8. Dead End
Jacob heard the black Mercedes as it pulled up behind him and spied the youthful looking blond male that emerged from the driver's side. There had been stories about the agreement made between his ancestors and this reputedly peaceable vampire, and while Jacob had never met him personally, the patriarch of the Cullens was thought to be wise and trustworthy.
"Hello, Edward," Carlisle greeted through the glass.
At last, Jacob thought, now he would finally be able to reveal his secret, and with any luck, the big boss would be able to help.
Sorry, I got out a little later than usual from the hospital. Your mother was worried about you, so I told her I would come see you first.
My mom? Oh, Jacob thought. Mother Esme. Of course she would be worried. Jacob pressed down on the switch to release the locks, and a moment later, the leader of the Cullen clan was seated beside him. His presence was unlike anything Jacob had expected. A smile was on his lips, and his golden eyes reeked of understanding.
"Esme said you wanted to speak to me."
Jacob cleared his throat, nervous now. Could he really be as kindly as he appeared? The vampire before him was a doctor, a healer. What kind of contrary life could he lead? Maybe there was a supply of blood there for him waiting at the hospital? Like Esme, his tone was kind, and even his inner voice was gentle.
"Last night…." Jacob considered how to word this. There seemed not to be any way to make it come out believably. "Something happened." He paused.
What is it, son? You can tell me.
"I went to see Bella, and….Jacob was there…." It still founded funny in Jacob's head to be referring to himself as Edward and vice versa.
Oh, dear. Carlisle was well aware of Edward's conflict with the lovesick wolf boy.
Did you and Jacob have a fight?
"No, not a fight, exactly," he told him. More like a struggle… "Bella was mad at him, so he wanted to give her this…." Jacob was trying to say necklace, but the word refused to leave his lips. He tried to form the words, but with frustration found that there was no sound to help it out. Dread began to rise up from his very being, but stifling it, Jacob tried again. "He had a…." Once again, it was like some force was holding back his words.
What did he have?
"He had a gift for Bella," Jacob finally got out.
"Oh. I see. Go on." Carlisle had also been aware of Bella's reluctance to accept gifts from Edward. This had to be a touchy subject for him.
"And the gift has this…." - Special power, he wanted to say, but he was lacking the ability now to even form the word on his lips. - "The gift has this…." - Curse would have been the next word if he had the power to say it.
The gift has what, Edward?
Jacob shook his head and considered another approach. "There was a…misunderstanding…and since then, I don't think that either Jacob or I have been the same," he said, amazed that those words actually were allowed.
The furrow was visible on Carlisle's brows as he struggled to understand. "Did Bella accept the gift from him?"
"She never got it."
Help me to understand. Is the gift important somehow?
"It is," Jacob said, frustrated, "but I can't say why."
"I think I understand." You feel threatened by Jacob, and though you may not be willing to admit it, I suspect that you were jealous of the relationship he has with Bella…or what might have been if you had not returned.
Jacob considered this for a moment and wondered if that was true…if Edward could really conceive him as a threat. How he ached for it to be true. That bloodsucker always seemed so darned smug.
They had gotten off the subject. Okay, he thought. No more fooling around. I'm just going to say it. "Jacob and I have…." Switched bodies would have been his next words, but it felt like an invisible clamp was barring his lips shut. He tried again. "We are…." In each other's bodies. "Closer now." Closer was a horrible choice of words, but he was at a loss for something better. "You might say that we are seeing through each others' eyes."
Living in each other's bodies, he wanted to scream, but instead simmered inside at the look Carlisle was giving him.
Carlisle's lips formed a wide smile. "I'm proud of you, son."
No, no, no! Jacob thought. And then with a sigh, he gave up. It appeared that speaking would be as impossible as writing it out had been, and he was just wasting his breath…and now Carlisle had the misguided notion that he and Edward were friends. Now, he had no choice to depend on Edward to find Emily's neighbor. It came down to this: he had no choice but to put his faith in Edward. Jacob turned his head away, focusing his attention on Bella's window. For the moment they had bigger worries, and just before Carlisle had pulled up Jacob was considering inspecting Bella's room.
Sensitive to Edward's withdrawal from the topic, Carlisle knew better than to push. "Esme also told me that a stranger had been inside Bella's house and removed some of her personal things."
