Tell-Tale Heart – one shot

°º¤ø,¸¸, Tell-Tale Heart ,¸¸,ø¤º°

 

It had been sixty years since they had seen their youngest, yet eldest, son. Of their adopted “children”, Edward had been the one who had seemed to require actual mothering. The others—Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper—had all been turned at the point when they were young adults—at the beginning of fulfilling their roles in their societies. At the cusp of adulthood, but all whose human lives had been cut short.

 

Sweet Alice retained no memories of her human life, but Esme had always thought it had been for the best. Would Alice have been the same happy, caring person she had become if she’d remembered her father had hired a man to murder her mother?

 

If she could actually recall her time in the asylum?

 

She had been the beacon that brought light to Jasper’s dark, death-filled life.

 

Whereas Edward had practically been snatched from his mother’s bosom—a doted upon child filled with visions of the glory of war, it had all ended in the dismal, disease-ridden hospital ward where he laid in a delirious fever next to his dying mother.

 

Her last request: that Carlisle take her beloved boy and save him.

 

Even at the age of seventeen, Esme had often thought over the years that he had been too young. The world-shattering circumstances surrounding his death had altered him—seemingly more so than the others.

 

She had been drawn to him. He had been a boy that needed a mother, and she had been a mother that needed a son. Offering her quiet support and encouragement, he had basked in her praise, and then returned to his own solitary thoughts and pursuits.

 

In the grand scheme of things, half a century was not such a long span of time, but to Esme, six decades was a third of her life. As it was Edward’s.

 

He had been absent from his family for a long time.

 

As the forests, flatlands, hills, and small towns sped past their car’s darkened windows, Esme reached for Carlisle’s hand. She knew he had been concerned by Edward’s continued silence, but in Carlisle’s long life, perhaps sixty years was not so many to him. It equaled only a small portion of his time on the earth.

 

Eventually, Randall, an old friend, had called and informed Carlisle he had come upon a familiar scent. It was faded, but he had been sure it was Edward’s.

 

It took them several days to track down Jasper and Alice. Alice had not been her usual cheerful self for so long, the pair had decided one day to visit Russia, and even with the exponential growth of technology, there were still dead spots where cell phones didn’t get a signal.

 

Esme hadn’t been too worried about them, even though they’d been gone ten years. She knew Jasper and Alice would take care of each other, and Russia was a big country. They had declined the request to join the Cullens to investigate.

 

Esme hadn’t known if Alice had seen something and refused to tell them or not. Perhaps Alice hadn’t wanted to be disappointed by another false lead.

 

Over the years, Alice’s visions had decreased. Esme thought that might have been a part of the reason behind their decision to travel like nomads for a time.

 

After all, ten years, even to Esme, wasn’t so very long.

 

She felt Carlisle’s fingers brush over her hand.

 

“We’re nearly there, darling. It should be just up ahead.”

 

She turned to her husband, and as always, smiled at his gentle, handsome face. “I know how you’ve missed him. Hopefully, the scent isn’t too old, and Emmett will be able to track him.”

 

“I am hopeful, Esme. It’s been a long time. It would have eased my mind if he had contacted us every now and then, but after Bella’s death …” He gripped her hand more tightly, brought it to his lips, and softly kissed her fingers.

 

“I know, Carlisle. We should have never left her, but Edward was convinced what he was doing was right.” Esme sighed sadly. “You know, once he gets an idea into his head …”

 

“And Edward frequently complained that Rosalie was always so bullheaded and tenacious.” Carlisle smiled fondly, but it was tinged with sorrow.

 

He decelerated as he approached a barely perceptible break in the line of trees, and turned down the unkempt paved drive. Glancing in the rear view mirrors, they could both see that Emmett and Rosalie weren’t far behind.

 

“So this is the famed Neverland Ranch? It must have really been something back in its day,” Esme commented, glancing around when they had reached an open area.

