Dib07: Here is the next update, on schedule as promised!

A special thanks to (in review order): Angel Veins, TeamChaosHunters: Moon, thor94, Kogarashi, Kairi Skye, Purest of the Hearts, Soulfully Sadistic, InsertUnoriginalPenNameHere, Anistiasia, ChristianHedgie, Numbskull, MizukiiMoon, TerraLeopard, FullRings, TheBlurredLine23, and Soniclover0028.

XxX

Chapter 6: Lies, Greed and Misery

XxX

The house was not yet a pyre of flame after they left. The licking red embers had barely enveloped the lower foundations, but already as Patrick turned into West Avenue after leaving Maple Street the smoke was filling the tawdry midnight sky behind them, and people out on the street would soon be looking up at it in bewilderment as the thick, oily clouds hung in suspense above the corner shops and terraced houses.

The car windows were heavily tinted, so no one would have been able to peek inside the large, ebony BMW as it cruised steadily down the street like the thousands of other civilian cars. Inside the car was a completely different story. The hedgehog's crying was setting Patrick's teeth on edge.

"Shut up back there!" He shouted, his eyes discerning Sonic in the rear view mirror for an angry instant.

"Leave him." Jody admonished, who was also sitting on the front seat. They blazed through the evening traffic effortlessly but when Patrick came to a stop behind an elderly man he slammed the heel of his hand on the horn. Sonic's bawling laments got ever louder. He was cringing on the backseat by the window, Arthur against his chest, arms and legs clutched towards his middle as tears coursed their way down his cheeks and onto the padding of the seat under him.

"Will you shut that thing up, Jody?" Patrick snapped. His voice was low and creamy like Shadow's, but there was a knife edge in it too. And it was frightening. "And put a blindfold on him."

"He won't know where we're going!"

"I don't care, just do it!"

As Patrick overtook the old man in front with a squeal of tires and a roar of the engine, Jody unsnapped his seatbelt and crawled through the gap between the front seats to approach the crying hedgehog with a belt of fabric between his hands. "Turn your head, Sonic." He asked rather than demanded of him. Sonic did so, lamenting loudly. Jody put the blindfold over wet eyes and knotted it tightly at the back between his quills. Then he retreated back to the front seat.

"You should fucking belt him one. That will stop him crying." Patrick didn't even glance at his partner as he drove down Eiderdown Lane. The traffic was sparse here too, they were making good time.

"He doesn't understand."

"Sure he does. If he didn't understand, he wouldn't be crying now, would he? I tell ya, it's all a ruse. He knows."

Jody hit the radio button and changed channels into he found some decent music before turning it up to help drown out Sonic's screams and cries of hysterics. The music was awful, but it was better preferred.

Patrick turned into another bustling street, cranking up the speed as he did so. Jody turned in his seat to look through the window, but he couldn't see any smoke on the horizon now. They had gone too far, with many skyscrapers and other buildings in-between.

He leant back in the seat, feeling a little guilty at what he had so easily achieved after months of planning. But then he looked at Patrick's conviction: the steel determination in his eyes, and the guilt drained away.

Their home was a setup base. It was in fact a newly built house on a street of newly built houses. The exterior had all been done up, the brickwork complete, and the windows fitted in. However the insides of the house had yet to be plastered and the floors hadn't been waxed or sealed. The company making these homes: Harold and Donald's Homes had gone bust many a moon ago and the street had lain quite and eerily still while possession of this newly built homes were being fought over. Patrick saw this as a brilliant opportunity to hide out for awhile until things blew over. Jody would have taken Sonic straight to his place, but that was the first place the police would look as soon as they got wind that Sonic was missing. Patrick didn't want his home implicated either, and so the two of them had decided to stay at this derelict building. For a few days they had got the place ready for the deed. They had gone out to buy food, bedding, water and other things and kept it all upstairs. The good thing about these newly built homes was that they already had electric lighting, and all Patrick had to do was by blackout curtains so that they could do use the lights at night and no one would notice.

