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Bad idea, she thought as she rolled back over. Sleep wasn’t eager to return, however, so with a heavy sigh, she sat up in bed. As the blanket fell away from her torso, she recognized the sleeveless shirt she had worn the day before, and a glance under the covers revealed her legs still clad in jeans. Why would she go to bed still dressed...?
Her gaze drifted over the room. Penny lay next to her, snoring softly. Everything looked normal enough... Then her eyes settled on a figure slumped in a chair across the room. Meredith had dozed off while still in a sitting position, her head rolled to the side.
Why the... Memories came back to her then—so few that she almost thought it had been a dream, but too vivid to really believe it had been anything but real. Hands on her, her vision blurring, being unable to fight back...the terror from the night before rushed over her once more. She hugged her stomach and let out a sob.
The sound woke both Merri and Penny. The dog sat up and yawned, then rested her head on her owner’s lap.
Merri sat up suddenly alert as if she hadn’t been sleeping at all. "Gen?"
Gen gazed up from behind tears and a mess of blonde hair.
"It’s okay." Merri swiftly stood and was at her side in seconds, drawing her into a hug. "I’m sorry—I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. I should have seen it coming...I should have been able to tell what he was. If I’d known, I never would have—"
"I know, I know..." Gen let go of her friend and clutched her stomach once more. Though she hadn’t eaten since an early dinner the night before, whatever contents remained in her stomach curdled and she felt certain she would be sick in just moments. Closing her eyes, she willed her stomach to settle and took a few deep breaths. When she spoke, her voice came out weak and barely audible. "How did I get home?"
"Sage brought you in a taxi. It was pretty late."
"Is she here too?" Gen opened her eyes to glance around the room for some sign of her other friend.
"No, she couldn’t stay, but we didn’t want you to wake up alone, so I came by. Do you...do you remember much about what happened? You don’t have to think about it right now, but—"
Gen shook her head. "Only...bits and pieces. I...I tried to get away, but I could barely think let alone move..."
"He drugged you."
No wonder I can’t remember anything. Her stomach twisted once more. What she did remember was bad enough...what happened that she didn’t know about?
"Mer..." Genevieve tried hard to force the words out. "What did he...I mean—"
Merri squeezed her shoulder in reassurance. "We got there before he could really do anything—it’s okay. You won’t need to go to the hospital."
"How did you know I was there?"
"Michael, if you can believe it. He got your message and picked me up so we could go to the club, but first I called Sage to go to the house in case you and Finn went back there. I’m so glad I did..."
"But he didn’t..." She shivered a little in the warm room and couldn’t bring herself to speak the words in her head.
"No, I promise. Sage came in and beat the crap out of him, then Michael and I got back."
"What happened to Finn? Is he still..."
"Michael sent him off on the next flight to London. You won’t see him again and you don’t have to worry about him hurting you. Gen, I’m just so sorry I wasn’t there."
"It’s not your fault." It’s mine...all mine...how could I be so stupid?
"Do you want me to make you some breakfast or something?" Merri offered, but Gen shook her head.
"I can’t eat right now. I wanna get cleaned up."
"A shower might make you feel better."
Yeah, right. "Maybe. Go on downstairs, though—if Dad’s around, he’ll probably make you pancakes or something."
While Gen gathered up her housecoat and a change of clothes, Merri rose and went reluctantly for the door. She cast a final, apologetic gaze back at Genevieve, then left the room.
Though normally, Gen found a hot shower invigorating, that morning she stood under the hot water for nearly half an hour and cried. She scrubbed her skin raw, rinsed, then scrubbed it again, but nothing made her feel clean. Too late, she remembered she wasn’t supposed to soak the damn tattoo so soon after getting it.
Fuck the tattoo, she thought. I’ll get Dad to fund for a touch-up visit in a few weeks.
As the water began to run cold, Genevieve stepped out of the shower at last and glanced in the mirror over the vanity. Dark bruises ran along her right side. She reached to touch the spot and winced. Still sore. She vaguely remembered trying to run the night before, only to fall again, and a handful of marks on her body proved it. On one arm, a few more bruises fell in spots. Fingerprints.
