Chapter 23

Mallory disconnected the call — had he been on a landline, he no doubt would have slammed it — and I slowly glanced back up to see my parents and sister and Officer Titus.

Only the man standing beside my father wasn’t Officer Titus.

It said, “Uh-oh,” and then its eyes rolled back in its head, its skin began to change color, hair began to grow on its chin, and seconds later Cashman was grinning back at me. “Surprised?”

Dad, having witnessed the transformation, said, “What the — ”

Cashman pulled out a gun, aimed it my dad’s head, and pulled the trigger.

Both my mom and sister screamed at the same moment, their shrill cries almost drowning out the gunshot.

As Dad fell to the ground, blood gushing everywhere, Cashman said to me, “That was for fucking up my truck.”

He shifted his arm so the gun was now aimed at my mom, pulled the trigger again.

“And that was just for fun.”

The phone was still in my hand, now doing its monotonic beeping. It was on a cord but it was a long cord and I threw it right at Cashman’s head, shouting, “Emma, run!”

The cord wasn’t long enough and Cashman should have known but he still flinched, moving the gun and firing but the aim was wide, taking out a cabinet door, and Emma managed to sprint past him.

A vase of roses was on the kitchen table, something that hadn’t been there earlier this morning and which I was certain my dad had purchased out of guilt. I picked it up, chucked it at Cashman, just as he fired at me.

In the confusion I don’t know if I felt the familiar pinprick or if the ring was now glowing; I just ran forward, right into him, knocking him down. Out into the hallway where Emma was trying to unlock the door but having trouble keeping her hands steady, tears falling down her face, her chest heaving.

“Emma, hurry!”

She immediately turned and sprinted up the stairs.

I glanced back in time to see Cashman getting to his feet, trying to take aim, and I started climbing the stairs too.

When she reached the top Emma kept running, went straight for her room, slammed the door shut. She even locked it and I had to bang on it, shout for her to let me in. Cashman fired below, three consecutive gunshots. I didn’t know what he hit. But I could hear him, his heavy feet on the steps hurrying toward us.

“Emma, please!”

Cashman, his feet pounding the stairs, almost to the top.

“Open up!”

I glanced back and saw the top of his bald head, then his eyes, then his grinning mouth, and then his gun as he raised it.

Turning back, I banged on the door once more, and this time I became aware of the sudden pinprick and the next thing I knew I was taking a step forward through the door just as a bullet pierced the spot right where my head had been.

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