I jog through Eventide until my street is within my sight. I slow my speed slightly, still pacing towards my house. I stop just before the gate and peer at the house. There’s still a light shining through the living room window. It’s one in the morning and either Mum or Dad are still awake. I hope it’s Dad and I can just get this over with.
I swing the gate back and stride up the pathway. I knock lightly on the door, so as not to wake Belle. “Who is it?” I can hear Mum calling. “Luke, is that you?”
I can hear the chain of the latch rattling and Mum securing it on the door. She turns the doorknob and faces me through the gap in the slightly open door. She looks at me, as if she can’t believe her eyes. “Thomas,” she gasps. “You’re back.”
I smile weakly and nod. I swallow back tears as I face her. She’s got large black circles under her eyes and they’re bloodshot. “Hey Mum.”
She unlatches the door and steps onto the porch. “Thank God,” she says, as she pulls me closer to her. “Thomas, I’ve been worried sick. Where were you? Are you okay?”
I rest my head on her shoulder and place my hands to the large of her back. “I’m fine, Mum.”
She releases a flood of bottled sobs as I pull away. “Mum, what is it?”
“Seriously?” she scolds. “You break your way out of Castlerock, go on the run, don’t contact me or your father and show up out of the blue a week and a half later, and then you dare to ask me what is the matter? Thomas, I’ve been going out of my mind with worry, not knowing where you were, or if you were even alive. I haven’t slept.”
I swallow. “I’m sorry Mum, there’s something I had to do and I couldn’t do it while at Castlerock and I couldn’t involve you, so it was best that you didn’t know anything.”
She narrows her eyes at me. “You thought I was Dad when I was knocking the door,” I digress. “Where is he? Is he--”
She frowns at me as my eyes lock with hers. “Before you jump to the self centred conclusion that he’s too busy working to care of your whereabouts, he’s actually out looking for you. He has been most nights after long days of work since you broke out of Castlerock. He’s also been out of his wits worrying about you, having search parties after you and even missing out on business meetings and cancelling speeches. So, if you think he doesn’t care about you, you’re wrong. Just because he doesn’t say it, it doesn’t mean he--”
“Mum,” I say. “I wasn’t thinking about that at all, I just want to know where he is, I need to talk to him.”
She nods. “Okay,” she trembles. “I’m sorry for snapping I’ve just--”
“It’s okay,” I say. “I’m sorry that I didn’t at least call to tell you I was okay.”
She smiles faintly and ruffles her fingers through my hair. “Come on, let’s go inside. I’ll ring your dad to tell him you’re home and safe.”
I look to her. “On one condition Mum. I’m not going back to Castlerock.”
She nods. “Your father and I already made that decision for when we found you. I’m sorry we sent you to that place, Thomas, I just--”
“It’s okay. Please ring Dad. I really need to talk to him about something.”
She nods and guides me inside. “I’ll ring him and stick some food on. You must be hungry. There’s a pepperoni pizza for you. Your favorite. Why don’t you get a shower while you’re waiting?”
I nod. “Thanks Mum,” I say. “I will. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
She smiles as I take to the stairs. I’m not really in the mood for eating, but I’ll eat it while she’s watching anyway. I can’t have her copping on to my intentions because she’ll only try stop me from going through with it. And I don’t want this to be made any harder than it is already.
I step out of the shower and grab for the towel on the radiator. I dry myself before bringing the towel to my head and rubbing the drops of water from my hair. As I catch glimpse of myself in the mirror, a pain starts to drag through my head. I close my eyes as my mind starts to play host to another vision.
I’m watching my dad, as he squirms against a binding of tape in a chair. The same chair I was in when the Reaper had me. In the same room. The desk behind him and the blazing fire to left. Dad’s shirt is torn, his face bruised and grazed. There’s blood streaming down his face. The Reaper stands opposite him. “I’m going to ask you again, Mr Mayor, where is that son of yours? I want him to be in the company of you, your wife and your daughter, so I can wipe out the remainder of your filthy family in one go.”
Dad lifts his bowed head to face him. “And I’m going to tell you again, I don’t know. But, even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
He smiles at him. “Wrong answer.”
He clenches his fist and thumps Dad’s face. He bends down to his level. “Let’s try this one more time. Where is Thomas?”
“I don’t know,” he states.
The Reaper nods. He steps out of the room as Dad continue to struggle against his restraints. He re-emerges with a bucket in his hand and a rag draped over his shoulder. He places the cloth over Dad’s face and downs the water over his head. Dad splutters loudly against the water filling his lungs and the Reaper continues to let it flood out. He pulls the cloth away and Dad lurches forward as much as he can, coughing the water back up. The Reaper looks at him and Dad gives him a pointed look. “You can keep me tied up, you can keep hitting me, you can torture me all you want, but I will not volunteer any information to put my son in danger.”
The Reaper grabs a knife from the desk and circles around Dad as my vision blurs and the scene before me slowly fizzles away.
I dart my eyes around the bathroom and dash towards my bedroom. I yank on the first combination of clothes I place my hand on and rush down the stairs. I bolt into the kitchen as Mum takes the pizza out of the oven. “Mum,” I gasp. “What did Dad say when you rang him?”
She turns to me. “He didn’t answer. I tried a couple of times but I couldn’t get through, so I left him a voicemail message.”
