Monica couldn't tell if she was just drifting off to sleep or just waking up. It was that strange, 'in-between' time where her mind could go either way with just the slightest nudge. Seconds ticked by, and she slowly drifted off towards sleep.
The phone rang.
She rolled over and snatched up the receiver before it could wake the baby in the other room.
"'ello?" she grunted.
"Mo!" said a hushed voice. It was Joyce, her nosy neighbor from across the street. "Mo, wake up!"
"huh? Joyce, why are you whisper-"
"Shhh... Mo, there's someone in your house!"
"What!" Monica sat up.
"A man in a long raincoat just climbed through your living room window. Get the baby and get out!"
"What? Is this some kinda joke?"
"I called the police, now you have to Get Out!" Joyce was near hysterics... whispering at the top of her lungs. "For God's sake, get the baby and GET OUT!"
A thousand thoughts rushed through Monica's head at once. She ignored them all and grabbed the revolver from the top drawer of the nightstand. She raced across the hall. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the muddy footprints leading from the living room into nursery. She threw the door open...
The man was standing over the crib, holding a bloody knife in his hand. He looked up at Monica; his cool blue eyes narrowing as if in thought. Then he saw the gun.
The bulled passed just above and to the right of his shoulder. The man turned and, still carrying the knife, made a flying leap for the window. Monica's second bullet went right over his head as he ducked and crashed through, taking the blue pooh-bear curtains with him.
Monica fired a third shot out into the yard, then checked the crib. What she saw wasn't recognizable as human. Little Steven hadn't been killed, or murdered... he'd been butchered. Cut up like a tiny side of beef.
Screaming, Monica went out the window.
The man was running across the well-kept lawn, leaving a trail of muddy footprints and tiny drops of blood from his knife. Monica fired and missed. She heard the police sirens at the end of the street, and so did the killer. He changed direction and ran the other way, only to see the flashing blue lights speeding over the top of the hill. Police were coming from both directions The man froze for a second, then spun and ran for the back of the house.
Monica ran to cut him off. She ended up in front of him... she was leveling the gun at his head when two police cars screeched to a halt in front of the house. The man turned and tried to run the other way. Four cops exploded from their vehicles with their guns drawn.
The man froze. He was holding his bloody knife in front of him as if he were going to deflect bullets with it.
Monica's finger twitched. She wanted to shoot. She wanted to kill the bastard. But no... no.... YES!
There had only been four rounds in the gun.
She kept firing the empty weapon even as the cops crept forward.
"DROP THE KNIFE!"
"DROP THE GUN LADY!"
"It's empty," said one of the cops.
"SIR, DROP THE KNIFE NOW!"
"No..." said the monster. "I'm not done."
The knife hit the ground.
"GET DOWN! HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK!"
"No, please" he said as he got down on his knees. "You have to let me finish. I'm not finished yet."
"The Hell you aren't. Flat down on the ground NOW!"
"I'm not finished..."
One cop cuffed the monster, and then he and three others wrestled him to the car. All the while the man kept repeating.
"I'm not finished. I'm not finished! I'm NOT FINISHED!"
As they pushed him into the car, one cop shoved the man's face into the edge of the door. Blood from the man's broken nose splattered on the window.
"Ooops," said the cop. "Sorry about that."
"My baby..." Monica's eyes lost focus. Dizziness came over her in waves. "He killed my baby..."
"Give me the gun, ma'am."
A policeman gently took the weapon from her hands. He waved for one of the others to check the house. One cop entered, and just before Monica passed out, she heard the man's gasp through the broken nursery window...
"Oh, my God... Paul, you gotta see this..."
Detective Joe Render was just fastening his coat over his protruding gut when the office door opened. His captain leaned in and knocked lightly on the door frame.
Joe looked at his boss's face, and then glanced at the manilla folder that the captain was carrying.
"No," said Joe. "No way, I'm going home. Whatever that case is, give it to someone else."
"We need you on this one."
"That's what you always say."
