azombiewrites: (Midsomer Murders)
[personal profile] azombiewrites
Title: You Make The Sweetest Sound
Fandom: Midsomer Murders
Genre: Hurt/comfort, Horror, AU.
Rating: PG
Warning: Violence
Main Characters: DCI John Barnaby and DS Ben Jones.
Disclaimers: A Bentley productions for ITV. Created and based on the books by Caroline Graham.
Spoilers: Set during season 15
Author's Notes: Story and chapter titles snagged from the song, 'Mule' by Leningrad Cowboys
Challenge: Written for the [livejournal.com profile] spook_me Multi-Fandom Halloween Ficathon 2013.
Word Prompt: Cannibal
Picture Prompts: Picture #1 | Picture #2
Total Word Count: 8,796
Status: Complete

Summary: When a routine enquiry turns into a night of violence, DCI John Barnaby is left with no choice. He has to fight back, with extreme force if necessary because he can’t just sit back and watch his sergeant die at the hands of a stranger whose intent is more violent than even Barnaby could have imagined. But when things take a dramatic and unexpected turn, Barnaby loses all hope of surviving the night.



You Make The Sweetest Sound




Chapter One
It Was Destiny That You Came My Way



An idyllic scene, a lonely country cottage surrounded with all the necessities of an English chocolate box setting. An elderly woman, short and stout, stood on the doorstep, her arms stretched outward as she welcomed the two men decorating the path to her front door. She smiled in greeting, eyes hungry for something only she could see.

John Barnaby stopped at the end of the path, smile forming, the woman in front of him drawing him in like so many before him. Barnaby removed his warrant card from his jacket pocket, holding it up for the woman to see. His sergeant, standing to his right, mirrored Barnaby’s actions, warrant card held in a steady hand.

“Mrs. Rellik?”

She nodded in eager agreement, “Yes.”

“Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Ben Jones, Causton CID,” said Barnaby.

“I’ve been expecting you,” said Mrs. Rellik, reaching toward him, hand at the ready.

Caught off guard, Barnaby shook her hand, her grip strong, her flesh cold. He felt a shiver travel his spine, biting at the base of his neck. A pain, blunt in its strength, rolled through his skull. He felt faint, balance off kilter. Bile rose into his throat and he swallowed it down, worried it would return with more force.

Mrs. Rellik let go, her hand reaching toward Jones.

All feeling returned to normal, Barnaby grateful the pain was already relenting, his stomach calm, balance restored. Returning his warrant card to his pocket, he watched the exchange between Mrs. Rellik and Jones, curious to see if his sergeant reacted in a similar fashion. He did. Jones lost all colour, his skin, tanned at this time of the year, turned a ghostly shade of pale. His sergeant’s eyes squinted with the onslaught of what must have been a pain similar to the one Barnaby had suffered. Stance becoming unsettled, Jones shifted his position, left leg moving back to support his balance.

In the back of his mind, a small voice spoke, words warning Barnaby that something was wrong. Two men reacting in much the same way to this woman’s touch, it was . . . unnatural. Barnaby shut the voice down, associating its counsel to a long and tedious day full of uneventful call-outs, an assumption that could prove fatal. Gaze returning to Mrs. Rellik, Barnaby saw something unexpected. Unadulterated joy. He looked back at his sergeant, unable to see the cause of her delight.

She kept a firm grip on his sergeant’s hand, her left hand accompanying the right, unwilling to let go, a polite Jones finding it difficult to break her grip. Barnaby started to worry, Jones looking as though he were about to faint. He began to reach toward them, his intent to break her hold on his sergeant, but found he couldn’t. The thought of touching her flesh made his skin crawl, his spine ache.

“Mrs. Rellik,” said Barnaby, an attempt to draw her attention. “We’ve come about the man living in your garden shed.”

His subtle ploy worked, his words a distraction. She let go of Jones’s hand, his sergeant stepping back, his balance lost. Barnaby grabbed Jones’s elbow, keeping him in place. Jones nodded his gratitude as he wiped the palm of his hand on his jacket, no doubt trying to remove any residue she may have left on his skin. The grimace on his sergeant’s face remained though, pain lingering longer than it had with Barnaby.

Mrs. Rellik clasped her hands together, “Yes. Normally I wouldn’t mind but he’s been making quite the racket lately. I find it . . . bothersome.”

“Well, let’s see if we can sort it all out for you.”

“I would be ever so pleased if you could, Inspector Barnaby,” said Mrs. Rellik. “I’ll show you the way. We can go through the cottage. Perhaps both of you would enjoy a nice cup of tea?”

“Thank you, Mrs. Rellik,” said Barnaby, feeling as though he could do with a strong shot of caffeine, something to get him through the rest of the day; not much left of it, Mrs. Rellik their last and final obligation.

“Sergeant Jones?”

“No, thank you, Mrs. Rellik.”

“Such a polite young man,” said Mrs. Rellik, her joy spreading across her features, lighting up her eyes. “You don’t find many these days. The younger generation seem to have no respect for the elderly. I find it quite . . . bothersome. Don’t you, Inspector Barnaby?”

“Um . . . no,” said Barnaby, unsure if he’d just been insulted. “Whenever you’re ready, Mrs. Rellik.”

She raised her eyebrow.

“Garden shed.”

“Oh, of course,” said Mrs. Rellik. “Silly me.”

Body agile for someone of her age, Mrs. Rellik spun on her heel and rushed through the open front door, her solid form engulfed by the lurking shadows.

Barnaby hesitated to follow, the nagging voice speaking up, tone frustrated as it once again warned him that something wasn’t right. Irritated, Barnaby ignored the ‘we’re all doomed’ speech. The feeling of onset illness already fading into the past, as though nothing had actually happened. But it had, Jones’s reaction proving that it had all been real. Worry punched him in the gut when Jones leant forward, hands clasping his knees. Barnaby placed a hand on his sergeant’s back, feeling the expanding lungs as Jones took a deep breath, the tremor rushing through Jones’s thin frame surprising Barnaby with its intensity.

“Jones?”

