Tonight has to be the night.
She turns onto the road with a screech. Frank sits up. He pulls the knife from his stomach. He feels the fire in his eyes as the color disappears from his face and the blood seeps into his hands. Home.
He remembers neighbors. Their dogs. Cookie. Playing in the front yard. The ball and the magic bandage. He hears laughter but there is none, just the echoes of a realm that had long left him for lost; the same echoes every night since that day so long ago, or maybe not so long ago. Frank can’t remember.
One hundred forty-seven and one half steps from the intersection. Eight houses down.
He pats her on the shoulder. She stomps the brake and the clutch. The Plymouth slides. The clutch grinds. The car stops. She opens the door and helps him to his feet. He cradles The Comic. She pushes aside the sign and opens the chain fence. She holds him, both shivering.
–– So this is it, huh Mister? Home? The right one, I mean?
The scorch marks are black as ever. The frame of the second floor is intact; its snow-blanketed innards spill through the ceiling of the first. The roof is long gone. Broken windows hold shards of blackened and burned fabric. A loose sign batters “condemned, condemned, condemned” against what’s left of the siding,
–– It’s nice.
She helps him up the stairs, careful to step over the burnt-out second step. The red door, the one that made them fall in love with the place, pops amidst the decay and destruction. Her hand falls from his shoulder. He offers her the string. She waves it away.
–– You keep it. You show Sammy some figures.
The Winged Angel.
He knocks on the red door. It creaks open. He turns to her.
–– Why did you want that necklace back?
She rocks on her feet and fiddles with the necklace. She rubs her gashed hand with a snowball. She smiles that smile. Her mask falls.
––You better get that funny book to Sammy, Mister.
Frank closes his hand around the string. He clutches The Comic. He walks through the red door.
I tuck Sammy in.
I tell him a new story.
Of adventure, of heroes.
Of virtue, of hope.
Of Lyle, of the Sky Phantom.
How does the story end, Daddy?
It ends like any other.
We start a new one.
Happy birthday, Sammy.
End of Book Two.