Freddie checked the address in her notebook before looking at the GPS coordinates. Both checked out, leaving Freddie confused. The house she was looking for should have been right here, but instead stood miles and miles of trees. There wasn't even a trace of a walking path in any direction. Muttering under her breath, she popped back into her car and called her supervisor.
“Are you sure you gave me the right address?” She asked, glaring down at the sheet of paper.
“Positive,” came the reply. “Other reporters have had the same problem, but I've talked with others who've been there and they say that's the right address.”
Freddie huffed and shut her phone. She had no idea what they were talking about, because there was nothing but forest. She stared into the trees, trying to find anything that would give way to a path or traces of a human habitat. Clicking her nails on her steering wheel, she glanced down at the time before looking back outside. It was two o' clock in the afternoon and the sky was bright and sunny. Making a decision, Freddie stepped out of the car and made her way into the forest.
Freddie regretted her decision as she walked. She managed to finally find a trail, but she was completely lost. Where the sky was light blue was now blocked by leafy greens, effectively darkening her surrounding area. She wasn't scared; nothing frightened her. That's why she became a journalist. To be able to be thrust into dangerous situations without batting an eye. However, she found the forest testing her strength of mind, for as she walked it became darker and darker. Checking her phone, the time was fifteen to three. She contemplated leaving, to come back at a better time and maybe with a partner, but she marched on. She had a story to find. A new, juicy one.
Six months ago, a man by the name of William Graham moved into town. He once was a cop, but something forced him to leave. He was supposedly the best of the best, but he vanished without a trace after a case went bad. While Freddie would have been interested in a story such as that, it became better when she found out he moved into the Doll House.
The Doll House, the elusive house Freddie was currently trying to find, was haunted. Cursed. Every inhabitant who moved in left. Two weeks at least. A month at most. It was nearly condemned by the time Mr. Graham moved in, now the longest living resident to date. The house was rightly named the Doll House because the house came with a doll. There was no way to remove it. Anyone who tried reportedly found themselves compelled to put it back. Freddie had always wanted to visit the house to see the doll, but no one stayed long enough – or lived long enough – for her to check it out. However, she herself had never driven out to see the house. She wanted to, but she was always too busy since it was out of the way. Now, now she had two reasons to visit: the disgraced cop and the fact he wasn't driven away.
A branch snapped somewhere near her, making her jump. Freddie scolded herself, but there was another snap. Looking off the path, she tried to see what it was, but it was too dark. She continued searching, when a voice called out to her.
“Ma'am, are you lost?”
Jumping again, Freddie spun around and came face to face with a rugged looking man. He had curly hair and a scruffy looking beard, and under different circumstances Freddie would have thought he was cute looking. Now, however, she glared at him.
“No, I'm not.”
The man blinked at her, his blue eyes cast down. Freddie thought for a second he was looking at her chest before realizing he was looking at her shoulder.
“I'm sorry I scared you,” the stranger apologized, looking away completely. Freddie noticed the man was in tattered and ill fitting clothing with a pair of rubber boots. In one hand he carried a fishing pole and with the other a cooler. “It's just I don't see that many people on this trail. I thought perhaps you lost your way.” He shrugged one shoulder before continuing on. “Have a good day, ma'am.”
Freddie watched him go, her mind going back to the situation at hand. She paused and nearly smacked herself for her stupidity.
“Sir!” She called, and the man turned. He waited for her to catch up, eyes once again cast away. “I was wondering if you could help me find something.”
“Yeah, I'm looking for the Doll House.” She looked at him mischievously. “Ever heard of it?”
The man stilled, and Freddie smiled. She thrust her hand out. “You must be William Graham.”
“Just Will, please.” He answered, taking her hand cautiously. “And you are?”
“Freddie Lounds. Journalist and reporter.” If Will Graham could freeze anymore, he would be a statue. “I would like to ask you some--”
“I'm sorry, Miss Lounds.” Will interrupted, moving away. “I really must go.”
Freddie didn't let him get far, snatching his flannel sleeve. “Now really, Mr. Graham,” she scolded, sinking her bright nails into his arm. “You wouldn't let me walk back alone now would you?”
Will grimaced at her sickly sweet tone. Freddie waited, watching him think before he sighed. She smiled.