She yanked on underclothes, a pair of jeans and a tank top, and left her hair in loose, wet clumps around her shoulders. Normally she’d towel dry it, but she couldn’t stand to be alone any longer. Avoiding even one more gaze at her own reflection, Gen left the bathroom in a hurry and went to look for Merri.
Downstairs, she padded toward the kitchen. She heard the crinkle of newspaper pages turning and knew her father must be awake. Sure enough, he sat at the table across from Merri. Each had a cup of coffee.
"You got in late last night," Leo Weist said without looking up.
"What the hell is your point?" Her hand shook as she poured a glass of water—any small bit of relaxation her shower might have brought seemed gone for good.
"You can’t go out all hours of the night—"
"Like you care."
"Where were you?"
"We were at Sage’s," Merri said quickly before Gen could answer.
Leo met Meredith’s gaze. "Really?"
"Yeah. We went by for a few hours—just a girl’s night kind of thing—and it’s pretty far from my place so Gen told me I could crash here."
Gen shifted uncomfortably as her father turned his eyes her way. "And why do you look hung over?"
"Because I was actually at an orgy and there was a lot of alcohol involved."
"Dammit Genevieve, do you realize another kid got killed last night at a club? I worry about you—"
"You don’t give a damn about me."
"Don’t you even pretend for a second that you care about this family. If you did, you wouldn’t have let Mom go."
Leo folded the paper and dropped it on the table. "You’re grounded."
"Go to hell."
Her father stood and left the kitchen. Gen sank down onto a chair.
"Welcome to family time at the Weist residence," she said to Merri with a sigh. "Sorry he didn’t make you pancakes."
"He offered, but I didn’t feel like eating," Merri said. She eyed the newspaper he left behind. "Hey, can I see that?"
"Looking for some detes about the murder?" Gen asked as she passed along the paper.
"Hoping the police have some suspects so I can get these visions out of my head..."
"Good luck with that."
"Oh my god," Merri whispered.
Seeming at a loss for words, Merri could only turn the paper Gen’s way.
Genevieve glanced over the headline. "This isn’t about the murder at the club... Caucasian male, mid-thirties, apparent suicide...some tourist from the U.K. hung himself. So?"
"That was the motel where Michael dropped off Finn last night."
Gen looked back at the paper. Oh god...
Michael was sitting at his breakfast bar with a cup of hot, black coffee when someone banged on the door. He glanced at the clock. Who would come by at noon on a Sunday?
Leaving the coffee on the counter, he exited the kitchen and yanked open the front door.
A folded newspaper was thrust in his face immediately. It took a moment for his gaze to focus on the black print. U.K. Tourist Found Dead Outside of Newhaven. He glanced over the top of the paper and recognized Genevieve.
"What the hell is this?" she said sharply.
Here we go. Michael sighed heavily and walked back to the kitchen, leaving the front door open. He heard Gen’s footsteps starting after him and the door slammed closed.
"Before you start bitching at me, keep in mind that if I hadn’t done it, Sage might have, Merri definitely would have, and the two of them would have been stupid enough to get caught. I was just keeping them out of jail."
"So this really refers to Finn?" She tossed the paper on the breakfast bar and regarded him with her hands placed on her hips.
"And you killed him and made it look like a suicide?"
"How could you...he was...you can’t just..." She opened her mouth to speak, but no more words came out. Her face was flushed from anger, dark circles ran under her eyes from lack of sleep, and she looked about ready to snap.
Michael glanced at his cup of coffee. "Want a drink of something?"
Her mouth fell open again and eyes widened, as if surprised by his cavalier attitude. At last she let out a sigh of defeat and dropped onto a barstool. "Sure."
He retrieved another mug from the cupboard as well as some tea, and then put the kettle on. After topping up his cup of coffee, he leaned on the breakfast bar across from her.
"Where are the others?" he asked, a little surprised that she had stormed over on her own.
"Sage is still at home—she called to check on me just before I left to come here. Merri went back to her place to get a change of clothes, then I think we’re going to Sage’s later. I didn’t think you’d want us here..."
Gen nodded. "O-okay."
