Chris awoke with a start. He thought he’d heard something. He was groggy from all the beer. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was after midnight, almost four hours until Sara came home. The baby was asleep in his lap; Chris thought he’d put him back in his crib, but when he tried to get up he found it difficult to stand. Well, maybe he’d just stretch out on the couch and leave the baby on a chair. Struggling to his feet, Chris was leaning over the chair to put the baby down when he heard a shuffling noise in the hallway. Looking up he saw Lizzie creeping along the wall.
“What the hell are you doing up? Get back to bed.”
“I want Mommy,” was the almost inaudible answer.
“She’s not here. Go back to bed, dammit.”
“I want Mommy,” the child repeated, this time breaking into quiet sobs.
“Are you stupid? I said she’s not here, so get your ass back in bed now!”
“I can’t,” the child replied, weeping harder now.
“Why not?” Chris could feel his patience wearing thin.
“I wet the bed,” was the humiliated answer. The child was sobbing uncontrollably now.
Chris saw white.
“You stupid brat, I’m gonna beat your ass for that.”
Dropping the baby on the chair, he staggered toward Lizzie, who had huddled into a ball, terrified to move. Just as he was within arm’s reach, the cat ran in between Chris’ feet. Losing his balance, he swung around, murder in his eyes.
“That does it! You’re going over the railing cat!”
Blind with drunken rage, he chased after the cat. The cat put up a terrific fight, yowling and clawing, scratching and spitting. Chris tripped over one of Lizzie’s toys and fell into the back of the chair, knocking the baby to the floor. Reggie started to cry. Chris finally grabbed the cat by the scruff of its neck.
“Over the side” he grumbled under his breath as he made his way to the balcony.
“No, no, Baby, my baby!” Lizzie shrieked.
The thought of harm coming to her cat sprang her into action. Hysterical and blind with tears, she ran after Chris. As he reached the door to the balcony, she threw herself against his knees, tackling him and pushing him forward. Losing his balance, he let go of the cat in a vain attempt to keep from falling. He struck his head against the railing and collapsed in an unconscious heap. Lizzie sat next to him, hitting his body with her hands.
“I hate you, I hate you” she sobbed. “Go away, go away, I wish you’d go away and leave us alone!”
“He’s not a very nice guy, is he?”
A strange male voice spoke at the front door. Startled, Lizzie looked up and saw two men she’d never seen before standing in the hallway. The one with a baseball cap on his head walked over to Chris and checked the cut on his head.
“He’s out, probably will be for a while.”
The other man was tall and thin, with bright blue eyes. He came over to Lizzie and crouched down beside her. The man smiled and spoke quietly and slowly to her.
“You don’t like this guy too much, do you?”
He wiped her eyes and made her blow her nose. Lizzie began to calm down, but felt uncomfortable having strangers in the house. She took a deep breath.
“No,” she said firmly, “I hate him, he yells at me all the time, he hits Mommy, he kicks my cat and he threw my Pretty Pony over the ledge. I wish he’d go away forever.”
The man rubbed her back and continued to speak softly to her.
“Shh, hush. What if I told you a way to make him go away forever, but you had to keep a secret, would you help me do it?”
Lizzie looked at him suspiciously. Mommy had told her never to talk to strangers, but this guy said he knew of a way to get rid of Chris. Forever.
Looking down at her hands, she shyly peeked up at him and asked “How?"
“It’s easy, but it means you’d have to do something bad. Would you be able to do it?”
The guy with the base ball cap looked at his partner.
“What are you doing? We were told to take care of this punk.”
The blue eyed man smiled.
“We are going to take care of him, and this little sweetie is going to help us, aren’t you daring?”
He tickled her, and she laughed. Leaning close he began to whisper in her ear. She grew quiet and solemn. Only once did she look anxiously over at the baby, still crying on the floor. She picked him up, cradling him close to her. She started to rock him back and forth, singing softly. Looking back over her shoulder at the two men she went to the edge of the railing.
“. . . When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby . . .”
She stood on her tip toes, reached the baby over the ledge, and let go.