Lance and Emily Ballard
The feel of death still possessed the
house, every wall—every inch. But
it was the bedroom where Tom sensed it most.
Especially the bed.
He reached for the pillow and cradled
it to his chest, as if it were his last dance with Marcy; the faint
scent of her perfume still trapped within the silk threads of the
pillowcase—as were the splatters of blood.
Blood that was now three weeks dry.
Marcy had left work early on the day
that was her last and came home to get things ready for Sammy’s
birthday party, her and Tom’s only son, a bright boy with soft gray
eyes and a thick head of curly brown hair, streaked honey gold from the
sun. But the sun fell
behind a murderous cloud when Marcy unlocked the door, unaware of what
waited inside, what had found the unlocked window, and what was beyond
anything that could ever be considered human.
The first blow hit Marcy quick,
knocking her to the floor—
Blood flowing in a steady stream down
the nape of her tanned neck, lightly doused with Chanel No. 5.
She lost consciousness when the
hammer was yanked out. And
for good reason. The second
blow shattered the back of her skull, spraying blood onto the walls and
Then Marcy was dragged to kitchen,
laid out on the cold terra cotta titles, and head sawed off with a hack
saw—taken for a keepsake.
This how Tom found her.
What was left.
By the time Sammy arrived home from
school, (driven by the chauffeur) a swarm of Oklahoma City’s finest
had secured the house with yellow CRIME SCENE tape, holding back
neighbors and on-lookers who lusted for a glimpse—any glimpse—inside
the Jacob house. A house
nothing much happened in. Until
Sammy didn’t understand who lay
under the sheet, the gurney being wheeled out the house, to the
ambulance. All he knew was
that something had happened. Something bad.
And that his mother was not there to
explain. Tom tried, but
couldn’t bring himself to speak the truth.
Not to Sammy. Not
his only son who had just started the fourth grade; always bringing home
abstract art work, proudly placed on the fridge with tiny lettered
magnets. These were what
Marcy had taught Sammy how to spell with.
After the funeral, no more art work
decorated the fridge because Tom, for not stepping up to the plate and
saying the truth, had Sammy convinced that his mother had simply just
gone away for awhile—an extended vacation, as Tom had said, and that
all the art work should be saved for when she came back.
Tom hated himself for this, but he just couldn’t take the
chance on seeing Sammy fall to pieces if he actually knew what had
really happened. So, the
Vacation Lie was what Tom used each time Sammy asked.
But the lie also worked its falseness on Tom.
There were moments he, too, thought the lie was true, that Marcy
would be home soon, filling the house with love once again and proudly
displaying Sammy’s art work on the fridge.
A sicken wave washed over Tom,
tossing the pillow aside. His
own lie had kept him spellbound within days of old and how they would
soon turn new again. But as
always, Tom knew the end result: Marcy was dead…and her killer—still
on the lose.
Tears flowed, and Tom fell to the
floor—the same place Marcy’s blood had stained the carpet.
Sammy’s head slowly peered around
the lip of the door. He had
been there the whole time, something he did more than his father knew.
“You ok, Daddy?” Sammy asked,
coming in and kneeling down by his father—and the stain.
Tom’s eyes were red and swollen.
“Yeah,” he lied. “I’ll
“Heard from Mommy, yet?” Sammy
held his father’s hand.
Tears were on the rise again, but Tom
wasn’t about to let them spill. “Not
yet,” he said. “But
soon.” The lie had
surfaced again. “Real
“Hope so,” he said.
“ ‘Cause I’m tired of coming home and seeing that policeman
always parked by our house.”
Tom had requested extra security.
With his re-election Champaign for mayor about to get in full
swing, Oklahoma City’s finest obliged the request.
“It’s not the same policeman,
Sammy,” Tom said. “But
I understand. I’m tired
of it, too.” The fear of
the killer sneaking back in the house was too strong for Tom to have it
any other way. He needed
the black and white squad car out there.
Needed to know it was there when Sammy went to bed each night.
got up, his emotions in check. “Let’s go downstairs and eat.” He was back
to being strong, back to
looking like his Champaign picture—a sturdy shoulder that could
balance the world. But that
sturdiness was shaken as he and Sammy entered the kitchen, walking on
the same terra cotta titles where Marcy’s head had been—
Tom’s mind kept shooting quick
flashes of how it was done.
Numbness crept up.
A staggering vibe—but Tom caught
himself before his balance gave way.
“Go in the fridge,” he told
Sammy. “and grab some
“We’re out of Coke,” he said,
holding the empty 3-liter container.
“Just bought that the other day,”
Tom said. “You need to
cut down, Sammy.”
“Only had two glasses,” he said,
eyeing the misty, wet 3 liter. “Haven’t
touched the stuff since yesterday.”
Tom took the empty Coke container and
threw it in the trash. “No
big deal,” he said, smiling. “Can
always get more.” He
walked over to Sammy. “Now,
how about those veggies.”
