The Perfect Home -by Michelle Whitehead

Premeditated: Well-planned and thought out.

Parker didn’t know how well he liked the term. It always reminded him of the murderers whose names adorned the covers of numerous true crime biographies. And Parker Vane wasn’t a murderer. Parker Vane had no intention of committing the perfect murder. It was just an accident.

Accident: No plan, no malicious intent.

Parker found the word equally inappropriate. It made him think of the careless. Of those unfortunate souls who rushed through their daily routines with no thought or concern for their own well-being. Parker Vane was the most careful person he had ever known. He never did anything by accident.

Parker sat in his Lexus, staring out the window.

The clouds roiled overhead. Distant thunder could be heard rumbling over the western sky. Funnels of dust brushed up against the car, dulling the black shine.

He busily chewed his fingernails to their nubs, spitting the remnants into his hand and disposing of them out the window.

Premeditated…Accident…Premeditated…Accident. He played with the two words in his mind.

Neither fit his situation.

For a premeditated act, he would have to go through a lot of careful planning.

He would have to follow his victim for a few days to pick the perfect spot to commit the crime. He would have to sneak the knife into a well-concealed location, without bulges and bumps. And he would have to time the murder, making sure no one would be around to witness the fatal deed.

Parker laughed.

He had planned nothing.

He settled on the idea that it wasn’t premeditated.

Accidental. That word made Parker laugh even harder. The odds that he would be at the same place at the same time as either victim were high. And the chances of accidentally bumping into either of his victims while holding the knife were slim at best. He would have to be very stupid to pretend it was just an accident.

He wasn’t stupid.

He decided it wasn’t accidental.

Parker leaned back in the seat and stared at the roof of the car. He felt a slight pressure build behind his grey-blue eyes. He gently massaged his temples in an effort to alleviate the throbbing.

He took a slow deep breath and watched the brewing storm.

The word game still plagued him.

Normally he wouldn’t be so consumed with the English language. Words were words. He knew they couldn’t hurt him. But his conscience could, and would. And ignoring the tiny voice in the back of his brain was becoming more and more difficult each time the incidents occurred.

That’s it, he thought.

Incident: An event, a happening.

Parker realized this was the word he was looking for. The one word that would absolve him of any wrongdoing. And he had done nothing wrong. He was Parker Vane.

A slow smile grew across Parker’s face.

He looked at himself in the rear view mirror. His revelation calmed him. No more beating himself up over his most recent infraction.

He smiled at the reflection staring back at him.

His demeanor had changed completely. The concern that had resided in his deep set eyes quickly dissipated. The creases in his forehead didn’t seem as deeply etched as they had this morning. And his full lips weren’t pressed together in the harsh manner they had been.

The bags under his eyes didn’t vanish.

No matter, he told himself. A little sleep would work wonders. All he had to do was drive home. A short time from now and he would be safe in the confines of his four bedroom home with his wife and infant son.

Parker stared at the carving knife cradled in newspapers between his feet.

Dark rust-coloured stains covered the tip of the blade and continued halfway down towards the handle.

He reached underneath the passenger seat for the baby wipes. They always kept a box in both vehicles, just in case.

With a soft snap, he removed the wipe from the package.

Parker reached down between his legs and carefully picked up the soiled knife. He firmly held the blade in his right hand while he scrubbed with his left. Two more wipes were used before he was satisfied with his work.

He set the soiled cloths onto the dirty newspapers.

Parker stared at the ornately carved handle.

It probably had traces of blood imbedded in its grooves. Parker didn’t worry too much about that. He would thoroughly clean the weapon when he got home.

He gently place the dangerous antique on the passenger side car mat. He didn’t want any traces found on the leather interior.

And, he told himself, both mats will be disposed of as soon as possible.

Parker examined his hands. Nothing visible to the naked eye, but he knew there were microscopic traces under his fingernails. A hot shower would erase most of the evidence. And no one would suspect him of any crime. Nothing to worry about.

A big fat drop splattered across the windshield.

Parker looked up at the oncoming storm. He realized he must act quickly.

He opened the car door to a sharp gust of wind. Dust swirled around his feet as he stepped from the vehicle. Wind whipped through the car, stirring the papers and causing one of the wipes to fly up towards the ceiling.

Parker quickly snatched the soiled wipe and threw it onto the newspapers. He leaned into the vehicle, grabbed the blood-soaked newspapers and rolled them into a tight ball.

