THINGS THAT GO BANG IN THE NIGHT
The boy would be famous around the world one day, but there was no way he could imagine that now. What little kid could predict the future, or begin to understand it? Seven year-old Ned Sinclair reached out in the darkness, his hand blindly feeling for the wall as he stepped outside his bedroom. He didn't dare turn on a light in the hall. He didn't dare make a sound. Not even a peep. Not yet.
Slowly, Ned tiptoed down the long, narrow hallway, the chill of the hardwood floor in the dead of an Albany winter reaching right up through his footed Superman pajamas. He was shaking, ice cold, his teeth on the verge of chattering.
Searching for the railing at the top of the stairs, Ned's arm waved back and forth like a delicate branch caught in the wind. He felt nothing... still nothing... then — yes, there it was — the smooth curve of the lacquered pine against his fingertips.
He gripped the railing, white-knuckled, all the way down to the first floor, one quiet step at a time.
Earlier that day, Ned almost forgot how terrified he was of the night. His big sister, Nora, had taken him to see the new movie in town, a sequel, Back to the Future Part II. He'd been too young to see the original four years earlier.
Sitting in the dark theater with a big bucket of buttered popcorn in his lap and an RC Cola, Ned was completely and wonderfully transfixed by the film, especially that DeLorean car.
If only I could travel through time, he wished afterward. I don't want to be here anymore. I don't like it here.
He wouldn't care where he went, just so long as it was away from his house — and the terrible bogeyman who haunted it late at night. He and Nora would make their great escape and live happily ever after. A new town. A new house. And in the garden of the new house? Nothing but yellow lilies, Nora's favorite.
He loved his sister so much. Whenever the other kids on the block made fun of his stutter — Ne-Ne-Ne-Ned, they would cruelly tease — Nora always stood up for him. She had even fought for him. Nora was as tough as any boy. Maybe wherever they went it would be okay to marry your sister.
But for now, he was still stuck in his house. A prisoner. Trapped. Lying awake each horrible night waiting for the sound he prayed would never come... but always did.
Always, always, always.
Ned turned right at the bottom of the stairs, his hands still guiding him in the darkness as he made his way through the dining room and den, covered in beige shag carpeting, before stopping at the door to his father's library, where he wasn't allowed inside, not ever.
He froze as the baseboard heating gurgled and then clanked a few times, as if it were being hit hard and fast with a hammer. The noise was followed by the sound of a river of water rushing through the old, rusty pipes. But nothing more than that. There were no other footsteps, no voices in the house. Just his own heart pounding madly against his chest.
Go back to bed. You can't fight the bogeyman now. Maybe when you're bigger. Please, please, please, go back to bed.
Except Ned no longer wanted to listen to that voice inside his head. There was another voice talking to him now, a much stronger one. Bolder. Fearless. It told him to keep going. Don't be afraid! Don't be a scaredy-cat!
Ned walked into the library. By the window was a mahogany desk. It was lit by the hazy glow of a small electric clock, the kind with those flip-style numbers that turned like those on an old-fashioned scoreboard.
The desk was big, too big for the room. It had three large drawers on the left side of the base.
The only drawer that mattered, though, was the bottom one. It was always kept locked.
Reaching across the desk with both hands, Ned gripped an old coffee mug that was used to hold pencils and pens, erasers and paper clips. After a deep breath, almost as if he were counting to three, he lifted up the mug.
There it was. The key. Just as he'd found it weeks before. Because curious seven-year-old boys can find most anything, especially when they're not supposed to.
Ned took the key in his hand, pinching it between his thumb and forefinger before easing it into the lock on the bottom drawer.
He gave the key a slight twist clockwise until he heard the sound. Click!
Then, ever so carefully, slowly, so as not to make a sound, Ned pulled open the drawer.
And took out the gun.
Olivia Sinclair shot up in bed so fast it made her a little dizzy. Her first thought was that the heat had come on, that god-awful clanking noise from the pipes that would practically shake the house.
But that's why she always wore the wax earplugs when she went to bed, so she could sleep through it all. The earplugs always worked, too. Not once did she remember waking up in the middle of the night.
If that noise wasn't the heat and the pipes, what was it? It had to be something.
Olivia turned to her left to see the time. The clock on the nightstand said 12:20 a.m.
She turned to her right to see the empty pillow next to her. She was alone.
Olivia took out her earplugs and swung her legs off the bed, her bare feet quickly finding her slippers nearby. The second she flipped on the light, she was jolted by another noise. This one she recognized instantly. It was a horrible scream, just awful.
Bursting out of the bedroom, Olivia sprinted down the long, narrow hallway toward her daughter's bedroom, where the light was on.
When she turned the corner at the doorway, she felt worse than dizzy. She felt sick to her stomach.
There was blood everywhere. On the floor. On the bed. Splattered on the pink-painted wall between posters of Debbie Gibson and Duran Duran.
Olivia's eyes pinballed around the rest of the room. She took in a breath. The smell of the gunshots was still thick in the air. In one quick and utterly horrifying moment, she realized what had happened.
And what had been happening for more than a year.
Oh, my God! My daughter! My sweet and innocent daughter!
Nora sat curled up in the tiniest ball by the headboard of her bed. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her knees. She was naked. She was crying. She was looking at her brother.
Across the room in the corner, Ned, pale as the winter's snow outside, was standing frozen like a statue in his Superman pajamas. He couldn't even blink.
For a second, Olivia stood frozen, too. The next second, though, it was as if she'd suddenly remembered who she was. These were her children.
She was their mother.
Olivia rushed over to Ned and kneeled down to hug him, her arms squeezing him tight against her chest. He started to mumble something, repeating it over and over and over. "The bogeyman," it sounded like.
"Shh," Olivia whispered in his ear. "Everything's okay. Everything's okay, honey."
Then, very carefully, she took the gun out of his hand.
Slowly, she walked over to the door, looking back one more time at the room. Her daughter. Her son.
And the "bogeyman" lying dead on the floor.
Moments later, she picked up the phone in the hallway. She stood there holding the receiver for a long moment, then she dialed.
"My name is Olivia Sinclair," she told the 911 operator. "I just killed my husband."
From Second Honeymoon by James Patterson and Howard Roughan. Copyright 2013 by James Patterson. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.