Chapter 23 Ci-Ci: Acceptance

 “How well do you know this place,” Rythe asks me.

“I’ve never actually been to Jonah’s home. Not this one anyone.”

“You two not very close?”

“Nope, we were just held together by Justin. After his death we exchanged text messages and phone calls every few months. Just because neither of us has any real family left. Never hung out for Christmas or Thanksgiving.”

“I got the feeling,” Rythe says exiting the car.

“Then why did you bother asking?”

“Just making conversation,” he steps onto the front porch. “Does everyone in your, line of work, have a home?”

“Only those of us with a lot of stuff to store.”

Jonah’s new place is a lot different than the old one. Last time I went to his home he had a one-story place with one bedroom. It was basically a standalone apartment. This one has two stories and likely a basement as well. It’s a big upgrade, he either came into some money or he’s been taking bigger jobs. Doesn’t matter, we’re only what’s inside, or what Rythe thinks is inside.

“The door is locked,” Rythe says shaking the knob.

“Not a problem.”

“Good, we’re thinking alike. I’ll head around back and see if I can get in that way. Make sure nobody is watching.”

Blood magic provides great healing qualities, after some years of experience. That’s great, because constantly cutting and pricking yourself to use it is a pain in the ass. I pull a safety pin from my pocket and open it up. I poke my finger to draw a little bit of blood. I watch as more and more droplets dance around on my finger slowly forming a key that wobbles and takes forms. I put my finger to the door and let the blood move the tumblers into place. I turn the handle and open the door, waiting for an alarm to sound and hear nothing.

I leave the door cracked behind me, because Rythe won’t find another way in. Jonah isn’t careless, he’s just cautious. I always thought he was afraid of everything, but I’m realizing he simply paid attention to everything, planning everything ahead and running plans. I underestimated him a lot. Never took the time to understand him, just saw him as Justin’s little brother. He had his own life, his own role to play in the world.

“How did you get in here,” Rythe closes the door behind him.

“Door was unlocked.”

“You got a key?”

“I told you we don’t like each other much.”

“Earlier you said you just didn’t talk often.”

“It’s all the same. Let’s be quick, find what you came here for,” I wave him off.

There’re pictures of Jonah around the home, I don’t know why I expected him to have fancy art instead of pictures. There’s even several pictures of Jonah with Justin and I. Back in the younger days when we were still taking jobs as a team. I pick up a frame and hold it, trying to remember where it was from. I remember it as a happy memory but can’t place it initially. Eventually I recall the memory, this is when Jonah decided to specialize in dark magic. A small town over in Ohio thought they were under attack by zombies. It turns out a necromancer was living near by and some of his experiments had gotten out. We were laughing because most of them were farm animals. Guess what, zombie chicken butt, became a running joke for a good six months.

I wonder what would have happened if Jonah and I had come together after Justin’s death. Instead we blamed each other. I said he should have been there instead of chasing fame on his own. He blamed me for not staying with Justin, taking it easy because it was a child vampire. Neither of us could admit that we were both right, and I think that’s why we stopped speaking for so long. There’s not really a way for us to fix it at this point. He tried to rip out my liver, and I impaled him. Maybe we got the anger out and can just talk now. I don’t know. I sit the photo back in place, and now I wonder just how long he had the photo displayed.

“I got it,” Rythe comes out carrying a small ornate box.

“What’s that?”

“Trophy case,” he smiles sitting it on the coffee table.

“I’m not following.”

“You should, but I’ll explain,” Rythe is a real smart ass. “Serial killers are like everyone else. They keep trophies as memories. For most of us, that comes in the form of pictures, scrap books and things of the sort. Maybe actual trophies displayed out in the open. Serial killers consider themselves to be hunters. Hunters take trophies too. Maybe a dear head hunted on the wall, a taxidermy bear or whatever. Serial killers take trophies too. Sometimes it might be flesh, hair, personal objects. You can never really tell until you find them,” Rythe is eager as he’s talking. “I can’t be for sure if this it, but I think it is. There’s no real logic to why these objects are together. That’s where you come in. If you recognize any of the objects as your husband’s that can be the key. Maybe something that was missing. Just, take a look.”

He opens the box and pours out the contents. Way more items than I expected. I sort through the objects one by one. A baseball card, a money clip with no money, there’s nothing exciting in here, nor anything that looks like a serial killer keepsake or with specs of blood. Then I spot it, something from Justin. I pick up his wedding band and roll it around in my hands. I picked out this band, had it engraved and enchanted by some dwarves. I couldn’t find it after he died. I thought it fell off and retraced my steps for at least three weeks.

It can’t be, Jonah wouldn’t do this. It isn’t in him. I let some of my blood wash over the ring, enough to activate the enchantments if it was Justin’s. The blood drops down into the etchings and circles the ring. Soon it glows a beautiful rose gold color. The inscription reads, ‘Blood for my Guardian Angel,’ a joke between us. He’d always end up covered in my blood. I said I’d always be willing to give up blood for him, because he was my guardian angel. He saved me.

Rythe hands me a tissue, for the tears I didn’t realize had begun falling. His theory was so stupid, who would ever believe it. Yet, here I am. I’m holding Justin’s wedding band and reading the inscription. Something I had given up hope on years ago. Jonah is the killer, there’s no denying it.

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