They spent a couple of weeks in Starlight Shores helping Aimee and assisting Gene with his recovery. Casey was more than ready to be home, to see his son again. He worried everyday about how he was doing in the same house as his mother. Thankfully Lynn was there and he never doubted she would protect Eddie. Home at last he was somewhat overwhelmed with how much he had to do not least of which was finding a new job. He was no longer sure he wanted to be an art critic now that he had been fired he had plenty of time to figure out what it was he did want to do. He was considering doing another exhibit of his artwork. Get his name out there and see what happens. He made the call to his manager to set things rolling.
While they were in Starlight Shores William arranged for Gene to have temporary custody of Michael until things were settled between him and Jessica. William had him enrolled in school and his transcripts transferred. It was a heart wrenching decision for his dad to make but in the long run it would get Michael out of the line of fire and do him a world of good. Chuckling to himself he was still amazed he was in hundred percent agreement that Gene was the best person to help Michael; after all Gene knew all too well what it felt like to be singled out for ‘special treatment’ by mother dearest. Casey realized he had gotten off easy while growing up. Sure he still had his hang ups like moving too fast in relationships and fear of being unloveable but that was nothing to what Gene survived and what he feared Michael had endured. Casey just hoped it wasn’t too little too late.
Smiling at his reflection in the mirror Casey couldn’t wait for his first date with Lynn tonight. He had butterflies fluttering around in his stomach and no matter how much he told himself he had nothing to be nervous about his stomach still churned. He didn’t want to blow his second chance. He wanted tonight to be perfect. Inspecting himself in the mirror running his fingers through his hair muttering “maybe I should have gotten a haircut.” Shrugging he stepped away from the mirror there was nothing he could do about it now. One last look to make sure he didn’t have anything in his teeth he turned from the mirror tripping over the cat.
Bending down he rubbed Ellie, cooing “poor thing.” He felt bad for neglecting it while he went on his bender and had gotten in the habit of giving her special attention. Standing up he realized he was now covered in kitty fur. “Shit I’m going to have change,” he grumbled heading to the bedroom for a change of clothes.
Running Casey was met at the door by Lynn. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he apologized.
Smiling “that’s ok. It was only a couple of minutes.” Looking at him with a slight frown creasing her forehead “where’s Eddie?”
Shrugging “I decided to hire a babysitter for the night. Dad has enough to handle with all the little ones and mother dearest.” Taking her arm he escorted her to the car. “You look lovely tonight Ms Matthews.”
“Thank you,” she said sitting in the passenger seat as Casey shut the door and walked around the car to the driver’s side. “So what’s on the agenda for tonight,” she asked taking his hand.
“Would you believe me if I said it was a secret?” he asked glancing at her before turning his attention to the road.
“No,” she giggled “but I suspect it’ll be a romantic dinner for two.”
“Are you saying I’m predictable?” Casey asked in mock pain “you wound me.”
Shaking her head “no but what else is there in Barnacle Bay?”
“True, very true,” he conceded “but it’s a lovely place to live.”
They made small talk the rest of the way to the restaurant. Casey found a parking spot and ran around to open the door for Lynn. Helping her out he held her hand escorting her into the restaurant. Smiling as she looked around her “this place is fantastic. The best in town. I’m impressed.”
They followed the hostess to their private table for two on the terrace. He heard her gasp “oh this is lovely,” she kissed him briefly on the cheek in her excitement.
Walking to the car a couple of hours later Lynn leaned into him and kissed him again “thank you for an enchanting evening under the stars. It was more than I ever could have imagined.”
“You’re welcome,” Casey leaned down bringing his lips to hers. He felt her deepen the kiss of her own accord. Pulling away he smiled “I must admit I’m more enchanted with you Ms Matthews then in the stars.”
Turning away in a vain attempt to hide her reddening face suddenly unsure of herself. “Hey what’s wrong?” Casey asked in concern lightly touching her arm. “Did I do or say something to upset you?”
