“Hell is empty and all of the devils are here.”
– William Shakespeare
Renée tried to keep still as she’d been told but Jack was hurting her whether she moved or not. The thin needles entered the skin of her back over and over until all she felt was a blur of pain. Wetness dripped from her back – was it the black ink he’d shown her, for the picture he had to draw? The pain took over her senses then and she slipped, mercifully, out of consciousness.
Waking curled in a ball in the corner of the room on the dirty pile of blankets she’d been told was her bed, she tried to feel her back. It was sore and it hurt to move much at all. She sat up and held herself, shivering. It was as cold here as it had been outside and she was still wearing only her white cotton panties with the pink butterflies on them.
Her brother Jack was sitting on the floor across the room, watching her. He smelled like the room now, like the opposite corner he’d called the bathroom and like their mother when she drank from the paper sack. Renée stared back at him, hoping the drawing was finished and he wouldn’t need to hurt her anymore.
He had taken her out of the bedroom she was sharing with their brother Louis, she’d forgotten how many days ago, and brought her to this room, telling her she could help him and help Louis, too. Keep the drawing safe, he’d said, again and again. He had told her: someday, to save their family, give it to Louis.
Jack had let her cry and cry for her daddy but told her over and over that if she loved her family, she would help him save them. She never knew what she was saving them from. They were looking for her; her daddy would never stop trying to find her. She knew this because Jack said so and she believed it because she needed to. The nameless thing he feared, she couldn’t understand. The only thing that frightened her was him.
“They’ll find me, girl,” he said, and she flinched. “Your cursed father has them all after me. A damn street corner butcher who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes, friends with every cop in the city – got them all out looking for his Goldilocks. Yeah, they’ll find me … but maybe I won’t be here when they do. You will, though. Tell them. You tell them that Louis has to finish it, he has to use the drawing. I’m not crazy, it’s real – but they won’t believe it, not without proof. They’ll just lock me up again like a mad dog. This…” He held up a shiny box. “This will give them proof.”
She watched as he turned the box, pushing and pulling at it. When the first piece moved, she decided it must be a puzzle. Jack shouted out, scaring her. Turning away from him, she lay down and hugged herself tightly into a ball on the moldy blankets. Crying hadn’t brought her daddy rushing to help her, so she prayed. She didn’t know any real prayers but she prayed for someone to come, to save her from Jack, and to take her home.
As she prayed, she heard a soft, pretty bit of music start to play. Jack was yelling now and she didn’t have the courage to look up. From somewhere, a deep bell rang out, like at church.
“Yes!” Jack shouted. “Come for me! You know my blood, you’ve tasted enough of it from my family, through centuries – come and taste mine, you bastards!”
Renée continued to pray, closing her eyes tight and holding her hands over her ears against the ghostly lights and sounds that abruptly assaulted the empty, dirty room. Then she smelled something that made her heart thump hopefully – the scent of blood and raw meat that clung to her daddy’s clothes all the time, from his job. With it, barely covering over it, came a gentle wafting scent of vanilla.