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Over The Edge by Arithmancy_Wiz
Chapter 20 : Chapter 20: Regina McFey, Part II
 
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Chapter 20: Regina McFey, Part II

The bag Rose was carrying slipped through her hands and crashed to the floor.

Regina McFey was standing in her kitchen, arm held aloft in front of her, wand trained directly on Rose.

“Careful,” Regina said, allowing herself a brief glance at the groceries that now littered the floor before focusing her attention back on Rose. “We wouldn’t want to go making a mess, now would we? Not when you’ve got such a tidy little space like this to call home. A bit small for my taste, but I suppose anything is better than living with Mummy and Daddy.”

She was all smiles, as if this was nothing more than a pleasant chat between old friends. But none of the good humor reached her eyes, which were wide and calculating, like a predator examining its prey.

Rose found herself rooted in place, too stunned to move, her own eyes locked on the wand pointed straight at her chest.

“Well, come in and shut the door, why don’t you,” Regina said. “I would so hate to be interrupted when we’re about to enjoy a little girl time, just the two of us.” It took Rose a moment, but she finally managed to regain enough of her wits to get her body moving again. She made to bend down, prepared to pick up the items she’d dropped, but Regina stopped her cold. “Not so fast,” she warned. “That can stay where it is. I don’t need you getting any cute ideas.”

Rose slowly straightened up, using the toe of her boot to nudge the bag out of the way so she could close the door. As soon as it was shut, Regina gave her wand a little flourish, and Rose heard the familiar click! of the lock as it slid into place, trapping them both inside.

“Let’s sit, shall we?” Regina nodded in the direction of the bed, and Rose obeyed without comment, crossing over and settling herself on the very edge of the mattress.

She watched as Regina gave her wand another small wave, conjuring up a chair, which she placed in the center of the room, the two women now sitting face-to-face. Quarters were tight, and Regina had no choice but to position the chair near the bed, but she was careful to stay just out of reach should Rose get any ideas about lunging for her wand.

“What do you want?” Rose’s voice had finally returned to her, her brain and body once again communicating normally, even as her heart pounded against her ribcage.

“Come now, Rose. Is that any way to greet an old friend? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you weren’t happy to see me.”

“We aren’t friends.” Rose would have thought the wand, which was once again pointed at her chest, would have made that fact rather obvious.

“And whose fault is that? I reached out to you, Rose. Warned you this sort of thing could happen. But you wouldn’t listen. And now look how things have turned out?”

“What do you want?” Rose asked again. Rose knew she was in a bad spot, but she couldn’t quite mask the edge in her voice. The woman had, after all, just broken into her home, and Rose wasn’t in the mood for playing games.

“Everything in its own good time, Rose. Isn’t that how the saying goes? I was never very good at turning a phrase, though I hear you have quite the talent for it.”

Rose said nothing. She was too busy trying to decide just what was going on here. Was Regina attempting to scare her? To show off – prove she was the one in control? Or was she actually intending to use her wand? And if so, to what end?

“I won’t lie,” Regina went on, her words calm, detached. “I was so sure that after our last little heart-to-heart, you would have gotten the message. I figured you’d have been smart enough to take my advice. That it hadn’t all been a waste of my time. So you can just imagine how disappointed I was to find out that you hardly gave my words a second thought. You ran right back to Viktor that very night. Went halfway around the world, as I heard it, just to find him and bring him back home.”

“How do you know—”

“Oh, come on now, Rose. Do you really think after all this time, I wouldn’t have found some way of keeping tabs on Viktor? Not that it’s all that hard, mind you. Not when there are so many people out there trying to do the same.”

“Why would you want to keep tabs on him? But I thought you hated Viktor.”

“Of course I hate him. That’s what makes it fun.” Rose wasn’t following, but she wasn’t sure yet if it was simply because she didn’t understand, or because Regina wasn’t actually talking sense. “Still,” she continued, “once I realized that you couldn’t be reasoned with, I knew I was going to have to find a more effective way of getting through to you. But of course, that isn’t a problem either when you’re dealing with someone like Viktor. A man with that many weaknesses is so easy to manipulate. It almost takes all the sport out of it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh, Rose. Must I really spell it out for you?” She paused, but when it was clear Rose wasn’t getting it, Regina sighed and said, “I did what I had to do to get your attention. If you wouldn’t listen to reason, I figured I’d just have to scare some sense into you.”

