He hadn't meant to pound on the Fenton's door with the force that he did, but in the end he knocked so violently that the hinges quivered. His fist was clenched so that his knuckles went white; his face twisted almost unconsciously, the lip drawn up in a disgusted snarl. If anyone had been there to witness this enraged display, they would have not thought the man in his neatly ironed suit to be the same man they'd come to know as Vlad Masters, the composed and all-knowing mayor of their town, the person who could plug any leak that sprung in their society, cure any heartache, keep them at ease, for he had never looked more as though you could take him to the poker table and have made all of the cash in his pocket your own within thirty minutes.

Inside, Jazz Fenton was sitting stiffly on the couch in the living room, working feverously to make a get-well and apology card for her brother, because it had been brought to her attention that Danny had not known her to have been gone when his accident had taken place, touring colleges as she had been for the last several months—though Danny had always told her this was unnecessary, because she was only a junior and it was, after all, only January, she reasoned that she would have a better chance of being accepted into the college of her choice if she began the procedure earlier than others. Of course, they would have accepted her at Harvard if she'd shown up on the day classes began in the fall, requesting to take part, but she wouldn't, because that was so incredibly unlike her, and though it was really very unnecessary, she found she enjoyed the normally tiring process more than she would going to the mall with a few friends and a hundred spot in her pocket. And she enjoyed this cross-country touring so much that she had not returned on the day she'd originally told her parents, sidetracked by thoughts of which shining building she would spend the next four years of her life inside, and to her knowledge Danny was left with the impression that she had been home for two days already and had not bothered to even attempt make contact with him. She had tried to call him twice; the first time, she had been informed that Danny was undergoing another round of surgery. The second, she was told he was resting and would not be able to talk. Upon questioning the all-too cheery receptionist of times when she could come in to visit him, the woman told her they were not accepting visitors just yet—"He's been in and out of surgery, and he needs to rest," she'd said after Jazz had begun to cuss into the phone, which was a rarity in itself, because Jazz had a tenancy to cringe whenever the H-E-double toothpicks word was uttered. "I suggest you talk to your mother and father, ma'am. They are aware of the regulations and have thus far cooperated." In response to which, Jazz had snapped into the phone before abruptly hanging up, "Yeah, well, I'm not my mother and father."

She had sat down with her mother shortly after—her father, she'd come to realize within an hour of being home, had retreated to his bedroom upstairs where he had lain in bed since the accident, weeping helplessly—and was met with relatively the same response. Yes, her mother knew of the regulations because she had tried to see her son, and so had her father, and this was not so surprising as the knowledge that her parents were actually thankful for the refusal of their entrance. Upon looking into her daughter's disbelieving and despondent eyes, she had guiltily admitted that she and her husband were not ready to face their son after what they had done, especially after having talked to Danny once—or rather, her talking to him, because he had not said two words to her, and in his silence she could hear he was breathing heavily as if infuriated and attempting to control the overlying emotion. This, Jazz supposed she could understand, although the hospital's failure to accommodate them did not suit her quite as well; the fact was, she loved her brother and could not stand to think of him lying alone in a hospital bed in the midst of all those beeping and buzzing machines, especially if he was overcome with the idea that she had known of his accident from the beginning and was ignoring him as it would appear his parents and anyone else who was close to him—mainly Tucker and Sam—were doing. And so, instilled with the desire to show him she had never stopped caring for him, especially in his time of need, she promised herself she would call the hospital later tonight. But this seemed to fall flat, because she found she could not sit here in this house and simply watch something on television while the knowledge that her baby brother was undergoing surgery in a cold hospital bedroom festered in the not-so-far-back section of her mind, and so she decided to dedicate this time she had to herself—time that seemed to drag on endlessly, and understandably so—to focusing on her brother as he so rightfully deserved. She'd begun to write a letter, explaining their absences and reassuring him that they would be in to see him as soon as they could. Though she was not the artistic type, she had been trying to draw a picture of Danny's ghost dog, Cujo—the name had made her very proud of her brother, because it was news to her that he'd actually read a book, especially something by Stephen King—in an attempt to cheer him up, when Vlad's angry knock sounded.

