AUTHOR’S WORD OF CAUTION: The climactic last chapter of Sins of the Family is graphically violent. If any reader dislikes criminal acts described with stark details, I recommend not reading it.
John burst through the door and turned on the light, revealing Heinrich stretched out on his bed. Drawing himself up to his full height, John put a hand on Randy’s wiry shoulder. Time at last had come to kill Pharaoh and to be freed of all the agonizing passion which confused his mind.
“Give me the knife.”
“I don’t wanna.” Randy jerked his shoulder away.
“Give me the knife.”
“I wanna slit his throat.”
John’s hand went up, his index finger thrusting upward.
“I am Moses! Give me the knife!”
With reluctance Randy handed it over, but his face darkened with growing hatred.
“Pharaoh!” John began to stride toward the bed. “Your hour of judgment has come.” He paused. “Pharaoh. Answer me.”
When no answer came, Mike and Randy loped over and peered around John at Heinrich on his bed, his eyes bulging wide and his hands still clutching at his bosom. His dried lips stuck to his yellowed teeth as his mouth gaped opened.
“He’s dead.” John shook his head in disbelief.
“Why, he’s just an old man.” Mike giggled as he punched Heinrich’s belly with his beefy fist.
“He ain’t no bad guy, like you said.” Randy spat in disgust.
“How dare you deny me my vengeance?” Bewilderment etched John’s tormented features. All this time, all this killing, and Pharaoh was not his to punish. He jumped on the bed and straddled the old man’s body. “How dare you rob me of my mission?”
“Forget it, Moses.” Mike turned away and laughed. “He’s dead.”
“I will not be stopped!” John screamed in hysteria as he held the knife high above his head. Once again, in his mind, he was the naked warrior standing on the stairs’ top step at the trading post, a growing tree limb behind him. He held his knife high then also, as he looked down with contempt on his own father’s flabby body. His father had to be punished for not following Cherokee ways and for persecuting him because he did want to follow the old ways. Now this other fat old man must pay for his sins. With a war whoop, John brought his knife down and slashed into the corpse.
Outside, coming down the dark mountain lane lined with antique and craft shops, a police car made its usual late night rounds. The officers slowed to notice the waterwheel lights were still on.
“The last time Mrs. Schmidt left her lights on after eleven was when the old man had his stroke,” one officer said to the other.
“Yeah, we better check this out.”
Inside the bedroom, Bob hugged Jill as he watched John over and over again plunge his knife into Heinrich. Blood splattered everywhere, speckling John’s deranged face.
“Hey, stop it.” Randy hunched his shoulders. “It’s just an old man.”
“No.” John shook his head with delirious determination. “I shall end injustice.”
“Hey.” Mike focused on Jill and smiled. “I think I’m gonna get the princess.”
“No, you won’t.” Bob pushed Jill behind him.
Laughing, Mike knocked him to the floor. When Bob tried to rise, Mike pulled back his foot and kicked him hard in the gut, sending him across the room gagging and gasping for air.
“Come on, baby,” Mike murmured as he stepped up to Jill and put his hands on her slender shoulders.
Her face twisted in abhorrence, she knocked his hands off and punched his mouth.
“I like it when they fight back.” Mike smiled.
Bringing her knee into his groin, which doubled him over with a moan, Jill rushed over to Bob who was pulling himself up on his haunches. Before she could help him to his feet, Mike pulled her hair, causing her to fall to the floor. As Bob stood, Mike kicked him in his gut again, sending him back down. Groaning and holding his midsection, he looked across the room to see Randy drag John off the bed.
“Stop it!” Randy said, grabbing the bloodied knife.
“No.” John was dazed.
“Shut up!” Randy thrust the knife into John’s belly. “I’m sick and tired of you telling me what to do!”
He twisted its blade up under John’s rib cage. Bob watched the fury in Randy’s eyes as he glared at the man who had called himself Moses. John’s face hardly changed expression when the knife entered and even appeared relieved as he sank to the floor.
“Stupid Moses,” Randy muttered.
Bob rose with deliberation to his knees again. In front of him he saw Randy kick John’s body. To the side he saw Jill trying to sit up as Mike straddled her, her hands grasping at his face to scratch it. Mike slapped her hard.
“That’s enough fighting.” Mike pulled down his pants and positioned himself between Jill’s legs.
If Bob were going to save their lives he had to do it now. A glint of the knife blade in the ceiling light caught his attention. He needed it to stop Mike from attacking his wife. At one time, the blood dripping from a sharp edge would have triggered cringing and running away, but not now.
“You ain’t so high and mighty now, are you, Moses?” Randy kicked John’s lifeless body again.
His body imbued with total outrage, Bob leaped forward, and with both hands clinched into fists he hit Randy on the nape of his neck, causing the boy to drop the knife as he fell to his knees. Bob grabbed the knife, reached around Randy’s face with one hand, pulling it back, and slashed his throat with the other. As blood spurted out, he looked around the room to see nothing but blood. Heinrich’s abdomen was a puddle of blood. John sprawled in a pool of blood. And as Bob threw Randy’s body to the floor, blood gushed from his throat. With the knife in his hand, he glared at Mike and knew he had to attack him next. What was right or wrong did not matter any more. He had to save Jill’s life. She was worth more than any of the others, including himself.
“Oh, baby, this is gonna be good,” Mike said as he unbuttoned Jill’s blouse, oblivious to the fact his brother had just been murdered. His big hands pawed her.
Bob grabbed Mike’s dirty brown hair and yanked his head back, pulling the knife deep across his throat.
“What the…” His words were lost in gurgling blood spewing from his mouth. Mike flexed his thick shoulder muscles to throw Bob off his back. As he turned he caught sight of his brother’s body lying in a pool of blood.
“Randy?” His voice sounded pitifully sad until it descended into a snarl.
With a bellow he pounced on Bob, heaving him to the floor and straddling his chest. Mike’s hands closed around Bob’s neck.
“You killed my brother!”
Squinting to keep Mike’s blood from dripping into his eyes, Bob secured the knife with both hands and thrust upward with all his strength into the hard hairy belly. As Mike’s grip on his neck tightened, Bob pushed the knife in again and twisted it. Blood gushed from the teen-ager’s mouth onto Bob’s face. Finally Mike’s grasp loosened, his eyes glazed, and a last wheeze escaped his bloodied lips. He collapsed on Bob who rolled him off with a grunt. Bob looked with vacant eyes at Jill who stared back, her fingers absently trying to button her blouse. He became aware of voices in the background.
“Mrs. Schmidt, we saw your lights on and–
“In there. In there,” Greta said with urgency.
“What is it?”
Bob heard steps coming into the room. He turned to see Greta and two policemen, standing in the doorway, their faces aghast at the scene.
“Oh no,” Greta said, her hands going to her cheeks.
“What’s going on here?” one of the officers asked.
Numbly, Bob stood, took a few steps toward them and handed the knife to the policemen.
“I just killed two men.”
Looking down at Jill, he contorted his face in agony and began to cry. She reached up to pull him down to her. Sitting aright she held his sobbing head close to her. Jill’s eyes roamed the room as Bob clutched her waist. Her lips crinkled, and her chest began to heave, and, tears poured down her cheeks. Greta went to them, crouching and putting her strong arms around them.
“My babies, my babies,” she said, kissing their foreheads.