Moonlight Falls, an idyllic name for an idyllic little burg tucked away in New England’s northeastern corner. But Moonlight Falls was a melancholy town, a town overwhelmed by heartache and misery. A town outraged after losing three young residents to an unknown abductor in three years.
December 5th, 2012, Michael Wood (10) – snatched while walking home from Moonlight Falls Middle School.
December 5th, 2013, Katelyn Harris (4) – grabbed while playing in Moonlight Falls Municipal Park.
December 5th, 2014, Danny Lynch (9) – kidnapped while he lay sleeping in his bed.
Three children taken, three lives erased, three children never seen again. Until now…
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 – 9:00 pm
It was 9:00 pm when Lieutenant John Hawke of the Moonlight Falls Police Department finally made it home from work. The weather was brutal. The arctic winds had caused heavy wet snowflakes to gather in thigh-high drifts.
His freezing-cold hands trembled as he fumbled to open the door to his warm, inviting house and family. His chilled skin tingled when a surge of hot air hit him as he entered the hallway. Hawke’s wife, Sarah, helped him unbutton his snow-covered overcoat.
“We found them,” he said through tortured sobs. An agonized cop reduced to shedding tears, his eyes red and puffy from numerous outpourings of pain and sorrow.
“It was horrendous. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Hawke continued.
Sarah held him close, kissing his tears away and fighting to stifle her own heartbreak.
“It was on the radio. It’s so tragic.”
She took his hand and led him to the living room.
“Where are the kids? Are they in bed?”
“They went up a while ago,” Sarah replied. “But I’m guessing they’re still awake, waiting for you.”
“I need to see them. I need to hold them.”
Hawke opened the bedroom door to see his 10-year-old twins, Lucas and Madison, smiling back, happy he had come to see them before they went to sleep. He held them tighter than he had ever done before telling them how much he loved them. His tears fell again as sorrow overtook him.
Wiping his eyes, he kissed them goodnight before turning off the bedroom light and closing the door.
After pouring a large bourbon on the rocks, Hawke sat by the living-room fire. The alcohol and heat from the flames warmed his chilled bones. Grimacing, he recounted the worst day of his 15-year career in law enforcement.
“Dispatch took a call around 7:00 am this morning from Bill Mulligan, the owner of the hardware store. He was walking his two German Shepherds near Moss Hill Forest when one of the dogs started barking like crazy and bolted deep into the dense growth.
“It took Bill ages to find the dog, but when he did, it was pawing at something buried under a layer of snow, branches, and leaves. The dog had found what looked like a child’s jacket. Bill got out of there as fast as he could and called us. He said he’d never been that deep into the forest before this morning.
“We sent the K-9 unit in and after combing the area, they found three bodies.”
Hawke’s team of investigators identified the bodies as Michael Wood, Katelyn Harris and Danny Lynch – the three missing children.
“Someone had buried their battered, mutilated bodies in burlap sacks. It was a vicious and merciless attack. Three defenseless children slaughtered, their limbs amputated. It was savage. I can’t describe it any other way.
“We found three small blood-stained dolls nearby and a note written in blood:
‘I put them on the naughty list – The Gray Man.’”
Tears ran like a river down Sarah’s cheeks as she listened to her husband’s harrowing disclosure.
“When we were kids, we used to call Moss Hill the ‘Enchanted Forest’,” she said. “Not so bloody enchanting now, is it?”
Closing his eyes, Hawke began to shiver as the horrific images of the day flashed before him. He recoiled as he replayed the sound of wretched bereavement from when he passed on the news of the discovery to the children’s parents, sounds that would plague Hawke’s thoughts forever. Ghastly images of dismembered bodies flashed through his mind.
After three years of waiting, three years of tension and apprehension, Moonlight Falls had become a mournful, funereal town.
Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 – 9:00 am
Early the next morning, after very little sleep, Hawke sat with Lucas and Madison and told them the news about their missing friends. They both broke down into floods of tears. Michael Wood went to the same school as Lucas and Madison, and the Hawkes were friends with Katelyn Harris’ family.
