Source: Wikimedia Commons

The figure concealed in the deep shadows of the landing at the top of the stairs stands motionless, waiting.

Heart pounding, he mentally runs through his plan over and over, hoping he'll have the courage to follow through this time. It's like that old timey baseball guy said... What was his name? Yogi Bear? Well, whatever, like he said, it's déjà vu all over again. He's been here many times before, in just this place, with just this plan. And each time, his courage deserts him. Tonight, he mutters under his breath. Tonight, tonight, tonight. He repeats it in his mind like a mantra.


"Did you think I wouldn't notice?"

Heart sinking, the woman steals a glance at her husband, then quickly looks down at her hands twisting the purse strap in her lap. What she saw in the flickering light from oncoming traffic in the few seconds she'd looked at Craig is a sight all too familiar. He sits rigid, the knuckles of his hands white from clenching the steering wheel. The rhythmic jerking of the muscle in his right cheek tells her that his jaw is clenched just as tightly.

All night, she's been congratulating herself on making it through a party without incident for a change. She hadn't wanted to go, dreading the usual tension of trying to meet with his approval. To make matters worse, this party was thrown by his boss to celebrate winning some big case. Now that she thinks about it, though, maybe that's why Craig was on his best behavior. It had been such a relief to have no berating comments, no icy stares, no scenes. She'd even enjoyed herself. She closes her eyes for a moment, hoping it's not all about to go to hell in a hand basket.


He shifts his weight from one foot to the other. His legs are going to sleep, and he's tempted to sit down.

No. Not a good idea. They could come any minute. Be vigilant!

He does set his weapon down on the hall table next to him, though, and flexes his cramped fingers.

Hang in. They'll be here soon.


"Notice what?"

Craig snorts. "Oh, please. I'm not stupid, Rebecca, nor am I blind."

She doesn't answer, knowing that whatever has set him off, there is nothing she can say that won't make it worse.

She thinks back over the past few hours, looking for something that could have brought this on. There's nothing. She thought he'd be pleased at how well the evening went. Frank Griffin and his wife had seemed to like her, and she'd made a point of circulating, chatting with Craig's fellow lawyers. All she can remember is laughter and conviviality.

Rebecca glances at the speedometer, where the needle confirms that they are going much too fast.

"I wish you would slow down before you kill us or someone else. I  don't know what you're so upset about, Craig. Please. It's been such a nice night. We had fun. Let's not ruin it."

His laugh is mirthless. "Fun. Yes, indeed. I'm sure you did have fun, Rebecca." His voice drips with sarcasm and loathing. "Imagine how much fun it was for me, watching you throw yourself at Frank all night, all giggles and come-hither looks. For crissake, you were hanging all over him. You looked like a cheap fucking whore."


He's really tired. Good thing he didn't give in to the urge to sit down. He'd have been asleep by now for sure.

Headlights sweep across the darkened foyer downstairs, and the adrenalin rush wakes him up good. They're here. He grabs his weapon and presses himself tight against the wall.

Any minute now.


It's going to be a bad one, she knows. She's never seen him so angry. He's had jealous outbursts before -- oh, boy, had he -- but he's never accused her of something like this.

"I was not 'hanging all over' Frank Griffin, as you so elegantly put it. I was chatting with him, trying to be friendly. Which, if you recall, you asked me to."

Craig pulls the car into the driveway, slams the gear shift lever into Park, and turns to sneer at her.

"Friendly? Friendly? Oh, that went w-a-a-a-y beyond friendly, Rebecca. When I asked you to be nice to him, I didn't fucking mean hump his leg like a bitch in heat."

Rebecca sighs and opens the car door.

"Nice, Craig. Now let's drop it. You're just being paranoid."

She hasn't even made it to the front porch when Craig grabs her arm and spins her around.

"Don't you dare talk to me like that."

She has no time brace herself when the back of his hand knocks her to the ground. She lands hard, and feels the pea stone cut into her face. When she puts her hand to her cheek, it comes away bloody.

Ever the gentleman, Craig leaves her there and storms onto the front porch.


There's a series of clicks as the key turns in the lock. He holds his breath, waiting, and when the door swing open, he can hear crying from outside.

There he is. Now or never. Don't chicken out!

He steps to the stair rail, and raises his weapon. Taking careful aim, he lets fly. He hears a yelp from below, and then sees his target go down.


Rebecca gets to her feet and walks to the front door, hand to her bloody cheek. There are stone fragments still embedded in it. She can feel her eye swelling shut and she's pretty sure she has a split lip.

This has got to stop, she thinks. Fourteen years is about thirteen years too long.

She enters the foyer just in time to see her husband crumple to the tile floor, swearing.


Looking toward the tremulous voice, she sees Billy coming down the stairs in his pajamas, clutching his slingshot, eyes wide.

Craig yells, "My eye, my eye! What the fuck?"


Her son starts to cry. With barely a glance at her husband, still sitting on the floor clutching his left eye, Rebecca hurries to him.

"Mama!" His words come in a rush. "Mama, I'm sorry! I came home early from Mike's. Don't be mad. I had to. He was gonna kill you. Look at your face! That's the worst yet. You're all beat up." Billy sobs. "And now he's gonna kill me!"

Rebecca pulls the shaking boy close. "It's okay, honey. It'll be okay. I'm not mad. You go on up to your room. I'll take care of Daddy."

When she hears Billy's bedroom door close, she turns to her husband, who is bellowing.

"Fuck! That damn kid nearly put my eye out. See what comes of all your coddling, Rebecca? It's time I deal with him before you turn him into a fag."

Rebecca looks at him with disgust. "For heaven's sake, Craig. You need..."

She's interrupted by his angry voice. "What I need is to go to the hospital. Now!"

Rebecca listens to make sure Billy has stayed in his room, then walks over to the table by the door and picks up the ugly bronze statue of Justice that Craig loves so much.

"You bastard," she says as she brings the heavy statue crashing down on Craig's head. "You're going to need more than that."



  1. Wow! Never thought it was going to be their son hiding in the shadows. Very well done there!

  2. Oh!Positively chilling. But the pain of domestic abuse is all too real. I admire the way you wove that in.

  3. Great realistic sequence Patti.
    Some people never learn or stop to think what they do to others.


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