Bravo by J. Q. Thompson

The air was rather chilly— it wasn’t unusual during autumn months, but it was prevalent enough to take notice. It swayed trees and took their leaves, puppeteering them to dance and twirl as silhouettes in the nighttime sky. Above, the stars were incredible. The sky was so vast and clear that one could not help but feel small, and had he seen it for the first time, August may have felt it too. But to him, it was just another night at work.

A pity, too. Such a beautiful scene shown before him, yet it was so consistently overshadowed by the “long hours of his job.” Long hours, he thought, walking along the cobbled streets beneath dimly lit street lights. He didn’t work particularly long most nights; he was paid for a quick job— a clean job— so most nights hardly lasted an hour, maybe two. Wonderful. And yet these nights seemed to last forever, he thought, cupping his hands to puff some heat and rubbing them together like one would a bar of soap. The air was, once again, rather chilly. Maybe if he was allowed thicker gloves for his uniform, the nights would seem shorter. Like he should be complaining; he earned enough money as it was. He ought to buy himself a new pair after the night was done.

The wind asserted itself and excited the molting hawthorns some more.

A nice leather pair, August thought. One with fur insides. Oh, but what would match his pea coat more? Brown or black? As he weighed his options, August rounded a street corner which stood before a tall, two-story building. 232 Crescent Avenue. Above the door hung a plank sign on a string; the store was closed. Not that it mattered, anyway. Brown or black? Black or brown? The black would match with his belt… but his belt was invisible beneath the tails of his pea coat, so what does it matter? The brown would bring a nice pop of color to the whole outfit… oh, but the belt– August jiggled the nob, testing its obdurance. The brass was cold to touch– if only August had some decent gloves. Typically, the door was locked. Smart homeowners, this lot. Or sensible, rather… the murders have been much more prevalent nowadays, especially at night. Not that August would know anything about it, of course. He tittered at the thought.

It’s almost eerie how few people come out at night, although the few like August were an exception. There was a very strict curfew placed to prevent nighttime murders, but August didn’t mind. It was much quieter this way. August fiddled around with his coat pocket until he found the key, a silver-nickel key with a rather intricate vine-like pattern curling near the base— a rather curious little thing. The original must’ve been commissioned by a rather skilled lad, a fine locksmith. August unlocked the door. Inside was a glass display showcasing a variety of pies and pastries upon long, white shelves. There were tarts and strudels with rich, fruity fillings— some bejeweled with sparkling sugars and spices along their crusts. There were rolls and clangers and glazed doughnuts and pies, some with beautiful crusts flaking with artistic elegance, powdered with granulated sugars, some with creams and dressings decorated atop. There were cookies and biscuits (perfectly browned), and wafers in a rainbow of colors. Everything was laid upon fine china, frilled and designed with wispy blue patterns along the edges: a beautiful set, August thought.

One would wonder how anyone could afford such art at times like these. Many people could hardly save enough for a nice mattress, let alone fine china. It was a wonder, yet somehow August knew that was exactly why he was here. Not to rob, of course— robbing was for the foolish and desperate, for the poor. But August was a refined lad, a well-off one, at that. He would never stoop to burglary, ever. Perhaps if he was born a beggar, he may very well have relied on such tactics. But August took pride in his pea coat and hat— they were quite comfortable; and he was thankful for what he was given (though some new gloves would be nice). Through the darkness, though it was difficult to make out, August could see paintings adorned above the mantelpiece. Each seemed to represent a different member of a family; there was a man and woman considerably gapped in age, the man being the elder of the two, and two young children: a boy and a girl. There were a couple decorative rugs on the floor with floral designs speckling the surface; the family seemed to enjoy deep mauves… or was it purple? In the darkness, it was too hard to tell.

