-The Arms of Sorrow -
In the twilight the large house seemed lifeless. The windows were shattered and their glass panes littered the oak floor. The wind blew listlessly, ruffling the tattered curtains slightly. The once red, satin curtains were now soaked with rain and badly singed.
There was an antique leather chair in the center of the room. Dried blood coated the seven slashes in it.
A small cherry oak coffee table lay splintered, just a matter of feet from the lacerated chair. The bits of busted wood had flown throughout the large room, a bulky body having fallen lifelessly against it nearly ten years prior.
The marble fireplace was ash ridden and the remaining logs were scattered about the room.
If one were to step out the fractured door and into the hallway, he would see even more destruction before his eyes. Paintings and pictures were torn from the walls, and every light was demolished. There were muddy footprints embedded carelessly in the carpet, bringing great contrast to its once snowy whiteness.
Throughout the bathroom sinks had been clogged and overflowed with icy water that flowed over onto the carefully placed tile floors. The mirrors that were once hung so delicately over the ivory sinks were cracked in spider-web-like images.
Though it was hard to believe, a family once lived here. They were a rich family, yes, but they were ever so kind and generous. There was a mother, a father and one child.
The mother, Angeline, was a beautiful woman of thirty-two years of age. She was pregnant and expecting her baby in just a few short months. She was a sweet woman, caring and kind and always managed to find a morsel of good in everyone. Even the people who didn't deserve it. Even the men who killed her.
The father's name was Matthew. He was a smart, funny and respectful man that loved his family very much. He was a wonderful lawyer, possibly the best in all of Maine. Matthew always put his family first and always made sure he did everything he could for them.
There was a small boy as well. Benjamin was his name and he was greatly loved by his parents. At five-years-old, he was well-mannered and bright. He admired both of his parents greatly and one day hoped to be just as successful as them. Little did he know, he would be better, but he would have to go through some very hard times first. Just as every person does.
One night, late in the summer, a group of thieves ransacked the house. They were experts of stealth and had a sound no greater than a mouse. If Matthew hadn't gotten a drink that night, he would have never known that they had come.
The leader of the group, that some would call crazy and others would say his childhood had inspired his devotion to crime, was Marc Callows.
The rest of the men were ruthless bandits, along for the ride.
The men crept silently throughout the lower-levels of the house; meanwhile, Matthew hurried back up the stairs to wake his family.
He went to Benjamin's room first and carried his still-sleeping son with him to wake Angeline.
Angeline woke as Matthew shut the door behind him. She sat up and rubbed her eyes sleepily.
"Darling, what's going on?" She asked, yawning slightly. Matthew pressed his fingers to his lips to quiet her. Angeline tensed instantly; her husband never shushed anyone unless it was absolutely necessary.
He motioned for her to get out of bed quietly. He still held his sleeping son in his arms. Angeline did as he asked without question, slipping on her bed shoes before shuffling over to where her husband stood, by the now open door.
He led them out into the dark hall and to the left, down a small corridor with a single door. He opened the door and hurried them inside. The room was average sized and had two couches and a large bookcase on one side. There were no windows in the room, but it was well lit with lamps on the wall.
Matthew lay Benjamin on the couch, and went to pull his wife into his arms.
"I'm going to call the police, Angie; there are burglars in the house. Just stay here with Ben, ok?" He said as he kissed her forehead lightly.
Angie nodded her head and hugged her husband tightly before he moved away from her and out the door. She heard the lock click behind him and then there was only the sound of Benjamin breathing. She went to sit beside him on the couch and he snuggled his head into her lap and fell back to sleep.
There was no other way into the room, just as there was no other way out of it. There was a small movie-style, hidden door behind the bookcase in the north side of the room. Matthew had known that since their family had money, they would be targets for robberies. He put it there just in case one of them got violent, never thinking they would actually have to use it.
Benjamin woke a few minutes later when Angeline started playing with his hair. He leaned against her chest and sighed heavily. "Mommy? Where are we? Why are you crying?" Angeline hadn't even realized that she was crying until her son had mentioned it. She sat on the couch and pulled him onto her lap. He snuggled against her chest; this was not an easy task due to her largely pregnant belly.
He wrapped his arms around her neck and clung to her, suddenly frightened. Angelines' voice shook slightly as she spoke. "Don't fret, darling," She cooed against his hair. "Everything is alright." He nodded and snuggled closer to her. She stroked his hair for a moment before kissing his head lightly.
Matthew crept without a sound down the halls and to the kitchen. He had no idea where the men were and he really didn't want to find out. He got to the phone but before he had a chance to dial the number, he heard the creaking of footsteps going past the kitchen door. Matthew was instantly panicked. He crawled into the large cupboard underneath the sink and hid.
