One and a half years later
Corey huddled on her bed, arms wrapped tightly around her teddy bear, face buried in the bear’s fur. Outside, the summer heat was stifling, even at night. The moon was bright as it neared the midnight hour and a gentle breeze wafted through Corey’s bedroom.
It was late, but Helen was still awake, still waiting for Andy to get home, even though she knew he was likely going to yell at and hit her again. Andy had lost his job six months before and, now with their finances in chaos, he had been getting drunk almost every night since. Drinking made him violent and Corey knew Helen only put herself in his way so he wouldn’t hurt their daughter. Corey only wished Helen would take her and run. Andy was starting to really scare her.
A door slammed and Corey shuddered. She hurriedly got under the covers and pulled them over her head, still hugging her teddy bear tightly.
“Get out of my way,” a drunk Andy said, his words slurring and hardly coherent.
“Andy, she’s sleeping,” Helen said, her voice full of panic.
“Get out of my way,” Andy said again, his voice closer this time.
“Andy, please,” Helen pleaded.
Corey heard flesh hit flesh before something heavy fell against a wall accompanied by a deep groan. She drew in a deep breath and held it as she heard Andy start his nightly abuse, this time physical. Tears welled in her eyes. Helen was trying to protect her, but at a high price. Corey only prayed Andy wouldn’t be sending his wife to the hospital again.
“Andy, don’t do this,” Helen pleaded weakly.
“You can’t tell me what to do,” Andy said, his voice harsh.
Corey shivered under the covers, not even noticing the heat. They didn’t have any money for the electric bill, so there was no air conditioning. She squeezed her teddy bear tighter and dried her tears against the soft fur.
“Please,” Helen pled, her voice sounding weaker, pained.
Corey heard another heavy thunk as flesh hit flesh. It was followed by a heavy thud and then silence filled the house. Corey held her breath, expecting to hear something else. But the house remained silent. Slowly she breathed in deeply and released each breath, letting her tension seep from her body with every exhale. She hoped her mother was okay and that she would just find her parents sleeping in the hallway in the morning, as she had before. Tightly closing her eyes, she willed herself to sleep.
Morning came too quickly for Corey, but she knew she had only slept for six hours, having fallen asleep after midnight. Sunlight streamed into her room as she popped her head out from under the covers. She stretched as she welcomed the morning and gave her teddy bear a kiss before hopping out of bed. She put her slippers on and shuffled over to the door.
Please let everything be okay, she thought as she put her hand on the door knob. Helen will be in bed and Andy will be sleeping on the floor.
Corey turned the knob and pulled the door open. Casting one last look at her teddy bear half under the bed covers, she walked out of her room and turned to head down the hall.
The sight of two bloodied bodies stopped her. She blinked at the man and woman lying there, eyes wide open. Helen had a pool of blood under her head, her face frozen in a mask of horror, but otherwise looked unmarked. Andy, on the other hand, looked the same as her biological parents had when they had been murdered.
Corey pursed her lips, realizing Andy had probably accidentally killed his wife and he had been killed by whatever had killed her parents, classmates, and teacher. She cast a sad look at the bodies, feeling a pang in her heart. Helen and Andy had been great parents for the past four years. She was sad they were gone, and wondered what was going to happen to her this time. Would she be adopted again? Would anyone want to adopt her now that she’d lost two sets of parents?
She didn’t know what was going to happen to her, but she knew what she had to do. Walking back into her bedroom, she headed for her nightstand and pulled open the drawer. Leaning over, she rifled through her collection of papers, seashells, and rocks. Finally, she found Detective Skylar Adams’ card.
Clasping the card tightly in her small fingers, she left her room and headed downstairs. She reached for the phone sitting on the kitchen counter, the thing Helen had called a disposable cell phone, and fumbled with it for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to use it. Finally flipping it open to the number pad, she quickly punched in the detective’s number.
“Detective Adams,” a male voice said.
“Hello, Detective Adams,” Corey said primly. “This is Corey Fallon Marks.”
“Corey,” he repeated, and she could sense she had gotten his full attention. “What can I do for you? Are you doing okay?”
“Detective,” Corey said, “you need to come to my house right away.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Please come to my house right away. The address is 118 Dashwood Road.”
“Corey, wait,” Skylar said, but he was cut off as Corey hung up the phone.
Putting the phone away, Corey turned and headed back upstairs. She stepped around the bodies and went into her bedroom to retrieve her teddy bear. Hugging the bear close, she headed back down the stairs to wait for the detective. She settled herself on the couch, wondering where her parents kept the remote control for the TV. After a few minutes of scanning the room, she finally gave up and waited patiently for the police to arrive.