Rose, who had been doing her best to remain calm, unsure where the situation was headed, felt a sudden flash of anger rise up in her chest as she realized what Regina was saying.

“It was you!” she shouted, her fury momentarily making her forget the wand still trained on her heart. She made to jump to her feet, but Regina was too quick for her. She raised her wand just high enough to let Rose know that if she moved even one more inch in her direction, she’d be blasted straight into next week. So Rose reluctantly resumed her seat, but the anger inside her continued to burn white-hot. “You drugged him. You could have killed him. He nearly died because of you!”

Regina smiled. “Your loyalty to him is touching, if misguided. Viktor was never in any danger. I lived with an addict for years, remember? I knew how much he could handle. Though I’ll admit, it took him down faster than I thought. I expected him to put up a struggle, but he never had the chance. I guess he was telling the truth when he said he’d been keeping clean all these years. Still, it made the memory modifications easier. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to make people forget when they’ve been wronged, even with the help of magic? I guess the mind is just funny that way.”

But Rose didn’t think there was anything funny about it. What Regina was saying was unconscionable. And it wasn’t just that she’d risked his life to make some sort of twisted point, thought exactly what that point was, Rose still wasn’t sure. She’d let Rose think Viktor had done it to himself. She’d made Rose doubt him – made him doubt himself. It was inexcusable.

“When that still failed to get the message across,” Regina said, her manner breezy, as if they were discussing nothing more than a botched recipe or a potion gone awry, “I decided it was time to call in some reinforcements.”

“Reinforcements? For what? What are you talking about?” None of this was making sense. Rose still didn’t know what Regina wanted from her, why she was there, telling her all of this. If she was able drug Viktor, risk his life just to serve her own purposes, and then sit there talking about it as if it meant nothing to her, what else was the woman capable of?

“Well, you can’t honestly think that after all this time, I’m the only one out there who wants to see Viktor pay for his crimes. Even you can’t be that thick. After everything he’s done, I’m only surprised there aren’t more of us out there looking for blood.” The way Regina said the word blood sent a chill down Rose’s spine. “Of course, I was surprised to find out that Hemsley was already on the case.”

“Who is Hemsley?” Rose could hear the desperation in her voice as she struggled to keep up with what Regina was saying.

Now it was Regina’s turn to look confused. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten him already? He’ll be so disappointed. He said you two had a very interesting chat. You certainly made quite the impression on him.”

“I don’t—” But something had stirred in the back of Rose’s mind – a conversation she’d nearly forgotten about until that moment. The one with the man in the suit who’d visited Viktor’s flat the day of his hearing. Could that be the man Regina was referring to? Was he Hemsley?

“Benedict has been working at the Ministry for years now,” Regina continued, as if Rose hadn’t said a word. “Shocking who they let in these days. Well, once he caught wind of Viktor’s little stunt with that muggle in the pub, good old Benny couldn’t resist the chance to track Viktor down. I have no idea what he thought he was going to do, but the man always did have a flair for the dramatic. I take it he’d been following you two for weeks by then. But still, just imagine how shocked he was to arrive at Viktor’s flat one night and see you standing at the window, dressed in nothing but your underwear, looking like you’d just been given the ride of your life. Having a pretty face does have its drawbacks, Rose. It makes you memorable. Easy to identify. I suppose it’s just unfortunate for you that Benny had the foresight to bring a camera.”

So Rose was right. The man in the suit was Hemsley – the same man, it seemed, who’d taken that first photograph of her and Krum and leaked it to the press. But that still didn’t explain who Hemsley was or what sort of business he had with Viktor. And truthfully, Rose didn’t care. Not with Regina’s wand still poised to take her down at a moment’s notice. Still, Rose didn’t see what other options she had, aside from keeping the woman talking.

“And what does he – Hemsely – have to do with any of this?” Rose asked.

Regina gave her a cold smile. “Oh, Benny and I are old acquaintances. I can’t believe Viktor never mentioned him to you. Though I guess we went through this all before, didn’t we? How you’ll never know Viktor the way I do.” Regina paused, as if waiting for Rose to argue the point, but she didn’t, so Regina continued on. “The three of us go back a long way, Benedict, Viktor and I. His brother Tommy was an old teammate of Krum’s. I wouldn’t say the two were chummy – Viktor was never much of a team player. But he was a pleasant enough man, or so I’ve been told. Is this ringing any bells yet?”

