Camden stumbled back into his room, feeling rather light headed after the argument and Bradley's words.
"How did it go?" Victoria asked from her bed.
"Fine, no thanks to you" Camden snapped dropping himself onto his bed in a temper. "Don't take that tone with me Camden you know full well I had to get the kids out of there" She snapped back her arms folded over her chest.
"Yeah, like Bradley?" he spat, his green glare directed to the blackness above him. Victoria had no response but she finally muttered "So Antonio's staying?".
Camden turned to face the wall, the bed felt empty without Bradley in it. (No, Camden was not a paedophile) eventually he responded to Victoria's question "Yeah, he'll be locked in his room most of the time though" He said clearly, the rules that everyone could agree on. "Well that's good and how did Bradley deal with it?" she dared to ask.
"He basically said, that we should keep Antonio alive so we can use him as bait later on" Camden said instantly as Victoria flinched "He-did-not!"she gasped "He as good as did, he just came out with it as if it meant nothing to him" Camden said as he tried to close his eyes, in the darkness it made no difference anyway.
"You're right I should have moved him" She said sadly "Look I'm sorry I just thought he'd finally changed and was making his own decisions" Victoria tried to explain as she did Camden sighed loudly "I thought I could change him, but after tonight I swear when he said that I could see the kid that murdered his mother" he rubbed his eyes as these worrying thoughts kept him wide awake.
"Camden?" Victoria asked
"Yeah" He replied
"Why do you want help Bradley so much?" She asked plainly.
Camden had no answer in his head at all, yet to his surprise he spoke clearly and firmly "He reminds me of what I was like when I was his age, I felt like I could help him because during all this mess I know I'm scared so God knows how his coping with it. I thought I knew the kid, I thought I could change him..." he sighed as he buried his slender nose into his pillow "But I was wrong" he muttered sourly.
"Maybe not" Victoria said, when Camden didn't reply she ventured forwards "Look this might just be me, but I am slightly doubtful of Ian's story..."
Camden's interest was aroused, he sat bolt upright in his bed and hastily agreed with the elder woman "You too?" he asked in relief "Yeah, there's something off about him, especially when..."
"He smiles" Camden and Victoria uttered as one.
Through the dark they both saw each other's shocked expressions "If we can pick up on it then who else?" Victoria asked "I dunno, but I'm too afraid to speak up in case it leads to more drama" Camden said his heart beating faster inside of him as he realised he had an ally "That's my reasoning too!" Victoria nearly shouted.
They were definitely onto something.
"In that argument back there, he was the only one who stood by Oliver and Steph about kicking Antonio out" Camden explained, Victoria seemed to nod and laugh at this "What's so funny?" he asked in confusion "Well, it's obvious isn't it?" she replied, Camden had realised she had picked up on something he had failed too.
"His trying to get on their good side Camden"
Oliver had thanked Ian in length for helping to back up him and Stephanie during the argument "It was nothing Oliver, please get some sleep they will see sense soon and trust me you are a good leader"
Oliver left him with a friendly smile, but Ian could see the self doubt crawling at the surface of his skin making Oliver's forced smile twitchy, realising he'd have to earn more of Oliver's trust to do what needed to be done.
He closed the door behind him with a fore-boarding bang. Bradley stood behind his father as still as statue. They were alone the door to Heather's room next door was safely locked and Ian could hear her snoring, slowly but surely he turned to his son. "Bradley, stay where you are" he instructed.
The boy did as he was told, Ian reached under his bed and pulled out the coiled climbing rope he had stolen from Quincey, about a week back he began to twist it in his fingers as he circled his son. Bradley's adam apple bobbled in his throat. Finally Ian spoke...
"Well did you enjoy your stay with Mr. Marshall?"
"Yes" Bradley squeaked.
"It certainly seems to have changed you" he told his son as he played with the rope in his hands, his voice as constricting as the rope he was wrapping around his hand.
