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A Two Story House

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Notes: This is a one-shot of Juliette’s POV of the Eishexe Incident in Chapter 1 of Change of Atmosphere Part 2. If you haven’t read that this probably won’t make much sense. But don’t let that stop you from reading it anyway.

Warnings: Violence, tiny bit of mind-control or hypnotism or something, Juliette defending her man ‘cause she can be BAMF too.

 

Nick had never been a sound sleeper, he fidgeted, he twitched, he sometimes mumbled, and if Juliette caught him early enough in the morning she could get him to agree to anything though it might take a Post-It note in his coat pocket to remind him about it. As a child he had sleepwalked, he’d confided one evening when they’d been trading embarrassing childhood stories, on and off until he was thirteen.

“Mom and dad told me that was the reason every door and window in the house had deadbolts,” he’d told her just last week as they’d wandered into the lock and key aisle while pricing replacement baseboard trim for the kitchen. “There are a lot of things I’m questioning about my childhood.”

Nick was also a shamelessly self-admitted cuddler. Slept better when he could wrap around someone and use them as an anchor. She’d joked about borrowing a dog from the clinic to keep him company when she was away.

So when Nick sat straight up in bed and said, “There’s someone in the house.” Juliette did what she usually did, rolled over and patted him on the stomach and said, “You’re dreaming, hon. Go back to sleep.”

But a moment later there was a sound from downstairs and Juliette sat up too. “Someone’s in the house.”

Nick slid out of bed, retrieving his backup gun from the nightstand drawer. Before—before mysterious relatives and hidden monsters—the weapon had stayed in the lockbox downstairs. “Stay here.”

“I’m going with you.” She grabbed the flashlight from the top of the bureau. It was black metal, the type the Highway Patrol carried in their trunks, long and heavy enough to be used a club.

He gave her a frustrated look but compromised with, “Stay behind me.”

The house never got all that dark at night. Street lights on two sides filled the lower floor with soft orange light even through the blinds. She followed Nick down the stairs, wincing at every creak and groan of the floor under her bare feet. Nick was twice her weight, how was he so damn stealthy? Why didn’t they have more carpet?

At the bottom of the stairs, Nick paused to make a stay here gesture, pointing emphatically at the ground. She stayed because there was sticking close enough to help and then there was getting in the way. It was probably just a raccoon or possum anyway, bumping against the outside wall in search of tasty garbage.

Wood scraped against wood. Never mind the possum, that was definitely the little coffee table in front of the couch in the living room. Nick glanced back once, double checking her location, then slipped across the hall and snuck a glance around the doorframe. Whatever he saw had him reaching around to trip the light switch on the other side of the wall, flooding the room with light.

“POLICE!” Nick yelled and slipped through the door. “Get down on the floor.”

Juliette stopped on the last step and waiting for Nick to call the all clear. Obviously whatever was in the next room was person or person-shaped if Nick was giving it orders. Probably some kid out prowling around for stereos and DVD players to make a quick buck.

All she could see of Nick was one arm, the one holding the gun. She watched it slowly lower to his side, hand lax, watched the gun hit the floor. Gripping the flashlight with both hands she stepped off the last step and crossed to the living room door. The light made her squint a little but it was easy enough to see it wasn’t a raccoon or a teenybopper punk. It was a woman. She couldn’t have been more than five feet tall and ninety pounds soaking wet, but she had Nick backed up against the wall, holding him there with a hand on his arm.

The weirdest thing was that Nick wasn’t even trying to get away. He was just standing there, staring the woman right in the eyes with a blank look on his face.

“Hey!” Juliette yelled because that was definitely not normal. “Get away from him!”

The woman hissed like an upset cat and bared a mouthful of teeth that would have made a shark proud. She didn’t let go so Juliette swung the flashlight like a club, whacking the woman’s forearm, knocking her hand loose. Nick went down in a heap, knees thumping against the floor.

The woman shrieked and grabbed for her. She swung the flashlight again, hitting her in the face this time. The woman recovered fast, grabbing for her again then there was the deafening roar of gunshots and she staggered back, sprouting red stains that Juliette realized with a shock was blood.

The woman lunged again but she was aiming for the doorway and escape. Juliette moved to the side, letting her go, then followed far enough to see her disappear out the door. Grabbing the nearest phone she dialed 9-1-1 as she hurried back to Nick’s side.

“Is she gone?” He was white and trembling faintly, one elbow braced on the floor the only thing keeping him upright.

“She’s gone.” Sitting next to him she carefully pulled the gun out of his hand. He didn’t fight it, which worried her more than the pallor of his skin and the tremor in his hands. “What was that? What did she do?”

There was a small, perfect handprint on his forearm, angry red and swollen.

“I don’t know.” He was shaking in earnest now, shivering like he'd just come in out of a snow storm. “Are you okay? Did she touch you?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” she said just as the operator answered. It took forever to explain what had happened, give them the address, Nick’s name and badge number, and request an ambulance. Nick’s skin was cold under her hands and she kept having to shake him to keep him awake.

The operator wanted her to stay on the phone but she had to call Hank. Hank who was grumpy and mostly asleep until she told him what happened, trying to keep her voice from shaking as badly as her hands. “He shot her,” she told him and, “She ran out of the house,” and, “She did something to Nick,” and “I don’t know if she’s really gone.”

The door was hanging open, the knob twisted at an alarming angle. She eased the gun a little closer just in case.

“Did you call for an ambulance?” Hank demanded. He was moving around, getting dressed.

“Yes. Yes, they’re coming.” But Nick words were slurring through chattering teeth, trailing off as his eyes drooped closed again. “Nick, come on, stay awake.” She dragged a blanket out of the basket under the sideboard, tucking it around him one handed.

“I’m on my way.”

She put the phone down by her leg and pulled Nick closer, using both hands to tuck the blanket tighter. He wasn’t talking anymore, wouldn’t open his eyes.

In the distance she could hear the first siren.

 

End