This story is by Nikki Shaw-Hogg and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I left the knife in his neck, where I’d jammed it just moments ago. When I pull it out, he’ll bleed to death, but I don’t want him to go quick. This guy made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I know him. It’s Dan Peters. We’ve come full circle.
It’s been six years, but Dan hasn’t changed.
He pissed my client off enough to want him dead. He raped my client’s daughter as he raped me all those years ago.
I complete the jobs my clients hire me to do. No more, No less. As per their instructions. But this one will be an exception. I’m sure my client won’t mind under the circumstances.
Like most men I deal with, Dan misread the situation. He was trolling for cheap sex and picked me like I know he would. He always liked them young, but he underestimated me.
People see me as nothing but a child—a young girl who goes by the name of Sally. I’m good at my chosen profession because no one sees me as a threat. I’m small for sixteen, standing just under five feet tall and a hundred pounds. It is the most crucial advantage I have in every job I take on. To succeed, I need the upper hand, so I play my part with finesse. And lies. I excel at my craft.
Six years living on the streets after I ran, helped to refine my skills further. It was shit karma that threw me headfirst into this messed up lifestyle in the first place.
I gained a lot of experience, thanks to years of bouncing from foster home to foster home. It was the older kids in these homes that taught me the most—things I’d never have experienced without them. I was often the new kid in the house, and that made me the fall-guy by default. It wasn’t only the kids, though. The selfish asshole adults, who claimed their only desire was to help “poor unfortunate children,” was a load of crap.
Kids should be able to rely on adults for guidance and accountability. Strength and honesty, but these bastards were only in it for the money.
They stole every child’s innocence, their souls, and their money.
We all do eventually. Kids can manage changes. We’re resilient. At least until we’re older, that is, when a particular sound, or a smell, rips open that trauma again.
After numerous beatings and rapes, I began to fight back. To thrive and survive.
I never started a fight, but I always finished them, making sure everyone knew I was no longer a weak link, in the heavy chain that bound us all. I would protect myself by any means possible. I used fists, knives, socket wrenches, or anything within reach.
No one seemed to care why I did those things, only that I did them.
Because of my actions, the system decided I was a troubled, violent, and difficult child, and no proper foster home was willing to take me in. They threw me in with the bottom-feeders of the system, and Dan and Joyce Peters’ house was just such a place. Children’s Services was so overwhelmed and understaffed that they allowed Dan and Joyce to continue fostering. Those two didn’t do it because they liked kids. It was for money and free labour.
They always had the maximum number of kids. The money that Dan and Joyce received is to feed, clothe, and care for those in their care. Instead, it went to alcohol, drugs, and a brand-new Range Rover. These two were smart about their scheme.
Joyce homeschooled all of us so that the authorities wouldn’t catch on to the abuse. They loaned or pimped us out to friends and neighbours as payment for their silence. Our clothes were rags; all food rationed and on a first-come, first-served basis, and we could shower once a week. Dan and Joyce had cashed in on the foster kid lottery and were creating a cozy nest-egg, off all of us.
The house was just far enough outside the city limits, surrounded by farmland, that the screams coming from the house wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention.
One night, Dan and Joyce invited their friends and neighbours over for a pool party. Barbeque, drinks, drugs, and sex. They were all wasted when Dan decided they should all play ‘pinata’ with four-year-old Jake, each taking turns lashing at him with willow branches as he ran around, desperate to stay out of their reach. We couldn’t help him, or we’d be next. The adults abused alcohol, drugs, and us.
They passed around an ornate crystal bowl full of pills like they were candy. How could anyone function after ingesting all that crap?
Sheila was the social worker in charge of our overall care and was a friend of Joyce. She always called ahead when she was coming by for an ‘unscheduled,’ ‘surprise visit’ with her supervisor.
On visitation days, we were all scrubbed with brillo pads that inflamed our skin and turned us a violent shade of red. Our hair washed, and any knots ripped out with a rat-tail comb, and the boys shaved clean down to the scalp. Even our clothes, although old and see-through from wear, smelled fresh.
Everyone knew what was going on but looked the other way because they didn’t want to get involved.
The system had cracks, and we fell right through them. Dan and Joyce had been in the game long enough to know how to cover their tracks.
I shared a space with two other girls in what used to be a utility closet. The three of us shared a decade’s old mattress, stained and smelling like piss. It took up the entire room. No sheets, no pillows, and no lock on the inside of the door to keep others out. The rampant sexual abuse still happened with alarming frequency. I tried my best to protect the girls I roomed with but wasn’t always able to.
Summer was the worst time of year for us because we were outside every day. Dan and Joyce didn’t want us inside with them. They stayed in the house with the air-conditioner set to ‘Arctic’ temperatures.
“Too hot,” they said, but in truth, they were just lazy asses.
Cleaning up the yard, cutting the grass, pulling weeds, and chopping wood, were our responsibilities. Dan and Joyce didn’t want to do anything be that could prevent them from their favourite pass-time, a day of drinking and drugs.
It was July and hotter than usual, so we took turns drinking from the hose outside the wood shack. I’d been pulling weeds and cutting the grass with scissors along the fence line, where the mower couldn’t quite reach.
The scissors was one of Joyce’s dumb, drug-addled ideas.
“It will look more even,” she said.
We were all doing our assigned chores, in the middle of the afternoon, during a heatwave. I took a quick peek around to see where everyone was, then walked to the shed to get a drink of water. It was the one thing we could have in unlimited quantities. It helped to ease the hunger pains when you had a belly full of water.
The boys must have seen me heading for the shed, and before I could run, they caught me.
I’d been planning my escape for months. Gathering and hiding things that would be useful. I stole anything of value I could get. There were arguments and accusations when stuff went missing, but no one fessed up to it. Dan and Joyce kept a shoebox stuffed with cash behind a baseboard in their closet, which would be the final item I add to my bag on my way out. It wasn’t hard to snatch it from them because lately, they were passing out on the living room floor, too wasted to get to their bedroom.
It was the day after the brutal rape, barely able to walk, with a dirty athletic sock shoved in my underwear to soak up the blood, I left that cesspool of a house behind.
The rest of the house was still asleep as I snuck out the back door, with my backpack over my shoulder, and faded into the early morning hours of July twenty-fifth. It was my tenth Birthday. I was now on my own. The experiences from my brief time in this life, have shown me the path I mean to travel.
I would protect the innocent by ending the danger.
I was excited for Dan to see all things I’d learned living under his roof as an innocent child desperate to survive. I removed my knife and left him on a back-road to nowhere, to bleed out. Alone. Exactly the way he deserved.