Patrick turned down the isolated street and came up to number 24 before swinging round and driving down a half finished gravel driveway. He parked the BMW at the back of the house and climbed out. The music cut out along with the engine and the silence was torn open by Sonic's cries. However, during the trip he had started coughing and wheezing, which weakened his cries, but it did not stop them.

Patrick opened his door and wrenched the blindfold off his face. Jody tried to step in, but Patrick wasn't going to let him intervene. He grabbed Sonic and carried him under his arm as if he was a basketball.

"Open the door for me." He almost snarled.

Jody awkwardly ran to the backdoor and unlocked it using a fake key they had moulded earlier from a locksmith's. The door opened and Patrick stormed inside, heading upstairs immediately. Jody followed, feeling somewhat personally responsible for whatever happened to Sonic, but knowing he had no say in it.

The room they had prepared for Sonic was nothing but a bare box of a space with a bedroll on one side of the room with a small table and a bucket for shitting in. Patrick threw him in the room after opening the door, and closed it immediately once he had delivered his load, locking it as if Sonic was a demon capable of rushing back out again.

"There." Patrick said with some finality. He slipped the key into his chest shirt pocket. It was the only copy. "Job done. Now, as arranged, we sit and wait. Then we call them and make a ransom. A big one."

"How long do we wait for?"

"As long as I say." There was something dark about Patrick's manner, and so Jody buckled down. They went back to the bottom level of the house and made themselves a quick, simple dinner of microwaved chicken pie and lasagne and ate it in the empty parlour where old wooden boards were still stacked up along the side of the skirting board. They had a little portable TV on the bare, unvarnished table and they were watching a DVD action movie. But Jody wasn't really watching it. He was straining to hear what Sonic was doing upstairs. Not long after they had got into the kitchen to make something to eat, the hedgehog had gone completely silent.

"We should bring him something to eat." Jody said.

"Let him go hungry for a day or two." Patrick forked pastry and gravy into his mouth. "That'll teach him a lesson."

"But if we're here just for the money, we may as well give him something."

Patrick gave him a scorning look of umbrage. They had been good friends for as long as Jody could remember, and they were little rebels all the way to college. But ever since the disaster, Patrick had grown cold and hateful.

"Look, he's brain damaged, and he won't remember what he's done." Jody continued despite the look of warning. "And it was your idea to 'frame' him and look like it was him that accidently burnt the house down. Why don't we just keep him?"

"Keep him?" Patrick's ire suddenly broke like spring rain, and he gurgled into spiteful laughter. "Keep him? And do what? Hide for the rest of our lives, keeping the idiot that ruined us? No thank you, Jody Summers. If we're keeping him, it's to give him a plot in our back yard. No, you'll do as I say. We'll call up the Thorndykes, get our money and then we'll kill Sonic. Plain and simple. Come on, Jodes. We've already been through this. Twice. I'll do the dirty job of killing him. The bathtub is full and ready. I'll hold him down in the water. You don't even have to watch. He'll die in two minutes, tops. Then we'll go our separate ways with our money, and we'll live how we were supposed to before that hedgehog came and wrecked everything."

"Are you sure you can go through with it? Killing him, I mean."

Patrick smirked and put his fork down in favour of a packet of cigarettes. He lit the tip of one with a lighter and smoked gaily on it for a moment before giving Jody an answer. "Of course. I'll relish it. Every moment. Drowning will be too easy and quick for him. I'd much prefer to cut him open and dig out his organs with my bare hands, but you hated that idea, didn't you?"

"It's like murdering a person."

"No it isn't. He's an animal that wears clothes. You're getting too sentimental on me."

"I'm not getting sentimental, I'm just being practical and honest is all. I just... I just think we should keep him. Like a pet, Patrick. So maybe..."