There was no parlor room, there was no fireplace. Hardly any furniture, really, with exception to an old rocking chair in the corner, lonely and afraid. The rocking chair sat still, listening. All was quiet. Round a corner was a staircase leading upwards, which was rather modest in appearance. Simple pine rails lead up the walls, with very little pattern adorned within its grain. The stairs looked old, a blemish or two shown in the wood before the shadows thickened at the top where the light’s domain softened and died. August crept up, careful not to sound a creek in the loose planks. He prided himself as a cautious man in these sorts of circumstances, no one was to wake. His focus was not to veer so unreasonably, nor taper in its intensity. And how could it? He’d done this a thousand times.

The stairs hadn’t made a peep by the time August reached the top. The floorboards had behaved quite nicely. They must not have been aged long enough, the whole place had to have been newly built. But to have such lavish furnishings just a floor below… no, August thought, it’s none of my business, anyway. He must focus on the task at hand: there were three doors. Nobody said anything about three doors. Cursed informant. Judging by the pictures below, one must be a nursery, and one the master bedroom… but what of the third door? The doors may not behave at the same temperament as the stairs, August had to be careful. He tested the first door ahead.

No wail.

The room had a grand rug along the floor, decorated with intricate floral patterns and twisting spirals covering its surface. The rug was quite large, covering the majority of the floor, with a chest-dresser and two small beds aligned along its edges. The room was rather dark, the curtains drawn over the window for the night, but August could make out the figures of smaller-bodied individuals in each respective bed with what little moonlight seeped through the fabric. This was not what he had been looking for. August closed the door behind him, cautiously agonizing over the force at which the door hit its frame. Not a single sound.

This time, August tried the rightmost door, slowly sliding it open and out of its frame. Again, the curtains drawn— though the light of the moon failed to catch the window directly enough to allow for enough light. This was true, but August knew exactly where he was. The silhouette of the bed frame was much too large to mistake this room for any other than the master bedroom. As he made his way through the room, he could make out some dark shadows from the rest, a dresser and a nightstand in the furthest corner and a vanity tower on the wall alongside the door, with various perfumes and bottles gathered onto its surface. How fancy. I bet the wife enjoys wearing purple, August thought. When he found his way to the side of the bed, August felt his way around his belt until he felt the cold touch of a metal handle. The room was too dark to see. August felt around for a head, a face, a neck… and he pulled the handle from his belt and slowly slid it across the fleshy surface until his hands felt warm and wet.

Curiously, the figure hardly made so much as a flinch… when they did, they stopped not five seconds later. August wiped his hand off on the lace of the nightgown before he— wait. Nightgown? Lace? There was no way he could have possibly… August had felt their face… was Mr. Potter always that thin? Wasn’t he fuller-figured? No, no there has to have been some mistake— I’ve been in this business for thirteen years now, I couldn’t have possibly been so foolish— thoughts clouded his mind, an anxiety he was not willing to bear. He had to be sure. If I had accidentally performed on the wrong target… no, no, no… I would be discarded for such a foolish mistake… stupid, foolish, idiot… oh, but what would I do? What can I do? Tormented by these thoughts, he stood awhile, frozen until he reached a point of clarity. Steadily, he rounded the walls of the bed frame and found the second figure. Again, he brandished the metal in his hand and slid it straight down the gullet… but Mr. Potter had a certain girth to him, blubber thickly coated ‘round his neck, rejecting the blade. The man arose suddenly, making a ruckus and kicking fit and grasping his neck firmly, only the sound of low gurgling emitting from his gob. August caught the man, and in a rage of annoyance (possibly rushed by his previous embarrassment), he struck the man hard in the gut. Several times. And he struck until he was sure the man was open-faced and properly minced, a wet chunk or two of something stuck to August’s knuckles.

In an effort to regain his composure, August steadied his breathing: he had noticed that, at some point, it had become rather heavy and erratic. Calm yourself, August. He said. But before he could turn back to the door, August was interrupted by the small pitter-patter of feet and two soft voices.

“Mommy? Daddy?”

August turned around and killed them, too. When he looked through the darkness he could make out the sound of dripping. He was paid for a quick job– a clean job… August wouldn’t be buying that new pair of gloves anytime soon.

…What a mess.