Silence had never been more deafening, or its weight more suffocating.
Once the treble of the suitor’s struggled breath and the thunderous beat of his heart had ceased, there was nothing to fill the empty air that hung in the entranceway.
Cross, still propping himself up with the wall, shuffled toward me. I, for my part, didn’t move. I am most positive that I didn’t even breathe until the pain of my suffering lungs forced me to do so—though drawing the much needed air into my lungs only reminded me of the state of my cracked ribs.
My mind was suddenly reeling with the events that had taken place. I replayed the last ten minutes in my head again and again, thinking, surely, there must be something that I missed. Something during our struggle, that I had been too distracted to notice, must explain what happened.
As it was, I stood shaken and bruised with Cross, equally shaken, though far more bruised, beside me. While our attacker, that neither one of us had lain a hand on, lay dead at our feet. He was sprawled out, facedown, the knife he had clenched in his hand, a few inches from him.
“I don’t under—” I started, the words choking in my throat.
“Shh.” Cross took a staggered step from the wall. His movements, slow and measured, positioned him next to the suitor’s body. A pained expression creased his brow as he knelt on the floor next to the body. But, that expression of discomfort lasted only a moment.
An expression of precise scrutiny, of cold calculation even, swept across Cross’s face. Not moving from the position that I stood, though I did allow myself the luxury of breathing, I watched as Cross moved along the dead man’s body. Tracing—though never touching— Cross examined the outline of the back of the suitor’s frame from the top of his head to his boots.
Only when he had satisfied himself that nothing appeared out of the ordinary from behind did Cross venture to turn the body of the victim over. I gasped when Cross moved aside to reveal the man’s face. His jaw slack from his gasping death was nothing to compare to his eyes. Wide open and staring, a wild, haunted look shown from them, his black pupils all but filling the center of his eyes so there was little color from his hazel irises showing. The look of his pupils was so unnerving that a shiver ran along my spine. It was as if they opened into the great pit of hell itself, desiring to swallow any and everything that stood before them.
What madness could draw a man to his death? What horrors, that were whispered of in his black eyes, would break such a man without any mark of violence? What devilry was at work here?
The disturbing quality of his face was more than I could handle and I felt that if I didn’t step away soon, there would be a second body on the floor of the entranceway.
“His eyes…” The only words I managed to squeak out to Cross.