“Okay, I'll walk you to your car.”
She frowned. That's not what she had in mind. She opened her mouth to object, but Will was already walking down the way she came. “Do you remember where you parked?”
Growling, Freddie stalked after Will, giving him the address of where she parked.
Freddie knew something was wrong. First, they arrived back at the car in five minutes. She remembered the time it took her from when she left to when she ran into Mr. Graham. Secondly, when she jumped back into her car the engine wouldn't start.
Will frowned and had her pop the hood. There was nothing wrong as far as Freddie could see, and the same must have been for Graham for he shook his head.
“I don't know what's wrong.” He said. “Everything is hooked up and in place...” He crouched down and looked underneath as much as he could, using a flashlight Freddie had in her car. “Nothing's cut...”
He stood up, dusting off his jeans with a shake of his head. “I'm not sure what I can tell you, Miss Lounds. Can you call for someone to pick you up? I'll wait with you if you want.”
Such a gentleman, Freddie thought. She doubted Graham would willingly lead her to his house, and he seemed like a kind of guy who could evade her if she tried to follow. However, he seemed to have a sense of gallantry that surprising for a hermit such as himself. Weighing her options, she dug around in her purse for her phone, and was struck with an idea.
“Oh dear.” She muttered, hiding her phone in the interior pockets. “I can't find my phone. I just had it a second ago.” Searching her pockets, she held her hands out helplessly. She began to 'search' her car, Will helping the best he could. When they couldn't find it, Freddie asked, “Do you have one I could borrow?”
Will shook his head. “Not on me, but I do have one at my house.” He sighed dejectedly and waved her to follow. “Come on. I'll take you to my place.”
Smiling victoriously, Freddie gleefully followed.
The Doll House was not extraordinary, but it was big. It had rustic brown siding and dark brown shutters which were open. Two stories tall with the possibility of a basement, it was nothing like Freddie had in mind. She thought it would be more like a Victorian home or perhaps a small cottage with bright colors. The house seemed so... ordinary. There weren't any vines or foliage coiling up the side. The house rested in a little clearing, allowing Freddie to see the sky. Surrounding the house was a beige fence, which was also lacking any plant life crawling up the stakes. The forest crept toward the house, but it curled in some areas as if there were a force repelling anything unwanted. Shaking herself, Freddie placed a hand on the gate.
A low growl was her only warning before a dog jumped up. Freddie shrieked as the dog barked at her with its hair raised and teeth bared. Freddie continued to back up before she bumped into Will. The man was looking at the dog, a slight smile on his face.
“Sorry about that, Miss Lounds.” He apologized, but Freddie didn't feel he meant it. “Winston doesn't like strangers.”
Will raised a hand, and Freddie thought for sure the dog was going to bite him. The dog's vicious behavior dropped instantly, his tongue hanging out as he happily lapped at his master's hand. Will's smile increased as he rubbed the dog's neck, causing the collar to clank and chime.
“Winston's a good dog. He does his best to protect me from outsiders.” He gave the dog a kiss before he commanded him to sit. Opening the gate, he walked forward and beckoned Freddie to follow. Taking cautious steps, Freddie trailed after him and into the house.
Will put down his fishing pole and put the cooler near the fridge. “My land line isn't working right now,” he said, picking up his cellphone from the table and handing it over to her. “Hope you don't mind.”
“Not at all,” Freddie answered. It was a flip phone, and an older model to boot. Taking a look around, she found most of the electronics and devices were of an older make. Flipping it open, Freddie asked, “You don't have a smart phone?”
“I don't make enough money to have a phone like that. Besides,” he chuckled. “I don't have a reason to have one since I have a laptop for internet.”
Bet it's dial up too, Freddie thought. “What do you do for a living, Mr. Graham?”
“I fix boat motors.” He answered simply, picking up a pitcher of water. “Excuse me.” He stepped outside, and Winston started to happily bark. Freddie put the phone up to her ear and pretended to wait for an answering machine.
“Hey, Wendy, if you get this message please call this number back. It's Freddie.”
Freddie snapped the phone shut and began to snoop for the doll. It wasn't in the kitchen, so she entered the living room, looking high and low. Instead she found books upon books lining the shelves and floor. Upon the coffee table sat an assortment of candles, most of them unused with the exception of one called “Pinewood”. Freddie was about to pick it up when she heard a thump from upstairs.
