“You blew up half of the fucking hotel!”
“Always a pleasant way to start a conversation...”
Michael was once again conscious and he was hopping mad. His anger bordered on hysteria.
The slightly smoke scented Donavon watched silently for many minutes as his son ranted on and on. After the better part of an hour, Mike had wound down his speech and was slumping, frazzled and frayed, against the wall. Dr. Morstend walked over and kneeled in front of the boy.
“Michael... It’s okay. I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay. How about a shower, hmm? A nice, long, hot shower?”
Mike nodded mutely. Donavon helped him up and pointed him in the direction of the bathroom. The doctor shook his head, half smiling, as he turned to the computers. “Well now, let’s learn what we can about this Drek character.”
When Michael returned form his long calming shower, he found Florence and his fathers staring grim faced at the computer monitors. He crept forward to see for himself. As he read, his face also took on the bleak continence. Florence’s voice broke the silence.
“That thing reeks of blood.” Her eyes never left the picture of the slim, almost feminine, man. “I can smell it from here. That... thing... reeks of blood that is not its own.”
One word flashed through Michael’s mind. ‘Killer.’
Dr. Morstend removed his spectacles and rubbed his tired eyes. “We were so lucky before. We’ve never had to deal with any true killers. We’ll have to be careful on this one. We work as a team this time. All of us.”
There is nothing more nerve wracking in this world than to know that you and being watched and know that there is nothing you can do about it. Florence, the Morstends, and the faithful rag doll, Tacita, slunk through the halls in a tight knit group. Sometimes walking backwards, other times walking forwards, they tried to watch in all directions. It’s amazing how few people remember to look up.
The blood slipped quietly over the edge of the upper balcony. In less than a second, it had encased Michael’s right arm.
“Boom,” Drek whispered.
Michael’s arm was blown away in a shower of gore. It was almost as if time were playing in slow motion. Mike stared in fascinated horror, trying to wiggle fingers that were no longer there.
Flore was the first to snap out of it. “Get him out of here!” she screamed at Donavon. The doctor jumped like a startled rabbit. He nodded, throwing his heavily bleeding son over his shoulder and running. Florence didn’t care where, as long as they got out of there! The little doll followed after the men, Flore hardly noticed. She was too busy fixing her gaze at one cluster of shadows.
“Come, you foul creature,” she growled. “Your battle is with me!”
Donavon was shaking from head to toe, but he didn’t stop running. His son was hurt. He couldn’t stop until Michael was safe. He might never have stopped running if it weren’t for the fact that his legs gave out as he was running through the library. Michael slipped off his father’s shoulders and onto the floor.
Dr. Morstend gulped as he pulled the burned fabric from the ghastly wound. It was so bad... Michael’s eyes were closed and his breath can hissing through his teeth. The shock was leaving him and pain was taking over.
Suddenly, Tacita was there. The bedraggled toy began to glow with a ghostly pale pink light. The light grew in brilliance, until even Mike cracked his eyes open to see what was happening. Glowing like a beacon, Tacita floated to Michael’s wound. She looked at him with her one button eye and nodded her cotton filled head. Tacita lifted a boneless arm and touched the stump of Michael’s shoulder.
Slowly, the bleeding stopped. The burned flesh healed and grew to cover the raw muscle. Once all was done, Tacita floated to the center of the room. There, the glow grew dimmer and dimmer. When the last flicker had left her, Tacita fell to the floor. Once again, she was a limp, lifeless plaything.
Drek’s chuckle echoed off the walls. “Very well, little spook. As it is you who stands in my way, I’l take care or you first. But you must think I’m stupid if you think I couldn’t follow that thick trail of blood to your lover boy and his son.”
Florence bristled. She did not like this man. She did not like his manner, his voice, his looks. She could feel the grisly bloody aura that clung to him. Her wrists ached as she was reminded of her dance with the devil just a short time ago. She certainly didn’t like his hints at her relations to the Morstends. That was her business and no one else’s. No one.
A low, animalistic growl rose in Florence’s throat. Her hand twitched as her mind threw her glass daggers at her prey. That tormenter... just like him. Just like the one who had taken so much from her. That blood scent brought it all back for the hundredth time. The room. His voice. His smile. That knife that he had plunged into her belly, taking two lives in one stroke. It all came flying back, just as it always did.
But this time, Florence did not push the images away. It was so tiring, so pointless, so useless. Those memories had followed her beyond the grave, and by god, it was time she accepted that.
Her eyes shone with her new determination. This battle would be hers.
Drek laughed as he sauntered into plain view. He leaned against the balcony, dangling one of her dagger between his fingers. “No use. You didn’t do your homework. I don’t bleed.”
Flore smiled up at him, the devil’s own smile. “Guess what, pretty boy? Neither do I.”