"That's what Alice told us."
"I spoke to Jasper and Emmett. They followed the visitor's trail to a car, and the tracks are over a day old. I think it would be a good idea to include the wolves, find out if there is any way they can be of assistance."
Jacob looked at him in awe. This was a wise man; he held no prejudices. "I agree. I'm going to get in touch with Jacob." Once Sleeping Beauty wakes up…
Once again, Carlisle smiled at him and even appeared to be beaming now. Apparently, Carlisle was very approving of this new relationship between Jacob and Edward. Perhaps it might change things between them for the better.
Since Bella's house was empty, Carlisle and Jacob took the opportunity to search the interior. Carlisle had not been able to identify the scent either, and the two determined that it was no more than a day old. Just the thought terrified Jacob to no end and very likely it would frighten Bella as well. Once again he felt at a disadvantage - he could not help lamenting that in wolf form it would be much easier to find this troublesome intruder.
As he and Carlisle worked together, sweeping through the house at an unearthly speed, Jacob was getting a crash course in Vampire 101, studying the leader's thoughts, movements, and actions. Carlisle Cullen was a natural teacher, demonstrating their habits without even meaning to. And Jacob learned something new; breathing was not necessary for the cold ones. Also, despite the fact that he had not gotten a wink of sleep the entire night, he had not felt fatigued, and judging by the absence of hunger, he concluded that their sole source of nourishment was blood. For now, he decided he was not going to let that worry him. While he had no clue how often vampires needed to feed, Jacob was feeling confident he would be back in his own body before then. He waited until Carlisle left and continued to comb Bella's room and the exterior of the house.
The voice sounded like it was far away, but slowly became louder…and insistent. "Jake!"
Edward felt like someone was pushing on his arm and groggily he opened his eyes to find an older man with long black hair sitting in a wheelchair. Dimly, his memory recalled that for one thing, he was not in his natural body, and for another, that the man's face was of Billy Black.
Sitting up in bed, Edward blinked back the bleariness behind his eyes. With the way he felt he could have easily slept another few hours. "Oh."
"Yeah. You didn't even hear the phone. Tell Bella not to call you in the middle of the night."
The mention of Bella's name was like a charge to Edward's system. "Bella called?"
"Well, I assume it was her; I didn't answer it." It seemed these kids were always at odds about something or another, and Billy was sure he did not want to be involved.
"Sorry," Edward told him. "I was really tired when I got back last night." The whole night he had been plagued by dreams that were no less than bizarre.
"Are you feeling okay?" Billy asked, concerned.
Now Edward wondered if the older man in the wheelchair couldn't see through to his very soul. It was an odd feeling, and Edward felt as though he was missing a vital part of himself. Although there was some bliss to the quiet inside his mind, he had not had to rely on body language or the spoken word to reveal a person's thoughts for many, many years, and there seemed to be so many secrets behind those blackish brown eyes of Billy Black's.
Avoiding Billy's eyes, Edward allowed his surroundings to sink in, the light streaming through the curtain, the mess of clothes piled on the wooden floor. The room looked like it hadn't been dusted in years. "I'm…I'll be okay."
Billy seemed to be satisfied with this answer and wheeled himself backward from the bed and through the door. "I'll call school and tell them you won't be there today."
"Thanks…Dad." It was a relief to Edward, for now, to not have to go to school and pretend to be Jacob…the less people he had to fool the better. However, he also wondered how Jacob had been faring.
"I heard about Leah," Billy said. He still could hardly believe it.
Leah…now who was that again? Edward wondered. Not either of Jacob's sisters, neither of which lived with them now. She had to be a friend of the family, he decided.
"What about her?"
"She's got the fever," Bill told him meaningfully. "Sue's been taking care of her."
Searching his mind, Edward wondered why this was important. Didn't Quileutes ever get sick?
"It's unheard of for a girl, you know," he clarified, relieved that his own girls had not been affected.
Edward's brows knit together, confused. "Maybe… she should see a doctor?"
The older man's expression was serious, but then a smile quickly took over his lips. "A doctor! That's funny, Jake." Billy doubted that even though Sue was a nurse that she could do anything for her daughter.
