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In the dark: In Principio

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2019

Tom knew he wasn’t in his right mind. He was furious, seething, out of his damn mind. He knew he should go to the police station - he should talk to Sam so he could hopefully calm Tom down before he could make any mistakes.

But that would be a waste of time. Sam probably wasn’t even in the office and if he looked through his case, he’d see the testimony was anonymous. Even listening to the tapes, he may not be able to positively identify Harriet’s voice, but he was so sure he was able to drive to her house and confront her with the truth she’d been keeping from him.

He never thought he’d be back at her place so soon. He never thought he would ever willingly return to the woman he so selfishly loved and chose to leave behind. But circumstances brought him back to the place where he never wanted to go to again, especially not to see the woman who lived here.

He stepped out of his car and slammed the door. He marched to the door and banged on it. There was a doorbell. He didn’t use it, though - he was too mad to even consider being polite and ringing the doorbell. He hoped he disturbed her peace.

At long last, Harriet opened the door. He walked in past her, but he could already imagine the happy, smug grin on her face as she realized

“Tom!” She sounded genuinely happy to see him. “How are you?”

“No, don’t,” he told her, pointing accusatorily at her, though he hadn’t made any accusations. When she saw his furious face, Harriet realized that something wasn’t completely right.

“Tom?”

“I know what you did,” Tom said, trying to dial down the anger to tell her what he had learned today. “You went to the police as a kid. You told them I’d raped Jane. How could you?”

Harriet did not respond at first. But she calmly shook her head - how did she stay so calm when such an accusation was thrown at her? When she spoke, her tone was calm and cold, calculated.

“That was Linda—”

“Really, Harriet?” Tom said. “I’m not a fool. That was you. You ruined my life!”

Harriet did not flinch at his loud voice. He hadn’t come to yell, but that was an unfortunate side-effect of his fury. Harriet did not seem to mind, to try to calm him down. A silent admission of guilt; something that justified Tom’s behavior in his mind.

 “What the hell do you want from me?” Tom asked her, despair in his voice.

“I want you.”

A chill ran down his spine. That was it? Tom shook his head. Harriet was even smiling about it! Did she truly like the thought of having him, at every cost?

“How sick do you have to be to report a perfectly consensual relationship as rape? How sick?”

Again, Harriet did not answer. She only looked at him with a lustful look. She’d probably kiss him if she could, but Tom kept her at a safe distance from him, so she couldn’t do any stupid things to her.

“You’re poison,” he told her. “At first you’re as sweet as honey, but that facade drops quickly with such erratic behavior.” Tom shook his head, taking a couple of steps towards her. “How the hell did Tony put up with it all? Maybe he didn’t. Maybe that is why he ended things.”

Harriet slapped Tom in his face. Tom deserved it, and he did not retaliate. He wasn’t there to fight. He’d wanted to confront her with the truth, and that last comment was a bridge too far.

But he couldn’t take back spoken words. And he wasn’t in the right mindset to apologize to her.

“Harriet, this is the last you’ll see of me,” he told her. “Do not ever contact me or my family again, do not show up at our door, or I will have you convicted for false testimony.”

Tom then left her, leaving her no chance to say anything else. He needed to get out of the house, away from the poisonous environment he found himself in again, and back home.


Night had fallen and Tom returned home.

He didn’t go into his house. He stayed in his car, with a book of pictures that Carol had lent him. So long as he brought it back, he was allowed to keep it for as long as he wanted. In the safety of his car, he took the book in his hands and flipped through the pages.

It started with baby pictures, of him and Max. Tom laughed when he saw the first picture of the brothers: a two-year-old and very unwilling Tom held Max in his small arms and glared at his father behind the camera, almost screaming to take the baby away from him. Tom couldn’t remember this moment - he was two years old - but based on the picture, he would have pushed the baby off of him if Max had stayed on his lap even a second longer.

The more pages Tom flipped, the older the boys became. Their personalities shone, the camera capturing several moments that Tom didn’t remember, or never wanted to forget; formal pictures, silly pictures, pictures with the most unusual of situations.

The last picture in the book was the last picture of Tom and Max, standing side by side, smiling at the camera. It was taken after the incident where Max smashed into the glass table; one picture.

Tom barely remembered the circumstances of the picture. He didn’t know what happened before or after, or what elicited the picture being taken. He only knew that, at this point in time, both boys were happy.

And as he looked at his brother’s face a little longer, a new and strange thought popped up in Tom’s mind. He didn’t know where it came from.

No, it couldn’t be. Could it?

Tom took the picture from the book and carefully placed it in the glove cabinet. He was glad to still be in the driver's seat; he only needed to put on his seat belt and drive away.

Back to the police station. Back to work. Even if this lead went nowhere, he would at least be comforted that his strange thought was just that. That he didn’t need to look into it any further.

Nobody said a word when he walked into the station. Everyone knew Tom was working 24/7 these days and put in 200% effort. Nobody tried to stop him - it was best to let him be, even under normal circumstances.

So he walked into the morgue. There was a body he needed to look at; he’d taken the picture with him. And not before too long, he stood before the compartment where the mystery boy dressed in 80s attire was located.

His hands trembled as Tom took the picture in his hands and looked at Max. He focused hard on the new scar on his chin, the scar that was the cause for the strange thought.

Tom lowered the picture and looked at the boy.

This boy had the same scar. He had the same hair color and length. His clothes, now put away, were definitely something that Max would have worn.

Tom cried as he looked at the dead boy with the mutilated head in front of him. This boy, without a doubt, was none other than Max Houston.