Prologue

October 18th, 1981, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Screaming. Ever since he was a little boy, all he could hear at home was screaming. The screaming, and the shouted insults that his parents hurled at each other during their almost daily drunken fights. He was only four years old. At first glance, one never could figure out why this little boy was so different from the rest. He had soft bronze hair and wide blue eyes, and the small, chubby frame of any four-year-old toddler. His father, tall and lanky with short-cropped black hair and a mustache, both tinged with dark gray, was the vice-president of a successful bank. Then there was his mother, twelve years younger than the man whom she had promised to spend the rest of her life with, a green-eyed redhead who must have once been quite stunning at one point-before she'd discovered that her one true love was Jack Daniel's, and not her so-called husband.

The screaming fights and drunken name-calling were only a part of the nightmare that he had to call his home life. He could still remember that terrible afternoon in the fall of 1989, when his already miserable life became a living hell. He was twelve years old, and a failing, husky bronze- haired geek in the sixth grade, with a shy smile and far too many pounds. Nobody had been surprised at how overweight the boy was, nobody had expected him to grow up lean and healthy, not when his mother spent her waking hours as a 'cocktail waitress' at a bar, and had never cooked a decent meal in her entire life. But, friendless and virtually parentless, he had somehow plowed on ahead, pulling a small miracle by managing to stay in school for so long. And that was the fact that broke neighbors' hearts, because they knew that this shy, insecure little blue-eyed boy was a good kid living a bad life. So they offered to tutor him and baked him cookies, and that was how he'd managed to survive life at home without having run away from his so-called parents.

But then, it happened. The one incident that changed his whole life. For once he had managed to avoid his usual after-school detentions, and thus was able to walk out of school the minute that bell rang. He'd felt ridiculously proud of himself back then, grinning from ear to ear as he realized that, for the first time in practically several years, he would be able to arrive home on time. Unfortunately for him, however, he'd chosen the wrong day to stay out of detention. As he fished out his silver house key from his jeans pocket and carefully slid it into the lock, he heard the sound of glass shattering on the other side of the door, and his heart sank. His father had returned early as well-and had obviously found yet another reason to start a screaming fight with his mother. He summoned up all of his courage and stepped inside, dark blue eyes squeezing tightly shut as he prepared for the boxing match that he was sure would begin any second now.

He waited. And waited, his twelve-year-old frame trembling like a golden leaf in the autumn wind. A sharp, high-pitched cry filled his ears, followed by the sound of scuffling. He stiffened, then carefully opened his sapphire-blue eyes and took a hesitant step forward toward where he'd heard the noises-his parents' bedroom. Timidly peeking into the messy room, he scanned its interior and drew in his breath sharply, too shocked to know how to react any other way. His mother, wearing only feathery white lingerie that really didn't cover much at all, was cowering against one of the gigantic cream-colored pillows, a bewildered and terrified expression on her face. A broken whiskey bottle lied on the floor, shattered into a million pieces. His father, fully-dressed, was scrambling around the nightstand, before his fingers closed upon the hard, metallic object he had been looking for. He quickly pulled the small silver pistol out of the walnut bureau and aimed it at his shivering wife. The reason became clear to the petrified bronze-haired boy standing behind the doorframe, as his blue eyes caught sight of the very naked and very unfamiliar man seated in bed beside his mother. Frozen in place, too stunned to do anything and just a little bit fascinated by what was going on, the boy could only watch in shocked terror as his father slowly raised the pistol, took aim with shaky hands.and promptly let out two shots.

Bang! Bang!

The twelve-year-old boy squeezed his eyes tightly shut, and listened to the alarmingly loud explosions that could only be gunshots. After the screaming and firing had ended, he finally, hesitantly opened one blue eye-and found himself staring into the cold, hard mask that was his father's face. His other eye flew wide open and his chin began to tremble, as violent spasms of shock wracked his frame. His father put both hands on the terrified boy's quivering shoulders, and gasped out in a hoarse, wheezing voice, "It's over, son. It's finally over."

Just then, the persistent wail of police sirens was heard.