Murder in the Night

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A prologue to a story in progress

     I peek around the corner, down the stairs, my dark hair covering my face. My dad stands at the bottom, his back to me. The room is pitch black, but I see a glint from something in my father’s hand. Something metal, and sharp.

    Slowly, I make my way down the stairs. Sometimes, when my dad is mad, he scares me. I don’t want him to be mad at me tonight. But the storm outside is loud, and I am frightened.  I take another step, carefully, not making a sound. If I’m too loud, I think, it’ll make Daddy mad.

    Thunder crashed outside, and I shiver in my silk nightgown.  Sometimes, I pretend I’m a princess, spinning in circles. Mommy always smiles, and grabs my hand as I twirl under her arm. But tonight, I don’t see Mommy. She must be at work, I tell myself. Mommy works late sometimes. Sometimes, she doesn’t come home for days. I miss her when she’s away.

    Daddy always tells me princesses don’t cry. And I try to remember that when Mommy’s gone. But sometimes, I get scared. Like now. I’m scared now. Mommy is gone, and Daddy is downstairs in the dark basement, and thunder is shaking the whole house. My eyes fill up with hot tears and I take another step. Only two more to go.

    I breathe in through my nose so deep until my chest hurts. That’s how Daddy taught me to do it. He says it’ll calm me down. It hasn’t worked ever, but I think if I keep trying it, it will. Maybe when I’m older it will help.

    Another step. All this time, my daddy hasn’t moved. He’s been standing there, staring down at the floor. I glance around his burly waist. What is that? I wonder. I creep forward, on the last stair. But I’m not careful this time, and it groans loudly under my bare feet. I jerk my head up, as Daddy turns around to face me. The light from upstairs shines down on his face and chest, and I realize three things. First, he’s angry tonight. His eyes glare down on me, and my breathing gets fast. Second, there’s blood smeared across his shirt and dripping from his hands. And third, there’s a man lying on the floor in front of him, his vacant eyes staring at the ceiling.

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