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|Meet Andrew, his cello, his brother, and their bodyguard. I've had Andrew free-ranging through the 'Woods, thought he deserved a spot on my shelf. This was a 'murder mystery' written for a creative writing class last year- not my strongest genre, so. Let me know how I can make the whole deal more clear if you would^_^|
Much gratitude to Cecily for this one.
If I remember nothing else, I will remember his face. The utter horror, pain, confusion, and fear of it twisted with some alien ecstasy. Possessed.
It was evening, of course, and I was alone- of course. You expect these things- they're prerequisites almost. And of course I heard the odd sound. Of course I was caught off guard. It's hardly a mystery to me now, but then, it was shocking.
His face was so dark, his hair nearly white, burning eyes set in black with unnaturally pale pupils. That complexion alone would have been enough to sear his face into my nightmares, but the... the confusion... the pain... he looked so helpless, so lost... it distracted me enough. Maybe that was the plot- it certainly wouldn't surprise me now. He screamed and that sound... I swear it was from the lowest hell. Nothing else it could have been- I wonder even now.
It froze me. I couldn't move. He tore through me like a specter, except unlike a substanceless ghost he took my flesh with him. I fell, stunned, writhing, fending off the claws of a certain death consuming me, trying to breathe air that was suddenly stone. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." It seemed he tried to comfort me, tried to reach out and cradle my broken body. But something pulled him away. Again he screamed... but this time it was contained in the silence of a breath... I could only moan.
I have never felt so helpless in my entire life. Do you see? Come on, do you see? Well look! Go on. There he is. There he is: my baby brother. Dead. Dead. Andrew drew a shaking hand through his dark, disheveled hair, gaunt face harboring bruise encased strangely pale blue eyes. First Mom... then Dad... now Stephen... Great tendrils of grief wrapped around him, their comfort deep and deadly. Someone moaned beside him as the body was brought out and he flinched away. Andrew glanced over to see his brother, Alex, standing beside him, hand shoved through his dark blonde hair, veiling his green eyes. His tore his gaze away the moment he identified him, face dark. Please not him next, please...
"Hey buddy." Andrew flinched, not able to keep back the pained gasp as his brother's arm was suddenly around his shoulders. Any touch now...
"H-hi," he managed to stutter, eyes trying not to follow the process of the men removing his dead brother's body.
"How're you doing?"
How does it look like I'm doing, bastard? His eyes widened at the thought. I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I didn't mean to... He sighed. "Unh..." He half groaned, half voiced to his brother. I have no right... no right...
"Ugh. I know... I know..." Alex had gone from restraining tears to a frozen numb in a matter of moments. That's two elements... Andrew thought unconsciously, hoping fire wasn't next. "It's harsh, buddy, harsh."
Andrew nodded, deathly still, deathly silent. You have no idea... He found he could not reply.
After a long pause, Alex spoke. "Any idea who's doing this?"
His fingers tensed against a sudden wave of grief. "No." Andrew shook his head for emphasis. "I wish... I wish we all did know." He sighed.
Alex grunted something of a reply then walked off in a daze. Andrew watched him, eyes questioning, for a moment, then hissed and bowed his head. Oh, help me... "Stephen..." he murmured.
"You really get into playing that thing," Zach's voice was dry, shifting the sudden pressure as silence finally fell again in the room. Andrew looked up, startled. Zach's dark liquid brown gaze was detached.
"Oh, ah..." Andrew was shaking. Zach squinted. Was it just a trick of the light or was the man more pale than usual? That was hardly possible with this one... Andrew ran a hand, trembling, over the dark wood. "H- it lets me escape." He seemed strained.
Zach shrugged. "Lucky you," he said, watching the pale man pack up his cello.
Andrew muttered something unintelligible, finally zipping shut the brown-cloth hard case and strapping the cello to his back. Given his expression, Zach wouldn't have been surprised had the pale man asked after his name, he looked so lost.
He shook his head, pale hair scattering over his face. "Where to, bud?"
"Oh!" Again, Andrew looked like he'd been yanked from a dream. Poor guy was taking it hard. Zach frowned. "I gotta... we have to... I mean. Where's Alex?" Andrew's ice blue eyes blinked up at him.
"Um... in his study back at the house, last I knew. Why?"
