Coraline pulled her new husband aside and leaned in to embrace him out of the earshot of the wedding guests. “Listen,” she said carefully. “We have to get my family away from Cristina.”
Derrick pulled back to give her a puzzling look. She reached up to kiss him again. Then she whispered, “Don’t give me away.” Her eyes pleaded with his.
“Get a room,” Lexi joked from afar. “Honestly, guys, no honeymoon until after the reception.”
Derrick waved her off while scanning the scene. He assumed Cora’s nervousness was related to Cristina so he wanted to know where the girl was. However, he didn’t see her anywhere.
“I think Cristina and Michelle have left,” he said quietly. “Do they have something to do with all of this?”
Coraline turned to view the departure for herself. Then she turned back to her husband. “Yes, she gave me a look of pure hatred earlier. I think she means us harm. Heck, I think she means everyone harm. I don’t want my family near her. We have to think of something.”
“I didn’t have a chance to tell you earlier. Michelle said he and Cristina wouldn’t be at the reception. Apparently they already had other plans.”
“Good, that makes things easier. Still, we have to warn my sister. I don’t want them alone tonight.”
“I can call Marcel. He’s a bodyguard for hire. I’m sure he’d watch over them but what is this about?”
“Later, when I know we are alone. I still don’t trust that Cristina isn’t lurking around here somewhere.”
“I can check,” Derrick said as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He hit the number that corresponded to his brother’s phone. Michelle answered. His voice sounded raspy and strange.
“Michelle, are you all right? You sound odd,” Derrick noted.
“You have bad timing brother. Shouldn’t you be off enjoying your honeymoon?”
“I wanted to thank the two of you for coming. If meant a lot to me. I’ll hang up now and let you get back to whatever you were doing.” Derrick put the phone down to his side without hitting the end button. He did not realize what he’d done until he heard a blood curdling sound coming from the instrument.
“Easy, Cristina,” Michelle’s voice screamed. “You’re hurting me.”
Looking up, Derrick saw the look on his wife’s face. “I think you’re right,” he whispered. “Cristina is clearly trouble. Should I call the police?”
“And tell them what?” Coraline’s eyes misted over. “That we think your brother’s wife is some kind of monster?” They’d laugh us out of town or lock us up.”
“I can’t just let him get hurt,” Derrick mumbled. “I have to do something.”
“If she wanted to hurt your brother, she would have done it before now,” Coraline reasoned. “Let’s just get through the reception and then we can figure out what we should do.”
Derrick nodded and the couple moved toward the last wedding guests. “Time for cake,” Coraline smiled.
The reception ran smoothly with a few of Derrick’s and Coraline’s friends in attendance. It was during the reception that Derrick convinced Marcel to watch over his new wife’s family. “It’s just until we find out what is going on with this woman,” he muttered. “I’ll pay you above your going rate.”
“No,” Marcel argued. “Consider this my wedding gift to you. I didn’t know what to get you. Now I do.”
Coraline’s sister, Betsy argued when Cora told about the bodyguard. “Please,” Coraline pleaded. “It will make me feel better. It’s just for a day or two, I promise.”
Eventually Besty gave in, more for her children than for herself. “He’ll have to sleep on the couch,” she cautioned. “Unless you want him to use your old room.”
“The couch will be fine,” Marcel said as he entered the conversation. The big man smiled at Betsy with such warmth that he immediately put her at ease. His size – nearly 6′ 6″ – aside, Marcel had a kind and giving soul. Betsy recognized it right away.
The reception continued until sunset. Then it broke apart so everyone could get home before curfew. Coraline and Derrick left among a shower of bird seed. Once inside the car, they began planning.
“We need to scout out their home,” Coraline insisted. “That might tell us something.”
“It’s almost nightfall, Cora. We can’t be out after curfew,” Derrick insisted.
“Fine, you stay home and I’ll go. I’m going to find out what is with that woman one way or the other.”
Derrick looked exasperated but finally nodded agreement. After arriving home, the couple changed quickly and headed back out.
“If we get caught, it means jail,” Derrick noted. “That’s not how I wanted to spend my wedding night.”
“Me either,” Coraline returned. “But this is important. I can feel it in my bones.”
“Let’s hope Michelle still sleeps with the windows open,” Derrick groused. “We can take a peek and get out of there.”
Arriving at Michelle’s, the duo moved around toward the bedroom. As suspected, Michelle’s window was wide open. Derrick crept forward and glanced inside. He saw his brother lying prone on the bed. Cristina, however, was nowhere to be found.
“She’s not there,” he whispered as he took a second look. What he saw next made him gasp. He collapsed to the ground in shock.
Coraline couldn’t resist looking for herself. There on the bed lay Michelle, his pajama top open to reveal slices of skin removed from his chest.
“Let’s get out of here,” Coraline urged.
“I can’t just leave him like that,” Derrick reasoned. “I’m calling the police.”
“Fine, but let’s get out of her first,” Cora pleaded. Finally her husband agreed.
Back in the car, Coraline finally let out her breath. As she did, her mind began putting things together. The so-called animal attacks began about the same time as Cristina’s entrance into their small town. They slowly escalated until the murder of young Marjorie Beal. Since then, there had been nothing but the flesh ripped from Michelle’s torso resembled some of the attacks.
“Cristina is the Harbor Crest killer. I’m sure of it,” she finally let loose.
Derrick glanced at her with horror. “If you think that, why did you let me leave my brother there?”
“If she wanted him dead, he’d be dead,” Coraline returned. “She doesn’t. Maybe in her own sick way she really does love him.”
Pulling up in front of the apartment, the two rushed inside as they saw a police cruiser moving down the street on patrol. They hurried to their place before speaking again.
“We have to call the police,” Derrick insisted.
“I agree,” Cora responded. “We just need to figure out what to say.”
“You’ll say nothing if you know what is good for you.” Coraline jumped as she recognized the voice of her new nemesis. “Perhaps you should have gotten a bodyguard for yourself as well,” Cristina teased.
Derrick pushed Coraline behind him as he faced his brother’s wife. “What are you?” His words were cold and tinged with anger.
“Don’t you mean: What are ‘we’?” Coraline teased. “Your brother and I are the same.”
Cristina’s dark eyes bored into Derrick’s soul, making it shrink in horror. “Why don’t I show you?” She dove for her target but Derick sidestepped her, pushing Coraline out of the way.
A shot rang out the moment the door flew open. Inside the door frame stood Marcel’s partner Matthew Hood. He watched as Cristina’s body crumpled to the ground.
Derrick turned to observe the bodyguard. “What are you doing here?”
“Marcel figured if your family was in danger, you were too. It looks like he was right,” Matthew groaned. “Call the cops. I’ll keep an eye on her just in case she doesn’t stay dead.”
Derrick nodded and reached for the phone. He’d no sooner put the receiver to his head when he heard a dull thud. Turning, he watched as his brother took down the bodyguard from behind. Then he rushed forward to his wife’s body.
“How could you?” Michelle’s moan was the worst thing Coraline had ever heard. She watched in horror as Michelle turned his eyes toward her. “Take my wife, brother, and I’ll take yours,” he growled. Then he leapt toward the frightened woman.
Derrick didn’t hesitate. He picked up Matthew’s gun and fired. Marcel looked surprised as he fell.
“What are you?” Derrick asked again.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Michelle whispered. “There are others, brother. Watch your back,” he cautioned as he drew his final breath.