It was then that Edward felt the tightness in his stomach, and a loud growl seemed to howl out from inside his body.
"Come help me with breakfast."
"Okay." Breakfast - it was the best thing he had heard since this whole mess began. A big smile lit up Edward's face as he imagined a feast of breakfast meats and pastries, and his stomach growled once again at just the thought of it.
Edward was a bit rusty at cooking, but recalling Bella all those times as she flitted around her kitchen throwing meals together was some help. And Edward hoped that as he stirred the eggs in the pan that he was not behaving conspicuously or un Jacob-like. For the past ten minutes Billy had been on the phone, and while Edward was at a disadvantage not being able to read or hear the caller, he could only partially make out the content of the conversation from his end over the rumbling of his stomach. Apparently there was going to be a bonfire the following night, and Edward was hoping that he would be back in his body long before then. Meanwhile the aroma of the eggs as they cooked ignited the feeling of a tiny monster down in his stomach eating away at his insides, and it was all he could do not to grab a handful of bread nearby and stuff it into his mouth. There was the sizzle from several slices of bacon in another frying pan, and Edward was sure he had never smelled anything more tempting (aside from Bella's blood, which now the thought of repelled him completely).
He heard Billy end the call and stiffened as the older man wheeled himself in. "How are those eggs coming along, Jake?"
"Almost done," Edward told him, inspecting the fluffy yellow contents of the pan. Hopefully the bacon would not take too much longer…
Billy took his glass measuring cup of thick ivory liquid and poured small puddles onto an electric griddle at the table. As the hissing sounded out from liquid to pan, Billy heard another growl sound out from his son's stomach and smirked. The boy was always hungry.
"That was old Quil," Billy told him, waiting patiently as the pancakes began cooking. "He wants you to invite Bella to the bonfire."
They had their ulterior motives, of course. The Quileutes wanted the girl to be well aware of what she was dealing with, and the stories told around the fire would be sure to accomplish that.
Observing the bubbles as they began forming on the surface, Billy chuckled. "Yeah, if you can get her to forgive you by then."
Right. For a moment, Edward toyed with the idea of coaxing Bella's forgiveness, wondering if she would be able to tell the difference if he did his best to convince her that he was Jacob. On the other hand, after that disturbing dream this morning, Edward was not sure he wanted her to think that at all.
She had to know the difference, he reasoned. Jacob and Edward were as different as night and day, eggs and bacon, pancakes and maple syrup, orange juice and coffee…blood and food…
A loud roar resounded from his stomach again.
After flipping the pancakes on the griddle, Billy grabbed a plate from the table and wheeled it over to Jacob. "Eat," he directed, at which Edward gratefully obliged, scooping a nice helping of eggs, four strips of bacon, and then moved to the table where Billy plopped four pancakes onto his plate. It did not matter to Edward that a quarter of the pancakes were hanging off the edge of the plate and completely covering the bacon. He sat down, grabbed a fork, and without deliberating which to try first, poked into the first thing that stuck to the prongs and stuffed it into his mouth. The light texture of the eggs seemed to melt on his tongue, although it did not stay for very long as Edward gulped it down, delighted to taste more of the formerly grotesque menu items. It was so tasty, in fact, that strings of yummy noises accompanied each bite.
Billy knew his son was a big eater but watched in amazement as the boy polished off the contents of his plate in less than a minute. He had not even used syrup for his pancakes.
And he could not recall him ever enjoying his food quite so much. "Hungry were you, Jake?"
Edward smiled, nodding, and then swallowed the last bite in his mouth. "It's like I haven't eaten in ninety years."
Cutting into his own pancakes, Billy was enjoying this time together. He had not minded Jacob staying home from school. He was a bright kid – too smart for his own good. Most of the time he had been busy running with the pack, and other times he was out with Bella.
Before Edward could consider scooping himself a second helping, the phone rang, and he looked to Billy. Billy, who had his mouth full, looked at his son after the second ring.
"You gonna get that?"
Edward hoped that somewhere there was an answering machine. He did not want to answer it, but seeing Billy's expectant gaze, he rose and moved to the phone on the wall.
Jacob thought it was weird to be hearing his voice on the other end of the line. "Good morning, Sunshine."
Edward was struck as well by the oddness of it all. "Hi…Edward."