They were got and dinner was made, a
special pasta salad Marcy had coined. Sammy’s favorite.
“Wish Mommy was here with us,” he
said, staring off into space.
The lie wasn’t somewhere Tom wanted
to go. “C’mon,” he
said. “It’s late and you’ve got school tomorrow.”
Covers were pulled back, and Sammy
slid in. “Will you read
to me, Daddy?”
Tom usually did.
But not tonight. Speeches had to be gone over.
“—Work,” Sammy said.
Tom hated this part, the part that
came with being a politician, the certain neglect it brought Sammy.
“But I’m free, tomorrow,” Tom
said. “And I’ll read to
you then.” He was at the
light- switch. “Sleep
good.” The lights went
out, and the door slowly closed, Tom locking the deadbolt from the other
side, another safety precaution. No
chance could be taken with Marcy’s killer still on the prowl.
Darkness swarmed around Sammy; his
lungs became heavy as he heard his father footsteps fade away on the
A creak from within the closet
pierced the darkness.
Sammy’s room also lead to the
attic, the ladder in the closet.
Faded leather work boots were on the
last rung, mud caked.
The closet door open.
A shadow stealthily walked towards.
“I’ll read to you,” the shadow
said, flicking a lighter in quick bursts. “Whatever you want.”
The shadow sat beside Sammy on the bed.
Sweat beaded across his brow and his
The shadow said,
“Don’t be scared,” moving closer.
“I want my mommy.”
Sweat trickled down Sammy’s neck.
“Well,” the shadow said.
“I know where she’s at.”
“Really?” Sammy sat up.
The shadow smiled.
infected teeth. “Yes, I
do. She’s close.
“Then let me see her.” Sammy
smiled. Perfect teeth.
“Wish I could,” the shadow said.
“But I can’t.”
Sammy’s smile faded.
“Just can’t, that’s why.” The
shadow moved closer. “Would
ruin the game.”
“The game with the police.”
“Are you one of ‘em?”
The shadow’s smile had returned.
hair framed cunning eyes. “Yes,
I am. How do you think I
got in your attic?”
“Was wondering that,” Sammy said,
relaxed and unafraid. “But
why are you in there?”
“To keep watch over you.”
The shadow wiped away sweat from Sammy’s brow.
“All part of the game.” The
shadow pulled back. “See,
with your daddy being mayor and believing in the death sentence—“
“What’s that?” Sammy asked.
“Oh, yeah,” the shadow said.
“Real Bad,” then came memories of watching the shot of lethal
injection course through brother Billy’s veins. Mayor Tom Jacob’s
vote had kept the death sentence active in Oklahoma.
“But what’s my mommy got to do
with all that,” Sammy said. “She’s
The shadow remembered how easily her head came off. “But she thinks your daddy and what he does for a living is, and is teaching him a lesson by staying away.”
“So, if Daddy stops doing his job, Mommy will come home?”
“Yep,” the shadow lied, cunning eyes narrowing.
“Then, I’ll talk to Daddy about his job.”
“Better not,” the shadow said. “Not just yet.”
“When then?” Sammy said. “I want my mommy back home here, with me.”
“And she wants to be here too, but not until your father learns his lesson.” The shadow was at the bookcase. “Sure you don’t want me to read to you.”
A yawn. “Maybe tomorrow.” Sammy’s eyes were heavy. “If my daddy doesn’t, first.” Sleep was near.
Oh, I don’t think he will. “Ok,” the shadow said.
Sammy looked over at the bookcase, at the shadow. “Do you ever see my mommy?”
“And you’re sure she’ll come back after Daddy learns his lesson?” Sammy rubbed his eyes, trying to stay wake.
“Of course, I’m sure,” the shadow said. “In fact, you two will be together, before too long.”
“When the time’s right.” The shadow tucked Sammy in.
“And you see her every night,” he said.
The shadow nodded. “Every night.” Well, some of her.
“Then can I see her tonight?” Sammy asked.
The shadow grinned. “That would ruin the game.”
“Then tell her I love her and miss her and want her to come back home.”
“I will,” the shadow said.
“Promise.” The shadow grinned again. “Cross my heart, hope to die—“
“Stick a thousand needles in my eyes.”
Not a bad idea “Well,” the shadow said. “Gotta get back in the attic, to watch over you and make sure nothing bad happens to you.” Stick a thousand needles in your eyes!
Sleep finally came, and Sammy gave himself to its soft embrace, the shadow climbing back up the latter, to the attic.
A plastic bag was lifted from the floor and opened.
Marcy’s head rolled out, and the shadow stroked her blood caked hair.
Yep, Mayor Jacob needs to learn his lesson about supporting the death sentence—a sentence that killed my brother, Billy.
The shadow climbed back down the ladder, to Sammy’s bed, his slow breathing lightly raising the covers.
Maybe this’ll finally
get Mayor Jacob’s attention!
And the shadow smiled…