Beyond Redemption Ch. 06byLucifix©
Ray was jostled awake by Seth's struggling form behind her. Still half asleep and tousled, she sat up and leaned over him, concerned.
She realized he must have been having a nightmare and tried to gently shake him awake until one of his flying fists smacked her right on the head.
Enraged at being so rudely awakened properly, she responded with a punch to his face without thinking , and he went still, barely breathing.
Ray, now fully awake, stared at him , mortified at her reflex and tried to wake him up in a more gentle manner. So she held him, half-apologetically, and softly whispered in his ear, "Wake up"
Seth's eyes snapped open as he simultaneously took a deep breath. He sat up so suddenly that it made him feel sick and dizzy, and at the same time he felt as though his head had been split in two.
panic stricken, he tried to struggle out of her embrace, but calmed quickly as he realised he was awake. he squeezed his eyes shut, taking in her scent. He willed himself to relax. His skin was glistening with cold sweat and his pulse was erratic.
"You were having a nightmare" Ray stated, more than asked, trying to seem comforting.
Seth opened his mouth to reply, but as soon as he moved his jaw,
"OW!!!!! I feel like my head's been whacked by a speeding bus!"
Ray's lip twitched guiltily.
"you banged your head against the headboard while you were struggling" she explained, lying through her teeth.
Seth, not wanting to move his jaw anymore, merely gave a small nod. He was worried. It might just be a dream, but it felt so real! He felt his stomach clench as a small bubble of panic began to well up inside him.
Instinctively, he buried his head in the crook of her neck and inhaled deeply the mysterious scent that surrounded him and saved him in what he felt like was the nick of time.
Saved him from what exactly?, He couldn't possibly know, but the feeling of impending doom was so raw that he was still feeling the aftermath. His stomach couldn't seem to make up it's mind as to whether it wanted to empty its contents or not.
She stroked his hair gently, over and over, until he lost himself in the steady rhythm of her breathing and fell asleep once more.
That morning, Ray and Seth ate breakfast in silence.
Ray seemed impatient and kept sneaking glances over at Seth, who was having a hard time chewing his food.
His mind was still on the dream he had that night, but it didn't stop him noticing Ray's idea of subtle glances as her eyes flicked up towards his face when she though he wasn't looking.
Slightly annoyed but mostly curious, he looked down at his plate then glanced up suddenly in time to catch her eye.
"you've been staring at me for the past half-hour" he stated flatly.
A blush was creeping up up her cheeks as she hastened to swallow her mouth full of food in order to reply.
"you woke up struggling yesterday , but you haven't said a word to me about what you saw in your dream" She looked disgruntled, her tone huffy.
"it was just a nightmare, it means nothinghe replied, his tone softening slightly.
She scowled.?f it was indeed nothing then why do you still brood on the subject?she answered heatedly. He could hear the underlaying worry in her voice.
"it just shook me up a little. You know how dreams are, sometimes they seem so unreal, other times they're lucid" He recalled the scene from last night and looked down at his toast, feeling slightly sick in the stomach again.
"why, then, do you insist upon not telling me?" She whined, then continued sternly, "You know you don't have to beef around the bush with me, we're friends, you can tell me anything!" she pouted her lower lip in a mock sad-face.
Seth snorted while drinking his chocolate-milk. "It's 'beat', Ray, 'beat', not 'beef'" he said, cracking up.
She pouted for real this time. "Don't you dare change the subject"
"I'm not changing it, but you can't go around saying 'beef around the bush', people can easily misunderstand that" he choked out, still laughing.
He quieted down as he noticed her heated gaze. Ray suddenly learned across the table towards him as though she intended to kiss him. His smirk faded and he licked his lower lip in anticipation.
When her lips were only a centimetre away from his, she quickly reached up and poked him hard in the jaw!
Seth fell back off his chair, howling, as Ray stood up, her face glowering. "Stop mocking me!" she yelled. He just didn't understand her concern. Stupid block-head.
She ran to the door, changed her mind half-way, ran back to the kitchen counter and grabbed some more toast and cheese before running back to the door, intending to put on her shoes and leave.
