Ann awoke with a start. She knew right away he was gone, but only recently; his sweaty body heat lingered like a festering cloud. She fought back a gag reflex. Then her grandmother’s intuition kicked in. Something was wrong. Ellie!

She rolled quickly out of bed, feet hitting the worn hardwood floor. The farmhouse was over a hundred years old, dilapidated, falling apart, and as far as she was concerned, an evil house of horror. She had to get to her eight-year-old granddaughter’s room fast, before it was too late.

Before he…

She grabbed her knife from her jeans and flipped open the four-inch blade. Early dawn light guided her as she ran from her bedroom and across the hall. At the door to Ellie’s room, she saw him lurching across the floor toward the little girl.

“No!” Ann yelled.

At the sound of her voice, he turned, a smile just forming. She didn’t hesitate as she leaped at him and plunged the knife into his neck, sawing deep as she pulled it out. Ellie cried and turned her head into her pillow as the pervert’s blood exploded like a red geyser, drenching them both. No matter. Ann pushed the old man to the floor, kicking him hard in the groin for good measure. He flopped around, blood pouring from his neck like a river. He wasn’t going anywhere. She’d stopped the bastard.

“Help!” Ellie sat up, frightened and sobbing, as she reached out for her grandmother, her security. Ann sank onto the bed and took her in her arms, holding the little girl tight, comforting her. She could smell strawberry shampoo in her hair and the fresh scent of the outdoors on her nightgown from when it’d hung on the clothesline that afternoon. Simple memories. Pure but now tainted forever by the memory of her husband.

I should never have fallen asleep, she berated herself. I should have kept vigilant.

But she’d nodded off and now this. She’d had to murder the degenerate to save her granddaughter before anything bad happened. Well, fine. So be it. He was a disgusting human being who had treated everyone around him with bitter contempt. The time had been right to get rid of him.

“Hush, sweetheart. Just hold on to Grandma.” She rocked Ellie gently back and forth. “No, don’t look. Yes, he’s dying. I promise he won’t hurt you anymore, my darling little girl. I’m so sorry you had to see this. There, there.”

Ann kept Ellie’s face averted. The old man writhed on the floor in an ever-expanding pool of blood while she decided what to do next. When he was finally dead, she put her plan into action.

Ann squeezed Ellie tight and then they both stood up. “Okay, dear. Let’s get going.”

“What about him?” Ellie pointed to the body.

“We need to get rid of him. I’ll need your help.”

Ellie didn’t hesitate. “Okay,” she said, smiling. “Anything for you, Grandma.”

They changed out of their bloody clothes and then dragged him outside to the vegetable garden. “We’ll dig a hole and bury him here.” Ann handed Ellie a shovel.

Her eyes brightened, “Just like last year with Snowflake?”

“Your little kitty? Yes, dear, just like with Snowflake.”

They started digging. After a minute, Ellie stopped and asked her grandmother, “Like when Uncle Johnny died?” Ann’s brother had passed away suddenly a few years earlier while visiting.

“Yes, dear. Like my brother.”

Ellie was quiet then and went back to work, shoveling. She liked being with her grandma and it felt good to be together. Suddenly, she struck something hard. “Grandma, what’s this?” she pointed, then reached down and picked it up. “Looks like a bone.”

“Let me see,” Ann said. Ellie handed it over. “Oh, yes. It’s from my first husband.”

“First husband, Grandma?”

“Yes, from before you were born. He was your mother’s father.”

Ellie looked confused. “Mom always said he was mean to her.”

“Yes, dear, he was. But I took care of him so he wouldn’t hurt her anymore.”

Ellie was quiet for a moment. Then she asked, “Like you just did with Grandpa?”

Ann hugged her granddaughter tight. “Yes, sweetheart, like with Grandpa.”

And Uncle Johnny? He was mean. He hurt me sometimes.”

“Yes, sweetie. Like with Uncle Johnny.”

Ellie was silent, thinking. Then she looked at her grandmother and a big smile formed, “I love you, Grandma.”

“I love you too, dear. I’ll do anything to protect you.”

“Even from my teacher, Mr. Benson?”

“What about Mr. Benson?”

“He’s mean to me, too, sometimes.”
“Really.” Ann tossed the bone back into the garden and leaned on her shovel staring off across the flat farmland, lost in thought

Ellie reached for her grandmother’s shirt and tugged on the sleeve. “Grandma? Grandma, are you all right? Why’d you stop digging?”

Ann shook her head, breaking out of her thoughts, and smiled at Ellie. “Oh, it’s nothing, dear. I was just thinking about that Mr. Benson.”

“What about him?”
Ann picked up her shovel and turned to her granddaughter, “Let’s finish up here, dear. When we’re done, I’m going to make a call to the school.”

“Why? What for?”

Ann smiled. “I’m thinking about inviting Mr. Benson over for dinner. Soon. How’d you like that?”

A quizzical look appeared on Ellie’s face. “But he hurts me, Grandma.”

“So you said. Well, maybe after dinner, we’ll make it so he doesn’t hurt you anymore.”

“Like you did with Grandpa? And Uncle Johnny?”

“Yes, sweetheart. Like with them. What do you think? Should I take care of him?”

Ellie thought for a moment and then smiled. “Yes, Grandma. I’d like that. I’d like that a lot.” Then she added, “Can I help?”

Ann smiled and hugged her granddaughter. “You bet you can, sweetheart. I’d love it.”