I have no excuses. I had plenty of time to think the whole thing through. But I still grabbed my revolver from under the passenger seat of my car and headed back up the stairs. There was the sound of muffled crying and the whispers of consolation as I started the climb, and as I leaned over the railing to look up I could see the heel of a bare foot peeking out. Daddy was there, trying to be her rock. Pretending he wasn't the source of all Vanessa's fucked up thoughts, the reason she would give herself up to a man like me.
When I turned the corner of the level below them he turned back and looked at me. I'm pretty sure he saw the gun right away, because he just sat there with his mouth open. He was between me and Vanessa now, but he kneeled and she sat, so he was raised up over her a foot or two. I raised the gun and pulled the trigger.
I was as shocked as he was when the hammer dropped on an empty chamber, and for a moment he looked relieved. He brought his hand up in protest as I pulled the hammer up again and fired. The round thundered through the enclosed space of the stairwell and split his hand between the ring and middle finger. Vanessa's sobbing turned instantly to shrieking as her father slumped over her backwards, his back arching in a way that would have been incredibly painful for a man his age if he weren't already stone dead. I took the last few steps up the stairs to see if he needed finishing off, but the round had entered his face at the chin and I could see the white surface of the stairs on the other side. So I grabbed him by his shredded hand and pulled him off of Vanessa, who seemed to still be screaming except all I could hear was my heartbeat and a ringing sound now.
She rose up to her feet and hugged me around the shoulders, pinning my arm and the gun at the end of it to my waist. "We have to go" I said, "the car is downstairs." Her screaming was now labored breathing, and she nodded her approval of the plan. But just as I started leading her down the stairs she pulled her hand free. "Wait! I will be right back!" and started hurdling up the stairs two at a time in her bare feet. I wasn't giving her much time since I didn't feel like dying in prison, so I went for the car. I stashed the gun back under the seat and started the engine. The exit from the parking lot looked exactly like salvation, a womb to crawl into and escape the ugliness outside, but I didn't race for it. I waited.
After a few seconds that seemed like ten minutes Vanessa came running out of the alley between the two buildings with a garbage bag spilling over with clothes, and leapt into the open door at my side as the engine roared and we made our escape. She was crying silently now and gripped my arm so tight that I struggled to work the shifter, and I looked down at the top of her head as it rested on my bicep, the same spot where, just a few weeks ago, she had stabbed me in my sleep. The world is a truly fucked up place.