"Oh don't you dare go down that route!" He threw his plate at Jody. The plate was only made out of paper, but the food went all down his face and shirt. "He's dying, and that is the end of it! I don't give a damn about your excuses, and if you are going weak on me now, you are getting no money out of this!"

This silenced Jody's protests at once. He got up and went into the downstairs bathroom to clean up his face and front. His eyes gazed over at the bathtub and its shimmering surface.

Xxx

Tails didn't know what to say or what to do. He just kind of broke down on the pathway, hands on his head, eyes streaming with salty tears. Amy had been screaming earlier. Now she simply stood in silence, the fire of the flames reflected back in her appalled eyes.

The flashing police cruisers had come in their dozens, and now they were surrounded by police and firemen. The fire was being doused, but the pyre was tall and almost impenetrable. It covered the entire house. Each room was burning from within: wall plaster melting: the very foundations weeping fire. Ash and smoke pillared upwards into an overbearing tower. Eggman and Chuck had tried to help. They had had gone off rushing towards the fire truck with every intention of joining the search and rescue for Sonic and Jody, but the police had hooked them back and threatened them to put them in the police cruiser if they ever tried a stunt like that again.

No one had spoken a word.

Not one.

They all just watched, and stared, hoping for the best, yet thinking only of the worst.

What had started the fire? Was Sonic and Jody still trapped inside?

Were they both... dead?

They had only left for an hour. How had... how could...

...this happen?

Chuck came over and rested a hand on Tails' shoulder. The contact made sudden anger, despair and torment swell up in Tails, and he hit Chuck's hand off him before swirling his two tails together and taking off in a leap. Eggman and Chris watched, evidently puzzled, but they didn't question his departure.

Tails didn't go very far. He flew through the air at a mild speed and rested on someone else's roof next door so that he could watch the fire truck and police at a distance. He wrapped himself up in his arms and loudly wept. He could let it all out now that he was alone.

"Sonic..." His voice was weak and croaky. He felt like he was losing the will to live. Everything was crowding in at him all at once. Nothing would be the same. "Sonic!" He buried his face in his arms, sides heaving with each sob. He pictured his brother's image. And imagined him dying in his sleep as the smoke from the fire spread throughout the house. Tails wanted to scream and scream until his lungs were raw. But he no longer had the strength to do anything. And so he broke to pieces where he sat.

xxx

By early morning the following day, Tails, Chuck and Eggman were at the police station, each readying to be quizzed by a local detective who introduced himself as Henry Weed. He offered his commiserations and suggested that they get the interviews over with straight away and relax after where they could drink all the coffee they wanted before going back home again.

Tails had spent the whole journey here trying to shore himself up, readying for an interrogation. Eggman's skin looked pale and waxy as he sat in the back seat of the taxi to the station, and Uncle Chuck spoke very little. All of them were in a state of shock; all locked into their own private thoughts.

They had booked into a hotel late last night, paid for by the police even though the Thorndykes could plainly afford it. None of them slept a wink. The events of the night kept playing out in their heads, and always the one name on their mind was Sonic.

Tails was stunned, terrified and overawed by the enormity of what had happened. And now he was sitting on a thin steel and plastic chair opposite a police detective at a slim, narrow table. Being here, presented by an official gave him bad memories of when Chelsey: the veterinary doctor, had given them a conference of Sonic's deteriorating illness and how she had quizzed them about his personal welfare at home.

They were in a steel room that was soundproof so that no one could listen in from outside, and there was a long mirror across the wall. Tails was wise enough to know that it was a two-way mirror, and he imagined the chief of police watching from the other side of the glass. The room itself was cold, and it felt very much like he was in a cage.

He hadn't asked for coffee, and he got one anyway. It sat a few inches from him on the table in a white, generic mug that must have been used thousands of times by criminals, or the victims. Sometimes he preferred to look at the white mug than anything or anyone else in the room.

Detective Henry Weed tried to look sympathetic. "How old is Sonic?" Right now, as they spoke, the clean-up crew were still trying to find his body in the blackened debris.

