Henry had known there was something wrong with the man even before he had murdered his mother.
He was suspicious for an eight year old. His mother thought the observations Henry would make on her current boyfriend were adorable. How the man kept all of his loafers in a perfect line, how he ate sitting ramrod straight, no elbows on the table. How he made calls late at night. Henry wrote down all these things on a notepad that he had stolen from Vincent, the overly handsome, intuitive man that intruded on their lives with a cold demeanor and stoic stance. The man's seductive smirk that pulled at his pale taut skin, his cold steel eyes and cheekbones as sharp as ax blades. Mother had fallen head over heels.
But Henry wasn't convinced and neither was Max, his older brother. When Max wasn't smoking with his friends or playing video games he was arguing with Vincent, getting in his face, sending him glares.
Henry never thought it would go past that
He had been sitting in his room, keeping his hands over his ears and his pillow over his head to drown out the muffled arguing on the other side of his bedroom wall. He ignored it the best he could but things started to break, glass shattering, tables and chairs thudding against the ground. Then there was grunting and groaning and finally screaming. First it was Max then it was overlapped with a shrill scream that was no doubt from his mother. The sound reverberated through his skull; it was full of fear and anguish. Something was wrong, too wrong to ever be fixed.
Then it was quiet, deathly and still. But Henry could hear one thing, breathing. It was low and labored. It was a man's.
Henry climbed off his bed, his small feet meeting the ground and shaking hands clutching the worn stuffed-rabbit Max had stolen for his birthday.
His unsteady legs guided him to the door and pushed it open slowly and leisurely, thinking if he could delay it long enough it wouldn't happen; he wouldn't have to confront reality.
But this wasn't a reality he ever thought he would face, not until his bedroom door creaked open and the harsh and dark world was displayed before him.
Vincent stood in the middle of the living room, a small, dagger-like knife clutched in his calloused, nimble hand and no facial expression whatsoever. But all Henry could see was the blood, the bodies. Max lay sprawled over a broken and splintered chair, his mouth slack and eyes wide, a large gash ran from the side of his chest to his hip, vicious and large, spilling blood. Henry could see the white of his broken ribs, the purple marks around his mangled neck.
Tears trickled down Henry's fair cheeks, and the ground seemed to sway.
Then he saw his mother. She lay on her side, shirt torn and hair ripped out in patches. Tear tracks stained her soft round cheeks, and blood seemed to be steadily growing into a pool of dark despair around her. But the worst was her neck. Torn across it in a perfect and precise line was a stripe of red. A slit, deep, long, running from one side of her slender neck to the other, gushing and spurting blood, just like the sprinkler they played in during the summer.
Henry's legs betrayed him and his knees buckled.
"No… N-no, no, no. NO!"
He ran to Max and clutched his torn and blood soaked shirt. They played cards together, they watched SpongeBob and washed dad's car in the spring. He couldn't be gone, the lopsided smile and green eyes.
"Max! Max! Max, please!"
An arm wrapped around his waist and he immediately started kicking, his small hands reaching for something to scratch and hurt. The arm pulled him away from Max. Away from late night talks and hair ruffling, and teasing that had been stolen from him by a cruel and bloodstained hand, a hand that had slammed down on his life, that had grabbed onto everything that meant anything to him and ripped it away with severity and a cold brutality. With nothing but a knife and stony expression, a passiveness Henry would never forget.
"Mom!" He yelled, a dainty and crimson smeared hand reaching for the mutilated body of the woman who had raised him, held him when he had nightmares and wrapped band aides around his wounds. She was gone.
"Mom! Mom! MOMMY! Please wake u-"
A cloth was clamped over his mouth, his throat and lungs burned; a sickly sour smell invaded his senses. He scratched at the large and deadly hand that held his lower face in a vice and unforgiving grip. Another hand tangled into his slate black hair and pulled harshly, Henry's breath hitched and another wave of overwhelming pain and fatigue overcame him. He couldn't hold on. He wouldn't.
His delicate arms fell limply to his sides and his head lolled to rest against Vincent's shoulder. His legs stopped kicking and his breathing slowed. His long lashes fluttered lazily until his eyes closed. Henry hoped it would be forever.
The boy fell into a dark and deep oblivion. His small and fragile body slumped in Vincent's arms, completely unconscious. Vincent could see the tears still languorously trailing down the boy's (very much like his mother's) round fair cheeks.
He didn't feel good about this of course. The plan was never supposed to go this way, Maxwell and Layla Rummell were never meant to die and Henry most certainly wasn't to be left as an orphan.
Alexi would not be happy about this.
Vincent laced an arm under the boy's knees and the other under his shoulders; he held the boy gently, his small body swaying in the man's arms as he was carried through the door of his childhood home.
The night was crisp and cold, suburban houses lined the road cutting through the neighborhood. Vincent laid Henry's body down on the perfectly green grass Layla had watered every morning. His large hand trailed down the boy's soft cheek, brushing his unruly hair from his closed eyes.
He leaned down and placed a soft kiss to the boy's forehead. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
Vincent stood, and walked back into the house. He passed their family photos, pictures of Henry smiling with his mother and father, standing next to Max and his crooked grin.
He knew what he had to do. He pulled the bottle of vodka from under Max's bed, unscrewing the cap as he pulled his lighter from his suit pocket. He poured the liquid over everything, the furniture, the bodies, and the pictures. Their life, Henry's life, it couldn't exist anymore.
He kneeled next to Layla's body, her golden brown hair spilled along the blood-soaked wooden floor, her dull blue eyes, staring into nothing. Their vibrancy, their life that had drawn him in was gone. Being with her wasn't a necessary part of the plan, but she was an alluring woman, kind and lovely. His hand trailed down to her ravaged neck.
Beneath all the blood and tears was a necklace. It was silver, a blue stone hanging from the end. He gently unclasped it and dropped it into his pocket.
"I'll take care of him," he whispered, small and soft, genuine. "I promise."
He stood, the remaining vodka, trailing behind him, trickling onto the floor. He stopped at the doorway, dropping the empty bottle. It shattered against the floor, breaking into irreparable pieces of something that had once been a whole.
He flicked his lighter open, the flame fierce and sure, casting an orange glow over the dark atmosphere, accentuating the smiling faces hanging on the walls. He dropped the lighter; it clattered to the floor with a metallic thud.
A flame immediately roared to life, large and inexorable. It spread, quick and vast, engulfing everything in reach, everything the Rummell family once held valuable.
He stepped off the porch.