THEIR BLOOD BE LAID: PART VI

by - 5/26/2018



*shrug emoji*


VI.



I’ve never killed a man before.
The knowing of what has to happen weighs on all of us. My mother hugs me gingerly to keep the blood off her dress and tells me to be careful, with the wavering voice of someone who has one foot over the edge of grief. Aunt Katherine is a pale slip of hurt who hovers around the guest room and seems to ease in and out of being. One day into our grand attack Aunt Eva stops at the front door and drops her bags to the floor just long enough to hug each one of us goodbye.
“Don’t you let anything happen to your dad,” she whispers in my ear, voice choppy with liquor and sleep. “You give them hell, all right?”
“Chicago’s got to be an adventure,” she proclaims to all of us, like a dare. “I’ll come for a visit after the wedding. If there’s anything left of any of you.”
A few hours after that Cousin Finn leaves his bed for the first time.
I miss when he first steps into the room. I’ve taken up residence in Dad’s office — slumping into the cracked leather of his chair, watching dust collect on his desk, letting my eyes drift over his books and papers and shelves as though they hold clues. I don’t see Finn at all until he lets out a sharp hiss of pain and collapses into the other chair.
“I need to talk to you.”
I sit up straight as quick as I can. I’ve left a smear of red across the leather that I’m trying to ignore. “Finn. You need to be resting.”
His whole face is tight with pain, but he holds up a hand to stop me. “Listen to me.”
“You need to rest,” I insist. “You’re about to fall over right where you are.”
“I’m fine, really, I just…” he winces and shifts in his seat. His leg is an awkward mess of bandages sprawled out in front of him.  “Listen, I heard…”
“It’s fine.”
“I’m sorry about Uncle James,” he says. He won’t meet my eyes. I won’t meet his. “I just wanted to talk to you about it.”
Right this second I might as well be seven years old and stupid all over again. “Thanks,” I reply, and trace one finger across the dusty desk. “I don’t know what I’m doing, really…”
“You’ll manage,” he says. “You’re smart, and you’re sharp, and you’ll do the things that need to be doing, even if you don’t have a clue about most of it.” What he says should sting, but he says it with his closest guess at a smile, a hint of the teasing that’s always lurking behind his eyes, and all I feel is a little bit of warm comfort in my chest.
Someone’s behind me, if no one else is.
“So here’s the thing,” Finn continues. He leans forward — or tries to lean forward. Really he catches himself and leans back again with a hiss of a curse. “Here’s the thing. You’re gonna try to get him back.”
“He’s my dad,” I reply, in what amounts to a pathetic whisper. “I can’t not. He’s still alive.” Alive, if not happy, as evidenced by the blood that still drips down my arms. One more day. One more day to finish things.
“And all I’m saying is that maybe you shouldn’t try to stop Mullane, maybe we should push him over the edge.”
Listen to your cousin, dad said. I don’t think he meant like this. Not in all things. Not now.
But he also knew what he was doing, and I’ve set his plan to burning, so perhaps I don’t know what my dad would mean at all. I swallow past the thick lump in my throat.
“Finn…”
“I know,” he says. He’s got his own things, his own hurt behind his eyes. “I know. But listen, this isn’t going to end. This isn’t going to stop as long as it’s still… as long as there’s still a grudge. Mullane wants your dad — he wants revenge. He wants it finished. Right now he’s dragging it out to make it worse, but we know where this goes.”
“Finn.”
“All I’m saying is maybe this isn’t going to stop until it is finished. So maybe we should push him into it, and then maybe we should burn him the hell down. When we know this shit is over.”
A throbbing behind my head that won’t stop, won’t go away. A hurt in my stomach, in my chest, an ache right down to my toes. “I’m not going to push Mullane into — into killing my dad, Finn. I’m not doing that. You can’t mean to do that.”
“It’s all I’m saying.” His voice nearly cracks. Nearly. I think it might again. I think his eyes have started to look a little shiny. “Curses, we don’t know shit about curses. We’re trying to think in circles around it but that’s not working. So maybe this doesn’t end until things are settled. Maybe there’s no getting around it.”
“So we’re going to get my dad killed.”
“He’s my uncle!” Now his voice does crack, stumbling over the words. “I grew up with him. He held me, he taught me how to shoot, he let me into his house, he’s my family too! He’s more dad to me than the one I’ve got. I know.”
“I don’t think you do!”
“I don’t want you to die! I don’t want Rian to die, or Cillian, or my mom, or the baby that’s coming—” Finn presses a hand over his mouth like he’s afraid of what’s going to come out, of everything building up inside.
I understand a little of that.
“Your mom’s going to have a baby,” I half-whisper.
“We just found out. But maybe not, maybe if this keeps on. And as long as it does we’re dropping like flies, it’s not going to stop. I don’t know another way to end it.”
“We kill Connor Mullane.” stop talking please stop please leave
“It might keep going.”
“I’m not—”
“I just wanted you to think about it. That’s all.”