"Yes, Camden said I should do what I like and I'm really good at football and chucking nails at zombies now" Bradley beamed forgetting his fear. "May I ask why you spoke up back there?" Ian asked coldly, Bradley's began to beat faster his heart rate accelerated
"I just felt like I should Sir! I didn't do anything wrong! I just wanted...!" he begged
"You just wanted" Ian mocked as a poisonous smile spread under his beard.
"Yeah, everyone tells me it's better when I speak to them!" Bradley squeaked.
"You are disobedient child" Ian snarled.
A silence befell them.
"Take off your shirt Bradley" Ian said.
"no" Bradley whispered.
"No?" Ian repeated, before Bradley could reply, he used a single hand (the one without the rope in) to clasp it around his son's pencil neck and shove him against the wall, as Bradley choked and retched in panic, his eyes wide as Ian shouted...
"YOU DARE DISOBEY YOUR FATHER!? YOU DARE TO DISOBEY THE LORD OUR GOD! YOU ARE A SATANIC SELFISH CREATURE!"
He dropped his son to the ground, as Bradley choked and sobbed, five purple bruise shaped fingerprints joining the layers of wounds on his neck. "Now take off your shirt son"
Bradley slowly did so, as he huddled into the corner, sobbing and massaging his neck.
Ian lifted his rope.
"I didn't do anything wrong sir!" Bradley begged as he lifted his pale hand to protect his face.
"YOU HAVE DONE PLENTY WRONG!" Ian bellowed as he brought the rope down.
The first lash caught his son on the belly adding a sore red scar there as Bradley screamed out loud in pain. Ian quickly glanced around the room, Heather was still snoring and no floorboards were creaking outside, so no one was listening in, enraged at his son for screaming he grabbed a fistful of his son's black hair.
"FOR ONE, YOU REMAIN SILENT!" He bellowed.
This was followed by a second lash to Bradley's back. His recently patched up wounds reopened.
"TWO, YOU SPOKE BACK TO YOUR FATHER!"
Another lash, Bradley didn't dare scream this time but whimpered terribly as his back exploded in agony and his eyes welled up, he felt something warm sliding down his spine.
"THREE, YOU SPOKE UP TO THE OTHERS!"
"Have you forgotten who you are?!" he hissed bending down so he could address his cowering son who was curled up on the floor "You are a demon Bradley, you are a born demon, you murdered your mother! My wife! You know you deserve this punishment!" he roared.
"I know..I know... I deserve it" Bradley sobbed.
"Good boy, You know I only do this because I love you and I want to draw the demon out of your body so you'll go to heaven, you understand that don't you?"
"I want an answer when I'm speaking to you Bradley" Ian snarled
"Yes" Bradley sobbed
"You are wicked child, you know I'm the only one that can save you! I'm the only one that can purify your soul! And how am I repaid!? With lies! With backtalk! With nonsense from Camden and the others? Those words mean nothing to you! Nothing! You are no human, you are a demon! And yet you play amongst those people, those good people who you do not deserve to be around!" Ian ranted.
"You'll stay away from them from now on Bradley, you stay with me! I'm the only one who can help you!"
"I shall not tolerate such unruly behaviour from you, now get your top on boy! You know why we must keep this secret don't you?" he asked, as he helped his son put his top back on, hence covering his new scars.
"Because If the others find out I'm a demon, It will unleash itself and kill everyone and I'll go to hell" Bradley recited his father's words.
"Yes, only I can exorcise the demon inside of you Bradley. If you tell you'll go to hell, now you don't want that, do you?"
No Bradley did not want that. All his father had ever told him that if anyone else found out about the demon he would go to hell. His father had described "hell" in it's horrid, vivid detail for hours on end, all throughout Bradley's childhood. In little Bradley's mind he was brainwashed and convinced this place was not only "real" but there was a very good chance he'd end up there.
"No" he squeaked his fear of hell being the primary factor for his silence on his abuse.
"Good" The room was dark as Ian swooped down and kissed his son's forehead.
"I love you son" He reminded Bradley.