She drew a smiley face inside of a heart on his paper lunch bag, just as she loved to do for him every morning before school, so she certainly didn’t look like a mother who was two minutes away from murdering her own son.
The switch hadn’t activated yet.
Carol Hutchins was still herself when she ambled down the stairs in her slippers and robe that morning. She was still herself when she put on a pot of coffee, and when she let Riffraff, the two-year-old German Shepherd, out in the back yard. She sat at the kitchen table and skimmed CNN on her iPad while waiting for the coffee to brew. Just like every morning.
There was no need to check on Scotty and make sure he was out of bed. Scotty was one of those 12-year-olds who actually enjoyed school, and she knew he’d be down soon all on his own, excited to seize another day.
The coffeemaker gurgled to a finish. She poured a mug and took the lunch bag she’d made for him last night out of the fridge. After drawing the heart and smiley face on it with all the care that only a mom can give in such a simple gesture, she returned to the kitchen table.
Riffraff wagged his tail at the back door, ready to come in, but she ignored him. She didn’t let him in because at some point between the counter and the table—
The switch had activated.
Riffraff was big for his age, already 85 pounds, and she couldn’t predict how he’d react to what was about to happen. Better to keep him outside, a non-factor. She’d let him in later after cleaning up the blood.
Scotty’s footsteps rumbled overhead as he bounded down the stairs, then he darted into the kitchen with a backpack on his shoulders and a smile on his face. He had the same smile as her, and the same eyes and the same hair color. Without stopping, he snatched his lunch off the counter and bolted toward the kitchen door leading into the garage.
"Hey, Mom. Thanks for lunch!"
"Hold it. What’s the rule about running inside?"
He halted and turned, speaking fast: "Sorry, Nate and I are gonna race our bikes to school today."
"Wear your helmets." If she showed any sign of being different after the switch, Scotty didn’t seem to notice. She looked and talked like she always did. It’s just that now, she was acting. And waiting for the right moment.
"I know," he said, turning back toward the garage.
"Hang on, mister. Give me a hug." She rose from the table and crossed the kitchen, walking within reaching distance of a hammer. The past two evenings after work, her husband had helped Scotty build a Purple Martin birdhouse for the back yard, and last night he’d left the hammer on the counter by the back door.
But Carol passed by it. There were more efficient methods.
She opened her arms to hug him. "I love you, angel."
He gave her a quick hug back. "Love you, too." He let go, but she did not. He rolled his eyes and hugged her again. "Mooooom, I’ll see you after school."
The counter closest to the garage had a knife block on top of it. As she...