Rose shook her head. The name meant nothing to her.

Regina just shrugged. “No surprise there, I suppose. Tommy wasn’t exactly a star player. Mediocre was, I think, one of the nicest terms I heard applied to him. But they can’t all be prodigies like Viktor, now can they?

“Anyway, it wasn’t as if he had some bright future ahead of him. He’d probably have been forced out of the game in a few years anyway. Though I suppose they said the same thing about Viktor at the time, so who knows? Not that it really matters. Three years after Viktor’s injury, Tommy was dead, and that should have been the end of it. Only it’s never that simple, is it?”

“What happened to him?” Rose asked, still eager to keep the woman talking, but also curious about what any of this had to do with her and Krum. It was ancient history as far as Rose was concerned. She couldn’t have been more than a year old when all of this happened.

Regina gave her another indifferent shrug, as if the man’s death was of no consequence to her. “Your guess is as good as mine. The Ministry has it listed as an accident. A drowning. Others say he was pushed. If you ask me, the man took a swan dive off the that bridge because he just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Take what?”

“The harassment. The guilt. The accusations. It was him – Tommy. He was the one who failed to put up the proper protections that day. The ones that would have saved Viktor from that fall. Tommy ended Viktor’s career just as sure as I’m sitting here. Nearly killed him too, don’t forget that. I’m not saying it wasn’t an accident, but that’s a heavy burden for even the strongest of us to bare, and no one ever accused Tommy of being strong.”

Rose didn’t know what to say. This was all news to her. She hadn’t come across any of this while doing her research. The nearest she'd found were a few vague references to rumors of possible tampering on the part of another player, but they’d never found anything to support those claims, and no one had ever been accused of any wrongdoing as far as she knew. Was never once thought it was anything more than an accident. Of course, she'd been a lot more interested in what happened afterwards than with the event itself.

“You have to understand,” Regina said. “Viktor was still a hero back then – more popular than ever. People were routing for him, still holding out hope he’d recover and return to the game. But everyone with half a brain knew that wasn’t going to happen. The Quidditch world is a small community, Rose. And an unforgiving one at that. Tommy was a pariah from that moment on. Even those who despised Viktor were anxious to see Tommy get what he deserved.”

At the mere mention of revenge, Regina’s grip on her wand seemed to tighten, and Rose was forced to sit up a little straighter in her seat.

“And that’s how I first met Benedict,” Regina continued. “He started showing up at the house, begging to speak with Viktor. He thought if Krum would only speak up on his brother’s behalf, tell the world that it was an accident, then maybe people would leave him in peace. But of course, Viktor wouldn’t have any part of it. He blamed Tommy just as much of the rest of them. Forget the fact that he was getting on as a player. That his body was already showing signs of breaking down, or that he had no business trying those stupid tricks of his. Viktor saw himself as the only victim in all of this, and he wasn’t afraid to be vocal about it either. He crucified that man, dragging his name through the mud until there was nothing left. A few months later, Tommy’s dead. And to this day, Benny blames Viktor for his death.”

Rose was speechless, her plan to keep Regina talking momentarily forgotten in her shock over what the woman was saying. Could any of this really be true? If it was, surely Rose would have heard something about it before now. After all the research she’d done, all the time she’d spent with Krum, how could he have failed to mention something like this?

Regina seemed to mistake Rose’s doubt for something else, because she said, “The truth hurts, doesn’t it, Rose? Is it hard knowing how truly cold and unforgiving a man Viktor really is?”

That wasn’t at all what Rose had been thinking, but now that Regina had pointed it out, she couldn’t get the image of Viktor turning Benedict away, refusing to help a man desperate to save his brother, out of her mind. Still, even if Regina was telling her the truth, that couldn’t be all there was to the story. Viktor had just lost everything – his career, his livelihood, and for a while, even his ability to walk. Wasn’t it to be expected that he might hold a grudge against the man who was at least partially responsible? But to drag his name through the mud, to hound him even after his brother had begged for Viktor to put an end to it all – was that sort of behavior “to be expected?” Had Krum known at the time that the man might have been suicidal?

