Standing at the top of the stairs I could still see Aaron’s expression the moment I called out to him. There was clearly something wrong but that was apparent in the fact that he was escorting a young kid into his study. David stepped in through the front door and my heart slowed in my chest.
If David was with him then whatever was going on couldn’t be too terrible… Or at least I hoped it couldn’t be.
“David, what are you doing outside? Who’s the boy?”
I started down the stairs, drawing my dressing gown in around my body a little tighter. The cool night air was still flooding in through the gaping front door and the moment I reached the ground floor I started towards it, my hand reaching out to shut it.
“Heather, you should go back to bed, it’s nothing, really.”
The tone in Aaron’s voice let me know immediately that he was lying. The realisation that he was keeping things from me cut me to the core and I struggled to keep my expression calm.
“I’m not going back to bed when clearly there’s something going on? Who’s the boy?”
Aaron stared at me, his mouth opening and closing as he struggled to find an answer he could give me.
“We heard him prowling around outside…”
David cut in, spreading his hands wide as he stepped in front of Aaron and the boy.
“And what? You both went to investigate instead of the security team doing it?”
David was harder to read but I had a feeling that he was covering for Aaron. There was something they didn’t want me to know and I couldn’t put my finger on it but whatever it was, it was clearly serious.
“Something like that.”
David grinned at me but I wasn’t falling for it. I sidestepped him, and paused as I came face to face with Aaron. He wore a guilty expression and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why he’d be looking at me like that.
My gaze darted from Aaron and came to rest on the box that sat on the hall table just inside the door. The moment I saw it I felt my stomach lurch as I remembered the last one.
Aaron had tried to keep all of Hank’s correspondence from me but there was only so much he could hide. I’d seen the lock of Kirsty’s hair, the blood smeared note and it was enough to know that Hank was truly psycho sick.
Of course Aaron had kept all of the video confessions from me but he couldn’t stop me from listening at the doors when he called the police around and put the tape on for them. The screaming wasn’t something I could get out of my head and I was certain I never would.
“He wasn’t just a prowler was he? Hank sent him?”
I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the parcel on the table, my eyes raking over its perfectly wrapped exterior. How he managed to seal up each box without ever leaving trace evidence was beyond me. How could he be so good at hiding from the police, from Aaron and all while he taunted them.
“Yeah, I heard him leaving the parcel. I’m going to call the cops and get them out here but not before I ask him some questions of my own.”
“What sort of questions?”
My voice sounded a little hollow as I turned my gaze back to Aaron. The boy stood in the doorway to the study, the expression he wore one of complete terror. The moment I focused in on the boy I felt all of my emotions flooding back to me. They crowded into my head almost as though they could crowd out all of my logical thoughts.
“He’s just a kid, what’s he going to know?”
“I don’t know, Heather but the least little thing could be important and we need to know everything.”
“I want to sit in on it, I want to know what he has to say.”
Aaron instantly shook his head and moved to stand between me and the door.
“No, Heather, you know you can’t. We don’t know what he’s going to say and I don’t…”
I cut him off my voice going hard.
“You don’t want what? You don’t want me to know how dangerous Hank is? How completely insane he is? I think it’s a little late for all of that. I already know he’s mad, I already know that the things he’s doing to Kirsty would very probably scar me for life and yet I have to know…”
“Heather, I really can’t let you… I don’t want you knowing this, I don’t want you knowing what I know, carrying what I have to carry. I don’t want to have to watch it rip you apart too.”
“So what? I’m supposed to sit idly by, twiddling my thumbs as I watch the guilt eat you alive? Aaron Ashcroft, I love you but I won’t be wrapped in cotton wool while you suffer through all the difficult times.”
“Heather, he’s not alone, he has me. I’m here no matter what and I’ll always stick by him, especially for something like this. I’ll make sure he doesn’t get in to deep.”
I shook my head as I turned towards David, I knew he meant well and that every word he spoke was sincere but none of it mattered. He couldn’t protect Aaron from it, not in the way he needed to be protected. I wasn’t even sure I could but I sure as hell knew that I could stand by his side and be there every step of the way. And when the nightmares stole him from my bed at night then I would be there to hold him and listen when he was good and ready to talk about it. But I couldn’t do any of that if he spent his time trying to protect me.
“David, I know you love your brother but you and I both know that you can’t be there during the darkest hours but I can… You just need to trust me.”
“Heather, I do trust you.”
Aaron’s voice was choked as he stepped forward and wrapped me in his arms. I let him hold me, his grip tightening to almost painful proportions as he clung to me.
“Then don’t shut me out. Let me sit in on your questioning.”
Aaron didn’t answer me, instead he pulled back and stared down into my face. He seemed to study me for a moment before finally nodding his head.
“Fine, but you can’t interfere.”
I nodded suddenly unsure of the man standing in front of me. Why did he need my assurance that I wouldn’t interfere? Why was that so important? What did he have planned?
I glanced over Aaron’s shoulder and stared at the teen who stood awkwardly in the door to the study. The look he gave me made me want to reach out to him and tell him that everything would be alright. I wanted to reassure him, tell him that if he just answered all of Aaron’s questions that everything would be fine and yet I knew I couldn’t do that.
He might have been a child but he had agreed to work with Hank. He had gotten the package from somewhere and he agreed to come to our house in the middle of the night. If Hank had asked him to do anything else part of me couldn’t help but wonder if he would have carried out his orders?