 

“According to the tabloids.” Carlisle raised an eyebrow. “Who could have guessed one of Edward’s holding companies was one that had bought into it so many years ago?” He sighed wearily. “It took time and quite a bit of digging, but Emmett and Rosalie discovered Edward was also behind other companies that owned shares—eventually owning it outright.” Carlisle placed Esme’s hand on his thigh and gave it a pat. “Randall said he caught Edward’s scent near a walled area hidden in the foothills. I’m grateful he sent me the coordinates. It is quite an extensive piece of property, so we’ll begin there.”

 

The vehicles entered another small outcropping of trees—limbs and branches obscuring the dirt road that was barely more than a path. At last, they came to a small clearing and parked beside each other in front of a wide, rusted, wrought iron gate attached to a ten-foot wall.

 

The stone wall went to the right and left, disappearing into the trees and scrub brush.

 

Emmett and Rosalie walked up and stood beside Esme and Carlisle in front of the massive two-part gate. It was chained and securely locked, though that wouldn’t be a deterrent to vampires or determined humans.

 

Emmett crossed his arms and cocked his head as he peered through the decorative iron vines and scrollwork. “Can’t see anything from here. Too many trees. Do we break the lock or jump over?”

 

“There’s no need to cause damage,” Carlisle said, raising his hand to Emmett. “These gates look rather old and as if they haven’t been moved in quite a while.”

 

“Just thought I’d ask. So where’s the rides and the animals? I thought Michael Jackson had, like, an amusement park here and shit.”

 

“In the controversy surrounding his financial status and death, many assets were sold off and removed. I’m surprised that, over the years, the entire property has remained intact.” Carlisle ran his hand down Esme’s arm and drew her close. “But if Edward has been behind it all, and has stayed here periodically, I’m sure he would have wanted to keep all the acreage to ensure privacy.”

 

Rosalie blew out a quiet breath. “Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Edward, the boy who never grew up, would own property that once belonged to a man who idolized Peter Pan.”

 

“Now that ya mention it …” Emmett murmured thoughtfully. “I always liked the Jackson Five better anyway. The little dude grew up and got really strange.”

 

“He wasn’t the only one that got a little strange.” Rosalie said with derision.

 

“Now, Rose,” Esme said in a chastising tone. “You know how distraught he was after learning Bella had jumped from that cliff. I … I’ve missed her so much … as we all have. It was such a tragedy. I feel sure it’s why Alice and Jasper have been wandering through Russia as nomads.”

 

“Stinkin’ rich nomads with designer haversacks and dungarees.” Emmett shook his head. “Edward shoulda just changed her. Idiot.” He grunted. “Damn. Sometimes I really miss that girl. She’d have made a great vampire. Imagine her tripping and falling off of mountains.”

 

“Speaking of strange …” Rosalie began, her voice fading out as she stepped closer to the gate. “Has anyone else noticed how the vines are bent into the shape of two swans facing each other? And look at the leaves!” She darted forward. “Some of them are swans!”

 

Esme also thought it was rather unusual and looked to Carlisle.

 

His brow was furrowed slightly, but he didn’t comment on the odd coincidence. He merely extended his hand toward the gates and said, “Shall we?”

 

After easily leaping the stone wall, they walked cautiously along the graveled road, listening and sniffing the air, hoping to catch Edward’s scent.

 

They reached another clearing and all came to a standstill at the sight before them. Encircled by what once might have been very extensive flower gardens was a three-story brick Victorian house.

 

Eyes wide, Esme perused the house, weed-filled gardens, and the lawn that had been left to go wild. “No one has been here for quite a while, but I’m sure it was once lovely.”

 

Emmett gestured toward the house. “It actually reminds me of one of those English cottage gardens with all the stone paths and flowers, even though it’s full of weeds. Somebody took the time to plant all this stuff and then just left it?”

 

“It’s almost like a desert here.” Rosalie took a few steps forward. “How could all of this grow? A lot of these plants need more rain than it gets here.”

