After having seen Julian’s body in the kitchen, it seemed Annette had lost her appetite. Like many other times before, she found herself wandering the halls. This time, like recently, Ox-Head was following her like any loyal companion.
“Kind of weird how the assistants don’t seem to like each other,” she said to him as they passed by one of the rooms. “I mean, Sunny and Moony seem to be together a lot, obviously. But other than them, the four of you aren’t exactly a team.”
It felt like an eternity before Ox-Head answered her. When he did, all he said was, “Huh? You say something?”
Annette grimaced. “Never mind. Just thinking out loud-”
She was interrupted by a loud hollering from somewhere very nearby. A few seconds later, the door to a close by room was flung against the wall.
The Builder’s rage looked to be all-consuming. They were growling when they turned to see Annette and Ox-Head.
Annette jumped out the way when The Builder slammed Ox-Head up against the wall. Like several times before, Ox-Head proceeded to scream bloody murder upon being touched.
“I have told you billions of times, you brain-dead cambion fucktard! Stay out places you ain’t allowed in!” She could’ve sworn she imagined it, but Annette saw Ox-Head’s hand pointing towards a corner.
Not initially sure what to do, he jabbed his finger in that direction, telling her to go that way. Given the situation he was in, she had no choice but to comply.
By the time Annette turned the corner, The Builder had already begun pulling their hunting knife out.
The next morning signaled the new year. Yet to Shark and the others, it was overshadowed by the preceding events from yesterday.
He couldn’t sleep at all over the horrific sight that had been Amy’s badly decayed face. Given what happened over the night, no one could sleep anyway given the town’s apparent celebration.
Dennis had already left, presumably to deal with things at the station. Therefore, he was left in the house with Sagebear and Sinbad.
Shark didn’t like how cold and sad the rooms felt. He didn’t want to turn the heater on and waste energy, though, either. Sinbad appeared to be affected by the cold as well, having curled up under the sheets like a caterpillar.
Making sure that Sinbad didn’t get woken up, Shark went to find Sagebear. He most definitely noticed the lack of dog-related warmth that morning.
“Sagebear? Where’d you go?” He was then greeted by a blast of cold air in the living room. He saw that this happened because of the front door being ajar. Grabbing his shoes and a coat, he went to check outside.
On one side of the house, Sagebear was furiously digging through a patch of uncovered ground. Before he could ask what she was going to bury, he saw it.
Gasping, Shark ran over and grabbed hold of what she’d managed to find. He looked over the manila envelope for any inadvertent damage.
“Oh Sagebear, no! This was supposed to be with your grandpa!” He looked at her with an incredulous look on his face. “How’d you get a hold of this?”
All Sagebear did was wag her tail. Figuring she was just being a dog, he pet her on the head and got to his feet.
“Wait here. I’ll get you one of your toys to bury, instead. After that, I should bring this to Dad at the station.”
This was yet another room that Annette wasn’t familiar with. It was also quite small and out of sight in comparison to the other grandiose and practical rooms.
Her first thought was that she’d been sent to a closet. A box in the corner and a TV with a DVD player was all she could find, and even those didn’t appear to be anything spectacular.
But then again, Annette was used to knowing that appearances often belied what could be held within. Grabbing hold of it and opening it, she saw a large multitude of CD cases.
“What are these, home movies or something?” She now wondered if Ox-Head had meant for her to find these. It was hard to tell with him.
Most of them were without labels, save for a number on each case. Some of them did have cryptic words written on them.
Taking hold of CD number 1, Annette turned on the TV and DVD player. The glare from the television was enough to hurt her eyes.
Behind her, a door opened. She was about to cry out in fear, until she realized it was only The Builder’s twin.
“Oh…Hey. I guess this is a hidden passageway entry point?” The twin nodded. Next to them, Horse-Face and his companion stood quietly. The doppelganger waved the companion over, indicating they were going to speak.
Seeing Horse-Face again just made Annette scowl. Knowing what he did made her want to puke, or actually stab him. Since she didn’t have anything to do it with now, she was left sitting there.
“Ox-Head knows more than he’s letting on,” the twin said through the young man. “How else you’d think he tell you about this place?”