Hawke was consoling his children when Sarah joined them.
“We’ll never forget them,” she whispered. “There will always be a place in our hearts for your friends, especially Danny.”
Danny Lynch was Lucas and Madison’s best friend. They lived on the same street, played together and walked to school as a group every day. Their friends dubbed them the “Three Amigos.” Danny was part of the family.
If he wasn’t working on a Sunday, Hawke would take the “Amigos” to the movies or the ballpark and always buy them a hot dog on the way home, saying “Don’t tell mom,” and winking. He would laugh as the kids tried to wink back at him. When they returned home, Sarah always had a meal waiting for everyone.
Since that cold December night, there would always be an empty desk in the classroom; an empty seat at the movie theater; an empty seat in the ballpark’s bleachers. No more “Three Amigos,” no more shared laughter, only sadness for their missing friend.
Sarah had cried for days after Danny’s abduction. Everyone did in the Hawke household. She could not imagine the living hell Danny’s parents were enduring. The merest thought of something happening to Lucas or Madison tore at her soul.
“Why would someone do that to Danny? What did he do?” Madison said through streams of tears.
“I wish I knew,” said Hawke.
“We’re scared, Daddy,” Lucas said.
“I know you’re scared, baby. Daddy and Mommy are here and we’ll look after you,” he said. “My police friends and I will protect you. I promise.”
Hawke sensed his children’s vulnerability. They had discovered that humans were cruel and that the bad guys often won. Not all adults were nice people, some were monsters that did unspeakable, sadistic things no child should ever have to endure. What had happened in their sleepy little town was worse than any fairytale could ever be.
As he held Madison, and Sarah hugged Lucas, Hawke’s mind wandered to the three children’s parents and how they never relinquished hope of finding their children. He had known the three deceased youngsters all their short lives. Not once did they assume the worst possible scenario that he had witnessed the day before.
For three years, the town attended candlelit vigils and the parents organized daily searches. They stapled flyers anywhere and everywhere they could across the town and beyond. They set up pages on social media hoping for something to help bring their children home. They never lost hope until the gruesome discovery on December 2nd, 2015.
The families were inconsolable, the anguish and animosity overpowering and palpable when Hawke gave them the news they never wanted to hear. Angst and rage toward the P.D. grew – three missing children and no leads. From now on, December – and Christmas in particular – would always be a time of blackness and trepidation in Moonlight Falls.
Friday, December 4th, 2015 – Noon
It had been a couple of days since the macabre discovery, and Hawke was no nearer to finding the perpetrator. He spent his daylight hours combing the crime scene but the search was futile. When daylight faded and the inky blackness of a winter night took over, he read and reread statements, checked records, inspected photographs, tried everything he could to find a clue – a sliver of hope – but it was all for naught.
Madison loved Christmas, before the disappearances. It was her favorite time of year. When the calendar turned to December 1st, she was at her happiest. Lucas, on the other hand, did not share her excitement of the festive season. He preferred to stay at home watching TV or playing on his gaming console.
Rumors swirled about Moonlight Falls of the cancellation of the Annual Christmas Fayre, but the rumors came to nothing and the event went ahead as planned in an effort to restore some sort of normality to the beleaguered town.
The fayre, held at Municipal Park, was always a big event. It had all the usual Christmas festivities like visits to Santa’s Grotto, Christmas cookie sales, carol singing, skating on the pond and myriad food vendors. The official lighting of the Christmas tree was always the highlight of the day. Along with many other parents, Hawke and Sarah believed taking Lucas and Madison would help them find some relief from the grief of losing their friends.
Saturday, December 5th, 2015 – 3:00 pm
The morning dawned bright with a fresh coating of snow and the promise of more to come during the day, but that did not deter the hardy folks of Moonlight Falls. The bustling fayre teemed with people, all hoping for a few hours relief from the abhorrence of the past few days. The alluring aromas of hot dogs, roasted chestnuts, eggnog, hot chocolate, cinnamon, and hot mulled cider infused the crisp winter air as families meandered from vendor to vendor.