It was then that Edward noticed how Billy's features tightened.
Be Jacob, he told himself. "Yeah. Why are you calling me?"
"Is my dad there listening?"
"Yup," Edward told him, trying to sound Jacob-like.
"We need to talk. Can you get away from my dad?"
"Nope," Edward told him. Apparently the Swans were not the only residence that did not possess a cordless phone.
Jacob sighed. "Okay I'm just going to ask you yes or no questions. Have you talked to Emily's neighbor yet?"
It was late in the morning, and Jacob pulled the phone away from his ear, scowling at the device as though he were looking at Edward's face. "Dammit! What have you been doing?! Uh, I mean, you going to do that soon?"
"I need you to talk to Sam, but I guess we should meet first."
"Okay. Is Bella okay?" Edward asked. He didn't like the tension he heard in Jacob's Edward voice.
"She's fine. I want you to hurry up and talk to Emily's neighbor. Her name is Ida. After that, call me and meet me here at Bella's house."
There was some measure of relief that he had confirmed things were okay with Bella. Edward did not like being in the dark about the situation or how Jacob was faring with the Cullens, but with Billy sitting there watching and listening, Edward could not very well question Jacob further. And now the revulsion of that nightmare was creeping back into his consciousness.
He said goodbye, hung up the phone, and approached Billy, who was still eating.
"You talk to vampires now, Jake?"
Edward cleared his throat. "Yeah, well…he's going to help me with Bella. I mean, he's going to talk to her for me, so I'm going to meet him before then."
Billy heaved a sigh. He was sure he did not understand the kids these days. "Weird."
"Yeah," Edward agreed. If only he knew… "Do you know Emily's neighbor?"
"Old Ida. Yeah, why?"
"I need to talk to her." He couldn't explain why and pulled something off the top of his head. The only thing he knew about her was what Emily had told Jacob. Ida made jewelry. "For school…a project, and I need to interview her about legends and their connection to jewelry."
Edward shrugged. "I don't know. That's why I'm interviewing her." That sounded dumb, Edward thought, but thankfully Billy bought it.
He smiled. "Sure, I'll drive us to the store, and then you can go talk to her."
After a refreshing shower, and doing his best to ignore the disturbing reflection in the mirror, Edward chose the most decent clothes of Jacob's he could find - a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He wheeled Billy out, helped him into the driver's side, and then fussed with the lever on the wheelchair to get it closed.
When they were finally on the road, Edward absorbed the surrounding buildings and homes under the shrouded sunlight, only vaguely recalling his drive the night before under both the haze of fatigue and the pouring rain. Fortunately, Jacob had drawn him a detailed map of the reservation, and it now dawned on Edward that he may not have given Jacob as much information as he should have…
Billy had become quiet when Edward informed him of his plans to meet a certain vampire at Bella's house later. Now parked in front of what appeared to be a worn gray shack, Edward pulled open the door.
"Wait, Jacob," Billy called out.
Edward paused before getting out. "I don't trust the Cullens, and neither should you."
He felt his heart sink just a little. Natural enemies, sure. But, if he only knew…
"Got it," Edward replied.
"See you back at the house later."
After waving, Edward stepped out of the truck and took the first few steps leading toward Ida's home. His hand dug into his pocket, grasping the talisman with careful fingers. And as he approached the front porch, he prayed that she would have the answers.
The porch's dark wooden planks were worn and rickety beneath Edward's feet. Crowded around the small standing space was a variety of greenery hanging from decorated clay pots, along with small statues of wolves, and a large woven basket that housed stones of different sizes. Apparently Ida was quite a collector, and through the screen door Edward spied more of the same. His hand knocked softly upon the aluminum edge, but when there was no sound other than soft music, he knocked again.
A woman's voice called out, and through the veiled partition Edward's eyes finally met the one he had been searching for. Old Ida. She wore an ankle-length beige smock with a thick shelled necklace that hung to her midsection. Her white hair was long, parted in the middle with braids that fell to her elbows. The woman's bronze-colored skin was aged, and her wrinkles were pronounced. As she approached the door, her thin lips spread into a wide grin.
"Hello, Jacob," she greeted.
Edward's gaze darted around uncertainly. He wasn't aware that Jacob was acquainted with this woman.
