Rupert stares at the box that is arrogant enough to think it can contain him for the next 24 hours. Please. Even if he hadn’t cleaned all the evidence from the house, he has a sparkling reputation at work to back him up- mindless worker drones who will instantly back him up, simply because they only know the poor man with the scars all over his body, who works tirelessly all day and even some nights to further his research.
They don’t know the monster within, because Rupert wears his scars on the outside.
Cats sometimes wander into boxes; this is exactly the same thing. Cats always get out of things like this, because humans realise that cats have a different worldview and must be allowed to progress if the humans want to rub that soft underbelly.
So, when Rupert gets out he will play the part of grieving partner, single father, and devoted scientist. He will of course be cold to Sean and James and ask what on earth they were implying. He smirks in his cell, picturing the looks on their faces when Rupert tells them that they won’t ever see Lewis again- the only surviving scrap of Kingstone that sometimes looks so like her it hurts.
He tries not to think about what he’s lost; it was her fault for provoking him, he reasons. Rupert Rodut has never once felt guilt over what he’s done, in any aspect of his life. He’s not about to start now.
The food has all the redeeming features of boiled shit and so he doesn’t eat it. He starts to get angry; his time coming to a close as night sets in. By 12 PM tomorrow James Rikes will have no choice but to release him, to apologise! Oh, he shall savour that feeling.
Anticipation is causing his limbs to shake. He thinks about her- Lauren Kingstone. Yet at the same time he doesn’t think of her. He thinks of the swell of her body when she was pregnant. He thinks of the bounce of her hair when she went running with him to resume her body’s former fighting-fit shape after the baby.
Thinking about how her eyes were undeniably silver, as though she were placed on this earth to combat his gold. Lewis has her eyes. How she only managed to give their son one facial feature and he gave the rest is beyond his reasoning for some reason. It surprises even his biologists brain that his son could look so like him.
A glancing look at his son is more like a glancing blow to Rupert, however, as his son’s movements look exactly how Rupert assumes Lauren’s were when she was younger, with her own father. How ironic, she grew up to be exactly like the mother she had always quietly resented. How pathetic.
The fear in his sons eyes is unbearable, it mirrors Lauren’s too much; just like when he… When he…
He hasn’t done anything wrong- that’s Rupert’s story; and he’s sticking to it.
Why. Why? Why is the only question that bothers Rupert enough to stay awake through the long hard nights when he’s in too much pain to move. His accident may not look like it hurts anymore, but inside his mind he can still feel the flames every time his eyes close- and it doesn’t make sleep a pleasant experience.
It was better with Kingstone. He could show her how strong he was because he could sleep through his own nightmares without thrashing around and falling off of the bed in the middle of the night- she could never do that, even decades after her father left she still dreamt of it most nights. The worst nights.
Arching up in unbearable pain from the nightmare, Rupert smirks through the phantom pain as he remembers her crawling into bed next to him after the first time he had struck her, like a puppy with its tail between its legs. Utterly, utterly pathetic. Perfect.
Tonight he asks why, not about the accident or of Kingstone, but of Violet.
It was a sunny summery day, where the clouds drifted over the sunflower fields and the siblings could play in the barn. Hide and seek. Hide and seek. Let Violet win, she’s bigger- she’s harder to hide.
She didn’t mind Rupert’s experiments and she still loved him even when his parents thought he was a freak with his dissections. But without his dissections, how would he know what made the animals work? Like the cogs of a clock, Rupert reasoned, everything is designed to move and in moving everything moves everything else. But how could he back up his hypothesis with proper evidence if he was not allowed to collect that evidence?
So he caught the rats in the barn and stole his father’s scalpel and saw what made them tick. Saw them twitch even after the breath had left them, and saw them spill out uselessly onto the floor when he was done with them.
Father had vomited when he’d first walked in on Rupert. Admonishing; dismissive of his only son and his greatest works. How could they ever be close again, after such a betrayal?
That is why he loves Violet. Violet brings him toads and dead birds the cats brought in. Sometimes rats- but those are a rare treat. She can barely get to the traps father started setting before father clears the out every morning.
Filtering through the patchy roof of the barn, sunlight danced on Violet’s hair as she searched for her younger brother. Rupert gigged to himself and hid deeper in the shadows. She was so beautiful. Suddenly, his ears pricked up.
There were voices outside- probably mother and father. They knew Rupert and Violet were out in the fields again- where else would two normal children be on a day like today. They said that later today they could go for ice cream. Ice cream on a hot summery day- Rupert and Violet recognised this was a treat for their good behavior- and perhaps for his parents to celebrate because the cat had lately stopped bringing in dead things for Rupert to dissect (nobody had to know about Laura’s help).
They’re playing hide and seek again- Violet is hiding and Rupert is seeking. he hears the voices again and laughs- pure laughter, happy laughter that his sister’s ears drink in like liquid gold. She giggles from within the haystack, and he jumps onto the haystack, her and the hay softening his landing.
They hug and roll around- play fighting with laughter in the pure mirth of the moment.
The voices aren’t mama and papa. Rupert doesn’t know who they are. He gives it little thought.
Until a few minutes later, when he sees the smoke and then the flames. The barn is old and brittle and yet he’s still surprised that it’s fully engulfed so quickly. He breathes in and out very very deeply but there’s no longer enough oxygen in the air to satisfy his need- he can only cough out smoke.
The pain caused by the heat is nothing compared to the pain in his heart as Violet’s last laugh turns to a scream as she helps her younger, shorter brother out of the window.
As Rupert falls onto the ground he sees the men escaping, carrying big red containers that he knows would be used to carry gasoline. He can see from how fast they’re running that the containers are empty. That’s all he sees though, because then he hits the ground and everything goes black.
The last thing he hears before he hits the ground is his sister screaming.
Violet was my first thought, he remembers, his eyes still closed. She was always my first thought, back then. ‘Hey Violet, want to see this?’ ; ‘Hurry up and play with me, Violet!!’.
When he was small enough, she used to hop around with him in her arms and call him ‘Little Roo’. He supposes this was a mockery of the kangaroo, but at the time it helped him understand how muscles tense while under stress.
He opens his eyes and forces his mind as far as he can from the cruel memory. The memory that drew him to the alcohol that drove him to Kingstone that drove him right back to where he was- because now in the dream barn there are two females, not just one. He can only choose one- but who?
Even when he has enough time in the dream to chose (always Violet), he never has enough time, strength, energy or even height to save her.
He’s too small, too pathetic, too like them.
Rupert doesn’t expect to see James Rikes back so soon. Eager for punishment, he thinks with a smirk. Then the detective fixes him with a glare that makes his shoulders square and fingers tighten against the bars of the box that holds him. James leans close. Holding up a small plastic bag close enough to the bars Rupert can practically smell it, the detective growls:
“You’re going to go away for a long, long time for what you did to her.”