Madison pleaded with her parents to go skating. Lucas, meanwhile, showed his annoyance at being out in the cold by disagreeing with his sister whenever the chance arose. Her heart sank when she skipped toward the pond and saw the line was way too long to wait. Hawke suggested they look at what else the fayre had to offer and come back to the pond later in the day.
As they walked, something captivated Madison’s attention. She pointed to a jovial-looking fellow with a round, red face and bushy white beard and mustache. He wore a Santa Claus suit and held the reins of a magnificent white horse hitched to an elegant, red-colored open sleigh. A sign offered free rides.
“Look, Lucas, free sleigh rides. Come on!”
Lucas did not share her excitement but, despite his protests, Madison dragged him over to look before he could object.
“Isn’t it lovely? Let’s go for a ride! Would you give us a ride in your sleigh, sir?” Madison asked.
“Hang on Miss Madison, aren’t you supposed to ask me first?” Sarah interrupted.
“Please, Mommy. Pleeeease,” Madison pleaded, her eyes never leaving the huge white horse.
Sarah acquiesced, but only on the condition Lucas went with her. He agreed, looking underwhelmed at the prospect. She then asked the driver where he would be taking them.
“Ho, ho, ho. Only around the park, my dear,” he replied.
Hawke introduced himself and told the driver that under no circumstances did he want his children taken anywhere near Moss Hill Forest.
“Of course not, glad to oblige, Lieutenant. My name is Niklaus Graumann and this fine white steed is Fire Storm.”
With a smile that revealed yellowing teeth, Graumann looked at the children and offered his hand to help them into the sleigh.
“Climb in Madison. Watch your step,” he said.
Giggling with delight and grinning from ear-to-ear, Madison boarded the sleigh.
“Come on Lucas, don’t be a pain,” she called down to her brother. “It’ll be fun!”
“Whatever,” Lucas said as he stared a hole through his parents and shook his head. “This is so not cool.”
Graumann chuckled. “Come on young sir, jump in and sit with your sister. It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together. Enjoy a little festive spirit. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!”
Fire Storm let out a loud snort and a jet of steam exhaled from the horse’s nostrils. It pawed the snow with a front hoof as if to say ‘hurry up.’ Lucas climbed up beside Madison who had forgotten about what happened to Danny, Katelyn and Michael for a few moments.
“Would you like something to cover your legs?”
“Yes please, Mister Niklaus,” said Madison.
“And beware of old Jack Frost nipping at your nose, it’s a cold one today,” Graumann said as he shielded her legs with a warm blanket.
“It’s good to see her smiling again,” Sarah said as she took pictures of her children in the sleigh.
Graumann gave the reins a flick and Fire Storm trotted away. Bells attached to the reins jingled as the horse eased into a brisk trot and the sleigh slipped over the crisp, virgin snow, carving icy imprints in its wake.
Madison tipped her head back and laughed with delight as the wind blew through her hair. Pure white flakes of snow fell on her face, settled on her eyelashes and tickled her nose, making her laugh even more.
“Hawke? What is it?” Sarah asked as a look of concern appeared on her husband’s face.
“Did he say his name was Graumann?”
“Yes, Niklaus Graumann,” she replied.
“Oh shit. What have we done? Graumann is German for ‘Gray Man.’ Keep watching where the sleigh goes.”
He threw off his gloves and reached into his overcoat pocket for his police radio…
“Riley? It’s Hawke. Find the person who organized the fayre and see if they have someone named Graumann operating free sleigh rides. Do it yesterday, time is not on our side.
“We’ve got a big problem right now. Call it a cop’s hunch or a weird premonition, but we may have found our killer and he’s taken my kids for a sleigh ride.”
As Sarah watched Graumann’s progress, Hawke chased after the sleigh with every ounce of energy he possessed, slipping as he ran through the snow.
The police radio crackled into life: “Hawke, it’s Riley. There’s no-one on the list named Graumann or any mention of free sleigh rides.”