“What was that all about,” said Jones, standing upright, skin colour returning to a natural hue. “Did you feel that?”

“I’m sure there’s a simple explanation.”

“Yes, sir. Something simple. If she’s poisoned us through some sort of skin--”

“Jones.”

“Sir?”

“After you,” said Barnaby, arm showing his sergeant the way.

Jones nodded and made his way into the cottage, feet stumbling over the doorstep. Taking a deep breath, Barnaby, unaware of what was to come, followed his sergeant into the cottage. The darkness within abated, allowing him to see the way. An elongated hallway split the home in two, a straight line to the back door. Rooms filled with old, fraying furniture, knick-knacks lining every surface. The effect was immediate, a feeling of claustrophobia settling over Barnaby, a heavy cloak weighing him down. An unusual emotion for him, Barnaby picked up his pace, the need to get back out into the open space too strong.

Overgrown trees kept the sun at bay, the area filled with moving shadows. A small, foreboding shed lived at the back of the garden, walls awash with green moss, door falling from its hinges. It didn’t look inviting, not at all. How a man could live in such a place, Barnaby didn’t know. This time of year’s warmth probably helping, but still.

“Why don’t the two of you make yourselves comfortable,” said Mrs. Rellik, nodding toward three chairs gathered around a small wooden table. “I’ll go and make the tea.”

Barnaby smiled, gratitude not easily forthcoming, something about the ambience unsettling his nerves. His gaze followed her movements, Jones moving to stand beside him, his sergeant’s presence familiar, comfortable.

“Sir?”

“I don’t think we should dally about, Jones.”

Jones grimaced, “Right, sir. I’ll check the shed while you drink your tea.”

“Shouldn’t take two of us, Jones,” said Barnaby. “And you did refuse her offer.”

“Yes, sir.”

It didn’t feel right. His discomfort singular, Jones showing no outward reaction to the eerie tone that had matured around them. Unable to determine the threat, the cause of the uncomfortable sensation sitting heavy on his chest, Barnaby said, “The sooner it’s done, Jones, the sooner we can get back.”

Jones, lips thinning against the words forming at the back of his throat, shook his head and walked away. Barnaby held his breath when Jones reached the small shed, his sergeant pausing as he looked back over his shoulder at his boss before turning back to the shed door. It was a bastard to open, broken hinges making it more difficult but his sergeant somehow managed to make an opening wide enough to squeeze through, disappearing from Barnaby’s sight.

Barnaby felt the fear biting at his insides, his anxiety hungry. Suddenly concerned for his sergeant’s safety, Barnaby stepped forward ready to call Jones back. Something stopped him, a feeling of stupidity, embarrassment. Jones, quite capable of taking care of himself, would be able to handle an elderly man who had out-stayed his welcome. He was being too cautious, no evidence to prove they were in any danger.

“Inspector Barnaby.”

Surprised, Barnaby turned, smile forced. Mrs. Rellik stood before him, tray in hand, tea at the ready. A frown on her face, she searched for what Barnaby knew to be his sergeant. Nodding toward the shed, Barnaby said, “He’s looking for your tenant.”

“Is Sergeant Jones sure he doesn’t want any tea? I’ve made enough for all of us.”

“He’s more of a coffee drinker.”

“Is he not British,” said Mrs. Rellik.

“Welsh, but I don’t hold that against him.”

She frowned in confusion.

“Born there, raised here.”

“I could make coffee. I have instant.”

“Perhaps we can ask him when he comes back,” said Barnaby.

She smiled and walked to the table, placing the tray upon unstable legs. Barnaby followed, sitting down on the chair she offered him. He could hear Jones stumbling about in the shed, an indication that things were going well, no bogeymen jumping out from well-hidden positions. Barnaby couldn’t help but smile at what he thought was a muttered curse, Jones always amusing, even on a bad day.

Mrs. Rellik poured the tea, hand hovering over the sugar bowl. Barnaby shook his head but nodded when she reached for the milk. She sat down next to him, passing him a decorated cup, tea weakened from too much milk. Realising he no longer wanted the tea, stomach churning with feelings of doom, Barnaby reluctantly picked up the cup, taking a tentative sip. The liquid barely hot, her offer of tea accepted, it would be rude not to drink it. Barnaby forced it down, placing the cup back on the table.

Mrs. Rellik smiled, stood up, and walked toward the shed, a heavy object in her right hand. Barnaby couldn’t make it out, his vision blurring, his weight shifting. This wasn’t right. His head felt heavy, overloaded. Realisation dawned too late. The threat of danger had never been in the shed. It had been outside.

Barnaby stood up, chair tumbling over. He fell with it, legs no longer able to hold him up, body slamming against the ground, a thick layer of grass softening his fall. He called out, a weak effort to warn Jones, his voice coarse, cracking. Limbs lethargic, too heavy, Barnaby struggled to move.

Mrs. Rellik stood beside the door, back against the shed wall, her body still, patient, a hungry expression on her face. She called out to Jones, her tone of voice not betraying her intent. Jones appeared in the small open space that led to the outside. Eyes wide with surprise, mind focused on the sight in front of him, Jones didn’t see the danger that was Mrs. Rellik.

She raised her arm, the small crowbar now visible to Barnaby. She struck out, the crowbar confident in its approach, the collision with the side of his sergeant’s skull an ugly sound. Jones fell forward, unconscious before he hit the ground.

Heart clenching with fear, nausea snapping at his stomach, Barnaby had never felt so helpless. He had no idea of Rellik’s intentions, the earlier incident not an indication of her plan, only a warning Barnaby had ignored. Something he may not live to regret.

Mrs. Rellik turned Jones onto his back, lifting his legs, fingers wrapping around his ankles. She dragged Jones back into the shed, pulling harder when his upper body caught in the small opening. Barnaby could only watch, his sergeant taken from him.

Barnaby closed his eyes, unable to keep them open any longer, a heavy weight taking him into oblivion.