"Only 'cause you're the best."
"Uh-huh," Joe said in a sarcastic tone. Joe unbuttoned his coat and grabbed the folder from the captain's hand.
"What we got?" he said.
"You hear about the guy that sliced up the Henderson kid?"
"HIM!?! Oh come ON, my son's got a ball game tonight and your giving me THIS NUTCASE!"
"This is high profile, Joe. And we got the perp down in lockup; all you gotta do is ask him the questions. Maybe get a confession out of him... not that we need it."
"But I'm on vacation in..." Joe looked at his watch. "SIX minutes!"
"This'll only take five."
Joe opened the folder, expecting to find the notes from the arresting officers. What he found was a picture of a butchered and mutilated baby. The baby's chest was a jagged, bleeding chasm, and its head was almost sliced completely away from the neck.
"JESUS CHRIST!" Joe hissed.
"Sorry," said the captain. "Shoulda warned you."
"Warned? There IS no warning for this kinda stuff." Joe scanned the picture reluctantly, and did the same for the others that followed. All were just as gruesome as the first. "Geez, I moved my family here to keep 'em away from this crap."
"What can I say," said the captain. "Its a sickness and it spreads like wildfire. It gets everywhere eventually."
"Yeah, it's sick all right. This guy has GOT to be some kinda escapee mental head-job. Does he even speak?"
"Not much. He's in a cell... want us ta move him to a room?"
"Not yet..." Joe took off his coat and hung it back up on the rack. "I like to see 'em in their natural habitat. Lawyers?"
"We even get a name?"
"He hadn't said a word to anybody... except that he ain't finished, whatever THAT means. No ID, no nothing."
"Runnin' 'em now."
"Okay... Lemme go talk to 'im..." Joe brushed past teh captain and started down teh hallway.
"Check his belongings first," the captain called out. "You'll get a kick outta that."
"Not like THIS, I hope," Joe held up the picture of the mutilated child.
Joe Render stopped by the evidence room and checked out the suspect's belongings... which consisted solely of a brown trenchcoat and a butcher knife, both splattered with the victim's blood. No wallet... no identification. The only thing inside the trenchcoat was a folded up newspaper. All three items were sealed in plastic bags with the word 'EVIDENCE' stamped across them.
"Check out that top line there," said the officer at the evidence window.
Joe squinted at the tiny print above the headline.
"Does this say-?"
"Hmph." Joe squinted at the paper and frowned. Then he shook his head. "Geez, this IS a nutcase. And he prints his own papers, too."
Joe folded the paper in half and took it and the knife with him down to lockup. Rockdale was a small town, with very little crime outside of the occasional drunken bar fight. The murderous John Doe was very easy to spot. The lockup was had three occupants... two dozing drunks and a tall, blond man of about thirty-five. A man with nervous, impatient eyes. A man with a pathological hatred of newborn children.
It was like looking at a picture from his own photo album. Joe had seen old pictures of his father when the man was in his thirties. The image in those pictures looked almost exactly like the man staring out at him through the bars.
The resemblance was beyond uncanny. It was shocking. Frightening. The eyes. The hard, triangular face. The slightly receding hairline that would eventually turn into an exact replica of old Oswald Penner's bald spot.
But there were subtle differences, which Joe studied carefully in that first glance. The man's jaw was more narrow, the eyes were closer together. He nose was longer slightly hooked. Those weren't his father's features, but their unsettling familiarity only added more nourishment to the lump of uneasiness growing in Joe's gut. He knew them, all right. The features were unmistakable... he saw them every night when he went home. He saw them on the faces of his wife and son, Jamie
Jamie, who had taken most of his looks from Joe's father.
Only Jamie was sixteen years old, and this man was a good twenty years older.
Joe's words caught in his throat and his mind drew back from the situation like a hand from a hot stove. He rejected the uneasiness and waited for the logical, perfectly normal explanations to spring forth from his detective's mind. There were none.
"Who are you?" said Joe.