There are a pile of newspaper clippings in a drawer of my dad’s desk. I spread them out on the wood, hoping to find some enlightenment, but all I come out with are words about a death. A murder. A mystery. A reminder that my father killed a man, on what looks like an angry whim. I don’t remember if he ever gave a reason.
An hour after Finn leaves the room I rush to the sink and vomit until I’ve got nothing in my stomach. I slump onto the tile floor, pressing my cheek against the coolness of it. My body shakes. My head pounds. I squeeze my eyes shut and focus on the colors that dart behind my eyelids. They’re soft and comforting and better than the sounds around me.
I want to sink into the floor until there’s nothing left of me. I want to scratch at my skin until the bleeding stops.
Do something.
Someone dies either way.
Before I know it my shoulders shake and refuse to stop.

“DON’T!”
A shriek.
I jerk my head up with effort. The side of my face itches where blood has crusted and dried, glued me to the pillow.
Silence greets me.
Pounding, ringing silence.
I sit up with effort and scrape a hand across my face. The back of my throat tastes metallic. The urge to gag rises again. My heart throbs, louder than the dark, shaking my whole body. A tangle of nightmares had me a second ago, full of screams. I hold my breath until I can hear the house around me.
Rattling pipes. Humming electricity. The city outside my locked window. Creaks and groans of wood settling.
THUMP
The walls rattle and I jump, sparks of electricity and ice running up and down my insides, playing along the hairs on the back of my neck. Could be someone dropping something downstairs. Could be someone missing a stair on their way down.
Could be a number of things. Feels much worse. And it’s… too quiet.
I listen for the sounds of my Aunt Katherine pacing downstairs, the way she has since Casey, and come up with nothing. Just the house creaking, and maybe, if I listen, footsteps coming up the stairs. Slowly.
I roll out of bed and find the heavy pistol my father gave me under the pillow. My hand closes clumsily around the handle.
You aim for the eyes, always right between the eyes. You don’t give them another chance. You don’t let them come back.
I move for the door —
It swings inward —
A hard wood edge catches me on the jaw. Sparks fly across my vision. I taste blood again, hot and thick. Someone scuffles and —
I strike outward and —
A hand catches a fistful of my hair and yanks. More sparks, more hurt, so much I shut my eyes and try not to cry out against it, but even if I wanted to another hand closes over my mouth, cloying and thick, firm against my efforts. I try to flail and catch nothing, just more dragging, just someone’s ragged breathing
he yanks on my hair again and i can’t fight back i can’t i’ve still got the gun but i can’t do anything
I’m a child’s doll being dragged across the floor, out of the room. Hot fat tears sting the corners of my eyes.
scream scream for help thoughts are a scramble, a blur, we’re at the stairs now, trying to keep my balance, trying to stand on my own but his grip on me is firm as he shoves me down —
I strike back. Drive my elbow into his gut as hard as I can. Not very hard, but his hand flies off my mouth, his grip wavers, I twist and wiggle and with tearing at my scalp his grip is gone —
Go go go go
Shit,” he hisses.
I move forward and my leg tangles around his, pitching me forward, down the rest of the stairs. I land clumsily at an angle. His footsteps pound the rest of the way down after me. Panic and hurt and
You still have the gun.
When I was younger Dad made me shoot until my finger was sore. He made me hit every target. He took me by the shoulders and told me that knowing would make the difference, that having the feel for a pistol too heavy for me would save my life, that I should be able to shoot with my eyes closed, shoot in the dark.
I have no aim now. No moment to breathe out and steady myself and stand upright. But I have some sort of instinct that helps me to twist around.
BANG
Deafening in the small space —
The man yowls and crashes down the last few steps. I scramble to my feet. He’s cursing and pressing a hand to his ribs. All I can see of him is clumsy figure, face pale in the dark, broad shoulders, a hat.
“Kinney!” someone shouts. “The hell—ah, dammit.”
We aren’t alone in the house. Someone is in a twisted heap on the floor, and in the dim light I can see a puddle near them, dark and slick. There are others, too. People in our house and the smell of unfamiliar cigarettes and —
My mother is a terrified figure being held by someone else and I can hear her sobbing breaths. My throat closes up.
Something like this happens and you run. You run like hell, Áine, you get out of there, you go for help. You go find your uncle, one of the guys, you find someone, you don’t waste time.
I fumble with the door until it opens. Someone shouts behind me, but they’re reeling from the shot I fired and I’ve got something supernatural behind me, an energy I don’t know I had, bloody hands and heavy pistol and all. The hot night air closes around me and it’s wetness on my bare feet, summer air in my lungs, shadows and moonlight and scrambling over the gate until I hit the street.
I run like hell.

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4 Comments

  1. This story never lets you catch your breath.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get worse...IT GETS WORSE. (And by that I mean even better.)

    I'M SO SCARED FOR EVERYONE!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Am I the only one who thought maybe it was the reporter dude who was creeping up the stairs??? (I can't remember his name because my brain is legitimately fried right now)

    AIMEE THIS IS...SO UNFAIR!! HOW CAN YOU LEAVE US THERE? THIS IS TOO MAGNIFICENT TO JUST DROP OFF AT SUCH A LOVELY PART...

    ReplyDelete

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