The sound falls from your lips before you can stop it as you stand there, frozen still as if your blood had turned to ice. It’s as if everything else has gone silent around you as you stare at the man in front of you.
You thought he was dead, but there he is, right in front of you on the street, smiling at you as if nothing happened, as if this wasn’t the first time you’d seen him in eight years.
He looks almost the same. Older, more bedraggled and tired, but you would recognize him anywhere. His eyes haven’t left you, his gaze hungrily drinking you in. If you didn’t know better, you’d almost think he was sad, even regretful. For a second, you’re a seven-year-old girl again, living in a world of pink, with no knowledge of what the man downstairs was capable of.
Your leg stings as you pinch yourself, making certain you’re not dreaming. If it was a dream, you honestly wouldn’t be surprised. So many of your nights have been haunted by this man, the man who was your father.
You know that you shouldn’t be surprised. A part of you has been expecting something like this to happen, for the last eight years. It’s not like he hasn’t sent clues. The random gifts arriving on your doorstep, always in pink, your favorite color. The new bike, the sketchbooks. The birthday card arriving in the mail every single year. The message is drilled into your brain, the words haunted you every night.
My dearest Dorothy,
I wish you a happy birthday. Another year has passed. Believe me, if I could, I would be there for you.
The signature was always blank, but a few drops of ink stained the bottom of the page, as if he had moved to sign it, but then thought better of it.
You would always pretend it was someone else. Maybe it was Uncle Fred or Mom’s friend Georgia that you met one year. But deep down, you knew who it was from. Your father. The murderer.
Someone shoves roughly past you unfreezing you from where you’ve been standing for the past few minutes. Surprisingly, no one has noticed the teenage girl frozen in place on the sidewalk, staring at a man with horror etched on her face. You desperately wish someone would tap your shoulder, asking if the man is bothering you, but no one does. He takes a step forward, his lips parting as if to say something and you stumble backward, fear coursing through your veins.
And then you’re running, sprinting down the street. You were on the track team at school- you’re fast and you know it. Perhaps fast enough to outrun the crazed man chasing after you. Perhaps fast enough to run away from the past, from the whispers and glances that follows you after the news came out. Perhaps fast enough to run away from the memories.
But he’s faster.
Fast enough for his hand to latch onto your arm, pulling you into his chest, even as you struggle to get away. He smells of smoke and laundry detergent as he yanks you into the alleyway, his hand clenched over your mouth so you have no chance of calling for help. The embrace, no matter how awkward and uncomfortable it is, no matter how your heart beats frantically in your chest as you picture his knife driving between your ribs, it’s familiar. Almost too familiar. A part of you wants to sink into the warm arms, pretend that you’re seven again, but the rational part of you kicks in and you shove him away, stumbling backward.
“Get away from me,” you rasp, pretending not to see the hurt expression on his face.
“Dorothy-” he starts.
“This is impossible,” you manage to stammer out. “You’re dead.” But you know you’re being irrational. There is a living, breathing man in front of you.
“I assure you, Dorothy, I’m not.” He nears hesitantly and you lift your chin, staring him in the eyes. A part of you urges you to run, but another part sparks with strange curiosity, a wonder. You haven’t seen him in so long, you had started to wonder if he even cared about you. He seemed to at least, but that was before the news broke out and he disappeared, presumably dead. But he’s not and he’s standing in front of you.
“I saw-” the memories rise to your mind. Dark scarlet blood pooled on the kitchen floor. A gleaming silver knife. They said he couldn't have survived- he had lost too much blood. How wrong they were. “Are you going to kill me?” You demand, crossing your arms over your chest to try to hide how they’re shaking. “Like you killed all the others?”
“Don’t tell me the stories got to your head,” he frowns down at you, his expression cold. You step back in alarm, your gaze traveling to the knife in his pocket.
“I don’t know what to think,” You say firmly, hoping he’ll take the hint and leave. It’s not like you haven’t seen the pictures of Isla Middleton, not his first victim, but his most famous. It’s not like you didn’t turn on the TV and watch as news channel after news channel reported the fascinating new case- the serial killer and the teen girl who killed him after he killed her mother. “I thought you were dead.”
Violet Middleton. Her name was plastered on every wall, her photo next to his. Missing, the flyers read. Violet Middleton, age 17, suspected for killing Henry Bowman, age 50. Contact the police with any information.