 

“Underground sprinkler system,” Esme explained. “Look at the roof. Those are solar panels. As efficient as they’ve become, those wouldn’t be enough to run such a large house. There are probably more behind it. You can hardly see it through the trees, but there’s a Dutch windmill farther up the hill. Maybe it was for wind power. It wouldn’t have been impossible to have run underground power lines.”

 

“Great way to stay off the grid and hide.” Emmett was nodding. “Always liked Victorians with their bump-outs and spires.”

 

Carlisle wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Do you see it, Esme? This house is very like Edward’s childhood home.”

 

“Do you think he built it?” Rosalie wrapped her arms around herself tightly. “Okay, I mean, there are probably lots of red brick Victorians with slate blue trim, but this is getting a little peculiar. Even for Edward. Do we knock? Do we just go inside? I don’t smell him anywhere.”

 

“Take it easy, babe.” Emmett tucked his nervous wife into his chest and kissed the top of her head. “There’s a lot of property. Maybe we should go inside first and see if there’s any clues. After we check out the house, we could start outside by following the wall around and see how far it goes. Maybe find somethin’.”

 

“It’s a good plan, Emmett.” Taking Esme’s hand in his, Carlisle cautiously walked along the broad, weed-infiltrated flagstone path to the multiple levels of steps that led up to the porch. Because of the thick lace curtains at the door and windows, they were unable to see inside. There was no doorbell, but he noticed a numbered keypad next to the door. He knocked at the doorframe, not wanting to tap on the frosted glass of the door.

 

After a few moments, he turned and gave everyone a tentative smile and a slight nod. “I don’t hear anything. I’ll try the door. It might be unlocked,” he said, reaching for the ornate brass door latch.

 

Esme was becoming more and more unnerved as Carlisle pressed the latch and the door swung into the foyer, the hinges creaking as if they’d not been oiled in some time. All of her senses were on alert. She was very glad they had Emmett with them. They were all strong, but his size and strength was reassuring.

 

As they stepped into the shadowed foyer, muted lights shone from art deco-styled wall sconces, and Carlisle gasped, his eyes darting about.

 

Breathing deeply, Esme caught no out-of-the-ordinary scents. In fact, considering the house appeared to have been closed up for years, the air wasn’t as stale or musty as she would have expected. Listening intently, she could hear the whisper of air moving through ductwork. Evidently, the source of power hadn’t been interrupted and was still working quite well. The air inside the house was a little dry, but they were in the desert.

 

Carlisle’s grip tightened on her hand, and he drew it up to his chest.

 

“What is it, Carlisle? Do you hear something?” Esme turned to him and traced the worry-lines on his brow with her fingertip.

 

“You’ve never gone inside Edward’s house in Chicago, so you wouldn’t know.” His voice was a mere breath. His eyes darkened perceptively as he turned to face her. “This is an exact replica of that house. The original chandelier had been gas, but the sconces were electric.”

 

Rosalie’s eyes were wide. “Are you sure, Carlisle? Victorians all kind of look alike, in a way.” She huddled in Emmett’s arms as his eyes narrowed and examined the entrance more closely.

 

“I’m sure. Exactly the same. Down to the carving on the oak newel post and the double spindles of the stairs, to the button light switch behind the door. The wallpaper is the same pattern. His mother had loved the colors in the Jacobean print. She had also used it in her bedroom.” He paused and turned slightly to the left. “That front room, behind those double doors, was his father’s office and library. The room to our right was the parlor. If we follow this hallway straight back, there’ll be a formal dining room. Beyond that would be a very large eat-in kitchen.”

 

“Kinda freaky,” Emmett whispered. He had wandered into the room Carlisle had designated as the parlor, causing more lights to come on. “There’s a baby grand piano in here in the bump out and a little bookshelf filled with all that boring romantic crap Bella used to like to read, and a needlepoint hoop.  Edward didn’t do needlepoint.” Emmett lowered his face to the work and inhaled, trying to make out a scent, but whoever had been stitching the pattern had abandoned it long ago.

 

“It’s unfinished.” Rosalie joined her husband by the large embroidery hoop that stood beside an upholstered wingback chair. “It’s covered with dust, but it’s like whoever was working on it just got up and left. Like … she would be right back to work on it again.”

