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It was a warm, friendly day, and the breeze was stirring in the lonely field behind the house as the little girl picked flowers to put in her hair.
Behind her, on the porch, her father hefted the hatchet with one hand, hid it behind his back, and walked down the three rickety stairs and across the walkway toward her. Constance.
The name left a bitter taste in his mouth. It pained him to see her sitting there idly, picking flowers, and knowing all the while what a beast she was, what a little monster. Very well, the gallows be damned; he was going to dispatch her and put an end to the nightmare.
The girl was sitting on the ground, her bright yellow dress spread around her. To all appearances, she was a typical tot, with blond hair and blue eyes and a winning smile. She had dimples in her cheeks, and if her skin was just a shade too freckled and pale, well…It mattered not the least to her father.
He was going to split her head like a grapefruit.
She paused for a moment, hearing his soft tread on the walkway, her hand poised to pick another daffodil, her face going slack with recognition before cracking into a grin. It was a smile missing a tooth or two, but it was still a winning, warm smile, the sort of smile that charmed candy from old ladies and store clerks.
The cool shadow of her father fell across her, blotting out the sun. She did not turn, but said, “Oh Papa, have you come to pick flowers with me? What a delightful idea. And what a delightful day it is! Don’t you agree?”
Her father, who had not slept or eaten or shaved in several days, but who was, nevertheless, as wide awake as it was possible to be, said, “Oh my yes, it is a gorgeous day. I’m sure your little brother would agree…if he were here to enjoy it himself.”
Constance continued to pick flowers, letting an uncomfortable silence fall between them. Still she did not turn to look up at him, and from where he was standing he realized her head made a perfect target.
“Yes”, she finally said. “It is unfortunate that he can’t be here with us. That accident he had was, oh, so terrible…”
Her father felt a wave of hatred sweep through him.
“Accident? That was no accident and you know it. You hated him, and when you had the opportunity you shoved him down the stairs. And you can sit there and call that an accident?”
Constance continued to pick the flowers, her head tilted in consideration.
“You’re being awful mean today, Papa. If Mama were here, she would get after you for talking so cruelly to me, accusing me of things I didn’t do. So terrible,” and with this she let out a sigh, “so terrible that Mama had an accident as well.”
He sniffed. The sun went behind a cloud, and the day suddenly grew a click darker as the breeze seemed to pick up. At his feet, brittle leaves blew across his shoes.
“I suppose you want to think of that as an accident too, don’t you my little pet? Of course, the police were never quite able to discern just how your mother managed to drown in the bathtub--”
“She slipped and hit her head.”
“Yes, of course. But that was a nasty piece of work, you two all alone in the house together, and Mama so conveniently knocking herself unconscious and slipping beneath the water. And of course suspecting a little cherub like you of any foul play or wrongdoing was quite out of the question, even for the hardhearted policemen. Oh they questioned you at length, I know. But you simply screwed up that little smile of yours, beamed into their eyes, and they finally decided to rule it an…accident. Of course, I think we both know better, don’t we? Well, don’t we?”
Constance paused, giggled, and said, “Why Papa, whatever could you mean? I do believe you‘ve been getting too much sun lately. Aren‘t you feeling well?”
He felt his heart begin to beat a tattoo against his chest, and brought the hatchet round, saying, “I’m feeling just fine, my dear, just fine. And in a few moments, once my work is done and I’ve rid the world of your malignant presence…dear God, I’ll feel right as dodgers for the rest of my miserable life. Here--”
And with that he raised the hatchet above his head.
Suddenly, a hammer exploded against his chest, and a white hot fire raked his arm.
He grabbed at his heart, fished weakly in his shirt pocket, dropped a small box from his quivering fingertips, and collapsed on the ground. He was moaning loudly, and Constance turned in curiosity.
She picked up the box, sat beside him as he writhed, and opened it up. Inside she found a number of little pills.
He reached for them, but she held them just out of his grasp. So odd; they looked like candy.
“What funny little pills Papa. What is it you call them? Ni…ni…nitro, that’s it! Nitro.” She rolled the word around on her lips several times.
She dropped the pills to the ground just out of his reach.
“Oh, I bet you want these. Too bad. You’ve been very cruel today Papa, very cruel indeed, and for that I’m going to have to punish you. No, I don’t think you can have your pills today. In fact, I don’t think you’ll be needing them anymore.”
She worried for a second though that the spasm might pass, as he looked to be on the verge of struggling up. What if he managed to get to the phone?
She suddenly produced, under the folds of her little dress, a jar with a screw top lid. Inside the jar was a special spider. Brown Recluse. And wouldn’t Papa just love to get acquainted with her little friend? She unscrewed the lid and let the spider crawl out onto Papa’s leg.
It didn’t take long for the spider to do its job.
Papa’s eyes had rolled up inside his head, and his tongue lolled out of his mouth in a way she found both frightfully comic and disgusting. She played with the pills for a few moments, and then stood up and went over to the hatchet where it had fallen, picking it up out of curiosity. My, what a lovely toy. Why, just imagine the things you could do with such a toy…
She sighed. Well, it would be time to go to the orphanage, and then be adopted out to another family, one that, she hoped, would love her with that special love that she knew, quite frankly, was missing from her previous home.
It would only be a short wait. She was pretty, and charming, and after all, she was a very lucky little girl.
She carefully picked up the bottle and wiped it off on her dress. She did the same with the hatchet, holding the handle by the hem of her skirt and placing it carefully in Papa’s dead fingers. She then sat back down again to pick flowers until the gathering flies got to be too much of an annoyance.
She didn’t fancy having to talk to policemen again, but she knew it was unavoidable. She also knew it was without any risk to herself. In a few moments she would go in to use the phone and make the call. Until then, she could daydream.
It had been such a gorgeous day, after all.