The first time I saw someone die, it was by my father’s hands. I didn’t really expect it to be that way; I figured it would be at a hospital or at least a car accident, or something normal but it wasn’t. Because of this, it shook the way I saw death forever. Instead of being something about acceptance, it became something about suspicion. I never really trusted him. Every murder on TV was a possibility. I always wondered if my dad did it. It was cool, in a way, knowing that Dad could protect us, but then I realized he might do just the opposite. I didn’t know why he killed people. That question always plagued me. Why? I didn’t know why, and I was too scared to find out. I didn’t tell anyone, lest he find out and want to hurt me, as well. I didn’t know how far this went. If I had known the purpose, maybe I could have let it be. Anyway, like I said, the first time was by my father’s hands. It wasn’t a woman; it was a man. He looked to be middle-aged, late forties, early fifties. I didn’t know why, but he killed him… made it look like a suicide and left him there. He didn’t even hide the body. He just left him there. The whole time, I thought, “He’s gonna get caught. He’s gonna get caught.” And I just couldn’t stop thinking of how everything was gonna fall apart or when my mom was gonna find out. I wondered if he would kill her, too. Maybe he would let her go. I really hoped he would. I didn’t think he was a monster. There was no way he could be; he was a great dad. I thought about telling him about it almost every day, but I never did. Everything just brought me back to why. I didn’t even question the fact that I was standing there watching or the fact that this could have been going on for a lot longer. My mother might have known. He might have known I was there, but chose not to say anything. I just… I wanted to know why. Why my dad? What did I do to deserve this dad that’s just so messed up?
At night before bed, my thoughts would race, and I’d think about why he was doing it. I imagined him as a vigilante killer, like Dexter Morgan on that TV show, but he was not nearly as clean or well planned out or aloof. He seemed normal. We would sit down to dinner, we would laugh, watch Wheel of Fortune, do the same things a normal family does – talk about our days, eat spaghetti, and that’s it. I guess I never really found out how to trust my dad. Since he was living a double life, I just had to accept it. I had to live a double life, too. When he was at home, I couldn’t say anything. I had to tread so lightly on my words. If I didn’t, he would piece it together. I was terrified of that. If I slipped up, I imagined him sneaking into my room at night and taking me away. But I had to act like nothing was going on and nothing was wrong. My mother seemed pretty clueless so I figured she didn’t know, or else she was really good at hiding it. I was scared. I was more scared for him than of him. For some reason, the thought of him being family made me feel safer, like he wouldn’t hurt me because I was his son. That’s a pretty naïve thought, huh?
I don’t even know why I do this. I don’t know why I follow him. I’ve gotten so good at it. It’s been, what, 2 months now? I still don’t know how he hasn’t been caught. I mean, I’m sure I haven’t seen every murder – I – I don’t even know how many he’s killed. I don’t know where these people end up. I don’t know. There’s a lot of things I’m not sure about; I don’t think I’ll ever be sure about them, or at least his reasons for them. I made a list, though! I listed the possible reasons why he’s doing this. My reasons are:
- He’s a vigilante.
- He wants revenge for something.
- He’s being threatened.
- He has former ties to a crime group.
- I hate this one… he’s crazy.
I mean, I’ve seen it before… only on TV, but still. They’re normal, just like he is. He’s normal! He goes to work, he has a job, he has a car, he has a family, he works to put food on the table, and he’s a good man. He’s a good father. Apparently, he’s a good husband to my mom. They look happy. He comes to almost all of my games… how does he still find time to kill people? I don’t know. I don’t know.
We were sitting at the table on a Friday night in October. It was after one of my games. It was the only one he hadn’t gone to. We were silent, watching TV like we always did. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I dropped my fork. “Dad… why weren’t you at my game?” My mom looked pained. My dad just stared at me, his mouth full of food. He swallowed and then cleared his throat. I waited. “They called me – down at the hospital. Son, I wanted to be there. I promise,” he explained. I took his sincerity and threw it in the trash. It was immature, but I was upset. “It was the homecoming game, Dad!” My father looked down at the floor, obviously guilty. “I’m sorry, Scott. I promise I’ll come to the next one. I swear.” Words. Just words. I knew where he was – just where he’d been last week. He was killing again. But I couldn’t just say that; there were consequences to those words. I wasn’t curious enough to find out what they were, so I kept my mouth shut. I studied my mother’s face from the corner of my eye, so she wouldn’t see. I tried to see if she hinted anything about knowing dad’s secret, but she didn’t. It was typical mom – worrying about me, like always. My dad’s face was killing me by now, so I said a quick apology and patted his shoulders as I took my plate over to the sink. He seemed to brighten at this. I knew he loved me; it wasn’t about that. I just wanted to see how far I could push before he broke. I walked back over to the table as I thought about this. I wondered what it took to “break” him. It seemed cruel, making him an experiment like that. He was my dad, not some lab rat. As I took my parents’ plates, I looked over at my dad and smiled. “It’s fine, Dad. You can make it up to me next game.” He smiled back as I realized just how much I loved my dad. “He’s a serial killer,” I thought to myself, “yet I can’t help but feel sympathetic towards him.” I shook my head as I walked up the stairs. I’m a fucking psycho.