Chapter Two
When I Looked You Up And Down It Was Meant To Be



Awareness came slowly to Barnaby, painfully slow; skull feeling as though it were broken, brain stumbling through the dark as he struggled to find his way. Thinking was difficult, recollection even more so. He became aware of the biting cold, a chill that made his skin itch and his bones ache. His mouth felt dry, tongue thick. He swallowed, spit lacking, the effort painful. He shifted his body, muscles cramped, legs stiff, the ground beneath him hard and uncomfortable. Confusion set in.

In an attempt to clear the cobwebs occupying his skull, Barnaby took a deep breath. The air was putrid, something awful sticking in his throat, his stomach whining, the bile rising. He hesitated before taking a shorter breath, the odour still there, not as strong. The anxiety began to grow, Barnaby unaware of his surroundings, of what . . .

His memory returned; a flood of images and emotions that made his chest ache and his fear grow. And with remembrance came . . .

Jones.

Barnaby opened his eyes, the lids heavy with drug-induced fatigue. Moonlight filtered through a large window, the darkness broken into smaller pieces. His eyes adjusting, Barnaby was able to distinguish between right and wrong. Still confused, he assumed he was in the garden shed. It looked larger than it had from the outside; a Time Lord’s tardis. Four walls, naked of any tools, surrounded him, one wall interrupted by the window. The door was difficult to see, hidden somewhere in the shadows. In the middle of the shed stood a long, low-standing table. Everything right, normal . . . an easy thing to assume it was a safe environment.

Everything wrong . . . Jones, face down on top of the table, his ankles and wrists strapped to the corners, a thicker, wider strap across his back keeping him in place, movement minimal. Jones wore only his trousers and shirt, feet bare, mouth covered with duck tape, his eyes hidden behind a white cloth tied at the back of his head. Barnaby could think of only one reason for the duck tape; she didn’t want any noise, any and all screams muffled by the gag.

Below the table, a concrete floor covered with a large collection of stains. Some fresh, others darkened by age. The stains were a familiar sight to Barnaby but he refused to acknowledge the familiarity because any acknowledgement would require an understanding of what had occurred in the past. He tore his gaze away from what may become Jones’s future, eyes closing briefly to shut out the nightmare image.

Whatever her intent, Barnaby was unwilling to allow Mrs. Rellik any measure of success. Deficient in hesitation, Barnaby realised he would fight to the death to protect Jones. He had to act now, before she returned, before she could inflict injury or death. Afraid too much noise would draw Mrs. Rellik’s attention, Barnaby spoke in a low voice, the sound rough, painful, “Jones.”

There was no response, nothing to indicate Jones had heard his name spoken.

Barnaby stood up, legs and back screaming in protest, his previous position so cramped. He stepped forward, his progress halted by a short chain latching his left wrist to a bolt screwed into a solid beam in the wall behind him. Barnaby turned and surveyed his prison. It looked solid, difficult to escape. No harm in trying. Barnaby held the chain in both hands and pulled, the attempt repeated. There was no give, no way to get free, the metal bracelet around his wrist too tight. Needing time to think, Barnaby turned back, facing the table.

His gaze travelled his sergeant’s body; Jones so still, Barnaby could feel a dreadful ache filling his chest. Just when the grief was ready to explode, Barnaby saw movement, his sergeant’s left hand clutching at something that wasn’t there. The ache in his chest turning sharp, Barnaby swallowed his fear, a hard lump that refused to go down easy; escape essential, time short. If they were still here when Mrs. Rellik returned . . .

His voice strong, the tone urgent, “Jones!”

Still no response.

“Jones!”

A response given, different from the one Barnaby had hoped for, had wanted. A noise to his right, a subtle shift, something scraping across the floor, slow and methodical. It could only be Rellik. He didn’t want to look but curiosity, a morbid and terrible thing, turned his head, gaze focused on the direction of the sound, his breath held in a painful grip.

She drifted out of the shadows, an unhurried revealment, wearing a butcher’s apron painted with a mosaic of stains similar to the ones beneath his sergeant. She held a small tin cup in her left hand and a small knife in her right as she moved toward Barnaby . . . toward Jones.

Her age no longer mattered; it was time to fight back.

Barnaby stood straight, anxiety threatening to coat his spine. He waited for her to get closer, his impatience showing. She wasn’t stupid, Barnaby realising his mistake. She stopped just out of his reach, her gaze hungry, a twitch at the corner of her mouth.

He pulled on the chain, his prison stubborn in its refusal to let him go, the bracelet biting into his skin, Barnaby ignorant of the pain. But it didn’t matter, as hard as he tried, Barnaby couldn’t shorten the gap between them, something Rellik seemed to find amusing.

She smiled, the expression ugly, evil, her gaze a warning, “Don’t be . . . bothersome.”

Oh, he was going to be bothersome, willing to do anything to distract her from his sergeant.

“Are we your new tenants?”

“Not you, Inspector Barnaby,” said Rellik, her head turning, her gaze browsing as she took a step closer to Jones. “Him.”

“Then why am I still here,” said Barnaby. “Why am I still alive?”

“You’re here to indulge my hunger, not to satisfy it.”

“A sexual hunger?”

“No. There’s nothing sexual about any of this. This is more about food.”

Now sure of what she meant, her intent vividly clear to Barnaby . . . His heart sank, an anchored weight dropping heavy into his gut. No. He couldn’t voice his thoughts, his silence causing Rellik to turn back, facing him once more.

“You understand,” she said.

“You can’t . . .”

“Eat you? I can. I have done so in the past,” said Rellik, her smile wide.

“How many?”

“Too many. I’ve run out of local produce. I had to resort to ordering in. But I didn’t expect two of you.”

“Your report of an unwanted tenant.”

“Oh, he was wanted and very much enjoyed,” said Rellik.

“They’ll come looking for us.”

“They won’t find you. Or your car. In fact, they won’t find me.”

“You’re very confident.”

“I’ve been doing this for a very long time, Inspector,” said Rellik. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“Don’t do it. Please. Don’t.”

“I only need a small morsel. Too early for dinner. Would you care to watch? See what’s in your future?”

