Christmas Cannibal – Chapter Five

NOT EDITED

After informing Eddie’s parents about his death, Miguel had stayed in his cruiser in the parking lot for nearly an hour to cry, gain control of himself, and cry. Informing the family of a homicide was never easy, but tacking on that the victim was a three-year-old, that Miguel knew him and his parents, that he was Eliseo’s best friend–Well, that made it harder.

Once he had been able to keep control of his emotions for more than a few seconds, Miguel had gone inside to focus on paperwork, and he had stayed at the station until almost six that evening. Landon had texted him just before five to let him know his sister was willing to see Eliseo that night. Miguel had prolonged it for as long as he could, but even the detectives on shift that day had already cleared out of the station. There was no need for him to sit around and pull for overtime that hadn’t even existed for months.

With a sigh, he pushed his chair back and rose to his feet. He snagged his coat from the back of the chair and rolled it under his desk. Shoving his arms through the sleeves, he made his way down to the lab.

Jamal stood outside the door, head tilted back against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. “How can I help you, Detective?”

Miguel glanced up at his face just to make sure he wasn’t crazy. Nope. The man’s eyes were still closed. God, maybe he was a psychic too.

Well… there was no harm in asking. “What are you, some kind of psychic?”

Jamal chuckled. “No. Sometimes, I wish I was. Imagine the solve rate my department would hold,” he said. “I’m good with footsteps, is all. You walk with a relatively distinct heaviness on your right leg.”

“College football injury.”

“Aha.” Jamal opened his eyes, turning his head to look at Miguel. “What can I do for you?”

“I was just coming down to let Bo know I was heading out for the evening.”

Jamal nodded. “I’ll let him know. He’ll have a report on your desk tomorrow, I assure you.”

“Thank you for sending him out for this. And, uh, thank him again for agreeing to it.”

“I will, and my pleasure.” Jamal nodded toward the stairs. “Go on home, Detective. Bo has your number. If anything comes up that can’t wait until tomorrow, he’ll call you. Until then, go spend the rest of the night with your boy. You’re all he’s got.”

“Yeah,” Miguel whispered. He nodded, lifting a hand in departure as he turned back toward the stairs. It was still hard to wrap his head around just how true that statement was. He was all Eliseo had left. His mom was gone, his grandparents were gone–his maternal grandparents had more or less severed ties after the divorce. He had no siblings, one of his friends had been murdered, and he was a fucking psychic.

Jesus, what the hell was he going to do?

***

Miguel let Landon drive to his sister’s house. It was odd and uncomfortable sitting in the passenger seat, but he made due. All that mattered was getting Eliseo to this woman so they could figure out how best to manage his… powers?

Miguel turned toward Landon. “What do you call them?”

“Call what?”

“The psychic thing. Powers?”

“Ah. Depends on the psychic, I guess. My sister, she prefers ‘abilities’. She says a lot of adults do. Kid psychics tend to like the idea that they have some kind of cool superpower, but she says that can be dangerous.”

Miguel shifted to look back at Eliseo. The boy was sound asleep in his carseat, his stuffed lamb held to his chest. Miguel still remembered buying it for him. It had been one of the only toys in the hospital’s gift shop that wasn’t blue or pink, and it had been the cutest stuffed toy there. It had been an expensive first toy, but Eliseo had loved it from day one.

“Why is it dangerous?” Miguel finally asked.

“Kids associate superpowers with the ones their favorite superheroes have. Nora–my sister–knows of at least one kid psychic who, umm… thought he could fly after his parents told him what he could do were like superpowers. He managed to survive, but it hasn’t been an easy life.”

“Christ,” Miguel whispered. He turned back around in his seat, clasping his hands between his thighs. “What’s something good you can tell me about all this? About these abilities? Does any good come from them? Or is my boy going to live with nightmares his whole damn life with nothing positive to come by?”

“I think good things can come from them. My sister and I didn’t really have it easy growing up. Our dad was in a coma from a car accident for years, and our mom passed away within the first four days after said accident. Our grandparents raised us for a while, and then my sister took care of both of us. Our grandparents, they didn’t understand the psychic thing. They always thought it was bullshit, some crazy story our dad fed our mom to get her to ‘run away’ with him.” Landon shrugged. “They loved us, but they didn’t understand us, you know? That lack of understanding can really mess a kid up.”

Miguel closed his eyes. “What if I can’t grow to understand it? I mean, is it even possible to understand it if I’m not like him?”

“Yes. Think of it like any familiar condition a person can have. Anxiety, let’s say. You can understand what that person might be going through. You can understand the coping mechanisms they may have. Sure, you don’t know exactly how they’re feeling or exactly how bad their anxiety is. You don’t know which is their best shot at coming down from a panic attack unless they share it with you. But you can still understand the concepts, and it makes you… tolerant. Kind. Caring. That’s what he needs. Someone understanding, even if they haven’t experienced it themselves.”

“I guess that makes sense.” Miguel cleared his throat. “How much longer until we get to your sister’s place?”

“Not too much further now. We’re about ten minutes away.”

“All right.” Miguel tilted his head back against the seat, closing his eyes. “Thank you for this, Landon. I don’t know what I’d do without you when it comes to this.”

Landon remained silent for a long moment. “You’re welcome. I just want the best for Eliseo. He’s a good kid, and he shouldn’t have to suffer through life just because he’s a little different.”

“He can see the future in his nightmares.”

“Yeah, like I said, a little different.”

Miguel couldn’t help but chuckle. “I guess that’s technically true.”

“I’m excellent at technicallies.”

“They’re appreciated, especially after the day I had.”

“God, I can imagine. I don’t know how you do it, Miguel. They talked about it on the news. No pictures, of course, but they talked about it. I-I can’t even imagine what it was like to walk in there and see that poor kid firsthand.”

“Wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure,” Miguel said quietly. “But you learn to manage the way it makes you feel. You learn that you gotta be there if you want to find the monster that did this to a child.” He opened his eyes. “Speaking of.”

“Yeah?”

“You said that… monsters are real.”

“Yeah.”

“Does that mean this Father Whipper thing really could have killed this boy?” Miguel asked.

Landon cleared his throat, adjusting his grip on the steering wheel. “Anything’s possible. These things hide their true selves in the shadows to keep the, uh, ‘normal’ population blissfully unaware of them. It allows them to hunt and feed without much interference. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only monsters out there, and it doesn’t mean an actual Father Whipper is the only thing that could present himself as Father Whipper to your son.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means it could be anything. Anything can present itself as something else, especially in dreams. It could be a Demon or a ghost. It could be a Vampire or a Shapeshifter. Hell, it could be a regular old human with a fascination for cannibalistic lore.”

“So even if monsters are real, this could still have been done by a human?” Miguel asked.

“Oh, yeah. Absolutely.”

He let out a harsh breath. “I don’t know if that makes it better or worse.”

Landon shook his head. “Welcome to the club.”


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