"Twenty two." Tails said in a stoic voice.

"Have you known him long?"

"Since we were young. We were – we are very close. Even when we came to your planet, we never strayed far from each other."

"Well, in light of recent news," Dct. Weed said, lighting his tone a little and giving the kitson a serious look, "It looked like it was an accident – the fire in the house I mean. At first that was all we put it down to. But we've found evidence of vandalism."

Tails lifted his head at this, and for the first time since yesterday a new light entered his blue eyes. "But I thought..."

"We've found traces of melted gasoline canisters. There is very little else to go on, but the main component that started the fire was cheap diesel fuel used for trucks."

Tails sat back, aghast. "You mean... someone deliberately set fire to our home with Sonic and Jody inside? Who... who w-would do s-such a thing?" The ironclad armour he had formed around his emotions was leaking; his barriers weakening. "What about my Sonic? Have you anything else?"

Dct. Weed sighed. He had been hoping to avoid this part of the conversation. "There is no sign or evidence of Jody's body. We're still conducting the search, and it'll take two weeks to get through all the debris and file the reports before we can announce anything official, but there have been signs of your friend Sonic..."

Tails held his breath.

"We managed to recover one of his shoes, and we found trace elements of his blood and fur which coincide with the exact time of the fire. I'm very sorry, Mr Miles," he added, clearly seeing Tails' open distress. "It is very likely that he perished quickly and felt no pain..."

Tails knew he was only saying this to make him feel better. The mug on the table wavered thinly before him as a wash of tears fell over his eyes.

"Jody however must have escaped in time." The detective continued. "All the conclusive evidence points towards that possibility at least. We will do all we can to find him and make sure he is alright, and get his side of the story."

Sonic's... dead?

Sonic's dead?

This question kept repeating itself over and over in the kitson's head.

I left him... to die... Just like that.

He could hold himself back no longer. He wailed miserably into his hands. He wanted to knock the coffee mug to the floor just to hear it shatter. He wanted to push an old lady down. He wanted to scream and tear at the wall of the room. He wanted all the clocks to stop. He wanted everyone to pause and understand and feel the pain he was going through right now.

The detective opened the door for him to leave is he so wished it. "I am so very sorry." Dct Weed said, trying to really show his concern.

Tails walked out through the doorway and cried in the corner of the corridor. It wasn't long before he felt Chuck's hand on his shoulder. He left the wall and buried his face into his stomach.

Not a word was said between them as they both shared the same indescribable agony.

xxx

Jody passed the door as he walked from his bedroom to the lavatory down the empty, bare landing. It was gone six in the morning. The sunlight was a dull winking sphere and the clouds looked heavy and quiet with rain. Meanwhile, their little captive had not made a single peep all night since they had thrown him in and locked the door.

Jody pressed an ear to the door and listened. He could hear his own watch ticking, and he could hear nothing from within. It was not his job to worry, or care. But he was curious, and ever so slightly worried if Sonic had died in the night. The shock of being ripped from home; driven by strangers and then thrown into a dark and cold room was a huge shock for someone as sick and as frail as he was.

Jody knocked on the door twice. "Hey, you awake in there? I can make some toast for you?"

There was no answer.

And Patrick had the key to the door.

Jody used the lavatory and got changed into his pair of worn jeans, a t-shirt and jacket. Patrick was still in bed in the room further down, snoring his head off. His coat lay on the floor with a bunch of other clothes, drug packets and food stuffs. Jody went through the pockets as quietly and as diligently as he could while Patrick snored blissfully. Finally his fingers came into contact with cold metal and he pulled out a selection of keys: one for the car, one for the house and another for Sonic's room. Jody took that one, put the others back and made his way back to the landing.

He slotted the key in the lock and opened it.

He had to stumble back out into the landing after taking the first step inside, hand to his mouth from a crude and strong reek. The room smelt thickly of urine.