A cold shudder of terror coursed through Hawke’s veins.
“Shit. Call it in and get every available officer out here. I’m following on foot as best I can but I’ve lost ground because of the snow. They’ve moved farther and farther away.”
Lucas and Madison swayed in their seat as they moved with the sleigh’s motion. Lucas was on edge, the jingling bells sounded threatening, not joyous. It was as if they were warning him. Everything took on a dark overtone. The horse had menacing eyes full of fire and Graumann was so over-the-top cheerful, it was unnerving. He creeped Lucas out.
Madison was lost in her own personal winter wonderland. Her brother’s scowl of disgust grew as she laughed merrily, mesmerized by the bells and riding in the red sleigh. Lucas’ unease increased the more they carved through the snow, following the park’s perimeter. He sensed something was wrong, something bad was going to happen.
No sooner had the thought gone through his head, Graumann smashed the reins down hard across Fire Storm’s flanks and the horse broke into a feisty gallop.
“Schneller, Feuersturm. Schneller! [Faster, Fire Storm. Faster!]” Graumann yelled.
Fire Storm jolted hard to the left, throwing Lucas and Madison to the right of the seat and into each other. The park’s welcoming lights and sounds faded into the distance as Graumann steered the sleigh onto a dark, winding path where tree branches hung low from the snow’s weight. Madison tried to scream but no sound came out as they moved deeper into the forest.
“Hold on tight,” Lucas shouted to his sister who was crying with fear.
Fire Storm picked up speed and the sleigh creaked and groaned as it bounced over the uneven ground beneath the runners.
“Please go slower,” Madison moaned into the dark night air, trying to make Graumann aware of her over the deafening bells. He laughed and cracked the reins again, urging Fire Storm to gallop even faster.
“You want to go faster you say? Schneller, Schneller!”
“No! No! No!” Madison screamed.
“Go slower!” Lucas demanded. “You’re scaring my sister.”
Graumann turned to face the children and they howled in horror.
“Do you really think I care if you’re scared?” He asked.
Graumann’s face had become mangled and deranged. It was gray with glowing red eyes sitting in deep, dark eye sockets. His balding head sprouted huge curled horns giving him a half-goat, half-demon appearance. A long, pointed tongue lolled from his mouth to reveal lengthy gray fangs, while a large cowbell clanged around his neck. The red Santa Claus suit had given way to a furry gray body with a burlap sack strapped to his back.
He smelled the air, breathing in the scent of impish children. Exhilaration washed over him like a tidal wave and he shook in ecstasy.
“Come along, be of good cheer,” he growled. “Don’t you know it’s the most wonderful time of the year?”
He flashed his jagged teeth in a sinister grin, “It’s the hap-happiest season of all!”
He turned back and snapped the reins across Fire Storm’s flanks once more. Reins that were once shiny, polished leather were now thick, rusty chains covered in dried blood. Lucas stared at Graumann’s fingers. They had become long, bony claws.
“I know who you two are. I’ve made a naughty list, checked it twice and guess what? You’re on it,” he bellowed with laughter. “Your days will never be merry and bright again.”
“No! We’ve not been naughty. We’ve been good. You’ve got it wrong!” Madison wailed.
“Be quiet little girl! You better not pout, you better not cry. I’ve watched while you’re sleeping. I’ve watched while you’re awake. I know if you’ve been bad or good.”
Madison’s face froze with fear as they raced deeper and deeper into the forest. Lucas pulled her toward him and grabbed her arm, shaking it hard to gain her attention.
“Madison, we have to jump. Can you do it? We have to get away from him.”
She sat motionless, staring in abject fear at Graumann’s back as his maniacal laughter echoed through the trees. Fire Storm snorted steam into the icy, pine-scented air as the runners whooshed over the frozen terrain, the Christmas Fayre long behind them.
Lucas could feel the sleigh moving faster.
“Madison, we have to jump, NOW! Come on!”
