“He’s inside,” he instructed.
I kept my eyes on the small house across the street. The man I’d healed didn’t attempt to engage in meaningless conversation. His mouth only briefly opening when giving me proper directions. I liked that. Knowing I’d saved another mortal brought me a strange comfort, a habit I had no intention of continuing.
Jealousy sulked in the back. He was frustrated that I’d allowed the mortal to ride shotgun and had said nothing the entire ride. To his credit, Jealousy wasn’t just taking pity on himself. That wasn’t his style.
I watched him periodically in the rearview mirror, and his eyes never left the mortal’s position. He studied him, hoping if the man had ill intentions, he would reveal them with a nervous twitch or other tics.
The mortal had nothing to gain by tricking me. His brother fatally wounded him in the middle of nowhere and left him for dead. He’d done it out of jealousy, and I couldn’t ignore the undeniable pull I felt to the situation.
It was hard to explain. Even as I watched the house closely for any sign of movement, I couldn’t shake the tickle I felt deep in my brain. I sat there in silence, scratching at that constant itch until the rawness took over my consciousness.
“What do you plan on doing?” The mortal asked, breaking through the silence.
“Not sure yet,” I answered.
“Oh yeah you do, Din,” Jealousy piped up from behind me, grinning from ear to ear.
I peered at him through the mirror, urging him to be quiet. The last thing I needed was to have an open conversation with my silent partner in front of the nervous mortal.
“Is he alone? Or are there other people in there?”
“No, he lives alone,” he replied.
“Why do I feel like we’re walking into something bigger than what this seems to be on the surface?” Jealousy interjected, leaning forward to look into the man’s face.
“What’s the plan?” the man added.
“I don’t have one yet,” I snarled, turning to look at him. I scowled to let him know I’d grown tired of his questioning.
He obliged my warning, nodding in compliance and slouching in his seat. Jealousy chuckled, shaking his head at the weak mortal. He didn’t have to tell me he was disgusted with the man. I could feel it as if I generated the emotion on my own. His truth was my truth, and there was so much more to being his ruler. He was an extension of me and one who saw everything from a different perspective.
“Why does it feel like you’re hiding something from me?” I asked the mortal, keeping my eyes locked on his.
“I’ve told you everything,” he explained. “He caught me out there alone and attacked me. He’s jealous of me and my marriage. At least that’s what he said to me when he—”
“I didn’t ask for a recap,” I interrupted. “This just doesn’t fit.”
“Maybe you should ask him why we’re drawn to him or why the pull is in his direction and not the house,” Jealousy added.
“You were the one who saved me,” the mortal snapped. “I didn’t ask you to do that, and I haven’t even asked you who you are or how the hell you were able to do what you did.”
“Calm down,” I said.
“No!” he shouted. His body language shifted to a defensive and almost fidgety demeanor. He looked around me at the house before his eyes bounced back to mine, locking with intensity. “My brother tried to kill me. Some stranger appeared, talking to himself, and healed me as if nothing happened. Needless to say, I’m having a really weird day.”
His gaze told me there was more to the story. For Jealousy, it revealed everything to him as he turned to smirk at me and leaned back against the seat. I was curious, so I continued.
“This is how it’s going to go,” I said, removing a cigarette from the box with the tip of my teeth. “I’m going to wait for the lights to go out. When they do, I will slip in quietly and catch him when he’s vulnerable.”
“Sounds good,” he replied, rubbing his hands together quickly. His eyes opened wide as he leaned forward, scanning the area for any movement. “When we get in there, what do you need from me?”
“We? This moron thinks he’s coming with us, Din,” Jealousy barked.
I flicked the match, holding it to the end of my cigarette. I took a couple of puffs before I whipped the flame out with a quick snap of my wrist.
“This is something I will do alone,” I explained, exhaling smoke in his direction. “Having you with me will just complicate things. That is something I don’t want or need. I will go in alone and retrieve the answers I seek.”
“Then what?” he groaned.
“I don’t like his tone,” Jealousy hissed.
I didn’t like it either. There was something about his eyes. The gaze he fixed on me forced me to study him in a new light. The stare didn’t resemble that of a victim. It took the shape of a predator, something I’d grown accustomed to seeing on my travels.
I scanned the house for a moment, taking a long drag from my cigarette. The lights turned off, and everything went quiet. I turned back to the mortal, blowing smoke from my nose.
“Then I will act appropriately,” I replied. “Know this. I will not be persuaded in any way to carry out an alternate punishment. After I retrieve the truth, I will decide what needs to happen. I need you to respect that.”
His cold stare would have sent a chill down my spine if I weren’t worse than him. He didn’t like what I said, but I could see his wheels spinning. He knew he had no other choice than to allow me to do what I intended. He nodded reluctantly, averting his eyes.
“I’m going to need to hear you say it.”
His eyes darted back to mine, forcing a rare smile to streak across my face. I squinted, urging him to answer me without force.
“I can respect that,” he said reluctantly.
“Good. Wait here,” I said, opening my door.
Snow began to fall as I exited my vehicle, and the night stood still. There was no wind, and an eerie calm settled around me.
I inhaled deeply. The ember of my cigarette lit up brightly in the darkness. Many thoughts were swirling in my mind, and I didn’t have a real plan.
Jealousy pulled my cigarette from my lips, placing it between his own, and took a drag.
“Just remember, I’m here,” he said. “You’re never alone, and whatever happens in there, Din, we’ll face it together.” He flicked the cigarette into the snow as smoke poured from his nose and slightly open mouth.
I don’t know why that comforted me, but it did. Knowing I had someone I trusted behind me made my first step toward the house easier than it would have been if I were alone.
Neither one of us said a word as we approached the house. It was dark except for a dim porch light above the front door. \ Wind greeted my arrival at the back of the house. It howled in my ears and was followed by an assault of snowflakes.
The back door was locked. I gripped the doorknob tight, squeezing it until it popped in my hand. I carefully pushed the door open and entered the house.
It was obvious this wasn’t the house of a bachelor. There were no dirty dishes in the kitchen, and the sink was spotless. In the living room, the blankets were folded neatly and draped over the arm of the couch.
I walked carefully down the dark hallway toward the master bedroom. I peered around the door, looking down at the couple nestled in bed. Jealousy chuckled from behind me.
“The plot thickens, Din,” he said. “Either the brother was right, and the wife is really in love with him, or we helped the jealous brother.” I turned to question him, and he stopped me before I could speak. “Just ask yourself this one question, Din. Where do you feel the pull? From the room…or from the car?”