Of course, she wasn't serious about this whole charade. She just needed to know what he had seen in his dream. If they were indeed sharing dreams, the implications were very bad.
She went slow while pretending to be flustered with putting her shoes on so that Seth may have the time to orient himself and catch up.
He stood up as the pain in his jaw subsided. For someone so upset, he thought she was doing a very good job at keeping her temper and violence levels low. Recalling the second time she came face to face with Nathan changed his mind however.
nah... She's not upset at all, he decided, smiling.
One glance at her hurried pace however made him scurry to put the food away while yelling for her to wait.
She ignored him defiantly and continued out of the door, thinking it would be more dramatic to slam it shut, but she refrained, taking into consideration how it would hurt her sensitive hearing.
Instead, She settled for a loud and huffy Hmph!as she quietly shut the door behind her.
She stood in front of the elevator, but didn't press the button to summon it until she heard Seth scrambling to get shoes on at the inside of the door. She grinned wickedly to herself. He was such a gentleman that pretending to be angry at him almost made her feel guilty.
She giggled sheepishly to herself but fell silent at once, startled by her own uncharacteristic girlish mannerism. She quickly resumed her pretence of being displeased as the elevator door opened in front of her, and Seth walked out of the apartment on queue.
He quickly locked up and joined her in the elevator before she pressed the button to go down.
"I'm really sorry" he said, looking perfectly serious.
Ray narrowed her eyes as she scrutinized him, searching his face for any signs....
The corners of Seth's mouth twitched.
"AHA!!!!!!!!" She cried triumphantly, pointing at his mouth, thinking she caught him red-handed "You're not serious at all about that apology!"
Seth still fought to keep a straight face in order to deny her claim, and he prayed to whatever force that existed to keep him from laughing, but the only thing that kept floating through his head was:
~ beef....beef around the bush...?
He snorted, but covered it up by faking a cough-attack. Feigning worry, Ray took the opportunity to thump him on the back (sending him head-first into the elevator door).
"you should really drink water after every meal to avoid getting food-remains lodged in your throat" she advised him professionally, and then added while grinning
"It's OK, you can laugh, I promise I will not kill you"
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't flay me to within an inch of my life" He replied, in mock terror.
"confounded... too obvious of a loophole" she whispered under her breath, as the elevator door opened in time for the couple to see the school bus start to move.
"THE BUS!" They shouted in unison, scrambling to exit the building in attempt to run after it.
The bus-driver, who was by now accustomed to their tardiness, stopped the bus when he saw Seth and Ray get jammed at the building door they as they both scrambled to exit simultaneously with their backpacks.
The driver shook his head, amused. "kids"
"I found her!" Graze shouted.
Grim came running out of the other room so fast that it seemed as though he materialized out of thin air.
"you found Ray?!" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, and I have her address right here. About a half-hour drive from our current location!"
Grim and Graze looked at each other excitedly.
"Should we go now?" asked Graze, glancing at the computer screen.
"Yeah!... but wait.. no" Grim said, suddenly looking crestfallen.
"Why not!?" it was Graze' turn to look incredulous. After all this searching, all this time, Grim was being unusually hesitant.
"We have not seen her for a very long time and I want to make sure we make and impressive entrance so that she does not think we have been desperately searching for her this entire time" said Grim, apprehensively dancing on the spot.
"as if you can possibly conceal that from her notice with a clear conscience, you imbecile!said Graze, annoyed at the delay.
"Don't call me an imbecile!, I'm going to tell Ray on you!" Grim threatened, shamelessly.
Graze had been giving him grief since their childhood, since Graze was the older sibling... by 1 minute and 32 seconds, and Grim was reminded of it only too often. They bantered in an odd manner.
Living this long made their speech hover somewhere between modern and old, and constantly morphing. Graze, the more arrogant of the two, was constantly ruled by impulse. Grim was the more reasonable. His thoughts tended to follow a more realistic and practical pattern.
Graze suddenly looked troubled as his eyes glazed over and he recalled some painful childhood memories involving Ray.
"That is even less macho than her knowing how badly we wanted to see her, you pussy!" Graze shot back, hoping to discourage Grim from actually telling her.