He grabbed Madison’s arm and leaped out of the sleigh. A combination of his frozen fingers and her soaking wet jacket caused him to lose his handhold. He plummeted face-first and landed on the rough ground, cutting his cheek on a snow-covered tree root. A moan escaped his lips as the air rushed out of his lungs. Madison was still in Graumann’s clutches frantically pleading for Lucas to help her.
Without thinking, he ran after them but the sleigh was way too fast for him. He turned back the way they had come and began running as fast as he could, following the sleigh’s tracks to safety. The cold blurred his vision and choked the air from his lungs as the sound of Madison’s screams and Fire Storm’s damned bells grew fainter and fainter.
Lucas slowed down to catch his breath and fell to his knees as a tearing, burning-hot pain racked through his body like something – or someone – was inside him, ripping at his stomach, yanking it out. A prolonged, high-pitched scream assaulted his ears and a hollow emptiness penetrated his soul. It was Madison. They were twins and because of their special connection, he was feeling every ounce of her pain and suffering. She was dead. Graumann, the demon beast, had killed her. Lucas dropped to his knees and screamed for help as the tears ran down his blood-covered face.
Once he had regained some semblance of composure, Lucas turned and set off toward what he hoped was safety. His leg muscles stiffened as he trudged through the fresh fall of snow in the mysterious darkness. He kept moving until he heard voices calling out for him and Madison He hobbled toward the voices as fast as his weary legs would carry him and fell into his father’s arms at the edge of the forest.
“It took Madison…I jumped clear…I grabbed her but she stayed inside. It took her. It took her! She was screaming and then it stopped. She’s dead!” Lucas collapsed, breathless and exhausted from the torturous ordeal.
Hawke turned to the rest of the search party, “Okay guys, let’s catch the bastard who’s taken my daughter.”
Later that night, after having stitches in his facial wound and a check-up at the hospital, Lucas and Sarah went home. When he went to his room he noticed a window was open – and a gift-wrapped Christmas present sitting on his bed. He called Sarah and asked who had been in there.
“No-one’s been in your room, Lucas. We’ve been out nearly all day, haven’t we? I have no idea where the gift came from either or who put it there.
“Do you want to open it?” Sarah asked.
They tore at the wrapping paper and opened the box. Staring back at them was a small doll dressed in blood-stained clothing that Sarah recognized as being the same material as the scarf Madison had been wearing. Sarah then shrieked in horror when she looked at the dresser mirror. A message was daubed in blood:
“You’re next, Lucas.”
With the spine-tingling din of Fire Storm’s jingling bells ringing in his ears, Lucas fell into his mother’s arms and sobbed as he clutched the doll to his chest…
Thursday, December 24th, 2015 – 10:00 am
It was Christmas Eve, nineteen days since Madison’s abduction and the police still had nothing solid to go on. As the days passed, the search stalled and the P.D. grew desperate to solve the case and apprehend the child abductor and killer.
Hawke was no longer part of the missing person search team – he was too close to the case. Despite this, he still made daily trips to Moss Hill Forest and conducted his own frantic, futile hunts. The forest was a sprawling mass of trees, at least 100 square miles, many of them impenetrable. Finding Madison was like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.
No matter what the weather threw at him he made the daily trip. He refused to give up hope of seeing his daughter again. He went out in driving blizzards, the stinging wind whipped blinding seas of white powder into his face, turning it blue with cold; his eyes squinted to see, as he continued to search, head bowed to meet the wintry onslaught.
Appeals went out on television and radio, but nothing substantial came forward. Both Hawke and Sarah knew the more time that elapsed without a lead, the chances of recovering their daughter grew slimmer with every passing hour.
Lucas’ description of Graumann changing into a goat-horned monster drew skepticism. Lots of skepticism. The officers in charge wrote it off as a child’s imagination and the shock of the ordeal. The petrified youngster lived his days consumed with fear. The message said, “You’re next, Lucas.” No matter how many cops watched the house, he would never feel safe again.