The man looked at him. His eyes were just like Jamie's. Even his expression seemed stolen right off of his son's face. The killer's eyes went from frightened, to relieved, and back to frightened again in a cycle that Jamie had seen a thousand times since his son had been born.
"You heard me," said Joe. He approached the cell door slowly. "What's your name?"
The word was like a punch in the gut. Joe felt his throat dry up.
"Dad, it's me...Ja-"
"WHO ARE YOU! What is your name!"
"How do you know that name!"
"Because it's mine, dad. You gave it to me."
"You named me after your uncle. Grandpa's brother. I only met him that one time when-"
"SHUT up! Just SHUT UP!"
The drunks in the adjacent cells awoke and rolled over on their cots. One of them sat up and rubbed his eyes
"Hey, whash goin on-"
"Quiet, Conrad!" Joe spat.
"Okay." Conrad lay back down and went back to sleep as if nothing had happened.
"And YOU!" Joe pointed a pudgy, accusing finger at the killer. "You will address me as DETECTIVE Render."
"Calm down, dad. Before you... before something happens."
Joe's chest felt tight. Despite the surreal situation, he knew that the killer was right... he had to calm himself down. He knew that he should take a minute and let the guards escort the prisoner to an interrogation room, but he had to get to the bottom of this. He had to know what was going on.
Joe paced back and forth in front of the cell as he thought.
"Who are you?" he said after a minute.
"I told you. I'm Jamie; your son."
"My son is sixteen years old." Joe immediately regretted his words. Handing out personal information to psychopaths was a mistake that not even rank amateurs made.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this, dad," said the killer. "We weren't supposed to meet. He... he tricked me, I think."
"Who?" Joe latched onto the lead. Perhaps his little admission had helped loosen up the prisoner.
"You won't understand."
"Maybe. Maybe not. Try me."
The prisoner looked down at the newspaper that was folded under Joe's arm. He held it up...
"You want this?" he said.
"Did you read it?"
"Why? What's in it?"
"The reason why I'm here."
"Ohhhh.... " Joe nodded and smiled. "Okay... I'll bite."
Joe ripped open the plastic. The paper was a section 'A' of the Rockdale newspaper. Joe already knew the date, he'd looked at it before coming down. The paper was from Feb 7, 2000.
Seventeen years from now.
"This is a gag paper," said Joe "you can get one printed up to say anything you want. Put whatever date on it you want."
"Does it look like a joke paper, dad? Look at the details... the stories. Feel the newsprint."
Joe did. It looked and felt authentic.
"Remember what you used to say, dad? If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck-"
"That's a common expression. It doesn't prove anything... neither does this paper."
"I'm Jamie, dad. Jamie from the time that newspaper was printed."
"From the future."
"You expect me to believe that? And even if I did, what does this paper have to do with child you butchered."
"Read the headline."
Joe read it.
The first line read: "Massacre" in obscenely large type. Below it was an aerial picture of some large building that looked like a school. There were tiny shapes stretched out on the grass. Small bodies. Children.
"More of your handiwork?" said Joe.