"We have to... I have to go find him. Gotta talk to him... yes... yes..." Andrew trailed off into a blurring mumble.
Zach frowned. "Okay, buddy. Come on then."
"'K..." Andrew was distant again.
Zach sighed, walking for the door and thus the sidewalk, Andrew trailing him like a thoughtless shadow. He was worried. Three years ago had been the first of the murders. After the second, it was clear the family was being targeted- Zach had been assigned to watch over the remaining three brothers. One had slipped past his grip- he was determined not to let that happen again. He eyed Andrew behind him, pale and gaunt and whispering nothings to no one and sighed. He wondered how he was going to keep him from slipping through as well, absently rubbing his arms with hands that trembled. It wouldn't be murder that got this one- of that he was certain.
Andrew's quavering voice brought him back to reality. "What?" He asked, slowing so they walked side by side.
Pale blue darted away from dark brown. "Uh..." Andrew was uneasy again. Zach let him work up his courage, walking in silence beside him. Finally ice blue eyes flicked on and off him once more and Andrew murmured, "Where were you?"
"Where was I what?" They had reached the car. Zach opened the back passenger door for Andrew who slipped the cello off his back and placed it within. Settling himself in the driver's seat, he waited for Andrew to be seated beside him before prodding, since the gaunt man had fallen silent: "Where was I what?"
Andrew winced and it seemed to Zach that in this new light he had paled even a few more shades. "When... when Stephen... when he was k-killed." At the last word his eyes squeezed firmly shut and he drew a sharp breath through his teeth.
Zach cursed softly, starting the car. "Asleep." He hated himself for it. Andrew said nothing, didn't accuse or even look at him, yet Zach felt the need to defend himself. "I mean, two years. It had been two years since the last, and he had told me to. He said he just wanted some time, would go to bed shortly, not to worry. Ugh." He pulled the car onto a side-street leading away from the town. "Two years is a long time to watch someone, though, and I mean... gods, who am I fooling." He sighed. I'm so sorry, Andrew. I'm so sorry." He didn't dare look at him.
Andrew's reaction surprised him. "Don't say that," he hissed, hands over his ears, leaning forward, eyes still shut. "Don't say that."
Zach watched him, confused. "Say what? Hey?" He reached over and squeezed his shoulder, eyes darting between him and the road. "It's all right, shhh."
"Don't touch me!" Andrew shouted with a strength Zach hadn't seen in him in years, shoving his hand away and leaning hard against the window.
"Easy..." Zach whispered out of habit, shocked and looking straight ahead. Whoever was doing this, he vowed, he would find him and kill him himself if need be. Andrew had never... that just wasn't Andrew.
"I'm sorry..." Andrew's voice was a blanched whisper. He wouldn't meet Zach's eyes, which was nothing new, but he seemed even more withdrawn than usual. "I'm sorry, Zach, but I... I deserve no comfort. I believe you." His hands trembled.
"All right, buddy," Zach replied, not really focusing. Andrew sighed and wrapped his arms about himself fiercely, strange, pale eyes fixed nowhere on the horizon for the remainder of the ride.
Thought Zach: That was strange.
"So how was it?" Alex sat with his feet propped up on his desk, papers scattered everywhere. His dark green eyes were fixed on Zach as he entered the room.
"Oh, he hasn't been here?" Zach, hanging his coat behind the door, looked confused.
Alex shook his head, "No... what made you think he would be?"
Zach made to scratch his head. "Oh, he said he had to talk to you was all. Was the reason he wanted to come home." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair instead, looking out the window a moment before plopping into a chair opposite Alex's desk. "I must've made him more upset than I thought."
"It's not that hard to do." Alex shrugged, pulling his feet off his desk so he could lean forward on his elbows, gaze focused on the pensive man before him. "So. Whadjya do?"
"Ugh." Zach rubbed his eyes, not exactly caring to answer. "He asked me what I as doing during the- murder."
Alex looked interested. "And...?"
"And I told him- I was sleeping- and went off. I mean, how was I supposed to know." He sighed. "In any case, I thought he was upset, offered some comfort, and he flipped out on me. Then he got all quiet and went off about how he didn't deserve sympathy and such." His face was dark. "Alex, he's never done that to me before. I-" He shook his head, lost for words.
"Hnnh." Alex grunted, looking past Zach. "He is an interesting creature. Definitely taking it hard."
