Eva didn’t remember much after that. She remembered the bright lights; flashing blue and red, and the piercing sound of sirens as they raced closer. She could hear the gargled voices but she had no intention of trying to make out what they were saying. A police officer gently touched her shoulder and she followed him to his car. She said nothing. She did not cry, weep, or scream. Part of it was because she did not understand, but another part was because she knew it was useless.
The last memory of her mother and father were of their bodies being covered by white sheets.
At the police station, she sat with her head down and her hands folded gently on her lap. She remembers her Aunt Celia rushing in and taking her in a giant bear hug. Sobs raked her body, but she soon calmed down enough to speak to the police.
“Now, Miss Reinhardt, you were named Eva’s guardian should anything happen to her parents?”
“Yes,” Celia said, dabbing tears that escaped. “I just never thought I’d ever be put in that situation.”
“You won’t be, Miss,” Officer Mitchell said.
“Excuse me? I don’t understand…”
“The man who murdered your brother and sister-in-law is a serial killer who goes by the name of The Phantom. He always kills with a Bowie knife, and we found one at the crime scene. For Eva’s own protection, we are placing her in the Witness Protection Program.”
“You mean… he could come after her?”
“We are not certain if he knows she witnessed his attack. For her own safety and for the sake of being cautious, she’s being placed in the program.”
“What’ll happen to her?”
“I’m sorry, but we can’t disclose all details to you.”
“I understand,” Celia said, with a slow nod. “How soon will she be…?”
“Immediately,” responded Mitchell. “We can’t take any chances with this killer still on the loose. We have a Protection family ready and prepared.”
“I’m going away?”
Mitchell and Celia both jumped at the small voice that came from the small girl who was suddenly next to them. Her face was pale in the light and her thick lashes cast eerie shadows on her cheeks.
Celia swallowed. “Yes, honey. But it’s okay because we’ll see each other real soon. As soon as they catch this man, you’ll be able to come home.”
Eva nodded and turned to Mitchell. “When do I go?”
Mitchell sighed and said, “Very soon. There are some things we have to do first. You understand?”
Eva looked down and said nothing.
“Miss Reinhardt, thank you for coming down. You realize that you are bound by law to never speak of this. The WPP is classified above top secret and there would be a serious price to pay for declaring any information. Are we clear?”
“Crystal,” Celia replied. She leaned down and gave Eva one last hug. “You’re going to be a good girl, okay? You’ll do everything they say? I love you, dear.” Celia left without another word.
Mitchell smiled sadly down at the little girl. He offered her hand and she placed hers in his. “Come on, you’re going to meet your new family and get a makeover. Okay?”
“Today’s my birthday,” Eva said, her voice low and monotonous.
“What?” Mitchell said.
“Today is my birthday,” Eva repeated a little louder. Mitchell turned his face away from hers so she wouldn’t see him blink away the forming tears.
As Eva followed Mitchell down a hallway, she thought of her birthday. Of how it had not been a happy one at all.