More drops began to fall. Larger. Faster.

Parker desperately scanned the area for a garbage can. Surely, he thought, there must be one around here somewhere.

He slammed the door and walked briskly to the side of the abandoned convenience store. He noticed a battered grey garbage can propped up at the back of the store.

Parker stuffed the package down as far as it would go. He dragged the tin can away from the sagging building and positioned it in the middle of the parking lot.

From his pants pocket, he withdrew a lighter and quickly lit the contents. He repositioned the papers and watched as the evidence slowly bean to burn.

Parker rushed back to the waiting vehicle.

He opened the trunk and carefully removed his blood-spattered overcoat. He held it at arm’s length and hurried to the growing fire. It dropped into the can with a quiet swoosh.

The blaze was extinguished.

“Shit!” Parker quickly shoved the coat to the side of the can and grabbed a partially burned piece of newspaper. He lit the sheet and set it on the jacket. He grabbed another piece and another until the topcoat was smothered in dozens of tiny flames.

He watched the blaze grow. All the incriminating evidence the authorities would have needed to charge him with was disappearing before his eyes.

Now, if they ever have reason to suspect me, there’ll be no proof, he told himself.

Parker grinned.

A deafening crash thundered directly above the dilapidated structure, followed by a blinding shot of lightning.

Parker jumped and spun around. His breath caught in his throat and sweat started to trickle down the side of his face.

He jerked his head up toward the mass of churning black clouds. He wiped away the streaks of perspiration and tried to calm his beating heart.

The storm had arrived.

This untimely display of Mother Nature sparked the tiniest pang of worry in the pit of his stomach. How unusual that his luck would falter at the most inopportune moment of his life.

He ran his hands through his thick wavy hair. He adjusted the collar of his cream-coloured shirt and rolled his shoulders. Keeping relaxed and stress free were of the utmost importance. It was when people allowed worry to take control that they lost the battle.

Parker never lost.

He started at the fire, hoping enough of the evidence had been consumed. The blaze had completely covered every bit of cloth and paper. But, he wondered, had it caused enough damage?

Parker refused to think about the tiny charred wisps of paper. No one knew a crime had been committed. And when they found the bodies, there would be no reason to suspect Parker Vane.

The light rain suddenly became a torrential downpour, flooding the deserted parking area with large puddles. Cold, sharp drops stung the back of Parker’s neck and coursed down his spine. He raced to his waiting haven and dove inside. His shirt was completely soaked. His linen pants, amazingly enough, still had the odd dry patch.

He turned the ignition switch and flipped the heater on high. He lightly rubbed his fingers together, drying the water as quickly as possible.

His watch made a quick beep-beep.

It was six o’clock. Sasha would be wondering where he was.

He pictured his wife pacing the floor.

Parker couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

His smile quickly turned into a frown.

Keeping silent about the occurrences was becoming more and more difficult. But he had no choice. Not if he wanted to keep his son, and not if he wanted to live as a free man.

Rain trickled down the side of his face and along his neck. He ran his hands though his dark hair, stripping away any excess water. He clumsily removed his sodden shirt and grabbed his jacket from the back seat.

A quick bolt of lightning struck one of the oak trees on the other side of the gravel road. Smoke billowed from the splintered wood. The yellow-orange flames that attempted to do their damage were immediately extinguished.

Parker jerked his head forward, half expecting his car to be the next target.

Nothing.

He stuffed his arms into the sleeves, adjusted the shoulders and buckled his seatbelt.

Parker picked up his cell phone from the passenger seat. A quick call home would alleviate any concerns Sasha may have when de didn’t arrive home at his usual time.

The phone rang…and rang…and rang.

No answer.

Parker tossed the phone onto the seat. He refused to speculate about his wife’s whereabouts. There was no reason to worry at this point in time.

He clicked on the CD player.

High pitched screams blared from the stereo system.

Sasha’s music.

Parker punched off the switch.

The music stopped.

The thunder continued.

He sat for a few minutes before he remembered the CD case in the back seat. He maneuvered around in the seat until he found the small leather container.

Parker quickly unzipped the case and stared at his wide selection. He followed his finger down the row until he found Tchaikovsky. He quickly inserted the disk and pushed play.

Parker closed his eyes.

He allowed the sounds to erase the images of the afternoon from his thoughts. He needed a clean, clear mind when he walked up the porch steps and into his perfect home. He knew if there was the tiniest look of stress on his face, Sasha would suspect something.

