juggled one baby on her hip while closing the tab on the other one’s diaper
with her free hand. Both babiess were
you hold him, please?” Lisa used her
body to wedge the one on the changing table in place and shoved the other
squirming kid into Johnny’s arms. She
wiped a stray wisp of hair out of her face before picking up the second baby. They were less than a year apart and Johnny
had a hard time remembering which one was which.
gingerly held the kid—Kevin, he was pretty sure, and eyed Lisa
suspiciously. “What am I supposed to do
don’t know—sing to him, or rock him up and down. He likes that.” She sounded as harried as she looked.
Crystal?” Johnny asked. He had no
intention of singing—ever. The scent of
new baby drifted up to him, and he looked down at the wiggly child, catching
his gaze. Kevin stopped squirming and
stared back up at him. Good. That wasn’t too bad.
still at school,” Lisa said. “There’s a
play tonight. I’m supposed to be there,
but Kenny got tied up at work and there’s nobody to watch the babies.” She hesitated. “Unless you--?”
shook his head. “Oh no, I don’t
babysit. I eat babies for breakfast.”
“Pleeease?” Lisa gave him her soulful eyes. It wasn’t that long ago that she feared for
her life with him. What had
changed? Johnny was afraid it was him.
sighed. “How long will you be gone?”
eyes lit up. “Only a couple of
hours. We should be home by eight.” She pushed the younger baby into Johnny’s
arms and turned to go upstairs to get ready.
froze on the stairs. “Well, as long as
you’re babysitting, I thought maybe Kenny could meet me there.”
‘bout if I go to the play with you and the hunter watches his own damn kids?”
knew that aggrieved tone all too well.
“Fine. But I’m not changing
Lisa skipped up the stairs.
gazed down at the two little boys, both of whom had gone still for the moment and
watched him with wide eyes. They knew what he was on some
instinctive level. Lisa knew, too, but
she thought he was harmless.
Harmless! He grinned, showing
teeth, and the babies crowed with delight.
Lisa was gone, Johnny attempted to put the babies down, but every time he
tried, one or the other, and inevitably both, would break out into wails. He sat in Kenny’s chair in the living room
and bounced them on his knee. That
seemed to quiet them down for a while.
It never lasted very long, however.
Johnny stared at the clock on the wall as if it was his most hated
could tell them apart somewhat. Ian was
thicker, chunkier, where Kevin was smaller all around even though he was older. Kevin was the restless one. He usually set the other one to crying. Johnny tried alternately bouncing, rocking,
and finally walking up and down the hallways of Lisa’s house until they fell
asleep in his arms. He sniffed. One of them had done something, but he wasn’t
about to check any further. Lisa could
take care of it when she got home. Or
eased himself down onto the couch, still cradling the two babies. They looked so innocent now that they were
asleep. He inhaled deeply. They had the blood on both their mother’s and
their father’s side. Johnny could smell
it through their delicate skin. It would
be so easy to take a little taste now, when nobody was home. Just to make sure. They were like Crystal, could be like him one
day if they chose. He could make them choose.
he slid first Kevin, then Ian off his arms and lay them down on the couch
cushions, covering them with their tiny baby blankets. The Browns trusted him. They shouldn’t, and he didn’t like that it
mattered that they did, but it mattered.
He shook out his arms, then he pulled over two kitchen chairs and
propped them against the couch, making a temporary crib for the boys before
going to prowl the kitchen. Of course,
there was nothing for him there.
doorbell rang just as he tiptoed back to the living room, resigned to watching
television with the volume turned off.
Both babies startled into wakefulness and began to howl. Johnny felt like howling himself. Who the hell had dared to wake up the babies
just when he’d gotten them to sleep?
over to the front door, Johnny yanked it open, scowling darkly at the teenager
who stood on the other side.
my name is Martin. I’m selling magazines
to help pay my way through college,” the young man said with a wide smile. He pulled a glossy list out of his bag and
held it out to Johnny. “Would you care
to take a look?”
glanced down the dark road and spotted the car with its lights on parked not
far away. There weren’t many houses in
this part of Lockwood. Those kids must
be desperate—or from out of town. He
grabbed the front of the kid’s arm and tugged him into the house, slamming the
door behind him. Might as well make the
best of it. On the couch, the babies
continued to howl. He left Martin
standing uncertainly next to the door while he went to pick up the boys,
shushing them in between glares at the young magazine salesman. “You woke them up.”
Martin was clearly at a
loss. “Uh—I’m sorry?”
snorted. “You will be.”
handed one baby to Martin, keeping the other on his hip as he’d seen Lisa do
earlier. This was more comfortable, he
realized, than holding them with just his arms.
Martin looked flabbergasted. That
Johnny grabbed Martin around the neck, careful as he exerted just enough
pressure to make Martin’s knees give way.
He guided Martin into Kenny’s chair, and rearranged Ian on his lap. The babies seemed to like the sudden motion
and stopped crying long enough for Johnny to lean down and take a long drink from
Martin’s lolling neck. He didn’t take
too much, but—well, he deserved it, and more importantly, Martin deserved it.
took back Ian and resumed walking up and down the hallway until both babies
fell asleep again. He put them back in
their makeshift crib and then roughly nudged Martin, who snored softly in
Kenny’s oversized easy chair. “Get
up. Time to go.”
yawned and scratched his neck, which had a raised red mark like an insect’s bite
on it. Johnny’s bite did not leave a
puncture wound unless he willed it.
Another time, maybe, but not with the babies here. He shoved Martin’s papers at him and shuffled
him out the door.
long after, Lisa and Kenny came home.
Johnny glanced up from Kenny’s chair and smiled. “Quiet.
I just got them to sleep.”
hunter, typically, frowned at Johnny. It
could have been about the babies, but it was probably because Johnny was
sitting in his favorite chair. Lisa gave
him a quick hug. “Thank you,” she
Crystal?” She hadn’t come in with her
flushed. “Oh, I told her she could sleep
over Ellie’s house tonight. Didn’t I
tell you that?”
she hadn’t. Deliberately. No matter.
Johnny knew where Ellie lived.
was leaning over the couch, checking on his sons. Looking for bite marks, no doubt. As if Johnny would be that obvious if he had
chosen to taste them. Which he hadn’t.
leaving then,” Johnny said, pausing by the front door. “Oh, by the way, I ordered you some
magazines.” He gestured towards the
slips of paper on the table by the front door, and slipped out before Lisa
could ask him any questions.
car containing the “college students” soliciting magazines had traveled past
the little library and was on the main road towards Lockwood center by the time
Johnny caught up with it. Johnny grinned
at Martin’s startled gasp as he opened the back door. “Mind if I come in?” he asked. Turn about was fair play.