The boy was 10-years-old and had lived through an atrocity that would change anyone’s life. He cursed himself for not grabbing Madison’s sleeve tighter when he jumped clear. A feeling of helplessness consumed him. He cried himself to sleep, oftentimes wetting the bed when he recalled Madison’s screams as she disappeared into the darkness, taken by a yuletide demon.
Lucas panicked even more when he looked out of his bedroom window on Christmas Eve morning to see a section of snow-covered garden fence lying on the ground in the yard.
“It’s okay, buddy. The wind flattened it in the night,” Hawke said to reassure his son.
“Want to help me fix it?”
“We’ll be safe. Look outside, son. There are two police officers in a patrol car parked outside the house and a car at each end of the street.”
Despite the bitter cold, heartache and fright, Lucas went outside and helped his father. The wind was the coldest on record in Moonlight Falls and it rattled everything in its path – roof tiles, trees, gutters and anything not secured.
As his father banged long nails into the fence panels and posts to hold them upright again, Lucas’ mind wandered to his family and how they should have been preparing for Christmas Day celebrations, not mourning Madison’s loss. This year, and every year after, there would be despair instead of laughter.
Whenever he closed his eyes, fear and apprehension took over. He could see Graumann’s menacing form. The beast was moving closer and closer. It was going to take Lucas into the forest and kill him then discard his body like a broken toy.
An icy blast of cold air made Lucas’ eyes sting as the lights strung around the outside of his house clattered and jingled like the bells on Fire Storm’s reins as they hurtled headlong into the blackness. As his anxiety increased, Lucas stared at Moss Hill Forest. He sensed evil, satanic red eyes. They pierced his soul, watching and waiting for the precise moment to pounce…
Hawke shook the fence to test its sturdiness. Pleased with his father’s handiwork, Lucas asked him to nail the house windows closed. Hawke never asked why. Parents were doing the same thing across the town. With evening approaching and the threat of more snow and biting-cold winds, Hawke drove a series of large nails through every window frame.
Lucas followed his father around as he added the extra security measures. With the last window secured, Lucas hugged his father tight.
“Thank you,” he said. “Can you do one more thing for me, Daddy?”
“Anything. All you have to do is ask.”
“Will you sleep in my room tonight? Watch over me and keep me safe.”
“Of course, buddy. I’ll be there until it’s time to open our presents.”
Lucas spent the rest of day nervous and fidgety, looking out of the living-room window searching for Graumann. As the hours passed, he doubled his efforts to stay alert until his young body could no longer stay awake.
When it was time for Lucas to go to bed, Sarah kissed and hugged him before going back downstairs to finish preparing Christmas dinner.
“Goodnight, champ. See you tomorrow,” Sarah whispered, trying to hold back sobs.
Lucas smiled back through floods of tears.
“I’ll be there, mom. Daddy and his friends are protecting me. I’m not worried about presents. All I want is to be able to sit at the table with you and Daddy and Gran and Granddad so we can say a prayer for Madison, Danny, Katelyn and Michael.”
After a few minutes of nervous chatter, Lucas fell asleep while Hawke settled down in the chair closest to the bed
Friday, December 25th, 2015
3:00 am – the Devil’s hour, dead time…
Hawke’s head jolted forward and snapped him awake. Woozy from lack of sleep, he thought he heard the sound of sleigh bells, but it could have been in his subconscious. The ringing continued as he gathered his senses. It was coming from outside.
Checking for his pistol and police radio, he opened the thick bedroom drapes. His eyes widened in disbelief. This was no hallucination. In front of the house, Graumann’s sleigh waited in anticipation. Fire Storm took on a menacing appearance under the streetlight’s sodium glow as it reared up on its hind legs. Dark lines ran across its back where the bloody chains had urged the horse to greater speed.
Stepping out from the shadows, Graumann’s evil persona moved into view. This thing was exactly how Lucas had described it – a goat-like entity. Steam rose from its mouth and nose as it exhaled, and strands of saliva clung to its blood-matted fur.
Lucas stirred to see his father looking out of the window scrutinizing the scene below. Hawke shook his head, unable to grasp what he was seeing.
