Mary “Moody” Sinclair wanted to rip the beast apart, limb by limb. The unearthly noise coming from the stereo in her father’s study was driving her mad. Maybe that was his intention.
As she opened the door, Morris Sinclair swiveled around in his chair like a hulking python and glared at his daughter. Moody had long since lost any fear she had of her father. At most these days, her strongest emotion was trapped apathy.
Making a slashing motion across her neck, Moody shouted above the music, “Kill it!” Morris turned the volume up one notch as he continued to glare at Moody.
Grabbing a handy pair of scissors, Moody pulled the stereo’s plug out of the wall and cut off the end. She had had enough and she was sure her neighbors had, too. Morris always kept the windows open when he was working in his study, so no one in the area was immune to the noise.
Her father was a pariah in the neighborhood. His sick habits should have landed him in jail and out of Moody’s hair. His recent brush with the law reinforced what Moody had known since childhood: true evil never gets caught by the small stuff. Morris was proof.
“Bitch,” Morris grumbled as he turned back to his computer. Familial love did not keep the pair together in the Sinclair house. Necessity did.
Moody still cringed when she thought of how she had lost her license to practice psychology. The death of her patient weighed less on her than the subsequent embarrassment of her short stint in jail.
Most people would be appalled by how Moody considered death. That is, until they walked in her shoes. Moody had been surrounded by images of death, real and imagined, during her childhood as the offspring of a famous horror writer who was also a horror himself. It was no great wonder that she treated death as casually as one would a common cold.
Shaking herself out of the funk she was slipping into, Moody turned to leave the room. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Morris swivel around again and throw something toward her. Instinctively moving to the right, the glass paperweight glanced off her shoulder instead of striking her head.
Moody let go of the deep-rooted anger she had kept in check for so long. Turning back into the room, she rapidly crossed the space between them, bent down and stuck her face close to her father’s.
“If you ever do that again or touch me again, I will cut you apart, feed you your own flesh and keep you alive until all that’s left is a brain and your beating black heart. Do you hear me, old man?” Moody screamed. The rage she felt was unholy.
Morris did not blink or move. His baleful gaze was fixed on a place above Moody’s head. Moody knew he heard her, but now he was trying the senility trick again.
“You’re not crazy like that, old man. It’s not going to work with me. I know you fake it, but, guess what?” Moody stood straight and smiled at her father. “Maybe it is time for you to be committed. And who better than a former psychologist to get you into the last home you’ll ever have? Yeah, Dad, maybe it is time for you to move on to a better place, like my colleague’s sanatorium in Denver.”
Moody saw nothing in her father’s dark eyes. He remained as still as a cold marble statue. It did not matter, though, because as soon as the words were out of Moody’s mouth, she felt hope for her own hopeless situation.
If only her father’s arrest had resulted in jail time, Moody would have been fine. She could not handle living with the macabre man anymore. She wanted him out of her life but she could not leave. She had nowhere to go and no one to take her in but her father.
Why not have him committed? Actions in his past would definitely contribute to a diagnosis that would insure a lengthy or even permanent stay in a psychiatric ward.
When Moody turned to walk out of the room, her father moved as fast as a snake. Grabbing her by the arm, he jerked her around to face him and said, “I’ll see you in there first, you little bitch.”
Moody slipped loose of her father’s sinewy grasp. She felt as if she had been touched by the devil himself. Fear and rage blinded her. She saw nothing until she backed out of the room.
She stood like a statue in the hallway outside her father’s study, letting her racing heart slow to normal. She thought of how much better life without Morris would be for her. Walking toward the kitchen to start dinner, she stepped lighter than she had in months.
Her right hand was aching. Moody looked down and realized she was still clutching the scissors. She absentmindedly cleaned them under soapy water as she hummed to herself while thinking of a brighter future on her horizon.
Twenty minutes later, she was still humming as fixed her plate and her father’s plate. After a few minutes, Moody dumped Morris’s plate in the trash. He would not be eating tonight, she triumphantly thought. Now, who has the upper hand?
The quietness in the house lulled Moody to sleep after she ate. When she woke from her nap, the house was still quiet. Stretching as she rose, Moody felt refreshed and ready to face whatever was coming her way.
First things first: she needed to take out the trash.
The housekeeper had quit a week ago. She had lasted less than a month before declaring she could not work for the devil. Moody understood, but it put a strain on her to try to find someone new. Housekeepers came and went so often that the cleaning company told Moody they had exhausted their supply of locals and would have to branch out to other areas. The unspoken comment was areas where Morris was not as well known.
Without paid help, all of the household chores fell to Moody. The house was huge and it was difficult for one person to handle. In an ideal life, Moody would ask friends to help in the interim between housekeepers. But, Moody had no close friends and she did not feel comfortable asking her neighbors to help because of Morris.
Well, soon enough that problem would be solved. With Morris gone, Moody could be the person she wanted to be. A person with friends. A person with a life.
The garbage bag was heavy. It strained her back as she dragged it across the floor. She felt muscle twinges in places she did not realize she had muscles. Taking a break, she propped the black bag against Morris’s chair in the living room. She would start going to the gym after she finished dealing with her father.