Rose’s uncertainty must have been written across her face, because Regina was smiling again, seeming to enjoy the pain her words were inflicting. “Benny stopped coming around after Tommy’s death. No point in it once his brother was dead, I suppose. As for me, I’d nearly forgot about them both until I ran into Benny a few years back. He was reluctant to talk to me, as you can imagine. Not that I could blame him. But once I explained to him how Viktor and I had gone our separate ways, he soon realized how much we had in common.”

“And what’s that?” Rose asked.

“How much we both hate Viktor, and want nothing more in life than to make him pay for what he’s done.” Her words were cold, matter-of-fact, devoid of all emotion, as if her hatred had become so all consuming, she couldn’t even recognize its influence on her anymore. And that more than anything made Rose’s blood run cold.

“So this is what?” Rose asked. “Your way of showing me what kind of man Viktor really is? To scare me off?”

Regina laughed. “Oh, Rose. You and I both know we’re way past the point of scaring you off.”

The woman’s arm must have been growing tired because she allowed it to drop until it was resting just above her lap. But the grip on her wand remained just as tight as ever. Rose longed to get her hands on her own wand, but that was impossible, at least for the time being. It was in her purse, which was lying beside the bags of groceries still sitting just inside the door. Rose was growing more and more certain that it was only a matter of time before Regina made her move. And if the woman decided to use her wand, Rose would be powerless to defend herself. What Rose really needed to do was run, but there was nowhere to go. The front door was the only way in or out of the flat, save for the windows. But they were three stories up, and it was a long drop to the ground below.

Rose knew her best bet for coming out of this unscathed was to stall for time. Viktor was set to arrive at six, and the clock on the wall now read quarter-till. If Rose could just keep her talking until then, maybe between the two of them, they could subdue Regina before anyone got hurt.

“What was in the envelope?” Rose asked, saying the first thing that popped into her mind. “The one Benedict tried to give me the day of Krum’s hearing.”

“Oh, that,” Regina said with a dismissive wave of her hand – the one not busy clutching her wand. “Nothing but a bunch of old newspaper clippings about his brother’s death. He got some fringe publication to print a few stories on it years ago, and now he carries them around like their proof of all the terrible crimes Viktor committed against his family. It’s pathetic. But then that’s Benny for you. Pathetic and weak. Him and his brother both.”

“I thought you said you were friends.”

“Acquaintances,” Regina corrected. “That’s hardly the same thing. Personally, I can’t stand the man. If he really blames Krum for his brother’s death, then he should have manned-up and killed Viktor years ago. He talks a good game, but he doesn’t have the balls to follow through on any of it. Still, you know what they say. The enemy of my enemy and all that.”

“Why haven’t you killed Viktor then? You seem to hate him enough for it.”

“I do hate him. Make no mistake. But you’re still missing the point. Benny wants justice for his brother – an eye for an eye, as it were. I, on the other hand, prefer revenge. With Krum dead, I lose my chance.”

“Revenge for what? What he really that terrible a husband that you carry a grudge after all these years?”

Regina laughed, but it was just as cold and unforgiving as her smile. “The man really has been keeping secrets from you, hasn’t he? I told you when we first met that you had no idea who he was, or what he was capable of. Let’s put it this way, Tommy’s isn’t the only blood Krum has on his hands.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” But Regina had gone suddenly quite, apparently having said all she intended to on that matter. So Rose was forced to try a new tactic to get her talking again. “He’s not the man you think he is, at least not anymore. Viktor would never do anything to hurt me.”

Regina just shook her head. “You’re still so naïve, Rose. I guess that’s just one of the many luxuries of youth, isn’t it? But actually, for once, you’re right. I don’t expect Viktor will hurt you, not physically, anyway. That’s not how he operates when it comes to the women in his life. But even if it was, surely you can see by now that I won’t ever let it get that far. Viktor won’t hurt you, Rose, because I’ll have already done it for him.”

And in that moment, Rose knew. She knew why Regina was there in her flat, brandishing a wand at her. It wasn’t to warn her. Or to scare her off. Not even to rub in her face what sort of terrible person Viktor might be. No. Regina was there for one reason and one reason only.

She was there to kill her.

The realization seemed to shoot through Rose’s body like a bolt of electricity, and she jumped to her feet, poised to run. But Regina was ready for her. She was on her feet now too, her wand once again held high, this time pointing straight at Rose’s head.