It was laundry day again. “Woohoo. My favorite,” I thought to myself as I trudged down the stairs to help my mom with it. Well, really to do it myself. “Most guys do the lawn and stuff,” I grumbled to myself as I grabbed the laundry basket and rolled my eyes. I was too cool to be doing laundry. “Hey, Mom,” I said as I came into the room. “Hey, sweetie,” she smiled, pointing to the dryer. “Unload it, would you?” “Sure thing,” I said, leaning over to put the basket down below the dryer. “And fold them this time, okay?” she nagged. “Fine, fine,” I groaned, opening the door. I began shoveling things in the basket anyway. She wasn’t looking just yet. “Oh! And check the pockets! You know Dad always forgets things in there,” she reminded me. “I know, Mom. I know,” I replied, annoyed. I began taking the clothes out one by one – a shirt, underwear, a pair of my socks, Dad’s favorite pants. “Check his pockets,” my mom reminded me without even looking. I sighed and did as I was told, checking his pockets. As I reached into his side pocket, I felt some notebook paper in my hand. Curious, I pulled it out and opened it. “Scott, I never wanted you to find out like this, but this is who I am. Do not talk about this. I will explain everything next Friday, the 15th. Just meet me at the abandoned house on Portico Road at 9 o’clock sharp. All I can tell you right now is… Welcome to the family.” My eyes grew big. “Fuck. He knows,” I thought to myself, turning the note over in my hand. “Honey, did you find something?” My mother turned to look at me. “What is it?” She looked concerned. “Oh nothing, just a piece of paper reminding him to buy some stuff.” She didn’t look convinced. “Oh…okay.” “I’ll be right back,” I told her, running up the stairs to the bathroom and locking myself inside. There was nothing on the note that said not to tell mom, but I was pretty sure that was what Dad meant. I took a picture of it with my phone and flushed it down the toilet. No one could know.
That night, I thought about what this note would mean… one of two things – he was actually going to tell me or he was going to kill me. I shuddered at the second thought, but hey, it was a possibility. “Maybe I shouldn’t go,” I thought to myself, sweating. My pride kicked into gear and reminded me of who I was. Nah, I couldn’t back down. No matter what happened, I would have to go. I wouldn’t be able to sleep not knowing what would have gone down if I hadn’t gone. So I had decided – I would meet my dad in that abandoned house to talk about his hobby on the side – murder.
It was finally Friday, a chilly winter night, the air crisp and clean. I loved wintry weather, but it was just a tad colder than normal. I had never gotten ready so fast. My mother watched me, incredulous, not sure what I was so excited about. “What are y’all doing, getting married or something?” she asked me, giggling. I laughed. “Yes. That’s exactly what we’re doing, Mom. Sorry. I just really like this girl. I don’t wanna be late.” I had told her I was going on a date and that’s why I needed the car. It was the only way to get her off my back. “I wish your father was here to talk to you before you leave,” she said, smiling. “First dates are very important. Don’t be an idiot.” I looked at her, grinning and shook my head. “I’ll be good, Mom. I promise.” It was a weird excitement, one fueled by fear and an immature desire for some drama, but it was present nonetheless. I was bundled up in my leather jacket, black pants, boots, and a scarf. And then, I was following him again. I was a little early, but that was a good thing, I reminded myself. I pushed on the gas and my heart fluttered in my chest as I took off out of the driveway. The entire ride to Portico was spent chewing gum and listening to a classic rock station, silently. I could barely breathe as I pulled up to the house. “I better park down the street so I don’t look too suspicious,” I thought. Portico was a long road in the middle of a large, upscale neighborhood. Each resident had lots of land, so there were only two or three houses on each street due to the large amount of acreage each owner possessed. I parked near a ditch a few houses over and began the long walk over to 45513 Portico Road. My dad was nowhere to be found. I casually walked inside, assuming that this was going to be easy. I didn’t need to hide from anyone. There was no one here anyway. I slowly pushed the door open, listening to it creak and walked inside. I looked around. “Dad? Are you here?” “No, not yet,” said a voice from behind me. I turned around to see a thin, dark haired man standing in front of the now closed door, holding a knife in his hand and smiling at me. “But I am.” Oh shit. I began to run, but there was nowhere to go. He hid the only exit. I was easily captured. He tied me up with duct tape and left me there on the floor, behind a pile of rotting wood. “Stay,” he told me, chuckling, and walked off. I struggled to get the tape off my wrists and mouth, but it was no use. I was trapped by this mystery man.
