AN: First of all, thank you so much for reading and reviewing this story. It's such a different type of tale for me. Comedy is my safe place and this is definitely a far cry from my usual. You are brave, dear readers, because the road will be bumpy. The payoff, I hope, will be quite sweet.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to my wonderful friends who helped me bring this chapter to you. Thank you to RMFM86 for pre-readering and mauigirl60 for being my Beta. The support and help you two give me with this story is amazing. Thank you to cutestkidsmom and mosolis05 for their support and enjoyment of the story.
Warning…this story takes the dark elements of fairy tales. There will be light, but honestly the bad guys are really bad. Also, every character is important to solving the puzzle and moving forward the story. Look for the clues hidden and see if you can guess the fairy tale (or classic story) influences. It's a fun game. You can start with the title.
Now put on your big kid pants and away we go!
Chapter 7: Beware of the Candy House
The first thing she noticed was the pounding of her head. It was as if there was a hammer rapping on it in a dizzying and painful speed. When Rosalie was young, her father took his aspiring mechanic to observe his manufacturing plant. She remembered watching in rapt awe the way the sheet metal was pounded into shapes that would fit the automobiles driven by millions. She wished she hadn't listened to her stepmother and pursued a degree, instead of cruel men. Perhaps then she would have avoided this mess. The question was where was she exactly? All she knew was that the floor was hard and smelled awful.
Eyes opening slowly, Rosalie was first taken in by the walls covered in posters of heavy metal bands. Horrifying images of Anthrax and Black Sabbath stared down at her. They fitted in perfectly with the dungeon she found herself in. The floor of the room was a dirty tile of orange and brown. Of course, it wouldn't have surprised her one bit if the brown wasn't part of the original color. Rosalie, herself, was lying on a large plastic tray inside a dog crate. It wasn't very big and her long body was forced into an awkward fetal position.
The dress she was wearing was gone. Shivering, Rosalie noticed she was left only in her underwear. The realization that she didn't know what had befallen her made the poor woman even more apprehensive. The need to panic filled her, but the thing that most people failed to realize about Miss Hale was that she was highly intelligent, which was in deep contrast to the party girl facade she portrayed. Rosalie took a deep breath, determined to stay brave, no matter what she had to face.
"Fuck, yeah, the princess has finally fuckin' awoke," said a greasy man, a long cigarette hanging out of his mouth, and sitting on an old stuffed chair that had seen better days. He was clad in a pair of skull-print boxers and a dirty wife-beater that appeared to be smeared with a burgundy substance. Rosalie hoped to God it wasn't blood. "Think yer too fuckin' good to wake up at a normal hour, bitch?"
He stubbed out his cigarette on the floor in front of him. He looked at her scantily-clad body, with a leer. "You are one lucky pussy, princess. Your bones should be worm dinner right now. See, now - I shit you not - found out who your fuckin' daddy is. He'll pay more than the faggot and your man were gonna."
"What are you talking about?" Rosalie whispered. Her mind went to Emmett. She had been so blind to his faults, but all was becoming clear.
The man stood and sauntered over to the cage. He kneeled down and poked his finger through one of the slots and rubbed Rosalie's bare arm. She tried to move away, but there was nowhere to go. He said huskily, "Yummy, yummy in my tummy, princess. Fuck yeah, it definitely is your lucky night. That fiancée of yours wanted me to eat you up. I bet your daddy has more to offer though. But...you are just so delicious looking."
"Motherfucking hell, Sam, get away from her! She's mine!" Another dark haired man burst into the room. He let out a primal growl that made Rosalie's blood run cold.
Her original tormentor, that she now knew was named Sam, yelled, "Goddamn, Embry, chill out! The bitch isn't your fuckin' mate, dude! She's from the white man's fuckin' tribe. Don't get attached!"
Embry gnashed his teeth and let out another growl. "Mine, asshole! You're letting Quil take that toddler."
"Claire is his imprint and part of the tribe. We just need to get her from that bitch mother of hers." Rosalie watched them with large eyes. She felt sick to her stomach.
"Whatever, man, he wants to get his kicks from a two-year-old and I want the hot blonde!" Embry started to approach the cage. He pulled out the knife. "I don't care if you're the boss, I will gut you!"
"Fuckin' bitch, you think..." Sam started to say, as a thin girl walked into the room.
She was all dark hair and eyes that seemed to penetrate you to your very soul. The girl looked at Rosalie, and she was suddenly filled with peace. Wearing a threadbare REM tee-shirt and cut-offs, the girl looked cold. Rosalie wanted to wrap her arms around her and provide her warmth, which was an odd thought, given the predicament she was now in.
The girl whispered, "I brought her some clothes and food."