“Don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be, Rose. I don’t want to have to restrain you, but I will if you can’t behave.”

That was when Rose realized something else too. Regina was crazy, perhaps even downright evil, but she wasn’t stupid. She could have killed Rose the second she’d walked through the door. One flick of her wrist and Rose would have been dead before she’d even had time to realize what was happening.

That had to mean Regina was waiting for something. Or for someone. And that meant there was still time.

Rose slowly resumed her position on the edge of the bed. She could feel the sweat dripping down her back, adrenaline pumping through her veins, blood pounding in her ears. But she forced herself to hold it together. If she could keep Regina talking for just a little while longer, Viktor was bound to be there soon. Rose wasn’t crazy about the idea of Krum walking in on them. Who knew what Regina might do? But Rose had no way of warning Viktor, so she’d just have to trust that Regina had meant it when she’d said she wanted Krum alive.

“You understand that this isn’t about you,” Regina said, her voice now sugary-sweet, though no less chilling than the cold detachment she’d displayed moments ago. She had resumed her seat too, her wand tucked safely at her side though still trained on Rose. “I mean, I like you, Rose. Really, I do. Like I told you before, I see a lot of myself in you. This is all just a bit of bad luck on your part, I’m afraid. You see, the reason I can’t kill Viktor is because it would be too kind. He’s been slowly killing himself for years. At this point, it would be like putting a wounded animal out of its misery. He doesn’t care about saving his own life, so what kind of punishment is it to take it away from him? But you... Well, now there’s something he does care about. He loves you.”

“How could you possible know that? You’ve never even seen us together.” But Rose stopped. She was trying to apply reason to a situation that was entirely unreasonable.

Regina didn’t seem to notice. She took the question at face value, saying, “But I have seen you together. You two just can’t seem to keep out of the papers, can you?”

There was a quick slash of her wand, and Rose flinched. But instead of the bright light of a curse headed in her direction, a scrap piece of paper had materialized out of thin air, drifting down until it landed on Rose’s lap. She picked it up. It was a newspaper clipping, the one about Albus’s and Amelia’s wedding. And there was the photograph, the one of her and Krum dancing together.

“Do you know what it’s like,” Regina said, “to wake up and find that on your doorstep? It’s like he’s trying to rub it in my face how happy he is. Viktor doesn’t deserve to be happy!”

Regina’s face flushed with anger. It was the first real spark of emotion Rose had seen from her, the words so laced with bitterness and hatred that Rose might have pitied the woman if she hadn’t been so afraid of her.

“So this is his punishment,” Regina said, her tone once again cool and collected. “He loves you, so you die. And he can spend the rest of his life knowing he’s to blame.”

“You’ll be the only one to blame, Regina.”

“Perhaps, but only in the literal sense of the word. Let’s face it, Rose. You and I both know Viktor well enough to understand that he’ll blame himself for this. And it wil eat him alive.”

Rose knew instantly that she was right. Krum would find a way to see this as his fault. And if Regina had been right about what happened to Tommy, Rose wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to discover that Viktor blamed himself for that too. Maybe that had been another reason for all the drugs. Another demon he was trying to keep at bay.

Rose watched as Regina’s eyes glanced briefly over to the clock on the wall. Rose could sense she was running out of time.

“You won’t get away with this,” Rose said, throwing caution to the wind. “They’ll catch you, and you’ll end up spending the rest of your life in Azkaban. Are you really willing to throw everything away just to spite him?”

But Regina was already shaking her head. “You underestimate me, Rose. The only one around here going to prison is Viktor.”

“You’re planning to frame him.” It wasn’t a question. Rose didn’t even have to ask. She could tell from the glint in Regina’s eye that it was what she’d planning all along.

“It’s almost laughable how easy it will be. I mean, after what happened with that muggle? Nearly beat someone to death for hurling a few insults. That doesn’t sound like a very stable man, if you ask me. Is it such a leap to think he might not lose his temper again – perhaps during a little lover’s quarrel? Next thing you know, you’re dead and he’s left holding the bag – or should I say, the wand?” She made a little wave with her wrist as if to emphasize her point.

“Then why not just kill me and get it over with?” Rose didn’t know why she’d said it. It sounded almost as if she were egging the woman on, goading her into making her move.

