Count To Ten
Springdale, Indiana, Thursday, November 23, 11:45 p.m.
He stared at the flames with grim satisfaction. The house was burning.
He thought he heard their screams. Help me. Oh, God, help me. He hoped he heard their screams, that it wasn't only his imagination. He hoped they were in the most excruciating pain.
They were trapped inside. No neighbors around for miles to call for help. He could take out his cell. Call the police. The fire department. One side of his mouth lifted. But why? They were finally getting what they deserved. Finally. That it should be at his own hand was … fair.
He didn't remember setting the fire, but he knew he must have done so. Without taking his eyes from the burning house, he lifted his hands to his nose. Sniffed at the leather gloves he wore. He could smell the gasoline on his hands.
Yes, he had done this thing. And he was fiercely, intensely glad he had.
He didn't remember driving here. But of course he must have. He recognized the house, although he had never lived there. Had he lived there, things would have been different. Had he lived there, Shane would have remained untouched. Shane might still be alive and the deep seething hatred he'd buried for so long might never have existed.
But he hadn't lived there. Shane had been alone, a lamb among wolves. And by the time he'd gotten out and come back, his brother was no longer a happy boy. By the time he'd come back, Shane walked with his head down, shame and fear in his eyes.
Because they'd hurt him. The rage bubbled and popped. In this very house where Shane should have been safe, in the very house that now burned like hell itself, they'd hurt Shane so that he'd never been the same again.
Shane was dead. And now they hurt, just as he had. It was … fair.
That his hatred and rage would bubble to the surface from time to time was inevitable, he supposed. It had been a part of him for nearly as long as he could remember. But the reason for his rage… that he'd hidden from everyone. Including himself. He'd denied it for so long, retold the story so well… even he'd had trouble remembering the truth. There were whole stretches of time that even he forgot. That he made himself forget. Because it had been too painful to remember.
But he remembered now. Every single person who raised their hands to hurt them. Every single person who should have protected them and didn't. Every single person who looked the other way.
It was because of the boy. The boy that reminded him of Shane. The boy who looked up to him for help. For protection. Tonight, the boy had looked up to him in fear and shame. It took him back too many years. It took him back to a time he hated to remember. When he was …weak. Pathetic. Useless.
He narrowed his eyes as the flames licked the walls of the wooden house that was burning like dry kindling. He wasn't weak or pathetic or useless any longer. Now, he took what he wanted and damned the consequences.
His good sense started to creep in around the anger as it always did.
Sometimes, unfortunately, the consequences damned him. Especially when the anger took over as it had tonight. Tonight wasn't the first time he'd stood back, looking at something he'd done, barely remembering the deed itself. It was the first fire …
He swallowed hard. It was the first fire in a long time. But he'd done other things. Necessary things. Things that would get him sent to prison if he got caught. Real prison this time, not juvenile detention which was bad enough, but manageable if a person had enough brains.
Tonight he'd killed. And he didn't regret it. Not a bit. But he was lucky. This house was far away from any neighbors, any prying eyes. What if it had been a normal neighborhood in the city? What if he'd been seen? He asked himself this same question every time. What if he got caught?
One day the rage that bubbled inside him was going to get him into more trouble than he could manage on his own. It ruled him. Made him vulnerable. He gritted his teeth. And being vulnerable was the one thing he would never let happen again.
Suddenly the answer seemed so very clear. The rage had to go.
So the source of the rage had to go. Which meant all the people who'd hurt them, looked the other way, they all needed to go. Standing here, watching the flames, the memory of each one of those people came back. He could see faces. Hear names.
Feel hate. He tilted his head as the roof crashed in, sending sparks flying skyward like a million mini flares. He'd made one hell of a fireworks show.
It would be hard to top a display like that. But of course he would. He didn't do anything half way. Whatever he did, he'd need to do well. For Shane. And for himself. Then he could finally close the book on this part of his life and move on.
That last shower of sparks might be enough to summon the local fire department. He'd better get while the getting was good. He got in his car and turned back toward the city, a smile bending his lips. The beginnings of a plan were forming in his mind.
It would be one hell of a show. And when the final curtain fell, Shane could finally rest in peace. And I'll finally be free.
Copyright © 2007, Karen Rose Books, Inc