“I would care that you didn’t do it,” said Barnaby.

“What you care for doesn’t matter here.”

“I care about what brought you to this point.”

“You don’t want to know. Besides, you only care for only one thing,” she said as she nodded toward Jones.

“I can’t let you do it.”

Rellik smiled, chuckled, “You can’t stop me.”

“A horror movie cliché,” said Barnaby.

She leant forward, a little closer to Barnaby but still out of reach, and said, “I am a horror movie cliché.”

His fear grew, his understanding as to why absent. The air now tainted with something rotten, something so bad . . . His knees weak, Barnaby struggled to stay upright, his subconscious wanting to curl into a tight ball, hide itself away from the world.

Mrs. Rellik turned away from him, stepping closer to the table, resting her right hip against its edge, placing the cup and knife on the table with attentive care. Her fingers ghosted over Jones’s back, her knuckles riding the curve of his spine as she moved her hand upward.

Barnaby could only watch as Jones began to struggle, his sergeant testing the straps that bound him. The restraints gave him no room to move, his body available to Rellik without any physical protest. She placed her hand against the back of Jones’s head, holding him in place when he fought to turn his head away from her. Jones released a soft groan, the sound audible to Barnaby as it transformed into a gutted whimper. His sergeant’s reaction spoke volumes to Barnaby, Jones fully aware of Rellik’s intentions.

She titled her head, gaze resting on Barnaby, “He’s afraid and so he should be. He knows what I am.”

“You’re a cannibal.”

“Oh, I’m much more than that. So much more.”

“Then tell me,” said Barnaby. “Tell me what it is that makes you so different.”

“You’ll find out . . . when it’s your turn.”

“Please don’t do this,” said Barnaby, left arm tugging at the obstruction keeping him hobbled, unable to do something, anything to keep his sergeant from harm.

Mrs. Rellik ignored Barnaby, no longer interested in him, her attention returning to his sergeant. Her hand moved, fingertips travelling, touching, caressing. Jones no longer struggled, becoming docile; Barnaby reminded of the effect of her touch. She fumbled with the button on Jones’s shirtsleeve, a smile of satisfaction when the cuff opened. She pulled the material away from skin paler than it should be.

The knife glinted in the moonlight, the movement quick, edge of the blade cutting through flesh. A stubborn grunt of pain from Jones, his fingers twitching with surprise.

Voice cracking with emotion and fear, Barnaby yelled, “No!”

“Don’t be . . . bothersome, Inspector Barnaby,” said Rellik. “I told you. A small morsel. Nothing to be worried about. Not yet.”

She put the knife down and picked up the tin cup, placing it under the small incision, the blood flowing at a slow pace, Rellik applying pressure to encourage the flow. In a matter of minutes, the cup was full, overflowing, blood dripping onto the floor; the sight of fresh mingling with old turned Barnaby’s stomach, a painful knot of anxiety in his chest.

Mrs. Rellik took a small sip, moaning in agreement, “The moment I touched him, I knew he would be exquisite. A taste of something rough and yet . . .”

Fear kept Barnaby in his place, his voice unreliable, his stomach ready to revolt.

“I’ll be back for dinner,” said Rellik, taking another sip, lips now the colour of a life threatened. “While I’m gone, don’t be . . . bothersome.”

She left the knife, apparently unconcerned by any threat Barnaby could offer. Her feet shambling, her hunger sated for the moment, Rellik walked back into the shadows. A soft scraping noise, the door that led to freedom.

Confident Rellik was no longer with them, Barnaby turned his gaze back to his sergeant. Blood dripped from the small incision, a leaking tap . . . drip . . . drip . . . drip. A minor wound compared to what was to come. They needed to escape this unsanitary kitchen, return to a world of normality before Rellik returned.



Chapter Three
I Wasn’t Even Your First But Just Someone To Waken Your Thirst



His fingers slipped, not for the first time, knuckles bruising, skin breaking, the blood beginning to flow. Barnaby hesitated, taking a deep breath, anxiety refusing to acknowledge his effort to calm down, body trembling, hands still shaking. The fear gorged away at his insides, the threat of Mrs. Rellik’s return an inviting appetiser; it left him feeling empty, giving room to the rising panic. Doubt nagged at him, a small, brittle voice telling him his attempt at escape would only result in failure.

He couldn’t fail. If he did . . . Barnaby refused to glance back toward the table and his sergeant; Jones had been frighteningly still the last time he looked.

The bolt difficult to grip, blood making it more so, he tried once again to turn the overgrown screw. The beam was unwilling to let go, holding the bolt in a tight embrace. Ignorant of the pain, the growing fear, the small voice telling him he was running out of time, Barnaby kept trying, pushing his hands to the limit, fearful the bones would break.

He felt a subtle shift, the beam finally letting go, the bolt turning slightly. Hope growing, Barnaby quickened his pace, escape imminent, or so he thought. Fingers stumbling, his grip lost, Barnaby swore. Unable to remain calm, he paused; breathe, in . . . out, long and deep. His heart, beating a fast and painful rhythm, began to slow. His fear relented, taking a step back, hands shaking a little less. He took a more confident grip on the bolt . . .

The door scraped open, no warning given, Mrs. Rellik’s entry hurried.

Barnaby turned, bum hitting the floor with a soft thump. His heart was in his throat, a cold lump of anxiety filling his chest; choked from within. He couldn’t stop now, not when he was so close; fingers continuing to work the bolt lose, the sound slight, almost impossible to hear.

Mrs. Rellik stepped out of the shadows, left hand empty, right hand holding a crowbar. Head tilted in suspicion, she watched Barnaby, gaze wandering over his body, as though she were looking for something. She stepped forward, stopping beside the table.

Jones shifted, his body reacting to Rellik’s presence, breath becoming harsh; hands clenched, the knuckles white. She placed the palm of her hand against Jones’s back, fingers gripping his shirt, pulling it upward. Her hand hovered, a smile gracing her features. Rellik lowered her hand, skin on skin, Jones relaxing, his body becoming still.

Satisfied, she lifted the crowbar . . .

