The world closed in on Amber. Her knees felt weak and she grabbed the banister to prevent herself from falling down the stairs. Someone was inside the house. Someone had the children.
“Amber!” a faint voice called.
She gripped the kitchen knife tighter and with a deep breath headed down the stairs. Halfway down there was a giggle. Joey? Was that little Joey? She froze.
A small figure darted across her line of vision. She caught a glimpse of blond hair and small feet in booted pajamas. More giggles.
“Joey!” she shouted.
And a moment later, the sheepish face of six-year-old Joey Curtain peeked around the entrance to the living room.
“Did we scare you?” Joey asked.
Amber’s face flustered. She wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him, but when the fear suddenly lifted, all she could do was grin. Grin like an idiot.
She trotted the rest of the way down the stairs, casually hiding the butcher knife behind her back.
“You’re supposed to be in bed,” she said. “Where is your sister?”
“Hiding? From what?”
Joey stuck a steak knife into her thigh. The blade nicked her bone and she staggered back, blood splashing on the carpet. She thought: Mr. and Mrs. Curtain are going to kill me for this mess. Joey tried to tear the knife free and she shoved him. The little boy went flying and bumped his head against the wall.
Knife protruding from her thigh, she limped across the foyer and into the hallway leading to the front door. Joey screamed behind her and she heard his padded feet coming for her. He was crazy!
The pain in her thigh was intense. Blood covered her lower leg and she left a thick trail of gore behind her. She sobbed, reaching for the door, just as Joey’s hands grabbed the back of her blouse. She swapped back and her fist caught him in the temple. He cried out and fell on his back.
The door opened and a laughing Mr. and Mrs. Curtain stepped into the house. Their cheeks were flush from alcohol and good humor. A shawl was draped across Mrs. Curtain’s shoulders.
“Thank God!” Amber shouted.
“Amber!” Mrs. Curtain cried. “Amber, what is it?”
Amber sobbed again and pointed at Joey. The little boy was seated on the floor, cross-legged, rubbing the top of his head and wailing. Snot and tears glistened on his cheeks and chin.
“What have you done?” Mrs. Curtain said, rushing to her son, kneeling down next to him.
“My God,” Mr. Curtain said, staring at the blade buried deeply in Amber’s thigh. “She’s bleeding.”
“Joanie!” Mrs. Curtain shouted. “Joanie!”
The little girl appeared down the hall. A look of terror etched on her features.
“Damn it, Joey!” Mr. Curtain screamed, pushing Amber’s groping hands away from him. “How many times do I have to tell you!” He whirled and plunged a compact hunting knife into Amber’s belly. Blood exploded onto the floor. “Always kill with the first blow!”
Then he ripped the blade upward, cleaving Amber open from belly button to rib cage. Intestines and part of Amber’s stomach tumbled to the floor with a sickening plop. Amber’s eyes widened with horror and she collapsed – dead.
“Oh, honey,” Mrs. Curtain said. “The floor! I just polished the floor yesterday!”
“Sorry, dear.” He kicked Amber with the toe of his shoe and glared at his son, who was sniffling. “Didn’t we tell you not to kill this one? Christ, in the house!”
Joey hesitated and then nodded.
“Goddamn it, Joey, now I got to dump this one, too. Didn’t we tell you we had a wait at least month or two after Marybeth Kincaid? What am I going to tell her parents. Shit!”
“Honey,” Mrs. Curtain said. “Watch you tongue around the children! We’ll sort this out in the morning. Now come on, let’s all go to bed.”
“What about this?” Mr. Curtain said, gesturing at Amber’s body.
“Oh, we’ll clean it up later.”
And then the Curtain family headed upstairs and went to bed.
THE END (or is it!)