The physical battle between the two raged on. Objects were thrown, traps were set, all in vain. No ground was gained and none was lost. Once Drek found that all attempts to simply blow Florence away were useless, the rate of damage dropped significantly. Still they played on, despite the stalemate. It was a cruel game, shared by masochists.
The fight moved down hallways and through rooms. Flore lead the killer as far away from the Mike and Don as she could. Eventually, they stumbled into the trophy room. Cabinets displayed blue ribbons, trophy cups, and other oddities. However, it was the walls that were magnificent. The walls were covered with the heads of big game of all kinds. Moose, lion, elephant, buffalo, all these and more were represented. How appropriate, that death would come to one of them in this place. It was upon spying the head of a rhino that Flore realized what she must do.
It is not hard for a ghost to become invisible. Yet, Florence rarely chose to do so. To become invisible is to fade, fade yourself as well as others’ senses of you. Yet she did so now. Just until she was close enough to him. Closer... He was nervous now, twitchy....
She sprang and attacked with the grace and ferocity of a rabid mongoose. Her hands, visible and solid once again, gripped tightly at his shoulders. The next second, they sinking into his shoulders! Possession! The one trick she had never before tried to pull. Drek battles against her in vain. Soon her conscious was in his body. It was now a battle od psyche.
The struggle seemed to last for hours, though in truth it could not have been more than ten minutes. The minds melded and the two titanic wills crashed together. There was no physical change. Drek’s body stood stock still in the middle of the floor, as though in a trance. Inside that body, Florence and Drek battled desperately for dominance. Memories were pierced and minds read in that frantic fight. Things were seen and felt and discovered. Each looked into the other’s dark and pain filled past. Tears, true tears, leaked from Drek’s closed eyes. Both souls were retched with sorrow. They understood the each other. In that understanding was a kind of love, and they hated themselves for loving.
They were both exhausted, Flore from the struggle to stay in a body not her own, Drek from trying to force the apparition from his own flesh. In those last seconds of fight, it came down to experience. And Florence’s mind was old, much older than Drek’s would ever hope to be. A heartbeat, then she was in control.
“You can’t do this to me,” he hissed silently. “You are mine!”
“I am yours. You are mine. Your fate, my destiny intertwine.” An ironic smile flitted across Florence’s thoughts. “I fear we are at a stalemate on that score. However, in this case, I believe victory is mine.”
With the last reserve of her strength, Florence fought the strong-willed consciousness, and ran full force into the rhino’s impaling horn. The horn ran through their body with a sickening squishing sound. The two minds screamed in pain and defeat. Flore’s mind retained dominance as she forced him to bleed great pools of blood. The life elixir flowed crimson out of the wound to bath the rhino’s head and floor. A strangled, hideous smile played across Drek’s lips, a side affect of Florence’s thoughts. Drek’s mind froze as he fully comprehended what she was planning.
“Goodbye, friend,” Flore whispered from Drek’s mouth. “Find peace.”
A second later, the blood exploded.
The singed body of Drek hung limply over the equally burnt animal head. For the longest time, there was no movement. Nothing stirred. Then, a twinkling. One blink, and it would be missed. The twinkling turned into a glow, and that glow to a form. Rising from the burnt body was the golden shade of a woman. Her hair was a dark honey and her eyes a pale gray. Her dress was silk and a pale yellow. It looked like a prop, but it suited her, for she seemed to be a ghost of christmas past. Florence, (for it was she,) stared mournfully at the boy who was no more. A gossamer tear rolled down her cheek as she turned and swished out of the room, in search of her companions.
Florence found them in the library. Michael and the doctor were still sitting in the middle of the floor, shocked, unsure what to do next. They looked up, eyes widening as she entered the room. Smiling a false smile, she knelt in front of them. Her golden glistening was increasing every moment.
“I have to go now,” she whisper. She looked from Donavon to Michael. “I’m sorry. I remember now, and I accept it.”
Fear filled Donavon’s eyes. He tried to say a thousand things. ‘Don’t go. Don’t leave me. I can’t go through that again. Stay, please...’ All he managed to get out was “Flore...”
She cupped his cheek, brushing away a tear with her thumb. “It is okay, Donny. I know. I know. But I have my past now, Don. For better or for worse, I remember. I think it was for the better. If it weren’t for my past, I wouldn’t have gotten to meet the two of you.” She was positively shining now. It was almost as if someone had bathed her in liquid gold. “Goodbye, Donny. Don’t cry. I’ll always be around.” The gold aura sparkled brightly in a brilliant flash! Then... nothing.
He cried out, reaching... and grasped nothing but empty air. Donavon stared at his empty hand. After many minutes, Michael gently touched his father on the shoulder. “Come on, Pop,” he whispered, tiredly. “We have to go.” Dr Morstend nodded and followed like a small child, constantly looking over his shoulder for something that was no longer there. All that remained was a ratty, bedraggled, lifeless rag doll, lying in the middle of the floor.