As silence took up between them, Michael watched his guest. Her vacant gaze drifted to the floor and shoulders turned inward. He still couldn’t figure out why the hell she showed up there—she could have bitched about him killing Finn just as easily over the phone. There were bruises on her arms and her wrists, dark spots against her pale flesh.
"I just feel so stupid," she said at last in a low voice. Her eyes moved to the countertop and long hair fell over her face as she shifted in her seat. "I didn’t ever think that he...I mean, he was kinda touchy-feely sometimes, but he always seemed nice enough. Not like you." She glanced up suddenly and gave him a half smile. "No offense."
"You know, I kind of remember you yelling at me last night. Did you have me do a spell or something?"
Michael studied her for a moment before answering. It seemed doubtful she remembered much, so it would be easy enough to lie to her...
"The motel where I dropped Finn off might have been a shit-hole, but it was a shit-hole with a security camera watching the hotel room doors. I had you cast a spell on a small object—a rock Merri got from outside. As long as the object was in my possession, I couldn’t be seen on surveillance equipment. It only lasted a few hours, but it was enough to get in and out of the room."
"Oh god..." Gen clasped her hand over her mouth. "So I’m an accomplice now? The police will find out you knew him and—"
"They were here early this morning. I confirmed that he suffered from depression, and given the illegal prescription for antidepressants they found on him, I believe they consider the case closed."
"Antidepressants? I didn’t know..." Her sentence trailed off as realization dawned on her. "You planted it on him?"
"So this was all premeditated... And this means I helped you with first degree murder! I—"
"I’m pretty sure that, even if the case wasn’t closed, the cops didn’t have a theory going that a witch unknowingly used magic to help cover up a homicide that they don’t even think was committed."
"I’m not even talking about going to jail—I’m talking about bad karma. I helped you kill a man! I helped you kill your friend..."
"Are you telling me that you didn’t want him dead after last night?"
His words seemed to slice through her and her expression changed suddenly. Worry flickered through her eyes before she answered. "Of course not." Her tone held little conviction.
He raised an eyebrow, daring her to come clean.
"Well, I... I’m against capital punishment. If I thought it was right to go around killing men who were assholes, I probably would have murdered you a really long time ago."
"So you’re telling me that you woke up this morning, remembered—or at least had it explained to you—what happened, and you didn’t want him dead?"
"Maybe a...a little. But what I want doesn’t matter—he didn’t deserve to die over what he tried to do to me."
"Before you think this is all to do with you, it’s not. Last night, he threatened all three of you."
That gave her pause. "He what?"
"He said he’d go to The Brethren. That couldn’t happen, so I had to remove the threat." The water had boiled, so Michael turned his back on her while he made a cup of tea.
"But you couldn’t work it out? You couldn’t...I mean, he was your friend, wasn’t he?"
Michael shrugged without looking at her. "He crossed a line."
"Well, it makes more sense knowing that he threatened all of us. I didn’t think you’d kill a guy just for trying to assault me."
He didn’t reply. The tea ready, he passed the mug her way, and then reached for his coffee to finish the cup.
Genevieve stared down into the tea, frowning.
"What the fuck is your problem now?" he asked. "It’s the kind you liked before."
"I know, I..." She shivered, hands wrapping around her to rub her bare arms for warmth. "It’s what Finn made last night."
"Jesus Christ, I’m not going to fucking roofie you." He reached to take the mug away, but she grasped it before he could.
"It’s fine. Sorry." She shook her head as she took a sip of the tea. "I’m just...jittery, I guess. I just keep thinking I was so stupid. I should have brought Merri or someone, or just not gone... And I knew I should’ve gone right home and not accepted the drink and—"
"It’s not your fault."
"It feels like it is. I should have sensed something—what kind of witch am I? But I...I’ve never been in a situation like that, you know? I hear all the warnings to girls to be careful, but I thought that was for straight chicks. Which sounds stupid, I know... I should have been paying more attention."
"It’s not your fault," he repeated. "It’s mine. I shouldn’t have allowed him any contact with the three of you. I thought I was watching him, but apparently I was wrong since I didn’t know the two of you planned to investigate at the club."
Gen shook her head. "You couldn’t have known he would..." As her eyes locked with his, she visibly tensed at what she saw in their depths. "You knew?"