"Yeah," Zach said softly, trying to dispel the sudden chill that had come over him. "Was he... was he always so withdrawn?"
Alex leaned back, hands clasped near his face. "He's always been quiet, but he would talk- get out and play a good game of football and the like. He started getting more and more distant as he entered his teens, but it wasn't until after Mother's death he got quite this bad."
Zach was quiet a moment. "Sometimes I," he paused, wondering how wise his next statement was.
"Sometimes you what?" Alex watched with interest.
"Sometimes I-" Zach shook his head and leaned back as well, "I fear he's losing sanity." His hands moved with the last word, trying to detach him from it.
"Hnh." Alex was thoughtful. "Andrew." He fell silent.
Zach's voice took on an edge. "I swear whoever did this is going behind bars."
Alex looked bemused. "Oh?"
Zach's eyes narrowed. "Why are you taking this so well anyway?"
Alex frowned. "It'll catch up to me. Kinda numb right now." He was quiet a moment, then continued," Andrew was closer to Stephen than me. Middle children, you know. It's more regret than grief. I didn't know him very well."
"Mmm." Zach couldn't find a decent answer, thinking this strange. He stood to leave. "All right." He couldn't deal with Alex right now; he had to find Andrew. He blew air through his lips and turned to walk out, pondering.
"Zach..." Alex's voice was quiet, the word drawn out.
He turned, unprepared eyes dark and brooding. He'd seen too much. "What?"
"Zach, why were you sleeping?"
Zach felt something inside him clench. He licked his lips, which had gone suddenly dry. "He said he wanted to be alone. It had been... it had been two years."
"Two years," Alex said again, thoughtful, patient. "Two years isn't a long time, Zach."
Zach paled. "What do you... why are you saying this?"
Alex smiled innocently. "Oh, nothing, no reason. Why, hitting hard?"
Zach just stared at him, bewildered. "I have to... I have to go find Andrew."
"No," Alex countered. "Go take the day, Zach. You must be stressed. I'll go find Andrew. He did say he wanted to talk to me, hmm?"
"But I..." Zach was unprepared for this.
"Go on. We'll be fine."
"Alex," Zach drew himself up, eyes glinting, "Last time one of you said that, there was a murder."
Alex just smiled. "And that's why we're sending you away. Come now, surely you could use the day off? Here." He drew several notes from his wallet, walking over. "If you need at excuse we are almost out of food. I haven't had time. Will that do?" Green eyes bored into reddish brown.
Zach found he couldn't think. Between Alex's accusation, Andrew's madness, and his own half-buried guilt for not being there, thinking was not something his brain wanted to do. "I..."
"Go on, Zach. "Alex smiled, slipping the notes to him as he passed to the door. "We'll be fine."
Zach watched his retreating back until it dipped out of sight down the stairs, thoughts, emotions, and logics raging. Finally duty won out. He couldn't leave them alone.
Something was going to happen.
Alex followed the barely audible strains of cello like a scent, drifting slowly towards Andrew's room. It was so melancholy. He could feel slim tendrils of sound wrapping around something hidden deep inside him, tugging relentlessly on the grief that plagued him: the dark, unspoken hurt he refused to touch. Leaning in the open doorway with a choked sigh, he watched his brother play in silence.
Andrew's face was drawn, his eyes closed, lips parted- his breathing shallow: the face of one accustomed to a pain deeper than the expression of words. The dark hair that fell over his eyes just masked the pale of his skin. Cruel bruises spread from beneath his eyes, physical evidence of his nightly duels with phantom Sleep- a battle he rarely won. It ached to watch- Alex found himself wishing he would stop.
His thin frame seized, consumed, by passion, Andrew trembled with such violence it looked as if he would fall apart. Yet his hands... his hands were smooth, calm, controlled. Spread evenly over the frog of the bow, dancing with distinct grace, at times fierce, but ever elegant over the dark ebony of the fingerboard, they worked together to produce a most hauntingly beautiful sound. Alex found he could scarcely breathe, so great was the cello's power over him. It just... raw. Raw cathartic majesty pouring fourth from the combined soul of his brother and the dark instrument in his hands. The silence was as powerful as the sound when it fell: sudden, thick across the room.
