Henry Van Tassel stood at the window, watching his twelve-year-old daughter playing outside. Watching her brought pain and tightness to his chest. He should not have these thoughts about his own child. She was so adorable, so innocent. How could he possibly feel this way about any child? As he stood watching, he became aware that he was no longer alone in the room. He turned to see his wife watching him. Her cold eyes bore through him and he quickly looked away.
“You look troubled,” said Martin, their butler, as he entered the room. Setting down a tea tray, he looked past Henry and through the window to the young girl outside. “Is there something wrong with Miss Emily?” The concern was evident in his eyes.
“No, nothing. Why? Have you noticed something?” Henry spoke quietly, trying to gauge how much the man knew.
“You just seem to be watching her more so than you used to,” Martin replied nervously, moving to block his employer’s view. Henry moved cautiously away from the butler when he noticed the carving knife in the man’s hand.
“Were you preparing lunch?” The question held no hint of malice. Henry kept his tone light as he edged toward the desk.
Martin looked at the knife in his hand. “Yes, I was making”—he seemed to struggle to remember—“I was making chicken sandwiches for you and Emily.”
“That was awfully kind of you.”
Henry watched as Martin’s hand gripped the edge of the desk. Thoughts chased one another through Henry’s mind, “Did he know? Did Martin know the thoughts he was having? What was he going to do? Was he going to try to stop him?” His heart pounded in his ears as his mind countered, “Maybe that was ok. Maybe it would be better. His little girl was so innocent looking, so pretty, how could he even think of …?” He shook his head desperate to clear it. He turned his back to Martin, not sure if he was hoping the butler would attack him or if he hoped his story about the chicken was true. His eyes fell on the letter opener. It was like watching someone else as his hand wrapped around the handle.
“It’ll be just a moment, sir,” Martin stated.
“What?” Henry asked, confused.
“For lunch, sir. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Glancing at the tea tray, Henry breathed a sigh of relief. The carving knife sat next to it. The disappearing cadence of Martin’s footsteps began to have a calming effect as Henry’s heart began to return to its normal rhythm. He rolled the stress from his neck and reached out for the dainty cup. His hand froze; the knife was gone. Time slowed as he turned to face his wife. She was advancing on him, the knife held high above her head, a look of sheer loathing on her face. He dodged left as he thrust straight up with the opener he realized he was still holding. The knife point embedded in the mahogany desktop. Time stopped—Henry did not know for how long—but then it resumed its normal flow.
The first sound Henry heard was a gasping, gurgling noise. His wife staggered backward, her hand clutched to her throat. The letter opener protruded between her fingers. Blood blossomed over the high lace collar and dripped from her chin. Her eyes were wide with fear and hatred.
She pulled the opener from her neck, renewing her attack. Henry did not hesitate. He pulled the knife from the desk, plunging it straight into her chest. He twisted it as they had taught him in the army. Pulling the blade free, he changed his grip and sliced through her throat. His hands and face were now covered in her blood. Life left his wife’s eyes as she sank to the floor. A pool of red expanded outward from the body of the woman he had loved since he was a teen.
Through the pain in his heart, he could hear her screaming. No, it couldn’t be her. She was dead. He knew death. He had killed before. The confusion began to lift. He knew this screaming. He had heard it before. It was the sound of someone finding a loved one who had been killed. He looked towards the room’s entryway. Emily stood there, screaming. Her mother lay dead on the floor while her father stood above her, blood covering him as he held the knife.
Emily looked from her mother’s corpse to her father. Their eyes met. In that instant they both knew she was going to die. She raised her hands, but there was no way she could block him. Henry screamed in horror as he plunged the knife into his daughter’s chest. Pain exploded in his back and neck. Long fingernails clawed into his flesh. He turned to see the clouded eyes of his dead wife and knew the opener was deep in his back. He could feel one of his lungs filling with blood. He spun, throwing the woman back. She crumpled to lie motionless in the pool of blood she had previously made. Each breath he took burned. He turned back to his daughter, who had fallen to her knees, clutching at the red stain that continued to grow over her white dress.
“Daddy, why?” Emily gasped. Her eyes rolled upward as she fell forward to create her own pool of crimson.
Henry staggered forward; he couldn’t breathe. His vision blurred. Each step felt as if he were trying to lift a hundred-pound shoe. He was cold. Struggling, he made it to the door. Each tiny gasp brought new pain. He coughed. Blood splattered the stained glass window set high in the door. He fell. Turning, he slid down the highly polished wood, leaving a streak of red. The small feet of his daughter were visible in the hall. “Hee hu huh hee,” he gasped. He blinked through the pain.
Standing in the hall was his daughter. She was looking down at her body. Henry could see through her. She turned to look at him. Her face held anger. “Daddy, why?” she demanded again.
The household staff was gathering now. Their cries seemed muted compared to hers. As his life ebbed away, darkness began to fill in the edges of his vision, but he could see her stalking toward him. “Daddy, why? Why? Why!” she shouted.
Before she could reach him, Henry was gone.