He didn’t answer.
"He’s roofied girls before?" Gen asked, hysteria creeping into her voice.
His silence seemed to be enough of an answer for her.
"How could you...but he was your friend! How could you be friends with someone like that? Is that what you guys do on Saturday night—you drug women and rape them?"
"Hardly," Michael said with a derisive snort. "I’d rather fuck someone who’s awake, thank you."
"But you knew what he did and you didn’t care?"
"You know who I am, you know what I’m capable of, yet you’re surprised at the company I keep?"
"Well...to be honest, I was kinda surprised you had any friends at all. I guess I should have known you’d be pals with rapists."
"He was hardly the worst of the people I know."
"But you..." Tears filled her eyes as she gazed up at him, her expression that of a wounded puppy. "You didn’t know he’d try doing that to one of us?"
"No. He was told, explicitly, to leave the three of you alone."
"Even me? I know you hate me and you did want to leave me to die..."
He didn’t comment for several long minutes, his gaze dropping to stare at the granite countertop.
Fragile. "You’re weak and you’re..."
Innocent. "Naive. This kind of thing would change you. It would..."
Michael sighed. "It would probably make you even more useless than you already are if something like that traumatized you, and I don’t want to have to add therapy to our list of tasks every day."
"Well, at least you’re honest." She sipped her tea in silence, haunted blue eyes focused on the pattern of the counter.
Michael glanced at the clock—she’d better be leaving soon. The whole exchange, it just...it bothered him and he just wanted her to get the hell out of his house.
"Can I see the spell book? The one you had me read from?"
Dammit, of course she’d ask about that. He was tempted to say no, but then she’d probably whine about it later.
"You’re not ready to try any of them yet," he said as he walked to where he left the book on the coffee table near the couch. "Just read. Don’t cast. Got it?"
Gen nodded. He set the book next to her and she reached for the cover. Pale fingers ran along the text of the title.
She gazed up at him, once again crying. "Was it because of my tramp stamp?"
"Jesus, you’re thick," he muttered. "It’s not because you got a tattoo, let alone where you put it."
"But maybe he wouldn’t have—"
"You were attacked because you were in the presence of a rapist. It has nothing to do with you personally."
"Fuck, you’d argue about anything. I’m not saying this to make you feel better—believe me. It’s the truth. It doesn’t matter what you say or what you do. It’s not about you. It was him. Now I’ve got better things to do today than sit and listen to you whine about something that’s not your fault. Will you leave already?"
She nodded and drained her tea. Book in hand, she started for the door, but stopped a few feet away.
¬Great, what now—
Turning suddenly, she ran back to him and threw her arms around him in a hug. His throat constricted at her touch—it bothered him more than anything had so far, and his skin began to crawl. Michael stiffened in her embrace, but she didn’t seem to care.
"Thank you," she whispered, squeezing him tight. She stepped back just as quickly as she’d approached him, held up the book, and gave him a weak smile. "And for this too."
He was about to tell her to fuck off already when she turned and left on her own without another word.
Michael was kidding himself—he knew why the prospect of what had almost transpired the night before bothered him. That kid walked through the world so wide-eyed and trusting. She was stupid and obnoxious, sure, but if something too traumatic had happened to her, she’d be...changed. He’d seen it first hand; he knew what it could do to someone. And he wasn’t about to watch it happen to her.
Perhaps that was what bothered him the most...that he even cared in the first place.
He stared at the door for a few beats longer, then went for the bottle of Jack Daniels in the fridge and committed to drinking away the afternoon.
Sage leaned against Gen’s locker on Monday afternoon. "How are you feeling?"
Genevieve shrugged and avoided her friend’s gaze. "Still breathing."
"I thought you might have stayed home today."
She shook her head and shivered a little. "Not in an empty house. I’d go stark Rajing mad. And I’d probably want to be out of there by the time my dad got home from work anyway, so I figured I might as well go to school." She piled her books into her locker and rifled through the top shelf in search of her supplies for the next period.
"Are you good to head to Michael’s today?"
"Why wouldn’t I be?"
"I just thought that..." Sage paused, and Gen could guess where her thoughts lay, but she didn’t say anything. "I thought it might be weird for you."