 

“Or he?” Emmett asked, tugging at the latches of the windows in the rounded bump out. “Huh. None of them open,” he mumbled. “If Edward lived here, he could have taken up needlepoint. Kinda like Rosie Grier.”

 

Esme let out a little uneasy cough. “Alice and I have done needlepoint. She helped me refinish those dining room chairs in Maine. They had needlepoint-covered seats. Edward had never shown any interest.”

 

Carlisle and Esme had moved to stand in the wide doorway. “The furnishings of this room are exact replicas except for the piano. He’d had an upright then. The flame stitch fabric on that chair … Edward told me it was his mother’s favorite. She … she would sit there and work on her embroidery as he practiced on his piano.”

 

“I know it isn’t possible, but I just got a chill.” Emmett shivered dramatically. “What about Edward’s original house? He inherited it. You and Edward went through it later, right?”

 

“Yes,” Carlisle answered. “Before I found Esme.” He ran his hands soothingly up and down his wife’s back. “Upstairs, the door on the left was Edward’s bedroom. To the right was the bathroom. It was quite innovative and extravagant for the time. Beyond that was his parents’ room. On the third floor were the attic and the housekeeper’s rooms. She, too, had had her own bathroom.”

 

As unsettled as she felt, Rosalie couldn’t help rolling her eyes. “Poor little rich boy. Two bathrooms and a maid?”

 

“Rose,” Esme said disapprovingly. “You had indoor plumbing and a housekeeper.”

 

Emmett couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face. “Even after all these years, I’m still impressed by having a toilet and hot and cold running water inside the house.”

 

Ignoring him for the moment, Rosalie frowned at Esme. “Yes, we did, but my parents had three children. Edward was an only child.”

 

Esme thought that Rosalie might have been a bit embarrassed. They all knew her human family had been well off, even during the Depression, where Emmett’s large family had been nearly destitute. To direct the topic away from the accoutrements of wealth, or lack thereof, Esme lifted her face to her husband. “Shouldn’t we look upstairs?”

 

“Yes. I suppose we should, but I’ll go. You all can stay down here. Perhaps search for clues in the kitchen.”

 

“What’s wrong?” Esme could see the disquiet in his golden eyes.

 

He gave her a brief smile that was anything but happy. “Just a feeling I had. Don’t worry, darling. I’ll be fine. There doesn’t appear to be anyone here. I’ll call you if I find anything.”

 

“All right, dear. We’ll go look in the kitchen.”

 

As Carlisle tread carefully up the stairs, trying to disturb the dust as little as possible, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmett made their way to the dining room. More lights came on automatically as they entered.

 

Esme wasn’t the only one who was troubled by the single place-setting of fine china and silver utensils at the far end of the long, rectangular table.

 

Gliding quietly around the room, Rosalie touched the top of each of the eight straight-backed chairs and then tried the tall window. It didn’t open. She turned back to face the room. “Beautiful Battenberg lace table cloth. I think that’s real Irish lace on the buffet, and pewter candlesticks. The silver tea service on the sideboard is gorgeous.”

 

Until then, Emmett had been the least uncomfortable of them all, but he had begun to fidget, shifting from foot to foot, and he couldn’t decide whether to stick his hands in his pockets or not.

 

“Uh, hey. How many forks do humans need to eat? I always wondered about that.” He scratched at the back of his head. “Um, anyhow, if this house is a recreation of Edward’s house when he was a kid, wouldn’t there be three place settings on the table?”

 

Rosalie had opened the sideboard where the tea set was kept, to discover more lace and linen tablecloths folded neatly inside. When she looked up at Emmett, she noticed Esme hadn’t moved from the doorway. “You’re right. You’d think there’d be three.” She carefully closed the little door and dusted her hands off on her jeans. “I want to get out of here.”