“You really thought a teenage could kill me?” he scoffs. “She barely could stab me, she was so scared.” For some reason, the way he says that makes disgust rise in your veins.
“I-I’m gonna go,” you mumble, starting to back away more.
He seems to realize he’s making matters worse because his voice softens. “Come with me, Dorothy.”
“W-what?” you stammer, shock thundering through your mind. “Y-you want me to-”
“I want you to come with me,” he repeats. “I know Jennifer’s gone and you’re all alone.”
“I-I’m not alone,” you mumble. “I’m at college and-”
“You didn’t think that what you did might affect me?” You shout. “They all knew that you were my father. Everyone did. You didn’t think I would get picked on for having a murderer for a father?” Pain flashes across his face but you press on. “You didn’t think everyone would hate me for what you did?” You’re seething with anger, the memories flashing through your mind. The notes shoved into your locker, the spray paint on the walls. Murderer. Freak.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers finally. “Dorothy, I didn’t know.”
Somehow, his words dissipate the growing anger inside of you. You slump against the wall, the fire going out inside you. “I was a kid,” you mutter. “I had no clue you even did anything. All I remembered was that you were my father. That you were nice and kind. I never thought you could-” you rub your hand over your face, “that you could kill someone.”
He almost looks apologetic, so much so that you almost regret what you say next. “You didn’t even love Mom, did you?”
He stares at you, his mouth open, hurt and shock flashing across his features.
You can’t help but let out a derisive laugh. “I don’t know how I even thought you could. You just wanted to kill her, add her name to the list you have.”
“That’s not true,” he whispers, but you know it is.
“While you lied to me, told me that I was the only one you cared about, you were trying to kill my mother. Let me guess, there are hundreds of other little girls and boys you told the same lie to. Told them that you cared about them, that you’d be a father to them,” you spit at him, not caring how the words sting.
“That was different,” he frowns. “It was never a lie to you. I love you, Dorothy. You’re my daughter. They aren’t.”
“So you admit it,” you say bitterly. “There were other children you pretended to love. Why should I believe you when you say you love me? Cause I’m your daughter? How do I know you aren’t lying?”
“Dorothy, I’m trying to help you,” he pleads.
“Trying to help me?” you spit at him. “Why would you do that? You’ve already ruined my life.”
“Because you’re my little girl. Believe me, I love you, no matter what you think.” The words send chills down your spine, the sound is so familiar. You can tell he means it, from the desperation on his face, the longing in his eyes. Then why do goosebumps prickle up your arms and a voice whispers in your mind, beware.
“Stay out of my life. You’re no father of mine.” You whirl around, sprinting down the street before he can grab you. You almost expect him to follow you, pull you back, but he doesn’t and you reach your house alone.
You lean against the wall, closing your eyes and breathing out slowly. Thoughts are tumbling around in your mind right now, moving too fast to make any sense. You sigh, heading toward your bedroom. You hope you won’t have to worry about him anymore, won’t have to see him ever again. As you reach the kitchen, the floorboards creak behind you and you spin around just in time to see something in the peripheral of your vision before everything goes dark.
You don’t know how much time has passed before you wake up. Light seeps in through tiny holes in the cloth bag pulled over your head. You take a breath, then regret it as you try not to gag as the iron tang of blood hits the back of your throat, along with the strong smell of dirt and manure.
You hear footsteps approaching and tense as the bag is pulled off from over your head. You squint as bright fluorescent light floods your vision and you struggle to throw up your hands to shield your eyes, but restraints dig into your wrists, holding you in place. As your eyes adjust slowly to the room, you notice you are in a warehouse of some sort, boxes piled in the corners. Whoever pulled off your hood is nowhere to be seen, even as you cran your neck, trying to see behind you. A figure steps into view from behind a pile of boxes, his face making your blood run hot and cold at the same time, anger, shock, and betrayal flooding through you.
“I didn’t want to do this the hard way,” your father says, holding his hands up in front of him. “But you left me with no choice.”
He reaches forward to caress your face but you recoil, anger and fear pulsing through your veins. You tense for a moment, waiting for him to pull out a gun or stab you, but he simply sighs, letting his hand drop. He walks to the back of the chair you’re tied to and pulls something gleaming out of his pocket. You close your eyes reflexively but open them again as the cold metal gently slides against your skin, cutting the restraints.