Fear biting into his chest, Barnaby reacted, a desperate shout of no. Giving himself away, his right hand reached forward, bloody fingers revealed to Rellik, the limb quickly hidden when she noticed.

She frowned, eyebrows joining with confusion. Realisation dawned. She tutted, the sound superior, irritating. Rellik smiled, her enjoyment showing.

“You’ve been . . . bothersome, Inspector Barnaby.”

“I tried to be . . . bothersome,” said Barnaby, mimicking Rellik’s stutter. “But I’m still here.”

She nodded in understanding, assumption incorrect, and said, “Fair warning, Inspector. If you continue to be . . . bothersome, the crowbar will be used on you.”

He wasn’t going to just sit and do nothing, not while she. . . The fingers of his left hand continued to stumble over the bolt, the screw still turning, the tip now pressing against his back. Barnaby shuffled forward, giving himself more room. If he could remove the bolt before Rellik . . .

She dropped the crowbar onto the table, Jones’s body jerking in surprise, a grunt of complaint escaping.

“He’s fighting back,” said Rellik.

She gathered the tail of Jones’s shirt in her small hands, pushing the material upward, settling it across his shoulder blades, tucking it beneath the wide leather strap holding his upper body down. She picked up the knife, the blood on the blade now dry, congealed.

Inner voice screaming, Barnaby knew what she was about to do, “Please, don’t do this.”

“I have to,” said Mrs. Rellik.

“Why?”

“Because I’m hungry.”

A simple explanation, one that Barnaby couldn’t fathom. Her desire for human flesh. . .

She cut into Jones’s back, knife slicing through skin, her movements confident, her skill apparent; a small, square shape made. Jones tensed, limbs taut as he pulled against his restraints, nostrils flaring as he struggled to breathe through the pain.

Barnaby began his own struggle, bloody fingers turning the bolt; he was so close.

Separating the skin from flesh, Rellik tossed the small piece of skin into her open mouth, chewing, sucking, teeth grinding. An expression of content on her face, she swallowed, sigh escaping. Rellik bent over, her face so close to raw flesh. She sniffed, a sounded snort, like a pig.

Barnaby watched, unable to pull his gaze away, his heart sinking, stomach rotting.

She licked at the wound, blood running down her chin. His sergeant squirmed, a futile attempt to get away from the touch.

His voice a whisper, Barnaby repeated, “Please . . . don’t”

Another cut, just below his sergeant’s rib cage; horizontal, deep and long, flesh separating, chasm appearing; a surgical incision over the right kidney. A guttural scream escaped Jones, the sound muffled behind the gag.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Rellik. “He makes the sweetest sound.”

Jones pulled at his bonds, a desperate attempt to gain his freedom, his movement minimal. Mrs. Rellik pressed her hand against his back, waiting until Jones became still, cooperative, body now passive. Blood flowed, rivulets running down his sergeant’s side, small puddles forming on the table, dripping onto the floor.

Barnaby panicked, fearful for his sergeant’s life. He turned, no longer caring if Rellik became aware of his intent. Using both hands, Barnaby pulled, putting everything he had into getting free. The bolt came lose, more easily than Barnaby had expected. He fell back, freedom now available . . . but first . . . Barnaby stood, turning as he did so, swinging the chain, bolt slamming against the side of Rellik’s face, cutting deep into her flesh, cheekbone revealed. No blood flowed from the wound. Barnaby didn’t notice that something was wrong, so . . . unnatural, his mind focused on other things.

Mrs. Rellik turned, reaction to her injury truant, “Don’t be . . . bothersome.”

He reached forward, past Mrs. Rellik, blood stained hand gripping the crowbar. Her fingers wrapped around his wrist, tight and painful. She pushed Barnaby away, an unwanted toy. He stumbled back, crowbar still in his hand, luck on his side. Barnaby hesitated, unsure if he could cause this old woman any more harm.

Returning to her task, fingers probing the incision, Rellik smiled; her teeth red.

All hesitation gone, Barnaby swung the crowbar hard enough to kill, striking Rellik across the back of the head. She went down, fast and hard. She lay on the floor, left leg twitching. Not yet dead. Unconscious, skull possibly fractured, brain damaged beyond repair . . . hopefully.

He stepped closer, inner voice telling him not to get too close. Nerves wrecked, Barnaby agreed, keeping his distance. Then it dawned on him, shoulders sagging with the heavy weight of acknowledgement; he needed the knife. He held his breath, anxiety making it difficult to breathe. Barnaby went down on bended knee, right hand reaching forward, fingers stretching. He expected a sudden movement, something that would cause his heart to skip a beat or two.

Nothing happened. Rellik no longer . . . moving.

Barnaby took the knife from her slack fingers and moved back. Desperation urging him on, he stepped around Rellik’s body and made his way to the other side of the table; enough distance to give him an early warning if she did move, coming back to life like a Jason Voorhees wanna-a-be.

He couldn’t look at the wound on his sergeant’s back, stomach already too fragile, not enough time to pause and dwell on what had just happened. The need to escape still desperate, Barnaby’s inner voice telling him their ordeal wasn’t over, he cut through the leather restraints, freeing lax limbs. Hands gripping his sergeant’s shoulders, Barnaby turned Jones onto his back, close to the edge, easier to get him off the table when needed.

Aware of his freedom, Jones began to move, limbs confused and lethargic as he struggled to push Barnaby away. Bolt and chain a hindrance, Barnaby took his sergeant’s hands, holding them down; wrong thing to do. Jones panicked, his strength returning, his struggles increasing, the pain no longer hidden behind Rellik’s touch.

Barnaby tore the duck tape away from his sergeant’s mouth, removed the cloth that had kept Jones blind. Placing his hands on either side of his sergeant’s face, holding Jones’s head still, Barnaby tried to gain his sergeant’s attention.

“Jones!”

His sergeant opened his eyes, gaze stumbling, focusing on Barnaby, the process slow. Barnaby waited, not wanting to move Jones until recognition clicked into place. Jones conceded to the pain first, letting out a low growl through gritted teeth, body fighting to roll over, his current position too painful. Barnaby assisted the movement, pulling Jones over and onto his left side, edge of the table now too close.

