|"A Few Degrees Shy of Heaven"
Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing.
Summary: ***If you haven't read Road Trip, much of this will not make sense***
Category: After Hours
|Michael raised his hand to his throat, finding no pulse. "There is no pulse," Michael said quietly. "He's
Maria's eyes went wide and she fought to speak. "Then..." she swallowed. "Then that means that I...that I..." she clenched her stomach as her vision doubled and she hissed the last part out, "I killed him. I'm a murderer!"
Maria fell to a heap on the floor, wrapping her arms around her knees and rocking softly. The blood had drained from her face and tears were shining in her eyes.
She ran an extremely shaky hand through her blond hair and gave Michael a desperate look. "He was fine when we left yesterday, Michael. You said his heart was beating fine and he was breathing. How could he be dead?"
Michael closed the closet door and walked to behind Maria, wrapping his arms around her from behind. Her entire body was shaking in his arms and he squeezed her tightly to try to calm her. "I don't know, baby. He WAS fine when we left, with the exception of being knocked out. I don't know what to tell you."
His eyes strayed back to the door which protected his eyes from the grizzly sight of Hank's lifeless body and realized that something was not right. *Did we close that door when we left?* he sent.
Maria looked at him and sniffed. She swallowed thickly and spoke. "I don't remember. I don't think so."
No, he was sure that they had left it open. As he remembered it, Maria had touched Hank's chest, Hank had been jolted backwards and he had fallen against the wood paneled closet door. The splintered wood was still there but how did Hank's body manage to get inside the door?
"That's exactly how it happened and that's a very good question," Maria spoke, jolting him back to reality.
He gave her a thin smile and said, "I still forget about our connection sometimes."
"Not me. I like it," she said. "But back to the matter at hand, him being inside the closet doesn't mean much. I still killed him. I...." It was impossible for her to continue; her tears engulfed her again, choking over her throat.
Michael closed his eyes and squeezed her. She had begun to shake like a leaf again and it tore him apart to see her so helpless. Eventually, he turned around so that he was facing her. "I don't know if you did, Maria. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Something isn't right. What if this was Nacerro's work?"
She tried to smile at him but it came out more of a grimace than anything else. "Michael, I really appreciate your attempt at trying to prove my innocence, it's very endearing, but no. I killed him and there is nothing I can do about it. Hank could have come to and closed the door himself."
"I guess we'll see about that," Michael replied. He sighed and walked back over to the closet, throwing the door open recklessly. Maria jumped at the sight of the body and looked away, closing her eyes. Seeing the body made it just too vivid for her. "No, Maria. Look!"
Maria did and saw that Michael had undone the buttons on Hank's shirt. On his flesh, there were two iridescent handprints. "Come here," Michael said softly.
Maria looked at him incredulously. "You're crazy! I'm not going anywhere near...that."
Impatiently, Michael said, "Get over here now! Look, normally, we wouldn't have to even check - you would have been ruled out immediately because your not one of us - but with that print on your stomach and your new powers, we never know. That was where you touched him but the prints seem too big. I want to check them. You don't have to touch him, you just have to see if they're your size. So, please get over here."
Slowly, Maria crawled over on all fours, her eyes avoiding the body. "I can't do this, Michael. I'll put my hand up and you check but I think I'll puke if I look."
Michael nodded and took her left hand by the wrist. She looked at his face the entire time but her head whipped over to Hanks when he said, "They're not your size, baby." There was very little relief in his voice and she could read what he was thinking. It was exactly what she was thinking.
"This means were being followed, Michael." Her voice was now shaking with fear. "I just don't get it. Why would Nacerro want me to think that I killed him?"
Michael stood and walked to his tiny window, looking out in search of the Tyrvanas culprit. *I don't know, baby. But I think we should communicate silently. We don't want him to hear our thoughts. He could be around right now, listening to us.*
She nodded quickly. *What do we do about the body? We have to let the police know.*
Michael walked over to the body and waved his hand over the chest of the shell that used to be Hank. He cursed aloud and then switched over to the telepathy. *Let's get ahold of Max first. We have to show him this. I can't take away the prints and we can't call the police if those prints are there. Valenti will think it was me. Hopefully Max can take them away.*
Michael slid the closed door closed and then helped Maria up, keeping hold of her until he was sure that she could support herself, and they walked out to the kitchen. Michael picked up the phone and held it to his ear. He closed his eyes and shook his head then slammed the receiver down. "Shit! I forgot that the phone was disconnected. Hank didn't pay the bill last month. Let's go out to the pay phone."
