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Killer Romance - the Complete Series

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Alan's always kept an eye out for missing pets. It's not something he consciously thinks about, but when he catches himself doing it there's only a moment of guilt and shame before he accepts the poisonous little doubt that's been hiding in his brain for years.

There's something wrong with Jensen.

Alan doesn't bring it up to anyone else. He doesn't dare. It's just a feeling, after all. It's not like he has anything he can point to and say, 'gee, my middle child's a psycho, does the mental hospital take our insurance?'

And it could all be in his head. He could be imagining the hard look Jensen sometimes gets in his eyes or the calculating way he studies the people around him.

Jensen's charming and sweet. His ears and eyes are a little too big for his face and they, along with his hated freckles, lend him an air of innocence not often found in boys nearing their teen years. He's a perfectly lovely child.

Probably.

But Alan still checks for missing pets.

Then, one day Alan comes home from work to find Jensen crouched over something furry on the sidewalk. Alan feels his stomach drop when he realizes it's one of the neighbor's cats. He thinks he's going to be sick, but there's this odd sense of finally inside him. He was right; now he can get Jensen help, and they can move on.

He gets out of his car, but before he can say anything, Jensen lifts his face. Alan thinks he may have been horribly wrong. Jensen looks crushed, his face wet with tears. The story comes out in bits and pieces between sobs. One of the neighbors down the street, Jenkins, had run the poor thing over. He hadn't even stopped.

Jensen had tried to help, but it was far too late. He moved the animal from the road so it wouldn't get hit again. He wanted to know how someone could do something like that to an innocent animal, and how they could just keep going.

Alan, in his good work pants, gets down on the ground and wraps his child in the tightest hug he can manage.

Later that night, after the children are in bed, he and Donna sit in their kitchen and talk about what happened. They talk about how Jenkins is a menace and a drunk. How it could have been a child in the street instead of that cat. How they can't do a damn thing to stop him until the man actually hurts someone.

While he and Donna are talking, Alan thinks he sees a shadow move by the kitchen door. When he blinks and looks again, it's gone. He doesn't think anything more of it.

The next night someone slashes all four of Jenkin's tires. When he discovers the act of vandalism, he flies into a rage. He attacks one of the other people who live on the block. The police are called. He attacks them too.

They take him down. Hard.

Alan's in his driveway, but he's not watching the excitement down the block. He's watching Jensen. Jensen, who's looking decidedly pleased about the whole situation. In fact, Alan would almost say that he's looking... smug.

Alan doesn't ask. He doesn't even consider asking.

But he does stop checking for missing pets.