They were dead.
I found the bodies on the lawn. A husband and wife, young. I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t need to.
They were dead, gutted in the snow.
There was no elegance to their deaths. They’d been butchered, innards spread out for the moon to shine upon. Fear and pain had been stamped on their faces. They’d taken a long time to die.
Scattered around the bodies, mingled with bits of flesh and splattered with frozen blood, were Christmas firecrackers and cookies. A pair of tracks led from the carnage to the front steps. I saw boot prints the size a man might wear and shoes fit for a child.
Snow and blood were left upon the stairs of the porch, on the boards and the threshold. In the hall, standing upon iron grates, were the boots and the shoes, drying in the warmth. I heard a man humming and a child speaking.
I kept the Colts holstered. I’d not risk the child.
I reached a door and peered into a small parlor. A Father Christmas sat on a fainting couch, his bloodstained outer garments on a nearby chair and a child on the couch beside him. The Father Christmas held a toy horse, and the boy held the man’s beard.
The boy seemed unsure of himself. Confused.
Neither the child nor the Father Christmas paid me any mind.
It was as though they couldn’t see me.
I eased into the room as the man continued to hum, and it was then I realized he was in the midst of a spell. He was casting it as I crept around the edge, close to the walls. Should he stop, so too would the child stop, and once the child stopped, the boy would scream.
I could see it in his eyes.
The boy knew something was wrong with his parents, though he didn’t seem to know what.
Reaching the pair, I crouched down behind the Father Christmas, drew my Bowie knife and slipped it up and through the back of the chair. The man gasped, and the spell broke. The boy let go of the beard and collapsed to the couch.
The man tried to pull away, but I grabbed him by his beard and jerked him back. I twisted the blade through the fabric and listened as he died.
His death was too quick, but there was the boy to think of and the bodies in the snow.