She paused. Graham was still outside, so what could have made that noise? Freddie was making her way toward the stairs when Will entered the living room.
“There you are.” He sighed. “You gave me a scare when you weren't in the kitchen. Did you get a hold of a ride?”
“Huh? Oh, no, No one answered.” She said, distracted by her want to see what caused the noise and pay attention to her current target.
“So where is she?” Freddie asked as she handed back the cellphone. She began to make a round in the living room, pretending to look at a book or painting.
“Where's who?” Will asked, following her closely.
“I've heard she's beautiful,” Freddie continued, making her way toward the stairs. She knew she heard something up there. Another dog? Or a cat? “Heard she has long, blond curls and pretty blue eyes.”
“Who's she?” Will asked and Freddie faced him.
“The doll, of course.” She answered impatiently.
Will blinked and Freddie huffed in frustration. “You must have seen the doll at some point while living here.”
Will remained silent before sighing, shoulders slumping in defeat.
“Alright.” He relented. “Since you're here until your ride comes I don't see any trouble in showing you.”
Freddie smiled, but Will's face remained defeated. The journalist moved aside as Will neared and followed him up the stairs to the first room. Finally, she was going to see the cursed doll.
“I must apologize in advance, Miss Lounds,” Will said as he opened an intricate looking door and flipped on the light. “He's not dressed to meet visitors at the moment. I'll make sure to change him before I start making supper.”
Freddie paused. “He?”
Her eyes adjusted to the change in light, and she saw him immediately.
Sitting on a little throne on top of a dresser was the doll looking nothing like what she was told. She expected it to look like a child's toy with a soft body and porcelain head, but the doll was surprisingly lifelike, looking almost like a miniature human than a doll. Freddie couldn't tell how big the doll was from its seated position, but if she had to guess it had to be more than a foot tall.
The doll had a strikingly hansom face, cheek-bones sharp and leaving no mistakes it was a male doll. Instead of long, curling hair the doll had short, sandy blond. What she was told were blue eyes, Freddie found the doll had dark brown. The doll wore a bored expression, the narrowed eyes staring lifelessly ahead. He was casually dressed in a white button up top and black slacks. A few of the buttons were undone.
Freddie stared in amazement while Will walked forward, reaching up to adjust the white shirt.
“See? Not suitable for company.” Will hummed. He snapped the shirt closed all the way and gently swiped a finger over the doll's cheek. He then stood aside. “Miss Lounds, meet Hannibal. Hannibal, Miss Lounds. She'll be staying here until her ride arrives.”
Freddie was baffled as Will introduced the two as if the doll was a person, and she wondered if Mr. Graham was all there in the head. Will picked up the doll, cradling it in his arms carefully as if it was a child. He smiled down at him before turning to Freddie.
“Now, why don't I start making supper? You must be hungry.”
Freddie watched the doll from where he sat on his perch on the bookshelf, his tiny hands folded neatly over his lap. Will had changed him into a dark blue suit and tie, the doll appearing more lifelike than before. She'd never seen anything like it. Will didn't go into details, but mentioned he was a Japanese Ball-Joint doll. He said with these types of doll one could change the face, hair, and eyes which might explain why others thought he might be a girl doll.
With Will in the kitchen, Freddie took a closer look at “Hannibal”. She didn't touch or attempt to pick him up, sensing Will would notice if he was out of place. The head appeared to be securely on with no sections or seams indicating they came apart. The only joint she could see was there the head met the neck and where the neck met the body. Freddie stared at the doll long and hard, and the doll dully stared back.
“How boring,” Freddie muttered, returning to her seat. “I was expecting something far more Gothic. So disappointing.” Freddie laughed, taking out her notebook to jot a few notes down. “Oh well, at least I can get a story out of the hermit. He should prove far more entertaining.”
Freddie put her note book away before taking out a mirror to check her makeup. Perhaps she could flatter Mr. Graham enough to let her stay the night so she can snoop while he slept. After all, he did live alone. She could easily drop a few pills in his drink before he went to bed so he didn't get any bright ideas.