 

“Um, yeah. Let’s go check out the kitchen.” Emmett agreed. He wasn’t one to be frightened by ghost stories or slasher movies, especially considering he was one of the scary undead, but the longer they were in that house, and the more little things they found, the more eerie it all became.

 

He snaked his arm around Rosalie’s waist, grabbed Esme’s hand, and led them to the kitchen.

 

It was huge and bright, and filled with tall cabinets that went all the way up to the ten-foot ceiling. Above the pristine white porcelain farmer’s sink was a large window that was also framed by lace curtains. Emmett dashed toward it and found it didn’t open either. He could tell the house wasn’t that old. He looked out and saw another expansive garden gone to seed. On the right side of the room were a six-burner gas range and a huge stainless steel refrigerator.

 

If Edward had been living there, why would he need a refrigerator? And why was it plugged in and running?

 

Behind him, Esme let out a quiet groan.

 

He spun around to see what had startled her.

 

There was a simple wooden table, topped with a white linen tablecloth, four chairs, and one place setting.

 

“This is too fuckin’ weird. Only one plate again? And why the hell don’t the windows open?” Emmett growled. “Check the cupboards and the fridge. I’m startin’ to think—”

 

“That Edward had a human here?” Rosalie rasped out. “After Bella, maybe he went and found another human and brought her here?” She tried the back door. It was unlocked, but there was another keypad on the wall beside it—inside and one on the outside as well. She shut the door and yanked open one of the cupboards next to the sink, and then another. “These are full of dishes and glasses.” She pulled open a drawer. “Knives, forks, and spoons!” she hissed. “Why would he need all this stuff unless—”

 

“Whew! Damn!” Emmett exclaimed as he slammed the refrigerator doors closed. “It’s nothin’ but a science experiment now, but there used to be food in there!”

 

They suddenly realized Esme hadn’t made a sound. She hadn’t even chastised Emmett for his language.

 

She closed the cupboard door she had been looking in and turned to face them, her eyes filled with regret and shame. “Unless he had been keeping a human here, why would he need all this food?” She gulped and waved her hand at the cupboards covering the back wall. “These cabinets are all full. That door leads to a butler’s pantry, and it’s stocked with more food and many different kinds of kitchen appliances. What isn’t home canned is labeled as organic. There are vegetarian soups and stews, fruits and vegetables. Jams and jellies.” She stepped toward them, her hands rising sluggishly. “There’s enough food here to last for years.” Her hands continued to rise until her fingertips touched her cheeks. “But all I looked at are several years beyond their expiration date.”

 

Her hands began to shake as she stepped toward them. “He must have been keeping a human here.”

 

Rosalie caught Esme’s hands in her own—her widening eyes reflecting the fearful look in Esme’s. “You think it was a woman he kept here? Someone to replace Bella?”

 

“I … I don’t know.” Esme’s chin began to tremble.

 

Emmett was instantly beside them, a hand on each of their shoulders. “I’ve been hearing Carlisle moving around upstairs, but I don’t hear him anymore. We should go check on him.”

 

“Yes. You’re right, Emmett.” Esme took a deep breath, pulled her hands from Rosalie’s vice-like grip, and turned to leave the disturbing discoveries in the kitchen.

 

She hoped they would find answers upstairs, but each room they had been in only deepened the mystery and her trepidation. She paused at the bottom of the stairs and listened. Not hearing anything but the faint whooshing sound of the air conditioning and the hum of the refrigerator, she started up, refraining from touching the handrail.

 

She paused when she reached the second story landing, Emmett and Rosalie right next to her.

 

“Do you hear that?” Rosalie asked in a whisper.

 

“What …?” Esme asked, her sense of foreboding growing.

 

Emmett’s eyes widened in disbelief. “I think that’s a heartbeat.”

 

Esme’s hand flew to her mouth. “Carlisle!” Bypassing the other doors, they ran to the last door to the right. It was open and bright light flooded the hall.

 

Once Esme was inside the room, she stopped so abruptly that Emmett and Rosalie actually ran into her.

 

The room was large and all the light and white surfaces caused it to glow with the muted light of the cloudy day from all the tall windows along the back wall.

