PORTLAND, OREGON - NINE YEARS AGO
The butler materialized into the nursery on a hot and muggy summer night.
Standing invisible and undetected in the far corner of the room, he discovered three young children, sleeping soundly, each one in their own little bed. He had to complete this mission with speed and stealth. None of the home's five inhabitants could know of his presence.
He reached across his chest and into his jacket, retrieving a manila packet, from which he withdrew a small pair of black-handled barber's sheers and three white envelopes. Each had a name on the front, written in his master's elegant script; Ethan, Jack, and Sadie. A soft breeze made the wispy curtains at the window billow gently as he tiptoed to the bed closest to him.
Bending over the toddler he gingerly snipped one, single, sandy-colored lock from her cherubic head and placed it into the envelope marked Sadie. Lifting the parcel to his lips he involuntarily winced at the mildly offensive taste of peppermint-flavored glue, before sealing it closed and returning it to his pocket.
He walked carefully past the foot of Sadie's bed and on to the second one.
This first boy was sprawled out across his mattress, covers thrown aside, half of them lying in a pile on the floor. He wore pale blue pajamas with bright red cars and yellow numbers printed all over them.
Stepping cautiously over the blanket, the man moved to the head of the bed and was just leaning in, scissors in hand, when the child began to stir.
The butler jumped back, losing his balance on the discarded sheets, nearly knocking the lamp from the bedside table as his arms helicoptered to right himself. He watched with baited breath as Jack rolled over, fitfully clutching after the fluffy white teddy bear sitting next to his head. With a carefully drawn out sigh, the man waited a moment, until the boy was settled, before approaching once again.
Bending cautiously over the lad, he delicately clipped a fringe of chocolate-brown hair from the nape of Jack's neck, placing it into its envelope, then sealed it closed and added it to his pocket along-side Sadie's.
He then made his way to the last, slightly larger bed, located directly beneath the open window. The boy, lying there, was the oldest of the three children. The butler found him face-down with his arms wrapped tightly around his pillow. The pitch-black curls on top of his head were loose and abundant but cropped short around his ears.
The man held his breath as he reached out and anxiously grasped a stray section, deftly cutting it from the boy's head. Returning to an upright position, he exhaled a silent sigh of relief, then moved stealthily to the other side of the room, before placing the last lock of hair into the final envelope marked Ethan.
Tucking the packet neatly inside his suit coat, he looked around one last time, a smile curving his lips as he reached up, located the small button situated under the brim of his hat, and firmly pressed it. Instantly the man vanished from the room.