"Seventeen years from yesterday," said the prisoner. "Right here in Rockdale. Two students walked into that high school. They were seniors. Everybody knew them, and nobody paid any attention to them for their entire four years there except for taunts and jeers. They didn't wear the right clothes. They didn't talk the right slang. They didn't smoke or drink, and their grades were only marginally above the average. Just enough to stand out, but not enough to fit in. They went to school every day... endured... survived... and went home, just like all the other kids. But they weren't like the others. There was something inside them that didn't belong there. Something evil. Maybe they were born with it, or maybe they picked it up along the way... but wherever they got it, it stayed hidden until that morning... seventeen years from yesterday. They walked into that school when the students were just changing classes. They carried the weapons they'd already used to kill their parents. They walked down the main hall there..." the prisoner pointed to a section of the school in the paper. "...and shot everyone they saw. Teachers. Councilors. Students. Chaos ensued. Everyone ran for safety. One of 'em had a shotgun that he used to take out two kids at a time as they ran for cover. The other had a hunting rifle and a .45 calibre pistol. When the kids stopped running, the killers went from classroom to classroom along the hall. The gunfire never stopped. One boy would keep shooting while the other reloaded. In the classrooms, they killed the teachers first. Then they picked out students they didn't like and shot them where they hid under the desks. Then they just shot whoever caught their eye. One of them... the boy with the shotgun... saw freshman wearing a baseball cap from a team he didn't like. He grabbed the freshman, threw him to the ground, placed the barrel of the shotgun an inch away from his face, and pulled the trigger. Pieces of that baseball cap flew everywhere... along with pieces of the head that had been wearing it. Then they just moved on to the next classroom. When the two killers first entered the school they were carrying so much ammunition in their pockets that their clothes were falling off of them. By the time they reached the end of the hall, most of it was gone. Then, as the police pulled into the parking lot, the boys sat down in the middle of the floor and put their own guns into their mouths. They pulled the triggers just as the police came down the hall. No explanations. No apologies, no repentance. Not counting themselves, they slaughtered forty-seven people. And the freshman kid with the baseball cap? That cap belonged to his father. I had given it to my son to wear that day... for good luck on his test. Not that he needed luck; was an honor student. He wanted to be an engineer. There wasn't enough of his head left to identify."
"I'm sorry." said Joe. His brain rebelled against the thought of having sympathy for this killer... but somehow his heart knew something his mind wasn't privy to.
"Sorry? Do you KNOW what it feels like to... no... no you don't, because I'm still alive. You never had to go through what I going through now. You died before me... the way it should always be. A parent should never outlive his child."
"What does this have to do with the Henderson kid?"
"Can't you figure it out, dad? The shooters at the school were STUDENTS. They were SEVENTEEN years old. High school seniors... their names were David Powers and Steven HENDERSON!"
"Uh-huh. You're trying for an insanity defense, aren't you?"
"Stop calling me that."
The killer came up to the bars. Joe backed away. Not from fear, but because it was what his training dictated.
"Last year you were in a car accident. Your lower back still hurts-"
"Everyone knows that."
"Does everyone know that you cheated on mom three years ago? MOM doesn't even know yet, does she? But you're going to tell her next year. And years after THAT, mom is going to tell me."
"What is this? Blackmail?"
"On the night I was born you couldn't be in the delivery room because you had to work a case. Mom never forgave you. She said your work always came before your family. She said it then and in all the years that followed. She STILL says it. She tried to make me hate you for that... for neglecting us... but I never did. I never hated you because I knew you were doing it for us. It wasn't about the money or the job... it was about keeping the bad guys off of the street so that WE could be safe. That made you a hero, dad. My hero. I told you that not long ago. In my room, the night you came home late and mom was screaming at you for missing my game. I told you that I didn't mind... and that you were my hero. I know that's already happened dad, don't pretend you don't remember!"
"W-Who are you?"
"I'm your SON, dammit! Look at the evidence! The paper! The things I'm telling you! I am your son!"
"You're trying to run a head-game on me. This is some kinda trick... It ain't workin'."
"It wasn't supposed to be this way. He never said it was going to be like this... with you."
"Who said? Who is your accomplice?"
"You're not a good liar."
"I never was. Not to you, anyway. You could always tell."
"That's how you know I'm telling the truth! Stop pretending you don't believe me!"
"What you're saying is impossible. I only deal with the facts, and something that is impossible CANNOT be a fact, no matter how much I want to believe it, or how much of a sob-story you weave around it."
"So, since you're story is impossible, that leaves me with what I DO know. You're a nut-case with a screwed up newspaper and an even more screwed up story. You're also a murderer. That we can prove without too much trouble. The only question now is where you working alone? You can tell me, or you can make me work for it. Making me work for it will be bad for you in the courts. Very bad."
"I can't tell you. If I did, you wouldn't believe me."
"How's that different from anything else you've told me?"