He took several deep breaths before he felt like himself.

The storm had briefly weakened, becoming a steady downpour rather than a lively aria of bellows and electricity.

Parker shoved the car into gear. The tires kicked up loose gravel as they exited the abandoned parking lot.

The tree shrouded side-road was slowly becoming narrower. Each ditch swelled with dirty brown water, coursing its way to the centre of the lane and making the driving conditions much more inconvenient.

Parker clamped his foot down on the accelerator and drove as fast as the road would allow. He maneuvered the machine along the diminishing path while paying close attention to the weather on the other side of the windshield. He knew the fantastical presentation wasn’t over yet.

A slight grin formed across his tanned face. Being in the centre of the storm was exhilarating. Most people would succumb to fear, anxiety or worse because of the terrifying weather.

Parker Vane wasn’t most people.

The first song on his CD ended. He glanced at the clock. Less than five minutes had passed since he called home.

Parker stopped the car in the middle of the road. He reached for the cell phone and quickly pressed the redial button.

“Hello?”

Parker smiled at the sound of her voice.

“Hi honey, it’s just me.”

“Oh…” She sounded quiet, hesitant.

“I’ll be home shortly.” He waited for a response before he asked, “Is something wrong? You don’t sound like yourself.” He kept his tone as light as possible. He didn’t want her to worry. When she worried she asked too many questions. Questions that would inevitably lead to answers he wouldn’t be able to give or to answers she wouldn’t like to hear.

“Ok, I’ll see you soon.”

Click.

She hung up on him.

Parker stared at the small handset. He gripped the tiny phone until the whites of his knuckles replaced his normal bronze colour.

“What the hell is going on?” He shouted. He couldn’t believe her evasion. Never in their five years of marriage had she ever dismissed him.

He cracked his neck from side to side. He needed to get home, now. He didn’t like being dismissed. He was Parker Vane.

Parker punched the car into gear and shot down the gravel road to the stop sign. He spun the wheel sharply to the left. The car skidded onto Cedar Springs road and raced down the highway. He pushed the accelerator to the floorboards until he reached Parkside Drive.

He his the brakes, tires squealing, skipping along the pavement in an effort to slow. He cranked the wheel to the right and slid into the oncoming lane. the car easily regained control, flew past a golf course, around several bends and up a gradual incline.

He clamped his foot on the gas and sped along tow miles of straight open road.

A large empty field came quickly into view from the driver’s side window.

Parker let his foot off the gas.

His home was one of five that lined the other side of the field.

He glanced out his window and found the only home with the weathered willow tree in the yard. He squinted and tried to narrow his field of view. All he could see was the house with one softly glowing light illuminating the trees.

As he turned back towards the road, he realized the car had veered to the left and was heading straight for the ditch. He cranked the wheel, slammed on the brakes and held his breath.

The beautiful machine careened to the other side of the road, drove up the steep embankment and stopped inches from the tree-lined fence. The right front end crunched into the ground, smoke filtering out from under the hood.

Parker slammed his hands down on the steering wheel.

He pushed open the car door and climbed from the front seat. A single tear formed in his left eye as he gazed at his damaged Lexus. He slipped around to the front of the machine and stared at the wreck.

Grey-white plumes billowed out from under the buckled hood. The rear end was stuck in the narrow ditch below.

Parker brought his hands to his face, ground the heels in his eyes and moaned. He slammed his fists into the hood of the vehicle and turned back towards the open door.

Never had he been in an accident before. Never had he acted as reckless as the likes of the careless. Never had he lost control.

Parker leaned inside the Lexus and reached for the antique knife. It was the only remaining evidence that could tie him to two grisly murders.

he rested his right foot on the car and carefully placed the blade in-between his leg and his slightly damp sock. He grabbed his dress shirt from the back seat, stepped back out of the car and slammed the door.

The house was only a few minutes away.

Parker stared across the road towards the open field.

The distance from the road to his home looked more like a small shallow lake than an abandoned wheat field. Crossing it would be next to impossible. The only other option was to follow Parkside Drive the few dozen yards to Boulding and race down the sidewalk to his street.

Parker didn’t like the choices. Either way would take too long. running through the sub-division was a more round-a-bout route. But trudging through the field would take just as long or longer.

The idea of resembling a grime-covered cave man turned Parker’s stomach. Rain didn’t bother him. Dirt did.