Finding her face in correct order, Freddie was about to shut her compact when something caught her eye. In the reflection she saw the doll, and he was looking straight at her. She dropped her mirror, turning quickly around, but the doll was as he was: staring listlessly at nothing with his hands folded in his lap. Freddie was about to go up to it at once when Will returned.
“Supper should be done in a few minutes,” he said, placing a cup of coffee in front of her. Freddie glanced at the doll one more time before picking up her mug. “I hope you like fish. I just caught some today before I ran into you.”
“Yes, I do.” She said. “Mr. Graham, I do hope you'll let me ask you a few questions.” Freddie watched as Will's face becomes blank. When he doesn't say anything she continues. “You're the only tenant in years, decades even, to stay in this house for more than a few weeks. How are you able to succeed while others failed?”
Will remained silent, but his eyes flicker over to the doll. Freddie followed his gaze, and the two fall into silence. Will stood and walked over to the bookshelf, gently arranging Hannibal so his hands were against the shelf, leaning the doll back into a more casual pose. He must not have like it, for he put Hannibal in his original position, straightening the mini suit as he went. He shifted slightly, blocking the doll from Freddie's gaze. Freddie gritted her teeth. She will not be ignored.
“Mr. Graham.” She says curtly. “I've been told you were once a cop, is that right?”
Will was quiet, but his body flinched.
“And I also heard something happened. Something caused you to leave, to go into hiding. What made you go so far as to hide yourself away in the Doll House? What makes you tolerate being in this cursed house with that doll.”
Again, Will was silent. He continued to fuss with the doll's clothes, constantly pulling the sleeves and pant legs down or fiddling with the doll's position. Freddie nearly snapped when a light “ding” rang from the kitchen. Will seemed to deflate as he sighed. He finally turned to the annoyed journalist with a strained smile.
“Shall we have supper?”
Before Freddie can respond, Will picked up Hannibal and entered the kitchen. Freddie shortly followed him.
“It's getting late, Miss Lounds.” Will said as he cleaned the dishes. “And your friend never called back.”
Supper was quiet. Will avoided anything dealing with his past or reasons for staying in the Doll House, but he tried at least tried to maintain small talk. Their small conversations ranged from the best ways to catch fish to the proper ways to set up a tent. Now the man had his back turned, effectively turning out Freddie and keeping his face hidden. Hannibal was perched up on a shelf high above them, overlooking the kitchen while Freddie made attempts to dig into Will's past. The doll unnerved Freddie when it was sitting up there. It almost looked like it was looking down at her, following her every move.
“How about you try to ring them again?” Will suggested, nodding over to his small phone on the counter. Freddie doesn't want to try, seeing as she never made the call, but she had to keep up the pretense. Huffing, she snatched the phone up and flipped it open. She was about to dial the number to her answering machine at home when she noticed there was no signal.
“Do you usually have bad reception here, Mr. Graham?” she asked, and Will stopped drying the dishes.
Freddie held up the phone, and Will frowned.
“Try calling them anyway and see what happens.”
She did, but nothing happened.
What luck, Freddie thought gleefully. I guess I will be staying after all.
Will's frown deepened before he moved toward the door.
“Come on, I'll give you a lift back into town.”
Freddie clenched her fists in anger, but doesn't say anything as Will lead her to the garage. His car was old with rust crawling around bottom and the doors. Freddie sneered in disgust as Will opened the door for her and flakes of dirt and paint fall off and onto her shoes.
“Sorry about the mess.” He muttered, seemingly ashamed of the state of his vehicle.
“Is it even going to start?” Freddie asked rudely, but Will nodded.
“It should work. It worked yesterday.”
Freddie rolled her eyes and gingerly sat in the car, finding the seats covered in dog hair. One dog couldn't possibly shed this much.
Suddenly, Freddie was reminded of the noise she heard coming from upstairs. She had thought there was another dog, but there was a lack of clicking of paws on hardwood flooring. Plus, Will seemed like the type of person who would have the dogs sit around him while he ate. He left Winston outside, so if he had another dog why wouldn't he let it out as well.
Her thoughts were put on hold as Will climbed into the driver's seat. He went through the motions of buckling up and sliding the key into the ignition.
The car clicked.
