that?”
“N-no. Look, Unk…I didn’t think they’d come up to the guest room…I mean, really, you saw the room and you saw the stuff I brought…which was pretty much nothing.”
“So you’re saying someone dropped you a service pack?” Thom closed his eyes. “Finish the story, Rachel, just finish it…with the realistic elements, please!”
“She yanked Jeanette out from under the bed and I grabbed her.” Rachel said dully. “That’s about as realistic as it’ll get.”
“Wait…she took Jean first?” Thom’s sudden red face was slowly draining of all color. “And then what did you do? You grabbed her, or Jean?”
“I already told you that! And it was Jean…I think.” Rachel frowned. “I can’t remember. I just tried to make her stop and then something happened and I blacked out.”
“Something happened?” Thom perked a brow.
“You said you only wanted the realistic parts.”
“Okay, then tell me the rest of it now. How and why did you black out? And how come you went from complete exhaustion to perky enough to yank a folder out of someone’s hand, throw a pretend temper tantrum and survive an escort to a motel room, where you didn’t go to sleep.” Thom took a deep breath and stopped as his cell phone began to ring. He pulled it from his side pocket and flipped it open to answer. “Pete?” He began to pace out of habit, murmuring into the phone. “What?”
Rachel scooted back to the middle of the bed, watching as he went back and forth. “What’s wrong?” She asked, the moment the phone flipped shut.
Thom rubbed his neck. “Someone just stole the body.” He jabbed several buttons on the phone. “Hey, Zaks? It’s Thom, they said you had a description of the carjacker…or ambulance jacker, whatever…give it to me…what? How young? Uh-huh? I see…Zaks, I know someone that fits that description.” His jaw tightened, his gaze turning towards the door. “Actually he’s just walked out the door. How long did you say it’s been missing?” There was another pause. “Yes, then it’s a probable suspect. I’ll give you stats and a sketch. He goes by the name of Ben, is about six feet two, I’d say-”
“What?” Rachel darted forward, grabbing his arm. “Ben didn’t do that! Stop!” She was rather unceremoniously twirled around and made to sit on the bed. “You have to listen to me!” Rachel jerked away. “Please!”
The phone call ended and Thom forced himself to take a moment before responding. “What was that?” He asked, struggling to keep control.
“Ben didn’t steal a body. I mean, the body…whatever. Unk, please! You’ve got to believe me!”
He sighed. “At this moment, I’m not quite sure what to believe. I know that I saw a guy who was supposed to be dead…twice in one day. He was at the house, what he was doing there, I don’t want to know, but maybe you can tell me later, when you’ve come up with a good story.”
“A good story?” Rachel stared at him in disbelief. “Wait!”
“I can’t. I came up here to get the information, whatever you had that you could give me and we’d get going on it.”
“Tracking down the killer.” Thom crossed the room to retrieve his jacket from the dresser near the door. “Whoever killed her probably didn’t have time to collect the body, for whatever reason and decided to steal it afterwards.”
“Why would someone steal a body?”
“Because there was something strange about it…” Thom shook his head. “I don’t…you don’t need to know.” He shrugged into the jacket.
“But you’re suggesting that the killer and the person who stole the body are the same person. It’s not Ben! I know it isn’t!”
“Rachel, I know you trust your friend…that’s very…loyal of you. But I have to consider all things. Stay away from him, okay? I don’t want to see you near him, I don’t want to hear that he was seen with you either. Until this is all sorted out, you are to stay put, Rachel. Answer your phone when I call, I’ve got to get going, they need me now. This conversation…twisted as it is, is not over, young lady.” He tipped her chin up. “Understood?”
“Yes sir.” Rachel slid off the bed and to her feet, following him halfway across the room. “Where are you going?”
“I’m pulling double time here, a homicide and drugs.”
“I thought you couldn’t do two at the same time, I mean, don’t they have specialists and-”
“This is my town, Rach, I know it better than any of them put together. I take the specialists help the professional advice and I help it make sense to the rest of everyone else. Just because this looks like a friendly little town, doesn’t mean it is.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying if there’s a killer on the loose and a few loose ends I haven’t had the chance to take care of yet, then I need you to listen to me and do exactly as I say. Stay here. Don’t go…larking off.”
Rachel sputtered a laugh.
“I mean it.” Thom pulled her into a hug. “and when I call you, it should mean that you can come back home…then you can tell me what’s bugging you.”
“Something’s bugging me?” Rachel tilted her head back to study his face. “What makes you think that?”
“Because I know you.” He planted a kiss on the top of her head. “I mean it, Rach. Please…it’s not safe out there for you.”
“Because miss ex-girlfriend is out there?”
Thom shook his head. “She doesn’t hate you really…she’s just a little headstrong.”
“Unk? um, don’t get mad at me…again, but can you answer a question for me? Are you investigating…pysch?”
Thom froze in mid-movement towards the door handle. “What?” He turned to look at her. “Why…how…why do you need to know?”
Rachel tried to shrug nonchalantly, but her shoulders seemed glued to her side. “Just…curious.” She twisted her hands behind her.
“That brand of curiosity isn’t good for you.” Thom frowned. “Where have you heard that before?”
Rachel reached towards the necklace, trying to focus as Ben had told her. Thoughts. Thoughts. She instructed herself. Just need to know what he’s thinking… “Um…kids talk about it.” She tried to smile. “I mean, people know about it, that’s all, I was just asking.”