Parker rolled his shirt into a tight ball and stuffed it into his coat pocket. He awkwardly buttoned his blazer and pushed himself away from his car.

Thunder rumbled directly overhead, followed by a quick streak of lightning.

He quickly ran diagonally across the road to the sidewalk and followed the path to Boulding. It would take no more than five minutes to reach home.

He ran along the sidewalk, continually looking behind for any approaching traffic. He knew that if someone noticed him, they would undoubtedly want to help. And he couldn’t allow that to happen. Too many explanations would be needed and he didn’t have the time to indulge some stupid passerby.

He needed to get home.

Parker turned left onto Thornlodge and jogged past four homes until he reached his tree-shaded driveway. He hurried up the marble walk and paused underneath the entryway.

He straightened the collar of his jacket and wiped the rain from his face. He didn’t want to frighten his son with such a disheveled appearance.

Faint sounds could be heard on the other side of the double doors.

Parker clicked the lock and stepped into the foyer.

Darkness.

The only sounds came from the lullaby music playing softly in the background.

He called his wife.

No answer.

Parker remover his shoes and slipped down the stone tiled hall towards the kitchen.

Neither his wife or son were waiting for his arrival.

Parker carefully made his way along the floor to the laundry room. He retrieved the knife and set it on the dryer. His wet clothes were thrown into a green garbage gab and stuffed inside the storage closet.

Parker quickly stepped into his workout pants and picked up the knife.

His thoughts returned to his son.

He knew jumping to conclusions as to the whereabouts of his family would be what most fathers would do in his situation.

Parker Vane wasn’t like most fathers.

He shoved the knife into his pants pocket and exited the laundry room. He ran barefoot through the deserted kitchen, back down the hall and stopped at the foot of the stairs.

Parker glared at the second floor.

Everything was completely black.

He raced up the steps two at a time.

A loud crack of thunder and a quick bolt of lightning shook the windows. The storm was directly overhead.

Surely Sasha would come downstairs now?

Parker stuck his hand inside his pocket. The knife was still there.

He stepped inside their bedroom and flicked on the light. The baby bassinette was empty. So was the four poster king size bed.

He knew there was nothing to be angry about.

He left the room and stood in the middle of the hall. At the end was the baby room.

Lightning flashed through the skylight above the staircase.

Parker saw that the door to the room was open. He stood staring at the room for several seconds.

He quickly and quietly walked along the hardwood floor until he came to the doorframe. He silently stepped into the tiny room.

A quick bolt of lightning lit up the small space revealing his wife asleep in the rocking chair beside the window.

She was wearing his favourite bright red bathrobe. Her long blond hair lay in smooth waves down her shoulders. He hands were clasped together and rested in the crook of her neck.

He walked into the room and approached the crib.

Another bolt of lightning revealed a soft yellow blanket covering his son, his damp hair clinging to the side of his delicate face.

Parker loosened his grip on the knife at the sight of his child. He smiled.

“I did it for us son,” he whispered to the bundle of yellow.

He backed away from the cradle and stared at his Sasha. Beautiful Sasha.

Parker knelt down in front of his sleeping wife. He turned the handle of the knife over and over in his left had, took a damp section of her hair in his right.

Parker leaned in. He brought the golden locks to his face and took long deep breaths.

The smell was intoxicating.

He brushed her hair across his mouth and slowly let it slip from his fingers.

His grip tightened on the weapon.

Parker took one of his wife’s hand. He slowly brought it to his lips and gently kissed each elegant finger.

He carefully placed it on her lap.

He brought the knife to the side of the chair.

Lightning struck the ancient oak just outside the bedroom window. Flames flickered in-between the branches, allowing just enough light to filter in the room.

Sasha opened her eyes wide.

Yellow and orange light cast a soft glow throughout the room. Shadows danced across the wall above the cradle, and along the side of his wife’s hair.

Parker allowed a brief smile to cover his face.

He tenderly caressed her brow, her nose and her mouth.

He cupped his hand under her chin and gently brought it forward. His slightly damp lips met hers in a long, tender, passionate kiss.

Slowly he opened his eyes and gazed into her milky white complexion.

He raised the knife up behind the rocking chair.

Sasha forced a slight smile and stared to speak.

Parker gently placed his index finger across her full, moist lips.

He smiled.

The knife plunged into her neck.

In a deep ragged voice he choked out the words “Honey…I’m home.”

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