I can feel the color draining from my face. My eyes widen as I approach her. “What did you say?” I demand. She looks at me in perplexity. “In the voicemail, what did you say, Mum?”
“Thomas, calm down,” she frowns. “I just told him that you arrived back home and he doesn’t need to keep looking for you and he can come back now.”
“Mum,” I say. “You’ve got to leave, now.”
“What?” she says. “Thomas, what--”
“He’s coming for us, Mum. The Reaper. He’s got Dad and he’s going to bring him back here. He’s going to try kill us all now--”
“Thomas.-” She gives me a pointed look. “You don’t understand, Mum,” I gulp. “It’s a long story, and I don’t have time to explain it to you now, but you need to trust me. Go wake Belle up and leave the house, now. You’re running out of time.”
Her eyes widen in horror. “Thomas,” she whispers, and reaches out for me.
I break away and bolt up the stairs. I swing open Belle’s bedroom door. “Belle,” I call. “Come on, you need to get up now.”
“Tommy?” she questions, sitting up in her bed and rubbing her eyes. When she spots me standing in her doorway, she leaps up excitedly. “You’re back,” she squeals.
I dash towards and swing her up in my arms. I bound down the stairs with over my shoulder. “Belle, you and Mum are going to go somewhere for a little while, okay?”
I hand her over to Mum. “Thomas,” Mum says. “What is going on?”
“Mum, go, now.”
“What about you? I’m taking you as well,” she whispers.
“It’s a long story, but if I go with you, he’ll be able to track us. Just leave, right now, and find somewhere safe for the rest of the night. Trust me. Think of Belle.”
She nods reluctantly and heads for the door. She turns back and dashes towards me. She flings her arms around me and plants a kiss to my forehead. “I love you, Thomas,” she sobs.
“Go,” I say. She wipes her tears and hoists Belle up once more. As she walks through the doorway, I bite my lip to suppress my sobs and blink the tears from my eyes.
“Love you too, Mum.”
I yank open the kitchen door and pull out a large carving knife. I need to be ready to defend myself for when he arrives. Well, not me, but defend my dad. There’s someone starting to pound on the door. I stalk into the hallway. Ready to plunge the blade straight through his chest, I lift the knife upwards and yank the door open.
“Thomas, put the damn knife down,” Lenny orders as he and Cole charge into the hallway.
I look to them. “What are you two doing here?” I demand.
“Stopping you from breaking the promise you made,” Cole states.
I shake my head fervently. “No, you guys can’t be here. You don’t understand.”
I dart my head towards the door. “Wait,” I say. “Where’s Lucy?”
“She had to do something,” Lenny says. “She’ll be here soon too.”
I step backwards into the hallway as Cole reaches for the knife. “Put it down Thomas,” he says. “Don’t do this.”
“No, Cole, you don’t understand. I left with that in mind after I had convinced my dad to do everything the Reaper wanted. But the Reaper has different plans now. You really need to leave, now.”
The door swings open and The Reaper enters the hallway, throwing Dad to his feet. “Nobody is going anywhere.”
“Where’s your mum and sis, Thomas?” he asks.
I lift my knife upwards and stride towards him. “They’re gone,” I say. “You’re not laying one finger on them.”
He points towards Lenny and Cole. “Fine, these two will substitute them just fine.”
I glance to my mates and push them backwards. “You’re not going to touch them. You were looking for me when you tortured my dad, so here I am. You want to have it out? Come on, then.”
He takes a swing at Dad with his foot. He groans and looks up to me, as blood trickles from under the square of tape covering his mouth. His snow white shirt is soaked with blood, the fabric sliced in several places. “Get off him,” I bellow, raising the knife upwards.
He cackles at me. “Oh, Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. You never learn, do you?”
He draws a knife from his pocket and before I can do anything to stop it, he pulls Dad to his feet and inches it towards his throat. “Take one more step, and I end him. Now, be a good boy, and put the knife down.”
Dad locks his eyes with mine and shakes his head fervently. “I’m sorry Dad,” I tremble. “I tried to stop him.”
I drop the knife and it lands on the tiled kitchen floor with a loud clattering noise. I swipe it across the floor and he catches it with his foot. “Good boy,” he says. He reaches into his coat pocket with his free hand and produces four tire wraps. “Take these,” he orders, handing me two. “And restrain your buddies’ wrists.” I sob as he continues to hold the knife to my dad’s throat. I turn to Lenny, who holds his wrists out. “I’m sorry,” I weep as I tighten it around his wrists.
I then lock Cole’s wrists with a pair. I turn back to face him. He pulls Dad closer to him and hisses in his ear. “Now you’ll do the same with your son, or I’ll kill him first in front of you and make you watch as I tear him to shreds.”
He nods and takes one of the tire wraps from him. The Reaper pushes him forward, holding the tip of the blade to his neck. Dad swallows beneath the tape as he places it around my wrists. The Reaper grabs him and he groans as he forces him to his knees. He brings the last tire wrap to Dad’s wrists uses it to restrain him. “All of you, keep your mouths shut, go to separate corners the kitchen and get down to your knees. Except you, Thomas, I want you right in the centre.”
Lenny slowly crawls to one corner, and Cole scrambles to the one opposite. Dad struggles along the floor, holding his hand to one of many gashes on his body. His blood smears along the white tiles as he comes to a stop in the far corner.
The Reaper stands before me. “Now, it’s time to die.”