Will stopped turning the key. He sat silently before trying again, but he got the same results. Will cursed under his breath before getting out and popping the hood. Freddie got out as well, but was unsure of what to do. She's glad she gets a chance to try and interrogate Will some more, but at the same time a small feeling of fear began to trickle in the back of her head. Two cars deciding not to work in one day? That was an unusual coincidence.
“What's wrong?” she asked, but Will shook his head.
“Nothing's wrong. Just the car battery is dead.” He stood, rubbing his head in puzzlement. “She was working fine yesterday. I don't understand.”
“Well, the car is old.” Freddie reasoned. Will reluctantly nodded.
“There's not much I can do for her now. I don't have a spare battery to jump it, so it'll have to wait in the morning.” He looks at Freddie with an unreadable expression on his face. “We'll try and see if we can phone your friend, but if not there are spare guest rooms.”
Freddie wanted to smile; she finally got what she wanted, but she can't help but feel something was wrong. Upon reentering the kitchen, she chanced to look up at Hannibal, who remained on his perch. The doll looked back at her, his face cruelly bathed in shadows. She shivered and moved to find Will's phone. There was still no signal.
There was a small noise, causing Freddie to look up. The doll was still in his spot, but something was off about it. Freddie was trying to figure out what when Will returned from the garage with greasy hands. He washed them thoroughly, making sure there wasn't a stain on them before he picked up Hannibal.
“I'll show you the guest room. You can go to bed whenever you want, but I usually stay up until midnight.” He chuckled weakly, clutching the doll closer to himself. “I have a slight sleeping problem.”
Interesting. Freddie made a mental note as Will lead her to the guest room. She paused.
“Do you have any other pets, Will?” She asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean do any other animals live in this house? Another dog, a cat, a bird.”
Will shook his head. “No, Winston is my only pet, but I hope to get another dog. It gets lonely here, and I do look a little silly when all I have for company is a dog and a doll. Not that I mind, of course.” He gave the doll a hug, uncaring that Freddie was watching. Freddie gaped at the fully grown man hugging the doll, deciding that was enough to write an article by itself.
She pulled her thoughts away from the display and back to the conversation. “So there's nothing upstairs? No animals?”
“Nope. Weather is nice enough to let Winston stay out all day, but I like to bring him in at night. I don't want him to get attacked by a coyote or have him run after a fox.” Will looked up, a small frown on his face. “Why do you ask, Miss Lounds? Did you hear something?”
“It was probably nothing,” Freddie tried to dismiss. “Probably the house settling.”
Will nodded before continuing up to the guest room. Freddie followed, her mind in a whirlwind. That wasn't the house settling, it was too heavy. It sounded like someone dropped something or made the noise deliberately. The only thing that was upstairs at the time was...
Freddie managed to contain her gasp. No, the doll couldn't be alive... Could it? It was supposedly cursed, that was for sure, but ever since she stepped foot in the Doll House she felt something. At first she thought it was because she was on the lead of a good story, but now that she thought about it, it wasn't anticipation she felt, it was fear. Tiny little shocks of fear.
There had been cases in the past of the previous tenants dying suddenly in the house, each one diagnosed with heart failure. Usually the ones who died were older, but there were some who were young, maybe mid thirties. They shouldn't have heart problems at that age.
But Will was still here. He had to be about thirty, thirty-three. He has been living here for months and the only person to didn't seem phased by what was going on. Perhaps he was under the doll's curse, forcing him to stay. No living being would want to stay in this house.
Freddie bit down her instincts to run. She was going to get to the bottom of this, one way or another.
Freddie waited patiently for Will to go to bed. He wasn't kidding when he said he had a sleeping problem. The journalist listened to him pace back and forth in his room, his weight making the floorboards creak each time he passed over a specific spot. He was up later than he said he was going to bed, and by the time his room fell silent it was nearing one in the morning. Freddie waited another half hour before standing from the bed. Will had lent her some clothes of his sister's, but she remained in her own. She had no plans on sleeping. There was something about that doll, and she needed to find out. Opening her door, Freddie waited before stepping out into the dark hallway.
She peered down at Will's room, finding the door slightly ajar. She figured it was for Winston to go back and forth. She acted quickly. The dog already proved to be hostile toward her, so there was no telling what he would to if he caught her creeping around in the dark. Tip-toeing to the ornate door, Freddie took one last look around before sneaking into the doll's room.
