Welcome to my novel, THE PSYCHO’S PATH. It’s currently on the backburner because I’m working on another fiction, however, if y’all enjoy it, let me know and I’ll definitely update it.
The handprints on the wall were the third sign that her daughter was in danger.
As a mother, Katrina was accustomed to being surrounded by handprints. The first time she had turned her back during dinnertime, her daughter Olivia had managed to plunge her hands into her pasta sauce, escape from the high chair and crawl speedily along the living room floor. Her handprints had sullied the burgundy carpet, much to Katrina’s frustration.
When Olivia played outside, she would wriggle through nettle-peppered grass and puddles, before entering the house and climbing every piece of furniture she could reach. The cream-coloured sofa had suffered most cruelly at the toddler’s hands.
Olivia’s nursery, Fort Hill Primary, used handprints to teach the children an important lesson: We are all unique. The children would dip their hands in paint and press them up against plain paper. Katrina had lost count of the times she had been presented with a dog-eared piece of A4, smudged with bright blue, purple or yellow prints. Each one had been graciously accepted from the beaming infant, and added to the rest of Olivia’s ‘artwork’; mostly crayon drawings of MUMMY in which Katrina was rather ominously missing eyes.
But these particular handprints were something else entirely.
The peacefulness had been the first sign.
Olivia was seven years old. For Katrina it meant seven years of wiping snotty noses, of tying shoelaces, of interrupted sleep, of bath-time arguments, of tripping over ill-placed toys and of raspberry-blows on bellies. Peace and quiet was not something that featured in her household.
She began to edge her way forwards, scanning her surroundings for any clue as to what was going on. As a police officer, she was trained to look around her for a sign of a struggle – an item knocked over or a piece of furniture in less than immaculate condition.
Now, as she made her way through her house, she realised there was no way to tell the difference between the chaos of a household robbery and the chaos of a child-inhabited home. Olivia’s toys and clothes were strewn everywhere.
The living room was empty. Her sense of uneasiness increased. It was far too quiet for anybody to be at home. And Alyssa was the type of sitter who always rang if she was going to take Olivia out for a walk.
Katrina made her way softly but quickly towards the kitchen. A soft murmur met her ears. It took her a while to recognise that the radio was playing Someone Like You by Adele. Her fear subsided. The girls must be in the kitchen, having dinner. She pushed the door open.
She stopped mid-sentence. Air rushed to her throat and was trapped. She teetered on her feet, eyes fixed upon the second sign. It was a corpse, lying just metres away from where she stood. The skull had caved inwards, blood seeping from the bony crater and soaking the hair crimson. Katrina recognised the body to be Alyssa in the same moment that she managed tear her eyes from the body and glance around the room.
No sign of Olivia. Walking over to the Alyssa’s remains, she pushed the girls’ hair aside. Out of ritual, rather than hope, Katrina placed two fingers on the side of her neck.
She waited for the preliminary twenty seconds, murmuring each number like an incantation. She had hoped her breathing would slow down to match the pace of her counting. It didn’t work.
Straightening up, she went over to the kitchen counter where four knives were slotted into a wooden rack. Instinctively, she chose the smallest one. It would fit in her hand easier, need less manoeuvre space than a larger knife if she was cornered, and was more aerodynamic.
Methodically, Katrina began to sweep the downstairs area. She checked every room, every cupboard, and every space large enough to conceal a human.
Katrina wasn’t sure whether to be thankful or more anxious as it became apparent that each room was as empty as the last.
By the time she was ready to move her search upstairs, her brain had caught up with her actions. She reached into her pocket, pulled out her mobile and dialled her boss. He picked up almost immediately.
“Code Zero. My place. Now.”
Katrina was surprised at how controlled her voice sounded. She heard the rustle of Blake’s clothes as he sat upright. Was he still at the office? Or had he already left for his house? Katrina prayed it would be the latter.
“Is the area secure?”
Over the phone she heard a loud, metallic whine and realised he was still at the office. He was beside the coffee machine to be exact. Shit.
“Katrina.” His voice was sharper now. “Is the area cleared?”
She made her way up the stairs. Faintly, she could hear Blake giving orders to those around him.
“Vehicles have been dispatched,” he told her. “You’ve got an ETA of five minutes. Do you copy?”
“Good. Now get out of there.”
“I can’t. I need to-”
“Wait for backup.”
There was a pause on the other end of the phone, followed by a sharp intake of breath.
“Your babysitter’s dead?”
Hearing the cold fact repeated did little to decrease the ball of anxiety rising up and punching through her oesophagus like National Lottery balls through their glass tubes.
“Are you with Olivia?” Blake asked.
It was only when Katrina heard her daughter’s name out loud that the reality of the situation hit her. She felt tears swelling in her eyes, her chest tightening.
“I’m looking for her.” Her voice came out in hiccups, her throat raw.
She began to move down the corridor. It was as though Blake could see her every move.
“Get out of there.”
“There’s just one more room.”
“Katrina, are you listening to me? Don’t you fucking d-”
Katrina hung up. Blake’s voice had riled her much more than it should have. She’d been living in the south for years now, but the accents still pissed her off. The people down here had the habit of never letting words leave their mouths. Instead they allowed their words to dribble out, which left Katrina constantly straining to decipher the alien tongue.
She reached her bedroom door. A tremor was working its way through her knife-wielding hand.
Katrina knew that entering the room alone with only a slightly blunt £5.99 IKEA knife, was foolish. It went against every instinct she had as a police officer, but her maternal instinct made the decision simple. If her daughter was on the other side of that door, no safety procedures were going to stand between them. She used the base of her heel to kick the door open. A bitter, coppery smell assaulted her senses. Katrina’s legs buckled and the knife fell from her hands.
The far wall was covered in dozens of bloodied handprints and more blood was pooled across the floor. The prints dripped down in crimson strips; thinner at the top, but collecting in gruesomely thick globules near the bottom.
But that wasn’t what had broken Katrina.
No, what filled Katrina with so much dread that her knees were now hugging the floor was the size of the handprints.