 

It boasted furniture made of a pale pickled wood which sat on a blond hardwood floor. Carlisle had been standing so still, Esme hadn’t seen him at first. Her breath caught as she looked more closely. On the right side of the room, Carlisle was standing next to a high, canopied bed, staring blankly down at it. It was neatly made with a thick white comforter and had a white eyelet bed skirt around the bottom. The curved canopy above it was upholstered in white eyelet and at each post was draped more of the Battenburg lace.

 

Esme took a shuffling step forward and gasped. Resting in the bed, reclining against several pillows, was a mummified corpse. The long, wavy white hair made Esme think it was a woman.

 

Though the comforter was pulled up to her chest, the deceased woman’s arms were situated on top of the white sheet that had been carefully folded down. Her skeletal hands were crossed over her stomach. She was dressed in a white, long-sleeved, pin tuck gown. Around the collar and at the cuff of each sleeve was more delicate lace.

 

Her hair had been meticulously brushed and set to frame her bony, withered face. A long, full lock was curled over her upper chest. A jeweled barrette held her bangs back.

 

Esme took another step. “Carlisle?”

 

After what seemed like ages, Carlisle’s eyes gradually met Esme’s. Grief and heartache etched his face.

 

“Oh, my God!” Rosalie darted around Esme and stood at the foot of the bed. “Who …? What …?”

 

Emmett pulled the stunned Esme with him and they joined Rosalie. “Carlisle, that body has been here a long time to be mummified like that.”

 

Carlisle’s mouth worked as if he were trying to speak. He swallowed and tried again. “Ahh, depending on conditions, it would take a few months for a human body, without being treated, to dry to this extent. The air is rather dry in here.” His hand went to his forehead and he jerkily brushed his hair back. “And I believe this body has been here for several years.” He clasped his hands in front of him and stared vacantly up at the ceiling, and then took a deep, shuddering breath. “I found multiple medications in the attached bathroom. I believe this … woman … had rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, congestive heart failure, and low blood pressure. I also found several antidepressants, but they were much older than the other drugs. I … I also found morphine.” He swallowed again. “Hidden behind the lace gathered at the head of the bed are I.V. poles and tubes. Of course, I can’t be sure without knowing her medical history, but she probably died peacefully and …” His breath caught, he held his fist to his mouth, and he turned away from the bed.

 

Esme started at his cry and flew to him, pulling his head to her shoulder. “Oh, Carlisle! What is it? Did you discover who it is? Do you have any idea why this woman might have been here?”

 

Rosalie, distressed at seeing their patriarch so overcome, hesitated to speak, but found her voice. “We found food stored in the kitchen. It was old—past its use-by date. We think Edward may have been holding this woman prisoner here. None of the windows were made to open downstairs. I noticed keypads inside and outside the doors. I think—”

 

Carlisle’s shoulders shook with his despair, and he clutched his wife to him tightly. With her gentle, loving murmurings, he was able to catch his breath in order to speak. “It’s … it’s Bella.”

 

There was no sound for several minutes as the vampires in the room tried to absorb and comprehend what Carlisle had told them.

 

“B-but sh-she died,” Emmett said plaintively. “She died back in two thousand and six. She j-jumped off the cliff in La Push and d-drowned.”

 

A strangled cry left Rosalie’s throat. She threw herself at Emmett, flinging her arms around his wide shoulders. “It can’t be Bella! It can’t!” Before Emmett could get his arms around her, she jerked away from him and spun to face Esme and Carlisle. “What makes you say it’s Bella? Carlisle, answer me! Why do you think it’s Bella!?!”

 

Wincing at Rosalie’s shrieks, Carlisle took another breath and ran his hand down over Esme’s soft hair. “Her wrist. Her right wrist. James’ bite …”

 

“No! No!” Rosalie cried. “It couldn’t be! How did she survive the jump? Alice saw it. Wait! Those dogs on the Reservation could have saved her, and Alice wouldn’t have seen that. But they confirmed she was dead when you called them!” Rosalie’s fists were in the air and quivering. “Of course, they would have lied to us! They would have hidden her! But how did Edward find her? She would have been better off with them.”