Freddie turned on the light, and there was the doll. He was back in his casual outfit, buttons once again undone half way.
“All right, you creepy thing.” She whispered, stopping directly in front of him. “I know you're real.”
The doll didn't move. The expression, along with the way the head was tilted, made it seem more bored than usual. Freddie gritted her teeth.
“I'm not stupid,” she growled. “You might have Graham fooled, but not me.”
The doll didn't move.
Her anger over rode her the fear from earlier, and she grabbed the doll.
The light suddenly went out, and the door slammed shut.
Freddie gasped. “Whose there?” No reply. “Will? William, this isn't funny.”
Her heart began to pump faster and faster, drumming madly in her ears. She twisted and turned, trying to hear for the other person, but it was useless. Suddenly, something sharp cut into her hand, and in her surprise she dropped the doll. Freddie didn't pay it any attention. Now, she had to get out of the room. She stumbled to the door, tripping and stumbling over boxes in her hurry. The door knob refused to turn when she finally laid her hand upon it. Freddie yanked and pulled, feeling some of her nails break off in her attempts.
The room's temperature suddenly dropped.
“How rude.” A deep voice drawled.
The light came back on, but instead of florescent yellow it emitted a pink glow. Freddie stopped and slowly turned around.
The doll was back in his throne, legs crossed and hands resting on the arm rests, and his brown –no, red – eyes bore into her. The doll slowly blinked, and Freddie nearly fainted. She was right. It was real. She then noticed something on his face that wasn't there before. It was too dark to tell, but it looked like the doll's lips were painted. No... that wasn't right.
Freddie brushed her hand against her leg and pain shot through her arm. Looking down, she found there was a large chunk of skin missing, blood flowing profusely from the wound. Freddie gasped and looked back up in time to see the doll smile. His teeth were stained red.
“I must apologize for that abrupt loss of control, Miss Lounds,” the doll – Hannibal – apologized, steeping his hands under his chin. “But you hurt me when you grabbed me.”
Freddie was in too much shock to realize the doll could be harmed, her eyes not once straying from him. Hannibal produced a small cloth and dabbed at his face and neatly folded it when he was done.
“Now, what shall I do with you?”
“I'll scream,” Freddie threatened, a hand closing around the door knob. “I'll scream and get Will.”
“Ah, yes. William. What do you suppose he would do if he saw this? Come running to your rescue? Defend you from a monstrous doll?” Hannibal chuckled and uncrossed his legs. “What makes you think he would come, hm? A journalist who came barging in on his peace and quiet, asking questions and digging in his past.” Hannibal shook his head.
“He would,” Freddie argued. “He wouldn't let something like you kill me. I haven't done anything wrong; I'm just doing my job.”
“And you are doing it rather rudely.” Hannibal tutted. Freddie snarled.
“You put a spell on him, didn't you? What have you done?”
“Me? I haven't done anything to him. Isn't that right, William?”
Something moved in the corner of the room, and Freddie turned to see Will standing in the corner. How long had he been standing there? When did he get there? Will kept his head down, refusing to look Freddie in the eye. Clasped in his hands was Freddie's cellphone.
“If anything, Miss Lounds, it is you who has done a great harm to William.”
Freddie watched in horror as Will came closer, clutching the phone as if it was a barrier. Hannibal watched him closely before waving a hand. “You may leave, William. I'll be down shortly.”
Will looked up at Hannibal before nodding. However, the only way out of the room was through the door Freddie was trying to open. Hannibal didn't look concerned.
“Please step away from the door, Miss Lounds.” Hannibal said.
“No. If you want to get out you are going to have to make me.” Freddie snarled, and Hannibal sighed as if it was a great inconvenience.
“Have it your way.” The doll made direct eye contact with her, and Freddie felt her body freeze. “Come here.”
A shiver ran through her body, and before Freddie knew it her body began to move. She tried to stop, tried to stay still, but it was no use. Her legs moved her closer, but she found she still had control over her arms. When she was within distance, Freddie reached out and slapped Will across the face. The man made a keening noise similar to a kicked dog, and Freddie hoped it was enough to lift whatever spell the doll had over him.
Freddie was suddenly lurched forward and brought to her knees. Hannibal was standing now, his calm mask gone as his lips curled in anger.
