Chapter 24

Emma was cowered in the corner of her room, strangling one of her stuffed animals against her chest. She was sobbing, and when she saw me she screamed.

I hurried to her, lowering myself to my knees, taking her into an embrace.

“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.”

Out in the hallway Cashman shouted, then started banging on the door. With each bang Emma screamed again and again.

“Shh, listen to me.” I held her tight, whispered into her ear. “We’re going to get out of this, okay? Everything will be fine.”

Even now I don’t know why I lied to her like that. I guess it was just my job as an older brother to tell her what she needed to hear.

Cashman, having come to the conclusion he wasn’t going to kick the door down, began shooting at the lock.

Emma screamed and screamed.

“Listen to me,” I said, holding her tight. “We’re trapped in here. We need to get out.”

“No, no, no,” she whimpered, her faced pressed against my chest. “Mommy and daddy, they’re … ”

But she couldn’t say the word, as if by voicing the word it would mean they were actually dead.

Cashman kept firing at the lock. This side of the door was starting to splinter.

I shook my sister hard, growled into her face, “Shut up and listen to me, okay?”

For a moment she went silent, staring back at me with wide eyes.

“I’m going to open that door. And when I do, I want you to run. I want you to go to the front door, unlock it, and run as fast as you can. Go to the Sunoco station three blocks down. You know the one I mean?”

She just stared back at me, unblinking. It might be easier to have her run to a neighbor’s, but there was no guarantee anybody would answer, and if they did, there was no guarantee they would answer in time.

“Emma, you have to do this,” I said, shaking her again, and whatever it was keeping that needle skipping in place on the record of her mind finally caught and the music began to play again.

She nodded.

I quickly stood and turned and walked toward the door, the door that Cashman had stopped shooting and was now kicking again. The wood was splintered and was about to give any second.

I strode up to it and gripped the broken knob, hoping it would still turn. It did and I opened the door.

Cashman was in the process of lifting his foot for another kick. He paused, glaring at me, and right then I felt what I’d been expecting — that familiar pinprick — and rushed him, wrapping my arms around his body and shoving him into the wall.

“Emma, go!”

Behind me I could hear her feet pattering across the floor, past us, and down the steps.

The silver ring was still glowing, making me invincible, but it wasn’t giving me superhuman strength. Cashman was able to push me off without trouble. He’d dropped his gun when I rushed him and now he grabbed it, rose to his feet, hurried toward the top of the stairs.

“No!” I shouted, jumping to my feet, running, and as Cashman took aim at my sister sprinting down the steps, I threw my entire weight into this rush and lifted off the ground, flying through the air, closing my eyes.

I hit him right as he pulled the trigger, his aim went wide again, and with my momentum I sent him stumbling toward the banister, the banister that wasn’t strong to begin with. It cracked, and he turned, began to raise his gun at me.

I rushed him one last time.

Giving it all I had now, my teeth clenched, I barreled into him.

The banister gave and we both fell over. We were weightless for only a second, nothing more, and then we hit the ground hard, Cashman on his back, me on top. Only I didn’t feel any pain, not with the silver ring still glowing.

I was only faintly aware that Emma had managed to unlock the front door, open it, and escape.

Below me, Cashman groaned, mumbled a curse, and I stood, prepared to run for the open door.

I took only two steps when I stopped.

My sister had appeared in the doorway again, her face now pale.

“Emma?” I said, but it was needless. A moment later I saw the reason why.

Nancy, back to appearing like the old woman she wasn’t, was right behind my sister, the barrel of a shiny silver revolver aimed at Emma’s head.

Behind me, Cashman finally got to his feet. He had quit groaning and was now laughing.

“About fucking time, Mom,” he said. “What took you so long?”

<<< >>>