“No it’s not you,” she turned and nuzzled her cheek into his hand that rested on her shoulder. “It’s me … I’m not used to receiving compliments.”
Gently turning her to face him. Tilting her chin up he smiled down at her. “Stick with me pretty girl and you’ll have to get used to hearing them because I aim on showering you with compliments.” He leaned forward until his lips brushed hers.
“I want to take a moonlit stroll along the beach,” she laughed as her green eyes twinkled in the moonlight. She stopped to slip off her sandals.
“Hey wait up,” Casey called after her as he struggled to remove his shoes and socks. Running he caught up with her. He lifted her into the air, delighting in her squeal of surprise.
An hour or so later they were driving back to the house. Several emergency vehicles passed with lights and sirens wailing. “I wonder what happened?”
Nodding Casey felt uneasy as they rounded the corner bringing the house into view. He felt all the air leave his body as the house was ablaze in flashing lights. Driving as close as he could get he bolted from the car, running for the house.
An officer caught his arm “you can’t go in there.” Staring wide-eyed at the man holding his arm he attempted to struggle to break free from his grasp.
“My family lives here,” he shouted. “What’s happened?” Lynn came up alongside him silently grabbing his free hand, squeezing tight.
“What’s going on?” she asked. Before he could respond to her question a small boy ran from the house crying “Casey …. Casey …. mom sshe sshot dad.” Paul threw himself at Casey wrapping his arms tight around him sobbing.
Kneeling Casey held his brother as his body shuddered in his arms. Calming Paul gulped for air “after you left mom went crazy …” Gulping again he choked on a sob “she started shouting at dad that she wouldn’t let him leave her.” Hiccupping he fought for air “sshe ssaid if he left her he’d regret it ….” Choking on sobs that wracked his body he continued “sshe ppointed a gun to mmy head.” Paul stuttered before bursting into tears again.
Casey ran his fingers through Paul’s dark hair offering what little comfort he could give. Rage boiled up inside him. How could he have been so stupid? Taking Lynn out of the house gave her the perfect opportunity. Why did they think she would just except this turn of events? But a gun? Where the hell did she get a gun?
Hiccupping Paul looked up at Casey “she hurt Bryan really bad. He and Greg tried to distract her from shooting me and helped dad get the babies out.” Renewed sobs stifled the rest of his words. “She shot Bryan instead of me.” Tears flowed down his face “she turned the gun on Greg just as Dad pushed him away.” Paul added in an anguished whisper “she shot him …. Daddy’s dead. She killed him. I know she did.”
A commotion at the door caused Casey to look as several officers escorted a struggling, screaming figure out of the house. Paul scurried behind Casey cringing in fright. Staring at the enraged woman Casey said in shock “mom?” Hearing him she looked in his direction. She snarled screaming “I should have waited. It’s your fault. Meddling where you don’t belong. Telling him he’d be better off without me. Well I showed him.” She smiled in triumph taking a step towards Casey despite the restraints. “I’ll get you. Should have known it’s the quiet ones that cause the most trouble and here I was worried it’d be the other one. Always getting in trouble telling my secrets. You snuck up on me. Didn’t expect it from you.” Her words dribbled away into profanity as the officers dragged her away towards the waiting patrol car.
An officer approached him with an air of authority “how do you know the assailant?”
Snorting derisively “that person goes by the name of mom. But she hasn’t been a mother for a long time.” He felt Paul clutching at him from behind. Reaching behind he held out his hand until Paul latched onto it. “Where’s my dad?” Casey asked dreading the answer even as he asked.
Shaking his head the officer sighed “the paramedics are still working on him and the little alien boy.” The officer didn’t say anything else, the answer was there in his eyes – he didn’t think they were going to make it. Casey moved towards the door but found his way blocked “son you can’t go in there.”
Looking blankly at the man in front of him Casey asked “where are the others?”
“The others?” he asked confused.