 

Rosalie twisted away from Emmett’s reaching hands and began to pace across the floor. “Wait ‘til I get my hands on him! He took … he stole her, and kept her prisoner here! That’s why the windows don’t open and there’re those electronic locks on the doors—so she couldn’t escape when he went to hunt! What kind of happy human life would that have been for her? Anti-depressants? How many different ones did he try on her? How cruel—” Her fists jerked up into the air. “And the heartbeat recording? That’s sick. That’s …that’s depraved! What? Does he come back every once in a while to check on her desiccated corpse to make sure she’s safe and listen to her heartbeat? How the hell do we turn it off? I wish Jasper were here! He would help me find that son of a bitch, and when we do, we’re going to rip him apart one little piece at a time—”

 

“Rose!” Emmett shouted right in her furious face, gripping her arms and shaking her. “Rose! Stop! There’s more.”

 

“What?” she asked incredulously. “More? What more could there be? He kidnapped her and held her prisoner—for decades—playing his stupid fucking piano, and feeding her organic beans and drugging her with happy pills while she wasted away and died! He probably read those stupid romances to her while she was needlepointing! Did she have a chance to meet a human man, fall in love—have children? No!” Rosalie began pounding his chest. “When she got sick, did he take her to a hospital and seek the proper treatment for her? No! He probably read a few medical journals to refresh his memory and started shoving drugs into her. Death is too good for him! I’d go to La Push and let those old dogs know what shitty protectors they are—”

 

“Rose!” Emmett shouted again and crushed her to his chest. “Rose, Rose, Rose,” he chanted in her ear. “Carlisle’s not finished.”

 

“What?” Her flashing eyes burned into Emmett’s. “There’s more? More what? What could be worse than that? That wasn’t a life—it was a nightmare!” She twisted around until she could see Esme and Carlisle.

 

The agony emanating from Carlisle pulsed through the air so thickly they could all feel it.

 

Rosalie took a breath and tried to calm herself enough to hear what else he had to say. She licked her lips, swallowed, and asked in a much quieter voice. “What else is there, Carlisle?”

 

He lowered his head and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, his tearful gaze went to Esme. His words were barely a wisp of air and Emmett and Rosalie had to strain to hear him. “In the bathroom, along with the medications, I also found …” he choked and squeezed his eyes closed again.

 

Esme spoke quietly in his ear and gently stroked his cheek. “We’ll wait for you, Carlisle. Take your time.”

 

Another shaky breath and Carlisle continued in a strained voice, “I also found, in the walk-in shower, a pile of ashes. The glass doorway, the tiled walls and floor were scorched and cracked.” He buried his face in his wife’s neck and cried with great shaking sobs.

 

Emmett had never seen Carlisle break down like that before. He patted Rosalie’s shoulders and said in a low tone, “Wait here.” He darted into the bathroom.

 

When Rose heard his sharp intake of breath, she started to go to him, but he was back in front of her in a flash. His normally soft amber eyes were flinty and hard. “Rose.” The sharp glint faded as he turned his attention to Esme. “Esme, it’s Edward’s ashes in the shower. His Cullen Crest bracelet is by the sink.”

 

Rosalie was stunned speechless. At last, she tried to speak. “Are … are you—”

 

Emmett was nodding. “I’m sure. Stir the ashes a little bit and you can smell them. Smell him.”

 

Esme let out a piercing wail and she and Carlisle fell to their knees beside the final resting place of Isabella Swan. Clinging desperately to each other, they sobbed out their heartbreak and anguish, drowning out the recording of the rhythmic, thudding heartbeat.

 

Rosalie silently studied them, and honestly felt pity for them and their grief, but when she took hold of Emmett’s hand to leave the room; her eyes were a frigid black. “I hope he’s in Hell.”

 

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Words: 5459 words. “ish”

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