The White King Enters
Start Chapter 10:
Elizabeth had been bedridden for several days. There were no burns on her arms; in fact, there was no evidence at all that the fire had existed even for a moment. The certainty that Elizabeth had felt faded quickly, and as she woke up on Thursday she knew that she had been stupid to think for a second that she had been on fire, that there had been anything but the blood. The blood was still overwhelming her senses, her every thought. All she could think about was Rebecca's eyes, hollowed out and empty, her life spreading out over the floor. Elizabeth was numb as the doctors spoke to her, explaining her situation, talking about "trauma" and "stress", about broken bones and splints. She felt too numb to really comprehend anything, too distant to even want to.
It was Dacre that came to her rescue. Dacre organized the health insurance, talked to the doctors, and made sure that Elizabeth was getting the treatment she needed. He talked to Michael's school and kept communications up about Michael's well being, making sure Michael had a place to stay. He negotiated with the press and with the insurance companies. And he made sure that the police left Elizabeth alone for as long as possible, and stayed by her side when they came to talk to her.
The police were gentle in their questions in any case. She was a victim, bloodied, battered and bruised after all. Bones broken. Heart broken. There was no reason for her to be suspected. None at all. She answered their questions mechanically, barely glancing at their faces, her eyes on the ceiling as she thoughtlessly picked at the plaster cast on her arm. She told them about Rebecca, everything they knew about her. She told them about her job, and the people at her job. She told them, briefly, about her ex husband, and her sister, and the troubles. They gave her information in return, they told her about Rebecca's family, about Michael's mental health, and about the state of her workplace and the crime that had been committed there. They had found no bodies, and that was worrying, even though the fire had been so all consuming. There were so many patrons and employees there, they should have found something, a bloody charred hand, or a cracked and bubbling skull, or a baked and well-cooked eye. The police were theorizing that the fire had been aimed at her, it had started a little after she should have arrived and had consumed the entire building within minutes. Witnesses had spoken about a tall man at the scene of the crime, but they had been unreliable hobos, druggies, drunkards. The police told her as much as they were allowed to.
They went on to say that the police were organizing with a therapist to meet with Michael and Elizabeth, though it wouldn't be able to be for too many meetings, as the insurance wouldn't cover it. Dacre nodded politely, and then noticing Elizabeth's worried frown and her sick and tired eyes, shooed the police out. Dacre sat back at the end of the bed, tenderly looking at Elizabeth. She seemed so small, so tired, so weak and afraid. "Tall man?"
"What?" Elizabeth replied, the words catching in her throat.
"You blanched when they mentioned a tall man. Why?"
"N-no reason," Elizabeth lied.
Dacre took her into his apartment when the hospital released her on Monday. She sat on his worn couch, counting the cracks in the walls, willing the blood stay back. Elizabeth was scared and sick, and the only thing she felt control of was the safety of her son. He was staying at a relatives, he was safe. Or was he? Panic caught rose in her chest, was he safe? Really? Surely nowhere was safe, nothing was safe, not with the monster hovering at every corner, in every window. Surely there was nowhere safer than your mother's arms... Elizabeth felt guilty for sending Dacre off to collect Michael, but there was no other way for her son to be safe. Not even with Elizabeth's own mother.
Elizabeth herself didn't know what to do. She couldn't run, not with the plaster and bandages and broken leg. She could hide, and hope that the people who knew how to deal with the monster would advise her. She didn't know what to do, only take instructions from the outside. She sat at Dacre's computer and tried not to sob again.
She couldn't feel it, but a countdown had begun. Eight... She couldn't see it, but the tendrils were all around her. Seven... She couldn't know it, but there was no way out. Six... She couldn't think it but it was hopeless. Five... She couldn't help it, but it was all intertwined. Four... She didn't know it, but she was going to die. Three... She couldn't stop it, but her son was dead in his eyes, as well. Two... She couldn't halt it, but the world was ending. One... She would find out for herself.
Soon all would be dead.
End Chapter Ten
The White King Exits.