Frank Silic knew his son was bad, but not in any evil or unnatural sense. Had that been the case, he would have surrendered Jordan to the system, sent him to the shrinks and the juvenile prisons and all the rest of it. But Jordan reminded him too much of himself for him to believe that. Frank had been an angry boy, too, and sometimes he’d been mad enough to want to kill human beings, let alone dogs. He’d never done it, but it was the same thing, wanting it that bad, and the only way to keep a boy like that in line was to beat him good and hard. If it weren’t for the beatings he himself suffered as a boy, Frank was certain he’d have gone down different roads in life, darker ones and dangerous ones, and he wasn’t going to let that happen to Jordan, not if he had to break his arms.
The house was quiet when he came home from work, which was odd. Usually Dina would have started dinner by now, there’d be pans and pots boiling on the stove and the radio would be on, and her high pitched, off key voice would be sailing out the window. But the kitchen windows were dark and silent, today.
Feeling uneasy, he pushed open the front door and called out his wife’s name. The house was dim, not a light on anywhere, and there was no reply. He closed the door behind him and stood for a few moments in the house. Her car was here, so either she was out walking at this hour – which was a very un-Dina like activity in the first place – or… what? Jordan was probably still up in his room with plaster casts on his arms. The doctor hadn’t given Frank so much as a second glance when he told him his son had got in a bad fight. That was becoming a lot more common in Westlake these days.
His shoes echoing on the tiles, Frank walked slowly through the house, turning on lights. ‘Jordan? Where’s your mother?’ He ducked into the sitting room and saw everything in place, perfectly clean. Wherever she was now, Dina had been busy earlier. The house looked spotless. The hallways and kitchen were mopped, the laundry and bathroom shining.
Jordan wasn’t in his room, nor anywhere else in the house. ‘Where the hell are you, boy?’ he grumbled, thumping back down the stairs. Maybe she’d taken him out somewhere and bought him something to compensate for the punishment he’d received. Typical of Dina to undermine his authority. No wonder the kid was growing up so messed up, every punishment he got was followed by a reward. Frank headed to the garage, the only room in the house he hadn’t checked, although he didn’t expect to find them there.
The adjoining door was in the hall at the bottom of the stairs, a creaky wooden thing that always took a few hard shoves to get open. Frank got it open on the second and flipped the light switch on the right of the door. The fluorescent light bulb flickered twice, and in those moments the scene in the garage was illuminated, flashes of horror that froze him to the spot. Flash – Dina, dangling with her hands tied to one of the rafters overhead, unconscious, face bloody. Flash – gardening implements, power tools, knives, screwdrivers and saws in a haphazard array spread over the roof and bonnet of the corvette Frank had been tinkering with for the past five years – his baby.
Then the light came on completely and he saw it all at once, and now Dina was blinking, her head rising to look at him, face beaten worse than anything he’d ever done to her, which was saying something. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot, and when she saw him standing there they filled with total fear, as if he’d done it to her.
He opened his mouth, not sure what the hell he was going to say, when she screamed: ‘Frank he’s in the broom cupboard!’ and then his eyes went black for a split second and he was on the concrete floor, both arms in front of his face.
He rolled over and saw Jordan standing in the doorway, the door of the broom cupboard just across the hall swinging open on a broken hinge. His son was grinning wide enough to stretch the skin all over his face and show narrow teeth, spaced too far apart and jammed in dry gums. He’d lost the plaster casts, but his arms weren’t exactly healed – when he lifted the hammer he was holding to rest it on his shoulder a shard of bone shot through an open wound in his elbow, dripping black blood.
Frank scrambled backwards until he ran into the car and then pulled himself to his feet. He kept his eyes on Jordan, which was hard enough the way the world was swimming in front of him, but Jordan didn’t move and a moment later he had his hands on a hatchet that was leaning against the car’s windscreen – the same one that Jordan had killed the dog with, in fact.
‘Hey, Dad,’ Jordan said. He stepped into the garage and shut the door behind him. Frank struggled to concentrate. Why did Jordan look so strange? He looked huge, ropy black veins coiling all over his body like snakes. His eyes bulged out of his head.
‘I’m gonna kill you,’ Frank said thickly, aware of warm blood spilling down the back of his neck.
Jordan didn’t say anything, but Dina had enough voice for all of them, and she began to scream in her high pitched, off key tenor with everything she had, and at that moment Frank could have kissed her. ‘Hellllllp us someone pleassseeese!’
Jordan had moved from the doorway, and before the first word was out of Dina’s mouth he’d sunk a large fist into his father’s midsection. The world shrank to a pinpoint instantly and Frank was on a ball on the floor, breathless. He’d never been hit that hard in his whole life, not by anyone. The hatchet was loose in one hand, but he forced himself to hold on. Dina’s scream whined in both ears: ‘Pleeeeeeeeaaaa – ’ And then it cut off, though Frank’s ears continued to ring in the silence.
A ropy, impossibly hard forearm curled around his neck and squeezed, and less than a minute later the last pinprick of light in Frank’s eye winked out.