They attacked the wrong house.
I was patrolling the back roads alone. Horatio had a distinct dislike for the snow, and I didn’t blame him. I was not so fond of it myself.
Still, there was work to be done, and so I had my pipe and a new coach gun. There was little to see or hear until the wailing of a child caught my attention.
I followed the sound to the Hendricks’ house, and I saw there was no smoke coming from any of the chimneys.
Approaching the house with caution, I saw that it’d been some time since Eliot Hendricks had brought his wagon home. There were no fresh tracks other than his own, and even they were far older than they should have been. Cold or not, Hendricks would have been out and about much as I was, though with a different purpose.
With a growing sense of unease, I went up to the front door and peered in through the sidelights.
My heart sank at the sight of crumpled bodies in the front parlor.
The door, as always, was unlocked, and I let myself into the house. The wailing rose to a high pitch and sank down to a whimper.
Without going into the parlor, I made my way up the stairs, down the hall, and into the nursery. Eliot and Mae’s baby girl lay swaddled in her crib, the child’s face frightfully pale. I set down the coach gun, opened my coat, and picked up the child. I nestled her against my chest and then buttoned the coat back up, leaving enough space for the child to breathe. She was cold, but she continued whimpering, and that was as good a sign as any.
Taking up my gun, I returned to the first floor and entered the parlor.
Eliot and Mae were dead. Both shot in the back, coffee cups on their sides. The rug was stained with a mixture of blood and coffee.
The exit wounds were big, and I could see where the spent bullets had lodged themselves in the wall.
A stink lingered in the air. One I was well-familiar with.
It had the bitter tang of the Hollow, and I had no doubt the killers had been looking for me, just as I had no doubt there was more than one.
The fact that both were shot in the back spoke volumes.
And once I brought their daughter into town, I’d have my turn to speak.