At the third push, the door swung open, throwing up a cloud of dust in her face. She stepped back, into the wan sunlight filtering through the pine trees. Cough, cough, cough. Aa-tishoo. She fumbled in her bag for the bottle of water and took a deep draught. A part of her wanted to run away, get into the car and drive back to the comfort of her bedsit in Denver, but a larger part wanted to go in, back to where it all started.
The floorboards creaked under her feet. They had all been torn up in the search, replaced imperfectly by her uncle before they left. The search had yielded the drugs and nothing else, yet they had gone on with the case, putting together bits and pieces to create a patchwork quilt of allegations. A dishonourable discharge, a scream in the night, a missing car. He had kissed her on the head before he left, promised that he would be back soon, that no prison wall could keep him from his queen bee. They hadn’t even let her see his dead body.
The photographs lay stacked in a corner, dusty frames enclosing blurred faces from an era gone by. Her mother, cradling her and Annie in both arms, her father, smiling slightly, piggybacking her, she and Annie pulling each others’ pigtails.
The papers had wrung every last drop of juice from the story. Woodside Inn, fireside murders. Father of two, killer of many. They said he chopped his victims up and baked them into pies for his guests. They said he made his children watch as he cut his victims up. They said he cut up his own little Annie when she couldn’t take the horror any more. The vilification had been brutal, the damnation complete. Monster, they called him. Did monsters sing You Are My Sunshine and kiss you to sleep when you were burning up with fever? Did monsters spend weeks building a boat in the middle of a forest, because you were fascinated by ships after reading Treasure Island?
She wiped the grime off the photos, put them on the wall. She put his Vietnam photo at the centre, a young but distinguished officer holding a gun, looking slightly to the right of the camera. It was her favourite photo of him, and it was also the photo they used in the papers, contrasting it with the one of him in handcuffs, looking like a hunted deer. No matter; they could not destroy him in her head.
She finished arranging the photos, then opened her bag and took out the package. It smelled a little, and was damp. She unwrapped it, placed it on the floor. The wrist was still bleeding a little, ghost blood, and the rest of the hand was turning black, but it was neatly cut, just the way he had taught her.
I’m your favourite daughter, father, and I will take your legacy forward.
This piece was written by Arundhati, our resident Consultant. It won the second prize in the LSD BGB Creative Writing Competition. It was also published on the Bloody Good Book blog here.