Christmas Cannibal – Chapter Seven

NOT EDITED

“I don’t want to tell him,” Landon whispered. “You’re the professional! You tell him.”

“You know him better than I do. Would you rather be told by a stranger or someone you knew?” Nora asked.

“I’m his babysitter.”

“Yes, the babysitter he thinks is attractive. The babysitter he takes comfort in. The babysitter he trusts.”

Landon snorted. “Does not.”

“Oh, don’t be daft. He’s immediately comforted by you touching his arm or you telling him it’s okay. Hearing it from you will be far better than hearing it from me.”

Landon crossed his arms over his chest. Defiance was far easier than begging Nora to tell him if Miguel actually felt that way about him or if it was just a way to convince him to talk to the man. “I’m not gonna do it.”

“What is taking you so long?” Nathan asked as he walked into the kitchen. “I’ve already told Miguel all of my cool abilities, and I’m frankly out of topics of discussion that aren’t about his son’s nightmares.”

Nora jerked a thumb in Landon’s direction. “He refuses to tell Miguel his son is a created psychic because he’s worried it’ll ruin his chances of sleeping with the guy.”

Landon’s scoff came out closer to a choke. “That’s not it at all! I mean… Well…”

Nora raised a brow. “I think that sort of proves my point.”

“You know all the details better than I do,” Landon said after a moment.

“You don’t have to explain every single piece of the universe to him, Lan. I just need you to break it to him. If he has questions you can’t answer, that’s what I’m here for. Okay?”

He let out a harsh breath. “Fine.” Landon walked back into the living room, where he was immediately greeted with Miguel’s worried face. “We should talk. Umm… in private.”

Miguel looked over at Eliseo before nodding. “I’m gonna go talk to Landon for a few, mijo. You just keep on coloring, okay?”

“Okay, Daddy.”

Miguel ruffled the boy’s curly hair and pushed himself to his feet. He followed Landon into the foyer and leaned back against the wall, arms crossed tightly over his chest. “What’s wrong with my boy, Landon?”

“There’s nothing wrong with him. Umm… Nora was just surprised.”

“Me too. But what is she surprised about?”

Landon scratched the back of his neck, eyes on the floor. “So, uh, I told you that psychics are born. Me and Nora, we were born with abilities, and we got those abilities from our dad’s side of the family.”

“Right.”

“But Eliseo wasn’t born this way. He was… umm… created.”

“Created,” Miguel echoed. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means that someone or something turned Eliseo into a psychic. He wasn’t born one.”

“But then someone… turned him into one?”

“Yeah.”

Miguel swallowed. “Is that bad? I-I mean, all of it is bad. My three-year-old is watching people die in his nightmares. But will it hurt him?”

“I don’t think so. Nora will have more answers than I do, but since you know me… she wanted me to be the one to tell you the basics of it,” Landon said.

“I appreciate it. Sorta like getting bad news from a doctor you just met versus the one you’ve been going to for the last three years.” Miguel tilted his head back against the wall, closing his eyes. Landon watched the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallowed. “Does she know who or… or what did this to him?”

“She doesn’t know for certain. She’d need more time to pick through his memories and try to see if he knows. But, umm, she has a guess.”

“A guess,” Miguel echoed. He lifted his head from the wall, meeting Landon’s gaze again. “It’s not me, right? Because I-I wouldn’t have wished this on my son. I don’t know what—”

“It’s not you,” Landon promised. “She… thinks there’s a possibility it was your ex.”

“She…?” Miguel uncrossed his arms, burying his fingers in his dark hair instead. After a moment, he shook his head. “Maria was a lot of things, but she wasn’t a bad mother. She loved Eliseo. She wanted full custody of him. She wouldn’t have done something like this to him. And she sure as hell wouldn’t know how to do something like this to him.”

Landon cleared his throat, unable to stop himself from looking down at the floor.

“What do you know?” Miguel asked, hands dropping back to his sides.

“I… I don’t know anything,” Landon said quietly.

Miguel wrapped a hand around Landon’s chin and tilted his head back. Landon’s heart skipped a beat. He had wanted this for so damn long, but not because Miguel was angry or upset or scared. He had wanted it to happen before the kiss he longed for. This was just unfair.

“What… do you know?”

Landon swallowed. “Maria was a lot of things. I-I can agree to that. But she didn’t want full custody of him because she loved him, regardless of if she did or not. She wanted full custody of Eliseo to hurt you.”

“Bullshit.”

“Bullshit?” Landon asked. He pushed Miguel’s hand away. “She tried to ruin your whole damn life after you came out, Miguel. After the rumors she spread about sexual assault and beatings and…” He shook his head. “How can you give her the benefit of the doubt?”

