Nothing that happened seemed real. He couldn’t have killed someone whether it was self-defense or otherwise. He remembered thinking the whole night was a dream before and hoped he would wake up soon.
Thirty minutes passed before he heard three soft knocks at the door. “Nathan? Are you okay dear?” Jane asked.
Although he would have rather disappeared he stood up shakily and opened the door. Ever the mother, Jane had already prepared a bottle of cleaner and several rags. “Yes, much better now,” Nathan lied.
She examined him with scrutinous eyes before sighing. “Erik’s got a change of clothes for you in the kitchen. I’ve prepared a room so you can stay the night.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’m alright. Really.” He said showing off his unmarked torso.
“You’re not going anywhere. Not tonight at least. You’re whiter than porcelain, this isn’t negotiable.” She said before closing herself in the bathroom.
Maybe I should just leave… Nathan thought glumly as he headed towards the kitchen. Getting home was the only thing on his mind at that moment but without his phone he wouldn’t be able to order a ride.
Erik sat at the kitchen table wearing an expression crossed between wanting to raise hell and mild concern. Nathan just noticed his usual tousled silver mane had been groomed and styled making him worry he interrupted their evening.
“So… Jane may have mentioned I wasn’t considering your feelings when I asked about those thugs. So I wanted to apologize,” Erik said handing Nathan a large T-shirt. “But I mean if you did want to go and scrub some heads I’m available.”
Nathan laughed in spite of himself. Even with everything that happened Erik was still the scrappy father in law he had come to love. “Thanks for the offer but I’ll let the police handle this. I’m kinda just hoping to get home and take a shower.” He said exhaustedly.
“Just let it go Nathan, you know Jane won’t let you leave,” Erik said tapping the table impatiently. “Just ride the night out here and then you have the entire weekend to look forward to.”
He sighed and rested against the back of his chair. Erik was right, Alice was much the same in that regard, once they made their minds up nothing would change it.
“So what exactly were you doing out this late? Never took you for the party going type,” Erik said. He tapped against the table even faster now. “Doing a story for Luckybeat? Perhaps something about a certain someone?”
“’fraid not.” Nathan said quickly. They did this little dance every time they saw each other. Erik for some reason believed he was still looking for the hook killer. “I was just following up with someone over drinks. Besides, the trails been cold for years now, I doubt the true killer can still be found.”
“I see…” Erik said softly. Nathan saw the hurt in his eyes. He couldn’t help wondering if he too thought Alice was behind the grisly murders; he only started asking once the murders stopped and Alice went away.
“Enough talk about serial killers,” Jane said as she arrived from the bathroom. “There’s been enough unpleasantries tonight. Let’s just be glad you’re alive and healthy.”
“Thanks, Ms. Spencer, by the way where will I be sleeping? I can take the couch if that’s alright.”
Jane huffed. “Stop it with the ‘Ms. Spencer’ we’re family! And family doesn’t sleep on the couch. You can take Alice’s old room, we haven’t changed it since you two got married,” she said. “Speaking of which have you been to see her?”
Nathan’s eyes immediately fell to his lap. He feared that question and the sad stares he knew the Spencer’s were sharing. He had been neglectful, always meaning to visit her but always finding a reason not to.
“That’s okay dear… But you really should. She’s doing much better. I nearly got her to talk to me last time I was there.”
“You’ve at least been visiting Alexis haven’t you?” Erik chimed in. “We were there a couple days ago and someone laid out an entire flower arrangement for her. Thought it was you.”
Erik’s every word stabbed at Nathan worse than any knife or dagger ever could. While he had failed Alice as a husband he failed Alexis worse as a father. He had only visited her grave once since the funeral.
There was a long pause before Erik spoke again. “I understand son. But you really should visit her. We’ll be going back in a couple of weeks. Her birthday and all…”
He found himself nodding without even thinking about it. He couldn’t betray their generosity and perhaps it was time for him to confront his fear.
“Well that’s settled then,” Jane said. “You must be tired.”
“Thank you… For everything.” Nathan said. Without another word he went to Alice’s room.
It was just as Jane said, the room looked like it had been frozen in time for the last fourteen years. The beddings hadn’t even been changed. The walls had been stripped of posters and pictures when they moved. The room held a lot of memories for him, he first visited when he was five, and now at thirty-two those memories threatened to crush him.
Let’s save the reminiscing for the morning. He thought as he crawled into the bed tucking the dagger away beneath the sheets. For a moment his mind nearly wondered back to the night’s events, but he was able to push them down and sleep.
Nathan woke with a start as he heard someone moving about the room. He rubbed his eyes vigorously and Jane came into view opening curtains.
“Sorry, sorry, just letting some light in!” she said dropping the curtain string. “I made breakfast if you’d like.”
“Thanks…” Nathan mumbled. He watched her leave before getting up himself. As soon as he got to his feet memories of the man’s dying face rose up to him again. Pushing the image away was harder this time.
He shook his head hard and started for the kitchen. Jane’s cooking smelled delicious as always, but he skipped it to take a seat with Erik.
“I told Jane she made too much food,” Erik sighed. “As much as you’ve been over here as a kid, I’ve never seen you eat breakfast.”
Nathan laughed. “It just makes me sick for some reason, never knew why.”
“Well let’s be off then. If we don’t leave now Jane will try to take you to a hospital if she sees you’re not eating.”
He took the warning seriously and left the house quickly. Erik’s car was still surprisingly old for all the work he did; he was sure they could afford a new one. They had kept the same car since even before he and Alice started dating. Nathan climbed in the passenger seat and sank into his seat.