She unlatched the lock and pulled open the door. "I remember holding you when you were no bigger than a loaf of bread." Her tone was kind, and her large dark eyes friendly as she gestured for him to enter. "But, I'm sure you don't remember old Ida?" she laughed.
"No, I'm sorry," Edward told her. It was kind of a relief that he did not have to pretend.
Perhaps she was tall for a woman, reaching the height of Jacob's chest, though her shoulders were slumped. As she led him inside, he noticed her limp, and one of her hands drew forward as though she were missing a cane.
Edward could smell the faint scent of incense burning nearby. On the indigo walls of the modest interior were a variety of pieces of Native American art – and the furniture was old and sturdy, as though it had been passed down from a previous generation.
"You've grown so much, Jacob. If your mother could only see you now – how handsome," she said, pinching his cheek with a deceptively strong grip.
Nodding, Edward smiled, now wondering what the relationship to Jacob's late mother might have been to this woman. "I understand that you make jewelry."
The laugh lines grew more pronounced as Ida grinned, moving her wrinkled hand from his cheek to his arm and patting him knowingly. "You have a girlfriend, do you?"
She led him to a curio cabinet, of which she opened the glass doors to display rows and rows of necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Most were beaded or shelled with a variety of lengths, stones, and colors.
"Actually, I'm here because of something you gave Emily," he told her, dipping his hand into his pocket.
Her brows knit together as he pulled the necklace out carefully. And, she hurriedly backed a step away from him as he held it in his hand.
She shook her head profusely. "I didn't make that, and I did not give that to Emily."
Edward's heart sunk. Had there been some misunderstanding?
"Are…are you sure?" he asked.
Ida tucked her arms behind her back. "Oh. I'm sure."
Now, faced with a dead end, Edward wondered how Emily had ended up with it.
"Maybe you should go."
"Please," he said, stepping toward Ida, and she rapidly backed away from him again. "I just need some answers."
Her dark eyes studied his for a moment, and her concern was soon replaced by amusement. "Jacob. You're such a nice boy. You have no business with stones like those. Did you know that I held you in my arms when you were just a baby?" she asked again, moving her arms into a cradle position.
"Yes. You did say that but, Ida, I really need your help, please?"
"Oh, I'm afraid I can't help you with your cursed stone. You'd be better off burying it."
Edward was beginning to wonder about her mental stability. She had to be more than eighty years old. "Cursed? What do you mean by that?"
With a sigh, she hobbled over to a rocking chair and sat, gesturing to him to sit on the loveseat nearby. "My great grandfather once told me of how the daughter of a medicine man from a rival tribe had been born with a facial disfigurement. Though he could not help his daughter or protect her ears from the cruel remarks of others, she grew up accepted within the tribe. But when it came time for her to marry, not one member of the tribe would take her as a wife. It is said that for every wedding she attended for years after, her bitterness grew more deep and powerful until the day she left the tribe. Having witnessed her father's skills with healing, she began on her own to experiment with summoning dark spirits and calling upon forces of nature to spite any who had mocked her. Though she has been long buried, some of the stones she cursed still remain."
Edward looked doubtful. It sounded unlikely, as unlikely as vampires and werewolves.
"You don't believe me."
"It's just that what you're suggesting…was that she actually had the power to place curses…on stones."
"And on whoever touches them," Ida added. "I believe that people are drawn to rocks for different reasons – the color, the texture, but also because of the essence or minerals they are made up of. Cleverly, she formed these stones into attractive pendants and tied them to a string with other shells or beads to make them appear like any other piece of jewelry."
After opening up his hand, Edward peered down at the peculiar pendant. "This one has a tiny lightning bolt. What do you think it means? How do you reverse the curse?"
She rose and closed his hand so that the talisman could no longer be seen. "I don't know. It was said that she cursed a great number of shiny stones, but since you have touched this one, it is important that you dispose of it so it may not come in contact with someone else. The results could be disastrous."
Disastrous. Someone else had already touched it, he wanted to say, but the words seemed to want to stay buried as well. "But, what about the curse?"
Ida shrugged her thin shoulders and smiled. "Who knows? Maybe there is no curse, Jacob. But, do as I say. Bury it where it can never be found."