Evan walks around the house, unfamiliar in its cleanliness. The house he remembers had dirty, off-white walls, not wooden paneling. It smelled of old smoke and dirty laundry, not fresh air and flowers. The floors should be stickier, there should be cobwebs in the corners, cigarettes piled everywhere, the sounds of things scurrying across floors and through walls. There shouldn’t be pictures and artwork; smiling families, pretty landscapes.

There shouldn’t be bookshelves. Shelves filled not just with books, but with knick knacks: little china pots, a glass elephant, a bowl of glass stones.

Evan throws books onto the floor left and right, the covers thumping on the ground, the pages crunching. Then he puts down his gun so he can grab behind the bookshelf with both hands. He tugs and tugs, ripping the screws out of the drywall, before the whole thing crashes to the ground. The ground is dusty, the air is hazy, the decorations lie in pieces on the floor. That’s more familiar.

He hears the scraping of wood against wood, coming from upstairs. He sighs. He picks up his gun and carefully steps over the splintered wood and broken glass. The children are still where he left them, tied up and gagged, sitting in the dark. He looks at the boy. Then at the girl. They don’t look up at him, that’s smart of them.

The boy is small. He still has his baby teeth, clamped around the gag. His feet are clean and smooth, the feet of someone who has always had shoes. The girl is a bit older, but no less smooth. Her nose is small and cute, her blonde hair tied into pigtails. Evan chooses the girl, everyone always cares more about girls. She starts to struggle against her bonds when he walks towards her, but she stops when he fits her nose into the barrel of his gun and uses it to lift her face up. She’s crying.

Evan tips the chair backwards and drags it out, the legs scraping against the pristine hardwood floor. He drags her past a bathroom, now with a shower in it. And he drags her up a staircase, the chair bumping against every step. He drags her all the way to the master bedroom. The man is where Evan left him in the closet. But the woman has tried to drag herself to the window, hoping to call for help. Evan spins her around, so that she is facing the girl’s back. He ignores her attempts to scream and get loose, wobbling the chair back and forth. He simply points his gun at the girl’s head and the woman stops.

He talks, slowly and calmly, “All I want, is for you to be quiet. If you’re quiet, and good, then nothing will happen to you, or to your family. I will leave, and you can forget this ever happened.”

The woman doesn’t move.

Evan pushes the girl’s head to the side. “Nod if you understand.”

The woman nods, very slightly.

“Good. I’m glad that you understand the situation. I’m going to leave her here, as a reminder. I won’t give you another chance.”

Evan walks back downstairs, to the bedroom that used to be his. Most everything has been changed in the house, but the casing on the doors is still the same, it’s just been painted over. Evan takes out a knife and squats down. He very slowly and carefully scrapes off the outer layers. Underneath are the measurements he made with his sister, carefully cataloging their growth every year. It had been his sister’s idea, that she got from some movie she had seen in class one day. He reveals them all, from age 5 to age 11, the last one before they were taken away.

He hears police sirens in the distance that steadily get louder. They remind him of the last day he saw his sister, both of them standing on the grass, watching their parents get put into a cruiser. It’s time for this to end. The sirens are coming for him this time.

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