“So, how’s business?” Nathan asked as they hit the road.
“Amazing actually, I’ve been getting offers to sell in the eight digits!” I didn’t think I’d get to retire until my sixties but I think I’m ready to let the reins go.”
“You’re gonna drive Jane crazy being home all the time aren’t you?” Nathan said.
“Aw, he’s been working towards this forever. He’s earned this.” A voice said. Nathan turned towards the backseat slowly to avoid arousing Erik’s suspicion.
There he was sitting in the back seat waving back at him. The thing sitting back there was nearly his doppelganger except it looked younger and more vibrant somehow. The dark circles under his eyes formed from many late nights spent writing weren’t present on the clone.
The doppelganger put a finger to his lips and motioned for Nathan to look ahead.
Nathan did so not due to the doppelganger’s suggestion but because he feared he was beginning to crack. He faintly heard Erik talking to him now but couldn’t focus on what he was saying. That wasn’t real, I’m just tired. Is what he told himself, but he glanced back several more times and the doppelganger hadn’t vanished; it sat there with a cocky smile and its hands behind its head.
“Nathan!” Erik yelled snapping his fingers. “We’re here.”
He pulled out of his daze at once. The car was parked right in front of his house and Erik was staring at him with mild concern.
“Look are you sure you’re okay son? I can get you to a hospital and you can spend the weekend at our place.”
Nathan looked at the backseat out of the corner of his eye, the doppelganger had vanished. “Yeah… I’m fine. Thanks again for everything.”
“If you’re sure…” Erik said uncertainly. “Get back to me about going to the range to celebrate, it’s been awhile but you were really good last time.”
He nodded and walked to the house keenly aware Erik would watch him until he was inside. They couldn’t even lock the door after kidnapping me? He thought angrily after turning the doorknob. To his amazement nothing inside had been stolen. He walked back to the bedroom ready to plop back to sleep again when he saw the key to Alexis’s room lying on his bed.
After everything that happened the past night he completely forgot about the key and the broken window. He picked it up and turned it over in his palm several times. He didn’t want to enter Alexis’s room no more than he wanted to visit her grave. Going there made it real that he would never see her again, entering her room a reminder he would never get to tuck her in at night again.
But he knew he needed to take care of the window and bird now or he’d allow them to fester forever. He grasped the key and marched to her room. Steeling himself as he arrived the door opened with a gentle click to reveal the rooms dusty pink décor. The furniture and carpet were covered in layers of dust. Everywhere he looked there were posters and figurines of Supergirl. Alexis was always obsessed with the character for some reason; he and Alice cried nonstop when the show premiered after she passed.
Fortunately for him he couldn’t focus on sad memories as sitting in the middle of the room amongst the dust was the girl he’d previously seen atop Umbra’s building.
Up close he could tell he had definitely imagined the tail, she looked like an oddly thin teenage girl. Her hair flowed just to her shoulders and was still the same odd pink color; her eyes were a strange tawny color like an owl’s coat. He knew he should have been more wary of the intruder but something about her put him at ease.
“Are… Are you a runaway or something?” Nathan asked. “Have you been living here?”
The girl smiled warmly and laughed. “Shouldn’t you be more surprised someone’s in your house?”
“After the night I’ve just had I’m happy as long as you’re not trying to kill me. Can I help you with something? If you’re a runaway there’s services out there that can help you.”
The girl laughed again and got up to sit on Alexis’s bed. Nathan almost wanted to tell her off but decided to let it go for the time being.
“No, I’m not a runaway. Think of me more as a messenger. Are you ready and willing to receive the message?”
“I guess.” Nathan said not understanding.
“Then I just wanted to tell you that it’s not too late to repent. What you did was in self-defense. No one would blame you for what you did,” The girl said slowly as if trying to make sure Nathan digested every word. “But this can’t continue, fling the dagger off the tallest mountain you can find, throw it into the deepest lake or hell just hand it over.” She said sticking out her hand.
The idea that she knew about the dagger and the murder was disturbing, but he somehow sensed her offer to help was sincere. “Thank you for the advice but I still think I can turn it in to the police. Even if I get arrested it’s important to do the right thing.”
The girl shrugged. “I see… Oh well I tried. The message has been received and that was all I was instructed to do.” She got up and began to leave.
“Wait, before you go, you said you were a messenger. So who sent the message?”
The girl stopped at the door and said softly, “Lucy.” Then she resumed her stride.
He followed after her, but when he got to the hall she was gone. The dust where the girl sat in the room was undisturbed.
“Sleep…” Nathan said quietly. “More sleep, I’m just tired. But first the bird.”
He took care of the bird himself and the window repair men came within an hour, they fixed the window quickly only complaining about the dust a little. When they were finally payed and gone Nathan sluggishly went back to his room. This time he made sure not to notice anything in the room, tossed the dagger to his dresser, and flopped on his bed. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the silver swords that adorned the wall, Jurament was askew. Alice had gifted it to him when she bought her own; he was never a fan of video games.
She told him it represented promises and judgments; to her specifically a promise he’d look after himself even if they weren’t together. He couldn’t help but feel he was letting her down.
The warmth of the room began to engulf him, his eyelids began to sag. Just before they shut, he saw his doppelganger once again, standing over the dresser where the dagger laid.
And now we explore the aftermath of Nathan’s run-in with his mugger. Not much to say about myself or the chapter this time because I’m making another post later tonight. Needless to say I’m worn out. Still, I hope you see you Monday at 6pm Central for the next chapter.
Thanks for reading if you made it this far. ~ Hisaxia.