Barnaby knelt down, gaze level with Jones, “Ben?”

Body language subtle, Jones nodded; movement showing a stubborn determination that left Barnaby feeling proud. Jones reached forward, fingers landing awkwardly on Barnaby’s forearm. Barnaby took the offered limb, pulling his sergeant upward into a sitting position. The move left Jones a whimpering mess, pain too much, his body sagging forward, forehead resting on Barnaby’s shoulder.

Heart sinking, Barnaby embraced his sergeant, “You’re okay, Ben. I’ve got you now.”

Tremors of anxiety tore through Jones, increasing his pain, his spirit becoming weak. Barnaby knew what he had to do, self-hatred manifesting with the knowledge. He couldn’t comfort Jones, not now, not when. . . He didn’t know why, only that it was certain; Rellik was going to get back up.

“Are you ready to move?”

Jones sat up, face creased with pain, “No . . . dallying about . . . sir.”

Using his left hand, Jones pushed himself forward, Barnaby catching him when he stumbled, knees buckling. Careful of the injury, Barnaby wrapped his right arm around his sergeant’s waist, keeping him upright, walking him forward.

“Tell me if you need to stop,” said Barnaby.

“No.”

Encouraged, Barnaby kept moving, the shadows in the corner of the room beckoning them, showing them the way, drawing them closer to freedom. Barnaby searched the wall for the way out, finding it, pulling the door open. He worried that it was too easy, something about to go wrong. Nerves resting on a sharp edge, he stepped forward through the doorway, Jones hanging on . . . barely.

In front of them was the interior of the small garden shed, a false front, the main building hidden behind the small shed, the trees surrounding the outside a thick veil. Filled with clutter, boxes stacked on top of each other, the path to the outside a confusing maze, it would be difficult to traverse side by side.

“You go first,” said Barnaby, pushing Jones forward. “I’ll be right behind you.”

Jones, his balance uncertain, began to move, taking a tentative step. Barnaby kept his hands on the back of his sergeant’s hips, guiding him forward, keeping him balanced, ready to catch him if Jones fell. Moonlight filtered through a small window, giving Barnaby access, sight of Jones’s blood soaked shirt leaving him nauseated. He pulled his gaze away, his priority to get Jones as far away from Rellik as possible.

Barnaby could feel the fear crawling over his back, tightening his shoulders, his muscles, body waiting for something to strike him from behind. In front of him, Jones shuffled forward, his sergeant’s pain obvious through a forming limp. Jones was struggling, his body trembling beneath Barnaby’s touch.

They reached the broken door unhindered, clutter cooperative, everything still in place. So much closer to freedom.

Strength fading, Jones struggled to open the broken door. Barnaby reached around his sergeant and pushed the door open; a gap revealed. They would have to squeeze through, not enough room for Jones to make a comfortable exit. When his sergeant hesitated, Barnaby pushed him forward; Jones’s back striking the edge of the doorframe. Barnaby moved quickly, catching Jones when his sergeant’s knees buckled beneath the onslaught of pain. Refusing to let go, they stumbled out into the open, Barnaby struggling to keep Jones upright.

Outside, the air was fresh, cold. Jones began to shiver, goose bumps forming on cool, clammy flesh; shock was setting in. Barnaby knew time was short, Jones not able to last much longer.

Unable to see a way around the cottage, thick foliage a disability, Barnaby had no choice.

Escape route planned; they had to go through Mrs. Rellik’s cottage.



Chapter Four
You Left Me With A Broken Heart And A Shoe



Barnaby, heart ready to malfunction, insides eaten away by anxiety, opened the back door to Rellik’s cottage. A light shone through an open doorway illuminating the front door; exit to a safer environment, escape effortless, Rellik behind them, lack of danger in front of them. Barnaby hesitated, a feeling of dread consuming him, its strength suffocating. Legs unwilling to move, body frozen with fear, Barnaby waited, his heart pounding, the blood rushing through his veins. Nothing happened, the cottage calm, its contents . . . sated. Barnaby, sure the home was being deceitful, refused to enter, his inner voice telling . . .

“Sir . . .”

Body shifting with surprise, Barnaby turned his head. Jones, face pale, hair damp with sweat, was fighting equilibrium and failing with abject misery, his body becoming uncooperative, ready to collapse into a broken heap. His concern for his sergeant overwhelming, Barnaby had no choice, no alternative, the cottage the only available escape route.

Barnaby reached for his sergeant, taking his upper arm in a firm grip, Jones shivering violently beneath the touch. Cursing his stupidity, Barnaby removed his jacket, bolt and chain catching on the edge of the sleeve, tearing the material. He helped Jones into the jacket, the fit awkward, too big for Jones’s thinner frame but it would do to keep the chill away. He pulled Jones into a close, secure, protective embrace that kept his sergeant balanced and on his feet; Barnaby realising he was doing most of the work.

Together they stepped into the cottage, hallway stretching out before them. There would be no time to stop, use the facilities to take care of Jones; need for escape pressing down upon Barnaby, the emotional weight a heavy burden, knees threatening to buckle beneath him. Barnaby struggled to take the next step, feelings of doom returning, keeping him stationary. When Jones took a stumbling step forward, Barnaby had no choice but to follow. Third step so much easier, they began to make their way toward freedom, front door getting closer with every step.

They reached the entrance to the kitchen, Barnaby refusing to look, imagination enough to satisfy a morbid curiosity: pots overflowing with internal organs, refrigerator filled with labelled containers, leftovers scattered across a kitchen table . . . he’d seen his fair share of horror movies. He couldn’t ignore the smell; an odour of decay, meat left to rot. Why hadn’t he noticed when they had first walked through the cottage? Barnaby held his breath, his stomach turning, the bile rising in his throat. He hastened his step, eager to separate himself from the lingering odour before it sank into his clothing, his skin; smell difficult to remove once it takes hold.