Annette shrugged. “Luck? Or snooping around?” She held up the CD she was about to play. “What’s even on these, anyway?” There was a brief pause, for the other three to enter the room beside her. Then the twin resumed speaking via mouthpiece:
“I think it’s best you see for yourself.”
Dennis was still racking his brain over where his envelope went. Mercifully, Dudley didn’t seem too hung up over it having gone missing.
“I don’t get what in the hell’s going on, Dudley,” he muttered while pressing his forehead against the nearest desktop. “I’m starting to think this might be karma for all the horrible shit I did up until a few months ago. Or maybe it’s a warning.”
Dudley was just tenting his fingers in contemplation. “Now you don’t know that for sure, brother. It could all be a coincidence.”
Pulling his head back up to see him, Dennis grunted. “It’d be one hell of a coincidence, given who exactly’s been killed in the last two months! No, I’m telling you, this has to be a warning. Perhaps even revenge.”
Neither of them noticed the sound of the police station doors opening in the foyer.
“I suppose at this point, there’s no point in counting out any possibility of all that. Given what you were once entangled with, anything could be the catalyst.”
“That it is! And if word gets out about who or what could be behind all this, then…” He shook his head in frustration, unaware of the approaching footsteps. “How am I supposed to explain to my son that this happened, because Mister Rotter and I were former criminals?!”
As soon as he stopped talking, Dennis heard the sound of something dropping. Turning to look behind him, he saw Shark, looking mortified and scared.
Dennis’ eyes widened when he realized he had to have heard at least the last sentence.
“Boy…?” He reached out to him, but Shark only jumped back. Unable to stop him, Dennis and Dudley could only watch from the doorway as he fled the station.
Trying to rub the remaining sleep from his eyes, Sinbad was catapulted into the waking world properly when he heard the door slam.
“Huh…?” Taking hold of a shirt he figured was clean, Sinbad went out to investigate. “What’s happening-”
“How long were you going to keep this a secret from me?!” Shark’s voice sounded more irate than Sinbad had ever heard it. Blinking twice to open his eyes up more, Sinbad tried making sense of what he was asking.
Then his own questions came to mind. “What are you talking about, man? What secret?” Then he realized how stupid asking this was. He knew full well what Shark meant.
“You’re telling me that we’ve been together for two years, and you never saw fit to tell me you and my dad were criminals?”
Hearing those words just about stunned him. Still, Sinbad tried to explain himself. “I wanted to tell you! Your dad said I couldn’t! And how am I supposed to explain something like that anyway?”
On the couch, Sagebear drooped sadly at the sight of them shouting. The fighting didn’t apply to her, but she still felt guilty seeing it happening.
“Is it really that serious anyway, man?”
“Of course this is serious! You were a criminal when we started dating! Did you honestly think you could keep this a secret for the rest of our lives?
“I was going to marry you!” Shark went on. “You really think I want to marry an ex-con?”
There was just no stopping Shark from letting his newfound anger burst forth. Sinbad tried to do so, anyway.
“Dude, let me explain-”
“There’s nothing to explain! For the last two years, you’ve been lying to me! And apparently my dad’s been lying to me for my whole life!”
He did finally stop, his hands clenching into fists and shaking. Sinbad took a step back, afraid he’d be on the receiving end of a major punch.
“Pack your stuff,” Shark angrily whispered, “I want you out.”
Sinbad couldn’t believe what he just heard now. He tried looking around, as if to find the words in the air. “What do you mean? What, you want me out of the house?”
“I want you…” Shark took a deep breath, and finished in a hushed and barely contained fury:
“I want you out of my life.”
At that very moment, Sinbad felt his heart break into a million pieces. As if she realized what just happened, Sagebear let out a pained-sounding bark.
-later that night…-
The snow was falling heavily.
Sinbad looked back at the house while in his truck, his face stained with tears and running mascara. His clothes sat in a bag on the seat next to him.
Gripping the steering wheel, Sinbad turned to look back at the road. He wanted so badly to turn back time and prevent this. He knew that wasn’t going to be possible, though.
When his truck finally warmed up, he set it to four-wheel drive. After that, he pulled out off of the yard in front of the house.
Quite possibly for the very last time…