"Fuckin' hell, Leah, who gives a shit!" Sam sneered, looking at the cringing Rosalie with a malevolent grin.
"Her father might be more inclined to pay if she's taken care of." Rosalie noticed the girl held a bundle of clothing and a paper bag.
Sam threw his hands into the air in annoyance. "Why the fuck not? Yer a bothersome bitch, princess."
A third man poked his head into the room. "Dinner is on its way, boys!"
Rosalie wondered if they were like rats, all these horrible men, coming out of the sewers to pollute the world.
"Fuck, yeah, Paulie! Come on, Embry!"
Embry tried moving toward Rosalie. "Mine."
Sam grabbed his arm, pulling him toward the door. "Let's eat. You can salivate over the princess' pussy later, ya fuckin' chick."
The men left, shutting the door with a loud bang. Rosalie flinched, hitting her shoulder against a sharp piece of metal on the cage, and groaned.
The girl unlocked the crate and helped her out of the cramped confines. She started rubbing Rosalie's arms to help get her blood moving again. Quickly pulling an old black sweatshirt over Rosalie's head, Leah moved down to help her put on sweatpants and socks.
"Thank you," Rosalie said in appreciation, as Leah led her to a cot near a boarded-up window.
The women sat huddled together. Leah opened the paper sack she held, pulling out a sandwich that was wrapped in a white cloth. She took off the top layer of the bread, revealing a small brown pill. Grabbing Rosalie's hand, Leah popped the pill into her hand. "Take this pill and wash it down with water, then eat the sandwich quickly. It will help with the nausea."
"Why are you giving this to me? Are you trying to kill me?" She questioned her previously-assumed savior. It was best to trust no one.
Leah gave her a hard look, as the men outside the room began howling. It sounded like there were fifty of them in there. "I'm trying to keep you alive."
Rosalie quickly swallowed the pill. It tasted like the vomit that came out of her mouth when her stepmother forced her to binge and purge when she was younger. "It tastes like shit."
"That's the point, because now you're going to taste like shit, too. To those guys out there, you aren't going to smell much better either. Drink up," Leah stated, pushing the water into Rosalie's hand. "It's safe for you, I promise. My father is a shaman and he created it to protect the real tribe. Be glad you're an adult. That little Claire has been given a steady diet of the stuff to keep the wolves at bay. Now, take a bite of the sandwich."
Rosalie dutifully took a bite and after she'd finished chewing asked, "Who are these men?"
"They were just a group of drug dealers peddling shit they would collect from the ports. Something happened, though, and then they started peddling some new specialty drugs they got from some guy named Ben. That's when they started to change. It wasn't pretty."
The howling began again outside the door. A man yelled out, "Don't sniff up all the good stuff, asshole!"
"Why are you here with them?" Rosalie was confused. The girl was so kind and helpful that she couldn't figure out why she was with these men.
"They killed my cousin, fiancée and the man who was trying to save us all. Emily, my cousin, was Sam's wife. When the change took place, the gang of them couldn't control it. They ripped her apart. Sam thinks I replaced her as his mate. That imprint mess is junk. My dad said it isn't in any of the sacred texts. It's a way for the monsters to take what they want no matter how depraved it is," she explained to Rosalie, who looked at her in amazement.
Rosalie grabbed her hand. "Don't you see how dangerous this is for you? Leave me here; my life isn't worth much, really. The money they paid wouldn't be paid because my family loves me. They're just saving face. You have a family. Go to them!"
"Your life is worth something! I'm here, no matter what, whether or not you think you deserve it. My brother is in prison for all of the murders, but he's innocent. It's my duty to get retribution and protect my people. If I have the added benefit of protecting you, then I did something right.
"Thank you, but it's so dangerous..." There was a knock on the door in the other room.
Leah placed her hand over Rosalie's mouth. "Shh...Whatever is happening out there, you need to concentrate on my voice and not on what's happening. They are going to be in a frenzy and won't hesitate to break the door down and come in here."
A woman's voice was heard, "Hey, baby, Sonny sent me here. He said you want the fifty special? You got my money, baby?"
"Here ya go. Come on in," Sam said.
"Mister, I was told it was only one john. Your friends are gonna watch? That's an extra ten." The woman sounded nervous.
He answered with a leer, "Don't worry, honey, all the better to partake in the fun."
"I'm not joking, you'll owe me more cash."
"Whatever, lamb, come on over," he answered.
Leah put her hands on Rosalie's face and said, "I need you to concentrate on my voice. This little light of..."
There was grunting and panting.
"I'm gonna let it..."
The moans began. Then the woman asked, "Ugh, honey what is he...no..."
"Put it under the bushel? No!"
"What is happening to you! Oh my God!" the woman screamed.
"Won't let the devil blow it out..."
The sounds of ripping, growling and terrifying howls.
"Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."
Rosalie wept silently in Leah's arms as the girl rubbed her back soothingly. Leah's song ended and she whispered, "I'll protect you with my life. I promise you this."
"My bus leaves in about fifteen minutes," Bella stated, as she stuck a lid onto a 'To-Go' cup.
Garrett looked at her in disappointment. "Bella, I think you should just go tomorrow. My car will be back from the shop and I can cancel the meetings."
"You have auditors looking at the books the next two days. You need to be here," she stated practically. She waved to the mess of receipts in the shoeboxes spread out in front of him.
Garrett grabbed her hand. He would have pulled her to him if the counter wasn't blocking him. Why wouldn't that stubborn girl let him keep her safe? "Bella, just think about...stop giving me that look, Swan! What happens if when you're leaving from meeting this murderer, then another convict gets released? You're both taking the bus; he's insane, looking for a date, and you're so pretty..."
Bella started cracking up. "What the hell have you been watching?"
"I'm dead serious, Bella! Come on now, stop laughing at me!"
Edward walked up, looking at the woman he loved with the man he wished he hated, but couldn't. Damn that Garrett for being a really nice guy. "What's so funny?"
Bella looked up at him, startled. She hadn't spoken to him since the night of her art opening, when he'd kissed her and Rosalie Hale had disappeared. Edward had been missing from work, due to helping in the search for Emmett's fiancée. Emmett's face had been all over the news looking uncharacteristically stoic as he stood next to Rosalie's father, who had been pleading for his daughter's safe return. There was something in Emmett's eyes though, that chilled Bella to the bone. He was a part of this mess and Bella would be willing to bet on it.
Garrett gave Edward a sympathetic smile. "Hey, man, let's get you a cup of Joe. Any luck yet with the search?"
"Not a trace of her. Not that it matters, anyway. They're calling off the search," Edward stated, feeling his blood pressure rise. "My jackass brother and Rose's wicked stepmother talked her father into it. It's ridiculous!"
Bella looked at him with her penetrating eyes. She said quietly, "It's only been a week."
"Yes, they're sure she's dead. However, there is no proof of it. None at all. To declare her dead now is insane. There's still hope. How could anyone give up on someone they love?"
"Yes, how could one do such a thing," Bella repeated sarcastically.
"A fool does," he replied quietly. One look at Edward and Bella knew that he was speaking about himself.
Garrett interrupted quickly. He really didn't like the look that crossed between Bella and Edward. "I'm sorry to hear that, man. Hey, Bella...I'll just cancel with the accountant and drive you up there."
Bella slapped the counter, making Edward's coffee splash up onto his shirt. She looked at it and said sheepishly, "Sorry. Garrett is acting like a knight in shining armor and he needs to cut it out. I'm pretty tough."
"You are, indeed," Edward agreed, in admiration of the woman he loved. "Why does our boss think you need saving?"
He felt he needed to point out the working relationship to Garrett.
"He is being stubborn. I can quit, Garrett. You know I have plenty of funds available. You, on the other hand, will miss my smiling face and chipper disposition."
"Yes, because that would be the perfect way to describe you," Garrett said sardonically. "Edward, Bella here wants to travel to a prison to meet with some inmate."
"Why did you have to tell him that?" Bella growled. Edward was the last person she'd wanted to share any information with. "My business is not Edward's!"
"I can take you," Edward offered without a second thought, ignoring her outburst. "Why exactly are we going to a prison?"
Bella looked at him like he was nuts. After their last encounter, she could imagine the two of them ending up making out in his back seat. Whether he believed her or not, she didn't know if she had it in her to ever forgive Edward. She decided not to answer his question about her destination. "No, thank you. I'm a city girl perfectly at ease with public transport."
"Can Lidia take you?" Garrett asked. Aro and Lidia had a VW van that they used when having to leave the city. It was painted with a myriad of images by their 'children'. They were a whimsical family.
Bella shook her head. "She's delivering meals to the elderly."
"My car is right outside, Bella! Let me help," Edward pleaded with her.
Garrett unfortunately had to agree. "Go with him."
"Fine," she huffed at the annoying men. She picked up the flakiest croissant off a plate on the counter. "Let's get this over with. By the way, your 'no eating in the car' rule is null and void!"
Edward admittedly cringed at the thought of the pastry being ground into his pristine vehicle, but having her with him was worth it. He said with a tight smile, "Great. No problem at all."
Bella rushed out the door, but before Edward could walk out, Garrett grabbed his arm. "Take care of her, Edward. This is going to be rough for her."
"This is about her dad, isn't it?"
Garrett nodded. "Also, that best friend of hers. She's meeting with their killer."