Her mother was busy trying to comfort her sullen father who still lay in his bed upstairs as he had for several days, and so she stood up to answer it, brushing a jumble of colored pencils—she had picked from a fifty-pack of colored pencils, and she'd spent maybe twenty minutes leafing through greens and reds and grays for the shade she was looking for—off her lap as she did. She went to the door and peered through the peephole, frankly alarmed at the violent nature of the knock, thinking it was a messenger from the hospital with ill news but knowing that made little sense—it wasn't as if they lived in ancient Greece, after all. They may be reluctant to let Danny on the phone, but surely they themselves would call to report his failed surgery if the need arise.

When she saw it was Vlad Masters, appearing angrier than she'd ever seen, instantly she was instilled with a strong urge to leave the man standing on her doorstep, to deny him entrance into her once so familiar and comfortingly zany home, because the lord knew all the negativity her mind had associated with him and every purpose he served; although, it seems rather uncalled for that Jazz Fenton had, in reality, kept this pessimism in check until the fateful day in which she'd gone to his home in hopes of discovering his secrets to impress her cynical brother. The entirety of these feelings had been fully unleashed the moment Vlad had pitted them against one another on the field of his stadium so they might vie for his affection, because before this day, she had no other basis for her hatred aside from Danny's tales of his encounters with the man, which she had dismissed as unreal, and understandably so. While it seems that if one were to, oh, say, watch the life of Jasmine Fenton, or anyone in relation to the man, for that matter, said person would be left to wonder just how dumb you'd have to be to mistake Vlad Masters for anything other than evil, but the idea that there might be another halfa in existence—and one so amazingly close—is just as great a quandary. Of course, as seems to be the case time and time again throughout the history of many people in existence, it had occurred to Jazz that since discovering the mayor's identity, it had all begun to make sense. The idea that he was half-ghost like her brother would explain the entirety of his odd behavior, and while this revelation had instilled her with such great knowledge that she was overcome with the idea she'd been born again, it had also possessed her with a great fear, one that never truly dimmed even in her happiest of moments. It really was ever-present, because whenever she came upon the image of the man's face, even with his diplomatic, mayoral smile plastered onto his pale lips, she felt a chill snake its way up her spine and close around her throat, cutting off her supply of air. And now, staring at his distorted but clearly wrinkled face, the eyes burning with clear, undiluted rage, the feeling amplified to extents she hadn't thought possible, and for a moment she thought the lack of oxygen would cause her to faint. Unfortunately, when she reached out to stable herself, for she had begun to dreamily sway, she took the handle; as she fell backwards, unable to keep upright, she tugged the door open—sadly, it did not open outwards if you happened to be leaving—and she found herself on the ground between the door and the wall that flanked it on the side the hinges sat. For a moment, she lay there dazed, but the sound of cleanly-polished shoes tapping gently on the carpeted floor soon seemed to draw her back into reality.

Dizzily, she looked up and found herself staring into the enraged eyes of Vlad Masters…and much to her horror, the rage mounting further.


You know, as I kid I never understood that Stephen King reference. I guess I just thought of it as a goofy name Danny had come up with for his dog, but after I fell out of Danny Phantom for awhile and got into Stephen King, it all seemed to click and I said really loudly in the middle of a Barnes and Noble, "Oh butterbiscuits." at my discovery. Of course, my mom, who loves Stephen King, picked up on it and was probably laughing about it when I made her watch Danny Phantom with me when I was little.

Although, I've come to believe that Cujo is not actually Danny's dog's name. Rather, I think it was just one of his witty remarks in which he compared his dog to the rabid dog of Stephen King's mind, because the dog didn't have a collar or anything like that. Then again, no one ever told Danny the name of Vlad's alias was Plasmius, but he figured that out, too...

Either way, this is the second Stephen King reference I've made in this story, but I'll tell you, Cuj' has nothing on Annie Wilkes. That dog whimpers at the sight of her ;)

Please let me know what you think, and I will update soon.