Lucas shifted in his bed. “He’s here, isn’t he?” He said, shaking with trepidation as he pictured the goat-horned figure that haunted his every waking moment.
Cloven-hooved footsteps tramped across the snow-covered lawn toward the house. Hawke grabbed his police radio.
“What is it, Daddy? What’s out there?”
“Control, we have an emergency, a prowler and it’s inhuman. Where are the other officers?”
The footsteps stopped, the silence almost deafening.
Three heavy knocks hammered on the door, shattering the calm.
“It’s here. It’s come to get me,” Lucas cried out.
“Of course not, Lucas,” Hawke stammered, more to pacify his fearful son than believe what he was saying.
“No! It’s here for me!” Lucas screamed.
Another three loud knocks reverberated throughout the house. For the first time in Lucas’ young life, he saw fear in his father’s eyes.
Sarah moved around in the room next door. “What’s going on, Hawke? Who is it?”
The knocks were so hard Hawke could feel the house vibrate around him. The harrowing cacophony filled every room.
“It’s he…,” Lucas wailed but stopped in mid-cry. His words halted by a terrifying, panic-inducing noise – the front door handle being turned. The door was solid wood, locked and dead-bolted. Nothing would open it.
Banging and crashing replaced the knocking. The beast was hurling itself at the door trying to break in. After six or seven heavy thuds, the door gave way…
A cold chill ran down Lucas’ spine. The nightmare had become a reality. The frigid air carried the sound of something climbing the stairs, moving from room to room seeking its prey.
“Daddy, where are the cops? Why aren’t they here? Help me!” Lucas implored as the abomination approached his room.
Hawke tried to disguise his feelings, but his face betrayed him. Terror and dread filled his soul. He had seen many things during his years as a cop but none of them compared to this.
“I’m going out there. I have to. As soon as I leave the room, grab anything heavy and barricade your door. The only people you let in are me or your mom. Got it?”
As the footsteps stopped outside the bedroom, Hawke knelt and hugged his son. Lucas could see the helplessness in his father’s eyes.
“It’ll be alright, I promise. I love you.” Hawke readied his Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol, opened the door and was gone.
The tearful boy moved everything not nailed in place to behind his door – bed, chair, even a box of books. He sat on them to add more weight and sobbed, bit his fingernails and hoped above hope his parents would be okay.
The house remained silent for a few moments, then all hell broke loose. The sounds of glass smashing, furniture moving, shouting and screams, filled the air – the mayhem of a vicious life-or-death struggle below Lucas’ feet. Gunshots punctuated the chaos. Sarah screamed. Hawke moaned in pain. Then silence. Nothing but eerie, empty silence…
Lucas sat for a few minutes listening for any sign of movement in the house. He could not take it any longer. He cleared his impromptu barricade and opened the bedroom door. He had been apart from his parents for too long. Tiptoeing down the darkened hallway, Lucas felt the icy-cold air come through the broken front door and penetrate his pajamas. Walking down the stairs, he could see broken furniture and glass littering the floor. A pool of blood soaked the carpet near the door. He called for Hawke and Sarah but heard nothing in reply.
He moved from damage-strewn room to damage-strewn room, calling for his parents, his desperation increasing with every step. As Lucas moved back toward the open door, he stopped dead on the spot. He could see the two police officers’ lifeless corpses laying on the ground next to their cruiser, jets of dried blood leaving macabre patterns on the car’s paintwork.
More blood pooled beyond the doorstep.
“Mom! Dad! Where are you?”
The only response was the whistling of the arctic-cold air blowing through the house. He stepped over the blood and out of the door and froze at the sight that met him. The pool of blood split into two red rivers of violence sandwiching a set of hoof prints heading to where Graumann’s sleigh had sat.
The Gray Man had come for Lucas but took his parents instead. There was a note on the ground nearby. With shaking hands, he grabbed it from the blood-stained snow:
“Two more on the naughty list. See you next year…”
Lucas fell to his knees, sobbing into the darkness as three police cars arrived…
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