"I have an idea!, let us send her gifts!" suggested Grim eagerly, hoping to defer his twins attention from the immediate situation. And of course, Arrogant Graze who was always confident of having the upper-hand stupidly took the bait.
He nodded excitedly, "yeah! That sounds like something she would praise us for"
And so, unable to resist the urge to sit still any longer, the two undressed and shifted into their feline forms then bounded out of the back door of the little shack they were lodging in, located in the middle of the forest, in order to catch some nice presents for Ray.
School was normal. Blissfully normal. People avoided Ray like the plague, though they were surprisingly pleasant to Seth. No one knew what would trigger an outburst from her, which kept everyone on their toes.
Seth became somewhat popular in his own class as guys kept huddling around his desk during breaks. They were curious about what it was like to constantly be around Ray.
Rumour had already gotten out that they lived together (he tried very hard to correct the misconception, afraid of offending her. She on the other hand couldn't care less). The only one seeming openly offended by all this was Sydney.
She approached Seth on several occasions while Ray was away, but Seth never made an effort to start a conversation. She would always slink away disappointed in the end as the boys would eventually crowd her away from his desk.
Ray was usually off to find the nearest snack machine during breaks, unaware of the interrogation Seth had to suffer in her absence.
"are you guys dating?" "have you guys you know... done it?" Frequently asked questions were getting on his nerves.
Seth sighed and answered for the hundredth time "we're just friends".
He tried very hard to make it sound as though he didn't wish it were any different. "yeh! I guess you're going to be the ''just friends'' type forever" teased James, the only boy in his class who ever spared him a glance, even during the bullying. Seth took it all in good humour. Ever since Nathan backed off, Seth's friend count had started to rise miraculously.
~ hmmmm...~ , Ray stood in front of the snack vending machine indecisively. She was unsure if she felt like eating something salty (she eye-balled the sour cream and onion chips) or something sweet (her eyes swivelled to the Maltesers on the next shelf).
"I would be recommendin the Maltesers if ye were out for somethin sweet" said the cheery voice of Ben. Ray turned around and eyed him curiously. He was handsome. He had ginger hair and freckles , and his eyes were grey, almost silver. He stood a head taller than Ray and looked rather lean as he leaned against his mop. Ray licked her lips appreciatively.
Ben looked curiously back at her then at the machine. "hmm, The machine's soundin awfully loud"
He looked suspiciously at the machine and came closer to inspect it.
At the mention of the noise, Ray realised she had been purring quite loudly and immediately ceased. "huh?" Ben was scratching his head, confused. Upon closer inspection, he could have sworn the machine wasn't the source of noise. "oh well, no point in fixin whats fixed its self" He said to no one in particular.
"So what'll it be lass?" He chirped at Ray, who he finally noticed was checking him out. Ben squirmed uncomfortably under her gaze. She must be 18 at most, he thought.
He was getting the distinct feeling that she was about to pounce on him and it made him nervous. He considered most students around him just kids, in spite of only being 22 years old. But she made him feel like he was a piece of meat. He got caught up with a black dot he spotted in the swirling amber of her iris and stared.
The seconds ticked by and no one said a word. Ben was feeling distinctly dry in the throat. It wasn't as if he was immune to pretty girls. And Ray was beautiful, in a very different manner. As suddenly as the atmosphere shifted to seriousness, it abruptly shifted back to normal as Ray grinned at him, making his heart skip a beat.
She loaded her coins into the machine. "Maltesers it is then. Thank you for saving me from my own indecisiveness, I would have been stuck here all day" she gushed as she quickly swept forward and planted a light kiss on Ben's scratchy stubble of a cheek, before snatching the chocolate from the machine slot and skipping off towards class.
Ben rubbed the spot where her lips touched, feeling flabbergasted. No way! He was not developing a crush on a student! And one that seems to have captured the interest of Seth, whom he liked very much.
He had been working all night. There was blood smeared everywhere and the place reeked of foetid carcass. The main commotion appeared to have taken place in the living room because that was where he found the bodies.