Opening the door leading to the garage, Moody staggered against the garage wall as she dropped the heavy bag on the concrete floor. The garage door was slowly opening and her car horn was honking. When she had hit the wall, she triggered the door remote and car horn on the set of keys she kept on her at all times.
She fumbled for the remote, turned off the horn and closed the garage door. Like the eye of a lethargic giant, it closed as slowly as it had opened.
She would deal with the trash later. Her heart was racing and she was trembling.
Moody sat on the garage’s hard concrete until the shaking subsided. Recently, any negative stress made her heart rate skyrocket and left her feeling clammy and weak. She would see a doctor for a physical before she started going to the gym. She did not want to become a victim to one of the universe’s ironies. It would not do for her to become incapacitated when she was finally getting her father out of her life.
She felt calm descend upon her. Thinking about the decisions she had made about her life and her father’s, she felt the burdens she was bearing start to lift.
Returning inside, she began closing all the windows. As she walked across the dimly lit living room, she stumbled across a bag of books Morris had left in the middle of the floor from the day before. Looking inside, she saw death and violence. She took them and tossed them in his study.
She turned up the sound on the television and, as she watched news programs, she smiled to herself. Life would be so good without Morris. No more perverted behavior, no more menacing glares, no more cringing when people complained about him. Moody loved the picture of the normal life she was painting in her mind.
Five days passed in calm bliss. Moody even reconnected with a few neighbors who had avoided her because of Morris. No one liked her father or his deviant lifestyle except for the fans of his horror stories. Moody suspected that even these fans would be turned off if they had to live with Morris for any length of time.
On the sixth day, Moody woke with an uneasy feeling. She was worried. Not for Morris, but for herself. She had threatened to cut him into pieces the last time she had seen him and she had screamed this threat without thinking of the open windows in his study. If any neighbors were home and within hearing distance that day, they could have heard every word she had said.
Sitting back in the chair, Moody weighed her options. The only thing left to do was to report Morris missing. She felt her pulse picking up as she realized how bad it looked that she had waited six days before contacting the police.
On the other hand, the officers knew her father. This had happened a few times before and Morris had been found in questionable places. Morris himself had set a pattern of disappearing for days on end.
Still, this was not typical Morris behavior. A few days, yes. Almost a week, no.
Time to act. Moody took her keys and reluctantly drove to the sheriff’s office in Rojo Duro.
Everyone looked up when she walked in. She hid her inner cringing with a blank face as she walked to the front counter.
“I need to file a missing person’s report,” she said quietly.
Someone snorted. Moody did not turn around to see who it was. She felt like snorting herself.
It had not taken long to fill out the report. Morris had a thick file at the police station. This was simply another page in the Book of Morris.
Moody did not have much to offer the officer who took the report. She told him she did not have knowledge of the places Morris went when he was not with her and since he had been deemed sane, he was free to come and go without supervision. A fleeting look of sympathy crossed the officer’s face as he listened to Moody.
“He goes where he wants. Check bookstores, cafes, pharmacies and, I don’t know, whorehouses? I don’t keep up with him any more than I have to. Do you need anything else?” she asked. The officer shook his head and handed her his business card. Moody walked out of the station.
On her way home, Moody stopped at the bookstore Morris had last visited. As she walked in, she was almost bowled over by a stout woman with an indigent expression on her face. Moody glared at her and the woman paled as she took a step back.
“Excuse me?” Moody said to the woman’s back. Whatever the woman mumbled, it was too low for Moody to hear. The woman did not turn around as she hurried down the sidewalk away from the bookstore.
Moody felt more eyes on her as she looked for the manager’s office. She did not care about her father’s visits at this bookstore, but it would look suspicious if she did not show a little concern about her missing father.
A thin young man with glasses looked at her like he had seen a ghost. What was with these people? Moody thought as she passed a mirrored book shelf with a stack of her father’s books and an oversized cutout of his face. Abruptly, she did a double-take.
This image, this person in the mirror. When had she become her father? At home, she only saw herself. Here in public, with images of her father looking back at her, she was acutely aware of the likeness. It frightened and repelled her.
The events in Rubicon Ranch and the problems with her father recently had aged her, along with her own legal and moral troubles. She was beginning to look like Morris. Except for the long hair and glasses, she resembled her father more and more each day.
An insane laugh was building up in her throat. She turned around and left the bookstore before she could talk to anyone. Let the police do their jobs. Let them try to find her father. As far as Moody was concerned, the evil old man could stay gone forever.
As she pulled into her driveway, she thought she saw a flicker of the front curtain. Her heart jumped. She walked in and the first thing she noticed was the open door to his study along with an open window. She was certain she had closed both earlier. Searching the house from top to bottom, she found nothing missing except Morris.
For the rest of the day, every little sound made her jump. She kept waiting for specters to pop up from a closet or from behind a chair. She needed to turn this house of horrors into a house of tranquility.
When she woke the next morning, she felt a slow peace descend upon her. She would purge the evil that Morris had infused in the house. She would start by tossing any books dealing with death. Then, she would move on to his perverted collections.
Moody smiled more in the days following her visit to the police station than she had since she moved to Rubicon. Maybe, her life was finally settling into place.