Andrew seemed not to be breathing, motionless in place against the cello, eyes still closed, face gaunt. Alex found his own breath stopped in empathy, watching his fragile brother utterly immobile against the dark wood, silent for an alarmingly long time. He opened his mouth to say something, lips and tongue working mutely, almost crying out in panic when from nowhere Andrew drew a painful, gasping breath, choking on the air so foreign to his lungs. A violent tremor shook him, fingers gripping the upper bouts of the cello as he fell silent, save for his calm breath. "I fought it off so I could talk to you," he said finally, voice very soft but very whole, leaning against the cello's neck with the gentle air of a lover.
"You... Andrew?" Alex nearly gasped, realizing as he spoke just how panicked he had been, his voice catching in his throat. He was beginning to fear Andrew truly hadn't been breathing.
Andrew exhaled completely, drawing a fresh breath as he raised his head, pale, bruised eyes resting on Alex's with an old, sad, smile. "Hush. There's nothing to be done. Are you all right?"
"Andrew, you..." Alex couldn't get over what he had just seen. And what was this- Andrew speaking complete sentences, looking sane?
"Shush." Andrew smiled, patting the bed behind him. "Have a seat. I need to talk to you."
"A-aye, aye," Alex murmured, reminding himself how to walk. He moved to the bed and sat delicately on the covers. Though Andrew's smile was meant to be reassuring, Alex found it unnerving, so used to his brother's distant nature this sudden bout of lucidness was unnatural. The cellist stood with a long, controlled stretch before picking up the bow and instrument and walking over to the case in the corner of his room.
"Where's Zach?" He queried, fitting the cello within its protection, snapping the sides together with hands that trembled only slightly.
"I sent him out. He had... he had said you wanted to talk. I thought maybe it would be best to be alone."
Andrew turned and walked over, lying away from him across the bed, parallel with the pillow. He addressed the ceiling: "What do you think of him?"
"Hmm?" Alex answered, shifting so he could see his brother. "Think of who? Zach?"
"Yeah." A pale hand stretched upward, tracing the cracks in the ancient white plaster.
"Well," Alex licked his lips, trying to figure out what Andrew wanted.
"Have you noticed anything about him lately?"
"A-Andrew?" His earlier conversation leapt to mind.
The tracing stopped, ice blue eyes suddenly fixed on his with a burning intensity. Alex repressed a shudder, unused to his brother's sharp gaze. "He makes me nervous, Alex. I can't control it around him. He knows. He's going to find out."
"Going to find what out?" Alex barely breathed, unable to tear his eyes from Andrew's.
Andrew looked at him desperately for a moment, mouth moving as if he wished to speak, but no sound came out. A defeated look crossed his face and he shuddered violently, extended hand pulling close against his body, which tried to curl into a ball. Andrew's voice came again only as a familiar whisper. "Nothing." The sharp blue gaze released him, its owner rocking gently to a rhythm only he could hear.
"Andrew?" Alex said softly, mind whirling with confusion. "Andrew?" He leaned over and touched his shoulder when no response came. "Baby bro?"
"Don't touch me," something not entirely Andrew hissed.
Alex recoiled, shock producing an almost physical pain, flinching from the bed. "Andrew?"
"Look outside." Andrew remained coiled, buried in the covers, not looking, not moving.
Eyeing his brother with concern, Alex went slowly to the window, a cold dread filling his chest. He drew back the thin material with a deft hand. Sure enough, Zach was there, restlessly wandering the yard, forgotten keys glinting in his fingers. Every once in awhile he would stop, staring towards the house, and run a hand, hard, through his pale hair in agitation.
"See?" Without moving, Andrew pinpointed each moment Zach looked his way. "I can't control it, can't control..." He fell back into muttering.
Alex's gaze flipped between the two, troubled. There was definitely something going on here.
"Good, um, stew is this?" Zach said to break the brooding silence, pouring some of the chunky liquid back into the bowl from his spoon.
Alex snorted, his own barely touched. "It would have been better if someone had bought food today like I asked."
Zach sighed. Changed the subject. "Did you talk to Andrew?"
"What business is it of yours?" Alex quipped, glaring.
"..." Zach stirred his food moodily, muttering in defense: "I didn't want to leave you."
"Damn it, Zach!" Alex shouted, slamming his hand on the table, mood breaking. This whole thing was aggravating his already frazzled nerves. "I said you could, should even. What's going on?" He couldn't take much more.