They exited the house and made their way to the front of the trailer park. Michael dug into his pocket for change, found thirty-five cents, and put it into the slot. Quickly, he dialed Max's number from memory and waited for an answer. Max picked up on the fifth ring, his voice sounding breathless.
"Max! It' Michael. We need you to come over to my house right now!"
Max's voice was instantly alert. "Michael, what's going on?"
"Just come over, please."
"Be there in five," he answered and then hung up the phone.
*He's coming,* Michael told Maria and they walked back to the trailer and leaned on Maria's car as they waited for Max.
Three minutes later, the jeep entered the lot, driving so fast that a cloud of dust was left behind. Both Max and Isabel were in the jeep and they looked worried.
"What's going on?" Isabel asked and Michael nodded to the trailer. He didn't want his nosy neighbor to hear anything incriminating.
They four entered the trailer quickly.
Isabel eyes the place distastefully and said, "I just realized that I've never been here before."
Michael snorted in response "You haven't been missing much." He led them to his room and eyed Max and Isabel cautiously and said, "I need you to promise me that you're not going to freak out."
Max nodded and Isabel rolled her eyes. "Please Michael, just show us already!" she cried in frustration.
He pulled back the door to reveal Hank's body and both Max and Isabel gasped. "What happened?!" Max cried.
Michael closed the door and told them to sit on his bed. He spoke in a quiet whisper, in case Nacerro was around, telling them the story of how they had left Hank last night, how they had discovered his body this afternoon, and what they thought happened.
"It still could have been Maria," Isabel said, looking suspiciously at the girl.
"No," Michael replied confidently. "He was absolutely fine last night, Izzy. She didn't do it. Also, the handpirnts are too big. We need to call the police but we need to get rid of those prints." He looked hopefully at Max.
Silently, Max stood and walked over to the closet. He opened the door and removed the prints effortlessly.
"Thanks," Michael said. "Now, let's get our stories straight and call the police."
Maria rubbed the sleep from her eyes and sighed in relief as they approached her mother's car. "I thought they would never let us go," she whispered and then yawned.
It was after ten thirty and they had just been released from the sherrif's office after six hours of questioning. They had decided that Max and Isabel should leave the scene before they called the police, hoping that no one saw them there. The story they gave the police was that they had left last night when Hank had gotten home, leaving out the part about the incident with Hank and Maria, then they had found him when they came over to pack because Michael was leaving.
Valenti checked out their story with Michael's case worker and his neighbors, coming up with nothing. He kept asking the same questions over and over, waiting for them to slip up, but they had performed beautifully. Reluctantly, Valenti had finally decided to let them go.
They drove in silence to Maria's house and both entered to find Amy Deluca waiting in the kitchen. She stood from her chair and gave Maria a big hug and then taking Michael by surprise, she gave him a hug too. "You poor dears," she said. "Jim called me from the station and told me what happened."
"Mom, it's okay," Maria said as her mother embraced her again. "We're okay, I promise."
Her mother nodded. "I just know how traumatizing this must be for both of you."
Maria nodded looking away. "It was bad, yes, but I promise we're okay."
Addressing Michael, she said, "Honey, do you have a place to stay tonight?"
Michael looked at Maria's mother and shrugged, "I'll probably just stay at home. On Friday, I'm supposed to move into my new foster parent's house but I'll be fine till then."
"I'll hear none of that," Amy shuddered. "I don't want you going back to that place alone. We have an extra room upstairs that you can sleep in if you'd like. That is of course assuming that you and Maria can behave responsibly." She eyed her daughter and Maria rolled her eyes.
"Of course, mother. Like we would do anything with you in the house."
Michael remained steady on the outside but inside, he had to laugh at the ease in which Maria played innocent with her mother. Maria could read his thoughts and glared at him.