He waited silently as he heard multiple men come in and do a quick sweep of the kitchen. Opening and closing cupboard doors, moving jars about on the counter, the men were gone within a few moments. Matthew heard them creeping up the stairs and he hurried behind them, careful to keep out of sight.
Angeline heard the men's voices before they were at the hall. She knew what she had to do now. She picked up Benjamin and headed toward the bookcase. She set him down to move it aside and hurried him into the small space. She kissed his head and whispered against his hair. "I love you, darling. Don't fret, and whatever you do, you mustn't make a sound." She touched his nose once before she moved the bookcase back over the opening.
Though Benjamin was frightened, he trusted his parents with anything. So he sat quietly in the small room as his mother had told him to do. He hugged his knees to his chest and tried to think about happy things. It was no use. He was scared out of his mind and there wasn't anything but his parents' embrace that could make it better.
Angeline heard the door handle jiggle and turn. Then she heard one of the men curse and kick at the door. She jumped and shrieked a little. She moved her hand over her stomach, rubbing it lightly. "I'm sorry, love." She breathed.
There was another kick at the door, and another. Finally the wood broke through and she saw the men that had invaded her home. She got up and backed away from them. Only one of them moved toward her, the tallest one in the front. She closed her eyes; she knew that she wouldn't live. She laid her hand over her stomach and tried to prepare herself for what was about to happen.
Matthew hid around the corner. He had to find a phone. He started down the hallway again, but stopped short when he heard Angelines' piercing scream. He froze; his legs were molded into a motionless state. He could do nothing but sink to his knees and listen in horror to the sounds of his wife screaming. He held his face in his hands, hating himself for not being able to make any movements to save his wife. When he heard the men leaving he managed to get into the nearest room and wait for them to exit the house.
When he was sure that they had left, he gathered all the strength that he could into his legs and hurried to the safe room. He stopped short when he saw Angelines' feet in the doorway surrounded by a pool of blood. Tears filled his vision as he rushed to her side. Her eyes were closed and there was blood flowing heavily from her head.
Matthew picked up her head in his hands and kissed her face tenderly. "I'll kill them, Angie. I promise I'll make them pay." He sobbed against her hair as he kissed it. She was the love of his life. There would never be anyone else for him. Never in his life had he loved someone so much. Angeline was his life, those men had killed her.
Matthew knew that Angeline was smart enough to get Benjamin to a safe place, and he knew exactly where that was. Kissing her head one last time, he laid Angeline back to the floor and moved sloth-like toward the bookcase. He pulled it aside a few inches and poked his head inside. Benjamin peeked out at him.
"Daddy?" he said in a small voice.
"Close your eyes, Ben. Don't open them until I say, ok?" Matthew said, clearing his throat. Benjamin nodded and slammed his eyes shut. Matthew bent down and picked him up, laying him over his shoulder and walked towards the door.
Benjamin opened his eyes once and only once. He regretted it for the rest of his life. He saw his mother for the last time, and that was not the way he wanted to remember her. For the first time that night, Benjamin Mathers cried. He didn't want his father to know that he had looked, so he sobbed silently into his fathers' shoulder as they walked through the house. His father carried him to the car and laid him inside.
"I'll be right back, Ben. Get comfortable ok? Long drive ahead." Matthew said and kissed his sons forehead. He walked away from the car and went back into the house. He went to Benjamin's room and grabbed a pillow and a blanket for him, along with a stuffed animal. He packed a small suitcase for him with several outfits and his birth certificate and social security card in a manila envelope at the bottom of the bag.
Matthew was empty inside. He'd lost nearly everything that had ever made sense to him. He went to his own bedroom and grabbed his cell-phone off of the dresser. He looked longingly at Angelines' side of the bed. The tears filled his eyes again and he let them fall. He dropped everything and buried his face in her pillow, inhaling the sweet scent of her hair. He was so lost, but he knew two things.
He wouldn't live without Angeline, he couldn't. He would find those men and he would make them pay, afterward, he would make sure that he didn't have to live another day without her.
Secondly, he knew that he needed to get Benjamin to a safe place, and he knew exactly where he would take him. He would take him to Annie's.
Annie Hallowette had been Matthew's best friend since he could remember. He hadn't seen her since Christmas time, but he knew that she would do anything she could to help him. Not to mention that she loved Benjamin like her own son, and he loved to stay with her.
He wiped his tears onto his sleeve, picked up the things for Benjamin, and preceded to the car. When he got there, Benjamin was nearly asleep. His head was nodding away, taking him slowly into the blissful gift of sleep. God, how Matthew wished he could sleep. Just sleep and forget about the night. He had to hold himself together for Benjamin. He couldn't tell him what had really happened… Not yet.
Matthew opened the back door and picked up his son. He wrapped him up in the blanket and gave him the stuffed bear before laying his head on the fluffy pillow. He kissed his head before watching him drift back to sleep.