“Because accusing someone of turning their son into a psychic who has to witness horrible, horrible fucking things at the age of three doesn’t come naturally to me.” Miguel threw a hand back toward the living room. “Maria is Eliseo’s mother. It doesn’t matter what I think of her. It doesn’t matter what you think of her. It matters what Eliseo thinks of her, and that boy loves his mother. You and your sister find me some proof first, and then we’ll talk. Yeah?”

After what must’ve been an eternity, Landon nodded. “Okay. We’ll search for proof.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I’m sorry, Miguel. I wasn’t aiming to upset you or anything like that. I-I was just relaying what Nora knew so far and what she theorizes so far.”

“I’m not upset with you. I wanna… I need to make that clear. I’m upset because someone cooked up some magical bullshit to curse my son with violent nightmares for the rest of his life. I’m upset because there’s even a small possibility that someone could be Maria. I’m upset because if Maria did this, she did it to hurt me, and that makes me even more responsible than I would’ve imagined. But I’m not upset with you. Ain’t got a reason to be.”

Landon glanced down. How long had Miguel’s hand been on his bicep? He cleared his throat. “No matter who did it or why they did it, you aren’t responsible for it. You’re a homicide cop, Miguel. You know how this goes. The victim didn’t ask for the killer to kill them. The living victim didn’t ask the killer to hunt down their boyfriend or girlfriend or friends so they could be together. You aren’t to blame. The person who… created a psychic in an innocent little boy–they’re to blame.”

Miguel closed his eyes and gave Landon’s arm a tight squeeze. “Come on. Let’s go see what your sister’s next piece of advice is.”

***

Nora’s advice unfortunately hadn’t been as helpful as Miguel had hoped. Of course, there was a damn slim chance that anything would seem helpful to the man who had discovered his son was a psychic and that monsters were real in the same damn day.

Her advice had been little more than to just… sit with it until further notice. Nora didn’t have much experience in created psychics, and apparently, she needed to do a bit of digging before she could come back with any real ideas. For the time being, she had given Eliseo a necklace to help ward off the spirits that sent him the nightmares. She had called the charm a witch’s something, but Miguel couldn’t quite remember. His brain was a bit too full for any more information to stick.

The drive back home was quiet. Landon didn’t say much, and Miguel simply didn’t know how the hell to carry on a conversation anymore.

Now, back home, Miguel pulled a sleeping Eliseo out of the carseat in the back. The boy’s arms hung over Miguel’s shoulders, his little lamb clutched in one hand.

“I’m sorry Nora didn’t have more to say,” Landon said quietly, hands shoved into his pockets. “We weren’t expecting him to be a created psychic. That… that muddles things a bit.”

“It’s all right. The charm she gave him is still appreciated.” Miguel cleared his throat, hiking Eliseo up on his chest. “I know Nora told you more than she told me. What’s our next step?”

“She… thought you might be too biased to help with it.”

“What?”

“Helping to prove if Maria did this or if it was someone or something else,” Landon said.

“Giving her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the child she gave birth to doesn’t make me biased. It means I do my best to keep Maria in as much of a positive light as I can without gaslighting myself.” Miguel closed his eyes for a moment. “If a monster killed this boy, going into work eight to twelve hours a day isn’t going to help me. It isn’t going to help bring justice to the kid or his family. So if you want help finding proof, let’s do it. I’ll work outside of the station and be on call in case this bastard grabs another kid. Okay?”

Landon watched him for what felt like an eternity. Miguel wished that length of eye contact was for something other than a discussion about supernatural monsters, child murderers, his ex-wife cursing their son, and death.

But that didn’t seem to be an option in his life.

“Okay. Tomorrow works?”

“Yeah, tomorrow works. You wanna come over at six like usual? I don’t really know how you want to go about this, but we can start before Eliseo wakes up, maybe make some progress before we have to pretend we aren’t researching monsters.”

Landon nodded. “I’ll come over at six.” Landon cleared his throat. “I’ll see you in a few hours, Miguel. Try to get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day of balancing lies and fatherhood.”

“Yeah,” Miguel whispered. He reached out and squeezed Landon’s shoulder with his free hand. “Goodnight, Landon. I imagine it was hard, but thank you for telling me about you and your sister. I appreciate the help here.”

The younger man offered a nearly nervous smile. “No problem, Miguel. Night.”

Miguel made his way up to the house, pulling his keys from his pocket at the door. He unlocked it and stepped into the house. He hadn’t picked up any extra locks that day, but he’d make a note of it for tomorrow, just to be safe.

With Eliseo in his arms, Miguel walked around the house and checked every door and window. They were all closed, all locked. He closed his eyes for a moment, wishing like hell he didn’t feel so utterly… helpless. He had spent the majority of his career chasing after murderers, and before that, he’d spent it chasing down criminals of any degree. Despite being involved in his fair share of shootouts, an accidental drug bust or two, and more than one hostage situation, he had never felt fear quite like how it felt now.

Losing his life to another human being was one thing. Eliseo losing his to some supernatural being was another.


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