The man in the cell sighed. It wasn't a comfortable sigh... it was a nervous gust of air that ended in a loud gulp.
"Who is it? Who else is out there?"
"The murders at the school... it didn't end with the last shot. Every parent of every dead child... they died inside. Not a quick death. A slow, malingering, painful death... like a cancer. You bury your children... your son... and a big chunk of your soul goes into that grave with him. It lives down there with that rotting body. Dark and cold. The sorrow is so deep. The rage. All of it. It's like living in a dark pit with no light and no way out. Sometimes you don't even WANT to come out. But sometimes you do. That's when you reach for something... someone... ANYTHING that can help you. ANYTHING that can end the pain. You reach out for Hope. And sometimes Hope reaches out for you."
"That isn't answering my question."
"All I wanted was to make things right. I wanted to make it so the whole thing never happened. Not to me, not to my son, not to any of those parents. If it wasn't me standing here, then it would just be someone else. We were all so desperate. So... hopeless. But not any more. There's always Hope, Dad. And when it comes... when you're as deep in that pit as I was, you'll do anything to pull yourself out... you'll grasp any hand that reaches for you, no matter what the price. And in the end, no price is too high to make this thing right. It's all I wanted, and all I still want... just to make it right."
"Right? Like this?" Joe opened the folder and held up the photo of the mutilated child. "This is right?"
The prisoner glanced at the picture as if it were a photo of a car or a tree... not a child's corpse.
"If this is your idea of right-"
"A monster. A killer. An inhuman thing that never should have been born."
"You talking about yourself, or the child?"
The prisoner was silent.
"So who else is out there?"
"I've already explained it as much as I'm allowed. Ask mom. She was always more of a believer than you. More of a dreamer. She'll know what I'm talking about."
"You leave my family out of this."
"I am your family. It was YOUR grandson that was murdered in that school."
"And it was somebody else's son that was carved up in its crib like a Christmas turkey. By you."
"I told you you wouldn't understand. At first I thought I could convince you to let me go... so I could finish what I came here to do. But now I remember how you were. Even if you believed me, you'll pretend that you don't... like you're doing right now. You won't let me go-"
"You don't have to."
Joe didn't know what that last phrase meant, but he didn't like it. Not only did it sound like a threat, but the prisoner's voice had a ring of certainty to it that made Joe uneasy.
"I'll give you some time to think things over. The guards will be down in an hour to escort you to an interrogation room. THEN we'll start this dance all over again. And we'll keep dancing until you start making sense."
Joe turned and walked toward the steps. Then he stopped and spoke without turning around to face the prisoner:
"It doesn't matter what you know or what you look like... you're not my son. My son wouldn't do what you did."
"Who are you trying to convince, dad?"
Joe didn't answer the question. He just walked up the stairs to his office.
The paper was quite a piece of work. The details... the photos... Almost TOO much like a real newspaper.
Joe tried not to waste time studying it, but his mind was reaching for something... some detail that he could use to shatter the prisoner's absurd story. Yes, the story was impossible, but it had the ring of truth that Joe could not deny, no matter how badly he wanted to.
Was this man his son? He couldn't be; but the evidence...
"There's gotta be something in this paper that gives the whole thing away," he mumbled as he flipped past the advertisements... some of them for stores that didn't even exist. But that wasn't to say that they wouldn't in seventeen years.
He turned back to the front page. The entire page was dedicated to the massacre. It gave all the gruesome details, agreeing 100% with what the prisoner had said. Two kids. Guns. Forty seven people dead. It was all there.
Joe stared at the picture. The paper was from Rockdale, but the school building wasn't even remotely familiar. The high school in Rockdale looked nothing like the one in the paper. Joe scanned the article once more, and found the school's address. It was on the corner of Broad St. and Sinclare Ave.
That area was empty farmland. There was no school there.
But in seventeen years?
Joe scrutinized and thought and agonized over the facts. He was getting nowhere. Maybe the prisoner would make more sense later.
Or maybe there wouldn't even BE a prisoner.