Walking around to the front of the car, Matthew pulled out his cell-phone and called Annie. It was late; she would most likely be sleeping. She answered on the fourth ring and as Matthew had suspected, she had been sleeping.
"Hello?" She said groggily into the receiver. Matthew instantly burst into tears. He couldn't hold it any longer.
"Annie, they killed her. They killed Angie. They killed her…" He said between sobs. He heard Annie draw in a sharp breath as his words gave her an instant wake up call.
"Matt? What's going on? What happened to Angie? Where are you? Where's Ben? Are you ok?" She bombarded him with questions that she knew he wouldn't be able to answer, but she couldn't stop herself.
Matthew sobbed harder. "I need your help, Annie. I need you to take care of Ben for me." His entire body shook as wave after wave of sobs cascaded over him. He almost couldn't stop it. He took several deep breaths before Annie had time to respond.
"Of course, Matt, you know I would do anything to help you. But where are you going to be?" She said as Matthew still tried to collect himself. He couldn't tell her what he was planning, not yet. He had to wait until he got there or she would try to stop him.
"I don't want Ben to know about Angie yet, I have to take care of things. Just take him for a while please. Annie, please I can't do this on my own." He felt the tears pricking his eyes again. Slamming them shut, he focused on the conversation at hand. Annie hesitated before answering.
"Alright, I'll leave the door unlocked. How long will you be?" She said quietly as she tried to think the matter over.
"I'll be there in an hour. Annie, thank you so much. I'm so sorry to ask this of you, I just can't do this on my own…" Another set of sobs threatened to overtake Matthew as he spoke. It nearly killed him to hold them back, but he knew he had to.
"Matt, you know I would do anything for you. Ben is no problem. Just promise me you won't do anything stupid." Annie said quietly. Matthew shook his head.
"Annie, I'm not promising anything. I don't know what's going to happen from here on out." Another lie. He knew exactly what he was going to do. He was going to find the sorry bastards that killed his wife and unborn child and he was going to kill them. "Just please help me."
Annie didn't know what he was planning, and part of her didn't want to know. She would do anything for Matt and they both knew it. He was her best friend since her childhood. There wasn't a thing in the world that could make her turn her back on him, especially in his time of need.
"Ok, Matt. I'll be waiting. See you soon. Please be safe ok?" She said with a hint of worry in her voice.
"I will, Annie." Matthew said and hung up the phone. He looked in the window of the backseat to find Benjamin still sleeping. He envied that. He climbed into the front seat of the car and started it. He turned the radio down as low as he could without turning it off completely. He needed something to distract him from the pain coursing through his every vein, but he didn't want to wake Benjamin.
Fifty-two minutes later, Matthew and Benjamin arrived at Annie's house. He got out of the car and got Benjamin out of the backseat. He turned around to find Annie coming out of her house and walking toward them. He shifted Benjamin in his arms and the small boy huddled closer to his father's chest.
Annie opened her mouth to speak, but Matthew hushed her, pointing to Benjamin. Instead, Annie grabbed Benjamin's suitcase and led Matthew inside her house and motioned for him to bring Benjamin upstairs to her spare bedroom. Matthew did as mentioned and shuffled up the stairs.
The guilt and shame of leaving his own son like this was tearing him apart. Once he laid Benjamin on the bed, he leaned down and kissed his head for the last time. "I love you, Ben. Please don't be upset. I love you." He breathed against his skin. It was what was best for Benjamin. He had to keep that in mind or else he would never get out of this house. He touched his son's cheek once more before he left the room, closing the door behind him.
As he came back down the stairs, Matthew saw Annie standing beside the large, striped couch, staring at him. She opened her arms to him and Matthew fell against her. He sobbed openly onto her shoulder and she stroked his hair and cooed to him. The two of them stayed like that for a long time.
Finally, Matthew stopped crying and moved away from her. He saw that Annie was crying too, and took her hand in his.
"Thank you, Annie. Thank you so much." He said and she nodded at him. "Promise me you'll tell him when he's ready, Annie, promise me."
She shook her head and let a few more tears fall. She knew that it would be one of the hardest things that she'd ever have to do. Finally she spoke to him. "I promise." She said and sucked in a deep breath. "You aren't coming back, are you?" She said, the tears running down her face now. Annie had always been smart, she could figure out anything that Matthew was thinking. It was a gift and a curse.
Matthew waited a moment and then shook his head at her. She nodded in response and clung to him one last time. There was no need to speak. There was nothing to be said. They both knew what had to happen, and they both knew what was going to happen. So they just stood, two best friends holding each other for the last time.
A short while later, Matthew pulled away from Annie and walked towards the door. Annie stood by the window and watched as he walked down the driveway. He turned and waved to her before he climbed into the car and drove away.
Matthew's words would forever be engraved into her mind. "Promise me, Annie, promise me…"