(Phil and Loren Eaton have turned their skilled hands to flash fiction over the years. I never had a suitable idea before. But here’s one. Copyright 2015 by Lars Walker.)
The killer whistled a Christmas carol as he rinsed the blood from the knife. The stuff ran thick and dark at first, but grew thinner and clearer until the stream of water out of the faucet ran pure. The knife wouldn’t stand up to forensic analysis, he knew, but only the victims’ blood was there. And in any case, he himself was above suspicion. Still, he liked to leave things as clean and orderly as possible. It was a personal quirk.
The remote location of this house had been perfect for his purposes. The couple had screamed long and loud – they had known who he was and why he was killing them, and he had not let them die quickly. But he was methodical about his work. Now only the child remained, but that was a routine job.
He climbed the stairs and entered the room where the child lay sprawled on a bed. Her eyes went wide when she saw him. “You!” she cried. “It’s you!”
He unbuckled the straps that secured her to the bed frame. Tenderly he lifted her in his arms. “It’s me,” he said. “It’s all right. I’ll take you to your parents; then I’ll have to get to work. Lots to do tonight.”
The child wept great sobs and buried her head in his shoulder. He didn’t try to quiet her. It was good for her to cry. She would have to cry a great deal, and would need to talk to someone. But she would not die. Tonight this child would not die.
“It’s all right,” he whispered. “Everything will be fine. But you need to promise me one thing.”
“Wh-what?” she asked, through her sobs.
“Never tell anyone who rescued you. The children must never know of this – only the ones I rescue, like you. For most children, this is the happiest night of the year. For you it will never be the same. I understand that. You’ll have to help me carry my burden, to save the night for the little ones.”
“I will,” said the girl, holding tight to his red coat. “Does that make me one of Santa’s helpers?”