The uneasy feeling returned to Joe's gut. He stood up and made sure his gun was in its holster at his side. Then he went back down the hall to lock-up. The uneasiness grew with each step he took. By the time he reached the top of the stairs, it was like a solid mass in his stomach. After the first few steps, it blossomed into full-blown fear. Every hair on his body stood on end. His skin tightened so much that it felt like leather. He had no idea why he was afraid, but he was. Something was wrong, and it was getting MORE wrong by the second.
He saw Conrad first. His cell was next to the killer's, and was the first one that could be seen from the stairs. Conrad was still there, but he was no longer asleep. The drunk was cowering in the corner of his cell, shaking and wimpering like a frightened puppy. Conrad looked up at Joe. It wasn't fear in Conrad's eyes... it was stark, raving terror. A look of terror so intense that it stopped Joe dead in his tracks.
"What the hell..." Joe whispered. Then the sounds reached his ears. Voices. A conversation taking place in the cell next to Conrad's. In the killer's cell.
"Trade?" said the killer's voice. It sounded so much like Jamie's. It trembled with fear. "I have nothing to trade. We've already made our deal."
"You are unfamiliar to me," came the reply. The voice was both chaotic and rhythmic, rough and smooth... like a melodic chorus and a cacophony of screams all rolled into one sound.
"I am now," said the prisoner. "But soon... very soon by your reckoning... you will know me. We will have a deal."
"I have no recollection of any deal."
"But yet you came when I called you."
"Your pain sings out. Your heart beckons... and I come."
"Yes. Just like you did before. Just like you WILL do."
The other voice chuckled... a noise like the cackling of chickens combined with the smashing of large rocks. Joe had to see what was going on. He unfastened the strap on his gun. Then he continued down the steps... taking them slowly... one at a time while the conversation continued.
"You speak of deals not yet made. You seek to trick the trickster, no?"
"I only want to make things right. You promised me that. You said I could make things right, but I can't as long as I'm in here."
"I know of no promise."
"Its in your power to find out. I know it is. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be here."
There was an ominous silence as Joe approached the bottom step. He wondered what was happening. He could see into the killer's cell now. He took another step down, and saw the man himself. The prisoner was standing in the center of the cell, facing the one part of the cell that Joe couldn't see. He was trembling slightly, as if cold. But the temperature was unusually warm.
Joe took another step, and a little more of the cell came into view.
Shadows danced all around the prisoner... dark shapes played along the floor and the walls like the shadows from a campfire. But they all moved independently, writhing different directions like a giant fistful of snakes.
"I've seen into your heart" said the voice in the cell. "It bleeds from wounds not yet made. I can see it. I can taste it."
"Then you believe me. You'll help me."
There was another sinister pause. Joe's heart thumped painfully in his chest.
"I will fulfill the deal not yet made. You will not be stopped... unless you wish to be."
The shadows writhed with renewed vigor. What was causing them?
Joe pushed himself... forced himself to take the last step and reveal the cell's other occupant.
"Oh my God..." Joe gasped.
It was a man. A man that defied description... both old and young, handsome and hideously ugly. His skin was pale, and darkness crowded around him like a cloak. He was wearing it. It flowed off of his shoulders and across the floor like a waterfall. It reached up and out like the branches of some twisted, cancerous tree.
The man... or whatever it was... turned to Joe.
"DAD!" the prisoner screamed. "DAD, get BACK! DAD!"
"D-Don't move!" Joe reached for his gun.
It wasn't there. The holster was empty.
The stranger in the cell had it. He held it up in one pale hand, and handed it to the prisoner.
The prisoner took it.
Joe reached for his spare gun, the one he kept in the ankle-holster. But by the time he'd lifted his leg, it was too late.
The stranger lurched towards the prisoner and the darkness engulfed them both. A thick knot of inky blackness pulsed and writhed for horrific instant... and then it simply faded away, taking both the prisoner and the stranger with it.
