The house was empty. He had listened to the last of the group leave and had waited several minutes to ensure that none had remained.
The main group had gone to see where the smoke was coming from. He had set a smouldering fire some days ago, a slow burner that would catch in stages. Onto the fire, he had placed green wood which would dry out before burning properly. On top of this, he had placed damp leaves; they too would eventually succumb to the flames. The result of all of this would be a very smoky blaze that would reach out into the sky in the evening’s dusk.
The man had known that they would not leave the boy all alone. He was their talisman, a tenuous final grip on their salvation, a grip that he would loosened and sever. Hope would be satisfied. Hope would be eternal. But first, he had the two women to deal with.
The young one would be easy. She was naive and he read in her the fragility of faith. At one time or another, she had come to a crossroads and had made a choice. Instead of coming to his master, she had gone to them. A mistake that would cost her. This one was in the kitchen. He could hear the sound of running water and he guessed that she was washing up the plates from their meal. The older woman was different.
He had followed her steps for quite some time and they had faded away. He had heard a door open but could not be sure where in the house it had been. He had waited for the sound of her to return yet nothing came. He was sure that she had left; sure.
At last, he made his move. Adept at such things, he was certain that none could hear him. There was not the tiniest of creaks to raise alarm as he made his way to the boy’s bedroom. The faintest of smiles alit upon him in acknowledgement of his imminent victory. He knew that the boy would be helpless; his body immobilised by his adroit surgery. The man who had once been known as Deputy Chief Constable Smith entered the room and viewed his subject.
Is this all they have? He smirked to himself. A boy with half of his skull caved in? Even without his intervention, the boy would have died. Now he would have his soul as well as his victory. He was about to enter the room when a noise distracted him. He could not be sure, but he thought that a bedroom door had inched open. In the dimness of the early evening he noticed that the furthest bedroom had its door ajar. The boy would have to wait.