He pulls up a chair in front of you as you rub your wrists. “Violet, I-” The words make your stomach drop as the little voice in your head sings, told you so.
“Violet?” your voice is dangerously quiet. Violet Middleton, your brain whispers.
He seems to realize his mistake, an apology flitting over his face. “Dorothy, I-”
“Do you actually care about me?” Your voice is close to breaking. “Tell me the truth. What do you want from me?”
He sighs, rubbing his hand over his face. “I’m going to kill Violet.”
You gap at him. This was not what you expected him to say. “Why did you need me?”
“Because you’re going to help.”
“W-what?” you splutter. If it’s possible, you’re even more shocked than before. “I’m not a killer like you,” you spit at him.
“You should be mad at her!” he shouts. “She’s the one who destroyed everything.”
He stares at you, flabbergasted. “She made me leave you and your mother.”
Your breath catches in your throat as you stare at him. Does he actually care? Does he actually care about you?
“She even tried to kill me,” he continues. The heavy feeling in your stomach returns at his words. Of course not. He doesn’t actually care. He wants payback. He doesn’t actually care about you.
“She tried to kill you because you killed her mother.”
He scowls at you. “You’ve fallen for their lies, haven’t you?”
“Are they really lies?” You shoot back at him. “You did kill those people, didn’t you?”
He comes closer to you and you shrink back, suddenly afraid. “Listen, Dorothy,” he growls. “I don’t care what you think, but I-”
Your knee nails him in the face before he can move away. A crack echoes through the room and blood drips down his face as he groans. You don’t look back, don’t hesitate, just focus on sprinting toward the door. The heavy breathing behind you seems to grow closer and closer as you run. Down one hallway, through the next, left, right, left again. Your footsteps echo through the halls, your heart slamming against your rib cage, your lungs acing. Almost there, you think. Almost. You’re not going to let him make you into a killer. You’re going to escape.
At last, you stop, leaning against the wall, gasping for breath. You think you’ve lost him- there’s no sound in the hallway other than your breaths. You stand up to move when a cold hand clamps around your mouth. You try to scream and buckle off your captor but they are too strong. Your frantic struggling is quickly subdued and your screams only come out as muffled yelps.
“Really, Dorothy?” He hisses in your ear, his breath hot against your neck. He spins you around so you’re facing him. Blood is dripping from his nose, but it doesn’t stop him from digging his fingernails into your arm and yanking you with him, back through the hallways.
“I could kill you right now,” he rants, throwing you back into the chair. “It would be so easy to do so. But I care about you, Dorothy. You’re my daughter. You should be like me.”
“I’m not a murderer! I’m not going to kill an innocent person!”
“Innocent person?” He spits, coming closer to you. “She stabbed me!” He pulls up his shirt, revealing a puckered scar across his abdomen, the angry red skin stretched and scarred. It’s horrifying and you have to suppress the urge to look away.
He grabs a handful of your hair, pulling you to your feet. “You’re going to help me,” he hisses. “And we’re going to be together. Father and daughter.” He yanks you forward with him, his voice lowering. “And if you don’t,” he threatens. “Well, let’s just say it won’t end well for you.”
His words send chills down your spine. Would he really kill you? Or is he just bluffing? He is your father but he’s also a murderer. Who knows how many people he’s killed? What’s one more to him? At this point, you don’t know how much more your heart can take. But you know one thing for certain. You’re not going to die here today.
Your hand closes around the cold handle of the gun, pulling it out of his belt before you even realize it. He lets go of your shirt, letting out a nervous laugh.
“I’m leaving.” You are surprisingly calm, your hands barely shaking as you aim the gun at him.
There’s a strange glint in his eyes as he steps forward. “You can't. You’re just like me, Dorothy, whether you realize it or not.”
“No,” you whisper, your voice shaking. It can’t be true. You’re nothing like him.
“But you are,” he says. “I’m going to make you just like me.” Without warning, he lunges for you. You stumble backward, forgetting about the gun in your hand until it goes off.
Misted pink blood and clumps of hair spray across the concrete of the room as your father’s body slumps to the ground, a few inches from you, dark scarlet pooling on the floor.
This time, you know he’s dead for certain. You don’t cry, you don’t feel much of anything as you stare at the body, a horrid fascination sparking in your mind. Maybe you’re a monster, just like your father.