“Yes there should be at least four others besides Bryan and my dad.” Casey felt himself losing it, imagining all sorts of nightmarish things. “I have to find them.”
The officer motioned for someone else to go into the house “there may be other kids in there that could be hurt or worse”
Casey his heart constrict, please god let them be alright. He picked up Paul as he felt Lynn leaning into him looking as stunned as he felt. Ten minutes later the officer received a call looking at Casey he said “you need to come with me.”
Casey and Lynn exchanged a worried glance before he transferred Paul to her. Unable to support his weight Lynn settled to the ground cradling Paul in her harms.
With trepidation Casey followed the officer into the house. Stepping to the side as the paramedics came out of the nursery with a loaded gurney. He thanked god that the figure on the gurney wasn’t a shrouded corpse but that was all he could tell as the paramedics rushed by.
The officer led him past the nursery towards his parents bedroom. As they passed the door to the nursery Casey glanced through the partially open door. He wished he hadn’t after glimpsing the blood splattered walls and puddles on the floor. He swallowed convulsively as bile rose and he broke out in a cold sweat. His mind shied away from the horrors that still awaited him as he repeated “Please god let the babies be ok.”
Upon entering his parents bedroom he sighed in relief, it looked normal. The officer motioned him over to the door leading to the bathroom explaining “there’s a young boy in there who says he can’t open the door to anyone but his brother Casey.”
“Dad told me not to open the door to anyone but you,” he cried. Sniffling he looked up at Casey “I tried to be brave but I was so scared. She had a gun and Daddy was grabbing the babies before she could get to them and telling us to run. Then she pointed the gun at Paul’s head. Bryan hit her from behind.” Sobbing “she was too fast. She whipped around and the gun went off. Bryan fell and didn’t move. I tried to get to him but daddy grabbed me pushing me into the bathroom with the babies. He told me to lock the door behind me …. then there was another shot and daddy cried out…..” his words faded out as sobs wracked his body.
Casey held him as he sobbed. Greg wrapped his small arms around his older brother squeezing tight. Casey idly watched the officer pick up the babies from the bathtub where they were all crying or screaming from fright. A muffled voice spoke “Daddy’s phone was on the bathroom floor. He must have dropped it….” Greg looked up for reassurance “Did I do the right thing calling 911?”
Hugging him tight Casey nodded “you did exactly right.”
“I was so scared. She started screaming for me to open the door. She said I needed to be punished because I was … I was … it was awful what she called me.” Casey started to manuever the boy towards the door leading to the pool.
Stopping as an officer pointed towards bullet holes in the adjacent door.
“Looks like the crazy bitch shot through the door. It’s a miracle she didn’t hit any of those kids.”
Shaking Greg looked up “I put the babies in the bathtub so they wouldn’t get hurt.” His eyes rolled up inside his head as his body went limp. “Greg? Gregory?” Casey cried as he noticed the blood seeping from his brother’s side. “Oh god,” he picked Greg up and ran outside hoping the paramedics were still there. Shouting as he got outside everyone looked up in shock. A paramedic approached Casey and took the boy from his arms.
Watching helplessly as the paramedics worked on his little brother he didn’t realize someone was talking to him until they grabbed his arm. Whirling around to face his attacker he was shocked to find a police officer in front of him. “Sir you need to take these babies out of here.” As his words slowly seeped through Casey’s befuddled brain he nodded.
Before the officer could turn away Casey asked “what about my brothers and dad?”
“They’re being taken to the hospital.” Putting a comforting hand on Casey’s shoulder “everything that can be done is being done. Right now you have to take care of those little one’s. You’re all they have.”
Nodding Casey tore his eyes away from the paramedics. He gathered the remaining ones and loaded them into his car. Arriving at the house he was thankful that he had followed his instinct in getting a babysitter otherwise his son would have been in that horror. Bringing the kids into the house they gave them something to eat. As he watched them eat his thoughts turned to his dad and brothers hoping they were alright.