“And what?” Regina scoffed. “Leave you decomposing on the carpet until Viktor arrives? The Ministry may be full of idiots, but the Aurors mean business. You of all people should know that. They have ways of figuring these things out. No, he’s got to be here when it happens. It’s just lucky for all of us that I’m so good with memory charms. But even if I weren’t, who do you think they’d believe? A washed-up has-been with a violent streak? Or me? I’ve made a name for myself, Rose. Women around the world hang on my every written word. I’ve got a husband, a child. A new name. And what has Viktor got? Besides you, that is. And by then, you’ll be long gone. Don’t you see? No matter what, I win. As long as your dead and Krum is suffering, I'll always win.”

And with that, there was nothing left for Rose to say. This was how it was going to end. The woman in front of her had lost all ability for rational thought a long time ago. She was single-minded, completely focused on destroying Krum. And to do that, Rose had to die. If not this moment, then soon. It wouldn’t be over for Regina until one or both of them was buried six feet underground. Rose’s choice to be with Viktor was literally going to be the death of her. And despite it all, she couldn’t bring herself to regret it.

Even with the fear still coursing through her, and all the anger she felt towards Regina for what woman was about to steal away from her, Rose felt a clarity she wouldn’t have imagined possible. An ability to accept the certainty of her own demise. Rose knew in her heart that she wasn’t coming out of this alive. The best she could hope for now was to find away to keep Regina from blaming it all on Krum.

If Rose had to die, then she’d die taking Regina down with her.

Rose lunged at the woman, catching her entirely off-guard.

She was already reaching for Regina’s wand, and had nearly managed to wrap her fingers around it, when the woman realized what was happening. Regina yanked her arms up and away, but she wasn’t fast enough. Rose had managed to grab a hold of the top end of the wand. There was a loud snap! as the thin piece of wood shattered in two.

“You little bitch!” Regina screamed.

She flung the useless piece of wand aside and grabbed Rose’s hair with both hands, spinning her around and thrusting her forward. Rose stumbled twice before slamming into the wall. She was on the ground in an instant, rolling onto her back just in time to avoid Regina’s incoming kick to the face. It missed her by inches, and Rose could hear the wind rushing past her ear.

She scrambled to her knees, trying to crawl away, when Regina grabbed her by the shirt, yanking her backwards. The woman was strong – much stronger than Rose had anticipated. It was all Rose could do to keep pushing forward until she broke free of the woman’s grasp.

What occurred next came so fast, Rose didn’t even have time to process what was happening. She’d grabbed the edge of the counter, attempting to pull herself to her feet. And that’s when she feels it – something cold and smooth beneath her fingertips.

Rose grabbed at it, wheeling around just in time to see Regina lunging straight for her.

There was a sickening squelch and the instant feeling of something warm and sticky coating Rose’s outstretched hand. The woman gave a small gasp of surprise, and then staggered back several paces. That’s when Rose saw it: the black handle of the knife sticking out of Regina’s stomach.

Regina dropped to one knee, putting a hand out to steady her fall.

“What have you done?” she asked, her eyes wide with surprise.

For a moment, Rose was frozen in place, captivated by the bright red spot that was slowly speading across the front of Regina’s blouse. But the shock and horror of what was happening was quickly overridden by one simple thought: Rose was alive and she needed to get the hell out of there.

Rose made for the door. She grabbed the handle, only to find it locked. Whatever spell Regina had put on it was still holding fast. She could hear the woman moaning behind her, but Rose refused to look. Instead, she began searching for her purse, digging around in it until she came up with her wand, which she raised high into the air.

“Aloha—”

But that was as far as she got before she felt the impact and the pain overtook her. A horrible, ice-cold fire that spread through her back and arms. It took her breath away, stole the spell from the tip of her lips. And for a moment, even made her forget who she was. It was just pain.

Rose dropped to her knees at the foot of the door. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Regina lying motionless on the ground a few feet away. But something wasn’t right. The one small part of Rose’s brain still capable of rational thought recognized that something was wrong with the scene in front of her. Something aside from the great pool of blood now covering the carpet.

Regina was on her back, dead eyes staring up at the ceiling, hands folded and resting on her chest as if offering up one last silent prayer. But the knife was no longer protruding from her stomach, nor lying at her side. It was gone.

And then, just before the world went black, Rose understood.

The knife wasn’t gone. It was lodged in her back.
 


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