With a clip of the shears, Brenda Powers snipped a fresh flower from her garden. She stopped to sniff the fragrance, and then noticed a car pulling up in her driveway. An older, heavyset man got out and jogged towards her.
"Can I help-"
She was interrupted by the sound of glass breaking around the side of the house.
The baby's room.
"Get back, Ma'am!" shouted Detective Render
He flashed his badge as he raced past her, nearly knocking her over into her own garden. His gun was in his hand. Brenda followed him into the house, through the kitchen and into the bedroom where she kept Davey's crib.
Another man was already there. He was pointing a gun into the crib.
"MY BABY!" She tried to run and grab the man, but Joe grabbed her and slung her out into hallway. "DAVEY!"
"Ma'am GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!" The woman scrambled down the hallway, but didn't leave.
"Don't move!" Joe pointed his gun at the killer's head. The man looked up at him.
"Dad? Dad what are you doing here?"
"Same as you. Trying to prevent a big mistake."
"Same as me? You believe me, dad? You admit it?"
"I don't know what I believe. You look like my son. You know things he would know. And after what I saw in that cell, you could just BE him. But none of that makes any difference. I can't let you do this. I can't let you kill that boy."
"Dad, you SAW the paper... you KNOW what this monster is going to do!"
"No. No I don't. It's just a baby. Drop your gun and give yourself up."
"More cops are on the way. They see you with a gun to that baby's head and they're gonna blow you away. I got here first, but they're coming son. They're coming for you. Just give up and you-"
"No. I'm not finished."
Jamie cocked back the hammer on the revolver. The baby started to cry.
"Don't do it, son. I'll... I WILL shoot you."
"No you won't. You love me just like I love my own son."
"I let you do this and I'm an accomplice to murder. What kind of a hero would I be then, eh?"
"Dad, you taught me to stand up for myself and my family. That's what I'm doing. Right here... right now."
"Looks like murder to me."
"What would YOU do, dad? What if someone killed me and you had a chance to go back and fix it like it never happened. Wouldn't YOU do the same thing?"
"No. Not this."
A dark shadow flashed across Joe's eyes. Just for an instant... and then it was gone. Joe grimaced as a sudden pain shot down his left arm. He kept his gun aimed, even though his whole body was throbbing to his own heartbeat.
"Drop the... gun.. or... I'll shoot. I mean it..."
Jamie looked down into the crib. The baby was screeching like some wild animal.
"Dad? Oh God, dad, your heart! You can't stop me dad... you're in danger as long as you try."
"Don't do this, Jamie."
Jamie looked down at the baby. He looked down the barrel of the gun that was pointed at its soft little head. He didn't even have to shoot, he could shove the barrel right through its forehead with just the slightest nudge. His hand tightened on the trigger.
"This is right," he said. "This is how it has to be."
Police sirens sounded in the distance.
"No, son. Two wrongs-"
"Can change the future! A little evil can do a lot of GOOD, Dad!"
"But its... still... evil..."
Suddenly weak, Joe backed away. His back thudded against the wall. He was too weak to hold himself up, but his gun never wavered.
"Put... put the....gun... down."
"No! They're MONSTERS!"
"You... you don't know that."
"Maybe YOU don't, but I do! Seventeen years from now this boy will put a shotgun to my son's head and blow his brains all over the classroom wall!"
"....I... cant let you... do this..."
"You can't stop me! He PROMISED!"
"Only... only if... you want to be..."
"But THIS is what I want!"
Jamie's forearm twitched as he put pressure on the trigger.
Joe's finger pulled back, depressing the trigger of his weapon.
"Dad... I have to."
"So do I."
Both guns went off with a sound like a single shot. Joe and Jamie both hit the floor. The back of Jamie's skull was somewhere on the other side of the room. The last thing Joe saw before his heart stopped was the blood running in streams down the side of the baby's crib.
Somewhere in the house, Brenda Powers screamed.
And somewhere nearby, something sinister nodded in dark satisfaction.
copyright 2000 by Dark Icon (Marc Washington).