Fifteen minutes passed before banging woke her from her reverie. She looked up sharply and realized someone was knocking on the door. Quickly, she hopped off of the couch and shuffled over to the front door. Still holding her teddy bear close, she turned the knob and pulled the door open.
Almost immediately, Detective Adams and several officers swept into the house. The detective knelt down before Corey. He looked about the same to Corey, with the same brown hair and light brown eyes, but there were more lines on his face.
“Corey, what happened? Where are your parents?”
Wordlessly, Corey turned towards the stairs and pointed upwards. With a motion, Skylar indicated two officers should go upstairs. After leaving Corey in the care of a male officer, he followed the other two up the stairs. Corey looked up at the tall officer and he smiled down at her.
“Want to go sit down?” he asked pleasantly.
Corey nodded and took his hand. She led him into the living room and then settled herself on the couch. She perched her teddy bear on her knees, then patted the cushion beside her own. A little awkwardly, the officer sat beside her, turning to look over his shoulder to where the other officers were milling.
Several minutes later, Skylar headed back down the stairs and over to Corey and the officer. His face was grim and he was peeling off some gloves. He knelt in front of Corey as the officer rose and was instructed to gather evidence. Gently, Skylar took Corey’s hands and warmed them with his own.
“Corey, I need you to tell me what happened,” he said seriously.
“I don’t know what happened,” Corey said, her eyes wide and unblinking.
“What do you know?”
Corey shrugged. “I was in bed when Andy got home.” She hesitated. “Andy lost his job six months ago. He started drinking a lot and has been coming home to verbally or physically abuse Helen.”
Skylar drew in a deep breath and rose up in order to sit next to the little girl. “Corey, this is very serious. You’re only eight. How do you know words like that?”
Corey shrugged, lifting one shoulder. She gazed down at her teddy bear and played around with one arm. “I don’t know,” she finally whispered. “But I know Helen was only trying to protect me. Last night, Andy came home at around midnight. I was still awake. He started heading for my bedroom, but Helen stopped him. I think he hit her and killed her. Then I heard another thud and then the house was silent. I thought everything was okay, so I went to sleep. When I woke up and left my room, I found both of them lying in the hall.”
Skylar took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair and over his face. Corey stared up at him, her head tilted to the side.
“What happens to me now?” Corey asked.
“I don’t know, Corey,” he said honestly. “With your history and your age, I don’t know how likely it will be that you’ll be adopted again.”
Corey scooted closer to him, her eyes still trained on him. “Do you have any kids, Skylar?”
He gave her a startled look. “No. But I know my wife wants kids,” he said, realization dawning on him. “I’m not sure how easy it will be for me to adopt you, but I know my wife would love you. It’ll also give me the opportunity to watch out for you. Corey, I need to do something about all these deaths. I think maybe you can help me, and I can take care of you.”
She gave him a shy smile. “What’s your wife’s name?”
Corey’s smile widened. “I want you to be my new father. Will you adopt me?”
With a lopsided smile, he put an arm around her. “It won’t be easy and I’ll have to talk to Dimitra, but I hope so.”
“Will it be soon?”
“As soon as we can make it, okay?”
With a satisfied smile, Corey nodded. For the first time, she felt like she had finally found a home, a family.
“Would you like to see Helen and Andy one more time before we take them away?” he asked gently.
Silently, Corey shook her head. “I loved Helen and Andy. They were wonderful parents. But I don’t want to see them like that again. I don’t need to see another set of dead parents.”
Skylar drew in a deep breath and rose to his feet. Just as he was turning away, Corey grabbed part of his coat, making him stop and turn.
“Are you going to regret adopting me because two sets of parents have died on me?” she asked, eyes large and scared.
Smiling gently, Skylar knelt down on one knee. “No, sweetheart. I don’t think so. Besides, having you as my daughter will help me take care of you and make sure you’re okay.”
“But who will take care of you?”
“I can take care of myself. Now. I’m going to go take care of the scene and then we’ll take care of you, okay?”
Reluctantly, Corey let go of his coat and nodded. Smiling, Skylar ruffled her still messy hair and walked off. Corey bit her lip and hugged her teddy bear, resting her cheek on top of the bear’s head. She hoped everything would be okay and that no one else was going to die. She wasn’t sure how many more deaths she could handle. It was getting tiring to have so many bodies popping up all around her. She just hoped it would all stop as soon as she was adopted by Skylar and Dimitra Adams.