Mary Christmas 2: Christmas in July – Chapter 25 – by lostandwhatever
Continued from Chapter 24.
Candice woke up. Her eyes blinked open, and she looked around. She could tell she was seated on a chair with armrests in a room, although the curtains had been pulled, leaving her in near darkness. She appeared to be in a small motel room. When she tried to stand up, she realized that her arms and ankles were tied down to the chair. She struggled, but she could not get herself loose.
Panic was rising in her mind. Where am I? She wondered. How long was I out? There seemed to be light coming in from behind the curtains, meaning it was probably still day… But, what day?
“Carol!” Candice said out loud. She had left Carol behind, abandoned her partner after Carol had been turned into a little girl. Was Carol safe? Did Mary catch her too? As much as Candice feared for herself, she was more worried about Carol at that moment.
Suddenly, a light flipped on, and Candice squinted.
“So,” Mary said. “Your little friend’s name is Carol.”
“Where is she?” Candice demanded, squinting as her eyes adjusted to the light.
“She’s not here,” Mary said as she walked over to Candice. “As I said before, I want to have a more private conversation with you. I left your little playmate behind in the alley just the way you last saw her.”
Candice noticed Chuck’s doppelganger standing beside Mary with his right arm held out slightly in front of him. There was something dark extending from his arm to the floor that Candice could not recognize.
“What do you want?” Candice asked Mary. “What are you trying to do?” She fought against her restraints with all of her strength but could not budge them at all.
“Take it easy,” Mary said. “It’s pointless struggling. Even if you were ten times stronger, you would never be able to get loose. Those are living bindings. You can stretch them out, but they’ll just shrink back to their original size. So, you might as well just try to relax. You’re not going anywhere, Candy Cane.”
Candice stopped struggling and said, “What’d you call me?”
Mary held up Candice’s ID badge from Department 8, “Candice Cain,” she read. “Looks like your parents decided they wanted to be cute as well.” Mary’s voice took on a more sympathetic tone. “Bet you caught some teasing for that name as well. I know how it feels. Believe me.”
Candice recognized Mary’s words as an attempt at setting her at ease and gaining her confidence, but Candice was not having that. She said, “Get to the point already. What do you want, and what are you trying to do?”
“Fine, down to business, then?” Mary said as she took a seat on the bed in front of Candice and crossed her legs. “I want my freedom, and I will do whatever is necessary to get it.” Mary crossed her arms, and Candice noticed The Cursed Ring on Mary’s finger. “Now, my turn. Why are you helping the humans?”
Candice half laughed. “We have to stop you. After what you’ve done to all those poor people-”
“I didn’t ask why the North Pole was trying to stop me,” Mary said. “That’s pretty obvious. I was asking why you, Candy, were trying to stop me.”
“You hurt people.”
Mary frowned and said, “Did I? Last I checked, all I did was hand out presents. Those ‘poor people’ I supposedly ‘hurt’ were the ones who used them.”
“You knew what those toys would do.”
Mary nodded. “True.”
“And, what about robbing Department 8? You were the one holding the gun there.”
“Again, true,” Mary said. “But, although you might not realize it now, I was really doing the world a favor. I imagine you know what this is now,” Mary said as she held up her ring finger to show off The Cursed Ring. “What did you think they were planning to do with this?”
“Keep it safe from people like you.”
“Oh,” Mary said, shaking her head. “I was hoping you wouldn’t be quite so naive. You did manage to almost catch up to me. That took some intelligence. I expected it would take at least a week before anyone realized the spell was only in the milk. It was you who figured it out. Wasn’t it?”
Candice sighed. “Are you trying to flatter me?” She asked. “Is that why you’ve got me tied up here. Huh? You want to convert me to your side or something?”
“Potentially,” Mary admitted. “You interested? My side is much more fun.”
“Go to hell.”
“How rude,” Mary scoffed. “I should add that my side also has the benefit of being right. You’re just not viewing all of this from the right perspective.”
“Sure,” Candice said. “The woman casting spells and tying people up is the righteous one.”
“See,” Mary said. “There you go. You see the damage and assume I’m the aggressor. I’m acting in self-defense. I’m a rebel with a cause.”
“You can dress up your crimes anyway you want to justify what you do. That won’t make you right. You’ve left a trail of ruined lives.” Candice looked over at the fake Chuck and said, “I just had a conversation with the real Chuck earlier today.”
“Bit dull, isn’t he?” Mary said. “He should be thanking me for giving him an interesting story to tell for once. Besides, I wouldn’t worry about him. He’ll be fine… eventually. Also, he managed to supply me with a useful ally.” Mary ran a hand down the fake Chuck’s leg. “Have you figured out what he is?”
“Some kind of golem?”
“Very good!” Mary said. “I knew you were smart. Guess what kind.”
Candice was about to reply when she felt the restraints on her wrists and ankles begin to tighten. “Ah!” she cried. “Stop!” She looked at the dark tendrils wrapped around her wrists and back up to the darkness growing from fake Chuck’s arm and recognized what she saw. “A tree… These are tree branches.”
The branches loosened up again, but still held her tightly in place.
Mary smiled and walked over to Candice. “It’s such a shame you won’t work with me. We could accomplish just about anything together. You sure I can’t convince you to join me?”
Candice felt small sitting there as Mary loomed above her, seeming so adult and mature next to Candice’s childish body. She felt as though Mary was taunting her just by existing as a full-grown adult elf. It infuriated Candice. “The answer is no,” Candice said. “That’s my only answer. So, do what you will with me. I’m not helping you.”
Mary sighed. “Fine,” she said. “Plan B. I’ve got a couple of friends who want to meet you. They’re very interested in something you have to give them, and I think you might find it a mutually beneficial transaction when you see what they can give you.”
Mary picked up her phone from the bed and typed out a message. There was a reply. Mary read it and said, “They’ll be here in a minute.” She put the phone down. “I told them to rent a room here in case I managed to bring you by to meet them. They’re very eager.”
Candice tried imagine what kind of other “friends” Mary might have besides the tree monster holding Candice to the chair. There was a knock at the door, and she braced herself to prepare for whoever or whatever was about to enter.