Suddenly, I heard the door open again. There he was. I could only make out part of his face, since I was still sitting in darkness. Maybe this was another kill he’d wanted me to see. I had arrived a little early. Maybe that was why things hadn’t gone according to plan. He had a gun this time. It wasn’t the usual. Normally he’d use knives and make them suffer. He’d even used a welding torch once. The good thing about that was the silence. My dad had performed a tracheotomy and removed the guy’s vocal chords so he couldn’t scream. His eyes screamed for him. It was pure, blissful silence. Still, it got really messy, and it took a long time. A good old gun. That’s what I would have chosen, if I was – what am I saying? I wouldn’t even be doing this in the first place. Anyway, I was sitting there, watching, when the thin guy walked out into view. “Hello, Ron,” he said. “Ron? Who the fuck is Ron,” I thought to myself. “My dad’s name is Isaiah.” “Why the fuck am I here, Marcus?” I could hear Marcus’s footsteps make a 180 and go back towards me. “It’s time, kid. This is gonna hurt a little,” he whispered to me, ripping off the tape and taking some hair along with it. I gasped for breath. “Dad? Dad!” I yelled out, as Marcus dragged me to the center of the room. “Now. Do it,” he told him, waiting. “Marcus, what the fuck?! I told you not to get my family involved. I’m done with this. I’m done with all of it!” Marcus shook his head. “This isn’t like a normal job, Ron. You don’t just QUIT,” he yelled, right in my dad’s face. “Let’s try this again. Now. Do it. Tell him or kill him.” I froze at these words, amazed that that was a possibility. I had no idea what was going on, but I hoped my father wasn’t the type who would kill his own son. “Okay, fine.” I looked up at him, waiting, wanting to run but unable to do so. “Scott… I’m… I’m a killer.” He looked shamed, and put his head in his hands. “Dad, I know.” He looked up, surprised. “What the fuck… HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW?!” he screamed at me, glaring at Marcus while doing so. Marcus smiled. “Let’s just say we sent your son a little mail.” Dad clenched his fists, seething. “I told you not to get involved with my family!” he said, lunging at Marcus. “Nah uh uh,” Marcus warned him, pointing upstairs. “We’ve got this place rigged. You take one wrong step and the whole place goes up in flames, along with you.” “Fuck,” I said, shaking. “You need to make a choice, Ron. Now.” My dad looked nervous. “I can’t do it. I’m sorry, son. I can’t.” “Fine,” said Marcus, yawning as he walked out the door. “Your choice. I’m sorry your dad was too much of a coward to save you, Scott.” He locked the door behind him. We frantically searched for a way out – a window, a broken floorboard, something, but Marcus was right – there was no way out. There was only a small hole in the wall big enough for one person to fit in, but it didn’t lead to the outside. I tried to get my dad to fit in with me, but he couldn’t. “Be strong, son,” he told me. “Be strong. I love you and your mom, remember that.” I was still confused and a little bit angry. “Dad, what the fuck is this?! What is going on here? Why didn’t you just do what Marcus wanted you to do,” I asked him. “Because he wanted me to teach you to kill, too. And I refuse to let my son become a monster.” Just then, the blast went off. I dug myself deep into the hole, covering myself with leftover bits of metal and whatever I could find to shield myself from the explosion. I knew he was gone, and it sucked. Soon I would be gone, too.
My eyes fluttered, trying to adjust to the bright, white light of the room. I was in a hospital bed, that I was sure of. My mom stood nearby, crying, holding my hand as tightly as she could, and screaming out, “Nurse! Nurse! He’s awake!” My first thought was, “Why am I here?” I didn’t remember anything, except for the blast. After that, it had all gone dark. I turned to my left to see a pot of flowers on the bedside table. Attached was a card. I reached for it. My mother swatted my hand away and grabbed it herself. “Oh, honey, these came in this morning for you. Do you want me to read the card to you? It says, ‘Feel better. I hope to see you soon! M.’ Is that from your little girlfriend? Ohh, how sweet of her. Are you feeling alright, honey? I’m glad you’re awake…” “MRS. REINER!!! You HAVE to calm down. Your son is still recovering. He cannot have you all over him right now. He needs to rest. Please, calm down.” Mom took a deep breath. “Right. I’m sorry.” She sat down beside my bed, continuing to hold my hand. “So what does M stand for?” mom whispered in my ear, smiling and stroking my forehead. M, M, M… I wondered myself. Mary? Marcello? Marie? Mar – I stopped myself. Marcus.