Amy continued. "I know, Maria. But you can't blame me for asking. I was once a teenager too."
"Thank you, Mrs. Deluca. I appreciate the offer," Michael said, after reminding himself to use his manners.
"Please, call me Amy," she said to Michael. "I'll go get the room ready and put out some fresh towels."
Amy excused herself and Maria instantly threw herself into Michael's arms. *I'm just going to stay in the room tonight. I don't want your mom to get suspicious or anything,* he sent. *But we still can talk. Are we going to go to school tomorrow?*
She nodded. *My mom doesn't work on Thursdays and if we're here, she'll drive me crazy so we should probably go. Besides, I'm going to have to deal with the stares and whispers eventually.*
*Okay. But Maria,* he said, pulling back a little to look into her face. *At the first sign that either of us are going to attack each other, one of us leaves the room. We can't let that happen again. Or maybe I should just skip the classes we have together.*
Maria shook her head. *No, you need to go to class. I don't want you skipping anymore. We just need to be prepared for anything that comes our way. We'll talk about it tonight, okay?*
*Deal,* he said. He pulled back just when he heard Amy descending the stairs.
"Okay, the room is ready. Would you rather shower now or tomorrow?" she said as she breezed into the room.
Michael shrugged and said, "Whatever is more convenient."
Amy said, "Tonight would be better. The hot water doesn't last long around here in the mornings."
Michael nodded and said, "Well, I'll go right now, then. Thanks again, Amy."
She touched him on the arm and said, "It's no problem."
*I'll talk to you in a little bit,* he said to Maria as he left the room.
The next morning, Maria and Michael slowly walked towards the entrance of school. "You sure about this Maria?" Michael asked.
"Yes, I'm sure. I can't avoid school forever." Maria said firmly.
He grabbed her hand and squeezed tightly. With the other, he opened the door and they walked in. She held her head up high, ignoring the stares as they walked towards her locker. Only her shaky hand as she spun her locker gave her nervousness away.
"Well, well! If it isn't itty-bitty-titty Maria," she heard a smug voice say. She glanced sharply over to where Lisa was standing in front of her locker. The girl flashed Maria a sarcastic smile and she and her friends giggled. Maria narrowed her eyes and looked back at her locker. She felt her rage boil inside, like it did when she had touched Hank and Bobby Jenkins. Michael felt it too and leaned in to whisper in her ear.
"Maria calm down. Ignore her."
Michael's pleading fell of deaf ears. Maria's anger was so high that the blood was pounding in her ears. She slammed her locker shut and turned on Lisa. She stared intently at the girl and her rage finally shot out of her in a severe blast of heat.
Lisa cried out in pain as her locker door slammed shut, crushing her hand. Her cry turned to a shriek as the locker continued to press painfully into her hand.
"Maria, stop it!" Michael hissed into her ear.
Maria turned frightful eyes on Michael. "I'm not doing it anymore," she replied, whimpering. "It should have stopped!"
Michael looked at her confused and then heard Lisa shriek. He ran over to Lisa and tried to pull the locker back but it was no help. The locker resisted his pull and he could hear the bones crushing in Lisa's hand. He looked towards Maria. *Are you sure it isn't you?* he sent as he fought against the locker.
*Yes!* she replied, her mental voice reflecting anguish.
He sucked in a deep breath and even tried to use his powers but they were no use. He turned his head to look at Maria but stopped short. He could sense power coming from somewhere else and his eyes shot in frantically in that direction.
He froze and his mouth fell open when he realized where it was coming from. All of the sudden he heard a sing-song voice in his head. "Which one do you want?" He became dizzy.
Maria could hear the voice in her own head and she knew. "Oh my God!" she said aloud. She looked behind her to a group of people were standing, staring at the scene before them in horror. Her eyes came to a stop on one member of that group. One member whose eyes were focused intently towards Lisa and the locker. One member who was radiating a fierce power.
*Do something!* Michael sent silently.
Maria jumped into action without thinking. Her body flew in the air and she smashed up against the person, causing them both to fall to the ground.
She felt the wave of power break and looked down into Kyle Valenti's surprised eyes.
|Part 10 | Index | Part 12
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