Jody hit the light switch on the wall beside him and walked on through, hand staying over his nose as he breathed. The light weakly illuminated a wire bed frame complete with an old, thin mattress. Across the room was a single wicker chair and a stack of paint tins. But no little hedgehog.

A flash of panic enclosed Jody. What if he had escaped? But the small window opposite; set in a bare wall high up, was still blocked in with plaster and steel cables. The rest of the room was completely sealed in.

Jody started looking more carefully, and when he got round to the other side of the bed and knelt down and looked beneath it, he saw Sonic fast asleep on the hard wooden flooring with the tiger Arthur in his iron grip.

He had been under the bed the whole time. Asleep. And a pool of urine had saturated the floor further down the length of the floor. Sonic's pyjama bottoms were soaked.

Jody lifted a hand from his mouth. The stink wasn't as fetid anymore – either that or he was getting used to the smell. "Sonic." He said, "Hey, Sonic? Wakey wakey. Come on, get up." He started to reach in and grab a foot or an arm when Sonic stirred and looked up from his cocoon of sleep. As soon as he saw Jody; blinking with those owlish eyes of his, he took a violent breath and shuffled backward to get away from him.

Jody cursed, got up and went round to the other side of the bed. Sonic had crawled out, and that was when Jody grabbed him by the scruff. He lifted him up with one hand and carried him out the room. Sonic whimpered, tears falling, but he didn't struggle or cry out, which meant that Patrick would go on sleeping.

Sonic's back was still bloody. Some of the blood had dried on his main quills, whereas the small ones were ripped to ribbons.

Once in the bathroom, Jody kicked the door shut and put Sonic on the mat. "Sit up." He snapped when Sonic started to slouch. "And put that toy down. I need to bathe you before you stink the house out."

In all Jody's years of stalking, waiting and prying, this was the first time he'd ever made personal contact with his prey. It had been effortless to talk his way in to their measly lives, but now he was shaken, his pulse racing and hands unsteady. This wasn't what he was supposed to feel. Getting revenge on Sonic had brought about pleasurable emotions. He'd remembered feeling this way the first time he saw Sonic. The excitement so great, it was near sexual in nature. But now that he was seeing Sonic in such a state it weakened even his cruel hatred.

Jody slipped off his wet pyjamas, got a bowl, warm water and a cloth and started washing him. Sonic still gripped Arthur tightly – there would be no sane way to remove the dirty animal without causing a stir so he let Sonic win that one.

Laying Sonic down, he wordlessly cleaned between his legs. Even Sonic lay quietly, dazed perhaps, or being submissive in his presence out of fear.

It was a chilling sight too to see the hedgehog so bony and thin, and Jody felt weakened by it, struggling to remember his initial hatred. The blood from his fur was drained and soaped away. The bowl of water turned murky brown.

He traded the cloth for a towel and started drying Sonic gently all over. Then, in the midst of the silence, Sonic asked thinly: "You going to... to... to kill... me?"

It swayed Jody further; stirring his emotions into a cauldron of confusion and disarray.

He sat the little hedgehog up and wrapped him in blankets. He'd wash his pyjamas and dry them before slipping them back on him. "No." He said at last. Just how much could Sonic understand? Or had it taken him all night to form that question? He believed the latter.

Jody took him roughly into his arms and carried him back to his cold room. Once there he dumped him on the mattress and threw him another blanket to sleep with. It was scratchy and smelt of mildew and dust.

Just as he was about to leave, Sonic mewed after him. Jody paused and looked back at him with impatience leering upon his face.

Sonic gazed back frightfully, his breathing growing tight and wheezy. His cheeks were paler than when Jody had remembered them. "Tails? Where Tails? Please?"

"He's not here, now go to sleep and keep quiet." Jody walked out, shut the door and re-locked it. Patrick was right. It was too late to get sentimental with a hedgehog now.


Dib07: I am not quite sure when the next update will be, so keep an eye out! ^_^