Barnaby began to move with more confidence, stride becoming too quick, escape almost certain, the door to freedom so much closer. Beside him, his sergeant tripped, falling over a barrier of fatigue, scream cut short when Jones hit the floor. Gravity took over, his sergeant’s weight pulling Barnaby down, turning his body as he fell, not wanting to injure Jones any further. Confidence retreating, Barnaby pushed up onto hands and knees, his gaze resting on his sergeant’s back.

Jones was struggling to draw a breath, the pain obvious, his body shaking with the strength of it. They’d been so close. Self-preservation an ugly thing, Barnaby took a hold of his sergeant and pulled Jones up onto his feet, an effort to keep him upright. Ignoring the whimper of pain, Barnaby pushed Jones forward, giving his sergeant no time to recover. If they stopped now . . .

A shadow drifted across the wall of the hallway, a hunched figure moving slowly, its source hidden from Barnaby.

They weren’t alone.

Rellik?

Common sense told him no. He’d left Rellik behind, skull fractured, brain swelling. She should be dead by now or close enough to it. But he had known she would get back up, the knowledge driving him forward, escape desperate. It was Rellik, he was sure of it.

She stepped out into the hall, face distorted by an ugly smile, teeth black with age.

Assumption proven correct, Barnaby froze, his lungs no longer working, unable to take another breath. Knees weak, their fate becoming obvious; they weren’t going to survive the night. He pushed the thought to the side, focus returning to his sergeant. Barnaby pulled Jones back, his sergeant tripping for a second time. Feet tangled in a painful knot, Jones fell, back hitting the floor. In his peripheral, Barnaby watched as Jones rolled onto his side, body lethargic, the pain too much.

Barnaby stepped in front of Jones, keeping his sergeant behind him. His body now a protective barrier, Barnaby was ready to do whatever it took to keep Jones alive, his own demise a strong possibility; his sergeant’s survival was the only thing that mattered.

“You’re being . . . bothersome, Inspector,” said Rellik.

“I won’t let you have him,” said Barnaby.

She shook her head, “We’ve been through this. There is nothing you can do to stop me.”

“Maybe not, but I can disable you long enough to allow us to escape.”

“Then go ahead, Inspector,” said Rellik. “Disable me.”

Knowing it was an attempt to draw him away from his sergeant, Barnaby stood his ground, shoulders straight, knees trembling, fear eating away at his spine.

“I thought so,” said Rellik as she retraced her steps, her body language slow, confident, her shadow echoing every single movement until it too disappeared back into the room.

Confused, Barnaby stepped forward. Fingers grabbed at his trouser leg, pulling him back, Jones keeping him close, keeping him safe. Barnaby understood; Rellik’s second attempt to draw him away also a failure. Barnaby knelt down, close to Jones, resting a hand on his sergeant’s shoulder.

“Can you keep going?”

Jones nodded, too stubborn to stay down, pushing up, legs collapsing beneath him, a sharp grunt of pain hissing out through gritted teeth. Barnaby took a trembling limb in hand and pulled Jones up, leaning him against the wall, a moment for him to catch his breath. Barnaby realised his mistake, his sergeant’s face creasing with pain, his knees bending, body slipping downward. Barnaby held him place, keeping him upright . . .

A blunt sound to his left, so quick Barnaby almost missed it. He felt Jones tense beneath his touch, his sergeant’s heart pounding against his ribcage.

Barnaby turned, fear causing him to pause, the slight hesitation changing everything.

Rellik attacked.

The pain sudden, his response slow, Barnaby taking a moment too long to realise what had happened. She held the knife to her lips, tongue flicking out, the tip catching the blood dripping from the blade. Barnaby looked down. Blood stained his shirt, the pattern growing, spreading.

He had to respond, retaliate before she could cause him any more harm. Barnaby struck out, fist hitting Rellik’s nose, cartilage breaking, the sound painful. Rellik smiled, her reaction telling Barnaby she had felt no pain.

She pulled Barnaby away from his sergeant, lack of support allowing Jones to slump quietly to the floor. Rellik lifted Barnaby off his feet, throwing him away, her strength unnatural. No time for surprise, Barnaby landed hard, the air forced from his lungs, pain ripping through his back, his side. His only thought . . . Jones. Barnaby, his diaphragm struggling, stood up and moved back toward his sergeant, toward Rellik.

He was too late, Rellik already dragging an unresponsive Jones into the kitchen, the door slamming shut behind them.

No.

No. No. No.

Without thinking, all hesitation gone, thoughts of his own safety wanting, his injury forgotten, Barnaby ran to the kitchen door. He turned the handle. Locked. Of course it was. Stupid to think otherwise.

Shoulder to the door, Barnaby tried to force it open. There was no give, the door and frame well built, sturdy. He stepped back, weight over his left leg and brought his right leg forward, kicking the door. A second attempt, the door shifting, the wood frame cracking.

Behind the door, a scream, guttural, painful . . . Jones. The sound tore through Barnaby’s insides, leaving a gaping wound in his chest. Guilt would stitch the wound, healing it, leaving behind the reminder that he should have done a better job protecting his sergeant; Jones now scarred beyond repair.

Putting everything he had into it, Barnaby kicked the door again, the pain in his back and side becoming sharp. The door slammed open, bouncing back when it hit the kitchen wall.

The kitchen was not what Barnaby had expected, the room a contradiction to the rest of the cottage, his imagination. It was beyond clean; almost immaculate. Out of place was the kitchen table, its original colour hidden beneath a dark stain, old blood coating the wood. His sergeant spread out on top of the kitchen table, shirt torn open to reveal ghostly, pale skin, stopped Barnaby in the doorway.

He hesitated, searching the room, unable to locate Rellik. Barnaby frowned, confusion so strong his head began to ache. Where was she? He stepped into the room, senses alert, body ready to defend and protect. Barnaby reached the table without interruption, placing the palm of his right hand on the center of his sergeant’s chest; Jones’s heartbeat weak, erratic. Still alive but not for long, Barnaby was sure.

