"Don't be afraid, my dear."
Tim stared at the closed door in front of him. His whole, tiny body buzzed with nervous energy. The thought of what he was about to do filled him with both fear and feverish excitement."
"It's okay, my little one. I'm right here with you. I won't ever leave your side. I'll be here the whole time."
That angelic voice. So warm, so full of hope and comfort. If she believed in him, he could do anything. But....
Tim swallowed the lump in his throat. "He...he'll kill me," he murmured.
"No," she insisted, putting a soft hand on his shoulder. "I won't let him. You know I'd never let anything happen to you. I'll protect you. Now, go ahead."
With renewed determination, he faced the door again. "What if he wakes up?"
"He won't. You know that."
He did. That miserable, hateful man. He always slept like a rock, especially when he drank himself into unconsciousness. It was the same, day after day. He'd come home, drunk as a skunk, and rant and rave and throw things. He'd blame Tim for just about anything he could think of. He'd blame Tim for his boss being a jerk, for his wife leaving him, for having no money, everything.
Just thinking about his scratchy, screaming voice set Tim's teeth on edge. The yelling and the accusations tore through him like a wave of broken glass. If he was lucky, he'd scream himself out and go into his room to pass out. The thing was, Tim wasn't very lucky.
Tim took a little step toward the door, shaking but determined. His heart suddenly felt too big for his chest, pounding so hard it hurt. With his trembling hand, he reached up toward the doorknob. He hesitated again.
"You're still afraid, aren't you?"
A little, frustrated moan tumbled from his lips. No! He wasn't afraid. He didn't want to be afraid. Not in front of her.
"It's alright, my little one. There's no need to be frightened. Just think of what's to come."
He did just that, he closed his eyes and tried to imagine what would happen next. To be able to leave this place far behind, to be free....
Tim thought back to the first time he met her. It had been another unlucky night. He'd spent all day cooped up in the house, as always, but today had been particularly bad. The midsummer heat had filled the house like an oven and he wasn't allowed to open windows. In the end, Tim had filled up the bathtub with cold water and sank into it, clothes and all, in and attempt to stay cool.
But his father had come home early and had seen him in the tub. He was not happy.
The screaming, the yelling, the beating that followed was as bad as they got. Tim had cried and begged him to stop, but his father had insisted that Tim had nobody to blame but himself. That he was stupid and worthless and deserved everything that he got. Once he'd finally lost steam, he'd thrown Tim in his room and shut the door, then went off to drink again.
As Tim lay there in his room, for the first time ever, it felt like those nasty words were true. He really believed that he was worthless, that he was stupid, and deserved to be hurt and left alone all the time. He shouldn't get to go to school with other kids his age. He shouldn't be allowed outside. Tim was the worst kid in the whole world.
No. That's not true.
The softest, most gentle hand touched his hair. It hurt to move too much, but Tim had craned his neck to see who it was.
An angel knelt before him.
Her face was young, but her hair was white. Her eyes were like jewels and they were looking down at him with an emotion he couldn't quite understand. It was a nice look. A kind look.
You poor thing. It's alright now. I'm here now and I won't leave you.
She never did.
Whenever his father left for work, Tim would spend the day with his new "Mama". Mama helped him get better. She made food for him. She played games with him. She'd hug him and tell him that she loved him. At night, when his father came home, Mama would help him hide and hold him until his father lost steam and gave up looking for him.
Once his father was asleep, Mama would tuck Tim in and stroke his hair as he fell asleep. He'd be afraid to sleep, for fear he'd wake up and Mama wouldn't be there when he did. But she didn't leave. She was always right there with him when he woke up again.
Mama took care of him. Mama loved him.
And Tim loved her.
Then, just this morning, as he ate the soup Mama had heated up for him at lunch, Mama asked him a question.
"Tim, do you want to come home with me?"
Tim's heart leapt. "Yes!" he said at once. "I wanna go home with you! Do you have a house? Is it a big house?"
"A very big house," Mama told him. "It's warm and comfortable and has lots of rooms to play in."
"I wanna go!" Tim insisted. "Let's go! I don't want to be here anymore. I hate it here."
Mama smiled happily, but then her beautiful smile faded a bit. "The thing is, my darling boy, there's one thing you have to do before you get to come to my house."
She told Tim what he had to do. Tim understood.
Knowing what was at stake, Tim opened the door at last, as slowly and quietly as he could.
Such care was unneeded. His father was asleep, snoring as loud as an elephant. His mouth was hanging open and a bottle was still loosely clutched in his hand.
"Go ahead, Tim."
Tim carefully entered the room. Being near his father filled him with fear and disgust. This was the man who told him he couldn't do anything. He was the one who made Tim feel like he was worthless. The one who made him feel stupid.
But Mama had shown him that he was wrong. Mama hugged him and kissed him and told him she loved him.
And Tim loved her.
"Go ahead, my darling," her angelic voice rang from just behind him. "Then we can be together forever. We can go to my beautiful home where all your new brothers and sisters are waiting to meet and play with you."
Tim climbed carefully on the bed and raised up the kitchen knife over his head.
"Set yourself free....my special boy."
The knife came down.
"His name was Fred Quincy," Officer Lewis told his partner as they wheeled Fred's body out of the house.
"I know that name," Officer Hart replied, watching the gurney go by. "Been picked up for a few DUIs, hasn't he?"
"Yup," Officer Lewis murmured, pulling up Quincy's record on an iPad to confirm. "DUIs, Disorderly Conduct, even a Battery charge too. Probably why his wife left him."
"There is a kid's room in there," Officer Hart said, looking back into the house. "Have they found him?"
"Nope," Lewis replied, shaking his head. "House is empty. We're probably going to have to set up an Amber Alert for the kid, although," he glanced back at the house. "There's signs all over the house that the kid might have been abused."
Hart glanced at her partner. "You think the kid might have done this? A six year old kid stabbing a grown man in the neck?"
Lewis shrugged. "Sometimes there's only so much a person can take."
Hart looked back at the house. Something was ringing a faint bell in the back of her mind.
"Have you ever heard of the Mother?"
"Yeah. It's this scary story where the ghost of a woman finds abused kids and gets them to kill their parents?"
Lewis gave her a sideways glance then snorted. "Sounds like a load of crap."
Hart stared at the house a little while longer, then tore her eyes away and shrugged.
"Yeah. You're probably right."