"Easy," Zach's response was habitual, reddish-brown eyes darting up to meet Alex's. "Easy. I just don't trust..." He frowned, trying to find the word, as bewildered as his ward was lost.
Alex snorted. "What? Don't trust us alone? Come on, Zach, we're twenty-five and seven. I think we can manage an afternoon alone. In our own house!"
"With a psychotic murderer running around lose picking you guys off?" Zach felt himself losing it. "That's just... stupid. Rash. I'm sorry, but-" he drew a deep breath, trying to calm himself, hands tense.
"Oh? A murderer you say? And just whose fault is that?" Alex glared at the man sitting across from him.
Zach looked shocked. "Are you blaming me?"
"See! Guilt!" Alex sneered, all his buried emotion distorting his sight.
Zach raised his hands in automatic defense, easing himself from his chair. "Easy buddy, easy. Remember there's Andrew." He kept his voice soft, hoping Alex would get the hint.
"Don't 'easy' me! Have you ever seen how uncomfortable Andrew is around you? How dare you try to protect him when all you do is hurt him! You're the one who killed Stephen; I know it." He was shaking, having stood as he spoke, now walking towards Zach.
"I... Alexander, I did no such thing!" Zach said. Though hurt and indignant Alex would blame him, his concern was for the raging man in front of him.
Alex saw through it all. "Oh, but of course not. You were sleeping. Sleeping," he mocked, walking him against a wall.
"Alex! Wake up!" Zach shouted, not wanting to force him back. He knew words were going to stop working soon, but was hardly willing to harm his ward.
Alex's gaze was dangerous. Zach felt his hope of reclaiming him from his madness draining, and prepared himself for the fight sure to come.
A hell-born scream rent the air.
"Andrew!" Both voices were ragged. Alex, sanity restored by the sound, looked at Zach, completely lost, then dashed for the door.
"Ale... Alex wait!" Zach shouted the next moment, shaking himself from his own daze and darting out after him. Too late. He gasped, drawing a sharp breath at the scene that met his eyes.
Andrew, something that looked like Andrew but with alien eyes, pale hair, and dark skin, was hovering over the fallen mess of his brother. "I couldn't... I can't..." it moaned, dripping with blood shockingly bright against the pale of his form.
"Alex!" Zach shouted, running to the fallen man, gazing with confusion, anger, and fear at the apparition. "What are you? Why did you... Alex! Don't-" He held the gasping form in his arms, trying desperately to ignore the blood soaking his clothes, sticking to his hands. "Alex! No, hang on!"
With wild, rolling eyes, Alex looked up at him, trying to speak, only rasps making their way from his throat. "Oh, hang on, buddy, hang on," Zach said hopelessly, stroking the pale hair from his face, a sob catching in his throat as the shocked form grew still. "No, Alex..."
He flung his gaze on the specter. "You did this," he growled. "Why?"
"I can't... I couldn't..." The thing moaned again, reaching out for Alex but being yanked back by an unseen chord, a mangled scream tearing from his throat. "Alex!"
Zach cringed against the sound, unable to stop himself from covering his ears. He gently pushed the body from his lap, scrambling to his feet and sprinting after the figure. It tore swiftly through the halls, faster than his view could follow, to Andrew's room. "Andrew!" Zach shouted, barging through the door only to freeze in utter... there were no words.
The specter tore through Andrew, who gasped, drawing a ragged breath as though it was his first, leaning with a horrid convulsion against the cello in his grasp. With a sharp cry he shoved it from him, the great instrument falling against the hard floor with a sickening crack. It split apart. "I can't... I couldn't..." Andrew whispered, horror, pain, and terror flooding his eyes, scrambling away from the instrument. "I can't control it... can't control..." He shivered, snapping still on sight of Zach, eyes wide, going even paler at the sight of the blood. "It's not true. Gods, Zach, tell me it's not true!" He's not dead! He's not dead!" He dashed past him into the hall, shattered sobs of ineffable anguish drifting back to Zach's ringing ears as he, presumably, found his brother's body.
Zach stood in stunned silence, starting at the cello with horror. He could've sworn that the harsh, pale crack through it was grinning.
|Death's Tears Prologue||A Memory Resigned to Die|
|Lonesome Traveler||Son of Light: Prologue-Part 1|
|Death's Tears Parts 7-10|