“How dare you touch him.” He hissed, and Freddie gasped as she found herself completely immobile. Will had recovered from his shock and sneaked out of the room, closing the door behind him. Freddie called after him, but she soon choked as an invisible force pressed against her throat.
“Oh dear, now you've upset William.” Hannibal sighed, his calm demeanor back in place as he rolled his sleeves. “And that, my dear, greatly upsets me.”
Hannibal gracefully jumped down from his perch, and Freddie felt small as he stalked closer. He was the right height to her crouched form, his eyes level with hers. This close, Freddie could see where there were once joints and seams connecting the head to the body was completely gone. She looked at the now exposed arms and they too lacked seams and ball joints.
“What are you?” She whispered. Hannibal smiled.
“Wouldn't you like to know?” He flexed his hands, and large claws began to form, and when Hannibal smiled again his teeth were razor sharp points. “I will let you know I am the one responsible for keeping this house hidden from prying eyes. No one shall find this house unless I wish them to. How unfortunate you ran into William, but then again, you've proved to be a good catch.”
“How? You weren't even with Will.” The doll gave her a look, and Freddie suddenly understood. “You were following me in the forest.” The creature hummed.
“You can be intelligent when you try, Miss Lounds. It is too bad you decided to use your cunning on my William otherwise I would have let you go. Fortunately, or unfortunately for you, William didn't catch on to my plans until it was too late for him to do anything.”
“I'm sorry, Miss Lounds, but I think that's enough questions for tonight. You did, after all, strike my pet.” Hannibal's eyes glowed and a smile crawled onto his face. “And that simply won't do.”
Freddie screamed as the lights went out.
“Did you have to be so brutal?” Will asked, taking a wet washcloth and cleaning off the blood from the fae's face. Hannibal allowed himself to be slightly manhandled knowing Will was doing his best to be gentle.
“She was too nosy,” Hannibal answered, curling his small hands around Will's hand, stilling him. “She dug where she wasn't supposed to, made you uncomfortable, and laid her hand upon you.” He reached up and to the slightly reddened skin. There won't be any bruising, but Hannibal still didn't like it. There was dried blood on his cheek as well from Freddie's hand. “I won't tolerate it.”
“She would have been gone if you had just let her go,” Will countered, scowling. “How did you even know she was in the forest?”
“I could smell her cheap perfume.” Hannibal made a face as he rubbed it one last time to rid of the evidence. His clothes were ruined, but Will would buy him new ones. He always made sure Hannibal had the best clothes. “She came off as the type who would keep coming back, and I don't have enough energy to keep her away forever. This was the easiest solution.” Hannibal ran his fingers through his hair. “I don't like her kind.”
“She's human, Hannibal, just like me.” Will reminded, building a fire in the fireplace. He took Hannibal's soiled clothes and tossed them in along with the wrung out washcloth. They watched the cloth as it was consumed and reduced to charred remains. Will watched a little longer. He was beginning to fall into a dark place in his mind when a small nip brought him back.
Holding his hand out, Will allowed Hannibal to gently gnaw on his fingers, his tiny, razor sharp teeth gently pinching the rough flesh. Hannibal wondered if he could get the human to change his hand lotion; the one he was currently using wasn't doing him any favors. That, and it left a terrible after taste in his mouth.
Giving the hand one last nuzzle, Hannibal held his arms out, and Will immediately picked him up. The fae licked at a trail of blood on his human's face before snuggling close.
“Let's go to bed, Will.”
“But the body-”
“Will be taken care of. I always take care of you, don't I?” Hannibal brought a clawed hand up to run it along Will's rough cheek. “I won't ever let anything happen to you.”
Will sighed, but he cradled Hannibal closer, letting the fae sweet talk him.
“You're right.” He whispered, sleep already fogging his brain. “You're always right.”
Will carried Hannibal back to their room, leaving the door open for Winston who was still sleeping. He then crawled back into bed, setting the faeling down on the extra pillow. Not that he used it, since once Will laid down he was curled around his head. Tiny claws combed through his curls, and Will instantly began to doze off.
“Nothing shall get between us, Will,” Hannibal vowed, his red eyes gleaming in the dark as he watched the other fall into slumber. “Nothing.”