“You were just asking, because?” He hinted, meaningfully. Because you’re using it or you’re getting it for someone else? Why would you need to know that Rachel? That’s too precise a question. I am working on it, but you don’t need to know that…why you’re even asking…I don’t understand. Something’s wrong here. Something’s wrong with Rachel. Man…I’ve got to talk to her..and I am seriously not wanting to. Lord, please help me here…this is not the kind of conversation we need to be having right now. Please!
Rachel let go of the gem, licking her lips. She couldn’t bear to hear his thoughts any longer. It was too much. Ben had been right. It would definitely tax the soul, as he’d put it. “It’s out there. But, never mind…I shouldn’t have asked.”
“That’s what you came here for?” His earlier frustration was surfacing. “You came here for pysch?” He leaned against the door. “I’m sure I don’t want to know, but I’ll ask anyway. Are you…using it?”
Rachel stared at him, shocked. “What?” She sputtered. “I-you-I…” She stammered. “NO! I’m not! Why would you even ask me that!” Tears pooled immediately in the corners of her eyes. “I can’t believe you just asked me that.”
Thom closed his eyes. “I’m sorry…I was just being-”
“Thorough.” Rachel interjected. “I know.” She stalked to the door and began undoing the locks next to him.
“What are you doing?” Thom shifted away from the door.”
“You need to be working…and I don’t need to be insulted anymore.” Rachel yanked the door open, stubbing her toe before accidentally yanking it straight into her uncle’s shoulder. “Sorry…just…go, and be careful.”
“You’re throwing me out?” He tried to clarify.
“No, you were just leaving.” Rachel lifted her chin.
“I see.” He shook his head, starting out the door and pausing half-way. “We are going to have this talk.” He said quietly. “I would expect you to understand the stress and the situations I’m dealing with, but I also know that sometimes that’s a little too much to expect, even from you. I’ll call you for your statement later and I’ll send Pete by to take you down to the station to get your prints made, so we’ll be able to identify what in the house belongs to who.” His cellphone rang.
Rachel sighed, loudly.
Thom tilted his head forward and then stepped completely out of the room and into the hallway. The conversation was muffled and when he finally hung up, the edges of panic were slowly closing in on him.
“What am I? A hotel service?” He muttered, turning and knocking on the door. “Rachel? I need to talk to you.”
Rachel gritted her teeth, glaring at the white door. “I can hear you just fine.”
“I can hardly hear you.” He countered. “Open the door.”
“I just turned all the locks.”
“Rachel.” His voice dropped several octaves. “Open the door, NOW!”
The locks clicked and twisted in rapid succession and the door opened a crack. Thom perked a brow and the chain was removed, the door opening fully to show Rachel in the midst of working up her temper tantrum. “I just thought I ought to tell you, that staying in the motel isn’t permanent.”
She rolled her eyes.
Thom quickly hurried on. “And when the house is cleared, it should be by tomorrow, then I’ll come and take you back home. We’re also going to have another guest…and no, it’s not Jean or Abby…it’s Calvin.”
Her jaw dropped. “No!”
“Yes.” Thom made sure his foot was in the door so she couldn’t slam it shut before he finished. “There’s been a stir in the neighborhood, since he got mixed up in a few things similar to you, Gage is sending him over here until things calm down.” Thom tried to smile. “He’s changed a lot, Rachel, just give him a chance. Really.”
“He locked me in creepy basement when I was eight years old.” Rachel glared at him. “I’m never going to forgive him for that!”
Thom opened his mouth and then shut it. He deliberately moved back into the hall and then offered a salute, turning and walking down the hallway. He paused at the end, to hear the door click and then shook his head. “A circus.” He muttered. “That’s exactly what I’m running, I’m the ringmaster in the center of a…” His mutterings trailed off as he disappeared around the corner.
Rachel slumped against the door, fingering the tiny blue stone. She didn’t want to deal with anything at that moment and the adrenaline was slowly fading.
“You know.” Ben began. “If I were your uncle, you’d be in pretty big trouble for a stunt like that.”
Rachel lurched to her feet. “Ben!” She hissed in a stage whisper. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here! My uncle thinks-”
“I shouldn’t?” He lounged comfortably by the bathroom doorjamb. “Why not?” He chuckled. “Mark wants you street hunting, so I’ll send in a double to keep place for you and a check knot that you can pull if you want out when either one of your bodyguards show up. I don’t care what your uncle thinks, I’m not the scariest thing out there.” He smirked. “apparently he has scarier shadows in his basement.”
“Shut up!” Rachel hugged her arms to her chest, digesting this new twist. “Bodyguards?”
“That uncle of yours…and his deputy friend.” Ben threw a rope bracelet through the air. “Catch.”
Rachel grabbed it. She gingerly suspended it between two fingers. “I have to wear it?”
Ben leveled her with a look. She sighed and tugged it onto her wrist. “Good girl. Now, be careful and stay close. I’ll warp you out and then you’ll be on your own. I said I’d keep an eye on your and I meant it, it just means that I’ll have to do that without the visibility you’re used to. Just because you can’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not there. I want you to be careful, especially now. And don’t ever say my name when you answer the phone.” He paused. “I’ll get you a new phone soon….Rachel, you should apologize to your uncle, he’s sticking his neck out for you.”
Something beeped and Ben surged forward, wrapping one arm around her neck and the other around her waist. “We’re good Jahan, warp out.”
There was a soft flash of green energy and then the room was empty.
© Sara Harricharan