Rellik stepped out from the shadows, feet shuffling along the kitchen floor, rubber soles screaming a warning as she moved across the tiles.

Barnaby’s own heartbeat became unpredictable, heart attack approaching, or so he thought, chest pain so strong. Anxiety weakened him, hands clutching the edge of the table as he turned around, placing himself between his sergeant and Rellik. Barnaby realised his was facing what could very well be his own death, body left to rot while Rellik gorged herself on his sergeant; it wasn’t going to happen.

Knife held high, broken nose adjusting her smile, the expression ugly, Rellik rushed toward him, the movement so quick, Barnaby lost sight of the knife.

Barnaby shut down his thought process, his mind a distraction, relying on his natural instinct. He stepped forward, turning his body to the side, hands reaching out, gripping Rellik’s wrist as she passed him, turning her away from the table, from Jones.

Surprised, Rellik hesitated; it was her undoing, Barnaby gaining the upper hand. He twisted her arm, plunging the knife deep into her chest. He pushed her away, allowing her to fall to the floor. Barnaby waited, expecting her to get back up . . . if a serious head injury didn’t keep her down . . .

Seconds passed, then minutes.

Unable to wait any longer, his sergeant’s life at risk, Barnaby turned back to the table. Jones was still unconscious; difficult to move, the wound on his sergeant’s back not allowing Barnaby to carry Jones over his shoulder.

Rellik began to move, her movements slow, awkward, her legs shifting as she sat up.

Barnaby groaned; frustration and fear clear in his tone. Now acutely aware of her Jason Voorhees tendencies, Barnaby knew he had to move quickly, create an injury that would keep her down, disable her long enough for them to escape. Unwilling to get too close too soon, Barnaby kicked her back down, toe of his shoe leaving a mark on the side of her face.

He hesitated, a part of him still finding it difficult to cause injury to another person.

She opened her eyes, gaze resting on Barnaby, “You are becoming too . . . bothersome, Inspector Barnaby.”

He could wait no longer. He had to act now, before she regained her strength.

Barnaby knelt down, knee pressing against her chest, keeping her place. Taking a firm grip on the hilt of the knife, he pulled it from her chest. He leant forward, tip of the knife hovering over her right eye. Still he hesitated, unsure if it would be enough. She moved beneath him. No time left, Barnaby shifted the knife’s position, changing the angle so the blade would enter her frontal lobe. Pushing down and then upward, the blade pierced Rellik’s brain, an amateur lobotomy.

He could only hope that a second injury to her brain would give them enough time.

Barnaby stood up and stepped away from Rellik, her body still, her eyes open. Satisfied he turned back to the table, Jones so still, his chest barely moving. Barnaby placed his hand against his sergeant’s face, Jones’s skin cold, clammy.

“Ben?”

Jones shifted his head, the slight movement surprising Barnaby. It was enough. Barnaby pulled Jones up into a sitting position, his sergeant slumping forward, body no longer able to support his weight.

“I can’t carry you, Ben,” said Barnaby. “You have to help me.”

Not waiting for a response, Barnaby pulled Jones from the table, arm around his sergeant’s waist, keeping him up. It was harder this time, Jones semi-conscious, unable to help as Barnaby stepped toward the doorway.

Entering the hallway, Barnaby realised it wasn’t going to work, Jones’s weight too heavy, too difficult to move without help . . . taking too long. Rellik was going to get back up again; it was only a matter of time.

Time they didn’t have.

Given no choice, Barnaby turned to face his sergeant. Bending his knees, he allowed Jones’s weight to fall forward, over Barnaby’s right shoulder. He stood up, shifting Jones’s position, balancing the weight. A lack of response from Jones worried Barnaby, but there was no time to stop, to check if his sergeant was still breathing.

Side screaming in protest, Barnaby made his way to the front door, steps quick, stride short, his burden heavy. He paused when he reached the front door, worried that someone, something, stood on the other side, waiting, wanting. Fear gripped his heart, pain stabbing through his chest. Panic attack growing, Barnaby opened the door.

Relief so strong, Barnaby’s knees buckled, the weight of the emotion almost sending him to the ground. Beyond the empty path, their car. Another distance to traverse, the threat of Rellik lingering. Escape so close, almost certain, Barnaby began to move. Reaching the car he began to search his pockets for the car keys. Pockets empty, the anxiety returned, his hope fading. Remembrance slow, Barnaby realised the keys were in his jacket pocket.

Finding the keys quickly, Barnaby unlocked the door. Carefully, without more harm, he placed his sergeant into the passenger seat. Fingers hesitant, Barnaby searched for a pulse, difficult to find, Jones’s heartbeat so weak. Nothing he could do to help, Barnaby closed the door and rushed around to the other side of the car, getting into the driver’s seat, a quick glance toward his sergeant.

Jones had slumped down into the seat, body turning toward the car door, an attempt to take the pressure off his back. Barnaby smiled with relief, his sergeant’s spirit still strong. Heart pounding, Barnaby took a moment to study his own body, pulling his shirt up, revealing the injury to his side. The wound was deep, bleeding still but not fatal. He was grateful, survival a sure thing . . .

This was it.

If Rellik were going to come back, it would be now.

Not waiting to find out, Barnaby started the car, the engine roaring into life. He drove away, leaving the cottage and Rellik behind them. He looked into the rear-view mirror. Heart beat pausing, Barnaby slammed on the brake.

Rellik, lobotomy missing, stood at the end of the path, a smile on her face.

Barnaby closed his eyes, sure that it was his imagination and counted to ten. When he opened them, she was gone. He frowned, noticing that he could no longer see the path, the cottage. They were gone, as though they had never been there, as though it had never happened.

Memory already fading, Barnaby reached out, resting the palm of his left hand on the back of his sergeant’s head, Jones’s hair still damp, his skin still cold. His sergeant moved beneath the touch, Jones regaining consciousness, Rellik’s touch wearing off. Their injuries would scar, leaving a constant reminder . . .

Barnaby drove away, breath warm against his skin, a soft whisper in his ear, “. . . bothersome.”



The End.




Master Fan Fiction List

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