If he hadn't been accustomed to such a grizzly sight he would be outside introducing his breakfast to the pavement for several hours. The scene, the smell and the implications were enough to make the hardiest of men leave the room.
Victor disposed of his third pair of latex gloves, wiped his sweaty forehead on his sleeve, then picked up his cellphone to make a call. He dialed from memory and spoke curtly into the receiver. "I need some people down here now, there's too much evidence for me to move on my own. The team might wanna take a look at all this stuff as well."
He hung up and looked around. His eyes fell on the bloated, green-tinged, decapitated torso of what he estimated to be a male, about forty to forty five years old.
The man's head lay a few feet away, his eyes were stitched shut. The neck of the torso indicated that the man's heart had been pumping frantically at the time he lost his head. The cut looked clean. Poor fellow couldn't have suffered much.
The stitches seemed to be post-mortise, they were still red-rimmed and looked like the blood at the base of the stitches had dried out rather than clotted.
His gaze swept the room, stopping once more at the body of what clearly was a female. He estimated her age to be the same as the male. She was skewered to the wall, suspended several inches off the floor with her chin propped on her chest and her feet dangling lifelessly.
Victor hadn't noticed it the first time due to the blue hue of her skin, but there was a shade of black permeating her lips. It was pitch black where her lips met, as though they were glued shut.
He approached the body and reached up to part her lips. It was as if they were molded shut, and he had to use a considerable amount of force before there was a sickening crack as her jaw was dislocated. Still her lips were shut.
He let out a stream of profanity at the thought of what the forensic team would do to him when they got here and saw what he did to the evidence.
He wedged the tips of his fingers in between her lips and attempted to pry them open, but this time they gave away easily enough. Just as he began parting them to look inside her mouth, a puff of black powder from the inside of her mouth engulfed his face.
He inhaled abruptly with surprise and realized his mistake immediately as the powder made its way into his lungs, causing him to sputter and gag. He picked up his phone again, and pressed the redial button. It rang twice before a voice on the other end answered "Dr. Ferrel, to whom am I speaking?" Victor cleared his throat and managed to wheeze out a reply. "Hey Nick, It's me again, are you on your way here, or still at the lab?"
"Are you all right Victor?, you sound out of breath" The voiced belonged to a middle-aged man.
"I'm fine, I just inhaled some unknown substance found in the mouth of one of the victims. I don't seem to be suffering any side-effects yet, but you guys should come in with gas masks just in case."
"Oh dear, I'll let the forensic team know. Do be careful Victor, would be a shame to add you to the Victims we already have waiting for us. I'll have a look at you when we get there" came the as-a-matter-of-fact reply.
"Thanks, I can feel your concern for my safety doc" said Victor dryly. He hung up again and took some time to check his vitals. He seemed perfectly fine. He figured whatever it was might either kill him painlessly, or in worst case scenario, cause impotence. He sighed and ran his fingers through his dark brown hair in frustration and fatigue. He longed for his comfortable bed.
He looked around at the familiar crime scene thoughtfully. Clearly it was the same killer he had been chasing down since he got the bloody job. Same method. The only thing missing was DNA evidence. He already assessed the wounds and Id-ed a positive match to wounds of other victims found slaughtered in a similar manner.
He walked into the kitchen and sat on a chair near the counter, propping his chin on his palm. Something wasn't right about this scene. It felt different. Almost like it had a different demeanour.
Victor considered for the first time the presence of another unknown culprit. What if it wasn't one but two? But all the previous evidence pointed towards one. Ahh! Too damn frustrating!he growled to himself. It was the first time he noticed the any presence of a second party at the scene. He made a mental note to go over all of the previous evidence in case he had missed something.
Obviously it had to be someone in league with the murderer. An innocent bystander who happened across such a scene would have called it in. The black powder he inhaled was also a new addition, he reminded himself.
Putting on a fresh pair of latex gloves, Victor didn't notice how his own pupils had constricted to a point that made his iris seem entirely blue. He continued to rummage through possessions, cabinets and drawers. As he moved around in the house, quietly going about his work, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled, and he stood up wearily.
There was an eerie distant crying from up-stairs.
He pulled out his gun and cautiously headed in it's direction.