"Yeah, that’s it, Tammy. She was just diagnosed with lymphoma. It was too much." He shook his head, moved into the kitchen and dropped onto a chair. His hands rubbed at very short-cropped hair, a futile attempt to massage away the headache Rose knew was there. "We got the report of a gunshot. I knew. I just fucking knew." An oath worthy of admonishment, one her boys took care not to use in her presence, Rose let pass without comment. She knew Grant would hate himself for letting it slip, and it was extra baggage he didn’t need. If his father was still alive, then… if…
"I got over there, tried to talk to him. Kris and Tammy were already dead. I knew by looking at them. The two boys, though, Jackson and Philip… there might have been a chance to save them. He had already shot them, too, and they were bleeding like crazy, but if I just could have talked him down, we could have helped them all."
Rose pulled out a chair, slowly lowered herself to sit facing her son, held his hands in hers, ignoring the blood. "You can’t keep doing this, Grant. This is killing you inside."
Grant looked deep into her eyes. "Mom, we both know I have to keep this job. I’m one of the few who still has a regular paycheque. These people here need help. Things are going to get a hell of a lot worse before they get better. They need someone to help them, someone they can come to and trust. Who the hell else can they trust?"
He stood, loosened his belt and headed towards his bedroom. "I’ll get some clean clothes on. It freaks people out to have the local cop walking around like this. I’ll drop the dirty ones in to soak, and then maybe a quick bite?"
"There are already clothes soaking in the back. I’ll take care of them and get some water ready for these. They need to be on their own to soak, but I’ll wash them with the others." Rose pulled Todd’s head down to her level, planted a kiss amidst his wild, red hair. "Be a good boy. There is some soup in the cold room. Put it on the woodstove, then cut some of the fresh bread from this morning. I’ll be right back."
She trotted towards the laundry room, but stopped in the doorway. Pleading eyes turned towards both boys. "We can’t let this happen to us. We have to remember that nothing… nothing… is worth taking our own lives. It’s just money and possessions that are the problem. We can manage. Come hell or high water, we can manage."