"I went by yesterday and I was fine."
Gen nodded. "I...I had to talk to him about a few things." She hadn’t bothered telling Merri or Sage about her conversation with Michael the day before when she met with them, instead electing to keep her silence for the time being. She had meant her promise to them months ago about being honest, and she still fully intended to tell them the truth about Finn’s death, but all of it was too fresh, too raw, to talk about right away.
"Did he mention Finn?"
"And it’s true," she said with a sigh. "He killed him. I’ll let Michael tell you guys the rest later today." The bell rang, signaling the start of the next period. God, I just want to go home... She leaned against the locker next to her own for a moment and sighed. "Why can’t the day be over yet?"
The halls were packed with students rushing last minute to their classes. Gen’s gaze settled on Janine, who smoothly weaved among them. The other girl seemed so confident, so put together...
And I feel like such a goddamn mess.
As Janine passed them, her dark eyes went to Gen, and she smiled in greeting. Moments after she was gone, the exchange finally seemed to register in Gen’s head.
"Did Janine just look at me?"
"Who?" Sage asked.
Gen sighed. "Not important. I’m probably going crazy. So I don’t suppose you want to skip the rest of the day and just go over now?"
"Should we get Mer?"
"Haven’t seen her today." Gen stuffed her spring jacket into her messenger bag, slipped the pack over her shoulder, and snapped the locker closed. "So?"
"I do have a Chemistry test right now..."
"Can’t you make it up tomorrow?"
Sage gave her an apologetic look. "I’m sorry..."
Of course, she has to be the perfect student... "Okay. Guess I’ll meet you—"
"There she is." Gen and Sage turned suddenly to find the source of the voice that invaded their conversation. The corridor was nearly empty now except for them and two figures that stood a few metres away. Gen’s assigned guidance counsellor watched from the side of a police officer.
Oh god, they know about Finn... Somehow, despite Michael’s promises, the police had figured out what happened. It did seem illogical that they suspected her, but Michael? She had little doubt he possessed a record of some sort—he was too casual about murder to be someone without a past...
As the officer approached them, Gen took a deep breath and hoped to god her face didn’t betray her fear. If they had just killed Finn in self defense, at least then they would have had some sort of...well, defense. Instead, the police would see the whole thing as cold blooded murder—which, she had to grant, it was—and Michael would go away to prison for god knows how long, and... Stop it, Gen. She had to calm down. Maybe the police didn’t know anything—maybe it was just about whoever died at the club on Saturday night. The police came around and questioned people when Warren died.
"Hi," Gen said as she met the policeman’s eyes, her throat scratchy and voice a little too loud. "Is something wrong?"
"You’re name is..." He glanced over the small notebook in his hands. "Genevieve, isn’t it?"
"Yeah. Did I do something, or..."
"No, nothing like that—you don’t need to worry."
Easier said than done.
Gen stepped forward uneasily. "What’s this about, then?"
"We’re looking for someone and we believe you know her."
At this, Gen was genuinely confused. "Who?"
"I need to know if you," the cop glanced at Sage briefly, "either of you have seen this girl." He pulled out a black and white photo of a young woman about their age.
Gen didn’t recognize her. "No."
Sage shook her head as well. "I don’t know her. I have to get to class, is it okay if—"
The officer nodded. Sage gave Gen a meaningful, "I’ll see you later," look, and started down the hall.
"Please take a closer look, Genevieve." The cop thrust the photo towards her.
With a sigh, Gen took the picture and studied it. The girl looked rough—like the type that would show up on the Maury Povich show and have to go to boot camp or something. Heavy, black eye make-up, cold eyes... "Sorry, I don’t think I..." The resemblance in the photo hit her rather suddenly.
Oh my god.
"Is something wrong?"
Gen looked up sharply. "N-no. Nothing. Why are you asking me about this?"
"In late October you were at the club On the Map when Warren Humber was murdered?"
"Witnesses claim you were seen with a girl who matches the description of the one we’re looking for."
Gen gazed down at the photo again. There was no denying it—the picture was of Merri. "Who is she?"
"Her name is Belle Swanson, and allegedly she’s a killer."