The first fifteen minutes of the ride were eerily silent. Bella refused to glance over at the handsome man she had once loved, or to be more accurate, still could possibly love. She flipped on the radio to some alt-rock station, where the jarring chords of the guitar fit her mood.
"Can we put on something less loud?" Edward wondered.
"Nope." She lowered her head against the headrest, letting the pounding drums fill her brain.
"You look tense. I could put on some classical," he suggested. Edward was getting a headache.
Bella turned her head toward him and opened one eye. "Don't you dare, Johan Sebastian Bach!"
"See, you know the greats!" Edward was about to turn on his iPod when Bella slapped his hand. "Ow!"
"I warned you. Next time, I'll bite."
He really wished she would.
Edward thought the car would return to the previous silent treatment Bella was giving him, but she then said, "It's weirdly comforting to see you still have the musical tastes of an octogenarian."
"Big word there, Miss Swan."
She gave a half-smile. "I can bring the vocabulary words when I want to. It was fitting to speak that way to an old-timer. Did you happen to add a sousaphone to the instruments you can play?"
"Don't mock the classics, woman." Edward smiled back, as she laughed. It was working out great until Edward had to open his big mouth again. "Do you really think it's a good idea to see your father's murderer?"
Bella took a deep breath. How was this any of Edward Cullen's business? Yes, it now appeared that there had to have been some foul play which had caused the demise of their relationship. That, however, was a completely separate issue from the situation at-hand. Right now, all of Bella's concentration had to be on finding the truth. She truly believed that her father and Jacob would never rest in peace without it.
"My, my, my, what a big mouth our dear Garrett has," Bella whispered, trying to bury her annoyance.
Edward had to admit the truth. "He cares for you. You have to know that. I want to hate him, but the God's honest truth is that I'm thankful he's been there for you, while my head was shoved so far up my ass to realize something was terribly wrong."
"What realization, Edward? That you were lied to?" Bella rolled her eyes. She started drumming her fingers on her jeans. "Can we please deal with the situation in the here and now? Do you still want to know why you're stuck driving me to the clink with the felons?"
"I don't think Seth Clearwater killed anyone. He was a sweet kid. I think he probably still is. He didn't hang out with Sam's gang. He didn't deal drugs, he played JV baseball. Jacob knew something bad was up with those guys, and the only reason he hung out with them was to stop whatever was going down. Jake wouldn't put Leah or Seth in danger if it wasn't huge. My dad tried to get him to stop playing undercover cop, but..."
"Who's Leah?" Edward asked.
Bella shot him a look like he was stupid. "She was Jake's girlfriend."
"Oh." Edward racked his brain. He felt like he knew that, before things got so fuzzy. "Did I know that?"
"Yes, because I talked about them to you all the time! That's why when you said that crap to me, it made no sense! It came out of nowhere!" Bella felt the hot rush of anger remembering the first of the terrible things that had fallen upon her that horrible night. "Look, it's right up there. Would you please be quiet and let me think about how I'm going to handle this?"
Bella shut her eyes tightly and, instead of thinking of what to say to Seth Clearwater, she saw images of her father. His big brown eyes that she saw whenever she looked into a mirror. The 70s throwback of a mustache her father had always worn, that she would tease him unmercifully about. How she wished she could take all those stupid jokes back. It was the last thought of sitting on the dock with him as their fishing lines bobbed in the water.
"There's a lot of stuff in this world that can't be explained, kiddo." Charles Swan stared intently into the water.
Bella giggled. "Like why the fish aren't biting, Daddy?"
She was a ten-year-old tomboy with scraped knees, a dirty face and lopsided braids. A child who was comfortable playing with worms and pirates with her wild best friend, Jacob, but not dressing as a princess and sipping pretend tea. Charlie looked at his girl with a serene smile.
"Nah, Bells, bigger things like why the sun makes the water look like it's sparkling. You can blame the mermaids for that one."
"There's no such thing, Daddy! It sparkles because of science." Bella looked at her father like he was crazy. She was a practical and logical girl. "You're being silly."
"Perhaps I am. Do your old man a favor. I need you to look for the' other' that is hidden all around you. Some of it will be dark and some will be light, but you'll need your wits about you." Charles looked grim. "I won't always be here to guide you. There are others who will help, but the important thing is to learn from them and be willing to see the truth."
"What?" Bella gave him an annoyed look. He was being weird. He hadn't drank any beer. It was too early. Adults never made any sense.
"Tighten your line, kid. We'll talk again when you're older."
They'd never had that talk. Work schedules, visits to crazy Renee and death got in the way. Tears started to flow down Bella's face.
Edward didn't even have to think about it. He grabbed her hand, placing a kiss onto her palm. Bella looked at him, her eyes wet, and softly whispered, "Edward."
"I'm here now, and forever more." He kissed her hand again, letting his lips linger.