CHAPTER TWELVE

After we took quick showers to get the mud off us, we sprang into action and started throwing stuff into our bags. At one point my bandage from my hand got caught on the zipper and pulled a bit of it loose.

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I decided to check it out and unwrapped it. There were faint pink lines but other than that the cuts were completely healed. I undid the other hand and it was the same deal.

“Huh,” I mumbled. Dex came over to see what was up. I showed him my hands.

“Guess he really is a medicine man,” I said.

“Or was,” he added morbidly. He hunched down and lifted up the bottom of my tank top. I instinctively sucked in my stomach as his warm hands moved to the bandage. He peeled away the corners and peered at it inquisitively.

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“Now that’s something,” he said, sounding impressed, and gently pulled the rest of the bandage off. I looked down. It looked like the cuts on my hands. Pink and smooth, like they had been that way for years. That was amazing.

Dex took the bandages from me and threw them in the trash. He wiped his hands and walked back to me.

“Let’s just hope he can heal himself,” he said.

There was a knock at the door. My heart beat loudly. Everything was going to catch me on edge now. Was it Bird? Was it Rudy?

“Who is it?” Dex asked suspiciously.

“Will,” was the reply.

Dex walked over and opened the door. Will looked as pale as a ghost.

“The phone is for you,” he said to Dex. “It’s Maximus.”

Huh. Dex hadn’t even had the chance to phone him yet.

“I better go explain,” he said and left with Will downstairs. I continued to pack, mulling over the speed in which my cuts healed. Rudy truly was a medicine man. It’s not that I really doubted it to begin with but I was obviously a bit skeptical. But he was a man who wanted to heal me, not harm me. If he were a skinwalker, why would he bother? No, that didn’t make sense. I didn’t sense anything but sincerity coming from him, even if he was a bit rough around the edges. As for Bird, I just couldn’t believe it. But then where did they go? If they were skinwalkers, the “logical” explanation would be that they turned into animals and left. If they weren’t skinwalkers, the “logical” explanation was that they had been killed or chased away by the skinwalkers. I hoped they had only been chased away, but either situation was devastating.

I heard the door click and my head snapped up. Sarah was in the room with me, the door closed behind her, a mug of something hot in her hands. She seemed to be staring straight at me behind those glasses. I could feel her unseeing eyes.

“Sarah,” I stammered and nervously crammed my last shirt into my duffel bag.

“I heard the news,” she said. Her voice had a soft, meek tone to it, a surprising change.

“Yeah,” I said and started fiddling absently with the bag.

She walked slowly around the bed but paused at the dresser, resting her mug on it. I studied her shyly, as if she was going to catch me staring. She didn’t look all that good, actually. Ashen and unkempt.

“I’m very worried,” she said wringing her hands. “It’s not like Bird to just disappear like that.”

I stopped packing and faced her. “Is it like Rudy?”

She thought about that for a second before shaking her head. “I don’t know Rudy very well. His business is none of my business. But he is an important man. That would not make much sense.”

I nodded, not feeling any closer to understanding the mystery. Sarah said nothing for a while. Perhaps she was reading my vibes or something. At last she picked up the mug and shuffled over to me.

“I made you this tea,” she said. She held the mug out awkwardly. I eyed it.

“It’s just Earl Grey,” she said quickly, sensing my hesitation. “None of that spiritual stuff.”

“Thank you,” I said slowly, “but I don’t really drink tea.”

I tensed for her reaction. She actually smiled and shrugged a little.

“That’s OK.” She moved forward, trying to put it down on the bedside table and missing. I grabbed it from her before it went all over the place. I sniffed it quickly. It was Earl Grey. It smelled like a London Fog actually. Damn drugs had me paranoid over everything I drank now.

I sat down on the bed and cupped the tea in my hands. Sarah still stood there, her attention now turned to the window.

“I have a feeling he’ll come back,” she said.

“Bird?”

“Mmmhmmm. As birds do.”

There were so many questions that I wanted to ask her. Mainly, why was she such a snickety bitch? And what did she think was going on? What were they going to do?

But I didn’t say anything. Instead I had a sip of my tea and let the silence get awkward.

She sighed and patted her frazzled black bun.

“Do you have a hairbrush I can use?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said, putting down the tea and going into the bathroom where my toiletries bag was. My hairbrush was tangled with oodles of my hair which is only gross when you have to give your brush to someone else but I figured she was blind and wouldn’t know.

I came out of the bathroom and stopped behind her.

“Here it is,” I said loudly and reached over and placed it in her hand.

“Oh, thank you.” She carefully made her way over to the bathroom and started undoing her bun. Her hair was mad-ass long. She looked like an old-fashioned wench from the olden days, long dress, long hair that she slowly brushed with a blank yet fragile expression on her face. I watched her for a bit before I started to feel creepy. I turned my attention to my tea.

Eventually she called, “How does it look?”

I turned and saw her standing by the bathroom. Her hair was back in a smooth bun. She was smiling broadly. Was she really proud of herself, or….?

“It looks great,” I said.

“No bumps?” she asked, patting it.

“No bumps.”

Suddenly the door handle jangled. I flinched but Sarah didn’t budge.

“Perry!” Dex called from outside. “Why is the door locked?”

I got up just as Sarah moved in front of the door, still facing me, still smiling.

“She’s in here with me. You can see her in a minute,” she said through pearly whites.

“Sarah? Perry?” He tried the door again.

I inched my way over to her, feeling something in this situation was terribly amiss.

“It’s OK, Dex,” I projected, sounding less confident than I would have liked. I was approaching her like she was some wild animal that I didn’t want to scare.

“I need to talk to my wife,” I heard him say.

Sarah laughed sarcastically.

“She’s not your wife,” she glowered.

I guess there was no point now in pretending anything.

She turned around, unlocked the door and opened it.

Dex was on the other side, looking rattled. Sarah stared up at him, still smiling.

“She’s all yours,” she remarked and shuffled past him into the hall. Dex stepped out of her way.

He jumped in the room and shut the door quickly behind him, making sure to lock it as well. He marched over to me and put a hand on my shoulder.

“Are you OK? What was she doing?” he asked, sounding panicked.

I shrugged. “Nothing much. She was actually being…nice, or something. At first anyway. She just brought me tea and wanted to talk about Bird.”

His eyes started flying around the room. “What tea?”

I pointed to the mug on the table.

“It was fine, I only had a bit,” I reassured him.

He went over to the tea and sniffed it, frowning.

“What?” I asked nervously.

He slowly shook his head and put it back down. “Nothing. What did she say about Bird?”

“She was worried about him, actually. And thought it was strange. We didn’t really get into it. What did Maximus say?”

Dex flopped backwards on the bed. He rubbed his face vigorously with his hands and sighed.

“He’s in Gallup already. He heard about what happened with the cattle from some people there. Apparently it’s a skinwalker…thing.”

“Oh, fabulous. Well, at least we can film it and it is what it is.”

He shook his head.

“Why not?” I said, coming over and sitting down next to him.

“Will talked to the sheriff afterward. We’ve put the alert out for Bird and Rudy but he says the cattle are gone. The farmer came and hauled their remains off.”

“So, we go to the farmer…”

“Oh, what’s the fucking point?” he yelled abruptly and covered his face with his arm.

He sounded hopeless. It was unlike him.

“What if,” I tested gently, “we went back to Rudy’s place? We go with Will. And a gun. And the sheriff. And we film it as the aftermath, explaining what happened? If we are lucky, Boy Boy is still there.”

“If we are lucky?” he mumbled.

“It’s part of the story, Dex. It’s part of our story. This happened to us. Actual people are missing or even worse. Not everything has to be some big dramatic thing. Did you really think we’d capture some actual skinwalker on camera? I mean, come on…”

He groaned as an answer.

“It makes sense,” I continued. “It’s on the way out of town, more or less. We go, now. Then at least we’ve got something. I trust you, I know you can make something really…compelling out of all of this.”

I reached over and poked his stomach. He winced but at least the arm came off of his face. His eyes looked fried, a combination of exhaustion, frustration and fear.

I got up, ready to pull on his legs but the room spun with a swoosh and suddenly I was down, down, down.

On the floor with a thump.

Ow.

Dex leaped up and peered over at me. “What the hell?”

“I’m fine,” I said, slowly easing myself back onto my elbows which hurt against the hard floor. “Guess I’m not entirely better yet.”

He didn’t say anything. I looked up at him. He was eyeing the tea.

“What?” I asked.

“Did she really come here to give you tea?” he questioned.

“I don’t know if that was her plan. But when I said I didn’t want any, she said that was fine.”

“Then why did you have some?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know, actually. My actions acted separate from my mind.

“Felt like something to do while she was brushing her hair.”

“She was brushing her hair?” he repeated slowly.

“Yeah…in there. With my hairbrush…”

“Why would she brush her hair in there?” he asked.

I shrugged again. “The mirror is in there?”

Dex’s eyes widened. He scampered off the bed and went into the bathroom. The mirror…she was blind. What good what that do?

“Where’s the hairbrush?” he yelled.

I sighed and got to my feet. Still a bit unsteady, I moved as quickly as I could over to the bathroom and looked in. The brush wasn’t there.

I rifled through the bag and the cupboards. Nothing.

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